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PREFACE TO THE SECOND AND THIRD
THE following remarks comprise the greater part of the original Preface prefixed to this volume on its publication in 1863, with some alterations and one or two additions.
Like its predecessor, this volume is the result of considerable labour, labour too of a kind which tends to diminish an author's confidence in his work. A commentator on Virgil is not likely to feel that those difficulties which weighed heavily on him while engaged on the Eclogues and Georgics have become fewer or less formidable when he passes to the Aeneid. To grapple with his subject thoroughly, he is still required to be an aesthetical judge of language, a Latin scholar, if not a philologer, a competent textual critic; and though no longer expected to display a knowledge of agriculture and rural life, he has to exhibit instead an acquaintance with mythology and legend, with Roman antiquities and Roman history. Virgil is confessedly one of the most learned of poets and a commentator who would do him justice ought to be still more learned. The learning of a poet, even when extensive and multifarious, may be desultory, uncritical, inexact: he may show ignorance as well as knowledge, but he will be a learned poet still. It is the business of a commentator to understand both that knowledge and that ignorance: and his learning accordingly ought to be accurate, searching, and profound. I need not say how
little I profess to approach the ideal which the nature of my work keeps of necessity continually before my mind. Virgil interests me chiefly because he is a Latin poet: as a student of poetry, I take delight in tracing, word by word, his delicate intricacies of expression, which stimulate curiosity while they baffle analysis, as well as in endeavouring to appreciate the broader features of his work as a whole and its place in the history of literature: as a student of Latin, I am interested in comparing his language with that of his predecessors and successors, and in observing the light which his use of his native tongue throws on the various unsolved or half-solved problems in Latin grammar. Other questions, whatever may be their relative importance to the scholar, I have ventured to regard as subordinate: they appear to me to be less immediately connected with the interpretation of Virgil, as they certainly have less affinity to my own tastes and the course of my studies. I have not neglected them: when they have crossed my path, as they have in almost every page, I have sought to obtain the requisite information about them: but I have generally been content to trust the knowledge which has been accumulated by others without trying to add to it, or indeed affecting to form an independent judgment.
Since this work was first undertaken, the criticism of the text of Virgil has been placed on a new basis by the publication of Ribbeck's edition. Previously, though we had reports of the readings of a great variety of copies, we were unhappily without accurate collations of several of the most important; in the case indeed of one of them, the Palatine, we seem to have been without a collation at all. We now possess collations of all the uncial MSS., fragmentary and entire, and of four or five of the most important of the cursives, which for minute and painstaking accuracy apparently leave but little to desire: and great care has been taken not only in collecting the testimonies of the different grammarians who quote passages from Virgil, but in noting the readings of the various MSS. of each witness. There can be no doubt that our present critical materials surpass most of those
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
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
1 [This statement has been shewn to be incorrect by Mr. Madan: see vol. i. (fourth edition) p. cxii.-H. N.]