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

By Joseph M. Levine | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
Ancient Greece and Modern Scholarship

I

While the quarrel over Homer was going on abroad and the battle of the books was in progress at home, the slow steady work of classical scholarship proceeded quietly. Neither the ancients nor the moderns could deny that year by year, ever since the "revival of antiquity" had begun, a large and persistent collective endeavor had been growing to resurrect every scrap of evidence for the lost world of the classical authors. And while the ancients might deplore its "excesses" and its pedantry and worry about its dangerous and distracting consequences, even they were being forced by it to alter their perceptions of the ancient past, or at least to align them more carefully with the evidence. As for the moderns, they exulted, as we have seen, in the progress of the new historical science, much as they did in the new science of nature, and looked forward to a continuing accumulation of knowledge, heedless of any difficulties it might present. Modern philology confirmed their suspicions that in fact the moderns knew more about the past than any of their predecessors had known and that the present could certainly surpass antiquity in both its manners and its morals. The future might do better still.

But if these were the issues that were being proposed in the first stages of the war between the ancients and the moderns, they had still to be worked out in all their implications. And before we can take their measure fully -- before we can appreciate what happened in the next episodes of the battle of the books -- it will be necessary to discover what the classical scholars were up to at this time; to find out, in a word, just what the state of Homeric scholarship was in 1700. Unfortunately, this is not easy to do in a brief compass; but one thing should be clear anyway, that

-148-

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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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