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BY THE REV.
EDWARD ST. JOHN PARRY, M.A.
BALLIOL COLLEGE, OXFORD.
WHITTAKER AND CO. AVE MARIA LANE; GEORGE BELL, FLEET STREET.
In writing the following commentary on the plays of Terence, my chief aim has been to maintain the utmost brevity consistent with clearness; and it is possible that some readers may consider me too brief upon passages where a good deal of illustration is sometimes given. But for an editor to do good service, it is necessary, in my opinion, that he should indicate at least as much as he actually gives in the way of explanation ; and I have accordingly endeavoured to keep within bounds the tendency to quotation, which is one of the most human, and at the same time most troublesome errors that a commentator can fall into. In the selection of quotations my object has been to bring forward especially the idioms of colloquial Latin as found in Plautus, parts of Cicero, and occasionally in the earlier poets. For forms of words Plautus and Lucretius have been my chief authorities. I have endeavoured in this way to make my book useful to the student who wishes to acquire a knowledge of the early Roman writers, and to direct him in each case to the original authorities, as far as they have been preserved to us, for language and idiom. The general reader will, I hope, find sufficient help in the introductory matter which I have prefixed to every play, and to every scene in each of the plays, as well as in the notes themselves, in which I have never consciously passed over any thing which was likely to be misunderstood, or which had been made the occasion of difficulty by previous commentators.
In determining the text of Terence we have almost as much difficulty as in any classical author. To pass from modern editions, in which the student is puzzled to decide which is the original reading, and which the conjecture (for most modern editors have more or less consistently followed Bentley's emendations); even when we come to the comparatively pure and ancient text we are not yet on certain ground. The difficulty of Terence's text is that it is too perfect. His plays have been so popular, and so much in use as a text book, that it is impossible not to suspect that in many cases, which we cannot now hope to discover, the smooth corrections of schoolmasters and professors have superseded the native reading of the author. So Ritschl says, “Omnino vix ullam scenam esse fabularum Terentianarum puto in qua non aliquid turbatum sit gravius, criticae artis medicinam etiam post Bentleii curas expectans ?.” And the same uncertainty extends even to the oldest manuscript with which we are acquainted. A careful examination of the whole text of Terence has convinced me of the truth of another remark of Ritschl : “Nam in Terentio tam aperta plurimis locis est quam in Plauto rara fuit correctricis manus opera in refingendis resarciendisque versibus consumpta, eaque ex antiquiore aetate repetenda quam qua ipse Bembinus liber scriptus est: longius autem a Terentiana integritate Bembinus quam a Plautina Ambrosianus abest?” I will here briefly men
. tion the materials which the Editor has at hand for the purpose of fixing the text of Terence.
The most important Manuscript is that which goes by the name of the “ BEMBINE,” from its possessor, Pietro Bembo. It was corrected and illustrated by Politian. It finally passed into the hands of Fulvius Ursini, and by him was bequeathed to the Vatican Library. This Manuscript, with many others of good stamp, was used by Faërn in his edition of Terence, completed after his death by Victor (A.D.
1 Prolegomena ad Plautum, p. 119.