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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0011-0009

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-10-09

Saturday. October 9th. VII:45.

Missed Prayers and arose in time for breakfast and attendance upon Mr. Everett’s Lecture. He continued his former subject today by repeating the last parts of yesterday’s Lecture and noticing the assent of scholars to this new theory. The only attempt of importance to controvert his doctrine is made by Hug of whom he will say more presently.1 In 1802 the long expected edition of Homer by Heyne made it’s appearance simultaneously at London and Leipzig. It was furnished with notes and excursuses at the end of each volume and in the last he deliberately advances the opinion that these works were composed in the manner mentioned by Wolf. This edition was very severely criticized in the literary Journal at Jena during the whole season in which it appeared. Wolf was supposed to have been concerned in it’s composition and it had considerable effect in embittering Heyne’s old age. The theory was attacked in France by Mr. St. Croix2 but with not much effect. Wolf’s work was noticed in England by the Critical and Monthly reviews very favourably, though the authors of the notices did not appear conscious that he had proposed any new theory, probably not seeing through the difficult Latin in which he has enveloped it.
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This is the history of this controversy, he now commenced an analysis of it. Some people might ask the reason why the authenticity of Homer should be doubted any more than that of Virgil and other authors of high antiquity. It is this, that we have a series of authors since the latter who date in regular order down from him and who make mention of him. A want of this testimony would immediately be decisive in a case like that of Virgil’s, while it does not affect that of Homer, as he is removed 800 years from the commencement of the series. Besides it is well known that in the most ancient times men made no mention of such things as is proved in the case of Thucidides who in all his work makes no mention of Herodotus. This want of testimony does not therefore amount to proof but requires rigid examination. Wolf therefore arranged his argument in a way to meet such questions. It may be found in a quotation in the 21st Article of the pamphlet.3 He denies that the introduction of the art of writing could have taken place before the Olympic era although he does not deny that they might have been known by some.
His arguments to support this are that no book of any sort is mentioned by any one in any age as having existed in the age of Lycurgus and that succeeding. The subsequent introduction of paper must have been the time at which the use of writing became familiar, and that the use of prose begun in the 6th Century B.C. was almost synonimous with the use of writing. There are but two passages in Homer which bear the slightest appearance of an acquaintance with writing. They are referred to and the latter is quoted in the pamphlet but they prove that marks only were made at that time which were only known to the person making them and rather prove that writing was not in general use. Wolf is certainly right here. He then goes on in his argument and calls in question all the oldest literary inscriptions. He rejects those mentioned by Herodotus and with reason. Others also which admit of more question, such as those brought to France by the Abbé Fourmont.4 No travellers however have ever found any inscriptions like those since and the Abbe says he caused them to be destroyed which is very doubtful on account of the Turks and the improbability that he would not bring forward for the confirmation of other travellers what would otherwise be so suspicious. Travellers since have all denied the existence of such inscriptions. Mr. Knight5 has proved they were fake by a singular mistake made. The Abbe instead of using the common word for Lacedemonians, introduced one and quoted Hesichaeus [Hesychius] as authority. This word has since been found in Hesichaeus to be two, the word and its meaning, joined together by mistake { 374 } of the copyist, and the Spartans quoted as authority for its use in that way.
I spent the morning writing my Journal, after dinner went to town in the Stage and went directly to my brother’s. I found him there and we had some conversation on indifferent topics. He then went away after settling further affairs with me and giving me some money. I remained and read the third Part of the Tales of a Traveller which is rather better than the second but still much ado about nothing. I returned to Cambridge again, finished my Journal, made a call at Brenan’s, was not admitted and spent a pleasant and comfortable evening at home. I read some more of Rochefoucauld’s maxims and indulged in the luxury of leisure. XI.
1. For J. Leonhard Hug’s work, see Everett, Synopsis , p. 31.
2. Guillaume Emmanuel Joseph, Baron de Sainte-Croix (1746–1806) (Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship , 2:397).
4. Abbé Michel Fourmont (1690–1745) (Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship , 2:390).
5. Richard Payne Knight (1750–1824), whose collection of ancient bronzes and coins is in the British Museum (same, 2:434–435).
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