Bentley vs. Christ Church
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____________________