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vacant till long after he sat down to the classicks. In this pursuit, he soon acquired undisputed preeminence. He got the medal of course, and was elected a fellow in 1781. In 1785, he took his degree of master of arts; but, long before the period had elapsed when he must either enter into holy orders, or surrender his fellowship, he had, after the most grave and deliberate investigation, to which he had brought all that acute gift of examina tion that has been made so perceptible in his letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis, made up his mind on the subject of subscription. We are sure that his determination cost him many painful and laborious days and months of study. His heart and mind were deeply penetrated by the purest senti ments of religion; and it was a memorable, and most estimable feature of his character, that in no moment the most unguarded, when that ardour of discussion which alone led him to indulgence, had elevated his spirits, was he ever known to utter a single expression of discontent at the establishment, of derision of those who thought differently from himself much less of profane. ness or impiety. He was truly and actively pious; but it was of an order that admitted not of shackles. So early as 1788, he had made up his mind to surrender his fellowship, though, with an enfeebled constitution, he had nothing to depend upon; but acquirements that are very unprofitable to their owner. A lay fellowship, to be sure, might have secured his services to the cause of letters; but the disingenuous conduct of an individual withheld from him that resource. In 1791 his fellowship ceased, and he was thrown upon the world without a profession, his feelings wounded by the mortifications he had suffered, and with a constitution little qualified to encounter the bustle of the world. Some private friends however, stept in; and, soon after, he was elected Greek professor of Cambridge, by a unanimous vote of the seven electors. The distinction of this appointment was grateful to him. The salary is but forty pounds a year. It was his earnest wish, however, to have made it an active and efficient office, and it was his determination to give an annual course of lectures in the college, if rooms had been assigned him for the purpose. These lectures, as he designed, and had, in truth, made preparations for them, would have been invaluable; for he would have found, occasion to elucidate the languages in general, and to have displayed their relations, their differences, their near and remote connexions, their changes, their structure, their principles of etymology, and their causes of corruption. If any one man was qualified for this gigantick task, it was Mr. Professor Porson; and if his wishes had not been counteracted, we know that he would have undertaken the labour.

From this time, instead of lectures, he turned his thoughts to publication. His letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis, as has been truly said, put the controversy on the disputed text to rest; and, indeed, it was the peculiar felicity of his mind, that whatever he undertook to elucidate, he fixed for ever in the light.

In 1795, he married Mrs. Lunan, the sister of Mr. Perry, of this paper, but who sunk under a decline in 1797; and, from that time, the professor himself was so incessantly afflicted with a spasmodick asthma, as to interrupt him in every study to which he applied himself. Whether his sedentary habits served to bring it on, we know not; but certainly very few men had accustomed themselves to such patient and continued toil. He had undertaken to make out and copy the almost obliterated manuscript of the invaluable Lexicon of Photius, which he had borrowed from the library of Trinity college. And this he had, with unparalleled difficulty, just completed, when the beautiful copy, which had cost him ten months of incessant toil, was burnt in the house of Mr. Perry, at Merton. The original,

being a unique, intrusted to him by his college, he carried with him wherever he went; and he was fortunately absent from Merton on the morning of the fire Unruffled by the loss, he sat down without a murmur, and made a second copy, as beautiful as the first. It is extant in his library, and is quite ready for the press. Of the plays of Euripides, which he pub. lished, the learned world has pronounced its judgment, and we reserve for another occasion, an account of this and his other literary labours. It may be pleasant for our readers, however, to know, that he has left an Orestes quite ready for the press.

On the establishment of the London institution, the managers manifested their own discernment and love of letters, by selecting him to be their principal librarian, an appointment for which he was peculiarly qualified, and if time and health had been allowed him, he would have made their library truly valuable. His own, which he has been gradually collecting for thirty years, he has enriched by annotations of such value and importance to literature, that we hope and trust, the whole will be placed in his own college, that it may for ever be within the reach of those whom his example may arouse to similar pursuits, though they may despair of reaching equal attainments.

We have said, that we should feel it our duty to correct some of the misstatements that have gone forth, as to his habits of life, and as to the circumstances of his death; but we have scarcely left ourselves room, after this hasty sketch, written since our return from paying the last duties of inconsolable friendship to his remains, to perform the task. Mr. Porson, as we have stated before, has, for the last eleven years, been the incessant victim of spasmodick asthma, during the agony of which he never went to bed, and in which he was forced to abstain from all sustenance. This greatly debilitated his body; and, about a month ago, he was afflicted by an intermittent fever. He had an unfortunate objection to medical advice, and he resorted to his usual remedy of abstinence; but on Monday, the nineteenth ult. he suffered an apoplectick stroke, from which he recovered only to endure a second attack the next day. He languished to the Sunday night, and expired without a struggle. The body was opened by his medical attendants, and they have given a report, ascribing his death "to the effused lymph in and upon the brain, which they believe to have been the effect of recent inflammation. The heart was sound, and the pericranium contained the usual quantity of lymph. The left lung had adhesions to the pleura, and bore the marks of former inflammation The right lung was in a perfect sound state This is signed by Dr. Babington, Sir William Blizard, Mr. Norris, Mr. Blizard, and Mr Upton. In refutation of an idle falsehood about the form of his skull, they add, "that it was thinner than usual, and of hard consistence."


Mr. Porson has left a sister living, an amiable and accomplished woman. She is the wife of Siday Hawes, Esq. of Coltishall, in Norfolk. They have five children. Their eldest son is entered at Bennet college, Cambridge. Henry, the second brother of the professor, was settled on a farm in Essex, and died young, leaving three children. His brother Thomas kept a boarding school at Fakenham, was an excellent scholar, and died in 1792, without issue; and his father, Mr. Huggin Porson, died in October, 86, in his 78th year. His mother died in 1784, aged 57. These few particulars may satisfy, for the time, the impatience of all those who knew his incomparable talents, but who were unacquainted with his private history. We shall hereafter speak of the character of his mind, and of the various attainments in which he had no rival.

THE most remarkable among the intellectual powers of Richard Porson, was unquestionably that of memory. It was at once obvious to every one who had the good fortune to be in his company; and it never ceased to excite the admiration of those who had most frequently an opportunity of conversing with him. Every thing he had read, and what was there worthy, or, indeed, unworthy of literary notice, which he had not read?* appeared to be present to his mind, with uncommon precision. Whensoever a subject connected with English, French, Latin, or Greek poetry was started, he would recite some brilliant ard st:iking passage, at considerable length, in the words of the author. And in the latter language more especially, which was his favourite study, he was so completely master, not only of the words of the author in question, but of every circumstance relating to the words, that he would exp tiate upon the various readings, and the points of grammar and criticism connected with them, in such a manner, as to produce the effect of a complete and well digested Variorum Commentary. We remember to have heard him relate one or two incidents which occurred at different, although both early, periods of his life, which will illustrate this quality of his mind far better than any laboured detail.

When he was very young, perhaps at the time when he was under the care of Mr. Summers, returning to his father's cottage, he lost his way, and found shelter in the house of a little farmer, whose son, somewhat older than Porson, had just quitted school. With this boy Porson was to sleep; but, instead of betaking himself to his slumbers, he began questioning his companion concerning what he had learned at school. He found him a most admirable arithmetician, and passed the night in proposing questions, which the other answered to his satisfaction as well as surprise; for at last he found him capable of multiplying nine figures by nine in his head, an operation which was quite familiar to our young professor.

When at Eton, as he was going to his tutor's, to construe a Horace les son, preparatory to the business of school, one of the senior boys took Porson's Horace from him, and thrust into his hands some English book. The tutor called upon Porson to construe, and the other boys were much amused in considering the figure he would make in this emergency. Porson, however, who had Horace by heart before he went to Eton, knowing where the lesson was to begin, began without hesitation,

Mercuri facunde, nepos Atlantis :

and went on regularly, first reciting the Latin, and then giving the Latin and English, as if he had really had the author before him. The tutor, perceiving some symptoms of astonishment as well as mirth amongst the other boys, suspected that there was something unusual in the affair, and inquired what edition of Horace Porson had in his hand. "I learned the lesson from the Delphin,” replied his pupil, avoiding a direct answer. "That is very odd," replied the other, "for you seen to be reading in a different side of the page from myself. Let me see your book " The truth was of

Upon this subject we have been favoured with the following observations from the respectable writer, to whom we are already so greatly indebted for the knowledge of many interesting particulars.


It was one of the peculiar traits of his mind that it rejected no aliment. He was equally well read in Joe Miller, and the Fathers, as in Greek literature. And in the very lowest, as well as highest branches of human learning, his memory was equally retentive. In his power over figures, though he was at an early age diverted from mathematicks, Mr. P. never knew his equal. His quickness in bringing out the result of a most intricate and manifold calculation by mental working, was magical. He had formed for himself a species of short hand in figures, if we may use the term, had the most astonishing brevity and truth.


course then discovered; but the master, instead of showing any displeasure, wisely and kindly observed to the others, that he should be most happy to find any of them acquitting themselves as well in a similar predicament.

The sensible and well written memoir, above quoted, accounts in some degree for the extent to which this invaluable faculty of his mind was at length carried; but it certainly must be allowed that very strong original powers, and intense application in after life must have been required in order to secure the attainment of such a blessing. It should be remembered to the honour of the professor, that he never appeared in any degree vain of this astonishing talent; and he once observed to the writer of this paper, "I never remembered any thing but what I transcribed three times, or read over six times at the least; and, if you will do the same, you will have as good a memory." Indeed, he was at all times the warm advocate of a doctrine, which is as true as it is important in the conduct of education. He maintained, that superiority of intellect and of attainments was not so much owing to a difference in the formation of the organs, as in the mode by which education was conducted. And although such a man aş Porson could not have failed to have been distinguished for the strength and acuteness of his understanding, under any circumstances, yet it cannot be doubted that the habits of his earlier years contributed much to that force and precision in his memory, for which he was so eminently distinguished.

There were other qualities in this great man's mind, although not so obvious to a common observer, nor so dazzling, yet even more rare and more useful. These were his extraordinary acuteness of discernment, and solidity of judgment; and these, added to his intense application and stupendous memory, made him, what the world, perhaps, never saw before and, alas! can not soon see again, A COMPLETE CRITICK, in the most honourable and extended sense of that appellation. His reading was, of course, immense. He was an excellent French scholar; but, in his native language, in the Latin, and in the Greek, he was most familiarly and profoundly versed. He had, indeed, applied the knowledge he had gained of the origin and structure of language in general, to all these dialects, if we may so express ourselves, of the universal language; and, had not his eminence in classical literature, by its uncommon lustre, obscured other attainments, he would doubtless have been considered as one of the first English scholars. In Greek, however, we have no hesitation in pronouncing him the very first, not merely of his own age, but of every other. He is surely entitled to this honourable distinction, when we consider that he possessed at once, each in its highest degree of excellence, all the qualities for which any single scholar has hitherto been eminent. In him were conspicuous, boundless extent of reading; a most exact and well ordered memory; unwearied patience in unravelling the sense of an author; and exploring the perplexities of a manuscript; perspicacity in discovering the corruptions of a text; and acuteness, almost intuitive, in restoring the true reading. All this, be it observed, was tempered with a judgment, which preserved him invariably from the rocks against which even the greatest of his critical predecessors have at some time or other split; we mean precipitation in determining that to be unsound, which after all had no defect; and rashness in applying remedies, which only served to increase the disease.

In thus pronouncing him superiour to Salmasius, Casaubon, Hemsterhusius, Toup, Dawes, and even to Bentley and Valckenaer, some of our readers may, perhaps, be of opinion, that he has published too little to justify this high encomium. To these we must reply in the words of the old proverb, ex pede Herculem; and we would boldly refer to the four plays of

Euripides, with the preface and supplement, as the work of a critick, soaring in genius and in attainment above his predecessors. When, moreover, we appeal to those exquisite specimens of profound knowledge and critical acumen, which he so liberally communicated to his friends, we have no hesitation in giving it as our opinion, that what is yet unpublished is equal, both in value and extent, to that which has already been submitted to the world. And we have only to express our most ardent and decided wish, that some steps may be immediately taken, in order to collect all the remains of this admirable scholar, for the purpose of publication; whether they be recorded in the memories and books of his friends, or whether they be treasured among his own literary κειμηλια.

In the enumeration of those qualites which contributed to raise this wonderful man to such a proud preeminence, it would be unpardonable to forget the point and brilliancy of his wit. It is difficult to define this faculty as it exists in any mind; but it is peculiarly so as it appeared in that of Porson, on account of the variety, as well as beauty of the forms it assumed. At one time it was the happy talent of enlivening and illustrating a subject by a peculiarly apt and dexterous quotation ;* at another. it scattered at will the Attick salt, which gave so much vivacity to the controversies of Bentley, and which diffuses such peculiar splendour over the polemical gloom of the Letters to Archdeacon Travis; at other times this superiour genius wielded the more concealed, but caustick weapon, which probed to the quick the follies and the vices of mankind in the satires of Swift. Such, and so various, were the powers of Richard Porson, that by turns we are in doubt whether we have been more fascinated by his wit, or astonished at his learning.

To these intellectual excellencies, faintly and imperfectly as they are portrayed, were added strong and admirable moral qualities; the most inflexible spirit of integrity; a most inviolable regard to truth; and their necessary concomitants, the most determined independence. By precept, as well as example, he discountenanced all violent emotions of the mind, and particularly that of anger. His sentiments upon the subject of religion it was difficult, at least for such persons as did not enjoy opportunities of frequent and familiar intercourse with him, to collect with precision. We are, however, enabled to state, as the decided conviction of those who were more particularly honoured with his confidence, that his faith was steady in the pure and consoling truths of Christianity. In his interpretation of some parts of the sacred volume, he certainly differed from the church of England; but his dissent was unmixed with any tincture of undue or schismatical warmth in favour of a system, to which, after mature and painful deliberation, he felt himself bound to adhere. For the name of God he ever observed the most pious reverence; nor ever would he suffer it to be profaned in his presence. Obscene language was in an equal degree the object of his antipathy and disgust.

He undoubtedly had a warm sense of kindness to himself; and felt more than he expressed of benevolence towards others! Of every thing mean, base, insolent, treacherous, or selfish, whether practised towards others or towards himself, he had a quick discernment and a most rooted abhorrence; and the terms of bitter contempt, or of severe indignation, in which he

* He once said that he wished to be called upon for a second edition of his Letters to Travis, and in that case he meant to prefix this as a motto:

Quo, moriture, ruis, majoraque viribus audes?
Fallit te incautum pietas tua.

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