Page images
PDF
EPUB

with which we have had to content ourselves till now, not only in degree but in kind, and that their use is likely to effect a considerable change even in that text of Virgil which, since the time of Nicholas Heinsius, has been generally accepted as the best. That text indeed has now but little to fear from the competition of the text or texts which it superseded: the authority which they were supposed to derive from the Palatine has disappeared for ever now that that copy has been actually examined, and their real support is apparently to be found in most cases partly in copies of no name or weight, partly perhaps in the arbitrary conjectures of early editors. But the testimony of the Medicean, on which Heinsius chiefly rested, has been considerably weakened by the results of the new collations: in very many instances the other uncial MSS. are seen to be arrayed against it, while its readings may not unfrequently be accounted for by the parallelism of other passages in Virgil, which the transcriber apparently remembered. Probably however it is premature as yet to decide on the whole question: we shall learn the real value of our newly collated MSS. better as we become used to them, and there may be a danger of accepting novelties of reading simply as novelties a danger which I seem to see exemplified in Ribbeck's text, and which my readers will perhaps find to be exemplified in mine. The general result certainly confirms what I ventured to assert in my former Preface, both as to the existence of many varieties of reading which can hardly be accounted for on palaeographical or other external grounds, and which must often be estimated by the somewhat wavering measurement of individual preference, and as to the sufficiency of a text made up from one or other of the MSS. or early authorities without critical conjecture. In the more important of the two instances in the Eclogues where, following others, I had ventured to depart from the MSS., I have now learnt from Lachmann and Madvig that no change was necessary: and if there are any places in the present volume where a word has been introduced from the dictum of a critic without some ancient authority, it will be

,

6

found, I think, to be in a case which, to a transcriber, was really a case of spelling, such as 'Cyclopius' for Cyclopeus,' or 'deripere' for 'diripere.' Here I am sorry to say Ribbeck is still less to be commended than in the choice of MS. readings. In several places he has introduced emendations into the text, generally conjectures of his own, which are in every case, in my judgment, worse than needless: nor is he in general more happy in his attempts to point out interpolations or to indicate lacunae. Hitherto the text of Virgil has enjoyed a singular immunity from arbitrary criticism. In the last century, while Horace was being transformed alternately by the splendid audacity of Bentley and the more formal and pedantic dogmatism of Cunningham, Virgil remained nearly in the state in which Heinsius had left him. Cunningham indeed proceeded from Horace to Virgil, whose text he reformed in obedience to certain canons which he supposed himself to have drawn from a scrutiny of the best MSS.; but his edition, though curious and interesting, seems to have produced no effect, whether as being a posthumous publication, or from the absence of the éclat which attended a controversy with an adversary like Bentley, even when that adversary declined to reply, or perhaps because the labours of Heinsius rested on a basis too firm to be easily disturbed. Gilbert Wakefield, towards the end of the century, edited both Horace and Virgil: but his attempts at innovation were too desultory seriously to affect either. Probably the greatest amount of misapplied ingenuity that has been bestowed on Virgil, till we come to Peerlkamp in the present century, is to be found in the conjectures of Schrader, which I know only as reported by Heyne and Ribbeck. They are always, or almost always ingenious, showing that degree of insight which is required to perceive an anomaly of expression, and that degree of tact which hits on a word that might possibly have been used instead; but there their praise must cease. Such ingenuity is, I believe, almost wholly inapplicable to an author like Virgil, whose text, supported as it is by an ample variety of testimony, requires not emendation but illustration. If he has

hitherto escaped the fate of Sophocles, whose peculiarities of expression, so curiously analogous to his, have too often been changed by critical licence, the gain is his and that of Latin literature. Whether it would be desirable that our knowledge of MS. materials should be still farther extended by an equally accurate collation of the cursives not examined by Ribbeck, I do not presume to say. There can be no doubt that an apparatus criticus like Ribbeck's is far preferable to one like Heyne and Wagner's: as little doubt can there be that to collate the remaining copies satisfactorily would be an almost endless task. In the Bodleian Library at Oxford1 alone there are about twenty MSS. of Virgil, hardly any of which seem to have been collated (I except of course the Canonician MS. which Mr. Butler has examined so thoroughly); the College Libraries too contain a few, the readings of one of which, a copy in Balliol College Library, No. 140, referred by Mr. Coxe to the fifteenth century, have been noted with scrupulous care by my friend Mr. E. Palmer, and placed at my disposal. I myself examined ten or eleven of the Bodleian MSS. to discover the authority for the readings 'litus harenosum Libyae' in Aeneid 4. 257 (see Note on 4. 257 at the end of the Fourth Book) and 'Trinacriis' in Aeneid 5. 573 (see Note there), doubts having arisen about the existence of each; but almost the only other passages I turned to were Aeneid 1. 668, where all agreed with the Medicean in giving 'iniquae' and the celebrated lines about Helen in the Second Book, which they were unanimous in omitting in the text, one of them adding the passage in the margin. On the whole it would seem that while it may be advisable to apply to an inferior MS. in a case like that which I have mentioned, to ascertain a reading not otherwise certified, it would be waste of time to perform partially a work which, to have any value, should be performed entirely. It is one thing to find that a particular reading which seems necessary to the sense has probably some better support than mere con

[This statement has been shewn to be incorrect by Mr. Madan: see vol. i. (fourth edition) p. cxii.-H. N.]

jecture: it is another to collect all the readings of a copy out knowing what place it holds among the members of other of the various families of MSS. through which the t a popular classical author has been transmitted to us, or before it has been distinctly ascertained what those famili and what their history has been. A critic of the New Test may be laudably employed in establishing a theory of rece inductively by the examination of cursive no less than MSS.; but in the present state of classical studies we probably have to wait long before any one will think it while to qualify himself for writing a detailed history of th of Virgil.

In reporting MS. readings I have in general made a sel from Ribbeck's materials, noting all such variations as app of any sort of importance, and rejecting only those which s obvious errors, pointing to nothing but the carelessness transcriber. The case is one where it is difficult to dra line; and I fear I shall be thought with reason to have do little for scholars, too much for ordinary readers. I am so say that I have not been consistent in speaking of different of readings in the same copy: in the case of the Medicean 1 discriminated what are called the first or second reading what are called the reading 'a manu prima' or 'secunda;' case of the other MSS. I have for the most part spoken generally, talking of 'original' or 'corrected' readings. the work to be done again I should adopt the general de tion in all cases, as better suited to the ordinary reader: as I trust the discrepancy will be pardoned.

The commentaries which I have used have been in genera same as those employed for the Eclogues and Georgics. I lost the companionship of Mr. Keightley, and have gained of Gossrau and Dr. Henry. Gossrau's commentary is nea compendious, more convenient than Forbiger's, though not s and with more traces of independent judgment. He has st Servius with care, and quotes him at times very appositely

he has paid considerable attention to his author's peculiarities of language and metre, to the latter of which subjects he has devoted an elaborate appendix. His fault is an occasional tendency to see insuperable difficulties and suspect interpolations: but it is kept within bounds, and may perhaps only operate on the student as awakening a wholesome spirit of inquiry. Dr. Henry's work is rather a collection of copious observations on numerous detached passages (Notes of a Twelve Years' Voyage of Discovery,' as he somewhat quaintly calls it) than a regular commentary: but I have found it of the greatest use, as my frequent references to it will show. The form is, perhaps, a little cumbrous, and the endeavours after precision not always successful: but there is freshness and originality in every page: a large number of the views are at once novel and sound: and the illustrations from other authors are good and apposite, though we may sometimes feel that the more obvious sources have been neglected for the less obvious. I have consulted an elaborate commentary on the first and second books recently published by Weidner (Leipzig, 1869), which I am glad to welcome as a proof that German scholars are applying, to exegesis that spirit of extensive and systematic research which of late years has been almost confined to textual criticism.

For the notices I have given from time to time of varieties in the Trojan legend and the story of Aeneas' migration unknown to Virgil, or recognized only in the way of distant allusion, I have been indebted almost entirely to Heyne's Excursuses, which seem to me to present a rare union of learning, sagacity, and sobriety. I have also referred to the first volume of Sir George Lewis' 'Inquiry into the Credibility of Early Roman History.' My introductions to the several books of the Aeneid are naturally longer in some cases than those prefixed to the several Eclogues and books of the Georgics: indeed, the Introduction to the Sixth Book has grown into a short Essay. In the general Introduction

* [Henry's remarks are now embodied, and in some cases modified, in his Aeneidea. -H. N.]

« PreviousContinue »