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Editions of Horace-Virgil-Greek Tragedies - Projected
Edition of Pope's Works Observations on Pope-Poetical
To publish editions of the principal authors of antiquity, had always been a favourite project with Mr. Wakefield. The little encouragement which works of this nature generally receive, and the great expence with which they are inevitably attended, deterred him, on many occasions, from indulging his inclination. Yet few scholars have ever formed a more extensive and valuable collection of materials for the execution of an office, not less arduous than important.
Early in 1794 he was engaged to superintend an edition of Horace, in two volumes 12mo. which the publisher was anxious to have distinguished not less by its correctness, than its beauty. The design of such an edition was incompatible with the introduction of any con
siderable number of critical or illustrative remarks. Upon condition, however, of being állowed to introduce some few variations from the common reading of the text, in passages generally admitted to be depraved, Mr.Wakefield readily acceded to this proposal.
Towards the close of the following year, he fulfilled the promise which he had given in the preface to his Horace, and accordingly published an edition of all Virgil's works, in two volumes 12mo. undertaken upon similar conditions, and executed on a similar plan, excepting where the very incorrect state of the text, in many of the smaller poems, seemed
s“ Cum bibliopola noster, studio laudabili impulsus, editionem Horatii nitidissimam, formæ minoris, emittere cogitaret, ad exemplar Gesneri Baxterianum impressam, a me per amicum impetrare volebat operarum inspiciendarum curam; ut chartæ in manus hominum quàm emendatissime venirent, Ad hoc muneris qualecunque respondi me non invitè accessurum, si poetæ, quod aiunt, textum in quibusdam saltem locis manifeste depravatis, ad meum quodammodo gustum atque arbitrium constituere liceret; quum à me nullo modo possem impetrare corruptelas indubitatas meis auspiciis recusas iri: et propositum non displicuit. Cæterum bibliopolæ rationes in hoc opere edendo brevitatem postulabart: undè paucis tantummodò erroribus adhibita est curatio; et nullæ nisi verisimillimæ, vel aliorum vel ipsius emendationes hàc sunt tralatz."
to allow a more unreserved indulgence in conjectural emendation."
Besides numerous improvements in the punctuation, to which he paid great attention, many corrections and illustrations will be found in the notes subjoined to each volume. It is evident, however, from the preface, that this edition of the Mantuan bard, with all its merit, is far inferior to what Mr. Wakefield would have rendered it, had he not been restrained by the conditions of the bookseller.k
In truth these smaller editions convey but a faint idea of that extensive plan which his active mind had formed towards a complete edition of many of the most celebrated works of antiquity. The materials which he had collected with that view, through a long period
i "Quid ultrà variaverim, præter diligentiorem interpunctionem, notulæ sæpiùs declarabunt; in quibus, citra violatæ veritatis crimen, possem affirmare, et ad doctorum sententias provocare, plura esse rectiùs constituta, etiàm post tot eradi. torum hominum lucubrationes, quàm in quibusdam editionibus magno molimine vulgatis; nisi lectoris integrum judicium subire, et facere bona, quàm promittere, maluerim.”
k “ Hactenus autèm severioribus bibliopolæ legibus, notas mihi quam brevissimas imponentis, obsecutus sum: deinceps meo jure rem administraturus."
of laborious study, were principally derived from a careful collation of ancient manuscripts, and a comparison of early editions, at Cambridge, in the British Museum, and the repositories of private individuals. That the fruits of so much labour and deep research should be lost to the literary world is, surely, no common subject of regret.
In the same year he published a selection of the Greek tragedies,' in two volumes, octavo. The motives which determined his choice of these dramas were, their intrinsic merit, and the connection of those comprised in the first volume. He also proposed the introduction of some novelty into the course of initiatory reading; few of the pieces contained in these volumes having been hitherto adopted into the use of schools.
As the design of this edition was not professedly, and purely critical, no manuscripts were consulted, nor were the earlier editions completely collated. An object, however, of equal importance, in a book of elementary in
Consisting of the Hercules Furens, Alcestis and Ion of Euripides, The Trachiniæ and Philoctetes of Sophocles, and The Euinenides of Æschylus.
m See the Preface to this work,
struction, the formation of taste by the illustration of poetical beauties, was carefully kept in view. The Commentary, like the other classical publications of this editor, contains an ample selection of passages, from the best authors, displaying similar elegancies,' and essentially contributing to the elucidation of the text.
While Mr. Wakefield was employed in these classical researches, and in preparing his elabgrate and splendid publication of Lucretius, he also projected an edition of the works of Pope, “ with remarks, and illustrations.”
The happy couplets of this author he was frequently accustomed to quote, and he has described him as “a poet, for delicacy of feeling, for accuracy of judgment, poignancy of wit, urbanity of humour, vivacity of fancy, discerpment of human character, solemnity of pathos, pregnancy of sentiment, rectitude of tastę, comprehensive diction, melodious num. bers, and dignified morality, without a rival in ancient or modern times.” »
Obs, on Pope, Pref, v. Mr. Wakefield had an opportunity of gratifying his attach. ment to the memory of this poet in the summer of 1797. He was then on a visit, accompanied by one of the present writers,