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Pains, reading, study, are their juft pretence,
Yet ne'er one fprig of laurel grac'd these ribalds,
VER. 163. Yet ne'er one fprig] Swift imbibed from Sir W. Temple, and Pope from Swift, an inveterate and unreasonable averfion and contempt for Bentley, whose admirable Boyle's Lectures, Remarks on Collins's Emendations of Menander and Callimachus, and Tully's Tufcal. Difp. whose edition of Horace, and, above all, Differtations on the Epiftles of Phalaris, (in which he gained the most complete victory over a whole army of wits,) all of them exhibit the most striking marks of accurate and extensive erudition, and a vigorous and acute understanding. He degraded himself much by his ftrange and abfurd hypothefis of the faults of which Milton's amanuenfis introduced into that poem. But I have been informed that there was ftill an additional cause for Pope's refentment: That Atterbury, being in company with Bentley and Pope, infifted upon knowing the Doctor's opinion of the English Homer; and that, being earnestly preffed to declare his fentiments freely, he faid, "The verfes are good verfes, but the work is not Homer, it is Spondanus." It may, however, be obferved, in favour of Pope, that Dr. Clarke, whose critical exactness is well known, has not been able to point out above three or four mistakes in the fenfe throughout the whole Iliad. The real faults of that translation are of another kind: They are fuch as remind us of Nero's gilding a brazen ftatue of Alexander the Great, caft by Lyfippus. Pope, in a letter which Dr. Rutherforth fhewed me at Cambridge in the year 1771, written to a Mr. Bridges at Fulham, mentions his consulting Chapman and Hobbes, and talks of "their authority, joined to the knowledge of my own. imperfectness in the language, over-ruled me." These are the very words which I transcribed at the time.
VER. 163. Thefe ribalds,] How defervedly this title is given to the genius of PHILOLOGY, may be seen by a fhort account of the manners of the modern Scholiafts.
Each wight who reads not, and but scans and spells, Each Word-catcher that lives on fyllables,
When in these latter ages, human learning raifed its head in the Weft; and its tail, verbal criticifm, was, of course, to rife with it; the madness of Critics foon became so offensive, that the grave ftupidity of the Monks might appear the more tolerable evil. J. Argyropylus, a mercenary Greek, who came to teach school in Italy, after the facking of Conftantinople by the Turks, used to maintain that Cicero understood neither Philofophy nor Greek: while another of his countrymen, J. Lafcaris by name, threatened to demonftrate that Virgil was no Poet. Countenanced by fuch great examples, a French Critic afterwards undertook to prove that Aris totle did not understand Greek, nor Titus Livius, Latin. It has been fince discovered that Jofephus was ignorant of Hebrew; and Erafmus fo pitiful a linguift, that, Burman affures us, were he now alive, he would not deferve to be put at the head of a country school: And even fince it has been found out that Pope had no invention, and is only a Poet by courtesy. For though time has stripp'd the prefent race of Pedants of all the real accomplishments of their predeceffors, it has conveyed down this spirit to them, unimpaired; it being found much easier to ape their manners than to imitate their science. However, those earlier RIBALDS raised an appetite for the Greek language in the Weft; infomuch, that Hermolaus Barbarus, a passionate admirer of it, and a noted critic, used to boaft, that he had invoked and raised the Devil, and puzzled him into the bargain, about the meaning of the Ariftotelian ENTEAEXEIA. Another, whom Balzac fpeaks of, was as eminent for his Revelations; and was wont to fay, that the meaning of fuch or fuch a verse, in Perfius, no one knew but God and himfelf. While the celebrated Pomponius Lactus, in excess of veneration for Antiquity, became a real Pagan; raised altars to Romulus, and facrificed to the Gods of Latium; in which he was followed by our countryman Baxter, in every thing, but in the costlinefs of his facrifices.
But if the Greeks cried down Cicero, the Italian Critics knew how to fupport his credit. Every one has heard of the childish exceffe. into which the ambition of being thought CICERONIANS carried the most celebrated Italians of this time. They abftained from reading the Scriptures for fear of fpoiling their ftyle: Car
Ev'n fuch fmall Critics fome regard may claim,
dinal Bembo used to call the Epiftles of St. Paul by the contemptuous name of Epiftolaccias, great overgrown Epiftles. But ERASMUS cured their frenzy by that master-piece of good sense, his Ciceronianus. For which (in the way that Lunatics treat their Physicians) the elder Scaliger infulted him with all the brutal fury peculiar to his family and profeffion.
His fons Jofeph and Salmafius had indeed such endowments of nature and art, as might have raised modern learning to a rivalship with the ancient. Yet how did they and their adversaries tear and worry one another? The choiceft of Jofeph's flowers of speech were Stercus Diaboli, and Lutum Stercore maceratum. It is true, these were lavished upon his enemies: for his friends he had other things in ftore. In a letter to Thuanus, fpeaking of two of them, Clavius and Lipfius, he calls the firft a monfler of ignorance; and the other a flave to the Jefuits, and an Idiot. But fo great was his love of facred amity at the fame time, that he fays, I fill keep up my correspondence with him, notwithflanding his Idiotry, for it is my principle to be conflant in my friendships-Je ne refte de luy eferire, nonobftant fon Idioterie, d'autant que je fuis conftant en amitié. The character he gives of his own Chronology, in the same letter, is no lefs extraordinary: Vous vous pouvez affurer que nôtre Eufebe fera un tréfer des marveilles de la doctrine Chronologique. But this modeft account of his own work is nothing in comparison of the idea the Father gives his bookfeller of his own person. This book. feller was preparing fomething of Julius Scaliger's for the Prefs; and defired the Author would give him directions concerning his picture, which was to be fet before the book. Julius's anfwer (as it ftands in his collection of letters) is, that if the engraver could collect together the feveral graces of Maffiniffa, Xenophon, and Plato, he might then be enabled to give the public fome faint and imperfect refemblance of his Perfon. Nor was Salmafius's judgment of his own parts lefs favourable to himself, as Mr. Colomies tells the story. This Critic, on a time, meeting two of his brethren, Meff. Gaulman and Maussac, in the Royal Library at Paris, Gaulman, in a virtuous consciousness of their importance, told the other two, that he believed they three could make head against all
Pretty! in amber to obferve the forms
Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms!
the Learned in Europe. To which the great Salmafius fiercely replied, "Do you and M. Mauffac join yourselves to all that are learned in the world, and you shall find that I alone am a match for you all."
Voffius tells us, that when Laur. Valla had fnarled at every name of the first order in antiquity, fuch as Ariftotle, Cicero, and one whom I should have thought this Critic the likelieft to reverence, the redoubtable PRISCIAN, he impiously boasted that he had arms even against Chrift himself. But Codrus Urcaeus went further, and actually used those arms which the other only threatened with. This man, while he was preparing fome trifling piece of Criticism for the prefs, had the misfortune to hear his papers were deftroyed by fire: On which he is reported to have broke out-" Quodnam ego tantum fcelus concepi, O Christe! quem ego tuorum unquam læfi, ut ita inexpiabili in me odio debaccheris ? Audi ea quæ tibi mentis compos, et ex animo dicam. Si forte, cum ad ultimum vitæ finem pervenero, fupplex accedam ad te oratum, neve audias, neve inter tuos accipias oro; cum Infernis Diis in æternum vitam agere decrevi." Whereupon, fays my author, he quitted the converse of men, threw himself into the thickest of a foreft, and wore out the wretched remainder of his life in all the agonies of defpair. W.
VER. 164. Slafbing Bentley] This great man, with all his faults, deferved however to be put into better company. The following words of Cicero describe him not amifs: "Habuit à natura genus quoddam acuminis, quod etiam arte limaverat, quod erat in reprehendendis verbis verfutum et folers: fed fæpe ftomachofum, nonnunquam frigidum, interdum etiam facetum. W.-I fhall add to this note an unpublished letter from my learned and excellent friend Mr. James Harris of Salisbury, addreffed to Mr. John Upton, the editor of Spenfer, and author of Obfervations on Shakespeare.
"My good Friend,
"I am much more rejoiced to hear you have found the cause of your disease, than to find you differ from me in my opinion about
The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare,
Horace. Diffention in matters of opinion (let the subject be what it will) is natural, I may fay, even neceffary, and brings no harm. Bitterness, for that reafon, is neither neceffary nor natural, and what I hope neither you nor I are fufceptible of, neither with refpect to friends nor ftrangers.
"When I think of Bentley, I can't help comparing him to Virgil's Fame;
"Ingrediturque folo, et caput inter nubila condit:"
An immenfe monfter, poffeffed of a thousand eyes and a thousand ears, to fee, and hear, and know every thing, but, at the same time,
"Tam ficti pravique tenax, quam nuncia veri.”
The consciousness of his own great parts and accomplishments furnished him with a pride, that, as it made him condemn the fentiments of most others, so it made him deify his own errours.
"For Horace, there is no doubt that he collected his pieces together, and so published them as we do, now-a-days, mifcellanies. Common fenfe and practice, on fimilar occafions, is the fame in all ages; nor is there any need of all Bentley's parade about Catullus, Propertius, Ovid, and others, to prove, what no one doubted, that the writers of fhort pieces, not long enough in themselves to make a juft volume, fhould bring them together for that purpose, with a dedication or preface. This, however, is all that this critic has done (and a work, indeed, it is that a much less scholar than he was well equal to) in order to refute the far superior labours of Dacior and others, in fixing the dates of each particular piece. The whole of the dispute comes to this: The time of writing each particular Satire, Ode, or Epiftle has nothing farther to do with the time of the volume's publication, which contains it, than that the piece muft neceffarily have been written firft but every piece had undoubtedly its own date distinct from all the reft, according as joy or grief, health or ficknefs, fummer or winter, and a thousand other incidents, afforded the occafion. When it was thus written, was it shut up (think you) and concealed, never shewn to the polite world with whom he lived, nor even to the friend to whom it was addreffed, till he had compofed