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NATURE OF AGAINST THE
— WAKEFIELD'S DIATRIBE EXTEMPORALIS.'
IN 1797 came forth Porson's first edition of a Greek play, the Hecuba of Euripides, in duodecimo, without his name, though, to most of those who took interest in classical publications, it was well known that it was his. A short preface was prefixed, in which Porson observed that nothing recondite, or of deep research, was to be expected in the notes, as the edition was intended for the use of tiros; that the text, if not everywhere correct, was at least, he hoped, nearer to correctness than it had previously been brought; that wherever the common reading had been altered, the reason for the alteration had been assigned; and that no citation of the play by any ancient author, presenting a variety of reading, had, as far as the editor's memory served him, been omitted. Some remarks on the iambic trimeter were added, in which it was said that the tragic poets never admitted an anapæst beyond the first place, or a dactyl beyond the third, except in the case of a proper name.
The preface then concluded as follows:
"The duty of explaining and illustrating I have forborne to take upon myself, partly lest what was intended to be but a pamphlet should swell into a volume. Imitations of Euripides by Latin writers I have, however, as they arose to my recollection, cited in the margin. The few passages where I have assumed the duty of the interpreter are such as allowed me to unite with it that of the critic. But if I shall be thought to have been, on any point, too sparing of annotation, I will endeavour, in the plays that are to follow, to avoid that fault; for the reader is to understand that the other plays of Euripides will soon be published in the usual order, if I shall find that the present specimen is not disapproved by the literary world; and, should I bring my work to a conclusion, I intend to add some remarks on the different metres of the tragic poets."
THE HECUBA PUBLISHED.
The preceding editors, Aldus, Barnes, King, Musgrave, and Beck, were duly consulted, and three new collations of manuscripts were given, two in the library of the Royal Society, and a third in the British Museum.
Among those who were not quite certain that the new edition was Porson's, was Gilbert Wakefield, with whom Porson maintained some intimacy, and who had previously published the five parts of his Silva Critica, and his Tragoediarum Delectus, in both of which publications he had proposed some emendations of the Hecuba. Feeling persuaded however that Porson was the editor, and finding that he himself was not mentioned in the preface or annotations, he hastened, in great agitation, to the shop of Evans, the publisher, and asked him who the editor was. "Can you have any doubt?" replied Evans; "Mr. Porson, of course." "But,” said Wakefield, "I want proof, positive proof." "Well,
then," replied Evans, "I saw Mr. Porson present a largepaper copy to Mr. Cracherode, and heard him acknowledge himself the editor." Wakefield, having thus got sufficient evidence, went home and wrote In Euripidis Hecubam Londini nuper publicatam Diatribe Extemporalis; an effusion compounded of praise and censure, of complaint and apology.
"A few days before the appearance of this production," says Kidd, "Porson had met Wakefield at Payne's shop, from whence, conversing amicably on literary matters, they sauntered down to Egerton's, and afterwards parted in a friendly manner at Charing Cross. A few days afterwards, Porson left town for the countryhouse of a friend, where he was told that Wakefield was coming out with something against him.' He was surprised, but, on receiving a copy of the performance, observed that it was as unskilful as it was rash, and that a column in a morning paper would be sufficient to show its want of solidity. But,' added he, ‘if he goes on thus, he will tempt me to examine his Silva Critica. I hope we shall not meet; for a violent quarrel would be the consequence.'
On the eve of the publication of the Diatribe, Porson is said to have been at a club to which he belonged, consisting of seven members and a president; when, in the course of the evening, the president proposed that each of the members should toast a friend, accompanying his name with a suitable quotation from Shakspeare. When Porson's turn came, he said, "I'll give you my
* Rogers's Table Talk, "Porsoniana," p. 320. Kidd, Tracts, p. lxxi.
friend Gilbert Wakefield. 'What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba ?'"
Wakefield's great reason for sending forth this pamphlet was, as he pretends, to remind the learned of that kindness and courtesy which they ought to observe in their conduct one towards another.
"The intercourse of scholars with scholars," he says, "in which they have constant opportunities of praising, advising, assisting, and recommending one another, conducting themselves, not as detractors from others' merits, but as sharers and competitors in the same honourable labours, has always appeared to me one of the most grateful consolations of the unhappy lot of man. For my own part, whatever others may think, if I should become insensible to the incitements of honourable fame,
"Quæ carmine gratior aurem Occupat humanam,'
I should consider that I lost by such privation one of the noblest feelings of our common nature; nor would I object to be pronounced by all upright and liberal-minded men, in the words of Nestor,"
̓Αφρήτωρ, ἀθέμιστος, ἀνέστιος,
unfit to share the same social rites, the same laws, and the same hearths with those around me. I would ask, therefore, those whose minds are of the higher order, and who are actuated by such kindly feelings as liberal studies ought to cherish, to tell me candidly whether a man, who has always been praised, honoured, and treated as a friend by me, is not altogether inexcusable, when, in writing on similar topics with myself, and seeing a favourable opportunity for commending me, he not only did not embrace it (for of that I should not have complained), but let it pass with such utter disregard as not obscurely to insinuate, but plainly to declare to all that read his pages, that he thinks my services to Greek literature utterly valueless, and considers me totally unworthy to have
my name enrolled among those of the learned. If I had left this insult, which, though silent, is more expressive than words, unresented, I might well be thought, through contemptible stolidity, ignorant of what is due to a high-minded man, and chargeable with the basest insensibility to ill treatment. But I am not deficient either in feeling or understanding; and this edition of the Hecuba provokes me boldly to display the inscription on my standard, Spectemur agendo, which (having all my life laboured under many disadvantages, and not having enjoyed, what I should have considered the greatest happiness, an education at Eton,) I should before have been afraid to hold up to view."
The allusion to education at Eton was intended as something like a sneer at Porson. Porson, in regard to his silence concerning Wakefield, told Burney that he had forborne to mention him from kindness, as he could have noticed him only with the severest censure.
Another reason which Wakefield gave for publishing the Diatribe was a desire that the relics of antiquity might be put in a more correct state, aliquanto castigatiora, into the hands of studious youth, for whom he sarcastically observes that Porson professed to write. He therefore proceeds to correct Porson's corrections, or to make remarks on passages which he thought that Porson should have altered. We shall produce a few of his animadversions; the futility of many of them will be evident to those who know but little Greek; and the mere English reader may wish to know something of the controversy.
His first assault is on Porson's patronage of the paragogic, inserted when the next word begins with a consonant. Thus he would read, at the end of an iambic verse,
εἴρηκε κακῶς, for εἴρηκεν,