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recited the verses you have just heard." Porson was silent. "Sir," persisted the gentleman, "I have the honour to present to you Mr. Fitzgerald, who himself composed the verses which you have just heard." "Sir," said Porson, very gently, "I am quite deaf." *
To a lady who annoyed him with impertinent questions at a dinner, asking him the Greek for a knife, a fork, and other matters, he made a more playful retort, replying to her last interrogatory, "To me, madam, it is heautontimoroumenos, to you heauteentimoroumenee."
To a gentleman, who, at the close of a fierce dispute with Porson, exclaimed, "My opinion of is most you contemptible, Sir;" he retorted, "I never knew an opinion of yours that was not contemptible."
The following letter † to Mr. Upcott, from the Rev. T. Smart Hughes, detailing an interview which he had had with Porson in 1807, shows exactly what Porson was in the latter part of his life. Mr. Hughes's tutor, who is mentioned in it, was the Rev. J. D. Hustler, a fellow of Trinity College.
"MY DEAR SIR,
"I wish it was in my power to give you a more detailed account of my interview with your celebrated predecessor than my memory will now permit. It was the only one I ever had with him. It occurred when I was an undergraduate; and I unfortunately made no notes of it at the time, being then busily engaged in reading for my degree, which occupied almost all my thoughts. This interview
* Butler's Reminiscences, p. 169.
† Notes and Queries, 2nd S. vol. iii. p. 62.
took place in the rooms of my private tutor, between whom and Porson a great intimacy subsisted.
"After about an hour spent in various subjects of conversation, during which the Professor recited a great many beautiful passages from [his] authors in Greek, Latin, French, and English, my tutor, seeing the visitation that was evidently intended for him, feigned an excuse for going into the town, and left Porson and myself together. I ought to have observed that he had already produced one bottle of sherry to moisten the Professor's throat, and that he left out another, in case it should be required. Porson's spirits being by this time elevated by the juice of the grape, and being pleased with a well-timed compliment which I had the good luck to address to him, he became very communicative; said he was glad that we had met together; desired me to take up my pen and paper, and directed me to write down, from his dictation, many curious algebraical problems, with their solutions; gave me several ingenious methods of summing series; and ran through a great variety of the properties of numbers.
"After almost an hour's occupation in this manner, he said, 'Lay aside your pen, and listen to the history of a man of letters,- how he became a sordid miser from a thoughtless prodigal, a . from a and a misanthrope from a morbid excess of sensibility.' (I forget the intermediate step in the climax.) He then commenced a narrative of his own life, from his entrance at Eton school, through all the most remarkable periods, to the day of our conversation. I was particularly amused with the account of his school anecdotes, the tricks he used to play upon his master and schoolfellows, and the little dramatic pieces which he wrote for private representation. From these he passed to his academical pursuits and studies, his election to the Greek professorship, and his ejection from his fellowship through the influence of Dr. Postlethwaite, who, though he had promised it to Porson, exerted it for a relation of his 'I was then,' said the Professor, almost destitute in the wide world, with less than 40l. a year for my support,
and without a profession, for I never could bring myself to subscribe Articles of Faith. I used often to lie awake through the whole night, and wish for a large pearl.'
"He then gave me a history of his life in London, when he took chambers in the Temple, and read at times immoderately hard. He very much interested me by a curious interview which he had with a girl of the town, who came into his chambers by mistake, and who showed so much cleverness and ability in a long conversation with him, that he declared she might with proper cultivation have become another Aspasia. He also recited to me, word for word, the speech with which he accosted Dr. Postlethwaite when he called at his chambers, and which he had long prepared against such an occurrence. At the end of this oration the Doctor said not a word, but burst into tears and left the room. Porson also burst into tears when he finished the recital of it to me.
PORSON IN HIS LATER YEARS.
"In this manner five hours passed away; at the end of which the Professor, who had finished the second bottle of my friend's sherry, began to clip the king's English, to cry like a child at the close of his periods, and in other respects to show marks of extreme debility. At length he rose from his chair, staggered to the door, and made his way down stairs without taking the slightest notice of his companion. I retired to my college; and next morning was informed by my friend that he had been out upon a search, the previous evening, for the Greek Professor, whom he discovered near the outskirts of the town, leaning upon the arm of a dirty bargeman, and amusing him by the most humorous and laughable anecdotes. I never even saw Porson after this day, but I shall never cease to regret that I did not commit his history to writing whilst it was fresh in my memory. "I am, my dear Sir, with great regard, "Yours sincerely, "T. S. HUGHES.
"Cambridge, Oct. 1826."
Great as were Porson's deviations from the even tenour of sobriety, great as were his disagreements with
the social habits of the generality of mankind, great also must have been his merit, which, with such aberrations and eccentricities, secured him, not only the praise, but the regard, of all men of learning and intellect that had intercourse with him. Whoever knew Richard Porson, felt that he knew a man of high and noble mind, who, with all his irregularities, and all his inclination to sarcasm and jest, had a sincere love of truth and honesty, and who, with an utter contempt for pretence and presumption, was ever ready to do justice to genuine worth.
His life is an example, and an admonition, how much a man may injure himself by indulgence in one unhappy propensity, and how much an elevated mind may suffer by long association with those of an inferior order. A Porson cannot day after day descend to the level of a Hewardine, without finding it difficult at length to recover his original position above it.