May 27, 2003

Scriblerus on Textual Criticism

"Wonderful is the stupidity of all the previous Critics and Commentators on this work! . . . . We remit this Ignorant to the first lines of the Aeneid . . .:

Arma virumque cano, Trojae qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus, Lavinaque venit
Littora: multum ille & terris jactatus & alto, &c.

I cite the whole three verses, that I may by the way offer a Conjectural Emendation, purely my own, upon each: First, oris should be read aris, it being, as we see Aen. ii. 531. from the altar of Jupiter Hercaeus that Aeneas fled as soon as he saw Priam slain. In the second line I would read flatu for fato, since it is most clear it was by Winds that he arrived at the shore of Italy. Jactatus, in the third, is surely as improperly applied to terris, as proper to alto; to say a man is tost on land, is much at one with saying he walks at sea: Risum teneatis, amici? Correct it, as I doubt not it ought to be, vexatus."

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Note: Martinus Scriblerus was the collective pseudonym of Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, John Gay, Dr. Arbuthnot, and others of their friends and drinking-companions, and the putative author of many of the notes in the variorum commentary on Pope's Dunciad, most conveniently available in Herbert Davis (ed.), Pope, Poetical Works (Oxford Standard Authors), Oxford, 1966. The quotation comes from one of several substantial notes on Dunciad 1.1. Ellipses mark my own omissions, but the spelling, punctuation, and typographical effects are Scriblerus'. His (or rather their) principal target is, of course, Bentley.

Posted by Michael Hendry at May 27, 2003 06:08 PM