Thursday, March 29, 2018
The Good Old Game of Free Emendation
It would seem that the time had come for classical scholars to realize that the good old game of free emendation has, in a busy world, had its day and has by now served any useful purpose it may once have possessed. In this remark emphasis is laid on the word "free," which is used to describe a policy of emendation of the text of even our best-established authors which simply runs riot, regardless of consequences. The reviewer's own experience with textual criticism is that the longer and the more carefully one reads a classic author, the less need he finds to suggest emendations, because his increasing feeling for the style clears up most apparent obscurities of the traditional text, and it is respectfully suggested that this is a normal procedure.
"Modern Horatian editors, whatever their other merits, have not been distinguished by critical intelligence. With one recent and notorious exception they recall Postgate's comparison of Phillimore to 'a furry animal, at repose on a mat of Berlin wool and gently purring content in front of a fire which the Marthas of Propertian criticism have made up by emptying on it again the dust and debris of centuries.' As for the exception, no cat was ever wilder."
D.R. Shackleton Bailey, "Bentley and Horace". A lecture delivered to the Classical Association at Leeds (11 April 1962), reprinted as Appendix II of Profile of Horace (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp.104-120, at 112-13.
Though not mentioned by name, there's no doubting the identity of the wild cat editor, whose "lively and often puckish ingenuity and drastic procedure in emendation have usually been received with more or less amused incredulity." R. J. Getty's obituary of A.Y. Campbell, published in the St John's College Magazine, The Eagle vol. 58 (1959), pp. 218-20, at 219.
Related post: Unbridled Conjectural Criticism.