« PreviousContinue »
It is worth while observing how it was this immense body of French poetry passed out of sight, so as to be quite unknown until a few years ago. In the first place, a spurious monkish compilation, the Chronicle of the false Turpin, assisted to thrust the Chanson de Roland' into obscurity. This chronicle was forged by an archbishop of Vienne, about the middle of the eleventh century, for the purpose of bringing the shrine of St. James of Compostella into repute. This same archbishop, on becoming Pope, under the name of Calixtus II., in 1090, in order to give his own compilation more importance, anathematized all the existing romances of the trouvères about Charlemagne, and succeeded in consigning them to neglect, and in thrusting his own forgery on posterity as a real historical document. Then came the immense popularity of the romances of Chrestien de Troyes and the romances of the Round Table, which were so complete an embodiment of the more finely developed sentiments of a new generation, for whom the rough manners of their ancestors had lost its charm. Then followed an age in which the ecclesiastical power declined before the ascendancy of the civil-an age of subtlety, and chicanery, and faithlessness; of law and politics, personified in the relentless figure of Philip the Fair, and, for that generation, the subtle allegories and conceits of the interminable Roman de la Rose, formed the most congenial reading-a composition long preferred by the most accomplished intellects of those times to the poem of Dante. Subsequently, during the civil convulsions of France, and the desolation brought about by the English wars, the mind of the French underwent a fundamental change, out of which the very language came entirely reminted, and the old French of the thirteenth century was supplanted by French differing in no point of construction or declension from the French of the present time. Carlovingian legend, however, after making a pilgrimage through all the literature of Europe, sprung up into new life, not in France, but in Italy; and in a more universally acceptable and enduring form in the works of Pulci, Boiardo, and Ariosto.
'De fine amor vient seance et bonté
Et amours vient de ces deus autres
Tout tres sont un qui bien i a penseé
is quoted three times by Dante in his Treatise ‘De vulgari eloquentiâ.'
Richard Cœur de Lion composed not in the tongue of the Troubadours but in that of the Trouvères.
The Trouvères were for the langue d'oil what the Troubadours were for the langue d'oc; their office was trover, to invent-they were poets. The jongleurs were mere reciters. They recited the chanson in the market-places of towns and in the halls of the vassals, to the accompaniment of a vielle or rebeck, a kind of violin. The Neapolitan lazzarone still loves to lie on the Mole at Naples and listen to his jongleur.
ART. II.-1. Platonis Euthydemus et Laches, Præfixa est Epistola ad Senatum Lugdunensem Batavorum. Auctore Carolo Badham. Londini, item Edina, Williams et Norgate. Jena, Fr. Frommann. 1865.
2. Platonis Convivium, cum Epistola ad Thompsonum. Edidit Carolus Badham. Londini et Edina: apud Williams et Norgate. Jenæ, Fr. Frommann. 1866.
THILE the place of the classical languages and literature in a liberal education has been vehemently attacked and successfully defended, the actual state of classical learning has scarcely been scrutinized as it deserved. Our Universities and public schools-welcoming in some cases, or compelled to admit in others, a larger infusion of exact and experimental science-have yet stood firm to the Greek and Latin languages as the best means of training the intellect and taste, and to the knowledge of ancient literature and life as the origin of modern civilisation. Their attention, however, has been in the mean time somewhat withdrawn from questions that once excited a keener interest. The crisis, when an insulting enemy is to be repulsed from our bulwarks, is not the moment for undertaking a minute investigation of the treasures we have to defend; and, in vindicating the surpassing worth of the ancient poets and orators, historians and philosophers, we have too hastily assumed that we have a sufficient knowledge of what those treasures in themselves really are.
It was not thus with former generations of scholars, at home or abroad; nor will it be so much longer with ourselves if we heed those symptoms of reviving interest in sound criticism, to which it is our object now to invite the attention of our readers. If we cannot claim for our subject the popular interest that waits on battles waged, whether at home or abroad, in the council or the field, for causes in which the passions excited are more conspicuous than the principles involved, we may find those who are content to sit apart on the hill of the Muses, in thoughts more elevate. Nor, when we remember that the principles we have to explain affect the condition not only of ancient literature, but of all the books that are the daily bread of our minds, do we despair of obtaining among readers trained in our standard English education an audience fit without being few.
It would be foreign to our purpose to re-open the dispute upon the worth of classical learning. We address those who recognize, not only the disciplinary use of linguistic studies, but the importance of knowing thoroughly the public history and polity,
and the private life, the arts, manners, and philosophy, of those nations which have handed down to us, with their civilisation, the undying memory of their noble deeds. But these principles will bear scanty fruit if we are unable to give a definite answer to the plain question-What are the materials of this highlyprized knowledge; what is the subject matter of ancient learning? The remains of antiquity are of two kinds, which we may call monumental and literary. The former comprise the relics of architecture and engineering, sculpture and painting, and minor works of art; the latter, books and inscriptions. The one class of works attest the character and civilisation of their creators by the appeal they make to the sense of fitness, utility, and beauty, common to human nature; the other speak directly to our common human intelligence through the organ of language. To interpret the works of art, to measure, compare, scrutinize, and discuss in journal after journal and memoir after memoir, their minutest details, is confessed to be a task worthy of all the combined skill of the artist and the antiquarian. But when the philologer comes forward to apply the like processes to the words and phrases and rhythms which make up the literary relics of antiquity, he is met with scorn as a trifler; his art is denounced as uncertain in its results; and self-satisfied indolence proclaims that a general knowledge of the language and texts of the ancients is enough for the perception of their meaning and the enjoyment of their beauties. Let the common rules of a grammar, sound or unsound, be learnt at school; let a lexicon, good or bad, be always at hand, and the self-styled scholar can skim over a corrupt text in ignorant admiration, despising the Dutch drudge who wastes the midnight oil on the hair-splitting subtleties and fruitless conjectures of criticism.
And yet it is from these Dutch drudges that we now venture to invite English scholars to learn as our fathers learned, and not to be ashamed to replenish our lamps from the same oil that filled theirs in the first ages of revived learning. The knowledge of the ancient authors has passed through three stages, which the classical student may be excused for symbolizing in imagery likely to be as lasting as it is ancient. First comes the golden age of primeval simplicity, free from all cares of criticism. The destruction of the Byzantine empire by the Turks, in the fifteenth century, drove a multitude of Greeks to seek refuge in the West, bringing with them many a copy of the old Greek authors. Venice offered the fugitives the shelter of an independent republic, whose fleets kept the Mohammedans at bay. From this centre Greek learning spread to the universities of Europe; and, in spite of the adverse faction thence nicknamed
Trojans, the new spring was eagerly imbibed by minds sated with scholasticism, and only scantily supplied with the lesser half of ancient literature in the Latin authors. Just as this source was opened, the invention of printing came in to secure its perennial diffusion; and the earliest printers were too eager for the spread of knowledge to be critical about their texts, and too confident in the value of their work to care what became of the manuscript when once perpetuated in type. Those first of learned typographers, the Alduses, printed the copies which they gathered from all quarters, as if they had been the autographs of Theocritus or Aristotle, and threw them away when done with as if they had been 'copy' of the most ephemeral matter. Thus the manuscript, chosen with no discrimination, was withdrawn for ever from the testing processes of later criticism. It was soon discovered that not even Aldine care and learning had availed to secure books thus produced from a host of faults, which were soon multiplied by conjectural emendations, like the heads of the hydra beneath the strokes of Hercules. Of this the prevailing character of the Greek scholarship of the Italians, perhaps the most conspicuous example is furnished by Julius Cæsar Scaliger, whose unbounded learning, the more marvellous from its being acquired late in life, was marred by want of critical judgment, as much as his wonderful acumen was distorted by unbounded vanity and contempt of opposition.
The best legacy that Scaliger bequeathed to the world of letters was the education of his more illustrious son, JOSEPH JUSTUS SCALIGER. Born on August 4, 1540, at Agen, on the Garonne, whither his father had removed from Italy, he went at the age of nineteen to Paris, to devote himself to the study of Greek. Dissatisfied with his progress while attending the lectures of Adrian Turnebus, Scaliger commenced, in the seclusion of his own room, a systematic reading of the Greek authors, beginning with Homer. Two years of incessant study carried him pretty nearly over the whole range of Greek literature, and this close uninterrupted converse with the ancients laid the true foundation of that critical power which was perfected by the studies of a whole life. Scaliger's invitation to the Professorial Chair in the University of Leyden forms the great epoch of the second stage of European scholarship; and the eulogy is scarcely too partial which has been pronounced on him by the living scholar, Cobet, who is labouring in the same spirit in the same University: videtur mihi pæne perfecti critici imaginem referre.'
But we must turn from the galaxy of scholars, such as Henri de Valois, Casaubon, Salmasius, Heinsius, and Gronovius, who
laboured in the same field of critical scholarship in France and Holland, to trace the history of Classic literature in our own country. While the Leyden scholars were analysing Greek texts, the scholars of Oxford were devoting their wealth to maintain the cause of one Stuart, and opposing all the force of passive resistance to the Romanising inroads of another. It was not till the new settlement gave men time to breathe again that the seeds sown by Joseph Scaliger, in Holland, bore fruit in England in the labours of RICHARD BENTLEY; and even then the great controversy on Phalaris attests the utter absence in one University of the spirit of criticism which soon fixed its head-quarters in the other. Bentley's great work -the second and enlarged Dissertations on the Epistles of Phalaris' (1699)-marks the close of the seventeenth century as the epoch of the second or critical stage of English scholarship. Dealing as we are with principles rather than details, it would be foreign to our purpose to give even an outline of the vast mass of information on every part of ancient history and philology compressed within the limits of Bentley's two Dissertations. We have now to speak of them as the works which pointed out the true path of criticism, and founded in England à philological school no less illustrious than that of Leyden. The home of this new school was fixed at Cambridge by the appointment of Bentley to the Mastership of Trinity in 1700. Here Bentley found a congenial occupation in remodelling the University Press, and gave the world the fruit, not only of his own learning, but of his co-operation with continental scholars, in editions and critical essays too well known to scholars to need enumeration. The lamentable disputes into which he plunged the College and himself, partly from his reforming zeal, and partly from the unbridled arrogance in which also he resembled the Scaligers, would be alien to our subject, but for the curious fact that the great critic contrived to delay for four years the execution of the Visitor's sentence of deprivation by availing himself of a manifest error in the text of the College statutes. The example may serve to convince the most practical' men of the issues that sometimes depend on the state of a text. This greatest of English scholars, the prince of English critics, died on the 14th of July, 1742. The most distinguished of his Continental disciples was Valckenaer, whose comparison of the critical power of detecting truth and eliminating error to the skill of the mathematician, may help us to understand why this school found its most congenial seat at Cambridge.
Among the greatest services that the Epistola ad Millium,' and