The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age

By Joseph M. Levine | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
Bentley vs. Christ Church

1

Even before Temple's essay appeared to provoke hostilities, Wotton and Richard Bentley had become fast friends. They were drawn together by common associates such as John Evelyn, and common concerns not the least of which was their fascination with classical philology. It was therefore of the greatest interest to Wotton to discover one day that Bentley too had had some severe thoughts about Temple's essay. In particular, he was delighted to learn that his companion believed that Temple, in the course of his argument, had made a really ludicrous error in defending and extolling the spurious epistles of the ancient Greek tyrant Phalaris. Wotton immediately saw his opportunity and exacted a promise from Bentley to set out his thoughts on the matter for a new edition of the Reflections.1 Here indeed would be proof of the capability of modern scholarship and a humiliating lesson to his adversary. In this fashion began the second episode in the battle of the books.

The moderns were on good solid ground. Early in 1693 Temple wrote a note to Joshua Barnes that betrayed his scholarly weakness. Barnes was an eccentric classicist, in a few years professor of Greek at Cambridge, who aspired also to a career in "polite" literature. He was naturally eager for the approbation of Temple and sent him a parcel containing several of his works, including a poem in Greek. When it arrived, the old man was grateful but embarrassed. The truth was, he complained to Barnes, that

____________________
1
"Richard Bentley to William Wotton, A Dissertation upon the Epistles of Phalaris", appended to Wotton's Reflections upon Ancient and Modern Learning, 2d ed. ( London, 1697), p. 6.

-47-

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The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - Literature 11
  • Chapter One - Wotton Vs. Temple 13
  • Chapter Two - Bentley Vs. Christ Church 47
  • Chapter Three - Stroke and Counterstroke 85
  • Chapter Four - The Querelle 121
  • Chapter Five - Ancient Greece and Modern Scholarship 148
  • Chapter Six - Pope's Iliad 181
  • Chapter Seven - Pope and the Quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns 218
  • Chapter Eight - Bentley's Milton 245
  • Part Two - History 265
  • Chapter Nine - History and Theory 267
  • Chapter Ten - Ancients 291
  • Chapter Eleven - Moderns 327
  • Chapter Twelve - Ancients and Moderns 374
  • Conclusion 414
  • Index 419
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