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CH. XXVI.]

"CORDIAL FOR LOW SPIRITS."

heels, into the party and interest of the church. It thundered for the church, and snowed for the church, and froze for the church. And yet the whigs, who have got all the money in the nation, have so brib'd the elements, that they have quite forsook the Catholic cause. We had last summer very hot weather, which, in the opinion of all the orthodox, boded nothing less to the nation than a general famine and pestilence, for the martyrdom of the blessed martyr, and the keeping out of the pretender. But these pestilential friends of the church, though earnestly wished for, and positively foretold, have not done the church the least service, by laying waste their native country. How often was the king's army to have been frozen up in Scotland, during the late rebellion! And most of the parsons in the kingdom had pawned their word and faith upon it. But, in the issue, neither the frost nor the snow help'd the church and the pretender.

"In last autumn, word was brought to the parson of a certain parish, that such a boy was just then killed with thunder and lightning. Is he?' says the parson. It is what I always foretold, that that boy would come to a dismal end, for he went constantly to a fanatical conventicle, and neither I nor his schoolmaster could dissuade him from it.' Ay, but Sir,' replied the messenger, who brought the Doctor these glad tidings, Gaffer Pitchfork is murdered too with thick same toady clap of thunder, and you do know, Sir, he was a main man for the church, and fought bravely for putting up the May-pole.' At this the Doctor scratched his head, and said, 'It is appointed unto all men once to die.""

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355

CHAP. XXVII.

PORSON'S MORAL AND CRITICAL HONESTY.-HIS HEAD AND HEART.—WAKE-
FIELD'S CHARACTER OF HIM.-HOW MUCH REGARD TO BE PAID TO IT.—
HIS WILLINGNESS TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION.-HIS FONDNESS FOR
BEAUTY OF PENMANSHIP.-HIS CONDUCT TOWARDS HIS RELATIVES.-HIS
AVERSION TO WRITING.-LITTLE IMAGINATION OR POWER OF PRODUC-
TION. THE BETTER QUALIFIED FOR CRITICISM.—HIS JUDGMENT, SAGA-
CITY, AND CAUTION.—HIS EXCELLENT EMENDATIONS.-COMPARED WITH
BENTLEY'S.-
.—EXAMPLES.-STYLE OF HIS NOTES.-BENTLEY LESS TRUST-
WORTHY AS A CORRECTOR THAN PORSON.-FEELINGS OF EACH WITH
REGARD TO AUTHORSHIP.-PORSON'S SERVICES TO LEARNING.-VALUE
OF CLASSICAL STUDIES.

THE great feature in Porson's character was honesty ; honesty in all his doings, as a critic and as a man. He was once, however it happened, arrested for debt, but took extreme care never to incur that disaster a second time.*

As a critic, he used to say, "whatever you quote or collate, do it fairly and accurately, whether it be Joe Miller, or Tom Thumb, or The Three Children Sliding on the Ice;"† and his practice was in conformity with his precept. As a man, he appears to have wronged no one in any way, at any time of his life. He was "true and just in all his dealings," if we except, perhaps, too little attention to his duties at the London Institution,

* Barker's Lit. Anecdotes, vol. ii. p. 25.
† Short Account of Porson, p. 11.

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CH. XXVII.]

PORSON'S HONESTY.

though, in making this exception, we must consider the state of his health when he was appointed; and he injured none by unmerited censure, but was as free as even Turner the painter himself from seeking to raise his own reputation by depreciating that of others. He blamed no efforts in literature, but such as it would have been folly to praise; and would probably have said nothing against Hermann or Wakefield, had not their presumption prompted them to aggression on him.

357

"He is not only a matchless scholar," said Parr *, who thought more highly of Porson than Porson thought of him, “but an honest, a very honest man." "I think him," he observes, in another place, "a sincere and well-principled man; with all his oddities, and all his fastidiousness, he is quite exempt from base and rancorous malignity; he shows, without concern, what may be the weaker parts of his character to vulgar minds; and he leaves men of wisdom and genius to discover, and to feel, and to admire, the brighter qualities of his head and his heart."+"There is one quality of the mind," says Bishop Turton, " in which it may be confidently affirmed that Mr. Porson had no superior; I mean, the most pure and inflexible love of truth. Under the influence of this principle, he was cautious, and patient, and persevering in his researches; and scrupulously accurate in stating facts as he found them. All who were intimate with him bear witness to this noble part of his character; and his works confirm the testimony of his friends."

* Works, vol. vii. p. 403.

‡ Vindication of Porson's Lit. Character, p. 348.

† Ibid. P. 407.

Kindliness of feeling he has been less readily allowed, his head being considered to have predominated over his heart. Pryse Gordon even says that he had no heart. The following elaborate character of him, by Wakefield*, though doubtless darkened by prejudice, has been thought, by a writer in the "Quarterly Review," to contain in it a large portion of truth:

"I have been furnished with many opportunities of observing Porson, by a near inspection. He has been at my house several times, and once for an entire summer's day. Our intercourse would have been frequent, but for three reasons: 1. His extreme irregularity, and inattention to times and seasons, which did not at all comport with the methodical arrangement of my time and family. 2. His gross addiction to that lowest and least excusable of all sensualities, immoderate drinking. And, 3. The uninteresting insipidity of his society; as it is impossible to engage his mind on any topic of mutual inquiry, to procure his opinion on any author or any passage of an author, or to elicit any conversation of any kind to compensate for the time and attendance of his company. And as for Homer, Virgil, and Horace, I never could hear of the least critical effort on them in his life. He is, in general, devoid of all human affections; but such as are of a misanthropic quality; nor do I think that any man exists for whom his propensities rise to the lowest pitch of affection and esteem. He much resembles Proteus in Lycophron :

ᾧ γέλως ἀπέχθεται,

Καὶ δάκρυ·

though, I believe, he has satirical verses in his treasury for Dr. Bellenden, as he calls him (Parr), and all his most intimate associates. But in his knowledge of the Greek tragedies, and Aristophanes; in his judgment of manuscripts and

*Correspondence with Fox, p. 99.

CI. XXVII.]

WAKEFIELD'S CHARACTER OF PORSON. 359

all that relates to the metrical properties of dramatic and lyric versification, with whatever is connected with this species of reading, none of his contemporaries must pretend to equal him. His grammatical knowledge also, and his acquaintance with the ancient Lexicographers and Etymologists, is most accurate and profound; and his intimacy with Shakspeare, Ben Jonson, and other dramatic writers, is probably unequalled. He is, in short, a most extraordinary person in every view, but unamiable; and has been debarred of a comprehensive intercourse with Greek and Roman authors by his excesses, which have made those acquirements impossible to him, from the want of that time which must necessarily be expended in laborious reading, and for which no genius can be made a substitute. No man has ever paid a more voluntary and respectful homage to his talents, at all times, both publicly and privately, in writings and conversation, than myself; and I will be content to forfeit the esteem and affection of all mankind, whenever the least particle of envy and malignity is found to mingle itself with my opinions. My first reverence is to virtue; my second only, to talents and erudition; where both unite, that man is estimable indeed to me, and shall receive the full tribute of honour and affection."

The charge of being "misanthropic, and devoid of all human affections," is ridiculed by Beloe, as utterly groundless, being refuted by abundance of passages in Porson's life. A man could not be inhuman or unfeeling, he observes, who was so fond of society, and who was so often drawn by his love of company into excesses. By his friend George Dyer, the writer of the notice of him in the "Public Characters," it is said. that" to the credit of his heart, he can discuss a subject that respects the interests of the poor, and the cause of benevolence, as readily as he can a question relative to the harmony of language, the authority of manuscripts,

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