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ART. III.-RECENT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE STUDY OF LATIN LITERATURE.
Bibliotheca Classica: edited by George Long, M.A., and the Rev. A. J. Macleane, M.A.-Publi Terentii Comoedia Sex; with a Commentary by the Rev. E. St. John Parry, M.A.-Juvenalis et Persi Satira; with a Commentary by the Rev. A. J. Macleane, M.A.
The Speech of Cicero for Aulus Cluentius Habitus; with Prolegomena and Notes by William Ramsay, M. A. Trin. Col. Camb., Professor of Humanity in the University of Glasgow.
Lectures on Roman Husbandry, delivered before the University of Oxford. By Charles Daubeny, M.D., Professor of Botany and Rural Economy in the University of Oxford.
THAT till within the last few years the Greek and Latin languages have been cultivated in this country, each after a distinct fashion, we suppose will be generally acknowledged. The cause, or at least one very sufficient cause, is plain enough. We do not often possess a familiar and a critical acquaintance with the same thing. The process by which the former is acquired blunts our ardour for the latter. We do not make a psychological study of our father and mother. We do not get up the Times Newspaper with a gazetteer and an atlas. These are things to be enjoyed as parts of our daily life; not to stand off from us, and be critically probed and dissected. Latin, accordingly, under the old-fashioned system of education was not learned scientifically, because it was learned so easily and so colloquially; it grew up with us, and became as it were a second mother-tongue. It was not then one of several accomplishments which make up the educated man. It underlay them all. A professor of Latin was deemed as superfluous as a professor of English. Greek, on the contrary, was a specialty-a thing to be pursued, if a man had a turn for it; not otherwise. Add to this the confessedly greater difficulty of learning Greek, which rendered critical commentaries indispensable when it came to be generally studied; and we shall have said all that is necessary in illustration of the fact laid down.
But of late years a change has come over scholarship. The tradition, which lingered on through the first quarter of the present century, is fast dying out. The habit of Latin composition is no longer enforced with pristine stringency; other branches of knowledge divert the infant mind from that ex
* Conf. De Quincey's Essay upon Bentley.
clusiveness of diet which is necessary to even partial assimilation. Latin, therefore, is taking its place among other objects of study; and is becoming a subject of curiosity rather than of love. As we say of men, that it is only after their death we can form a just estimate of their characters, so, now that Latin has ceased to be spoken, and is fast ceasing to be written, we begin to investigate its elements. It is becoming that formidable affair, "a matter of history." Our annotations are becoming philological and idiomatic: Madvig is becoming generally known, Oxford has established a professor; and we may almost say that the transition state of Latin scholarship is concluded, and that a new era has commenced.
This is the first point to be noticed. The second is, the completeness of the equipments with which all new classical editions are now ushered into the world. Gray, who lamented the multiplication of Lexicons a century ago, for its tendency to impair the quality of English scholarship, would lift his hands in horror could he witness the growth of dissertations, introductions, excursuses, appendices, and other aids to the indolent, which these latter days have brought forth. The poet's objection was well-founded. Such auxiliaries, however valuable for reasons hereafter to be mentioned, have undoubtedly had one ill effect. Our scholarship is comparatively crude. And if any young aspirant would know the reason why, let him take some portion of a classical author with which he is wholly unacquainted, and endeavour to master it thoroughly without any external assistance. The process will be analogous to that of chewing the bodily food; and he will find that not only has he digested this subject as he never digested one before, but that he has gained a real step in education, and at the same time invigorated his intellectual powers more than ten times the same amount of reading would have done, pursued under the ordinary system. His progress, we admit, will be slow. All those little words which he is apt to pass over as unimportant, when his Lexicon has supplied him with the leading idea of the sentence, will now be, as it were, put to the torture, and compelled to shed their quota of light upon the meaning of the whole. As an idiom which he could not comprehend in the third page, recurs in the tenth, and again, perhaps, in the twentieth, under different combinations, its radical significance will gradually dawn upon his mind, never to be again forgotten. The moods and voices of verbs, and the varying force of compounds, will now become matter of serious consideration. Of the technical allusions, some, as he reads on, will explain themselves, and others he will carefully set aside for separate inquiry. Till at last, by pursuing this exhaustive process, he
will be astonished at the comparatively small residuum of real difficulties; and from the immobility of the knowledge he has acquired in the mean time, will be able to form some estimate of the results attained by those whose whole education was conducted on more or less the same system.
It might be thought, that of the two new features in modern scholarship here pointed out, the one would compensate for the other, that the scientific study of Latin will do even more good than an excess of facilities can do harm. That those who really study the language for themselves will find this to be the case, is very probable. But the results of philological inquiry are easily epitomised and tabulated. It is, in fact, one of the characteristics of the age, that they should be so presented. And the consequence is, that the changed method of study will make no difference to the mass of learners; while the encroaching growth of commentaries will supersede even that little independent exercise of thought which still is necessary to the comprehension of some portion of the Latin classics.
But our best consolation for this state of things is, that it was inevitable. It is impossible that young men should continue to devote the same space of time to the acquisition of classical literature which they did when that, and that alone, was the test of a liberal education. Scholarship, therefore, must either perish or change its character. And, as certainly it will not be denied, even by those who do not appreciate a familiarity with the subjunctive mood, that it is for the good of society that a knowledge of ancient history, and a taste for the classic models should still flourish amongst us, we must admit the necessity of making the ascent of Parnassus easier and more inviting at the outset, even though we sacrifice something valuable in the process. To change our metaphor, scholarship is now in its old age, and must be sustained by artificial means. This is a truth on which the editors of the works we have selected for illustration have certainly acted, whether they have recognised it or not. And, in fact, all the Latin volumes of the Bibliotheca Classica which we have read are even more remarkable for the care bestowed upon accessories than for critical commentary on the text itself.
Mr. Parry's Terence is an admirable case in point. For the last fifty years or so, and perhaps longer, Terence has not, with one or two well-known exceptions, been included within the ordinary curriculum of school or college reading. What was the reason? His works are a magazine of Latinity. There is less coarseness in all his six comedies than in a single satire of Horace or Juvenal. He is witty, and graceful, and human.
We can account for it in no other way than by the fact, that he lay a little out of the beaten track; that there were difficulties connected with the composition of his plays in which college tutors did not care to involve themselves; and lastly, that his versification was a stumbling-block in the eyes of those who would have shuddered at a boy reading a Latin poet which he could not scan. But now all these difficulties have been driven from the field. Terence is placed before us in a positively appetising shape. The history of his plays, his metres and scansion, and his position in Roman literature, are all amply discussed. The young beginner is positively pampered with commentary, and is coaxed into reading an act or two through sheer shame of allowing so much learning to be wasted on him. While his instructor can get up almost all that it is needful for him to know in a single morning. That this edition, therefore, will lend a wholesome incentive to the study of Terence, and act, through him, upon the general popularity of Latin literature, we sincerely believe. We trust to see him placed on a level for educational purposes with Virgil and Horace, and his easy idiomatic Latin as familiar in the mouths of schoolboys as the flowing periods of Cicero, or the artful couplets of Ovid.
Although, however, it has fallen to Mr. Parry's lot to be the chosen instrument of editing what we do not affect to doubt will be the standard edition of Terence, we cannot in justice award him any higher praise than that of industriously collecting, and skilfully employing, a mass of scattered commentary previously in existence. Some of this, he tells us, he had not seen till after his own was finished, and has arrived at the same conclusion with previous investigators by an independent line of thought. We willingly give him the benefit of this avowal, and will now briefly run over the various important improvements embodied in the present volume.
His essay on Terentian metres derives its principal intrinsic value from being written in English. Bentley had done the real work; and, in the chief points where Mr. Parry has improved on that great scholar, he had been anticipated, as he admits, by Professor Key. The modern theories embraced under the heads of synizesis and synalœpha had been enunciated in the Journal of Education. They relate principally to the system of Roman pronunciation. For Bentley's dictum, that such words as habent, cave, &c., at the beginning of a line, shorten the last syllable even where it is long by position, they substitute a contraction of the word into one syllable, pronouncing habent 'ha'ent,' like the English 'han't' for 'have not' and 'can't' for cannot,' and in the same way making cave into cau; and most
of the cases which Bentley had explained by hiatus they bring under the head of synalopha, or coalition between the final vowel or syllable ending in m and the initial vowel of the following word; "for elision," says Mr. Parry, "in our sense of the word, was unknown to the Romans."
A more interesting question to the general reader will be, the extent to which Terence was indebted to his Greek predecessors. We have little doubt that Mr. Parry has adopted the correct theory. After bringing together in a compact compass all the fragments of Menander which Terence is said to have imitated, and observing that "a close comparison will show that he did not, at all events, servilely imitate his master; that if he copied from a Greek original, he drew with a Roman pencil, and kept in view his own theory of dramatic excellence as well as the necessity of suiting a very different audience to that which listened to Menander,"-he proceeds to argue from. the abundance of Greek literature which existed at Rome in his time, that he probably drew largely from other sources as well as from Menander. Thus it is the very extent of his plagiarisms which proves him not to have been a plagiarist; and he illustrates his opinion by the analogous freedom with which Shakespeare helped himself to the materials which lay ready to his hand.
We have no doubt, we say, that this view is in the main correct. It has been already adopted by Koenighoff, in his essay entitled De ratione quam Terentius in fabulis Græcis Latine convertendis secutus est, commentatio.* Nor are other reasons wanting, both à priori and à posteriori, why Terence must have been a very much more original writer than is commonly supposed.
The period of Roman history in which Terence wrote differed widely from the period of Athenian history in which Menander was popular. Terence wrote in the flow of national greatness; Menander, in the ebb. The one addressed himself to an audience buoyant, vigorous, and full of animal life; the other was listened to by critics, philosophers, and dreamers. The Roman's was the era of unconsciousness and hope; the Athenian's, of self-seeking and despondency. Little did a people with the affairs of the world upon their hands care about the moral or religious problems which occupied the countrymen of Menander. The unpolished centurion, fresh from Pydna or the Tagus, would laugh his horse-laugh at the lying knaveries of the Greek slave or parasite. He would turn away in disgust from the sententious rhetoric of the sceptical gentleman. Thus we find in Terence little or nothing of that * Coloniæ, 1843.