Page images
PDF
EPUB

he fights like a god, and Pallas, or Apollo, are ever at his elbow. But, O mother! if what Fame reports be true, that I am the son of so great a goddess, grant me to hit Temple with this lance, that the stroke may send him to hell, and that I may return in safety and triumph, laden with his spoils. The first part of this prayer, the gods granted at the intercession of his mother and of Momus; but the rest, by a perverse wind sent from Fate was scattered in the air. Then Wotton grasped his lance, and, brandishing it thrice over his head, darted it with all his might; the goddess, his mother, at the same time, adding strength to his arm. Away the lance went hizzing, and reached even to the belt of the averted ancient, upon which lightly grazing, it fell to the ground. Temple neither felt the weapon touch upon him, nor heard it fall; and Wotton might have escaped to his army, with the honour of having remitted his lance against so great a leader, unrevenged; but Apollo, enraged that a javelin, flung by the assistance of so foul a goddess, should pollute his fountain, put on the shape of and softly came to young Boyle, who then accompanied Temple: he pointed first to the lance, then to the distant modern that flung it, and commanded the young hero to take immediate revenge. Boyle, clad in a suit of armour, which had

[ocr errors]

*

* Boyle alleges in his preface, as his principal reason for entering into the controversy about Phalaris, his respect for Sir William Temple, who had been coarsely treated by Bentley.

"But I was chiefly induced to observe these measures, by the regard I had for the most accomplished writer of the age, whom I never think of without calling to mind those happy lines of Lucretius:

-Quem tu, dea, tempore in omni

Omnibus ornatum voluisti excellere rebus.

A character, which, I dare say, Memmius did not better deserve

been given him by all the gods,* immediately advanced against the trembling foe, who now fled before him. As a young lion in the Libyan plains, or Araby desert, sent by his aged sire to hunt for prey, or health, or exercise, he scours along, wishing to meet some tiger from the mountains, or a furious boar; if chance a wild ass, with brayings importune, affronts his ear, the generous beast, though loathing to distain his claws with blood so vile, yet, much

than Sir William Temple. He had openly declared in favour of the Epistles; and the nicety of his taste was never, I think, disputed by such as had any themselves. I quoted his words with that respect which is due to everything that comes from him; but must now beg his pardon for it: for I have, by this means, I find, drawn him into a share of Dr. Bentley's displeasure, who has hereupon given himself the trouble of writing almost fourscore pages solemnly to disprove that one of Sir William's, which he has prefixed to his appendix; and which, to give him my opinion of his whole book at once, is the only good page there.

"I am, therefore, the rather inclined to give Dr. Bentley's reflections a due examination, on Sir William Temple's account, upon whom I so unhappily occasioned this storm of criticism to fall. In truth, for a man who has been so great an ornament to learning, he has had a strange usage from some who are retainers to it. He had set the world a pattern of mixing wit with reason, sound knowledge with good manners, and of making the one serve to recommend and set off the other; but his copy has not been at all followed by those that have writ against him in a very rough way, and without that respect which was due both to his character and their own.

"I will not pretend to determine on which side in those disputes the truth lies; only thus much I will venture to say of 'em, that, let Sir W. T. be as much out in some of his opinions as he's represented to be, yet they who read both sides, will be apt to fall in with Tully's opinion of Plato, and say, Cum illo ego meherclè errare malim, quàm cum istis scriptoribus vera sentire."-BENTLEY'S Dissertations on Phalaris, examined by the Hon. Charles Boyle, Esq. London, 1698, 8, preface, p. 3.

* Boyle was assisted in this dispute by Dean Aldrich, Dr. Atterbury, afterwards Bishop of Rochester, and other persons at Oxford, celebrated for their genius and their learning, then called the Christ-Church wits.-H.

provoked at the offensive noise which Echo, foolish nymph, like her ill-judging sex, repeats much louder, and with more delight than Philomela's song he vindicates the honour of the forest, and hunts the noisy long-eared animal. So Wotten fled, so Boyle pursued. But Wotton, heavy-armed, and slow of foot, began to slack his course, when his lover, Bentley, appeared, returning laden with the spoils. of the two sleeping ancients. Boyle observed him well, and soon discovering the helmet and shield of Phalaris, his friend, both which he had lately with his own hands new polished and gilt; rage sparkled in his eyes, and, leaving his pursuit after Wotton, he furiously rushed on against this new approacher. Fain would he be revenged on both; but both now fled different ways: and, as a woman in a little house that gets a painful livelihood by spinning; * if chance her geese be scattered o'er the common, she courses round the plain from side to side, compelling here and there the stragglers to the flock; they cackle loud, and flutter o'er the champaign. So Boyle pursued, so fled this pair of friends; finding at length their flight was vain, they bravely joined, and drew themselves in phalanx. First Bentley threw a spear with all his force, hoping to pierce the enemy's breast; but Pallas came unseen, and in the air took off the point, and clapped on one of lead, which, after a dead bang against the enemy's shield, fell blunted to the ground. Then Boyle, observing well his time, took up a lance of wondrous length and sharpness; and, as this pair of friends compacted, stood close side to side, he wheeled him to the right, and, with unusual force, darted the

*This is also after the manner of Homer; the woman's getting a painful livelihood by spinning, has nothing to do with the similitude, nor would be excusable without such an authority.-H.

weapon. Bentley saw his fate approach, and flanking down his arms close to his ribs, hoping to save his body, in went the point, passing through arm and side, nor stopped or spent its force, till it had also pierced the valiant Wotton, who, going to sustain his dying friend, shared his fate.* As when

* Notwithstanding what is here stated, Wotton was treated with much more delicacy by Boyle, than was his friend Bentley, as appears from the following quotation:

"I hope Mr. Wotton will let the public know, that he neither engaged his friend to write upon the subject in this manner, nor approved of these discourses when written, which the world will presume him to have done, till the contrary appears, and till he has disclaimed Dr. Bentley's attempt as publicly as he seems now to countenance and avow it. 'Tis a little strange, that Mr. Wotton in a second edition of his book, which he had discreetly taken care to purge of most things that looked like ill manners in himself, should be prevailed upon to allow a place to the ill manners of another man. But I hear, and I am not unwilling to think, that Mr. Wotton received this present at a venture from Dr. Bentley, and let it be printed without giving himself the trouble of reading it. And I the rather fall in with this account, because I find Mr. Wotton in his book zealously vindicating the age from the imputation of pedantry, and assuring us, that though the citation of scraps of Latin, and a nauseous ostentation of reading, were in fashion fifty or sixty years ago, yet all that is now in a great measure disused, which I suppose he would never have done in some of the last pages of his book, if he had then known of the dissertation that immediately follows it.

"A gentleman of my acquaintance was observing to me what a motley unequal work these two pieces make, as they now lie together: Mr. Wotton, (says he,) in his reflections, takes in the whole compass of ancient and modern learning, and endeavours to shew wherein either of 'em has been defective, and wherein they have excelled. A large design, fit for the pen of my Lord Bacon! and in the well executing of which, any one man's life would be usefully spent! Dr. Bentley comes after him, with a dissertation half as big as his book, to prove that three or four small pieces, ascribed to some of the ancients, are not so ancient as they pretend to be; a very inconsiderable point, and which a wise man would grudge the throwing away a week's thought upon, if he could gain it! And what then shall we say of him that has spent two or three years of his life to lose it? Mr. W.'s motive

a skilful cook has trussed a brace of woodcocks, he, with iron skewer, pierces the tender sides of both, their legs and wings close pinioned to the ribs; so was this pair of friends transfixed, till down they fell, joined in their lives, joined in their deaths; so closely joined, that Charon would mistake them both for one, and waft them over Styx for half his fare. Farewell, beloved, loving pair! few equals have you left behind and happy and immortal shall you be, if all my wit and eloquence can make you.

*

*

And, now

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

*

*

*

*

*

*

***

Desunt cætera.

for writing was, as he tells us, a piece of public service that he hoped he might do the world; Dr. Bentley's plainly a private pique, and such as 'twas utterly unfit for him to act upon, either as a scholar or a Christian, much more as he was one in holy orders, and that had undertaken the public defence of religion. Mr. W. (continued he) is modest and decent; speaks generally with respect of those he differs from, and with a due distrust of his own opinions: Dr. Bentley is positive and pert; has no regard for what other men have thought or said, and no suspicions that he is fallible. Mr. W.'s book has a vein of learning running through it, where there is no ostentation of it: Dr. Bentley's appendix has all the pomp and show of learning, without the reality. In truth, (said he,) there is scarce anything, as the book now stands, in which that and the appendix agree, but in commending and admiring Dr. Bentley; in which they are so very much of a piece, that one would think Dr. Bentley had writ both the one and the other."-BOYLE'S Examination, ut supra, p. 23.

**

« PreviousContinue »