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them. That as to the levelling or digging down, it was either folly or ignorance to propose it, if they did, or did not know, how that side of the hill was an entire rock, which would break their tools and hearts, without any damage to itself. That they would therefore advise the moderns rather to raise their own side of the hill, than dream of pulling down that of the ancients: to the former of which they would not only give licence, but also largely contribute. All this was rejected by the moderns with much indignation, who still insisted upon one of the two expedients; and so this difference broke out into a long and obstinate war, maintained on the one part by resolution, and by the courage of certain leaders and allies; but, on the other, by the greatness of their number, upon all defeats affording continual recruits. In this quarrel whole rivulets of ink have been exhausted, and the virulence of both parties enormously augmented. Now, it must here be understood, that ink is the great missive weapon in all battles of the learned, which, conveyed through a sort of engine called a quill, infinite numbers of these are darted at the enemy, by the valiant on each side, with equal skill and violence, as if it were an engagement of porcupines. This malignant liquor was compounded, by the engineer who invented it, of two ingredients, which are, gall and copperas; by its bitterness and venom to suit, in some degree, as well as to foment, the genius of the combatants. And as the Grecians, after an engagement, when they could not agree about the victory, were wont to set up trophies on both sides, the beaten party being content to be at the same expense, to keep itself in countenance; (a laudable and ancient custom, happily revived of late, in the art of war;) so the learned, after a sharp and bloody dispute, do, on both sides, hang out their trophies too, whichever
comes by the worst. These trophies have largely inscribed on them the merits of the cause; a full impartial account of such a battle, and how the victory fell clearly to the party that set them up. They are known to the world under several names; as, disputes, arguments, rejoinders, brief considerations, answers, replies, remarks, reflections, objections, confutations. For a very few days they are fixed up in all public places, either by themselves or their representatives,* for passengers to gaze at; whence the chiefest and largest are removed to certain magazines they call libraries, there to remain in a quarter purposely assigned them, and thenceforth begin to be called books of controversy.
In these books is wonderfully instilled and preserved the spirit of each warrior, while he is alive; and after his death, his soul transmigrates there to inform them. This at least is the more common opinion; but I believe it is with libraries as with other cemeteries; where some philosophers affirm, that a certain spirit, which they call brutum hominis, hovers over the monument, till the body is corrupted, and turns to dust, or to worms, but then vanishes or dissolves; so, we may say, a restless spirit haunts over every book, till dust or worms have seized upon it; which to some may happen in a few days, but to others later and therefore books of controversy being, of all others, haunted by the most disorderly spirits, have always been confined in a separate lodge from the rest; and, for fear of a mutual violence against each other, it was thought prudent by our ancestors to bind them to the peace with strong iron chains. Of which invention the original occasion. was this: When the works of Scotus first came out, they were carried to a certain library, and had lodg
ings appointed them; but this author was no sooner settled than he went to visit his master Aristotle; and there both concerted together to seize Plato by main force, and turn him out from his ancient station among the divines, where he had peaceably dwelt near eight hundred years. The attempt succeeded, and the two usurpers have reigned ever since in his stead: but, to maintain quiet for the future, it was decreed, that all polemics of the larger size should be held fast with a chain.
By this expedient, the public peace of libraries might certainly have been preserved, if a new species of controversial book had not arose of late years, instinct with a more malignant spirit, from the war above mentioned between the learned, about the higher summit of Parnassus.
When these books were first admitted into the public libraries, I remember to have said, upon occasion, to several persons concerned, how I was sure they would create broils wherever they came, unless a world of care were taken: and therefore I advised that the champions of each side should be coupled together, or otherwise mixed, that, like the blending of contrary poisons, their malignity might be employed among themselves. And it seems I was neither an ill prophet, nor an ill counsellor; for it was nothing else but the neglect of this caution which gave occasion to the terrible fight that happened on Friday last, between the ancient and modern books, in the king's library. Now, because the talk of this battle is so fresh in everybody's mouth, and the expectation of the town so great to be informed in the particulars, I, being possessed of all qualifications requisite in an historian, and retained by neither party, have resolved to comply with the urgent importunity of my friends, by writing down a full impartial account thereof.
The guardian of the regal library,* a person of great valour, but chiefly renowned for his humanity,t had been a fierce champion for the moderns; and, in an engagement upon Parnassus, had vowed, with his own hands, to knock down two of the ancient chiefs, who guarded a small pass on the superior rock; but, endeavouring to climb up, was cruelly obstructed by his own unhappy weight, and tendency towards his centre; a quality to which those of the modern party are extreme subject; for, being lightheaded, they have, in speculation, a wonderful agility, and conceive nothing too high for them to mount; but, in reducing to practice, discover a mighty pressure about their posteriors and their heels. Having thus failed in his design, the disappointed champion
* Dr. Bentley was appointed Royal Librarian, 23d December, 1693, upon the death of his predecessor, Mr. Justell. He had already distinguished himself by his learning, and by his excellent sermons, preached at Boyle's Lectures, for which he received the thanks of the trustees.
+ The dispute concerning the loan of the manuscript of Phalaris, led Mr. Boyle, the editor, thus to express himself in his preface :
"Collatas etiam (Epistolas, viz.) curavi usque ad Epistolam XL., cum manuscripto in Bibliothecâ Regiâ, cujus mihi copium ulteriorem Bibliothecarius pro singulari suâ humanitate negavit."-This was the sparkle which kindled so hot a flame. Dr. Bentley does not quite clear himself of having been a little churlish concerning the manuscript, and even of having expressed an opinion very unworthy of his good sense and learning, that when collated, it was lessened in value, and no better than a squeezed orange.-The answer, could the supposed deterioration in value be admitted, would be, that both the orange and manuscript were put to their proper use. But a manuscript, of which the value is ascertained by collation, is in fact more precious than when it remains a matter of undefined curiosity.
Dr. Bentley aided Wotton in his Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning, by proving that the works of Phalaris and Æsop, authors extolled by Sir William Temple, were in reality spurious.
bore a cruel rancour to the ancients: which he resolved to gratify, by shewing all marks of his favour to the books of their adversaries, and lodging them in the fairest apartments; when, at the same time, whatever book had the boldness to own itself for an advocate of the ancients, was buried alive in some obscure corner, and threatened, upon the least displeasure, to be turned out of doors. Besides, it so happened, that about this time there was a strange confusion of place among all the books in the library; for which several reasons were assigned. Some imputed it to a great heap of learned dust, which a perverse wind blew off from a shelf of moderns, into the keeper's eyes. Others affirmed, he had a humour to pick the worms out of the schoolmen, and swallow them fresh and fasting; whereof some fell upon his spleen, and some climbed up into his head, to the great perturbation of both. And lastly, others maintained, that, by walking much in the dark about the library, he had quite lost the situation of it out of his head; and therefore, in replacing his books, he was apt to mistake, and clap Des Cartes next to Aristotle; poor Plato had got between Hobbes and the Seven Wise Masters, and Virgil was hemmed in with Dryden on one side, and Withers on the other.
Meanwhile those books that were advocates for the moderns, chose out one from among them to make a progress through the whole library, examine the number and strength of their party, and concert their affairs. This messenger performed all things very industriously, and brought back with him a list of their forces, in all fifty thousand, consisting chiefly of light-horse, heavy-armed foot, and mercenaries : whereof the foot were in general but sorrily armed, and worse clad: their horses large, but extremely out of case and heart; however, some few, by trading