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A Letter from the learned Mr. Abraham Gronovius, Se
cretary to the University of Leyden, to Mr. Lauder, concerning the Adamus Ersul of Grotius.
Clarissimo Viro, Wilhelmo Laudero, Abrahamus
Gronovius, S. P. D.
Postquam binæ literæ tuæ ad me perlatæ fuerunt, duas editiones carminum H. Grotii, viri vere summi, excussi ; verùm ab utraque tragoediam, quam Adamum Exsulem inscripsit o náv, abesse deprehendi; neque ullum ejusdem exemplar, quamvis tres * editiones exstare adnotaveram, ullibi offendere potui, adeo ut spe, quam vorabam desiderio tuo satisfaciendi, me prorsus excidisse existimarem.
Verùm nuperrime fortè contigit, ut primam Tragodice Grotianæ editionem, Hagæ, An. 1601. publicatam, beneficio amicissimi mihi viri nactus fuerim, ejusque decem priores paginas, quibus præter chorum actus primus comprehenditur, a Jacobo meo, optimæ spei adolescente, transcriptas nunc ad te mitto. Vale vir doctissime, meque ut facis amare perge. Dabam Lugd. Bat. A. D. iv. Eid. Sept. A. D. MDCCXLVI.
* Though Gronovius bere mentions only three editions of this noble and curious performance, the Adamus Ersul of Grotius; yet it appears from the catalogue of his works, that no fewer than four have been printed, two in quarto, and two in octavo, in the years 1601, 1608, and 1635; two having been made, one in quarto, the other in octavo, Anno 1601.
A Second Letter from the same Gentleman to Mr. Lauder,
on the same Subject.
Clarissime atque Eruditissime Vir ! Posteaquam tandem Jacobus meus residuam partem, quam desiderabas, Tragoedio Grotianæ transcripserat, ut eâ diutius careres, committere nolui : quod autem citius illam ad finem perducere non potuerit, obstiterunt variæ occupationes, quibus districtus fuit. Nam præter scholastica studia, quibus strenuè incubuit, ipsi componenda erat oratio, qua rudimenta linguæ Græcæ Latinæque deponeret, eamque, quod vehementer lætor, venustè, & quidem stilo ligato, composuit, & in magna auditorum corona pronuntiavit. Quod autem ad exemplar ipsum, quo Adamus Exsul comprehenditur, spectat, id lubens, si meum foret, ad te perferri curarem, verùm illud a clarissimo possessore tanti æstimatur, ut persuasum habeam me istud minimè ab ipso impetraturum : & sane sacra carmina Grotii adeo rarò obvia sunt, ut eorundem exemplar apud ipsos remonstrantium ecclesiastas frustra quæsiverim.
Opus ipsum inscriptum est HENRICO BORBONIO, PRINCIPI CONDÆO; & forma libri est in quarto, ut nullo pacto literis includi possit. Ceterùm, pro splendidissima & Magnæ Britanniæ principe, cui meritò dicata est, digna editione Psalmorum, ex versione metrica omnium ferè poëtarum principis Jonstone maximas tibi grates habet agitque Jacobus. Utinam illustrissimus Bensonus in usum serenissimi principis, atque ingeniorum in altiora surgentium, eâdem formâ,
iisdemque typis exarari juberet divinos illos Ciceronis de Officiis libros, dignos sane, quos diurnâ nocturnâque manu versaret princeps, a quo aliquando Britannici regni majestas et populi salus pendebunt ! Interim tibi, eruditissime vir, atque etiam politissimo D. Caveo, pro muneribus literariis, quæ per nobilissimum Lawsonium * ad me curâstis, magno opere me obstrictum agnosco, eademque summa cum voluptate a me perlecta sunt.
Filius meus te plurimùm salutat.
Vale doctissime vir, meisque verbis D. Caveum saluta, atque amare perge,
ABRAHAMUM GRONOVIUM. Dabam Leidis, A. D. xiv. Kal.
Majas, A. D. MDCCXLVII.
* The person here meant was the learned and worthy Dr. Isaac Lawson, late physician to the English army in Flanders ; by whom Mr. Gronovius did me the honour to transmit to me two or three acts of the Adamus Ersul of Grotius, transcribed by his son Mr. James. The truth of this particular consists perfectly well with the knowledge of the Doctor's brother, John Lawson, Esq counsellor at law; who also had the same thing lately confirmed to him by Mr. Gronovius himself in Holland.
And now my character is placed above all suspicion of fraud by authentic documents, I will make bold at last to pull off the mask, and declare sincerely the true motive that induced me to interpolate a few lines into some of the authors quoted by me in my Essay on Milton, which was this: Knowing the prepossession in favour of Milton, how deeply it was rooted in many, I was willing to make trial, if the partial admirers of that author would admit a translation of his own words to pass for his sense, or exhibit his meaning: which I thought they would not: nor was I mistaken in my conjecture, forasmuch as several gentlemen, seemingly persons of judgment and learning, assured me, they humbly conceived I had not proved my point, and that Milton might have written as he has done, supposing he had never seen these authors, or they had never existed. Such is the force of prejudice! This exactly confirms the judicious observation of the excellent moralist and poet :
Pravo favore labi mortales solent,
For had I designed (as the vindicator of Milton supposes) to impose a trick on the public, and procure credit to my assertions by an imposture, I would never have drawn lines from Hog's translation of Milton, a book common at every sale, I had almost said at
every stall, nor ascribed them to authors so easily attained : I would have gone another way to work, by translating forty or fifty lines, and assigning them to an author, whose works possibly might not be found till the world expire at the general conflagration. My imposing therefore on the public in general, instead of a few obstinate persons (for whose sake alone the stratagem was designed) is the only thing culpable in my conduct, for which again I most humbly ask pardon: and that this, and this only was, as no other could be, my design, no one I think can doubt, from the account I have just now given ; and whether that was so criminal, as it has been represented, I shall leave every impartial mind to determine.