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

By Joseph M. Levine | Go to book overview

Chapter Eleven
Moderns

Meanwhile the moderns were hard at work. If the history of England could not be perfectly represented as narrative, then perhaps it could be reconstructed as a body of antiquities. In that case, there was a model already in place: William Camden's famous Britannia. It remained only to see whether that familiar work could be brought up to date as a collaborative new enterprise in scholarship. "We have the best stock of true remains of antiquity of any nation perhaps in Europe," wrote William Nicolson in 1694, "and yet our histories hitherto have been most lazily written."1 Once again it was the publishers who led the way. Apparently the idea had already been bruited in 1690-91, perhaps encouraged by a new life of Camden by Thomas Smith, but it was the young printer Abel Swalle who seriously undertook the task a couple of years later. "Swalle is here with big words about the Britannia in English," wrote a skeptical Edward Bernard from Oxford, "promising great and accurate maps of each county: but it would be more for the honor of Mr. Cambden and the use of Scholars, to have that immortal worke represented again in the Latine and with his additions."2 But this was to treat the Britannia as a

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1
Nicolson to Thoresby, May 7, 1694, in Letters to Ralph Thorsby, ed. W. T. Lancaster ( Leeds, 1912), p. 162.
2
Edward Bernard to Thomas Smith, n.d., Bodleian MS. Smith 47, f. 108. On July 9, 1690, Bernard had written to Smith that the printer Chiswell was designing a Britannia, but he doubted that it would ever be: ibid., f. 68. Many years later Hearne recalled that about 1691, Thomas Gale intended to reprint the Britannia in Oxford: Thomas Hearne, Remarks and Collections, ed. C. E. Doble et al., 11 vols. ( Oxford, 1885-1921), 3:53; he himself thought several times of attempting a Latin version; see Hearne to Cherry, Sept. 23, 1708, Bodleian MS. Rawlinson Letters 36, f. 313; Hearne to Brokesby, Mar. 10, 1711, Rawlinson D 1170, f. 16; Charlett to Hearne, June 27, 1715, Rawlinson Letters 14, f. 348. Smith's Gulielmi Camdeni Vita appeared in 1691.

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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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