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upon to be sound learning and substantial criticism. As for those who talk of the fineness of style, and the justness of thought, or describe the brightness of any particular passages; nay, though they write themselves in the genius and spirit of the author they admire, Tom looks upon them as men of superficial learning and flashy parts.
I had yesterday morning a visit from this learned idiot, (for that is the light in which I consider every pedant,) when I discovered in him some little touches of the coxcomb, which I had not before observed. Being very full of the figure which he makes in the republic of letters, and wonderfully satisfied with his great stock of knowledge, he gave me broad intimations, that he did not“ believe ” in all points as his forefathers had done. He then communicated to me a thought of a certain author upon a passage of Virgil's account of the dead, which I made the subject of a late paper. This thought hath taken very much among men of Tom's pitch and understanding, though universally exploded by all that know how to construe Virgil
, or have any relish of antiquity. Not to trouble my reader with it, I found
upon the whole, that Tom did not believe a future state of rewards and punishments, because Æneas, at bis leaving the empire of the dead, passed through the gate of ivory, and not through that of horn. Knowing that Tom had not sense enough to give up an opinion which he had once received, that he might avoid wrangling, I told him, that Virgil possibly had his oversights as well as another author. Mr. Bickerstaffe," says he, "you would have another opinion of him, if you would read him in Daniel Heinsius's edition. I have perused him myself several times in that edition,” continued he; “ and after the strictest and most malicious examination, could find but two faults in him: one of them is in the Æneid, where there are two commas instead of a parenthesis ; and another in the third Georgic, where you may find a semicolon turned upside down.”
"Perhaps," (said I) “ these were not Virgil's thoughts, but those of the transcriber.” I do not design it,”
as a reflection on Virgil: on the contrary, I know that all the manuscripts “reclaim' against such a punctuation. Oh! Mr. Bickerstaffe,” says he,“ what would a man give to see one simile of Virgil writ in his own hand ?” I asked him which was the simile he meant; but was answered, “ Any simile
in Virgil,” He then told me all the secret history in the commonwealth of learning; of modern pieces that had the names of ancient authors annexed to them; of all the books that were now writing or printing in the several parts of Europe ; of many amendments which are made, and not yet published ; and a thousand other particulars, which I would not have my memory burthened with for a Vatican.
At length, being fully persuaded that I thoroughly admired him, and looked upon him as a prodigy of learning, he took his leave. I know several of Tom's class who are professed admirers of Tasso without understanding a word of Italian ; and one in particular, that carries a Pastor Fido in his pocket, in which I am sure he is acquainted with no other beauty but the clearness of the character.
There is another kind of pedant, who, with all Tom Folio's impertinencies, hath greater superstructures and embellishments of Greek and Latin, and is still more insupportable than the other, in the same degree as he is more learned. Of this kind very often are editors, commentators, interpreters, scholiasts, and critics; and in short, all men of deep learning without common sense. These
set a greater value on themselves for having found out the meaning of a passage in Greek, than upon the author for having written it; nay, will allow the passage itself not to have any beauty in it, at the same time that they would be considered as the greatest men in the age for having interpreted it. They will look with contempt upon the most beautiful poems
that have been composed by any of their contemporaries; but will lock themselves up in their studies for a twelvemonth together, to correct, publish, and expound, such trifles of antiquity as a modern author would be contemned for. Men of the strictest morals, severest lives, and the gravest professions, will write volumes upon an idle sonnet that is originally in Greek or Latin; give editions of the most immoral authors, and spin out whole pages upon the various readings of a lewd expression. All that can be said in excuse for them is, that their works sufficiently show they have no taste of their authors; and that what they do in this kind, is out of their great learning, and not out of any levity or lasciviousness of temper.
' It may be so.—Yet when learned critics choose to shine on these dirty subjects, while so many cleaner and fairer, which deserve their
A pedant of this nature is wonderfully well described in six lines of Boileau, with which I shall conclude his character:1
Un Pédant enyvré de sa vaine science,
No. 160. TUESDAY, APRIL 18, 1710.
From my own Apartment, April 17. A COMMON civility to an impertinent fellow, often draws upon one a great many unforeseen troubles; and if one doth not take particular care, will be interpreted by him as an overture of friendship and intimacy. This I was very sensible of this morning. About two hours before day, I heard a great rapping at my door, which continued some time, till my maid could get herself ready to go down and see what was the occasion of it. She then brought me up word, that there was a gentleman who seemed very much in haste, and said he must needs speak with me. By the description she gave me of him, and by his voice, which I could hear as I lay in my bed, I fancied him to be my old acquaintance the upholsterer, whom I met the other day in St. James's Park. For which reason I bid her tell the gentleman, whoever he was, that I was indisposed, that I could see nobody, and that, if he had anything to say to me, I desired he would leave it in writing. My maid, after having delivered her message, told me, that the gentleman said he would stay at the next coffee-house till I was stirring, and bid her be sure to tell me, that the French were driven from the Scarp, and that pains, are left in obscurity, they must not be surprised if the world thinks otherwise.
"The satire contained in this paper is extremely just; and yet, I doubt, has done no small hurt in the republic of letters. The reason is, that most men are lazy, as well as vain; and are, therefore, glad of such a pretence, as this piece of raillery affords them, to see all erudition, especially profound erudition, in the light of pedantry. So difficult it is not 10 misapply the talent of ridicule, or, at least, not to give others the occasion of misapplying it!
the Douay was invested. He gave her the name of another town, which I found she had dropped by the way.
As much as I love to be informed of the success of my brave countrymen, I do not care for hearing of a victory before day, and was therefore
much out of humour at this unseasonable visit. I had no sooner recovered my temper, and was falling asleep, but I was immediately startled by a second rap; and upon my maid's opening the door, heard the same voice ask her, if her master was yet up? and at the same time bid her tell me, that he was come on purpose to talk with me about a piece of home-news that everybody in town will be full of two hours hence. I ordered my maid, as soon as she came into the room, without hearing her message, to tell the gentleman, that whatever his news was, I would rather hear it two hours hence than now; and that I persisted in my resolution not to speak with anybody that morning. The wench delivered my answer presently, and shut the door. It was impossible for me to compose myself to sleep after two such unexpected alarms;
for which reason I put on my clothes in a very peevish humour. I took several turns about my chamber, reflecting with a great deal of anger and contempt on these volunteers in politics, that undergo all the pain, watchfulness, and disquiet of a first minister, without turning it to the advantage either of themselves or their country; and yet it is surprising to consider how numerous this species of men is. There is nothing more frequent than to find a tailor breaking his rest on the affairs of Europe, and to see a cluster of porters sitting upon the ministry. Our streets swarm with politicians, and there is scarce a shop which is not held by a statesman. As I was musing after this manner, I heard the upholsterer at the door delivering a letter to my maid, and begging her, in very great hurry, to give it to her master as soon as ever he was awake, which I opened and found as follows : 6 MR. BIOKERSTAFFE, I was to wait upon you about a week
you know, that the honest gentleman whom you conversed with upon the bench at the end of the Mall, having heard that I had received five shillings of you, to give you a hundred pounds upon the Great Turk’s being driven out of Europe, desired me to acquaint you, that every one of that company
would be willing to receive five shillings, to pay a hundred pounds on the same conditions. Our last advices from Muscovy making this a fairer bet than it was a week ago, I do not question but you will accept the wager.
“But this is not my present business. If you remember, I whispered a word in your ear as we were walking up the Mall, and you see what has happened since. If I had seen you this morning, I would have told
your ear another secret. I hope you will be recovered of your indisposition by to-morrow morning, when I will wait on you at the same hour as I did this; my private circumstances being such, that I cannot well appear in this quarter of the town after it
“ I have been so taken up with the late good news from Holland, and expectation of further particulars, as well as with other transactions, of which I will tell you more tomorrow morning, that I have not slept a wink these three nights.
I have reason to believe, that Picardy will soon follow the example of Artois, in case the enemy continue in their present resolution of flying away from us. I think I told
last time we were together my opinion about the Deulle.
“ The honest gentlemen upon the bench bid me tell you, they would be glad to see you often among them. We shall be there all the warm hours of the day during the present posture of affairs. “This happy opening of the campaign will
, I hope, give us a very joyful summer; and I propose to take many a pleasant
I walk with
you, if you will sometimes come into the Park; for that is the only place in which I can be free from the malice of my enemies. Farewell till three-a-clock to-morrow morning.
Your most humble servant,” &c. “P. S. The king of Sweden is still at Bender." I should have fretted myself to death at this promise of a second visit, if I had not found in his letter an intimation of the good news which I have since heard at large. I have, however, ordered my maid to tie up the knocker of my door, in such a manner as she would do if I was really indisposed. By which means I hope to escape breaking my morning's rest.