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

By Joseph M. Levine | Go to book overview

Chapter One
Wotton vs. Temple

1

Thomas Babington Macaulay was not really fair to William Temple. In his forthright and partisan way, he drew his character. He thought that Temple was cold and selfish, cautious to a fault, even cowardly. The great man, it appeared, had betrayed the Whig cause at its decisive moment. From 1680, he had preferred his library and his orchard to the risks of opposition. "While the nation groaned under oppression, or resounded with the tumult and with the din of arms," Temple, he wrote, had amused himself "by writing memoirs and tying up apricots." Yet beneath Macaulay's contempt there lay a skulking admiration. Even he could not deny the successes of Temple's earlier career or his distinguished literary retirement. In an age of almost universal political corruption, Temple alone had kept his integrity. Somehow he was a more complex and a more admirable man than Macaulay was willing to allow.1

In some ways he was typical of his generation. He had been born in 1628, the grandson of a secretary to Philip Sidney, the son of an Irish

____________________
1
Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Sir William Temple" ( 1838), in The Complete Works ( New York, 1898), 14:166-283. Several full-length studies of Temple have been published, beginning with Thomas P. Courtenay, Memoirs of the Life, Works, and Correspondence of Sir William Temple, 2 vols. ( London, 1836), the occasion for Macaulay's essay, See also Clara Marburg , Sir William Temple ( New Haven, 1932); Homer E. Woodbridge, Sir William Temple: The Man and His Works ( New York, 1940); Pierre Marambaud, Sir William Temple, Publications de la ficulté des lettres et sciences humaines de Nice 3 ( Nice, 1968). There is a flattering contemporary account by Abel Boyer, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Sir William Temple ( London, 1714). Less helpful is the brief biography by Richard Faber, The Brave Courtier: Sir William Temple ( London, 1983), and the brief literary survey by Robert C. Steensma , Sir William Temple ( New York, 1970).

-13-

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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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