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pelf by proving that the Epistles of Phalaris were forgeries, and in his remarks on this subject treated Temple, not indecently, but with no great reverence.
Temple, who was quite unaccustomed to any but the Litost respectful usage, who, even while engaged in politics, had always shrunk from all rude collision and had cenerally succeeded in avoiding it, and whose sensitiveness had been increased by many years of seclusion and flattery, was moved to most violent resentment, complained, very unjustly, of Bentley's foul-mouthed raillery, and declared that he had commenced an answer, but had laid it aside, “ having no mind to enter the lists with such a mean, dull, unmannerly pedant." Whatever may be thought of the temper which Sir William showed on this occasion, we cannot too highly applaud his discretion in not finishing and publishing his answer, which would certainly have been a most extraordinary performance.
He was not, however, without defenders. Like Hector, when struck down prostrate by Ajax, he was in an instant covered by a thick crowd of shields.
Ούτις έδυνήσατο ποιμένα λαών
Christchurch was up in arms ; and though that College seems then to have been almost destitute of severe and accurate learning, no academical society could show a greater array of rators, wits, politicians, bustling adventurers who united the superficial accomplishinents of the scholar with the manners and arts of the man of the world ; and this formidable body re solved to try how far smart repartees, well-turned sentences, confidence, puffing, and intrigue conld, on the question whether a Greek book were or were not genuine, supply the place of a little knowledge of Greek.
Out came the Reply to Bentley, bearing the name of Boyle, but in truth written by Atterbury with the assistance of Smalridge and others. A most remarkable book it is, and often reminds us of Goldsmith's observation, that the French would be the best cooks in the world if they had any butcher's meat; for that they can make ten dishes out of a nettle-top. It really deserves the praise, whatever that praise may be worth, of being the best book ever written by any man on the wrong side of a question of which he was profoundly ignorant. The learning of the confederacy is that of a schoolboy, and not of an extraordinary schoolboy; but it is used with the skill and address of most able, artful, and experienced men ; it is beaten out to the very thinnest leaf, and is disposed in such a way as to seem ten times larger than it is. The dexterity with which the confederates avoid grappling with those parts of the subject with which they know themselves to be incompetent to deal is quite wonderful. Now and then, indeed, they commit disgraceful blunders, for which old Busby, under whom they had studied, would have whipped them all round. But this circumstance only raises our opinion of the talents which made such a fight with such scanty means.
Let readers who are not acquainted with the controversy imagine a Frenchman, who has acquired just English enough to read the Spectator with a dictionary, coming forward to defend the genuineness of Ireland's Vortigern against Malone; and they will have some notion of the feat which Atterbnry had the audacity to undertake, and which,
for a time, it was really thought that he had performed.
The illusion was soon dispelled. Bentley's answer for ever settled the question, and established his claim to the first place amongst classical scholars. Nor do those do him justice who represent the controversy as a battle between wit and learning. For though there is a lamentable deficiency of learning on the side of Boyle, there is no want of wit on the side of Bentley. Other qualities, too, as valuable as either wit or learning, appear conspicuously in Bentley's book, a rare sagacity, an unrivalled power of combination, a perfect mastery of all the weapons of logic. He was greatly indebted to the furious outcry which the misrepresentations, sarcasms, and intrigues of his opponents had raised against him, an outcry in which fashionable and political circles joined, and which was echoed by thousands who did not know whether Phalaris ruled in Sicily or in Siam. His spirit, daring even to rashness, self-confident even to negligence, and proud even to insolent ferocity, was awed for the first and for the last time, awed, not into meanness or cowardice, but into wariness and sobriety. For once he ran no risks ; he ieft no crevice unguarded; he wantoned in no paradoxes ; above all, he returned no railing for the railing of his enemies. In almost every thing that he has written we can discover proofs of genius and learning. But it is only here that his genius and learning appear to have been constantly under the guidance of good sense and good temper. Here, we find none of that besotted reliance on his own powers and on his own luck, which he showed when he undertook to edite Milton; none of that perverted ingenuity which deforms $0 many of his notes on Horace ; none of that disdainful carelessness by which he laid himself open to the keen and dexterous thrust of Middleton ; none of that extravagant vaunting and savage scurrility by which he afterwards dishonoured his studies and his profession. and degraded himself almost to the level of De Pauw,
Temple did not live to witness the utter and irreparable defeat of his champions. He died, indeed, at a fortunate moment, just after the appearance of Boyle's book, and while all England was laughing at the way in which the Christchurch men had handled the pedant. In Boyle's book, Temple was praised in the highest terms, and compared to Memmius : not a very happy comparison ; for almost the only particular information which we have about Memmius is that, in agitated times, he thought it his duty to attend exclusively to politics, and that his friends could not venture, except when the Republic was quiet and prosperous, to intrude on him with their philosophical and poetical productions. It is on this account that Lucretius puts up the exquisitely beautiful prayer for peace with which his poem opens :
“ Nam neque nos agere Loc patrial terr.pore iniquo
Possumus æquo animo, nec Memmi clara propago
Talibus in rebus communi deesse saluti." This description is surely by no means applicable to a statesman who had, through the whole course of his life, carefully avoided exposing himself in seasons of trouble ; who had repeatedly refused, in most critical conjunctures, to be Secretary of State ; and who now, in the midst of revolutions, plots, foreign and domestic wars, was quietly writing nonsense about the visits of Lycurgus to the Brahmins and the tines which Arion played to the Dolphin.
We must not omit to mention that, while the controversy about Phalaris was raging, Swift, in order
to show his zeal and attachment, wiote the Battle of the Books, the earliest piece in which his peculiar talents are discernible. We may observe that the bitter dislike of Bentley, bequeathed by Temple to Swift, seems to have been communicated by Swift to Pope, to Arbuthnot, and to others, who continued to tease the great critic, long after he had shaken hands very cordially both with Boyle and with Atterbury.
Sir William Temple died at Moor Park in January, 1699. He appears to have suffered no intellectual decay. His heart was buried under a sun-dial which still stands in his favourite garden. His body was laid in Westminster Abbey by the side of his wife ; and a place hard by was set apart for Lady Giffard, who long survived him. Swift was his literary executor, superintended the publication of his Letters and Memoirs, and, in the performance of this office, had some acrimonious contests with the family.
Of Temple's character little more remains to be said. Burnet accuses him of holding irreligious opinions, and corrupting everybody who came near him. But the vague assertion of so rash and partial a writer as Burnet, about a man with whom, as far as we know, he never exchanged a word, is of little weight. It is, indeed, by no means improbable that Temple may have been a freethinker. The Osbornes thought him so when he was a very young man.
And it is certain that a large proportion of the gentlemen of rank and fashion who made their entrance into society while the Puritan party was at the height of power, end while the memory of the reign of that party was still recent, conceived a strong disgust for all religion. The imputation was common between Temple and all the most distinguished courtiers of the age. Rochester