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admiration of the senatorial conduct of the duke of Bedford, whose memory has completely acquired what party-spirit denied to him while living—the gratitude of a whole nation, for his truly noble exertions to improve the most important branches of their industry; actuated, as his eloquent panegyrist has remarked, by “ an ardent desire to employ his faculties in the way, whatever it might be, in which he could most contribute to the good of his country, and the general interests of mankind.”
?“ Speech of the Honourable C. J. Fox," p. 12.
Mr. Wakefield's Edition of Pope's Homer—" General Obser
vations on Homer and his Translators"— Publication of Lucretius-Diatribe --" Letter to Jacob Bryant, Esq." « Letter to William Wilberforce, Esq."
In a former chapter we quoted a passage from the Preface to the “ Observations on Pope,” in which Mr. Wakefield mentioned his Edition of that poet's Homer, which he undertook in 1796, at the desire of several respeciable booksellers, and published in eleven volumes 8vo. “ with additional notes critical and illustrative.” For such an office he was eminently qualified by his exact acquaintance with the original, and he applied himself with peculiar satisfaction to examine the work of a translator whose poetical talents'he so greatly admired.
Of the text of Pope he has given a very correct edition, distinguishing all his notes. To these he has made large additions, designed in a few instances to amend his orthography, and
occasionally to suggest such variations as would convey a more accurate idea of the phraseology of Homer.
He has pointed out the translator's deviations, in various places, from the sense and spirit of his original; and sometimes where Pope is peculiarly happy in preserving them he traces, with apparent success, the obligations which he owed to his predecessors in this department; men of superior learning, though far less accomplished with the graces of poetic diction.
He has also produced several passages in which Pope has been surpassed (chiefly on the score of fidelity). by his successors, who have translated detached parts of Homer, but especially by the justly admired, and as justly lamented Cowper, whose Iliad and Odyssey, in blank verse, had been lately given to the public.
To a variety of remarks thus scattered over the work, Mr. Wakefield added “General Observations, relative to Homer and his Translator, ” which "are prefixed to the Translation of the Odyssey.”. Of these Observations we
1 Wakefield's Pope's Homer, vii, p. xlvii.
* Ibid. i. p. clxxxvii, Note.
shall make the larger use, as they have never been published separately, and are only attached to an expensive work which must be in comparatively few hands.
The former part of them were designed to “contribute their assistance in fixing the precise time at which Homer flourisht;" and in' the editor's opinion “ certainly exhibit cogent presumptions in favour of the high antiquity of that æra.”
He next offers a variety of considerations which affect the originality of Homer, “ first premising, that though they may appear derogatory in some measure to the reputation of the father of poetry, as an unparallelled inventor, they will solve a puzzling problem" in
1 Ibid. vii.
liv. *"We are generally instructed to believe that poetry issued from the hands of Homer, like Minerva from the brain of Jupiter, perfect and mature at ouce, without the customary progress from lisping infancy to the full articulation of maturer years; a supposition irreconcileable at once to reason, to history and experience; a supposition, inconsistent with the invariable process attendant on every intellectual operation of humanity, which is doomed to labour through all the intermediate gradations of improvement to the summit of complete efficiency.
“ Now, in addition to this philosophical incongruity, which amounts to little less than a physical impossibility, and is, abstractedly considered, all..but an effect without a cause ; a
the theory of the human mind, and may contribute indeed to fix that reputation on the durable basis of true and rational deductions.”
remarkable fact obtrudes itself on our notice, subversive of this very prevalent, but wild imagination. The poetry of Hesiod, but especially his epic specimen, The Shield of Hercules, which is not excelled, I think, in real sublimity of thought, or splendour of versification, by any portion of the Iliad, with which it can be properly compared; this poem, I say, so exactly resembles the acknowledged works of Homer, not only in the character of its numbers, and in every circumstance of phraseology, but the adoption too of similar epithets, kindred expressions, and verses of the same structure, that either one must have borrowed from the other, or both must have drawn their supplies from the same common fountain.
“ But, as no historical tradition, and no internal peculiarity will authorize us to exculpate one of these poets from the charge of plagiarism at the expence of the other, so, such a supposition will give us no assistance, at all adequate to the present exigency, in explaining that philosophical difficulty just stated, with respect to Homer's instantaneous perfection, as it were, in the poetic art. “We discover then no alternative to which recourse can be bad for the solution of our problem, but that of some common original; some pre-existing models of poetical execution" (Fabric. Bib. Græc. i. 3.]; by which both these favourites of the Muses were disciplined to that pitch of excellence, which has been acknowledged in their writings by the best literary judges of every succeeding age to the present day: an acknowledgment, not imputable, I am persuaded, to an undistinguishing veneration for antiquity, or a senseless acquiescence in the dogmatical edicts of former