Page images
PDF

will compensate for the unskilful

ness of the tillage. Sons of Harvard you who are ascending with painful step and persevering toil the eminonce of science to prepare yourselves for the various functions and employments of the world before you, it cannot be necessary to urge upon you the importance of the art, concerning which I am speaking. Is it the purpose of your future life to minister in the temples of Almighty God, to be the messenger of heaven upon earth, to enlighten with the torch of eternal truth the path of your fellow-mortals to brighter worlds 2 remember the reason assigned for the appointment of Aaron to that ministry, which you purpose to assume upon yourself....I know that he can sh eak well ; and, in this testimonial of Omnipotence, receive the injunction of your duty. Is your -intention to devote the labours of your maturity to the cause of justice ; to defend the persons, the property, and the fame of your fellow citizens from the open assaults of violence, and the secret encroachments of fraud 2 fill the fountains of your eloquence from inexhaustible sources, that their streams, when they shall begin to flow, may themselves prove inexhaustible. Is there among you a youth, whose bosom burns with the fires of honourable ambition ; who aspires to immortalize his name by the extent and

importance of his services to his country ; whose visions of futurity glow with the hope of presiding in her councils, of directing her affairs, of appearing to future ages on the rolls of fame, as her ornament and pride : let him catch from the relicks of ancient oratory those unresisted powers, which mould the mind of man to the will of the speaker, and yield the the guidance of a nation to the dominion of the voice. Under governments purely republican, where every citizen has a deep interest in the affairs of the nation, and in some form of publick assembly or other, has the means and opportunity of delivering his opinions, and of communicating his sentiments by speech ; where government itself has no arms but those of persuasion ; where prejudice has not acquired an uncontroled ascendency, and faction is yet confined within the barriers of peace, the voice of eloquence will not be heard in vain. March then with firm, with steady, with undeviating step, to the prize of your high calling. Gather fragrance from the whole paradise of science, and learn to distil from your lips all the honies of persuasion. Consecrate, above all, the faculties of your life to the cause of truth, of freedom, and of humanity. So shall your country ever gladden at the sound of your voice, and every talent, added to your accomplishments, become another blessing to mankind.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Iate Regius Professor of Divinity, and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, England.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

THE life of a literary man seldom furnishes the variety of incidents which enlivens narration, and renders biography entertaining. However useful the labours of the learned, their lives are generally spent in their libraries, and a catalogue of their works frequently forms their history. This, however, was not wholly the case with Dr. Bentley. His days were not consumed merely in classical studies, or in literary pursuits. Soon aster the republication of his answer to Boyle, in the year 1700, he was presented by the Crown to the Mastership of Trinity College, Cambridge, which was then vacant by the death of Dr. Montague. This proof of royal favour rendered it necessary for him to allot a considerable portion of his time to business, and to the affairs of the university. He now resigned the prebendary of Worcester ; but on June 12, 1701, he was collated archdeacon of Ely.

In 1706, Julius Pollux was published, under the direction of Hemsterhuis, who wrote the preface, and the notes to the three last books. This work was begun by Lederlin, and what was left unfinished he completed. Hemsterhuis, at this time, was a very young man, but by this performance he acquired considerable reputation. Bentley was much pleased with so early a display of Greek erudition, and in a letter to him, communicated his corrections of the passages of the comick writers, which

[ocr errors]

Pollux had quoted. The circumstance is related very particularly in Ruhnkenius's Elogium Tiberii Hemsterhttsfi. “When the learned Lederlin declined completing the edition of Julius Pollux, which was preparing at Amsterdam, application was made to Hemsterhuis, whose erudition was supposed equal to the undertaking. Instigated by the advice of Grevius, he assumed the charge of this work, and his annotations, which, though youthful, were the production of such a youth as Hemsterhuis, immediately turned the eyes of all the learned towards their author, “At such an age,few writers regard theirown productions with contempt. He was sufficiently pleased with the performance. A short time, however, after the publication of the work, he received a letter from Richard Bentley, the Aristarchus of Britain, in which his labours with regard to Pollux were mentioned in terms of high commendation. In the same pacquet also, the doctor inserted his own corrections of the passages, which Pollux had quoted from the comick writers, to illustrate and establish his descriptions. “Hemsterhuis himself had betowed great attention on these citations, as he well knew their consequence. When he perused Bentley’s animadversions, he perceived that every difficulty was explained, as if by inspiration, and was convinced, that his own time had been spent in vain, and that his own conjectures were frivolous. “What effect did this letter produce 2 Hemsterhuis was so much hurt, and so much displeased with himself, that he determined to abandon wholly the study of Greek literature ; and for some months he did not dare to open the works of an author in that language.” Ruhnkenius then bestows very just encomiums upon him, for the candour and openness with which he used to relate this story to his scholars, and in conversation. He thus proceeds : “Hemsterhuis, however, when reflection succeeded vexation, perceived that he had improperly placed his abilities, young as he was, in competition with those of a veteran critick, who held the highest rank ; and was soon reconciled to himself, and to his former studies. So powerful, however, was the effect of Bentley's advice, that he determined not to trust himself in the dangerous paths of conjecture or criticism, until he had stored his mind with a comprehensive knowledge of every various art and science. He chose his counsellor, as the great object of his imitation. He looked up to him with the fondest admiration : placed him continually before his eyes; and preferred him to every other critick. Nor did he conceal his resentment, if, in his presence, the envious carped at the wonderful talents of this great man, at which they could not possibly arrive.” In the year 1709, when Davis published Cicero's Tusculana, Quaestiones, Dr. Bentley added his annotations to the edition. But on account of some reflections which have been represented as not very liberal, when this work was republished, Davis omitted the doctor’s Vol. III. No. 6. 2C)

remarks. They were, however, again inserted, when the book was reprinted in 1738. From the Amsterdam press, in 1710, was published Kuster’s edition of Aristophanes. Two of the plays were enriched with the annotations of Bentley ; which are not very elaborate, but in many instances discover that acumen and penetration, which.characterises his critical disquisitions. During this period, Le Clerc ranked among the first literary characters. He had distinguished himself by publishing editions of some classical writers, particularly Hesiod, with notes and a Latin translation. His theological researches, though he is sometimes too daring, had greatly increased his rising reputation; and his Art of Criticism, written in Latin, had been much connmended. His Efistolæ criticae, to some of our bishops, and the active part, which he was supposed to take in some of the foreign journals, had rendered his abilities as an author very generally known in England. In such high estimation, indeed, was he held by lord Hallifax, that he employed his interest with some of the nobility, and men in power, in his favour. His chief wish was, that some considerable church preferment, and even a bishoprick, might be offered to Le Clerc, in order to allure him to come and settle near our metropolis. The bishops did not approve this design. They all esteemed him for his learning and abilities, but as his principles were known to be not very orthodox, and his opinions very free, they opposed the sheasure. The opposition reflects great credit on the bench, as, by several articles in his Bibliotheque, he had disseminated the poison of free-thinking over the continent, by his account of several English publications. While the invitation to Le Clerc was a general subject of conversation, he published the fragments of Menander and Philemon, in one octavo volume,at Amsterdam, 1709. Soon after, the intention of lord Hallifax was mentioned, at archbishop Tennison's, while Bentley and some other men of learning were present. Le Clerc's title to the proffered honours was examiined : his literary character was discussed ; among them the late publication of the fragments of the two comick writers was of course included. Bentley asserted immediately, that such an edition was a disgrace to a scholar, and that it was replete with glaring errours. The company instantly urged the doctor to attack it; but he declined the task, as he had long held a correspondence with Le Clerc. At length, however, the instigations of his friends prevailed, and he told them that he would soon convince the world, that the author of Mrs Critica did not possess that depth of erudition, which had been ascribed to him by the generality of readers. Bentley soon completed his design ; on account, however, of his former intimacy with Le Clerc, he wished his name to be concealed. He, therefore, styled himself, in the title-page, Philelutherus Lipsiensis ; and intrusted the manuscript to Hare, with whom he then lived in habits of the greatest intimacy. By his interest, as he was chaplain general to the army, the book was to be transmitted in the duke of Marlborough's pacquet to Burman, with a note, desiring him to publish it, and giving him liberty to write either a dedication, or a preface, as he felt inclined. Hare discharged the office, as he supposed, with great secresy

and exactness. By some unaccountable blunder, however, the papers were never put into the duke's pacquet; but after they had passed through several hands, a Burgomaster at Amsterdam by accident received the manuscript. He immedictely shewed it to Toland, who was then in Holland. He directly pronounced the notes to be the production of Bentley, and, probably, by his means they were afterwards conveyed entire to Peter Burman, with the direction which consigned them to his care, and recommended to him the office of publisher. By Burman, accordingly, these remarks were edited, with a long preface, and an address, in Latin verse, to the manes of Menander and Philemon. The preface is written in a strain of the most virulent abuse against Le Clerc, who was his bitter enemy. To the remarks of Bentley, it offers some additions: among which a few fragments of Menander and Philemon, which had escaped the researches of the too negligent collector, may be considered as the most important ; tho' his crititcal annotations are not destitute of acumen. Le Clerc undoubtedly merited reprehension. Never, perhaps? was an ancient author published in so careless a manner. Metrical defects, even in the common Iambick measure, which required little sagacity to correct, appear almost in every fragment. Besides these, few pages are wholly free. from other errours of different kinds, which display at least unpardonable negligence, and were imputed by Bentley to ignorance. Bentley's emendations were the production of a mind highly vigorous, and stored with the most exquisite and diversified erudition, His knowledge of the Greek language, and familiar acquaintance

[ocr errors]

with their forms of speech and with their metres, were displayed with uncommon brilliancy. The reputation which he had acquired by his epistle on Malela, and the dissertation on Phalaris, immediately discovered the author of these corrections. Burman, in his preface, asserted, that there were not above three or four persons in the whole republick of letters, to whom they could be ascribed, and in the foreign journals they were immediately assigned to their real author. The learned Dawes, in his Miscell. Critic. says, that Bentley, in this performance, has passed over above a hundred of Le Clerc's mistakes, at the same time that he is guilty of as many himself. To this assertion too much credit should not be given ; for it is a mere assertion. It may be attributed in a great measure to the unfriendly sentiments which Dawes entertained towards the writings of this great critick. These sentiments Burgess, the ingenious editor of his work, has jusly censured, and conjectured, with much probability, that they arose from Dawes's residence at Cambridge, while Bentley's measures, as master of Trinity-College, met with such violent opposition. He, perhaps, did not remain passive in these disputes, as we may conjecture from the eagerness with which he endeavoured, in his learned work, to blast the laurels which had so long adorned the brow of the great Bentley. Let it not be supposed, however, that this pamphlet is to be considered as a complete examination of all the fragments of Menander and Philemon, or that it is absolutely faultless. Some of its errours have been corrected by our learned countryman Toup, in his

notes on Suidas; and by Lambert Bos, a few years after its publication, in his Animadversiones ad Scrifitores quosdam Græcos. These, however, are but few : “Apparent rarimantes in gurgite vasto " , And it should be rendembered, that authors seldom agree in conjectural criticism, and that the correction of fragments is very hazardotts. If Bentley had disputed with Le Clerc, about a point which could be determined by universality of knowledge, the palm must have been assigned to the latter. In the general mass of erudition the world has seldom seen Le Clerc's superiour; and those who are acquainted with his works will not easily find an author who has displayed such diversified talents, and written with acknowledged abilities on so many and such a variety of subjects. For the exposure, however, of Le Clerc's ignorance and negligence, in the present instance, Bentley was conspicuously calculated. At an early period of his tife, he had formed a scheme of publishing a collection of the remains of the Greek poets, which lie scattered through the works of ancient writers. Those who are acquainted with the elegances which several of these fragments contain, and with Bentley’s critical acumen, will unite in lamenting that he never executed his design. Besides this circumstance, which brought him ready armed into the field, his enemy was exposed in his weakest quarter. To criticism, indeed, about Hellenisms, and metrical disquisitions, Le Clerc was almost a stranger, while Bentley was uncommonly skilful in these discussions, and far surpassed all his contemporaries. To be continued.

« PreviousContinue »