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(1) “ Ordered Fletcher (at four o'clock this afternoon) to copy out seven or eight apophthegms of Bacon, in which I have detected such blunders as a schoolboy might detect, rather than commit. Such are the sages! What must they be, when such as I can stumble on their mistakes or mis-statements ? I will go to bed, for I find that I grow cynical.” - B. Diary, Jan. 5. 1821.
This was not said by Antigonus, but by a Spartan, previously to the battle of Thermopylæ.
This happened under Augustus Cæsar, and not during the reign of Adrian.
This happened to the father of Herodes Atticus, and the answer was made by the emperor Nerva, who deserved that his name should have been stated by the “greatestwisest - meanest of mankind.” (1)
This was said by Anacharsis the Scythian, and not by a Greek.
This was not said by Demosthenes, but to Demosthenes by Phocion.
158. Antigonus, when it was told him that the enemy had such volleys of arrows, that they did hide the sun, said, That falls out well, for it is hot weather, and so we shall fight in the shade.
162 There was a philosopher that disputed with Adrian the Emperor, and did it but weakly. One of his friends that stood by, afterwards said unto him, Methinks you were not like yourself last day, in argument with the Emperor : I could have answered better myself. Why, said the philosopher, would you have me contend with him that commands thirty legions ?
164. There was one that found a great mass of money digged under ground in his grandfather's house, and being somewhat doubtful of the case, sig. nified it to the emperor that he had found such treasure. The emperor made a rescript thus : Use it. He writ back again, that the sum was greater than his state or condition could use. The emperor writ a new rescript, thus: Abuse it.
178. One of the seven was wont to say, that laws were like cobwebs : where the small flies ere caught, and the great brake through.
209. An orator of Athens said to Demosthenes, The Athenians will kill you if they wax mad. Demosthenes replied, And they will kill you, if they be in good sense.
(1) [" If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shined,
The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.”
221. There was a philosopher about Tiberius that, looking into the nature of Caius, said of him, That he was mire mingled with blood.
This was not said of Caius (Caligula, I presume, is intended by Caius), but of Tiberius himself.
97. There was a king of Hungary This reply was not made by a took a bishop in battle, and kept King of Hungary, but sent by him prisoner; whereupon the pope Richard the first, Cour de Lion, of writ a monitory to him, for that he England to the Pope, with the had broken the privilege of holy breastplate of the bishop of Beauchurch and taken his son : the king vais. sent an embassage to him, and sent withal the armour wherein the bishop was taken, and this only in writing - Vide num hac sit vestis filii tui? Know now whether this be thy son's coat?
This did not happen to Demetrius, but to Philip King of Macedon.
267. Demetrius, king of Macedon, had a petition offered him divers times by an old woman, and answered he had no leisure; whereupon the woman said aloud, Why then give over to be king.
VOLTAIRE. Having stated that Bacon was frequently incorrect in his citations from history, I have thought it necessary in what regards so great a name (however trisling), to support the assertion by such facts as more immediately occur to me. They are but trifles, and yet for such trifles a schoolboy would be whipped (if still in the fourth form); and Voltaire for half a dozen similar errors has been treated as a superficial writer, notwithstand. ing the testimony of the learned Warton :-“ Voltaire, a writer of much deeper research than is imagined, and the first who has displayed the liter. ature and customs of the dark ages with any degree of penetration and comprehension.” (1) For another distinguished testimony to Voltaire's merits in literary research, see also Lord Holland's excellent Account of the Life and Writings of Lope de Vega, vol. i. p. 215. edition of 1817. (2)
(1) Dissertation I.
(2) [Till Voltaire appeared, there was no nation more ignorant of its neighbours' literature than the French. He first exposed, and then cor. rected, this neglect in his countrymen. There is no writer to whom the authors of other nations, especially of England, are so indebted for the extension of their fame in France, and, through France, in Europe. There
Voltaire has even been termed“ a shallow fellow,” by some of the same school who called Dryden's Ode “a drunken song;”-a school (as it is called, I presume, from their education being still incomplete) the whole of whose filthy trash of Epics, Excursions, &c. &c. &c. is not worth the two words in Zaïre, “ Vous pleurez,” (1) or a single speech of Tancred :- a school, the apostate lives of whose renegadoes, with their tea-drinking neutrality of morals, and their convenient treachery in politics — in the record of their accumulated pretences to virtue can produce no actions (were all their good deeds drawn up in array) to equal or approach the sole defence of the family of Calas, by that great and unequalled genius — the universal Voltaire.
I have ventured to remark on these little inaccuracies of “ the greatest genius that England or perhaps any other country ever produced," (2) merely to show our national injustice in condemning generally, the greatest genius of France for such inadvertencies as these, of which the highest of England has been no less guilty. Query, was Bacon a greater intellect than Newton ?
CAMPBELL. (3) Being in the humour of criticism, I shall proceed, after having ventured upon the slips of Bacon, to touch upon one or two as trifling in the edition
is no critic who has employed more time, wit, ingenuity, and diligence in
Que je vous adorai, que je vous abandonne,
Zaïre, acte iv. sc. ii. (2) Pope, in Spence's Anecdotes, p. 158. Malone's edition.
(3) [“ Read Campbell's Poets. Corrected Tom's slips of the pen. A good work, though — style affected - but his defence of Pope is glorious. To be sure, it is his own cause too, - but no matter, it is very good, and does him great credit." - B. Diary, Jan. 10. 1821.]
of the British Poets, by the justly celebrated Campbell. But I do this in good will, and trust it will be so taken. If any thing could add to my opinion of the talents and true feeling of that gentleman, it would be his classical, honest, and triumphant defence of Pope, against the vulgar cant of the day, and its existing Grub-street.
The inadvertencies to which I allude are,
Firstly, in speaking of Anstey, whom he accuses of having taken “his leading characters from Smollett.” Anstey's Bath Guide was published in 1766. Smollett's Humphry Clinker (the only work of Smollett's from which Tabitha, &c. &c. could have been taken) was written during Smollett's last residence at Leghorn in 1770.-“ Argal,” if there has been any borrowing, Anstey must be the creditor, and not the debtor. I refer Mr. Campbell to his own data in his lives of Smollett and Anstey.
Secondly, Mr. Campbell says in the life of Cowper (note to page 358. vol. vii.) that he knows not to whom Cowper alludes in these lines:
“Nor he who, for the bane of thousands born,
Built God a church, and laugh'd his word to scorn." The Calvinist meant Voltaire, and the church of Ferney, with its inscription “ Deo erexit Voltaire.” Thirdly, in the life of Burns, Mr. Campbell quotes Shakspeare thus:
“ To gild refined gold, to paint the rose,
Or add fresh perfume to the violet." This version by no means improves the original, which is as follows:
“ To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,” &c. - KING JOHN. A great poet quoting another should be correct: he should also be accurate, when he accuses a Parnassian brother of that dangerous charge “ borrowing:" a poet had better borrow any thing (excepting money) than the thoughts of another — they are always sure to be reclaimed ; but it is very hard, having been the lender, to be denounced as the debtor, as is the case of Anstey versus Smollett.
As there is “ honour amongst thieves,” let there be some amongst poets, and give each his due,- - none can afford to give it more than Mr. Campbell himself, who, with a high reputation for originality, and a fame which cannot be shaken, is the only poet of the times (except Rogers) who can be reproached (and in him it is indeed a reproach) with having written too little.
Ravenna, Jan. 5. 1821.