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1806.]

LONDON INSTITUTION ESTABLISHED.

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ESTABLISHMENT OF THE LONDON INSTITUTION.— PORSON CHOSEN LIBRA-
RIAN. HIS FAILING HEALTH.-READY TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION
IN THE LIBRARY, BUT NEGLIGENT IN HIS ATTENDANCE. BECOMES
UNFITTED FOR ALL REGULAR STUDY.—HIS WEAKNESS; HE FAINTS IN
THE STRAND. IS BROUGHT HOME. - HIS MEETING WITH DR. ADAM
CLARKE. DR. CLARKE'S ACCOUNT OF HIS ILLNESS. CONVERSATION
ABOUT A STONE FROM ELEUSIS. PORSON'S SUFFERINGS FROM PARA-
LYSIS. HIS DIFFICULTY IN SPEAKING. CONTINUED SUFFERING.
MR. NORRIS'S ACCOUNT OF HIS CONDITION. DR. BABINGTON AND MR.
UPTON VISIT HIM.-HIS DEATH.-HIS BODY OPENED; REPORT OF ITS
STATE.— HIS FUNERAL AT TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE. INSCRIP-
TION ON THE COFFIN. - TRIBUTES TO HIS MEMORY.— THE PORSON
PRIZE AND PORSON SCHOLARSHIP."-

""

HIS LIBRARY. HIS PAPERS. -ADVERSARIA.-ARISTOPHANICA.-PHOTIUS.LECTIONES PLATONICE.

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CHAP. XXV.

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-EMENDATIONS OF SUIDAS.

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315

66

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IN 1806 was established, by a Company of Shareholders, the London Institution, in the Old Jewry; and Porson was thought the most eligible man to be its Principal Librarian. He was accordingly appointed to that office by a unanimous resolution of the Governors, and the announcement of his election was made to him by "Conversation Sharp," one of their number. Professor Young of Glasgow, writing to Burney about that time, says, "Of Devil Dick you will say nothing. I see by the newspapers they have given him a post; a handsome salary, I hope; a suite of chambers, coal and candle, &c. Porter and cider, I trust, are among the et cæteras.” His emoluments were 2001. a year and a suite of rooms.

The Library of the Institution is large and valuable, and Porson's handwriting is to be seen in a few of the books. We have already mentioned what he has written in "My Pocket Book;" some critical remarks written in Anderson's "British Poets" will be found below; and there were some notes in a copy of Simplicius's "Commentary on Epictetus." All these are printed by Kidd in his "Tracts and Criticisms." A remark on a fly-leaf of Walter Moyle's Works, regarding a printer's blunder, Proandcopius Agathias, for Procopius and Agathias, has not escaped Mr. Barker. There is also a copy of the Aldine Herodotus, in which Porson has marked the chapters in the margin in Arabic numerals, with such nicety and regularity that the eye of the reader, unless upon the closest examination, takes them for print. For most courteous assistance in inspecting these volumes I am much indebted to Mr. Thomson, the present excellent librarian of the Institution.

But the Porson of that day was no longer the Porson of the time when he edited the Hecuba and the Orestes. His asthma had increased; the paroxysms of it, as early as 1804, had grown so violent that his friends were often afraid he would expire in their presence *; his habits had originated other diseases; and he was in a condition rather to rest than to act. He used "to attend in his place," however, according to Dr. Thomas Young, "when the reading-room was open, and to communicate very readily all the literary information that was required by those who consulted him respect

* Sexagenarian, vol. i. p. 220.

1806-1808.]

ing the object of their researches." Many resorted to his rooms to confer with him on matters of literature, both ancient and modern, and whatever he knew he was ready, when he was in sufficient health, and his faculties were unclouded, to tell. But of his general mode of discharging the duties of his office, Mr. Maltby, who had ample means of knowing, gives a very unfavourable account. His attendance was irregular; he made no efforts, such as had been expected from him, to purchase books to augment the library; and he was often brought home, in a state of helpless insensibility, long after midnight. Had his life been prolonged, it is hardly to be supposed that he would have been suffered to continue in his office. "I once read a letter," says Mr. Maltby," which he received from the Directors of the Institution, and which contained, among other severe things, this cutting remark, 'We only know you are our librarian by seeing your name attached to the receipts for your salary.' His intimate friend Dr. Raine was one of those who signed that letter; and Raine, speaking of it to me, said, 'Porson well deserved it.""* He became dissatisfied with the Directors, and used to call them "mercantile and mean beyond merchandise and meanness."

During the two years that he held this appointment, he made occasional visits to Cambridge and Eton, but seems to have applied himself to no regular study or occupation. His last visit to Norfolk was made in 1806, when he is said to have carried with him for perusal a manuscript of some portion of Plato, which he had borrowed from Dr. E. D. Clarke.

PORSON AS LIBRARIAN.

* Rogers's Table Talk, "Porsoniana," p. 337.

317

In the early part of 1808 his memory had begun to fail; and later in the year symptoms of intermittent fever appeared. In September he complained of being quite out of order, and feeling as if he had the ague.

On the morning of Monday the 19th of that month, he left the Institution to call on his brother-in-law, Mr. Perry, in the Strand, and reached his house about half past one, but, not finding him at home, proceeded along the Strand towards Charing Cross, and at the corner of Northumberland Street was seized with an apoplectic fit, which deprived him of speech and of the power of

motion.

For our knowledge of what befel him on that occasion, we are indebted chiefly to Mr. Savage, the Under Librarian of the London Institution, who was then editing a periodical publication called "The Librarian," in which he inserted an account of the commencement of Porson's illness. The work reached only two volumes, and is now scarce.

As none of those who gathered round Porson, when he fell senseless, knew who he was, and as nothing was found upon him to indicate his residence, he was conveyed to the workhouse in Castle Street, St. Martin's Lane, where medical assistance was immediately given, and he was partially restored to consciousness. But as he was still unable to speak, and was unknown there also, it was thought proper to insert an advertisement, describing his person, in the public papers, that his friends might be apprised of his condition. On the following morning, accordingly, a notice appeared in the "British Press," in which he was described as "a tall man, apparently about forty-five years of age,

1808.]

PORSON'S ILLNESS.

dressed in a blue coat and black breeches, and having in his pocket a gold watch, a trifling quantity of silver, and a memorandum-book, the leaves of which were filled chiefly with Greek lines written in pencil, and partly effaced; two or three lines of Latin, and an algebraical calculation; the Greek extracts being principally from ancient medical works.”

This account was seen by Mr. Savage, who, knowing that Porson had not slept at home the preceding night, had no doubt that he was the person described in the advertisement. He therefore hastened to the workhouse in Castle Street, where he found Porson, still extremely feeble, but sufficiently recovered to be able to walk. After asking a few questions, Mr. Savage proposed to call a coach, but Porson would not allow Mr. Savage to leave him for a moment, saying that he would rather walk and take one in the street. They therefore proceeded through the King's Mews to Charing Cross, and, getting into a vehicle, drove from thence towards the Old Jewry.

319

On the way, he spoke of his sudden attack in the street, and congratulated himself on having fallen into the hands of honest people, who had left him his gold watch, and everything else about him, in safety. He also adverted to the fire that had destroyed Covent Garden Theatre a few hours before, of which he had heard from those about him in the morning, and seemed much concerned at the account that Mr. Savage gave him of the loss of lives and property with which the catastrophe had been attended. He conversed, indeed, during the whole of the journey, in his usual pleasant and instructive manner, giving no indication that his

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