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exercise—desidia, prius invisa, postremo amatur '-and scholars have shown some tendency to resent whatever change is proposed in a text in which they have not had the skill to detect any fault. Meanwhile the decline of critical scholarship has been complained of in Germany as well as in England. At length a voice comes to us from the same quarter from which our forefathers derived the art of criticism ; and Dr. Badham, speaking as the interpreter of that voice, bids us learn from the example of Charles Gabriel Cobet, who is pursuing and inculcating the same course by which Joseph Scaliger made the University of Leyden illustrious. The doctor introduces the professor not only with the enthusiasm of an admiring friend, but with the ardour of a champion defending a reputation assailed by envy. Certain German scholars, who have accused Cobet of supercilious scorn and the ostentation of learning, are likened to the Athenians, by the parody of a well-known passage in the “Laws,' όσοι των Γερμανών πονηροί εισί, διαφερόνTWs cioè TOLOÛTOL. And lest their slanders should mislead us also, to evolve 'nescio quam aŭtokoßntou speciem,' like Heine's camel, out of the depths of that consciousness which is perverted by our want of respect for critical scholarship, Dr. Badham passes this eulogy upon Cobet, — neminem unquam mihi visum esse in senes verecundiorem, erga æmulos atque imitatores modestiorem, denique in omnes præter mendaces et arrogantes mitiorem.' Such praise must enhance the respect felt for the great light of Leyden by those who know him only by his critical labours; and will dispose us to listen with double regard to his earnest vindication of the principles and methods of criticism.
The vindication to which we refer is contained in Cobet's inaugural address to the University of Leyden on his appointment to his chair, in which he maintains this thesis :—that the art of interpretation, based on the foundations of grammar and criticism, is the chief function of the philologian. Most justly does he recal attention to the first truth, that as all the knowledge of antiquity handed down to us by the ancients is embodied in words, and as whatever thoughts we conceive in our own minds, or derive from the conceptions of others, are bound up in words, so we can know nothing unless we know well the forms and meanings of those words, the phrases in which they are combined, and the idioms peculiar to countries, times, and writers. May we not, however, know these words without knowing them well ? May we not have a knowledge sufficient for a practical acquaintance with all that is expressed by means of them ? Certainly not. No careful student, no man of taste, with nice per
, ception of the delicate shades of meaning, would admit this even of modern languages, whose forms are comparatively fixed and 2 A 2
easy to be learnt, and whose litetature extends over a few centuries at the most. What then shall we say in the case of Greek, a language capable of almost infinite variety, a language spoken for two thousand years by nations of as many different tempers and manners, opinions and institutions, as covered the face of the ancient world, from the Adriatic to the Euphrates, from the Crimea to the cataracts of the Nile? It is not enough to recognize the immense diversity of its dialects in that first period when it was the living expression of the mental and political energy of free Hellas; the strong-voiced music of Homer, the rough terseness of the Doric, the voluptuous softness of the lonic, the perfect grace and all-expressive capacity of the Attic; all differing as the character of the races that used them, but all having this in common, that they followed their own nature. one who wishes to know the varieties that may be included under one common name, compare the poetry of Homer with that of Aristophanes and Menander, or, within the narrow interval of one century, the prose of Herodotus with that of Aristotle. But we
. must go much further. Hellas succumbed to the Macedonian, and her language, though it did not cease to be spoken, became in reality a dead one. No longer the organ of a free people, it lost the vital principle of spontaneous growth ; and admitted, with a fatal facility, intrusive elements not only from the Eastern nations, over which it was spread by the conquests of Alexander, but from its use as the adopted tongue of educated Rome. Even where Greek literature was cultivated with the greatest zeal, as at Alexandria, it was what the affectedly vigorous language of our day would call a sham. The • Scian and the Teïan muse' were silent, the 'cup of Samian wine' was dashed down; but foreign imitators droned out endless hexameters as a supplement forsooth to Homer, and Oriental mystics fancied that they were talking the tongue of Plato. Styles were mixed in admired confusion : the rags of old writers quilted into patterns as bizarre as the walls into which ancient capitals and bases were built upside down: obsolete forms were revived for a show of learning ; new forms invented for a proof of ingenuity. And so the current flowed down, spreading wider and growing shallower, and receiving new and more corrupt tributaries, till it spreads out into the dull featureless expanse of the Byzantine writers. Cobet has well observed, that what is called by the common name of Greek, and regarded by many as one language, is in truth a long series of languages, differing as widely in character as the age, the country,
, and the genius of those who used them.
Unhappily the grammar of the ancient Greek language, and the texts of the ancient Greek writers, have thus lain, so
to speak, at the mercy of a long succession of corrupt Hellenists ; nor can we flatter ourselves that we have recovered that language or that literature, till we have detected and removed the incrustations that have gathered about them, layer upon layer, if they be not too often cankers that have eaten into the very substance. Assuredly this cannot be done by the rough and easy process on which some critics pride themselves, and which some opponents of criticism regard with just contempt,-a process which amounts to putting anything for anything else at the fancy of the corrector. To use the illustration just now suggested: What if I had the fortune to discover a bronze of Myron or Polycletus encrusted with dirt and verdigris ? 'Let it alone,' some would say, 'rather than spoil it by restoration !' Well, of this presently; but suppose I persist in the attempt to recover what I can of the pristine form of the Discobolus or Diadumenus ? Shall I trust it to some soi-disant genius, who will scrape and polish and even file it till it conforms to some canon of human beauty invented by himself? or shall I employ an antiquary, who has collected in marble or on gems what he believes to be copies of the original work, of various degrees of badness, to reduce it to an average of their deformities? No; I must seek for a true artist, whom long and patient study has familiarised with all the extant remains of Grecian art, who has learnt to distinguish different styles the moment he sees them, who has trained himself to that instinctive perception of the artist's meaning which is acquired by knowledge, not by a fancied inspiration.
So it is in language and criticism. The ancients can only be truly known by those whose study of their works has imbued them with that knowledge of grammar and faculty of criticism by which those works may be restored to their pristine simplicity. The attempt to choose between a variety of meanings -each of which the text may bear by mixing up the senses of words and phrases used at widely different periods—besides being as arbitrary as it is indolent, violates the first canon of all interpretation,—that a true writer means one thing at a time, and says what he means. And what that meaning is can only be learned by the patient study of each writer, till we become as familiar with the force of his words and phrases and the ruling idioms of his speech, as if we heard him speaking. Thus only can we gain clear and certain notions of his language, instead of being dependent on authority and lexicons. Thus only can we pronounce, where the text has been corrupted, that he could not have spoken thus, and suggest what he probably did say. How essential it is to add to this familiar acquaintance with
the books written by the ancients the knowledge of the things to which the words continually allude—things which were constantly in their hands and before their eyes, while we have to reconstruct their images from various sources—it is needless to impress on the scholars of the present day; for this is the department of antiquity into which we have plunged, as at once the most pleasant and most fruitful. One striking example we may give, in passing, of the power of this sort of knowledge to detect errors by common sense, even without linguistic learning. Major Rennell, in his great work on the Geography of Herodotus, points out errors in his author's text, where the real blunder was in Beloe's translation, and Herodotus himself had written what Rennell saw that he ought to have said.
But the question returns for the serious consideration of English scholars, whether in studying the phenomena of ancient life for their own sakes we have been sufficiently mindful of the mutual dependence of the provinces of the philologer and the antiquarian ? Has there not been a disposition to separate such studies from the reading and interpretation of the ancient authors, as if the former were the knowledge of things, the latter only the knowledge of words? The things can only be known through the words in which they are described, and the words are continually perverted through ignorance of the things. The latter is a fact familiar to us in our daily experience of the substitution of known for unknown names, as when the sailor calls his ship the
Billy-rough-'un' for the • Bellerophon,' and the plant named by the Italians girasole, from turning its flower to the sun, is transformed into the Jerusalem artichoke. That such errors are not avoided by presenting the image of the objects to the eye, is shown by the fancy of the rustic who first converted the sign of the elephant and castle into the pig and whistle. It is in the proper relation between antiquarian and critical studies that we fear our modern scholarship is weakest. While we have been
. subjecting some few chosen works to a thorough analysis of their language in the light of modern philology-of their metrical forms, their historical and mythological, geographical and antiquarian allusions—while we have been studying the structure of the Greek theatre and the monuments of Attica, the mythology of the Dorians or the politics of Athens-how many of us can claim to have perused and reperused the whole cycle even of well-known authors with the diligence of a Scaliger, a Bentley, or a Porson? How many a scholar, out of his library, could venture on the boast, ' Omnia mea mecum porto ?'
Let it not be supposed that we are carping unpatriotically at the present state of English scholarship. We have borne our
testimony to what our countrymen have done for the knowledge of antiquity, and we would add our tribute to the generally diffused acquaintance with the best authors, the power of prose composition exhibited by some, and to the taste cultivated by the facile but more questionable accomplishment of versemaking. But there remains a standard short of which we would not rest and be thankful'—the same standard which is recognised in art. Not the artist only, but the connoisseur, would in vain claim reputation, or feel safe in acting upon his knowledge, if he were unable to distinguish a production of the Greek chisel from the limbs added to restore it, or an Etruscan from a Wedgwood vase ; much less if he professed indiscriminate admiration for all alike, and replied to a purist, that the general impression of their beauty was all he cared for. So neither can the scholar claim that title in the highest sense, who does not know what it is that he is reading, who cannot detect the sunken rocks of obscurity that lie beneath the smooth surface of the book, or discern with a true pilot's ear the roar of the breakers on the shoals with which time has barred the channel. It is not sound scholarship to resort to any tricks of arbitrary interpretation rather than confess that there are many passages which, as they stand, are incapable of being understood or explained. Such obscurities are rarely the original fault of the writers, at least in the old living period of the language ; but this is constantly the case with the later Hellenists. There is all the difference in the world between the ornate structure and dithyrambic copiousness of a Tragic Chorus, where the true scholar finds delight in hearing the majestic harmony, and tracing the intricate but beautiful pattern, and the sonorous verbiage with which the imitators try to hide the cold poverty of their minds, having little more sense than the song of birds. But the works of genius have come down to us through the hands of wretched imitators, and of copyists whose dull ignorance has been scarcely more injurious, till they are incapable of being read without alteration.
Few scholars have made ancient manuscripts their study, though many talk about them, and quote their authority; and the former class have many a rude shock to give to the blind faith of the latter. There seems to be a general impression that, after making some moderate allowance for various readings, manuscripts must be models of accuracy, and inscriptions must be almost absolutely perfect. We speak of inscriptions because they will aid us to explain, à fortiori, the case of manuscripts. Solemnly designed for lasting monuments, deliberately carved in large regular letters on enduring materials, an inscription has every presumption of care and accuracy; but one simple fact is