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no mean authority, has clearly explained in his Study of • Words, where authenticity is made to refer to the correctness of the facts detailed, and genuineness to the authorship of the book containing them. With Mr. Botfield's own preface we are disappointed. We do not quarrel with the eloquent remark: Our public libraries are cemeteries of departed ' reputations; and the dust accumulating upon their un
touched volumes speaks as forcibly as the grass that waves over the ruins of Babylon,'—which our readers will recognise as the language of Hallam.* But we must defend Mr. Taylor from the effects of a misquotation we have detected from his book, conveying a totally different idea of the value of these prefaces to that which he actually embodied in print. The original passage stands thus in its entirety :
All that is of any importance in proof of the genuineness and integrity of ancient books is to know that there are in existence several copies, evidently of older date than the first printed edition of the author; and that these copies, by their general agreement and by their smaller diversities, prove at once their derivation from the same original, and their long distance from that original; since many of these diversities are such as could have arisen only from many successive transcriptions.' (Notes and Austrations, vol. i. pp. 304-5.) An excellent summary of the results to be arrived at by the study of ancient MSS. But contrast with this the gloss of Mr. Botfield :
• The Prefaces,' he says, ' now collected, derive their chief importance from the proofs which they afford of the genuineness and integrity of ancient books, by showing the existence of several copies evidently anterior to the first printed edition, which copies, by their general agreement, and not less so by their smaller diversities, clearly indicate a common origin.' (Pref., p. vi.) What is this but to transfer the authority of manuscripts to the first editions-or rather to their prefaces? We need scarcely observe that if the genuineness and integrity of classical authors depended solely for proof on these productions, they would rest on a very insufficient foundation indeed. It needs no abstruse argument to show that the mere number of transcripts, indicating from their character a common origin, will not suffice to prove the genuineness of the archetype from which they are derived. Agreement from independent sources alone is conclusive, since evidence a hundred times repeated is consistent but cannot be termed a “consensus' of authority. What becomes of the authority of various readings' contained in copies, however numerous, when their common parent
* Middle Ages, vol. iii. p. 426.
is discovered ? General agreement attests fidelity of transcription, but there is such a thing as consistency of error ; and both general agreement' and smaller diversities' could occur equally as well in copies made from a spurious as from a genuine original.
The first printed editions prove the existence of certain works at certain dates, beyond which, for our present purposè, it is unnecessary to trace the history of MSS. Their chief value as regards their authority for the text, consists in the security afforded by printing against the corruptions inseparable from the multiplication of written copies. The check, it is true, was not sudden or simultaneous.
· For nearly a century afterwards,' says Mr. Botfield, and within the
period during which the Prefaces appeared, MSS. and printed books circulated together, and were often confounded by • having been indiscriminately cited.' The rudeness of the art of printing in its infancy, and the perfection to which caligraphy had attained at the hands of professional scribes, would naturally make the difference between a MS. and a printed copy less apparent than now. But the confusion is generally to be attributed rather to the loose statements of their authorities made by later critics and editors than to such intentional fraud as has been imputed to Fust in selling his prints as MSS., a charge which Hallam has satisfactorily disproved. Some copies, no doubt, of the fifteenth century, like the Berne MS. of Cicero's De Officiis,' were taken from printed editions, and marginal notes still continued to be written on the printed pages by critics. But the danger of their being embodied into the text by copyists had now passed away. There were families of editions as there had been familes of MSS. ; but, henceforward, every copy that issued from the press bore its own history and date, and was safe from the possibility of undetected corruption, or of amateur emendations passing current as genuine portions of the text. The authority of MSS. was now separate and distinct, and the science of criticism began gradually to restrict itself to the assortment of existing documentary evidence. We are not receding from antiquity, but constantly approaching nearer towards it, from a juster appreciation of its memorials. The text of classical authors has been the laborious accumulation of centuries of criticism ; and a long series of architects, building on the old foundations, but with materials hewn from other new-discovered quarries, have bequeathed to us more than was obtainable even to men of letters at a far less distant interval from the original author.
ART. IV.-1. The Works of William Makepeace Thackeray.
In twelve volumes (Popular Edition). London : 1871-72. 2. Illustrated Library Edition of the Works of W. M. Thack
eray. In twenty-two volumes. London. The pure humourist is one of the rarest of literary characters.
His nature is not content with detecting foibles, nor his pen with pointing them out for derision ; his purpose is infinitely higher and nobler. The humourist must have emotions, nerves, sensibilities, and that marvellous sympathy with human nature which enables him to change places at will with other members of his species. Humour does not produce the sneer of Voltaire; it rather smiles through the tear of Montaigne.
True humour,' it has been wisely said, 'springs not more from the head than from the heart; it is not contempt, its essence is love; it issues not in laughter, but in still smiles, which lie ‘far deeper. It is a sort of inverse sublimity ; exalting as it * were into our affections what is below us, while sublimity draws
down into our affections what is above us. It is, in fact, the · bloom and perfume, the purest effluence of a deep, fine, and • loving nature. Without humour, society would exist in Icelandic snows: wit, like the winter sun, might glint upon the icebergs, but they would not be plastic in his glance-calm, lofty, and cold they must remain. But humour is the summer heat that generates while it smiles—the power which touches dead things and revivifies them with its generous warmth and geniality. Wit engages and amuses the individual intellect; humour knits hearts together; is, in truth, in a broad sense, that touch of nature which makes the whole world kin' Now the world may be regarded as being composed of three classes, viz., those of us who laugh, those with whom we laugh, and those at whom we laugh; and the tenderest solicitude is experienced by each unit of humanity lest, through some fortuitous circumstances, he should irretrievably find himself a denizen of the last-named class. To some of the first class is given the power of directing the laughter of others, and this
is current as wit; when to the faculty of originating ridicule is added the power of concentrating pity or pathos upon the subject, this may be styled humour. But the irony must be subjugated to the feeling. The heart must love while the countenance may smile. It will, then, be perceived, in view of these distinctions, how the humourist may assert a élaim in all great and essential things superior to that which can be advanced by the wit. Humourists are the salt of the national intellectual life. England, who occasionally claims a questionable superiority in some respects over other nations, may, in the growth of genuine humour, be allowed the pre-eminence, Germany approaching her perhaps in the nearest degree. What other literature, since the days of Elizabeth, can show such a roll of humourists as that which is inscribed with the names (amongst others) of Richardson, Addison, Steele, Prior, Gay, Smollett, Fielding, Sterne, and Goldsmith ? Yet after the closing names of this galaxy a dearth was witnessed like that which immediately preceded their advent. It appears as though the soil of literature, having grown to its utmost capacity the product of humour, demanded time for recuperating its powers. During the past thirty or forty years another growth sprang up, and Ilood, Lamb, and other inheritors of the marvellous gift have enriched the world with the perfume of their lives and works. Amongst the latest band of humourists, however, there is no name more remarkable or more justly distinguished than that which is now under consideration.
From the operation of various causes, the works of Thackeray have not hitherto enjoyed a circulation commensurate with their intrinsic merits. The sale of the best of his writings in his lifetime fell far short of the popular demand for the works of Scott or Dickens. But their hold on society, and the recognition of their permanent value and excellence, have gone on steadily increasing with each succeeding year, and very recently a new and complete edition of them has been issued, which is within the reach of all readers. At this period, then, it may be fitting to consider the life's work of this deepest and purest of modern English satirists.
It was in these pages that the first substantial recognition of the genius of the author of • Vanity Fair' appeared: a quarter of a century has elapsed since then ; but in the short period between that epoch in his career and his death, a rapid succession of brilliant works issued from his pen-a pen facile to charm, to instruct, and to reprove. These works have fully justified the terms of praise in which we referred to his first great fiction. Yet it would be difficult to name a writer of fiction of equal excellence who had so little of the inventive and imaginative faculty. Keenness of observation and a nice appreciation of character supplied him with all the materials of his creations. He wrote from the experience of life, and the foibles of mankind which he satirised were those that had fallen under his notice in the vicissitudes of his own career, or might sometimes be traced in the recesses of his own disposition. The key, therefore, to Thackeray's works is to be
found in his life ; and few literary biographies would be more interesting, if it were written with a just and discriminating pen. We would venture to suggest to his accomplished daughter, who has shown by her own writings that some at least of his gifts have descended to her by inheritance, that she should undertake a task which no one else can fulfil with so natural and delicate a feeling of her father's genius. Probably it might already have been attempted, but for the extreme repugnance of Thackeray himself to allow his own person to be brought before the world, or to suffer the sanctity of private correspondenee to be invaded. Nobody wrote more amusing letters; but he wrote them not for the public. As it is, even his birth and descent have not been correctly stated in the current works of the day. His great grandfather was in the Church, once Master of Harrow, and afterwards an Archdeacon. He had seven sons, one of whom, also named William Makepeace Thackeray, entered the Civil Service of India, became a Member of Council, and sat at the Board with Warren Hastings, some of whose minutes he signed. The son of this gentleman, and the father of our novelist, was Richmond Thackeray, also a Civil servant, who died in 1816 at the early age of thirty. Thackeray himself was born at Calcutta, in 1811, and was sent to England when he was seven years old. On the voyage home the vessel touched at St. Helena, where the child saw Napoleon Bonaparte. The black servant who attended him attributed to the ex-Emperor the most ravenous propensities. “He eats,' said the sable exaggerator, three sheep every day, and all the children he
can lay hands on.' The joke figured years afterwards in one of Thackeray's sketches. This early connexion with India left its mark in his memory, and the pleasant allusions to the great Ramchunder and the Bundelcund bank were suggested by the traditions of his own infancy. He inherited from his father (who died when he was five years old) a considerable fortune, part of which had fortunately been settled on his mother, who was re-married to Major Carmichael Smyth. The remainder was left at his own disposal, and rendered him an object of envy and admiration to his less fortunate contemporaries. The boy was sent to the Charter-house, where he remained for some years; and here again the reader familiar with his works may trace a multitude of allusions to his school-days under Dr. Russell, then the master of that school. About the year 1828 he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was the friend and contemporary of Tennyson, Venables, John Mitchell Kemble, Charles and Arthur Buller, VOL. CXXXVII. NO. CCLXXIX.