Page images
PDF
EPUB

1802.]

WAKEFIELD'S LUCRETIUS.

in Vind. L. M. O. . Cæteri libri, ut evulgari solet, habent Et. Quoque noscere: P. II. cognoscere, ut communes editi.' All the three Harleian MSS. with one accord give E; two of them, II. and E., quoque noscere. This therefore is an error of commission."

247

The conclusion of the article, whether wholly from Porson's hand or not, is as follows:

"In thus examining the present edition of Lucretius, we feel a strong confidence that we shall not be suspected of being actuated by any resentment against a person who must himself feel the chief evils of a restless, impatient, intolerant mind. We think it, indeed, most lamentable, that a man, whose proper occupations are study and polite literature, should be so little able to command himself, as to fall into extravagances of political conduct, injurious ultimately to himself and family. Too many instances of this spirit appear, completely out of their place, in this edition of Lucretius; in the form of political verses, allusions to the glories of France, and aspirations after similar changes here, with prophetic intimations of their approach. In such a farrago, abuse of us and our work, as supporting all that Mr. W. wishes to see overthrown, is virtually the highest compliment; and though we owe no gratitude to the intentions of the author, we cannot but approve the tendency of his conduct towards us.

"We see, however, in his pages, not the slightest tincture of the character which he has, very early in his preface, bestowed upon himself, si quis unquam, diffidens mei. A most extravagant self-confidence, on the contrary, is everywhere conspicuous, except in a few of these prefatory flourishes; and though his maturer judgment has enabled him to see in his own Silva Critica, plurima quæ sint juveniliter temeraria, άπроodióvνoa prorsus, et homine critico indigna,' yet the very same character, unimproved, will be found to prevail in his critical conjectures, scattered abundantly throughout the notes to this work, and readily accessible by means of his critical index. No author escapes his rage for correction; and Horace and Virgil, in particular, would have as little know

ledge of their own works, were they presented to them reformed à la Wakefield, as we should of the British constitution, were it given to his emendation. We can, however, pity while we censure; and most sincerely wish that, with a more temperate mind, even in literature, he would give himself exclusively, and without mixture, to those studies in which, with all his failings, he has certainly made a proficiency not common among the scholars of this country."

By his political follies Wakefield brought on himself a hard, but not unmerited, fate. He could see nothing right in the administration of his country. He went to the House of Commons to hear Mr. Pitt speak, and thought him a monster, dire as any that had ever issued from the Stygian flood, because he had not proved himself the reformer that he had promised to be. He adopted the vilest jacobinical notions, which he promulgated in English tracts, in his Latin prefaces and notes to his editions of the classics, and in every other method within his reach. His "Reply to the Bishop of Llandaff's Address to the People of Great Britain" contained such vehement abuse of the civil authorities, and such treasonable expressions of hope that the French would invade and conquer England, that the ministry, who would have been weak to let it pass, commenced a prosecution against the author, the termination of which was a sentence to two years' imprisonment in Dorchester gaol; a punishment which his sedition fully deserved, though the gaoler seems to have been permitted to treat him too tyrannically during his confinement. Shortly after his release he died of a fever, contracted by taking long walks, of which he had been extremely fond before his incarceration, but for which restraint and inaction had unfitted him. He is

1802.]

EICHSTÄDT'S LETTER TO PORSON.

to be pitied for his want of judgment and self-control, both as a scholar and a politician. Parr observed that he" united the simplicity of a child with the fortitude of a martyr; "* that is, in plainer phrase, he combined great folly with great obstinacy.

In March 1801, Eichstädt despatched to Porson the first volume of his Diodorus Siculus, accompanied with the following highly complimentary letter. But, as the difficulty of transmission from the continent to England was at that time very great, the parcel was stopped at Hamburg. In May he sent it off again, attaching to his letter a postscript.

"To the most celebrated RICHARD PORSON,

249

HENR. CAROLUS ABR. EICHSTÄDT, Professor at
Jena, wishes health.

"Some time ago, when I was engaged in giving instruction at the University of Leipsic, I happened to form an intimate acquaintance with a very excellent man, Mr. Herbert Marsh, who, though he was distinguished by eminent merit of his own, both for talents and learning, seemed to me, nevertheless, to have still greater recommendation to notice from enjoying the friendship and regard of a gentleman so highly honoured as yourself. He spoke to me so frequently of your kindness, and in such handsome terms, that having long known and admired your extensive and exquisite learning, which is aided by eminent acuteness of judgment, I began, as I contemplated your excellent qualities of mind, even to conceive an affection for you. That feeling was strengthened by time, and, from your notes on Euripides, giving proofs alike of perspicacity and elegance, gradually assumed such force, that I often felt in my mind the most ardent desire to testify publicly my respect for you. Modesty caused long hesitation;

* Stephens's Memoirs of H orne Tooke, vol. i. p. 316.

but my good feeling towards you at length prevailed, and gained such influence over me, that I resolved not only to send you my Diodorus Siculus, which I have lately proceeded to publish, but even to place it under your protection by a public dedication. If you regard this determination of mine as I should wish, I shall be extremely delighted, and, as I have written with truth at the end of my preface to Diodorus, shall consider it the commencement of a favourable judgment from the world; or, if my hopes of praise be disappointed, you will nevertheless not wholly despise the affectionate expressions of a mind deeply devoted to you.

"But while I am speaking of my preface, let me say, most excellent Porson, how much I should wish to ask another favour of you, if I might do so without appearing presumptuous. There are illustrations, doubtless, either discoverable in the libraries of your happy Britain, or the produce of your own admirable genius, with which my edition of Diodorus. might be greatly improved. If your kindness would oblige me with any portion of these, I should then, believe me, consider that I had done something useful in undertaking the duty of an editor.

"This request, if I were not afraid of transgressing all bounds of modesty, I would gladly extend to Lucretius, of whom, at the will and pleasure of a bookseller, I have lately commenced an edition, which is to be such as to present all that is good in Wakefield's, with some additional annotations of my own, if I can produce any. Wakefield's edition, indeed, has long been scarce among us, both because of Bentley's great name being connected with it, and because it is sold at a price too heavy for German poverty. A man of such knowledge as you, Sir, will easily be able to produce abundance of matter to throw new light on Lucretius, and to rectify the learning of your countryman, which has rather been poured out rashly than drawn forth considerately. But that my edition of that author should be graced with such adornment, I venture rather to wish, than to hope or to request of you; for I know that Porsoniana cannot worthily be attached to anything inferior to Toupiana. Farewell, illus

1802.]

EICHSTÄDT TO PORSON.

trious Sir, and may you long enjoy with happiness the glory which your merits have secured you.

"Jena, March 1, 1801."

251

"To the honourable and most learned Professor of the Greek Language, Mr. RICHARD PORSON, at Cambridge.

"POSTSCRIPT.-It happens, with very unlucky omen, most excellent Porson, that the letter which I sent you two months ago, with a copy of Diodorus, has been sent back to me from Hamburg; for some obstruction, I know not what, in the public mode of conveyance, has prevented it from finding its way into Great Britain. I have therefore sought for another method of transmitting my communications to you, and the opportunity of Leipsic fair has presented one. May Apollo grant that the little offering which you should long ago have received may not be returned to me a second time! This delay, however, though for other reasons very disagreeable to me, is attended with this advantage, that, as the first volume of my Lucretius has in the mean time issued from the press, I have been enabled to add it, without hesitation, to the Diodorus; for I hoped that if my plan of editing Lucretius should not be wholly disapproved by you, you would feel more inclined to grant the favour which I asked of you somewhat too boldly in the preceding letter. Receive, therefore, with favourable regard, that which I offer you with hopeful anticipations, and bestow your good wishes on me and my attempts.

"Jena, May 23, 1801.

"Joined a Book signated M. R. P.,

Cambridge.
Hamburg."

Free.

But Eichstädt had the same cause for complaint as most of those who wrote letters to Porson. He waited more than a year without receiving any notice that his books had reached the end of their journey, and in

« PreviousContinue »