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USEFULNESS OF ANCIENT MEDALS.
ESPECIALLY IN RELATION TO THE LATIN AND GREEK POETS.
Quoniam hæc ratio plerumque videtur
OCCASIONED BY MR. ADDISON'S TREATISE ON
SEE the wild waste of all-devouring years!
Ambition sighed. She found it vain to trust
Huge moles whose shadow stretched from shore to shore,
The medal, faithful to its charge of fame,
Through climes and ages bears each form and name
With sharpened sight pale antiquaries pore,
The inscription value, but the rust adore:
Can taste no pleasure since his shield was scoured;
And Curio, restless by the fair one's side,
Theirs is the vanity, the learning thine.
Oh when shall Britain, conscious of her claim,
Then shall thy Craggs (and let me call him mine)
With aspect open shall erect his head,
And round the orb in lasting notes be read.
Statesman, yet friend to truth! in soul sincere,
Who broke no promise, served no private end,
Who gained no title, and who lost no friend;
And praised, unenvied, by the muse he loved." A. POPE.
CYNTHIO, Eugenius, and Philander had retired together from the town to a country village, that lies upon the Thames. Their design was to pass away the heat of the summer among the fresh breezes that rise from the river, and the agreeable mixture of shades and fountains, in which the whole country naturally abounds. They were all three very well versed in the politer parts of learning, and had travelled into the most refined nations of Europe: so that they were capable of entertaining themselves on a thousand different subjects, without running into the common topics of defaming public parties,2 or particular persons. As they were intimate friends they took the freedom to dissent from one another in discourse, or upon occasion to speak a Latin sentence without fearing the imputation of pedantry or illbreeding.
They were one evening taking a walk together in the fields, when their discourse accidentally fell upon several unprofitable parts of learning. It was Cynthio's humour to run down everything that was rather for ostentation than use. He was still preferring good sense to arts and sciences, and often took a pleasure to appear ignorant, that he might the better turn to ridicule those that valued themselves on their books and studies, though at the same time one might very well see that he could not have attacked many parts of learning so successfully, had not he borrowed his assistances from them. After having rallied a set or two of virtuosos, he fell upon the medalists.
'Mr Addison's great reputation is chiefly owing to what he wrote in prose. This part of his works, then, will deserve to be studied with It is scarce possible to examine a writer of this class, without admiring sometimes. But I shall do it sparingly. It will be more useful to point out his defects, which, in such a crowd of beauties, may be overlooked, or may themselves be mistaken for beauties. Nor let the presumption of this attempt give offence to any, even though they should dissent from me, in the instances alleged: for, to be at the pains of inquiring whether such a writer have any faults, is, in effect, to pay the highest compliment to his merit. And for the rest, I commit myself to the candour of all capable judges.-Nam etiam cum judicium meum ostendero, suum tamen legentibus relinquam.
2 Defaming public parties, is not a topic, but a mode of treating it. It had been more exact to say, "into the common practice of defaming public parties," &c.
These gentlemen, says he, value themselves upon being critics in rust, and will undertake to tell you the different ages of it by its colour. They are possessed with a kind of learned avarice, and are for getting together hoards of such money only as was current among the Greeks and Latins. There are several of them that are better acquainted with the faces of the Antonines than of the Stuarts, and would rather choose to count out a sum in sesterces than in pounds sterling. I have heard of one in Italy that used to swear by the head of Otho. Nothing can be pleasanter than to see a circle of these virtuosos about a cabinet of medals, descanting upon the value, rarity, and authenticalness1 of the several pieces that lie before them. One takes up a coin of gold, and after having well weighed the figures and inscription, tells you very gravely, if it were brass, it would be invaluable. Another falls a ringing a Pescennius Niger, and judiciously distinguishes the sound of it to be modern.2 A third desires you to observe well the toga on such a reverse, and asks you whether you can in conscience believe
the sleeve of it to be of the true Roman cut.
I must confess, says Philander, the knowledge of medals has most of those disadvantages that can render a science ridiculous, to such as are not well versed in it. Nothing is more easy than to represent as impertinences any parts of learning that have no immediate relation to the happiness or convenience of mankind. When a man spends his whole life among the stars and planets, or lays out a twelve-month on the spots in the sun, however noble his speculations may be, they are very apt to fall into burlesque. But it is still more natural to laugh at such studies as are employed on low and vulgar objects. What curious observations have been made on spiders, lobsters, and cockle-shells! yet the
1 Substantives terminating in ess, especially if polysyllables, have an ill effect in our language. We now say, authenticity.
2 Judiciously distinguishes the sound of it to be modern.] Inaccurately expressed. It should have been, "judiciously observes the sound of it to be modern." We say, to distinguish one thing from another; or, to distinguish between one thing and another, but not, "to distinguish any thing to be. If the word distinguishes be here used, it should be in some such way as this, "distinguishes the sound of it from that of an ancient coin." We first perceive a distinction between two things, and then conclude this not to be that. The word distinguishes is here used by Mr. A. as if it implied an act of the mind, which is consequent to distinguishing The word is, therefore, improper.