Vergilius Redivivus: Studies in Joseph Addison's Latin Poetry

Article excerpt


It is hardly an exaggeration to say that Addison's Latin poetry has been virtually ignored by modern scholarship. Since the appearance in 1914 of Guthkelch's edition of his works1 there has been no modern edition of the Latin poetry, with the exception of the hypertext version (together with brief notes) by Sutton.2 And critical discussion is equally thin, amounting in fact to just two articles, one unpublished thesis, and a single chapter in another unpublished thesis.

As far back as 1938 Bradner, in an article that should have paved the way for further study, offered a comprehensive survey of factual problems surrounding the publication of several of Addison's Latin poems.3 It is evident, however, that this discussion did not aim to offer a critical analysis. Almost twenty-five years later Schuch's dissertation on Addison and the poetry of Augustan Rome made some good observations,4 but this focused on his vernacular rather than Latin writings, tracking down thematic parallels, while neglecting seventeenthcentury appropriation of classical models. Nearly two decades later Wiesenthal in an unpublished thesis convincingly demonstrated that "Addison's Latin is both vigorous and energetic."5 His chapter on the subject is particularly useful when set in the context of the other English Augustans whose Latin poetry he surveys. And more recently some insight into Addison's reworking of Virgil in his Pax Gulielmi has been afforded by Williams and Kelsall6 in an article which, as Sutton observes, is "a model for the way Neo-Latin poetry can be discussed with profit."7

What is immediately apparent, nonetheless, is the fact that Addison's Latin verse has failed to receive the critical attention it deserves. And this seems to be the consequence of a number of factors. Until very recently classical scholars have not ventured into the immensely important domain of neo-Latin literature, important because it illuminates our understanding of such issues as reception, the classical tradition, and more generally the complexities of early modern culture.8 And English scholars (barring only a few exceptions) rarely cross that linguistic divide between a poet's vernacular and Latin works,9 despite the fact that such an approach can and does prove mutually insightful for both disciplines. It is unfortunate then that Bradner's observation made well over half a century ago that "very little has appeared in the way of critical study of these poems in relation to the literature of their time"10 still holds true today. Typical of its reception is the viewpoint of Courthope, who could only remark that the Latin poems "are distinguished by the ease and flow of the versification, but they are generally wanting in originality."11

It is the aim of the present monograph to begin to fill this gap in modern scholarship by examining the intricate intertextual relationships between some of Addison's neo-Latin poems and the poetic corpus of one Augustan poet: Virgil (the Georgics in particular). While so doing it fully accepts nonetheless that Addison's Latin poetry also interacts, even if in a less overt or sustained way, with other Roman authors.12 Offering a case study, as it were, of one neo-Latin poet's engagement with Virgil, it presents a series of chapter-length discussions, all of which, while clearly interrelated, may also, it is hoped, stand independently.13 Throughout, the analysis is informed by a twofold aim: to assess how Virgilian texts were refined and redefined through appropriation to a contemporary context; to demonstrate on a representative level an apparent paradox: that in the case of Addison late seventeenth-century neo-Latin poetry, far from being "self-contained," was in virtue of its intertextual relationship with Virgil "traversed by otherness."14 As such, the Addisonian Latin text exemplifies Kristeva's definition of intertextuality: "any text is a mosaic of quotations; any text is an absorption and transformation of another. …


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