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graceful with us to be ignorant of that of which the knowledge is useless?
“ Where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise ;" and surely it is a wisdom worse than unwise to accumulate that knowledge which merely embarrasses and encumbers the mind, and which, instead of enlightening, produces a confusion of ideas and dimness of perception. It is this ardour for jumbling together in the memory all kinds of learning, without judgment to discriminate between the good and bad, that has unjustly brought upon scholars the reproach of tastelessness; which has subjected them to the ridicule of unlearned wits, as if, necessarily, he who possessed knowledge must be destitute of that taste,
66 without which knowledge is inert;" as if, necessarily, every scholar were another Margites, who
«Πολλ' ήπίστατο καλά, κακώς δ' ήπίστατο πάντα”.
Knew many good things, but knew them all ill. It might reasonably be expected in this enlightened age, that the learning of our ancestors should be improved upon in every respect; that not only it's deficiencies should be supplied, but it's luxuriancès should be pruned; and that the road of knowledge should be cleared of every incumbrance which may render it irk. some to the rising generation. Taste and sound sense ought not to be sacrificed to that accumulation of scattered fables, which is made to go a great way towards forming a scholar; which is as laborious in the acquisition, as tormenting in the preservation, and as useless in the enjoyment, as the treasures of a miser. The materials thus heaped together are a mere stumbling-block in the hands of a tasteless person; and the learning of Bentley himself would be useless to one who possessed not the acute judgment of Bentley, Taste, after all, is the quality which must arrange, digest, and give life to knowledge ;-in short, which is necessary to - bew the block off, and get out the man."
ART. ART. VI.-Professor Porson Vindicated.
“ Avaunt-is Aristarchus yet unknown?”.
Dunciad, books. A thousand changes have been rung on the name of Porson; and the topics of panegyric appear to be yet unexhausted. At least, his extravagant admirers, while they have been 56 afraid to blame” the departed Colossus of Classical Literature, have by no means been asliamed to praise” him in an inordinate degree. Let me not be misunderstood : it is not intended to depreciate the merits of this illustrious scholar, rior to deny the eminent services he has performed for that small portion of mankind called the literary world. It is only when his praises are exaggerated, when they are joined with the sacred names of Milton, Shakspeare, and Newton, and his glory set in competition with theirs,--that it becomes the duty of moderate men to enquire into the grounds of his reputation, and to disprove on the one hand the fastidiousness of supercilious contempt, and on the other the fulsomeness of unmerited panegyric.--Now, his injudicious admirers have been so dazzled with his real and transcendant excellencies, that they have never ventured to look for imperfections, and have almost represented him as that “ faultless monster which the world ne'er saw;" while others, who have viewed his character with rather a more jealous eye, have made no scruple to declare his faults, and have felt no inclination to discover that apology for them, which his friends appear to have thought unnecessary.
Dr. Butler has objected as a fault to the great scholar, that he employed his stupendous powers in addressing the “ Juventus Academica ;” arguing, by a singular and original kind of logic, that “ in a common man there might have been something of condescension in such conduct; but in such a colossal genius as Porson, there appeared somewhat of contempt for his literary contemporaries, which he does not think wholly justifiable."* Surely, the good doctor has here forgotten himself: surely, that which in a common man would be condescension, must be in Porson preeminent condescension; nor will any impartial man, who considers the remarkable modesty for which the late Professor was conspicu. ous, be inclined to attribute it to any other motive. If he looked upon the “ Juventus Academica” as his peculiar charge (and by virtue of his office such they indisputably were),-if he regarded his “ literary contemporaries” as without need of further in
* See his “ Letter to Charles James Blomfield, &c.” in wbich will be found some very frivolous attacks on the late Professor.
struction, and himself as unqualified to furnish it and unworthy to obtrude it on them,-could this possibly imply a contempt for them? And by what point in his general conduct is such an im. putation supported ?* Doctor Butler, perhaps, has written with a view to the edification of older scholars; and I wish him success in so dignified an undertaking: but he must pardon those who differ from him on this subject, and allow me to hope, that if he ever arrive at the Greek Professorship himself, he will then at length condescend to bestow some attention on the 5 Academic Youth."
Were this the only charge that could be adduced against the late Professor, it would evidently leave nothing but triumph to his friends, and shame and confusion to his calumniators. But, to pass over trifling cavils, he has been vehemently reproached by his adversaries (and the justice of the reproach has been hastily acknowledged by some of the less zealous of his friends) not only with being much too sparing of his commendations towards other scholars, but even with unwarrantably depreciating their merits, and treating their labours with unmerited contempt.
“ I do not recollect,” says Doctor Butler, (“ Ecce iterùm Cris pinus !") 6 to have met with many passages in the writings of the late Professor, which tend to applaud his literary contemporaries.” This is true; but I ask, does he recollect many wbich tend to censure his 6 literary contemporaries?" —— And who were these mighty contemporaries, whose praises were to hang continually on the lips of Porson? There was none among them more eminent than Doctor Charles Burney; and what higher panegyric could he expect or desire from his friend than that comprehensive sentence in which he is designated as “ Vir doctissimus et mihi longo amicitiæ usu conjunctissimus ?” Let Doctor Butler weigh well the force of these superlatives: let him be assured, that praise is not the more valuable for being fulsome; and though now-a-days the fashion of these things is changed,—though now every flippant commentator is applauded as a “ Vir longè doctissimus," and every petty editor of a Greek play hailed as a Colossus of learning, the value of all commendation is to be estimated from its rarity: and this single sentence from the pen of Porson, scanty as it may appear, stamps a greater dignity on the name of the scholar he commends, than all the exaggerated encomiums of pedantic journalists, and even all the titles of magnanimous heroes” which Doctor Burney himself can bestow:
* “ Ii sunt, opinor," the Professor himself tells us, in his note on Medea, v. i. !! Ætate jam provectiores, quam ut à me vel quicquam pravi dedo ecantur, vel recii quicquam addiscant. Vos autem, Adolescentes, " &c.
I haye po hesitation in asserting, that the propensity to extra, tagant panegyric, which Doctor Burney and others have lately exhibited, is a fault far more censurable, and far more detrimental to the cause of letters, than the backwardness to praise, of which Porson has been so industriously accused. It resembles exactly the ill taste of Darwin and his school, who adorn a fly with such heroic epithets and such pompous description, that they have nothing higher left for a lion or a giant. When such men as Toup and Tyrrwhitt, whose very names are unknown to infinitely the greater part of the world, are dignified with the high-sounding titles of " magnanimous heroes,” what climax of epithets have we in reserve for Locke, for Newton, and Alfred, for the phi. losopher and the legislator,--for the saviours and enlighteners of
It is not necessary, however, that the faults of Porson should take shelter under a condemnation of the opposite faults in others : it is sufficient that the charge be plainly stated, and an appeal to his writings will easily refute it. Why do we hear complaints of his unwillingness to praise, when his works are interspersed with frequent and just encomiums on such men as Pierson, Valckenaer, and Bentley He has not, indeed, extolled them to the skies ; he has called them neither demi-gods nor heroes : but he has rewarded them with that just and reasonable praise which alone is true commendation, and which every moderate man and sober scholar rejoices to see bestowed as the crown of their labours. Such praise from such a man is their best reward.
But the heaviest part of the charge against Porson is, that he has traduced the merits of other commentators, and treated them with a contemptuous scurrility. If this charge be just, he has himself little claim to that mercy which he has denied to others. Perhaps, bowever, a plain quotation of the most obnoxious passages of his writings, accompanied by a slight examination of the merits of the case, may tend in some degree to remove the imputation.
The passing affronts he has offered to such, men aş Clarke, Bellanger, and Pauw, may well be overlooked ; because, clas. șical readers are not greatly interested in the credit of such men, and if nobler names had not felt the attack, few persons would have been inclined to take up arms against Porson in their yindication. It had been better, perhaps, if their names had not þeen mentioned; but, being mentioned, no one would be so un. șeasonable as to expect that it could be with great veneration.
The zealous admirers of Gilbert Wakefield will probably feel little satisfied with the treatment he has received from the Pro. fessor. Yet let it be remembered, that the chief merits of that excellent 'man did not consist in his classical attainments ; nor as a critical scholar, can his friends themselves with any decent shew
of justice very highly applaud him. Is it then to be a matter of wonder, that his blunders should meet with some degree of fas. tidiousness from a critic of so nice a judgment and so acute a discrimination as Porson?
66 Cur N finalem in éménawoey et similibus addiderím, nemo nisi qui communi sensu plane careat, requiret.”
Vid. Not. in Orest. 0. 64. This insinuation is levelled at Wakefield, who affected to abjuro the use of the final N; and yet, resolved not to be consistent in error, he has sometimes adopted, and sometimes neglected it's use, apparently just as caprice dictated. Was such arbitrary licentiousness in an editor to be passed over without reproof,—such un. accountable opposition to all the learning and all the judgment of those who had unanimously sanctioned the contrary practice? Por, son's censure is indeed severe: buto-though I will not much insist on the fact of it's being couched in general terms, without application to any particular name (for no one is ignorant that Wakefield is the man), -yet certainly Wakefield has, upon the whole, met with greater gentleness and respect from Porson, than from most of the critical fraternity --I had almost said than he deserved; for he betrayed in general a strange temerity in asserting and positive. ness in maintaining, quite inconsistent with the meckness of his private character, and quite inconsistent, too, with the becoming modesty of criticism ;-not to mention an affectation of singularity yery ridiculous, at least, and little less than disgraceful. Singularity, I have no doubt, was the charm which recommended to him the innovation censured in the above note of Porson; and it was most probably the same silly affectation which induced him to reject the use of accents. I am aware that accents have been rejected by some from mere indolence; but this could not have been the motive with Gilbert Wakefield, whose industry in the pursuit of knowledge was altogether insuperable. And yet this man, who disdained the care of such trifles, made his religion to depend on trifles scarcely more important, and of which he had about as accurate an understanding! Porson has reproved him in the fola lowing passage with a proper mixture of respect and severity.
66 Video à nonnullis, optimis quidem illis, sed nec satis eruditis et paullò iracundioribus viris omnem accentuum rationem despicatu haberi. Verùm ii sunt, opinor, ætate jam provectiores, quàm ut à me vel quicquam pravi dedoceantur, vel recti quicquam addis, cant.........Qui hanc doctrinam (sc. accentuum) nescit, dum igno, santiam suam candidè fatetur, inscitiæ tantùm reus; qui verò nescire non contentus, igngrantiæ suæ contemtum pratexit, majoris culpæ affinis est."--Not. in Med. v. 1.
If the fact were established, that Porson has been too severe upon the errors of Wakefield; it would at the worst prove his