« AnteriorContinuar »
en Tibullus. Now if we had to point out an instance of a fine subjert unsuccessfully treated, we perhaps could not do better than mention this very elegy. Nothing can be more puerile and jejune. It is altogether worthy of the miserable couplet with which it concludes.
Ossa quieta precor placidè requiescite in urna,
Et sit humus cineri non onerosa tuo. But Mr. Wakefield had heard it was good, or guessed from the subject and the author, that it ought to be so, and that was enough.
We shall however trouble our readers with one extract from his letters, because it gives what appears to us a fair and not ill-drawn daracter of a very extraordinary man—the late Professor Porson.
'I have been furnished with many opportunities of observing Porson, bị a near inspection. He has been at my house several times, and are for an entire summer's day. Our intercourse would have been fequent, but for three reasons. 1. His extreme irregularity and inatzation to times and seasons, which did not at all comport with the me. thodical arrangement of my time and family. 2. His gross addiction to that lowest and least excusable of all sensualities, immoderate drinking: and 3, the uninteresting insipidity of his society; as it is impossible to engage his mind on any topic of mutual enquiry, to procure his opinion on any author or passage of an author, or to elicit
any conversation of any kind to compensare for the time and attendance of his company. And as for Homer, Virgil, and Horace, I never could hear of the least critical effort on them in his life. He is in general devoid of all human afections; but such as he has are of a misanthropic quality: nor do I think that any man erists for whom his propensities rise to the lowest pitch of ofection or esteem. He much resembles Proteus in Lycophron:
ω γελως απεχθεται
Και δακρυ. . Though I believe he has satirical verses in his treasury for Dr. Bellena den as he calls him, (Parr,) and all his most intimate associates. But in his knowledge of the Greek tragedies and Aristophanes; in his judgment of MSS., and in all that relates to the metrical proprieties of dramatic and lyric versification, with whatever is connected with this species of reading; none of his co-temporaries must pretend to equal him. His grammatical knowledge also, and his acquaintance with the ancient lexicographers and etymologists, is most accurate and profound: and his intimacy with Shakespeare, B. Jonson, and other dramatic writers is probably unequalled. He is, in short, a most extraordinary person in every point of view, but unamiable; and has been debarred of a comprehensive intercourse with the Greek and Roman authors by his excesses, which have made those acquirements impossible to him, from the want of that time which must necessarily be expended in laborious reading, and for which no reading can be made a substitute. No man has ever paid a more voluntary and respectful homage to his talents, at
all times, both publicly and privately, in writings and conversation, than myself: and I will be content to forfeit the esteem and affection of all mankind whenever the least particle of envy or malignity is found to mix itself with my opinions. My first reverence is to virtue, my second only to talents and erudition-where both unite that man is estimable indeed to me, and shall receive the full tribute of honour and affection.'
The style of Mr. Fox's letters is (as our readers will have already remarked in the extracts we have given) light, easy, natural, and correct. It is the imstudied language of a scholar and a gentleman. In his . History' he seems to have been encumbered by some theory as to style, and either from the original faultiness of the theory itself, or from his not having practised the art of writing sufficiently to enable him to realize his own notions of excellence, the whole composition has an air of aukwardness and embarrassment. Here he is free from this self-imposed restraint, and consequently, we think, appears to far greater advantage as a writer of familiar letters, than in the dignified character of an historian. On all occasions he shews (what we are always glad to remark and eager to praise) a strong preference of simple idiomatic turns of expression to what is perhaps generally thought more dignified or graceful language. In all highly civilized countries there are two classes of people that are constantly tending to withdraw a language from its true standard. In the first place, half-educated people, who think that the best proof they can give of their taste and knowledge is to depart in all cases as much as possible from those forms of expression that are in use amoug the vulgar-Secondly those of an overrefined disposition, who are tired of all that is common, and who, for the benefit of readers as fastidious as themselves, exercise a verse ingenuity in substituting new words and new combinations instead of those that formerly prevailed in correct writing and good conspany. To these inust be added, when we are speaking of our own country, those half-foreign writers of Ireland and Scotland but particularly of Scotland-whose industry and genius, contending against great advantages, have procured for them so high a place in our literature. The joint influence of all these threatens our language with a change which in no very long course of years will make Swift obsolete and Addison vulgar. Mr. Fox was sensible of this danger, and laboured to avert it. Nothing was more remarkable in the language of his speeches than its simplicity and anglicism; and as they unfortunately could not be preserved, we are glad that something at least should remain to record his authority by the most effectual of all means—his example,
Art. IV. 1. Letters to Sir W. Drummond. By Rev. G. D'Oyly. 2. Letters to Rev. G. D'Oyly. By Vindex. 8vo. pp. 118. Lon
don; Sherwood and Co. 1812. 3. Remarks on Sir W. Drummond's Edipus Judaicus. By Rev. George D'Oyly, &c. 8vo. pp. 218. London ; Cadell and
Davies. 1SIS. SOME of our readers may, perhaps, have heard of a new com
mentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, entitled Edipus Judaicus. With
a reserve which does not always attend the conscious-, ness of truth and sincerity, the discoveries contained in the book have been withheld from the general eye, and confined to those initiated persous whose degree of apprehension and halsits of thinking were supposed not to disqualify them for an introduction into the greater mysteries, to which it is dangerous to admit over scrupulous and discriminating inquirers. Owing, however, to some negligence in the hierophant, a copy of these dopřnice has fallen bto the hands of Mr. D'Oyly, a person who is not only destitute of the qualities deemed requisite to its perusal, but who also labours under certain positive disabilities, such as sound learnng and accurate judgment. This appears in nothing more, than in the use which he has made of his advantages. Instead of complimenting the author, on the acquaintance with the Asiatic alphabets which he displays, he ventures to doubt* the soundness of that knowledge. Instead of acquiescing in the ipse dirit of the philosopher, he discusses his arguments, and questions his conclusions. Instead of expressing astonishment at the multiplicity of quotations, he inquires into their accuracy and pertinency; and instead of admising the originality of the ideas, le detects them in a French writer, who had before been kept behind the scenes. It is, indeed, not a little unfortunate, that the author's intention of keeping the distribution of the book within his own hands should have been thus frustrated; and we cannot be surprised at the warmth of bis
anonymous apologist, Vindex, on finding that a copy of it had been so unworthily disposed of, in defiance of all his prudence.
Our readers, we are sure, will sympathise with Sir W. Drummond, when they understand what slight respect Mr. D'Oyly has shown for his learning, and perceive that the friendship professed iv the dipus for the Scriptures, has appeared enmity in his eyes,
Nothing, we observe, excites the indignation of Vindex more than this presumption. I shall suggest to you,' he angrily answers, that if you mean to dispute Sic W. Drummond's knowledge of the Oriental tongues, I think you might as well consult his published works--for example
, his Essay on a Punic Inscription, containing a variety of biblical criticism, royal quarto ; his remarks on an inscription in the island of Malta, in the Ninth Number of the Classical Journal, &c.' VOL. IX.NO, XVIII.
owing, perhaps, to his having read the book without first undergoing the necessary process of medicating the intellectual ray with the compound used by the initiated. That they may enter upon the subject with proper feelings, we will acquaint them with the object of the work.
The intention of the Edipus Judaicus is principally to convert into allegory portions of the Old Testament, which have been always received as historical. For instance: the Book of Joshua conveys an allegorical representation of the reform of the calendar. The existence of the persons and places mentioned in that book, is not denied; but it is contended that when they occur in it, they are used not to designale persons and places, but to convey an allegorical meaning: viz. the name Joshua, is a type of the sun in the sign of the Ram; Jericho means the moon in her several quarters; Jordan is not the river known by that name, but a serpent, the hieroglypbic for the sun's annual orbit. Thus the author proceeds through the whole book, forcing every proper name into some connexion with astronomy; and then affirming that it is used not as a proper name, but as an allegorical symbol. In support of this system he eagerly takes advantage, as may be supposed, of every number occurring through the book, which corresponds with any number frequent in astronomy. The twelve tribes of Israel shadow the twelve signs of the Zodiac, or the twelve months of the
year. When Jericho is compassed seven times, there is an allegory of the seven days of the week. When fire kngs of the Amorites war against Joshua, the five intercalary days are typically represented.D'Oyly's Remarks, pp. 4, 5.
Now the inethod of proof, by deriving the proper names from some astronomical term, is certainly attended with one advantage, which is thus pointed' out by Mr. D’Oyly.
It is in the nature of things impossible to disprove any proposed method of deducing the etymology of a word, however absurd, fanciful, and strained it may appear to every considerate mind. We may give reasons for rejecting it as highly improbable, and for receiving another, perhaps, as drawn from a far more obvious source; but this is all that we can do; if any person should persevere in maintaining that his own is the best derivation, the question must be left to the judgment of others: it is impossible to prove that he is wrong. In some old Monkish histories, the word Britain is derived from Brutus, a supposed descendant of Æneas: now, we may produce reasons without end for disbelieving any connection to have subsisted between Britain, and a person named Brutus; and for either acquiescing in our inability to derive the word at all, or for greatly preferring some other mode of deriving it: but we can do no more; we cannot confute the person, who maintains that it certainly is derived from Brutus, and that every other mode of deriving it is comparatively forced and improbable. -Precisely in the same manner, when our author affirms that the word “ Ainorites” is derived from a Hebrew word signifying a Ram* (the astronomical sign of
Aries); that Balaam comes from a word signifying “ to swallow," with allusion to the celestial Dragon;* Deborah, from Aldebaran, the great star in the Bull's eye,t &c.: we cannot possibly confute him, or positively prove that he is wrong; we can only hint that these derivations are not very obvious or probable, and refer the matter to the common sense of mankind.'-p. 20. • But the unfortunate part is, that every one of the intended derivations might be safely granted to the author, and yet not a single step of advance would be made towards the proof of his allegorical sysiem. Let Sir W. D. prove, in the best manner he is able, the derivation of Hebrew proper names from astronomy. If he should succeed, he would only prove what is antecedently extremely probable, on the supposition that astronomy was a science greatly cultivated, and the only science cultivated, in those early times. For, on this supposition, it would be most natural that very many words and names in the language should bear express allusion to this favourite science. But what more would be proved? They would remain proper names still; they would denote, as before, real persons and places; and the books in which they are mentioned would still contain real histories, instead of being immediately converted into allegorical fables.'-p. 17.
We will now enable our readers to judge for themselves of the advantages accruing to the cause of revelation, by the allegorical scheme. They remember the four first verses of the Book of Joshua. In the commentary on that passage, contained in the Edipus Judaicus, it is endeavoured to establish,
'That by the words Joshua the son of Nun, we are to understand instead of a real person, the son of another real person, called Nun" the sun in the sign of Aries, which rises above Cetus or the whale"that the word Jordan, in this passage, does not signify the river known by that name, but is used metaphorically to signify the ecliptic; that the word translated wilderness, having for its true signification the boundary of the land, is here conceived to mean the horizon ; Lebanon the author supposes to have been a name given to the sun, and probably the rising sun; Euphrates he concludes to mean the light of the Zodiacal constellations, and all be can do for the word Hittites at present, is to observe that it is frequently connected with others which bear a distant reference to astronomy:', « This is the substance of the commentary: and now the meaning,' be says, “ of the allegory seems pretty clear. The style being changed, the equinoctial sun hailed the Saviour, and identified with the Ram or Lainb, opens the year, and is feigned as leading the twelve Zodiacal signs along' (read across) the ocliptic.' . As our author performs so very imperfectly the important part of pointing out what sense will come out from these four verses, on the supposition that his commentary is well founded, and that he has proved the abovementioned words to bear the symbolical meanings which he proposes; I will perform this part for him. Of course, we idust take it for granted, that he intends the other words in the passage
• Edip. Jud.
† Ib. p. 348.