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“ The experience of a great number of ages has uniformly demonstrated, that if the models of taste and perfection in letters, models which we owe to the Greeks and to the Romans, who as it were, identified themselves with the former, were to disappear, the literature of modern nations would decline, and soon fall into a state of degeneracy, from which it might never emerge.”
“ Neither the knowledge of man, nor that of the rules of grammar or of logic, nor the studies of nature, could compensate for so immense a loss. The art of writing well is not strictly a science, nor is it a mechanical art; the most certain rules are for the most part but negative, and the best writers not unfrequently violate them. What constitutes the great historian, the great orator, the great poet, is a sort of mystery; no idea can be formed on this point, but that which is derived from the examples of excellent works. The chefs-d'auvre of the modern language, all of them, or nearly all, produced by men deeply imbued with the writings and beauties of antiquity, could not supply the place of the latter. The noble and pure ori. ginal invariably suffers deterioration in the copy, and its effulgent light loses necessarily a part of its lustre in the imitations The modern chefs-d'æuvre are indeed sometimes more regular, and more scrupulously exact in the details than the ancient, but they never bear the same stamp of excellence; and if they deserve in their turn to be cited as models, it is principally on account of the original manner, with which the writers have succeeded in assimilating them, more or less, to the great models of antiquity.”
“ It is a truth generally admitted, that the case of letters is the same with that of the fine arts, and all artists worthy of the name, concur in believing, that if the remains of Grecian sculpture and architecture were to be lost, if the great collections of ancient monuments were not unremittingly studied by those who devote themselves to the arts, if the casts from the antique were not found in every workshop, the immortal chefsd'auvre of the Raphaels, the Titiens, the Michael Angelos, the Poussins and the Palladios, would not prevent the fine arts from falling into decay, or at least from descending to the level of the Flemish school. This school would indeed never håve risen, to the inferior height to which it attained, but for the indirect influence of the ancient models, upon which the Italian masters formed themselves, and communicated by this means, to the Flemish, a less contracted and less imperfect idea of the arts of design."
“ Philology, the name which we give to the study of the Greek and Latin writers, is not only valuable as it serves to preserve them in their purity, and to perpetuate a relish for them, but because it is, moreover, the corner stone of literature. Above all, it is indispensably necessary to his. tory; for it is to philology, that we are indebted for criticism, the torch without which history would lose itself in fable or romance; which sheds light over all the moral sciences; and without which jurisprudence would quickly degenerate into chicane, and theology into ridiculous and absurd superstition.”
“ It is not necesary to search far into the annals of the world, to find a striking historical example, how necessary it is for a nation, always to connect with the study of the sci. ences, that of the true and ancient models of taste, and conse. quently of philology and criticism. The Arabians, far from impairing the inheritance of the sciences, which they received from Greece and Rome, had, in fact, improved it by fortunate discoveries; but being strangers to philology as well as to sound criticism, their history is but a jumble of puerile or ridiculous tales, full of gross anacronisms which would be scarcely pardonable in poets or novel writers. It was not long before they displayed in their study of the sciences, the same propensity to idle subtleties and to frivolous researches, which occasioned the decline of that study among them. Their literature, although cultivated by an immense number of minds of great fertility and genius, has never furnished a sin. gle model for civilized nations."
M. Visconti, after indulging in these remarks on the importance of philology, proceeds to bewail the narrow sphere within which it is cultivated in France, and the total neglect with which it is threatened. His language is in unison with that held by M. Dacier on the same subject, in the Introductory discourse. We shall translate for our readers the precious and important confessions made by the secretary, as they will enable those who concur with Mr. Visconti in thinking philology the corner-stone of general literature, to judge, from unques. tionable and conclusive testimony, of its actual condition and future prospects in France. “ Your majesty,” says Mr. Dacier, “will perceive that France, notwithstanding the political troubles by which she has been agitated, has not, until now, been behind-hand in any of the branches of literature; but it is with great pain that we feel ourselves compelled to remark to you, that several of them are menaced with a speedy, and almost total extinction. Philology, which is the basis of all good lite. rature, and upon which the certitude of history and the know.
ledge of the past depend, is now scarcely undertaken by a sin· gle individual (ne trouve presque plus personne pour la culti
ver). The Savans whose talents still fertilizent its domain, themselves, for the most part, the remnant of a generation which is about to disappear, see springing up around them, but too small a number of men to supply their place.” · Mr. Visconti makes an enumeration of the hellenists of Paris, among whom there are some of unquestionable merit, but of the old school, and whose works for the greater part, have been merely re-printed since the year 1789. The repu. tation of most of them is founded upon translations, such as that of Herodotus by Larcher, of Æschylus by Mr. du Thiel, of Plutarch by the Abbe Ricard, and of Thucydides by Mr, Levesque. The versions of Homer by Bitaube, and Lebrun the late Arch-chancellor of the empire, are mentioned, although they by no means deserve this distinction.
Germany can boast of a multitude of hellenists, of whom Mr. Visconti cites a few of the most eminent, remarking at the same time with great justice, that it would be impossible to name all those, who cultivate philology with success, in that country, and in Holland. Some slight notice is taken of the la. bours of the Italians in this department, who are represented as almost wholly inattentive to Greek studies.-Mr. Visconti very properly extols the translations of Callimachus and The. ocritus, by Pagnini, and that of Tyrtæus by Lamberti. He speaks of the translation of Homer by Cesarotti in terms of contempt, to which all unprejudiced persons acquainted with the work must strongly object. It is unquestionably better than any French version of the same poet, of which we have any knowledge.
'The list of French Latinists given by Mr. Visconti, is meager enough, and comprises no name of any celebrity abroad. He remarks at the conclusion, that “the small number of men who cultivate Latin philology with success in so great an empire as France, proves that this branch of literature languishes there, and that it requires the aid of a powerful hand to be made to flourish.” He adds also, that the class to which he helongs, has particularly occupied itself with Latin inscriptions, “ since they have been charged by the government with the composition of the series for the medallic history of his impe. rial majesty the emperor!” Among the Latinists mentioned, there is a Mr. Serra, a Genoese by birth, who is stated to have published in Paris, a Latin history of the two campaigns of
his imperial majesty in the years 1806 and 1807. His style is pronounced to be, pure and classical, and his work estimable. *
Of the hellenists of England, Porson alone is mentioned. Among her Latinists, Gilbert Wakefield and Charles Coombe are said to be the only persons worthy of being cited, while these are declared to be, in their capacity, very far from equaling the merit of their countryman Porson in the Greek.--At the same time, that so much stress is laid on the translations from the ancients, either executed or reprinted in France
• The best of the innumerable verses published throughout the French empire, in celebration of the pregnancy of her Imperial Majesty Maria Louisa, is to be found in a Latin poem on the occasion, from a Mr. Lemaire, a professor of Latin in Paris. It is, in our opinion, the most tolerable speci. men of Latinity, which the classic literature of France has produced under the new régime. The following passages may afford the reader an idea of its merit as a Latin composition. The poet thus apostrophizes the Empress.
Salve, ô terrarum tu lumen amabile; salve,
He afterwards calls up the god of the Tiber and the shades of the old Ro. man heroes, to contemplate and admire the grandeur and felicity of Napo. leon. The prosopopæia is highly poetical, and beautifully expressed.
Fatidicos sensit Tusco sub gurgite cantus,
Hujus in adventum præsago agitata tremore
Ensem fatiferum, et venerabile sidus adorant.
since 1789, no notice is taken of those published in England. With respect to the condition of "philology” in the latter country, not a word is uttered.
It is difficult for persons who are of the class of Quaeramues, and who have given any degree of attention to the state of classical learning generally in England, not to smile at the supercilious mode, in which her merit in this department, is treated by the Institute. Hellenists and Latinists she has without number, equal to any of whom France can boast, and in order to satisfy our learned readers on this head, we need not recite, besides the three names mentioned in the Report, those of Parr, Burney, Whitaker, Dalzel, Gaisford, Bloomfield, Gillies, Mathias, &c. &c. It is true that the editions of the ancient authors given by the British, are neither as numerous nor as valuable as those of the Dutch or Germans, nor have they done as much as the latter, in purify. ing the text of those authors. The cause of this deficiency is not easily to be explained, and not now material for us to discuss. They have not, moreover, produced as many good translations of the prose-classics, as might have been expected from their profound and almost universal acquaintance with the originals. This last circumstance is correctly traced by the Edinburgh Reviewers, to the very fact of the wide diffusion of classical knowledge in England. It is justly said in their twenty-second number,* “ that almost all who in that country, take any interest in classical subjects, are capable of studying them in the original authors, and that where classical instruction is less generally diffused, translations are more likely to be common.” · Notwithstanding the comparative scarcity of English translations of the prose classics, there are very many of considerable merit, and such as the French have not certainly surpassed. - We allude to the labours of Melmoth, Hampton, Murphy and Gillies in this line, of Beloe, Smith, Langhorne, Leland, Sir William Jones, &c.-With the exception of the Georgics of Virgil by Delille, to which the English one of Sotheby is perhaps not at all inferior, we know of no French version of an ancient poet, which deserves much applause. We need not say what treasures of this kind the British possess, in the translations of Homer, by Pope and Cowper, of Virgil by Pitt and Dryden, of Lucan by Rowe, of Juvenal by Gifford, of Hesiod by Elton, and of the minor Greek and Latin poets by various hands, who have most successfully caught the spirit, and transfused the excellence of their originals.
* Review of Stewart's translation of Sallust.