Tuesday, December 03, 2013


Arbiters of Commas

Samuel Parr (1747-1825), Aphorisms, Opinions, and Reflections of the Late Dr. Parr (London: J. Andrews, 1826), pp. 33-35:
However extensive may be the importance of the studies which are now most prevalent, and however brilliant may be the success with which they have been prosecuted, we feel no diminution of our reverence for the labours of those scholars who have employed their abilities in explaining the sense, and in correcting the text, of ancient authors. Verbal criticism has been seldom despised sincerely by any man who was capable of cultivating it successfully; and if the comparative dignity of any kind of learning is to be measured by the talents of those who are most distinguished for the acquisition of it, philology will hold no inconsiderable rank in the various and splendid classes of human knowledge. By a trite and frivolous sort of pleasantry, verbal critics are often holden up to ridicule as noisy triflers, as abject drudges, as arbiters of commas, as measurers of syllables, as the very lacqueys and slaves of learning, whose greatest ambition is to "pursue the triumph, and partake the gale," which wafts writers of genius into the wished-for haven of fame. But, even in this subordinate capacity, so much derided, and so little understood, they frequently have occasion for more extent and variety of information, for more efforts of reflection and research, for more solidity of judgment, more strength of memory, and we are not ashamed to add, more vigour of imagination, than we see displayed by many sciolists, who, in their own estimation, are original authors.
                                               Review of the Variorum Horace, British Critic, p. 122.

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