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accustomed to consult the structure of letters in manuscript, though, from the works of Bentley and other scholars, he had gained some useful general notions, upon the sources of errors in transcribers.
The learned biographer of Ruhnken speaks with just commendation of the method in which Ruhnken conducted his studies; and after enumerating the order which Alberti followed in his reading, he tells us, "regiam illam viam, gravissimorum et antiquissimorum quorumque deinceps scriptorum ex ordine legendorum, aut non ingressus est, aut ingressus mox reliquit.
This, perhaps, was, in some measure, the case with Mr. Wakefield. I suspect that his mind was embarrassed and confused by the multiplicity of his reading; that it was not sufficiently stored with those principles which a man of his industry and sagacity might have easily collected from the great work of Henry Stephens on the Dialects, and from the celebrated preface of Pierson to Moris: that he passed with too much rapidity from writers of one age and in one dialect, to writers of other ages, and in other dialects; from prose to verse; from epic to dramatic poetry; from tragedy to comedy; from epigrammatists to lyric writers; that he had read much, observed
much, and remembered much; that he was eager to produce the multifarious matter which he had accumulated; and that he wanted time or patience for that discrimination, which would have made his conjectures fewer, indeed, but more probable; and his principles in forming or illustrating them more exact.
"I have always suspected," says Johnson, "that the reading is right, which requires many words to prove it wrong; and the emendation wrong, that cannot, without so much labour, appear to be right. The justness of a happy restoration strikes at once." Ruhnken, it should seem, was nearly of the same opinion with Johnson, "Emendationum. conjecturas, nisi sponte et subito, facili certe partu, natas, non probabat." Life of Rhunken, pag. 221. But the faculty of striking off such conjectures surely πολλῆς ἐστὶ πέιρας τελέυ]αιον Eyμa. Longin. sect. vi. And, in the absence of the aids from genius and experience which are necessary to such felicity, the patient industry of Mr. Markland is most worthy of imitation.
I have, therefore, sometimes indulged a wish that Mr. Wakefield, instead of pushing on to fresh editions of books, or to fresh emendations of writers, had sitten down to review his own critical works. When the first and
sudden allurements of emendation had passed away when his mind was at leisure to consider "the objections which might arise against the change which once appeared to him happy"when correction was the professed and immediate object in which he was to be employed, I am persuaded that he would have observed and retracted many of his own mistakes; and that he would have placed a proper degree of reliance upon those canons of criticism, which he had examined negligently, and rejected hastily. Some of them have been long established by the general consent of scholars, and others, though recent, are decisive and illustrious proofs of sagacity in the persons who proposed them. Most of his prejudices, indeed, would have been corrected, and most of his deficiencies would have been supplied, if he had met with opportunities for conversing familiarly with the scholars who adorn our capital and our universities.
It was once suggested to me that even his arduous and most meritorious labours in the elucidation of the Scriptures, might have no very favourable influence upon his judgment, when he directed his thoughts, as an editor and as a critic, towards the profane writers of antiquity. Upon this point, I shall not myself attempt to decide; nor do I think it necessary,
upon the present occasion, to enlarge upon the very different, qualifications for criticism, in those who undertake to explain the sacred writings, and those who are employed upon the classical writers of antiquity. But in justice to Mr. Wakefield, and with frequent and important differences of opinion from him upon controversial questions in theology, I must acknowledge the success, and commend the judgment with which he applied his philological learning to the illustration of the scrip
The natural vigour of his mind, the great increase of his knowledge, and the gradual improvement of his taste, are visible in many of his later English productions: for in point of elegance and correctness, as well as energy, they far surpass the earlier productions of his pen in his own language.
He seems to have composed in Latin with great ease and rapidity, I mean in his later works, when practice had enabled him to overcome the difficulties of which he complains in his Memoirs. Habit, no doubt, was accompanied by improvement, as well as by facility. But, in common with many other scholars, he had not attained to any eminence in the art of what Wyttenbach calls "vel Latine scribendi, vel bene." Life of Ruhnken, pag. 227.-In the
general structure of his sentences there is something of harshness and embarrassment. His periods are seldom harmonious; and none, I fear, of his Latin productions are wholly free from faults, which he would have been taught to avoid in our best public seminaries, and of which I have seen many glaring instances in the works of archbishop Potter, Dr. John Taylor, Mr.Toup, and several eminent scholars now living, who were brought up in private schools.
In thus endeavouring to account for the imperfections of Mr. Wakefield's writings, I would not be understood to depreciate their real, great, and solid merit. Many who, like myself, discern those imperfections, are far below Mr. Wakefield, not only in industry, but in acuteness; not only in extent, but, perhaps, in accuracy of knowledge; not only in the contributions which they have made, or endeavoured to make, to our general stock of knowledge, but in their capacity to make them so largely or so successfully.
While, therefore, we state what Mr. Wakefield has not done, let us bear in mind what he actually did; and when we enumerate the causes, which might have enabled him to do better, let us remember the obstacles with which he had to contend, when he did so well.