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or famine, and abandon their patients to the undertaker at the very moment when disease has quitted them, and hope as well as the sick man might revive. Yet, if few men could have conceived such a craze as the Disorder of Death,' fewer still could have argued the case more plausibly, or maintained it with so much learning.
As must often happen with intimacies formed at the University, the current of life severed Porson from Whiter, bearing the one to London, and the other, in the first instance, to France, and afterwards to a Norfolk parsonage. Each of this remarkable pair had been profoundly stirred by the opinions which heralded, and the events which marked, the first French Revolution. Porson would toast Jack Cade at the Cider Cellar, and lampoon Pitt in the Morning Chronicle, at a time when such effervescences were not quite safe; and Whiter would harangue the farmers of Ely Fen upon such perilous themes as the taxes, the misery of a realm that has a boy for its ruler, and the glories of the virgin republic then united and unvexed, and starting on the race-course of nations. At Caen in Normandy, Whiter, among other companions, became intimate with Brissot and Collot d'Herbois : the idem velle' and the idem nolle' in politics brought and kept them together ; as for Collot, his claws were then sheathed in velvet, and Whiter set him down for the most humane of men, who, like Cowper, would not set his foot knowingly on a worm, or, like Uncle Toby, would spare an importunate fly thirsting for his blood.
When in due time the rectory of Hardingham became vacant, Whiter went down to inspect his future flock and sheep-fold. Porson accompanied him. The prospect of rural felicity was not at first attractive. The parsonage, which the late incumbent had shunned as if it had been a pest-house, was battered and decayed; the garden was like that of the sluggard; and the parish was just then in high dudgeon about some inclosure or tithe matter, which it ascribed, very wisely, to the grasping spirit of the parsons. These, however, were merely general calamities; for Porson there was desolation beyond them all in that ruinous rectory. There was nothing to drink! The only ale-house was then a mile off the parsonage; he would gladly have debased himself to water, but the well was dry, and neither of the pilgrims to this Norfolk Sahara had thought to arm himself with even a flask of brandy. Porson was ' in extremis :' he would not be left to perish alone; he could not stir a foot in quest of any living stream in wood or bottle ; he was for a Wonder οδοιπορών --- νήφων αοίνοις
- rpwv åoivois — a traveller, extremely
sober, among people who had no wine. He was saved, after long and desperate search, by the discovery, in a rat-tenanted closet, of some mixture which had been meant originally for a sick groom or horse, but which, fortunately for them, and as it proved for Porson also, had been forgotten. •Impiger hausit:' and, in the strength infused by this hideous decoction, he dragged his weary limbs to the village tap-room, where · Richard' presently became himself again.
Whether he ever again visited Hardingham, after such an adventure, we do not know. Had he done so, he would have found, besides a most limpid stream of water, fresh and bright as the Bandusian fount, abundance of good wine and good books, and such discourse on learning and literature as his soul loved. Whiter, in all these respects the very antithesis of his friend, now regulated his hours literally by the clock. He 'burnt daylight;' rising very early and retiring seasonably to rest; allotting so many hours to reading, and so many to diet and exercise, and punctual in his ablutions and potations of water. Much more we could say of Whiter : of his intercourse with the Shakspeare commentators, of the progress of the New Etymologicon Magnum, of his intimacy with J. Hookham Frere, and other matters and persons. But enough has been recorded to show that Mr. Watson should not have passed over this name cursorily; and we must turn to Porson himself.
We begin with, in order that we may the sooner be rid of, his crowning vice of drunkenness. We cannot accept Mr. Watson's hint that everybody drank hard in those days. That most indubitable fact will not meet Porson's case: inasmuch as, at a time when to drink deep was common, he was noted and censured for excess. Pitt, Dundas, and Sheridan were notorious for their potations; the Duke of Norfolk was accustomed to proclaim beforehand that by the blessing of — he would be drunk on the next Friday; ' Kemble, according to Sir Walter Scott, drank claret by the pailful ;' Dr. Parr often lost his temper, and more than once his wig, through too swift passage of the decanters; and to be sober as a judge' perplexed many worthy persons — was it a maxim of the law, or was it profane irony? But upon none of these, from the Prince Hal of the day to the stately enactor of kings and consuls, was the brand of drunkenness so indelibly stamped as on Porson. Whence this uneven-handed justice? Partly, we believe, because his excesses were abnormal, and partly because they were combined with coarseness of manners. The quantity of alcoholic fluids which Porson could imbibe rests on credible and numerous vouchers, yet is 'portentous, unexampled, unexplained,'
except on the supposition that some exceptional condition of the absorbents may have been at the root of his chronic thirst.
That he could, when he so willed it, practise rigid abstinence is apparent from two anecdotes related by Mr. Watson. In the interval between the resignation of his fellowship and his election to the Regius Professorship of Greek "he lived for six weeks on a guinea, which, at sixpence a day would leave him with sixpence only on the last day. He used to dine on milk, or bread and cheese and porter. He told his nephew Mr. Hawes, that for a month he took only two extremely frugal meals in the twenty-four hours.'
In his eating,' says Mr. Watson, 'as to the quality of his food he was easily satisfied. He went once to the Bodleian to collate a manuscript; and, as the work would occupy him several days, Routh, the President of Magdalen, who was leaving home for the long vacation, said to him at his departure:“ Make my house your home, Mr. Porson, during my absence ; for my servants will have orders to be quite at your command, and to procure you whatever you please.” When he returned, he asked for the account of what the Professor had had during his stay. The servant brought the bill, and the Doctor, glancing at it, observed a fowl entered in it every day. “What,” said he, “ did you provide for Mr. Porson no better than this, but oblige him to dine every day on fowl?”—“No, sir," replied the servant," but we asked the gentleman the first day what he would have for dinner, and as he did not seem to know very well what to order, we suggested a fowl. When we went to him about dinner every day afterwards, he always said, “The same as yesterday,' and this was the only answer we could get from him."
One constant source of temptation to evil habits is the ambition to be king of the company,' and to this we attribute much of Porson's infirmity. He was at his ease in his inn and at the Cider Cellar, and is said to have considered the following the highest compliment he ever received. Dick,' said some tavern Bardolph, can beat us all : he can drink all night and spout all day.' But he was shy and constrained, until after the operation of the second' bottle, at more civilised tables; and when he could not usurp, often disdained or rudely interrupted, conversation.
That Porson was a coarse man, in an age not remarkable for refinement, appears from the anecdotes and bon-mots ascribed to him; from the general character of his humorous writings, which his biographer strangely compares to those of Gray; and from occasional samples of rudeness in return for well meant, if not always well-timed, kindness. Take the following example of his shunning society which was ready to welcome him, and which he, but for his besetting infirmity, would have adorned.
*He was once dining with Mackintosh, who expressed a wish that he should accompany him on the following day to Holland House, to meet Fox. Porson made some reply that sounded like consent; and Mackintosh, meeting Mr. Maltby the next morning, told him that Porson was going to Lord Holland's. Maltby, coming in contact with Porson shortly after, observed to him : “I hear that you are to dine at Holland House to-day.”—“Who told you so ? "_" Mackintosh.”—“But I certainly shall not go," rejoined Porson ; “they invite me merely out of curiosity, and, after they have satisfied it, would like to kick me downstairs.”—“But,” said Maltby, “Fox is coming expressly from St. Ann's Hill to be introduced to you.” The attraction, however, was ineffective; Porson persisted in staying away.'
They who best remember the exquisite urbanity of the host and the society at Holland House will best understand the absurdity of Porson's fears, and will also be the readiest to deplore the infatuation that banished him from circles in which he would have learnt more than he could have imparted. But Holland House offered him no solitary throne, and he thought it better to reign in the Cider Cellar than to encounter his equals at good men's tables.
We now turn to the more agreeable portions of Mr. Watson's volume - those in which Porson's virtues may be separated from his faults. To the latter we should not have allotted so much space, had there not appeared to us compensation for them in his striking and singular merits.
First, by universal consent, and this tribute is paid him by some who loved him not, he was a perfectly honest man ; and, if to be honest as this world goes is to be one man picked out of ten thousand, to be so in scholarship is no less rare a distinction. Rough antagonist as he proved himself, Porson was never, properly speaking, the challenger. It was Hermann who began the war: it was Wakefield who nettled and stung with pismires the greatest scholar of the day. He descended voluntarily into the arena on the side of Gibbon, not because strife was dear to him, but because a sciolist in theology was helping the public to defame the great historian and to keep in their eyes the dust already there. In his reviews he dealt smashing blows, but he did no more than his duty. In the complete armour of Greek learning it was his office to touch the weak joints in the mail of less well accoutred scholars. But his honesty was not negative. He meted to himself according to the measure which he dealt to others. From the ceremonies and compliments of scholarship he was indeed averse. He desired in his notes to be simply instructive : his motto was Sancho's wholesome proverb, Ni ‘quito rey ni pongo rey,' — he neither marred nor made repu
tations for learning, provided they came to his hands in tolerable repair. In his . Notæ breves ad Toupii Emendationes in Suidam' -in which he gave the first tokens of his mastery in the critical art- he states : Semper ab eorum consuetudine valde abhorrui, qui nihil aliud quam pulchre, bene, recte, tertio quoque verbo
gerunt;' adding, at the same time, that had not he had the highest opinion of Toup's genius and learning, he never would bave written anything upon him. Wakefield — of whom Mr. Watson has a very mean, and therefore a very just, opinion, both as a man and a scholar —had recommended Porson, after the appearance of his ‘Hecuba,' to make his notes less dry and formal, “to render them entertaining by the interspersion of 'amænitates and lepores, and disquisitions on any matters that "might occur to him in the course of his reading,' — in short to edit Euripides as Wakefield himself had edited Lucretius. Had Porson followed this worshipful advice, his name would long since have sunk as low as Wakefield's, and the par nobile,' if not quite forgotten, have been remembered like Pope's two brother-serjeants,' who deemed each other oracles of law.'
““'Twas, Sir, your law", and "Sir, your eloquence,”
“ Yours Cowper's manner”-—and “yours Talbot's sense. And if he abstained from trading in 'euge' and 'belle," he was no less abstinent in such self-laudations as Bentley too often indulges in. Porson magnified his office, not his name. He knew, he could not help knowing, that he possessed more of the science of the Greek language than any scholar then living, and that among English scholars Bentley alone stood on an equal eminence. A conjecture—for conjecture's sake
from him would have been hailed by half the Grecians in Europe as sound exposition. His frugality, accordingly, in altering and amending was a virtue. He could see better than any man when matters were well: and he could let well alone. Another proof of his self-denial under strong temptations to play the annotator is, that he rigidly confined himself to verbal and metrical criticism. Yet that Schlegel himself had not a finer perception of the laws of composition, and the theory of the beautiful in poetry, is shown in the Prælectio which he delivered on his election to the Professorship.
But his honesty was not limited to scholarship. It was no less conspicuous in his life. Before we attempt to gauge or describe it, let us consider his position and the urgent temptations to amend it which he resisted. He was a poor weaver's son: he had wrought at his father's loom: he had helped his mother to glean in the corn-fields. He was educated at a village