Stroke and Counterstroke
Everyone, it seems, was fascinated by the quarrel and everyone, apparently, had to have an opinion. The intensity of the argument, the personality and position of the disputants, above all the issues that the battle appeared to raise about the very meaning and purpose of classical culture-all were calculated to attract attention.1 While many contributed their opinions publicly and everyone tried to keep informed, the battle went merrily on.
On March 17, 1699, the Scot Thomas Burnett of Kemney wrote to his friend John Locke. It seems that Bentley had been reading the preface of his Dissertations to Burnett and managed to persuade him momentarily of the justice of his conduct to Boyle. Now, however, Burnett had been able to look for himself at the published work -- along with the latest Christ Church reply, A Short Account of Dr. Bentley's Humanity, which had also appeared in the meanwhile, "exploring his plagiary, ingratitude, and inhumanity." "I do profess," Burnett wrote to Locke, "upon second thoughts (which sometimes are best), I think, considering Dr. Bentley's magisterial and supercilious language to Mr. Bennet [the bookseller], and on the other hand, Mr. Bennet's manner of justifying himself, and representing the matter in a sober and far less passionate, but more natural, narration of everything, so that his story seemeth the more likely if not the more true, of the two; and although the Doctor may have both truth and learning on his side, he hath no ways shown the spirit of____________________