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the commencement of the controversy) was uttering an unpalatable truth at an unlucky time; and demolishing at one fatal blow the advanced strong-hold of a favourite hypothesis. His expressions, though inelegant, are by no means rude, or unmingled with terms courteous and even respectful to Temple; and it is really amusing to find Swift, revelling in bis nastiness, and sparing no contemptuous, no degrading, no filthy, no personal allusions, inveighing against the scurrility and ill manners of Bentley. In his zeal for the ancients, Temple had unfortunately selected, as peculiarly worthy of admiration, the Fables of Æsop, and the Epistles of Phalaris. The manifest spuriousness of both these compositions had not escaped the sagacity of Bentley; and however ill-timed the declaration, he could scarcely be expected to disguise or suppress
bis opinion. His intimate acquaintance with every age and vicissitude of Greek style showed him at once, that however old the fables themselves, no doubt of very ancient, probably of eastern origin, the form of language in which they exist at present bore evident marks of the lowest, even of the monkish school of Greek literature, though of the metre of a somewhat earlier and better period. They are, in fact, the choliambics of Babrias, turned into prose by the Monk Planudes. But concerning the Epistles of Phalaris, Temple was still further and more desperately committed; in a high-wrought passage he had declared that he discovered in them the manifest mind of the statesman, the philosopher, and the king, That Bentley should presume to differ from such a man on such a point of taste, or rather of knowledge of mankind, and degrade these ancient and dignified and kingly compositions to the forgeries of a late contemptible sophist, appeared the height of presumption; and no doubt Boyle inflicted, according to the general opinion, but merited chastisement on Bentley’s temerity in his sarcastic statement of the comparative value of the two judgments.
Sir William Temple has spent a good part of his life in transacting affairs of state : he has written to kings and they to him; and this has qualified him to judge how kings should write, much better than all Dr. Bentley's correspondence with foreign professors ; especially if they be such professors as have the judgment to admire him and his humanity. I shall not therefore offer a word on the general part of this head in justification of the Epistles; I shall barely set down the passage in which Sir W. Temple expresses his sense of this matter; and shall then leave it to the reader whose opinion he will think fit to take, either his or the library keeper at St. James's. Sir William's admirable words are, “I think he must have but little skill in painting, that cannot find this out to be an original. Such diversity of passions upon such variety of actions, and passages of life and government; such freedom of thought, such boldness of expression; such bounty to his friends, such scorn of his enemies; such honour of learned men, such esteem of good, such knowledge of life, such contempt of death, with such fierceness of nature and cruelty of revenge, could never be represented but by him that possessed them; and I esteem Lucian no more capable of writing, than of acting as Phalaris did. In all one writ , you find the scholar or the sophist; and in all the other writ, the tyrant and the commander.'—Boyle, Eram. p. 92.
After this grave decision of Temple, and when a promising young nobleman, by the advice and with the countenance of so distinguished a society as Christ Church, was preparing a new edition of this most valuable author, nothing could be more galling than Bentley's contemptuous disparagement of the whole work; and the rumour of this, wlrich he would not care to disguise, with the unpopularity of his neral demeanour, no doubt would make the adverse party seize the opportunity of putting the worst construction on the affair of the manuscript of the king's library. With this point the war began. Boyle, in his preface to the new edition of Phalaris, charged Bentley with refusing him the further use of a MS. in the king's library in the taunting and almost untranslatable phrase, pro singulari sud humanitate. The whole merits of this question rest on the conflicting statements of Bentley and Boyle's bookseller; the latter seems to have been unwarrantably careless throughout the transaction, and not scrupulously accurate as to truth; Bentley may have been rude and hasty in his manner of doing that, which it was perhaps his duty to do. Bentley in vain expostulated; his singularis humanitas was too good a jest to be revoked till at length, in an appendix to Wotton's work in answer to Sir W. Temple, he took his opportunity of making his own statement, and, what was worse, proceeded without mercy to assail the boasted genuine Epistles, which he openly denounced as the miserable forgeries of a dreaming pedant with his elbow on his desk.' Nothing could equal the animosity which was kindled by this tract. Every passion, good or bad, party and political, burst at once into a flame: jealousy for the literary fame of Christ Church ; respect for the established reputation of Temple and for the golden promise of Boyle; dislike and jealousy of Bentley; and no doubt the 'Tory leaven of hostility towards the rising Whig divine. It was determined at once and for ever, by one united effort, to lay him low. The opportunity itself was tempting, for Bentley had made, in his haste, one or two oversights on points of language, to which he after- . wards pleaded guilty; and the general tone of his criticism was beyond his age, which was so unaccustomed to have the genuineness of ancient writings argued on internal evidence, that his antagonists had actually the Christian charity to accuse Bentley of little less than irreligion for adopting the dangerous mode of arguing, which had been employed by Spinoza against the Old Testament.
The whole learning, wit, and malice of the society was called into action. Atterbury placed himself at the head of the league ; and an answer in the name of Boyle was at length launched forth amid the applause and triumph of the whole literary and political party, which comprehended almost all the eminent names of the day, and to the dismay probably of all except Bentley himself. No weapon of abuse or mockery was spared; every idle story was raked together; the weak points of Bentley's tract were exposed with great dexterity; the stronger, of which few were capable of judging, either glossed over, or answered with the most plausible confidence. By far the cleverest parts, however, and at the same time the most cutting, were, the grave ironical argument, to prove Bentley, on his own principles, not the author of his own pamphlet (attributed by Dr. Monk to Smalridge); and the Index, at the head of which they placed the name of Bentley, and arrayed the whole contents under such heads as ' his true story of the MS. proved false by the testimonies of his singular humanity—his clean and gentle metaphorshis extraordinary talent at drollery-his respect for the Bible ! his modesty and decency ;' each of these, with the pages of reference, ending with his profound skill in criticism, from the beginning to the end.' Smalridge's humour is of a still higher cast, and may even be read with amusement in the present day. We offer some extracts, of which it must be remembered that the drollery consists in the adoption of Bentley's own words almost throughout-they are marked with inverted commas.
• The sophist, whoever he was, that wrote these loose Dissertations in the name and character of Dr. Bentley (give me leave to say this • now, which I shall prove by and by) had not so bad a hand at humour• ing and personating, but that some may believe it is the librarian him• self who talks so big; and may not discover the ass under the skin of • that lion * in criticism and philology. But . . . I am very much • mistaken in the nature and force of my proofs, if ever any man here• after that reads them, persist in his opinion of making Dr. Bentley • the author of these criticisms. Had all other ways failed us of detecting . this impostor, yet his very speech had betrayed him, for it is that • neither of a scholar nor an Englishman ; neither Greek, Latin, nor
English; but a medley of all three: he had forgot that the scene of • these writings was London, where the English tongue was generally • spoken and written; as, besides other testimonies, the very thing speaks itself in the remains of London authors, as the Gazettes, the cases written by London divines and others. How comes it to pass * then that our Doctor writes not in English, but in a language farther
removed from the true English idiom than the Doric Greek was from 'the Attic ?' Why does Dr. Bentley, an Englishman, write guage which no Englishman before ever wrote or spoke? How comes * Dis. p. 11.
his speech neither to be that of the learned, nor that of his country? but a mixed party-coloured dialect formed out of both? Pray how came that idiom to be the court language at St. James's ?*
But were it possible to produce an author of the same country and age with Dr. Bentley, who wrote in the language of this Dissertation, yet still it is absurd to think that one of his education, character, and station should be the author of it; for Dr. Bentley is known to have appertained to the family of a Right Reverend prelate, who was the great ornament of that age; to have had an university education, and to have conversed much in the city and at court; and, with these advantages, he could not but be more refined than the writer of this piece of criticism, who, by his manner of expressing himself, shows that he was taken up with quite other thoughts and different images from those that used to fill the heads of such as had a learned and liberal education, for this sophist is a perfect Dorian in his language, in his thoughts, and in his breeding. The familiar expressions of taking one tripping ;" “ coming off with a whole skin;" “ minding his hits ; " " a friend at a pinch;”.“
" going to blows ;" setting horses together," "and going to pot,” with others borrowed from the sports and employments of the country, show our author to have been accustomed to another sort of exercise than that of the schools.
"“Some persons perhaps may gratuitously undertake to apologize for Dr. Bentley about this matter of the dialect;" they may plead in his behalf that he was born in some village remote from town, and bred among the peasantry while young ; and, for that reason, might ever after have a twang of the country dialect. “ Now if any one know an express testimony that he was bred in the country, he can teach me more than I at present remember.” This “ I know in general," from Antony Wood and others, that many have come from the employments of the country to be doctors in the university, and so he may come in among the rest. But then, must his language be ever afterwards Doric because he had once footing in a country town ?"
* The same author tells us of several born and bred in the country who yet, in process of time, have learned to speak a different dialect from that of their mother-village. “Why, then, must Dr. Bentley's dialect still needs be Doric? and that so tenaciously, that twenty years living in the universities and city could not at all alter it in one of that education ?" He was, part of that time, a library-keeper to a learned dean, and afterwards to his Majesty, a member of one university, and a sojourner in the other; a chaplain in ordinary to the King, and a tutor in extraordinary to young gentlemen, “ and could not that perpetual negoce and converse with gentlemen and scholars bring his mouth, by degrees, to speak a little finer? Would not he that aimed at the reputation of a polite scholar, and for that reason had applied himself, in a particular manner, to the belles lettres, have quitted his
old country dialect for that of a Londoner, a gentleman and a scholar? and not, by every word he spoke, make the ridiculous discovery of his being a perfect stranger" to all polite learning and gentlemanlike conversation.'
The mixed language' of Bentley is treated with the same easy pleasantry.
"“ But I love to deal ingenuously, and will not conceal one argument, which, though it will not do the work, let it go, however, as far as it can" in favour of their opinion which may ascribe these Dissertations to Dr. Bentley. There is still extant a letter of Dr. Bentley's to the Reverend and learned Dr. Mill, which is confessed to be genuine, in which there are frequent scraps of Greek intermixed with Latin, which might give occasion to our sophist to think that a cento of different languages was a characteristic of this author ; but the case of this epistle is widely different from that of these Dissertations. For the author of the epistle, writing to one who had a particular value for the Greek tongue, showed an excellent judgment in passing such a compliment in that language, as to use it, instead of Latin, even where Latin would have done as well. But, besides, he had occasion to express himself in terms of archness and waggery, which the Latin tongue would not come up to, for Johannule was not in use, and, therefore, 'Iwavvidiov, or little Jacky, was the only word to express that, in short, which the Latins cannot say but by periphrasis ; whereas these Dissertations were designed for the benefit of English readers, who had as great an esteem for their own tongue as eith for Greek or Latin ; and the uncouth words here interspersed do not add any beauty to the style, nor do they convey the author's thoughts to our understanding with more dispatch or clearness than plain English would do.'
The sophist is not more happy in personating Dr. Bentley, when, through the whole course of these Dissertations, he represents him as a fierce and angry writer, and one who, when he thinks he has advantage over another man, gives him no quarter. For the writer of the epistle to Dr. Mill, when lie had just occasion to be
very severe on some who had taken wrong measures in deducing the etymology of a Greek word, thus represses his indignation :-“But I will not say anything severely of them; it is not in my nature to trample on the prostrate." This shows him to have been a man of temper and of good nature ; but our sophist represents him as one that has no mercy upon his adversary, when he thinks that he has him in his power. The supposed editors of Phalaris, for an imagined mistake in a point of criticism, are exposed as “nonsensical blunderers :” persons who had“ neither skill nor industry,” neither “ knowledge nor ingenuity;" to be, “ like Leucon's asses, a degree below sorry critics,” to “ write directly against grammar and common sense,” and are set out to the world under this low and rude similitude,
" here are your workmen to mend an author, as bungling tinkers do old kettles.” What a difference is there between the two letter-writers! Mr.