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more numerous, they would not have affected the worth of the book; but, such as they were, they were just of the kind which small detractors delight to magnify. In one place Bentley accuses Boyle of baving adopted a wrong reading in one of the Letters, and thereby made nonsense of the passage. Now, Boyle's reading, though not the best, bappens to be capable of yielding the very sense which Bentley required. Yet even this Boyle and his friends did not discover.
How was the Dissertation received ? According to the popular account, no sooner had Bentley blown his mighty blast, than the walls of the hostile fortress fell flat. The victory was immediate, the applause universal, the foe's ruin overwhelming. Tyrwhitt, in his Babrius-published long after Bentley's death is sceking to explain why Bentley never revised the remarks on Æsop, which he had published in Wotton's book. "Content with having prostrated his adversaries with the second Dissertation on Phalaris, as by a thunder-bolt, he withdrew in scorn from the uneven fight.”
Let us see what the evidence is. Just as the great Dissertation appeared, Boyle's friends published" A short Account of Dr. Bentley's Humanity and Justice." It is conceived in a rancorous spirit; Bentley is accused of having plundered, in his Fragments of Callimachus, some papers which Thomas Stanley, the editor of Æschylus, left unpublished at his death; and Bentley's conduct to Boyle about the manuscript is set forth as related by the bookseller, Mr. Bennet. Now, in John Locke's correspondence, I find a letter to him from Thomas Burnet, formerly a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, and then Master of Charterhouse, author of a fantastic book on the geological history of the earth (Telluris Theoria Sacra). The date
is March 19, 1699. Bentley had read part of his preface to Burnet before it was published. Burnet had now read the whole, and a great part of the Dissertation itself; also the newly published “Short Account.”. He is now disposed to believe Bennet's version. “I do profess, upon second thoughts . . . that his story seemeth the more likely, if not the most true, of the two.” As to the Letters of Phalaris, he is aware that some great scholars are with Bentley. “But I doubt not," he adds, " that a greater number will be of another sentiment, who would not be thought to be of the unlearned tribe.” That, we may be sure, was what many people were saying in London. A defence of Bentley against the “Short Account,” which came out at this time, has been ascribed to a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford — Solomon Whately, the first translator of Phalaris into English.
The Boyle party had addressed themselves to the wits and the town. Bentley's work had plenty of qualities which could be appreciated in that quarter; but its peculiar strength lay in things of which few persons could judge. These few were at once convinced by it; and their authority helped to convince the inner circles of students. But the Boyle party still had on their side all those who, regarding the contest as essentially an affair of style, preferred Boyle's style to Bentley's. This number would include the rank and file of fashion and its dependents—the persons who wrote dedications, and the patrons in whose antechambers they waited. Most of them would be genuinely unconscious how good Bentley's answer was, and their prepossessions would set strongly the other way. So, while Bentley had persuaded the scholars, it would still be the tone of a large and influential world to say that, though the pedant might have brought cumbrous proofs of a few trivial points, Boyle had won a signal victory in “wit, taste, and breeding."
Swift's “ Battle of the Books was begun when he was living with Sir William Temple at Moor Park in 1697. It was suggested by a French satire, Coutray's Histoire Poétique de la guerre nouvellement déclarée entre les anciens et les modernes, and referred to Bentley's first Dissertation, which had just appeared. Temple was feeling sore, and Swift wished to please him. But its circulation was only private until it was published with the “Tale of a Tub” in 1704. Temple had then been dead five years. If Bentley's victory had then been universally recognised as crushing, Swift would have been running the risk of turning the laugh against himself; and no man, so fond of wounding, liked that less. In the "Battle of the Books," Boyle is Achilles, clad in armour wrought by the gods. The character ascribed to Bentley and Wotton is expressed in the Homeric similes which adorn the grand battle at the end. “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 champain: so Boyle pursued, so fled this Pair of Friends. . As when a skilful Cook has truss'd a brace of Woodcocks, he, with iron Skewer, pierces the tender sides of both, their legs and wings close pinion'd to their ribs; so was this Pair of Friends transfix'd, till down they fell, join'd in their lives, join'd in their deaths; so closely join'd that Charon would mistake them both for one, and waft them over Styx for half his fare.” When this was first published, Bentley's second Dissertation had been five years before the public.
Against this satire—so purely popular that it lost nothing by being whetted on the wrong edge—we must set two pieces of contemporary evidence to Bentley's immediate success with his own limited audience. In discussing the age of Pythagoras, he had said: “I do not pretend to pass my own judgment, or to determine positively on either side; but I submit the whole to the censure of such readers as are well versed in ancient learning; and particularly to that incomparable historian and chronologer, the Right Reverend the Bishop of Coventry and Litchfield.” In the same year (1699) Dr. Lloyd responded by publishing his views on the question, prefaced by a dedicatory epistle to Bentley. The other testimony is of a different kind, but not less significant. “A Short Review” of the controversy appeared in 1701. It was anonymous. Dyce says that a friend of his possessed a copy in which an early eighteenth century hand had written, “ by Dr. Atterbury.” The internal evidence leaves no doubt of this. I may notice one indication of it, which does not appear to have been remarked. We have seen that the “ Examination” of Bentley's first essay was edited, and in great part written, by Atterbury. This ends with these words: “I fancy that the reader will be glad to have ... the Dr.'s Picture in Miniature,” rather “than that it shou'd be again drawn out at full length.” The picture in miniature” is the “Index” already mentioned above. Now the “Short Review” ends with “the Dr.'s Advantagious Character of himself at full length.” The writer of this “Character” is clearly going back on his own footsteps: and that writer can be no other than Atterbury. He is very angry, and intensely bitter. He hints that Whig interest has bolstered up Bentley against Tory opponents. With almost incredible violence, he accuses Bentley of
"lying, stealing, and prevaricating" (p. 12). trasts the character of a “ Critic” with that of a Gentleman." Stress is laid on the imputation that Bentley had attacked not Boyle alone, but also the illustrious society in which Boyle had been educated. The members of that society (Atterbury remarks) are not cut all alike, as Bushels are by Winchester-measure: But they are men of different Talents, Principles, Humours, and Interests, who are seldom or never united save when some unreasonable oppression from abroad fastens them together, and consequently whatever ill is said of all of them is falsely said of many of them.” “To answer the reflexion of a private Gentleman with a general abuse of the Society he belong’d to, is the manners of a dirty Boy upon a Country-Green." It will not avail Bentley that his friends “style him a Living Library, a Walking Dictionary, and a Constellation of Criticisin.” A solitary gleam of humour varies this strain. Some wiseacre had suggested that the Letters of Phalaris might corrupt the crowned heads of Europe, if kings should take up the Agrigentine tyrant as Alexander the Great took up Homer, and put him under their pillows at night. “I objected”-says the author of the “Short Review”. “ that now, since the advancement of Learning and Civility in the world, Princes were more refined, and would be ashamed of such acts of Barbarity as Phalaris was guilty of in a ruder age.” But the alarmist stuck to his point; urging that "his Czarish Majesty" (Peter the Great, then in the twelfth year of his reign) might have met with the Letters of Phalaris in his travels, and that “his curiosity might have led him to make a Brazen Bull, when he came home, to burn his Rebells in.” The piece ends by renewing the charge of plagiarism against Bent