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Bentley dissertation on the epistles of phalaris

Dr Bentley's Dissertations on the Epistles of Phalaris, and the Fables of Aesop

A Dissertation upon the Epistles of Phalaris. By Richard Bentley, D. Chaplain in Ordinary and Library-Keeper to his Majesty. The problem is perplexing even in modern literatures: These remarks were added in the second edition of the work. William King to Francis Atterbury: Bentley's late volume of scandal, and criticism [the Dissertation]; for every one may not judge it to his credit to be so employed. He thinks meanly, I find, of my reading, as meanly as I think of his sense, his modesty or his manners.

If you have looked into it, sir, you have found that a person, under the pretence of criticism, may take what freedom he pleases with the reputation and credit of any gentleman; and that he need not have any regard for another man's character who has once resolved to expose his own" 1698; in Nichols Epistolary Correspondence; Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism 1901-05 3: Standing on the vantage-ground of truth, he despised their pitiful cries of 'foul play,' and demonstrated himself as stainless in honour, as he was redoubtable in prowess.

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It is really mortifying to see the armed champion sinking into a petty litigant, and to find him contending, not for the unstained virginity of antique learning, but for miserable quibbles of college etiquette, and yet meaner matters connected with 'the three denominations' of pounds, shillings, and pence" "Richard Bentley" in Northern Worthies 1833, 1852 1: He was a very great scholar, a man of eminent good sense and vigorous intellectual character, and a personality which set its stamp upon the age.

His youth was passed as the domestic tutor of Stillingfleet's son, and his prodigious acquirements were obtained in the Dean's excellent library. When Stillingfleet was made a bishop, Bentley proceeded to Oxford, and there published, in 1691, his Letter to Dr. Mill, in Latin, a daring essay in destructive criticism. In 1692 he brought out his Boyle Lectures, and through them obtained the friendship and correspondence of Newton.

Next year he was appointed King's Librarian. He was now already a famous scholar, on terms of familiar intimacy with such men as Evelyn, Locke, and Sir Christopher Wren, too famous, indeed, not to excite the petulance of mediocrity.

There was much controversy regarding the so-called letters of Phalaris, which Temple had praised in 1692 and Charles Boyle had edited in 1695.

  • Bentley's late volume of scandal, and criticism [the Dissertation]; for every one may not judge it to his credit to be so employed;
  • His position as a scholar is summed up in Professor Jebb's statement that his is 'the last name of first-rate magnitude which occurs above the point at which Greek and Latin studies began to diverge;
  • By Richard Bentley, D;
  • In 1692 he brought out his Boyle Lectures, and through them obtained the friendship and correspondence of Newton;
  • Standing on the vantage-ground of truth, he despised their pitiful cries of 'foul play,' and demonstrated himself as stainless in honour, as he was redoubtable in prowess.

Bentley, who knew that he could prove these letters to be spurious, was led into contemptuous controversy about them, and the learned world rang with a very pretty quarrel. Bentley's first essay appeared in 1697, and the rapid exchange of paper bullets went on until 1699.

Atterbury, Temple, Garth, Aldrich even Swift, a little out of datea host of wits and scholars, were on the one side, and Bentley alone on the other. Yet Bentley eventually conquered all along the line of his foes; nor since 1699 has Phalaris the letter-writer existed.

In April 1699 Bentley was made Master of Trinity, and the rest of his career — his insolent struggle for college supremacy, his irregular progress as a scholar, his final victory and repose — belong to the following century.

He wrote very little more in English prose, and we are not here concerned to pursue his fascinating adventures any further. The vernacular style of Bentley is rough-hewn, colloquial, shot through with fiery threads of humour, the ideal style for confident and angry polemic. His position as a scholar is summed up in Professor Jebb's statement that his is 'the last name of first-rate magnitude which occurs above the point at which Greek and Latin studies began to diverge.

This is evident from the innumerable Greek Lexicons and Scholiasts, some yet preserv'd, but most of them lost; the Design of which was to explain the obsolete words in the Old Writers of Verse and Prose by such other Greek words as were then in use.

For Homer and Archilochus, Thucydides and Herodotus, bentley dissertation on the epistles of phalaris not thoroughly understood by the vulgar Greeks in Oppian's time, but only by the Learned. Nay even Oppian himself, who took the allow'd privilege of using antiquated Words as among us Spencer and Milton did, though a little more sparingly could not be understood in his own Town, except by the Learned. And to shew farther, that it was Imitation only, that makes the Greek Books of different Ages so alike; that general manner of Speech call'd [Greek characters], the common Dialect, which the Writers after Alexander's time commonly used, was never at any time or in any place the Popular Idiom: I say almost because they did not tie themselves up so strictly to imitation; but that still their Style had some Leaven from the Age that each of them liv'd in.

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The Greek indeed would have done as well for that purpose: As for our English Tongue, the great Alterations it has undergone in the two last Centuries are principally owing to that vast Stock of Latin words which we have transplanted into our own Soil.

Which being now in a manner exhausted, one may easily presage that it will not have such Changes in the next Centuries. Nay it were no difficult contrivance, if the Publick had any regard to it, to make the English Tongue immutable; unless hereafter some Foreign Nation shall invade and over-run us.

  1. Mill, in Latin, a daring essay in destructive criticism.
  2. Bentley's first essay appeared in 1697, and the rapid exchange of paper bullets went on until 1699.
  3. For Homer and Archilochus, Thucydides and Herodotus, were not thoroughly understood by the vulgar Greeks in Oppian's time, but only by the Learned.
  4. Nay even Oppian himself, who took the allow'd privilege of using antiquated Words as among us Spencer and Milton did, though a little more sparingly could not be understood in his own Town, except by the Learned. For Homer and Archilochus, Thucydides and Herodotus, were not thoroughly understood by the vulgar Greeks in Oppian's time, but only by the Learned.