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may be seen in Kidd's Tracts; an admirable recon-
In one alteration only is he found to have erred. In the 937th verse of the Medea he found Oux old av ei Toa, and, thinking the position of the av offensive, ejected it, and wrote oux old ap' ei meioau. But Elmsley εί πείσαιμι. has justified the common reading by two exactly similar passages, one in Euripides himself, and another in Plato, and has well observed that in such phrases the optative could not be used without av.*
In the 1095th verse of the Hecuba,
ei dè μǹ Þpvyшv Πύργους πεσόντας ᾖσμεν ̔Ελλήνων δορί, Φόβον παρέσχεν οὐ μέσως ὅδε κτύπος,
he very properly introduced ἄν, reading παρέσχ ̓ ἄν, with Heath, Brunck, Markland, and three manuscripts. Hermann, merely for the purpose, apparently, of differing from Porson, omitted the av, asserting that it was unnecessary; but who would now support this assertion?
Nor has Porson given, like many other critics, other men's emendations as his own. Only in one instance has he thus transgressed, having been detected by Mr. Burges in appropriating, unconsciously, a conjecture of Markland's.
Nor should the style of his notes be left without its
Eurip. Med. 937. Museum Criticum, vol. ii. p. 31.
PORSON'S LATIN STYLE.
commendation. It is clear, plain, and unaffected; and is free, as has been well observed, from those trite phrases and expressions of which the constant recurrence offends and wearies the reader in the majority of Latin annotations. He drew from his own mind, and expressed himself in his own way.
The faults that have been found with his style are, that it wants ease; that it is too dry and stiff to be pleasing; and that the thoughts seem to have been conceived in English, and translated, not always without difficulty, into Latin. A critic, who carefully noted the minutiae of Porson's phraseology, adduced from the Prælectio in Euripidem the expressions studio perspicuitatis, "the study of perspicuity," gradus probabilitatis, "the degree of probability," calumnias professi inimici, "the calumnies of a professed enemy," in historiæ circumstantiis, "in the circumstances of history," as examples of such English Latinity; expressions which, though they may be justified by the authority of Cicero or Quintilian, partake so much of the idiom of English as to give a modern air to that which ought to exhibit the obvious guise of antiquity. These blemishes, however, as he observes, are merely navi in corpore egregio, and are to be noticed only lest they should give authority to a mode of writing which ought to be avoided.*
The emendations of Bentley, notwithstanding the master stroke which has just been cited, do not in general make the same impression on the reader with those of Porson. Porson appears to alter the text because alteration was evidently necessary; Bentley, because he
Monthly Review, Dec. 1817, p. 423.
himself thought that it was necessary. Porson, as a corrector, offers good wine that needs no bush; Bentley is a host that must often use argument to recommend his fare. As Porson's touches remind us of Johnson's remark about a just restoration, Bentley's recal his saying about doubtful alterations, for we cannot help "suspecting that the reading is right which requires many words to prove it wrong, and that the emendation is wrong, which cannot without so much labour appear to be right." Thus in one of his earliest emendations of Horace, strictis for sectis, in virginum strictis in juvenes unguibus acrium, we can hardly, though the alteration is good, forbear from fancying, as we read his note in its justification, that he upholds it rather to show his own ingenuity than with a conviction that it was necessary to the text of his author; and our minds can scarcely be cleared from a doubt that sectis may be the right reading. This is still more forcibly the case, when we contemplate one of his more venturous emendations, such as
Ut silvis folia privos mutantur in annos,
Ut silvæ foliis pronos mutantur in annos,
for though we can scarcely feel satisfied with foliis mutantur, yet we are impressed with the persuasion, when we see Bentley's vindication of the changes which he has made, that he had the ostentation of his own acuteness in view, more than the sincere infusion of soundness into Horace's line. Such a notion never takes possession of us as we contemplate Porson's corrections; we feel that what he has done proceeded from
CH. XXVII.] NOT INCLINED TO ORIGINAL COMPOSITION. 373
an honest desire to serve his author; that no sophistry is needed to advocate his treatment of the text. We are often pleased with Bentley's notes on his corrections, but are always pleased with Porson's corrections for themselves.
Bentley was often presumptuous and rash; Porson was to all critics an example of caution. Priusquam incipias consulto opus, and nihil contemnendum est neque in bello, neque in re criticâ, were his maxims. Before he operated on a passage himself, he took care to ascertain what others had done. He consulted not only commentaries, but translations, and, according to Mr. Maltby, "never wrote a note on any passage of an ancient author without carefully looking how it had been rendered by the different translators.”*
He was not insensible to the honours of authorship, but never felt in himself the ability to attain them. Once, when he was asked why he had produced so little original matter, he answered, "I doubt if I could produce any original work that would command the attention of posterity. I can be known only by my notes; and I am quite satisfied if, three hundred years hence, it shall be said that one Porson lived towards the close of the eighteenth century, who did a good deal for the text of Euripides." +
Bentley had much the same feeling with regard to original composition. He had no hope of attaining permanent reputation by it, and said that he thought it safer for him to try for distinction by getting on the shoulders of the ancients.
* Rogers's Table Talk, "Porsoniana,” p. 326. † Ibid. p. 334.
But while we allow Porson greater nicety and happiness of correction, we must, on deliberation, concede to Bentley the larger range of reading and of thought. Porson was one, in Parr's phrase, "to whom the hat of Bentley would have vailed;" but Bentley would have felt called to do him homage only for his sagacity in emendation, and perhaps for somewhat greater nicety of ear in respect to Greek metre. Bentley could collect his materials in equal profusion with Porson, and could animate them with something more of spirit.
As to the works of cach, it is idle to make a comparison between them. Bentley, we must acknowledge, wrote more than Porson, and had written more, even at the age at which Porson died. But Bentley's manner of life was different from Porson's; Bentley lived in such a way as to secure and cherish health and strength, mental and bodily; Porson indulged in such lax habits as render it wonderful how any vigorous tone of mind could be so long maintained throughout them. What more he might have done, had his practice been different, it is superfluous to inquire; we see what he has done, and allow it its excellence; we see that Bentley's mind produced a larger offspring, and must admit that its aggregate value must be greater, though no equal quantity of it be comparable to the quantity that has proceeded from Porson.
Some who compare Porson with the continental scholars, such as Wyttenbach, Heyne, or Valckenaer, who have edited large and numerous volumes, are apt to consider that he must be far inferior to them, because he has published less. But the merit of a critic, like that of a painter, is to be judged, not from