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CHARACTERS OF THEOPHRASTUS
AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION
FROM A REVISED TEXT
WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
R. C. JEBB, M.A.
FELLOW AND ASSISTANT-TUTOR OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE,
lively pictures of old Greek manners better known to English readers. But some critical labour has been given to it, and I venture to hope that in certain points of view it may have interest for scholars.
A translator of the Characters is forced to become also an editor. The text is corrupt, and has long been a field for the ingenuity of critics. It is thickly studded with passages on which hardly two commentators agree; and there is no edition with which I am acquainted in which the editor has not adopted several of his own conjectures. A student of the book who is capable of forming a judgment upon its difficulties is thus driven to make a text for himself. Where doctors differ so often and so utterly, it is absolutely necessary that he should be 'nullius addictus iurare in verba. He must, in the disputed passages, first inquire what the mss. have, and whether sense can be made of it. If he concludes that it is nonsense, he has the conjectures of previous critics to choose from. If no one of these appears satisfactory, or if he has thought of something which seems to him more probable than any of them, he is justified in adopting his own emendation. A critic ordinarily competent to weigh the opinions of other critics has in every case a right to give so much of weight to his
In the case of the Characters this right is especially clear. Each chapter consists of a string of short sentences not necessarily connected in meaning, When, therefore, in any one of these the genuine reading has been lost, no sure clue for its recovery can be looked for from the context; for it is possible that the sentence, as written by the author, had no connexion with the sentences which precede and follow it. Every such passage must be treated as a separate riddle; and the limits within which the answer may lie are wide. Open competition in conjecture affords the best hope of the true answer being found. A paper by Dr O. Ribbeck in the Rheinisches Museuin for January, 1870, entitled 'Critical Remarks on the Characters of Theophrastus,' illustrates the freedom with which German scholars are disposed to apply this principle.