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If want provoked, or madness made them print, 155 I waged no war with Bedlam or the Mint.
Did some more sober critic come abroad; If wrong, I smiled; if right, I kiss'd the rod. Pains, reading, study, are their just pretence, And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense.
160 Commas and points they set exactly right, And 'twere a sin to rob them of their mite. Yet ne'er one sprig of laurel graced these ribalds, From slashing Bentley down to piddling Tibalds :
Ver. 163. Yet ne'er one sprig] Swift imbibed from Sir W. Temple, and Pope from Swift, an inveterate and unreasonable aversion and contempt for Bentley, whose admirable Boyle's Lectures, Remarks on Collins's Emendations of Menander and Callimachus, and Tully's Tuscul. Disp.; whose edition of Horace, and, above all, Dissertations on the Epistles 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 strange and absurd hypothesis of the faults which Milton's amanuensis introduced into that poem. But I have been informed that there was still an additional cause for Pope's resentment: that Atterbury, being in company with Bentley and Pope, insisted upon knowing the Doctor's opinion of the English Homer; and that, being earnestly pressed to declare his sentiments freely, he said, “The verses are good verses, but the work is not Homer ; it is Spondanus." It may, however, be observed, 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 sense throughout the whole Iliad. The real faults of that translation are of another kind: they are such as remind us of Nero's gilding a brazen statue of Alexander the Great, cast by Lysippus. Pope, in a letter which Dr. Rutherforth shewed me at Cambridge in the year 1771, written to a Mr. Bridges at Fulham, mentions his consulting Chapman and Hobbes, and talks of “their autho
Each wight who reads not, and but scans and spells,
165 Each word-catcher that lives on syllables,
rity, 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.
Warton. Ver. 163. these ribalds,] How deservedly this title is given to the genius of Philology, may be seen by a short account of the manners of the modern Scholiasts.
When in these latter ages, human learning raised its head in the west, and its tail, verbal criticism, was, of course, to rise with it, the madness of critics soon became so offensive, that the grave stupidity of the monks might appear the more tolerable evil. J. Argyropylus, a mercenary Greek, who came to teach school in Italy, after the sacking of Constantinople by the Turks, used to maintain that Cicero understood neither philosophy nor Greek : while another of his countrymen, J. Lascaris by name, threatened to demonstrate that Virgil was no poet. Countenanced by such great examples, a French critic afterwards undertook to prove that Aristotle did not understand Greek, nor Titus Livius, Latin. It has been since discovered that Josephus was ignorant of Hebrew; and Erasmus so pitiful a linguist, that, Burman assures us, were he now alive, he would not deserve to be put at the head of a country school: and even since, it has been found out that Pope had no invention, and is only a poet by courtesy. For though time has stripped the present race of pedants of all the real accomplishments of their predecessors, 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 west; insomuch, that Hermolaus Barbarus, a passionate admirer of it, and a noted critic, used to boast, that he had invoked and raised the devil, and puzzled him into the bargain, about the meaning of the Aristotelian ENTEAEXEIA. Another, whom Balzac speaks of, was as eminent for his Revelations; and was wont to say, that the meaning of such or such a verse in Persius, no one knew but God and himself. While the celebrated Pomponius Lætus, in excess of veneration for antiquity, became a real Pagan; raised
Even such small critics some regard may claim, Preserved in Milton's or in Shakespear's name.
altars to Romulus, and sacrificed to the Gods of Latium ; in which he was followed by our countryman Baxter, in every thing but in the costliness of his sacrifices.
But if the Greeks cried down Cicero, the Italian critics knew how to support his credit. Every one has heard of the childish excesses into which the ambition of being thought CICERONIANS carried the most celebrated Italians of this time. They abstained from reading the Scriptures for fear of spoiling their style: Cardinal Bembo used to call the Epistles of St. Paul by the contemptuous name of Epistolaccias, great overgrown Epistles. 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 insulted him with all the brutal fury peculiar to his family and profession.
His sons Joseph and Salmasius 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 choicest of Joseph'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 store. In a letter to Thuanus, speaking of two of them, Clavius and Lipsius, he calls the first a monster of ignorunce; and the other, a slave to the Jesuits, and an idiot. But so great was his love of sacred amity at the same time, that he says, I still keep up my correspondence with him, notwithstanding his idiotry, for it is my principle to be constant in my friendships-Je ne reste de luy escrire, nonobstant son idioterie, d'autant que je suis constant en amitié. The character he gives of his own chronology, in the same letter, is no less extraordinary: Vous vous pouvez assurer que nôtre Eusebe sera un trésor des marveilles de la doctrine chronologique.
But this modest account of his own work, is nothing in comparison of the idea the father gives his bookseller of his own person. This bookseller was preparing something of Julius Scaliger's for the press ; and desired the author would give him directions concerning his picture, which was to be set before the book. Julius's answer (as it stands in his collection of letters) is, that if the engraver
Pretty! in amber to observe the forms.
could collect together the several graces of Masinissa, Xenophon, and Plato, he might then be enabled to give the public some faint and imperfect resemblance of his person. Nor was Salmasius's judgment of his own parts less favourable to himself; as Mr. Colomies tells the story. This critic, on a time, meeting two of his brethren, Messrs. 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 the learned in Europe. To which the great Salmasius fiercely replied: “Do you and M. Maussac join yourselves to all that are learned in the world, and you shall find that I alone am a match for
all." Vossius tells us, that when Laur. Valla had snarled at every name of the first order in antiquity, such as Aristotle, Cicero, and one whom I should have thought this critic the likeliest to reverence, the redoubtable Priscian, he impiously boasted that he had arms even against Christ himself. But Ccdrus Urcæus went further, and actually used those arms which the other only threatened with. This man, while he was preparing some trifling piece of criticism for the press, had the misfortune to hear his papers were destroyed by fire; on which he is reported to have broke out: “Quodnam ego tantum scelus concepi, O Christe! quem ego tuorum unquam læsi, 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, supplex accedam ad te oratum, neve audias, neve inter tuos accipias oro ; cum infernis Düs in æternum vitam agere decrevi.” Whereupon, says my author, he quitted the converse of men, threw himself into the thickest of a forest, and wore out the wretched remainder of his life in all the agonies of despair.
Warburton. This attack by Warburton upon the early promoters of literature is much too indiscriminate, and is by no means called for by
passage in Pope, in which he meant only to refer to his contemporary critics and word-catchers. That the Genius, or rather the professors of PHILOLOGY are deservedly characterized by the
The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare,
name of ribalds, is a strange assertion for a commentator who has devoted so considerable a portion of his time to that employment, and has not been sparing of his sarcasms on those who have not always agreed with him in opinion. Of the names mentioned with such contempt by Warburton, many are far beyond his power to depreciate, and the manner in which he speaks of Argyropylus. Lascur, Hermolaus Bar burus, Pomponius Lætus, &c. shews that he was but little acquainted with their characters. To cast a ridicule on learning, by repeating a series of absurd imputations on its professors, many of which have not the slightest foundation in truth, is certainly not the business either of a scholar or a divine. That in their dissensions the early critics often transgressed the bounds of civility, and even of decency, is well known; but to revive these exploded calumnies, in order to discredit the study of philology itself, can scarcely be allowed ; particularly when we consider that the person who brings them forward, has both attacked others and been attacked himself, with a degree of asperity and virulence not exceeded by any of the critics of former times, of which a sufficient instance appears in the ensuing notes on ver. 169.
Ver. 164. slashing Bentley) This great man, with all his faults, deserved however to be put into better company. The following words of Cicero describe him not amiss : “ Habuit à natura genus quoddam acuminis, quod etiam arte limaverat, quod erat in reprehendendis verbis versutum et solers; sed sæpe stomachosum, nonnunquam frigidum, interdum etiam facetum." Warburton.
Ver. 164. slashing Bentley] The following epigram by Pope, on Bentley's edition of Milton, to which the epithet “slashing" alludes, I have found in his hand-writing:
“ Did Milton's prose, O Charles ! thy death defend ?
A furious foe unconscious proves a friend.