A.E. Housman (1859-1936), M. Manilii Astronomicon Liber Quintus. Accedunt Addenda Libris I II III IV
(London: The Richards Press, 1930), p. vii:
soar in the void, I creep upon the earth; and there
I make the
acquaintance of stony facts.
Id., p. xxv:
Breiter's chief purpose
was to explain for novices the astrology of the poem, but his knowledge of the subject was neither original nor adequate. Verbal
interpretation is often lacking, critical discussion is generally
shunned, and Latinity gets little attention. Falsehoods, blunders
of every sort and size, self-contradictions, misinterpretations, miscalculations, misquotations and misprints leave few pages undisfigured.
Id., p. xxvii:
The Latin commentary was separately published in 1921 with
no small magnificence by the royal academy of sciences at Amsterdam. What it most resembles is a magpie's nest. With the rarest
exceptions, all that it contains of any value, whether interpretation
or illustration, is taken from others, and usually without acknowledgment. A reader new to the author and the editor might
mistake van Wageningen for a man of learning;
but with my
knowledge of both I can trace every stolen penny to the pouch
it came from.
Id., pp. xxxiii-xxxiv:
'Operam maximam eamque satis fastidiosam posui in primo
emendationis cuiusque auctore inuestigando'.
I am one of the
few who can echo these words of Lachmann's: most editors have
souls above such things, and some of them so much prefer error to
knowledge that even when we patient drudges have ascertained the
facts for them they continue to disseminate misinformation. There
is another set of facts which I am almost alone in commemorating,
for it is desired to suppress them. Many a reading discovered by
conjecture has afterwards been confirmed by the authority of mss;
and I record the occurrence, as instructive, instead of concealing it, as deplorable. The resistance of conservatives to true emendation
is perpetual, and to enjoy credit in the future they must obliterate
their past. When therefore a conjecture has turned out to be a
manuscript reading, and they have gnashed their teeth and accepted
it as such, they try to make the world forget that they formerly
condemned it on its merits. Its author, who bore the blame of its
supposed falsehood, is denied mention after the establishment
of its truth; and the history of scholarship is mutilated to save the face of those who have impeded progress.
Id., p. xxxv:
It surprises me that so many people should feel themselves
qualified to weigh conjectures in their balance and to pronounce
them good or bad, probable or improbable. Judging an emendation
requires in some measure the same qualities as emendation itself, and
the requirement is formidable. To read attentively, think correctly,
omit no relevant consideration, and repress self-will, are not ordinary
yet an emendator needs much besides: just
literary perception, congenial intimacy with the author, experience
which must have been won by study, and mother wit which he must
have brought from his mother's womb.
It may be asked whether I think that I myself possess this
outfit, or even most of it; and if I answer yes, that will be a
new example of my notorious arrogance. I had rather be arrogant
than impudent. I should not have undertaken to edit Manilius
unless I had believed that I was fit for the task;
and in particular
I think myself a better judge of emendation, both when to emend
and how to emend, than most others.