Page images
[ocr errors]

ART. II.-1. Herculanensium Voluminum quæ supersunt.

Vols. 1.—-XI. Fol. Neapoli: 1793-1855. 2. Herculanensium Voluminum P. 1.-11. Sumptibus Ty

pogr. Clarendon. lithographicé excudebat N. WHITTOCK.

Oxonii: 1824-5. 3. Epicuri Fragmenta, Librorum II. et XI. in Voll. Papyraceis

ex Herculano erutis reperta, probabiliter restituta, ex Tomo secundo Voll. Hercul. emendatius edidit J. C. ORELLIUS.

8vo. Lipsiæ: 1818. 4. Philodenii IIepi Prtopurîs, ex Herculanensi Papyro restituit

, Latinè vertit, et Dissertationibus auxit E. GROS. Parisiis:

1840. 5. Phædri Epicurei, vulgo Anonymi Herculanensis, De Natura

Deorum. A CHRISTIANO PETERSEN. Hamburgi: 1833. 6. Philodemi de Vitiis Liber Decimus. Ad Vol. Hercul.

exemplar Neapolitanum et Oxoniense distinxit, supplevit,

illustravit, HERMANNUS SAUPPIUS. Lipsiæ : 1853. 7. Philodem's Abhandlungen über die Haushaltung und über

den Hochmuth ; und Theophrast's Haushaltung und Characterbilder. Griechish und Deutsch von J. A. HARTUNG.

Leipzig: 1857. 8. Herculanensium Voluminum que supersunt. Collectio altera. Tomi I. Fasciculus I. Complectens Philodemi IIepi kakav

κακιών και αντικειμένων αρετών et Περί Οργής. Publicazione eseguita, con Approvazione del Ministero d'Istruzione Pubblicu, dal Consiglio di Direzione del Museo Nazionale e degli Scavi di

Antichità. Neapoli: 1861. 9. Herculanensium Voluminum quæ supersunt. Collectio altera.

Tom. I. Fascic. II.–V. Neapoli: 1862. IF F the value of a work could in any degree be estimated by

the length of time occupied in its production, the · Volumina · Herculanensia' might lay claim to one of the very highest places in literature. More than a century has elapsed since it was first undertaken. It has descended as an heirloom through three or four generations of editors. It has maintained its feeble vitality through as many revolutions and counter-revolutions. Its successive volumes are separated from each other by intervals which might almost make up an ordinary literary life; and, if the work were to continue at the same rate of progress which has been heretofore maintained, the materials

[ocr errors]

still remaining to be explored might, to judge by their reported number, be expected to occupy at least three or four centuries in the process of publication.

And yet few works have ever been taken up with more passionate enthusiasm, or looked forward to with livelier anticipation. The Herculanean Papyri, when the practicability of their decipherment was first seriously suggested, were confidently regarded as a wholesale repertory of the lost literature of the ancients. The discovery occurred just at a time when the learned had become fully and finally satisfied as to the extent and the hopelessness of the losses which were deplored in every department of ancient learning. Most of the great libraries of the world had been submitted to a searching examination, stretching back from the Iter Italicum' of Montfaucon to the day when Enocho d'Ascolo set forth on his memorable tour of exploration, armed with the authority of Nicholas V., commanding all librarians and heads of religious houses, under the censure of the Church, to lay open their literary stores to his inspection. During this wide interval, four or five successive generations of gleaners had visited every spot which seemed to promise a chance of success. All the then known sources of classical literature had thus been drained to the utmost; nor had men yet begun to think of those which have since been so sedulously turned to account; of the precious hoards which remained mouldering in the unvisited monasteries of the Levant, or the still more unsuspected treasures which lay hidden under their very eyes, in the palimpsest manuscripts of the libraries of Europe. In one word, it was just in the crisis when, at the close of what seemed to have been a completely exhaustive search, the scholars of the eighteenth century had reluctantly resigned themselves to a loss which appeared utterly irreparable, that the discovery of the Papyri of Herculaneum renewed, in a most exaggerated form, the hopes which had lately seemed extinguished for ever. The news was hailed as a second revival of letters. It appeared impossible that, in a collection so extensive, comprising nearly two thousand manuscripts, there should not be found a considerable proportion of the still missing literature of Greece and Rome. The very site of the discovery seemed itself pregnant of promise. The city of Herculaneum, a Greek colony on Roman soil, appeared to unite in itself the advantages of both countries. A collection so considerable, and formed upon ground so apparently neutral, might reasonably be expected to contain specimens of the best authors of both literatures; and, although it was too much to hope that every gap would be satisfactorily



[ocr errors]

filled up, yet even the least sanguine might reckon upon a large contribution. Many works, no doubt, must still be found wanting; but it would be strange indeed if it should prove that the authors missing in the library of the Herculanean collector were precisely the same which had hitherto escaped the research of modern classical explorers in every other quarter. Where, more naturally than in the library of a scholar of this luxurious city, might it be hoped to recover the long-lost Menander, and the other masters of Greek comedy? Could anything seem more unlikely than that, among the many hundred volumes of such a collection, there should not turn up a few at least out of the many missing plays of the great tragedians, Euripides, Sophocles, and Æschylus- some contribution to our scanty store of Greek comedy-a few additional plays of the sadly mutilated Aristophanes, or some specimens of his utterly unknown fellow poets, Eupolis, Cratinus, Crates, or Teleclides ? Surely, too, the historical student might calculate on the recovery of many important materials, wherewith to fill up the hiatus valde deflendus' in the series of Greek writers on Roman history, Polybius, Dion, Dionysius, and their continuators; and, if such were the anticipations as to the Greek writers, how much more confidently were the papyri looked forward to for the lost treasures of Latin literature—for the missing decades of Livy, the lost books of the Annals of Tacitus, the dramas of Plautus and other Latin imitators of Greek comedy, the philological treatises of Varro; and, above all, the long-regretted poems of Varius, the superior, as an epic poet, if we may believe Horace, even of Virgil himself

forte epos acer

Ut nemo Varius ducit The issue of all these high hopes is well known. Not only did the papyri prove to be in a state of mutilation far beyond what had been anticipated, but the character of the collection itself utterly disappointed the expectations which had been formed as to its extent, its variety, and its value. In general literature, whether Greek or Latin, it proved a complete blank. Not a single one of the longed-for authors appeared among its remains; hardly even a single fragment of their writings. It was found to be a class collection, in the narrowest sense of the phrase, its contents being exclusively philosophical, and, indeed, confined to one particular school of philosophy, the Epicurean; and the authors being for the most part entirely unknown, except as members of one of the least literary of the philosophical sects of antiquity.

This mortifying failure was, of course, followed by a reaction,

and it even led to an excessive depreciation of what was actually found. The experiment too, even such as it was, began inauspiciously. The treatises of Philodemus on Music, on Rhetoric, and on Vices, which ushered in the series of • Volumina Herculanensia,' were almost unanimously denounced as dull and uninteresting commonplaces, utterly without value in themselves, and equally without promise of value in the publication which they inaugurated. They attracted little notice, even from the professional scholars of the period; and although the collection continued, during upwards of sixty years, slowly to advance, till it reached its eleventh volume, and has recently been resumed in an altered form, which, as it comprises only the engraved fac-simile of the text, and thus dispenses with the tedious and difficult labours of the editor, translator, and commentator, may be expected to proceed with greater rapidity, yet, with a few exceptions to which we shall presently refer, the later works have been received by the general public with the same indifference.

In no country was the reaction more marked, and in none has it been of longer duration, than in England. Much interest had been taken by the Regent, Prince of Wales, in the experiments for unrolling and deciphering the papyri; and very considerable sums, not only of public money, but also from his own private purse, had been expended by his order in their prosecution, both in Naples and at home. The result was regarded as a miserable failure, and the attempt was allowed to fall hopeless to the ground. Two volumes, it is true, of the deciphered papyri presented to the Prince, were issued from the Clarendon Press at Oxford; but the production of these volumes was a mere mechanical operation of printing, without the slightest expenditure of literary labour, even of the humblest rank. The Oxford volumes consist barely of a lithographic fac-simile of the deciphered papyri, without translation, without commentary, without even a transcript in cursive Greek letters; and in the notice which we* devoted to the work on its first appearance, we could not help unfavourably contrasting the indolence or indifference of our own university in the getting up of that portion of the papyri which fell to its lot, with the diligence of the Neapolitan literati, and the copious, and indeed over-minute, illustrations which they had lavished on the volumes produced by them. Beyond this meagre and unscholarlike publication, and a few critical essays and notices in the various learned journals of the time, the Herculanean Papyri can hardly be said

• Ed. Review, vol. xlviii. p. 354. .

to have received any attention in England. It has not been so abroad, especially in Germany. It reminds one of the chances of which the gold-seekers of California and Australia present so many examples. The first rush of eager adventurers, who had entered upon the work with visions of easy and rapid enrichment, expecting to gather gold-dust in handfuls from every gully, and to pick up nuggets at every stroke of the mining-tool, shrink away in disappointment and disgust from the rough realities which they encounter from the weary mounds of clay turned over in vain — from the blank masses of intractable quartz, and from the irksome and precarious process, through which alone these unpromising materials can be made to yield up the treasure which they hold; and thus leave to the generation of patient and plodding workers by whom they are succeeded, the golden rewards whose presence they themselves failed to recognise. So it has been with our fastidious scholars, as regards the literary remains of Herculaneum. Once baulked of the high hopes with which they had indulged their fancyonly meeting, in place of the great masters of ancient learning for whom they had looked, a weary succession of unknown or undistinguished names, they hastily abandoned, not alone the search itself, but even the examination of the fragments brought to light by foreign explorers. The English issue of · Volumina · Herculanensia' began and ended with the two small volumes printed at the Clarendon Press, nearly forty years ago ; and it has been left entirely to the scholars of Germany and France to turn to account the labours of the Neapolitan editors, by reediting, annotating, and criticising the contents of the succession of folios which have appeared at Naples during the interval. The array of titles at the head of this paper will show that a good deal has been done, as well in the way of original publication as of critical re-editing; and, referring back to our last notice of the papyri, we purpose to lay before the reader a brief account of the progress since that date, and of the present condition of this once hopeful undertaking.

We shall first briefly detail as well what has been done by the original Neapolitan editors, as what is proposed by the eminent scholars who have recently undertaken to continue the work in a new series; and we shall then proceed to an account of the separate publications to which the Neapolitan text has given occasion.

A taint of procrastination, the result of excessive minuteness of detail, appears to have infected the undertaking from its very commencement. The very first of the long series of


« PreviousContinue »