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The text of this edition is based on that of Ribbeck, with certain modifications; on which see Introd. III, pp. xlvii-liv.
In writing the commentary I have kept before me the editions of Forbiger, Gossrau (on the Aeneid only), Conington, and Kennedy: and have referred, as occasion demanded, to other authorities. Wherever their “ipsissima verba’ are reproduced, the obligation is specially acknowledged: but I would here express once for all my debt to their accumulated stores of Virgilian learning
These commentaries are too well known to need further description or commendation; and, in their combined results, too exhaustive to leave room for saying much that is new in Virgilian criticism. The very copiousness, however, of such a commentary as Professor Conington's may oppress a student with the feeling of embarras de richesses; while Dr. Kennedy, on the other hand-valuable as are his Appendices on Virgilian Geography, Mythology, Prosody, and Syntax—is in his commentary only too chary of his learning. My aim has been to provide a commentary, which, however inferior to either of these in quality, may supply a want that my experience as a college tutor has shown to exist—the want of something intermediate between them in quantity. I do not pretend to rival Conington: and had Dr. Kennedy's commentary been fuller and more continuous, mine need not have been written.
It often happens that the shortest and simplest way of explaining a passage is to translate it; and I have availed myself freely of this method. To leave my own judgment as unbiassed as possible, I have avoided consulting any continuous prose translation, such as those of Professor Conington, and Messrs. Lonsdale and Lee. I have, however, kept before me Dr. Kennedy's translation of the Eclogues into blank verse; Mr. R. D. Blackmore's of the Georgics into ten-syllable couplets (less known than it deserves to be, though not always reliable on points of scholarship); and Professor Conington's of the Aeneid into the metre of Sir W. Scott's longer poems. Occasionally I have quoted direct from these versions; and I have been indebted to them for many turns of expression.
The literary criticism of Virgil's poems has been so abundantly and ably handled in Professor Conington's Introductions, Professor Sellar's volume. On the Roman Poets of the Augustan Age,' and Professor Nettleship’s ‘Suggestions Introductory to a Study of the Aeneid,' that it seemed unnecessary to devote much space to what could after all be only a réchauffé of these works. I have preferred to dwell at more length upon matters which, so far as I know, are not much treated of in existing editions-viz. questions of textual criticism and orthography. As discussion of the relative merit of various readings must enter into any commentary, the student should have easy access to some knowledge of the amount and kind of evidence available for determining the text; and as orthography is a subject upon which scholars do not all agree, an editor should at least offer some justification of that which he himself adopts. To one case of disputed orthography I may call attention here. It is now the fashion to affect greater accuracy by writing the poet's name as “Vergil. "Vergilius' is probably correct; but in retaining as the Anglicised form of that name the familiar Virgil,' I am content to err (if error it be) in the company of such scholars as Mr. Munro, Professor Sellar, and Dr. Kennedy. When French scholars renounce their “Virgile,' and Italians
expunge Virgilio' from the text of Dante; or when Englishmen brand as illegitimate such Anglicised names as 'Horace,' * Livy,' 'Athens,' or 'Rome;' then, I think, it will be time to insist upon the universal adoption of Vergil.'
I should add that the eater part of the Introduction was written, and in type, before I had seen Vol. I of the new edition of Professor Conington's Virgil, with additional introductory matter by Professor Nettleship: and it did not seem then worth while to omit anything for which, perhaps, a simple reference to what Professor Nettleship has written would have been sufficient.
I have reserved to the last the mention of my special obligations to the Venerable Edwin Palmer, D.D., Archdeacon of Oxford and Canon of Christ Church, formerly Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College. Like many old Balliol men, I recall his lectures on Virgil as a real stimulus to scholarship, and as the foundation of any Virgilian learning that I possess: and he has now crowned the uninterrupted kindness of twenty years' friendship, by placing at my disposal, for the preparation of this edition, the MS. notes which he used for his lectures. Where these notes are incorporated verbatim with my own, the letters [E. P.] will be found appended: but my obligation to them throughout is beyond adequate acknowledgment.
NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD,