Page images
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

In the year 1778 Mr. Burgess took his Bachelor's degree.

His philological ardour now led him to engage in preparing for the press a new edition of Dawes' Miscellanea Critica, a work of great erudition, which had become scarce, and sold at a high price. For the information of general readers, it may be as well to state that it consists of critical disquisitions on, and conjectural emendations of, the text of the Attic poets; of acute remarks on their peculiarities of construction; of dissertations on various questions connected with Greek metre; and of elaborate inquiries into the properties of the Æolic Digamma *, a

* The acuteness and sagacity of Dr. Bentley were eminently displayed by the successful application of the properties of the Digamma, to the removal of many apparent harshnesses and anomalies from Homeric versification. In what way its disappearance from the Homeric poems is to be accounted for, has never been satisfactorily explained. Dawes differed from Bentley, by maintaining that it was not expressed by a letter, but by a conventional accent. Each theory may possibly be correct; that is, each mode may have been practised; and the supposition would aid, we think, in accounting for the final disuse of the letter. But whenever omitted, its force, if no longer visibly expressed, must have been understood, and have been supplied, as a matter of course, in the reading and pronunciation of a polished native, otherwise Homer

letter, for the restoration of which to the Greek alphabet we are indebted to the learning and acuteness of Dr. Bentley. Its exact form and pronunciation have been the subject of much learned discussion, involving questions intimately connected with the prosodial laws of the Homeric poems.

The critical skill and various learning displayed by Dawes in this work have procured for him a distinguished place among those who have aided the progress of Grecian literature in England, nor have foreign scholars been backward in paying a just

could not have been admired in the degree that he was, even in the most perfect period of Grecian versification, for his metrical harmony. The form of the letter is settled by the evidence of various ancient inscriptions, and, to use the words of a distinguished scholar, Bishop Monk, was similar to that produced by the perpendicular union of two gammas, from which it drew its name. Bentley himself affirmed that its sound, as well as that of the Latin V, answered to our W. Other authorities have asserted that its power resembled that of our F, or V, or was something between our V and W; others again have maintained, that it more nearly approached that of our B. The caprices of pronunciation are often inexplicable. After all, these various letters are more or less nearly related: B and V., for instance, were often interchanged in the speech and the writing of the Dorian Greeks, and also of the ancient Romans; and Scaliger, quoted by Kidd, observes, Imperiti librarii inter B et digamma nullum discrimen faciebant. In Spanish, V and B are often, likewise, interchanged. The above contradictory opinions may, it appears to us, be reconciled by the supposition, that the pronunciation of this letter slightly varied in different states of Greece. Of the existence of the digamma at periods long subsequent to the age of Homer, various ancient inscriptions testify. Sir William Gell found one of great antiquity in Elis, in which the digamma occurs no less than seven times. Upon this topic Mr. Kidd has collected much interesting matter in his edition of Dawes, in addition to the learned researches of Burgess, pp. 200. 206. 214. ed. of 1827. Consult also Bishop Monk's Life of Bentley, vol. ii. ch. 20. For further remarks on this subject, and upon Homeric versification in general, see a letter from Dr. Vincent to Mr. Burgess, at the close of ch. vi. of this volume.

tribute to his superior learning. It was originally published as a specimen of a projected edition of the Attic poets, a splendid project, which, had it been realised, would have proved an invaluable accession to Classical Literature, and have shed a bright lustre upon the name of its author, and of his country.

The new edition was enriched by Mr. Burgess with a learned Preface, and with an Appendix of nearly two hundred pages, in the course of which he illustrates the critical principles of Dawes, enlarges the sphere of his investigations, or assigns his in particular instances, for dissenting from his conclusions.


The able manner in which the work was edited, the various and profound learning displayed in the Appendix, and the elegant flow of its Latinity, became the theme of general commendation in the learned world, particularly as proceeding from a youth who had taken his Bachelor's degree little more than twelve months. He received accordingly, from some of the most eminent scholars of the age, both at home and abroad, very honourable testimonies of their approbation, accompanied by anticipations of the future brilliancy of his career.

The following are extracts from letters addressed to him at a subsequent period, specially referring to Dawes, by Everard Scheidius, and by Spalden, Professor of Greek and Hebrew at Berlin, and the editor of a learned edition of Quintilian :



S. D.


Nuperrime quum apud Schultensium, amicum integerrimum, et Ruhnkenium suavissimum meum preceptorem, in Batavis essem, tanta ac tam honorifica nominis tui mentio, a duumviris illis, me præsente, facta est, Burgessi, vir eruditissime ut te quum antea ex elegantisimâ tuâ Dawesii Miscellaneorum editione cognitum habuissem, magnoperè jam venerari atq. amare cœperim, &c.*

Spalden writes in English, and says, "A public disputation at the university of Halle, in Saxony, which I was lately obliged to engage in, made me think of publishing the little treatise, which I now take the liberty of presenting to you.

part of it consisting of conjectural

The greater criticism,

among the teachers of which you hold so particular a rank at Oxford, I presume that it

[ocr errors]


in some measure, be thought worthy of your notice. You will find yourself, and your learned labours




Very lately, when I was with my intimate friend Schultens, and Ruhnken my most amiable preceptor, in Holland, your name was mentioned in such honourable terms, most learned Burgess, in my presence, by both of them, that I found feelings of veneration and love springing up in my heart towards you, whom I already knew by your most elegant edition of Dawes's Miscellanies.


upon the ingenious Dawes, quoted therein. It is with particular benefit I have studied this book,my inclination leading me to aim at the attainment of a thorough knowledge of Greek antiquity."

The Bibliotheca Critica for 1782, a continental review of high authority, noticed his editorial labours in the following terms:

"The critical disquisitions of Burgess extend through 180 pages; and display, amidst something of youthful redundancy, striking indications of intellect, of learning, and of elegance so that we have no doubt that if, with advancing years, discrimination and judgment be added to his various endowments of learning, he will, hereafter, rank among the most eminent teachers in this department of literature. Such, indeed, is the copiousness and variety of learning in this work, that we place it among those from which we hereafter propose to extract select passages.

[ocr errors]

Dr. Andrew Kippis, to whom he was indebted for various biographical particulars respecting Dawes, writes thus in acknowledgment of a specimen which he had sent him of his Appendix:

"I return you many thanks for the specimen

* Ceterum Burgessei Animadversiones paginis constant circiter 180, et habent in juvenili redundantiâ magnam commendationem ingenii, eruditionis, et elegantiæ; ut minime dubitemus, eum, si progressu ætatis, ratio et delectus ad reliqua doctrinæ bona accesserint, aliquando in præcipuis harum literarum doctoribus numeratum iri. Et quandoquidem copia et varietas doctrinæ inest huic libro, nos eum in iis reponimus ex quibus specimina alio tempore expro


« PreviousContinue »