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and the niceties of Greek criticism." By Mr. Kidd he is said to have "possessed a heart filled with sensibility," and to have been in company the gentlest being that he ever met. But a writer in the "Monthly Review*, who had often been in company with Porson, remarks, that, though he could be mild and civil, he could also be otherwise; that, if he was the gentlest being that Kidd ever met, a sad inference must be drawn as to the rest of Kidd's society; and that Kidd himself may be congratulated on having always escaped the Professor's grasp, which may be supposed less "gentle" than that of the Russian bear or Hyrcan tiger. As to his kindness, the same writer says that,


as far as we know and have heard, he said and did no more kind things than men less gifted than he was with the power and opportunity of doing them." All these opinions have doubtless something of truth and justice in them; Porson varied, like other men, at different times, and with different people; he could be kind and open; he could be reserved and severe. "He felt towards others," said Dr. Maltby, "more benevolence than he expressed."

That his society was insipid, or that it was impossible "to engage his mind on any topic of mutual inquiry," or to elicit his opinion on a passage of an author, can be understood only of his behaviour in company with Wakefield. He did not care to communicate his opinions to Wakefield, lest Wakefield should turn them to his own purposes, or misrepresent what he could not understand. That he was ready to afford his aid to those who consulted him in literary difficulties, we

* Jan. 1818.

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have already seen instances. "His mode of communication, liberal in the extreme," says the writer of the "Short Account of Porson,"* was truly amiable, as he told you all you wanted to know in a plain and direct manner, without any attempt to display his own superiority, but merely to inform Whereas great you. scholars are sometimes apt to be brilliant themselves, and leave you unenlightened."

That his reading was not so comprehensive as it might have been with other habits, and that he effected so much less for classical literature than he might have effected, must always be a subject of regret to scholars. "Were we to estimate what he might have done," says the writer of the "Short Account," "had he taken all his advantages, in twenty years, allowing his powers to have been perfected at the age of thirty-one, of which we have abundant proof, our loss is incalculable, since I am convinced that he could have gone through all the plays of Euripides, published his Aristophanes, Athenæus, and Photius, and elucidated his Eschylus, in the time; and all without any violent exertions on his part, since, like Menander, though he had not written a line, he had it all in his head." When we contemplate how much such men as Heyne and Ernesti achieved, we cannot but lament that Porson, with superior powers, accomplished so much less.

One mode in which he wasted much time, was in the practice of mere penmanship. He excelled, as all men know, in writing with neatness and beauty. He wrote notes on the margins of books with such studied. accuracy that they rivalled print. He used to say that * Page 10.



Dr. Young had the advantage in "command of hand," but that he preferred the shape of his own letters to that of Dr. Young's.* "His rage for calligraphy was such," says Mr. Maltby, "that he once offered to letter the backs of some of Mr. Richard Heber's vellumbound classics. "No," said Heber, "I won't let you do that; but I shall be most thankful if you will write into an Athenæus some of those excellent emendations which I have heard from you in conversation."+ Porson having consented, Heber sent him an interleaved copy of Casaubon's edition, which had belonged to Brunck, and in which Porson inserted the notes that were afterwards published in his Adversaria. The Athenæus is now in the library of the Rev. Alexander Dyce.

Wakefield's charge of want of feeling in Porson, has been thought to be somewhat substantiated by his conduct towards his relatives. When he went from Eton to Cambridge, he suffered a long time to elapse before he resumed any intercourse with his family. Having a great dislike to writing letters, he maintained little correspondence with them; and his silence gave them great offence. He was generous to the utmost of his means to the orphan children of his brother Henry; but his presents were accompanied with no epistles; not only his own relations, but their neighbours in that part of Norfolk, censured him for this apparent insensibility. Yet of his father, if he paid him no open attention, he always thought with due respect. When he married, he was anxious that his father should approve

* Encycl. Britann. art. "Porson."

Barker's Lit. Anecd. vol. ii. p. 56. Rogers's Table Talk, "Porsoniana, p. 311.


of the match. When his father was ill, and his sister, whom he had not seen for twenty-two years, wrote to inform him that the old man was in danger, Porson immediately set off into Norfolk, and resided with his sister for seven weeks, till their father recovered. Two years afterwards, when he was seized with his last illness, Porson, on receiving notice of it, went down and stayed with him till he died.*

When he was in Norfolk with his sister, he went regularly to church, except when the violence of his asthma prevented him. During his first visit, he accompanied Mr. Hawes, his brother-in-law, to the church. of Horstead; when they found that preparations were made for administering the Sacrament. As they were leaving the church after the sermon, Porson stopped suddenly, and asked Mr. Hawes if he thought that there would be any impropriety in his receiving the Sacrament. Mr. Hawes replying in the negative, they turned back, and partook of the Communion together.+

This is mentioned by Beloe as an example of his readiness to accommodate himself to the ways and habits of the people with whom he happened to be associated. We consider that it was so; and his abstemiousness during his residence with his sister, is to be regarded as another instance of the same disposition. While he lived in her house, he abstained wholly from spirits, and never drank more than two glasses of wine after dinner. He conversed without restraint with the family, and accompanied them in their walks. But the truth is, that, when a man of reading and

* Sexagenarian, vol. i. p. 214.


† Ibid. p. 220.

thought, sprung from a humble family, is once detached from it, and transplanted into a more cultivated and intellectual society, he can in general feel but little inclination to return to it, except for very short periods, and at long intervals. He finds himself in his proper place in his new condition, and cannot, without uneasiness, be long kept away from it. Besides, whatever honour or regard he obtains elsewhere, he will find little, though he may be a nine days' object of remark, in his own country. His visits will be like that of Lady Staunton to the wife of Butler, of which both were glad to see the termination. His daily studies, too, demand his daily attention, for no man can pursue literature with success, unless he give his mind and his time constantly to it. Pope said that he who would cultivate poetry, must leave father and mother, and cleave to it as his own flesh; and the same may be said of any other intellectual pursuit.

Porson's dislike to writing, not only epistolary, but of all kinds, has been previously noticed. His slowness in writing was proportioned to his aversion to it. He never attained anything like ease in composition, but, to whatever subject he applied his thoughts, always felt embarrassment in expressing himself. Upon one occasion," says Beloe, "he undertook to write a dozen lines on a subject which he had much turned in his mind, and with which he was exceedingly familiar. But the number of erasures and interlineations was so great as to render it hardly legible; yet, when completed, it was, and is, a memorial of his sagacity, acuteness, and erudition."*


*Sexagenarian, vol. i. p. 218.

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