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far beyond its utmost reach. If they existed then even so early as the times of Photius, Alcuin or Bede, they must have existed long before.
But it may be here asked, are there not omissions, additions, alterations in the text of ancient authors, which have taken place either by design, or negligence in the course of repeated transcriptions? Undoubtedly there are, and in great numbers. These give origin to what are called “ Various Readings.” They are so numerous, in some cases, as to occupy in critical editions of the Classic Writers, a space five times as great as that filled by the text; and they have frequently given occasion to protracted and angry controversy. But it is here to be remarked that these Various Readings, are, in almost every instance, of a merely verbal kind, and such as deserve the attention of merely verbal critics. Those who are familiar with the German editions of the Greek and Roman writers will need no illustration of this fact. And of a hundred thousand Various Readings in the text of the New Testament, there are not, probably one hundred, which an English reader, who regarded only the true meaning of the passages where they occur, would deem of any importance. And of this hundred he would not find more than two or three, which could materially affect any question of fact, of faith, or of duty. And it should be further remembered, that the fewness of these Various Readings in any text, is no indication of its purity. So far from this, it rather implies either, first, that it has been derived from a very few copies, since each copy that is taken as a model must have, in the nature of the case, errors peculiar to itself; or else, second, that the copies which are extant are derived from some common manuscript, whose faults, of whatever kind, may have been sedulously handed down; so that the last copyist may have only been, like the heirs that Chur hill speaks of in an hereditary line of farnily,
“ A tenth transmitter of a foolish face." But if, on the other hand, the unimportant discrepances of manuscripts are numerous, it affords sufficient proof, at least, that they were written independently of one another, by persons disconnected in place, time, and circumstances. And in the latter case, we possess, obviously, the best means for restoring the text to the original purity, and the best security against willing or unconscious corruption. For though in this case, no single copy, can be regarded as strictly correct, yet the true one may be supposed to exist among them, and the acknowledged canons of criticism may be rendered available in ascertaining what it is. On the whole, these Various Readings, taken as a mass, only furnish a more conclusive proof, than we could otherwise have bad, of the scrupulous care and fidelity with which the business of copying manuscripts was conducted. There must have been a very high degree of professional integrity, and scrupulous care in the transcribers, in conveying the text of ancient authors, through a period, in some instances, of two thousand years, with alterations so very unimportant, as we find in point of fact to have taken place.*
It should be observed, also, in this connexion, however paradoxical the assertion may seem, that in regard to the knowledge of every thing pertaining to the genuineness of ancient manuscripts, as well as to the knowledge of antiquity generally, we are not receding from remote ages, but constantly advancing towards them. Since the fifteenth century, every successive year, instead of defacing and destroying the remains of ancient literature, has done something to restore and renovate them. This has been effected, partly by the rich and available discoveries which are constantly made of ancient manuscripts, and particularly of rescripts, or palimpsests; partly, by a more accurate knowledge of the Diplomatic Science, and a more efficient application of its principles to well ascertained facts; but, principally, to the invention of the Art of Printing. This not only multiplies the copies of books almost beyond the possibility of total destruction, but by giving to a whole edition an importance vastly greater than can be attached to any single copy, however accurate or beautiful it may be, it has enlisted the labors of learned men, in the preparation of books; and by giving to these labors of theirs a permanent form, has enabled each successive editor to avail bimself of all the previous exertion, of all the rest. Such is the fact. In numberless instances, which
See Taylor's Tranz. &c. p. 23. This subject of “ Various Readings,” has called forth a great display of learning, and critical acumen. Mr. Horne, after discussing it, so far as the Scriptures are concerned, gives a catalogue of no less than fifteen authors who have systematically considered it. The English Reader is referred to a very satisfactory account, by J. D. Michaelis, Int. N. T. in the Translation by Bishop Marsh, (Vol. I. c. VI.) the basis of which was furnished by his father (C. B. Michaelis,) in the Tractatio Critica de Variis Lectionibus N. T. which, though written in bis sixty-ninth year, is in the opinion of the son, the best of his productions. VOL XLII. NO. 90.
we need not stop to specify the text of ancient writers, which, in the fifteenth century, was imperfect and corrupt, has been so far amended and restored in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as to leave little, in regard to its integrity, to be desired. Indeed, by this wonderful invention, all that belongs to the literature of ancient, as well as of modern times, is exempted from that law of decay, which is written on all things else. The monuments of human genius, in every other form, are all crumbling away, and tending to dissolution. No human skill can preserve unimpaired the noble achievements of ancient genius in Architecture, in Statuary or in Painting. Time with “his effacing fingers," silently removes from all their beauty, and gently hands them over to mingle with the common mass of the elements. They will henceforth only live in the everliving words, of those, whose admiration they may have kindled. But the inspirations of genius, once clothed in language, become through the instrumentality of the press, the inheritance of all subsequent times. They are then neu w7egóevice indeed, they are winged and irrevocable, in a sense that Homer never dreamed of.
We have now done with the subject matter of this paper, but must ask to be indulged in two parting remarks.
The first is this. From the very rapid, but not we would hope, cursory view, we have now presented of this subject, we think it must be evident, that it is not a slight thing to weigh all the evidence by which the Genuineness of ancient writings is ascertained. And we would infer from this, that where there is reason to suppose, in any particular case, that such an examination has been accurately and conscientiously made, the result should not be rasbly called in question ; and in an especial manner, it should not be done by those, who have neither the means, nor the capacity, nor yet the inclination, to make the inquiry. All à priori arguments are out of place here. The question at issue, is a question of fact, and like all similar questions, is to be tested by the evidence appropriate to the subject. If any manuscript of alleged antiquity exists, it must have had a beginning. And whether this beginning were earlier or later, must be ascertained from the document itself, or from subsidiary evidence connected with it. And yet it is not an unheard of occurrence, to observe persons, who are disposed to call in question the credibility of a most important portion of ancient records, fastening upon some general notions of, what they are pleased to call the impossibility of a faithful transmission of them, or upon some unimportant difficulties arising from various readings, or on some other trivial circumstance, and hence leaping to the conclusion, by a general inference, as unpbilosophical as it is unjust, that nothing certain can be established respecting their genuineness. In this way cavils are often thrown out, particularly in reference to the early records of Christianity, which not only prove the extreme ignorance of the authors of them, but show clearly a yet more melancholy fact, - namely, that they are too ignorant to know how ignorant they are.
The other remark we would offer in conclusion, has an intimate connexion with this. It will have been perceived, that in this discussion, reference has been principally had to the classical remains of antiquity. This course has been advisedly pursued, because we have wished to state the General Principles on which investigations of this kind should be conducted. But here, be it distinctly noted, that these principles are as strictly applicable to Sacred as to classical or profane literature; and the advocate for the genuineness of the Christian Records, only asks that the same course of investigation should be pursued in the one case, as in the other. Indeed, it is only when the inquiry is thus carried on, that the immense preponderance of proof, in favor of the Sacred Writings, can be duly appreciated. And we should be unfaithful equally to our own convictions, principles, and feelings, not distinctly to state, as we do state, that, in point of fact, the Genuineness and Integrity of the Christian Scriptures, estimated on the broad principles here laid down, is substantiated by evidence, in a tenfold * proportion, more various, copious and conclusive, than that which can be adduced in support of any other ancient writings whatsoever. In simple justice then, the genuineness of these Records of our Faith cannot so much as be questioned, until the whole body of Classical Literature has been proved to be spurious.
* There have been nearly five hundred manuscripts of the New Testa. ment, entire or in fragments, transmitted to us, which have been wholly, or in part, collated. But this torms only a small portion of these manuscripts, remaining in public or private libraries, which remain to be accurately examined. Horne, Int. Vol. II. p. 52. With this statement may be compared what Heyne, a very competent judge of the matter, says of the manuscripts of the presumed oldest Greek writer extant, namely, Homer. “Cum de iis, quibus editores usi sunt, codicibus nihil illi prodiderint, omninoque criticorum subtilitas hac in parte desideretur, cumque, quicquid diplomatici pronunciant, non minus lubricum sit omne hoc de constituendâ accurate codicum ætate judicium, acquiescendum est hac quâque in parte critices in æstimatione aliqua probabili.” Vol. IJI. De Codicibus Homeri.
Art. II. — British Poetry at the Close of the Last Century. The Works of Robert Burns ; with his Life. By ALLAN
CUNNINGHAM. In four volumes, 12mo. Boston. Hilliard, Gray & Co. 1834.
It is our purpose, in the course of this article, to offer some cursory remarks upon the subject of the poetry of Great Britain during the latter part of the last century. This period is certainly not the most brilliant one in the bistory of British literature; but it has not been often made the subject of connected comment. Though its claims to attention may not be of the very highest order, it will be found to present some scenes and figures for the canvas, which are rendered the more striking, by their contrast with the mass around them; as the noble remains of Egyptian architecture impress the inind of the traveller the more deeply, because they rise amidst the sands and wastes of the desert.
In accomplishing what we have undertaken, it seems proper to dwell at some length on a few of those instances of literary imposition, which form a marked characteristic of the period. One of the most remarkable perpetrators of this species of fraud was Thomas Chatterton, a rare example of admirable genius, whose early miracles would fill us equally with wonder and despair, were not his fame severely balanced by his melancholy fate. The history of this singular individual may be very briefly told. His father, a poor schoolmaster in Bristol, died a few months before his birth, leaving his family in circumstances of great indigence. During his earliest years, he gave no indications of talent, or interest in any of his studies, but was even dismissed from school as a person of incurable dulness.
At the age of fourteen, he was bound as an apprentice to a scrivener, and entered with sufficient assiduity upon the duties of bis new vocation, but devoted the hours of bis leisure to the study of antiquities. 1768, when he was about sixteen, some public ceremonies were performed on the occasion of opening a new bridge in Bristol. There appeared at the same time in a public journal of that city, a description of the pageant which had accompanied the opening of the old bridge, several centuries before. The narrative purported to be ancient, and exhibited so much minuteness of detail and apparent authenticity, as greatly to
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