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ae present work was undertaken simply as a revision of that ablished by its Editor, with brief Latin notes, at intervals tween 1845 and 1853. But it has, for several reasons, proved
be something more than a mere revision. A more complete mmentary was required, in which Explanation of the Text ould form the chief feature; and it was found impossible to complish this, especially in English, without greatly enlarging e limits, as well as materially altering the style, of annotation. gain, much had been done by other scholars, and something -àd been gained by the Editor himself both in the way of experience and in accumulated corrections and illustrations of his author, on which he had never ceased to devote pains and attention since the publication of the former work. First to be mentioned among the more recent aids is the posthumous edition of Hermann's Aeschylus, containing by far the fullest and most authentic critical materials that have ever been collected. That continual reference has been made to Hermann in the present volume is nothing more than is due to so great an investigator and restorer of Grecian literature. Whatever opinions may be entertained on the degree of prudence and caution exhibited in that long-expected work, it is impossible to deny to its author the credit of great sagacity and ingenuity in the treatment of the most perplexing passages. Under these circumstances, the notes have been wholly re-written, and the text re-considered line by line and word for word, in order that, as far as pains and good intention could effect it, the Bibliotheca Classica might retain, in yet another volume, its well-earned character for practical utility and careful editorial supervision.
Few scholars will be disposed to deny that to produce a complete edition of Aeschylus in one volume of moderate size, with à sufficient but not overloaded commentary, is a peculiarly difficult task. In writings both obscure in style and corrupt or doubtful in many parts of the text, the demands of the young student for continual explanations, and of the maturer scholar for reasons why certain readings are to be preferred to others, form together a claim that something should be said, which it may not be easy to say at once briefly and well, on nearly every
Now if an editor's notes are not kept closely to the point,—if they are suffered to run into topics which, though not unimportant, are not directly pertinent,—they are apt to be set aside as verbose and prolix. However learned, or thoughtful, or argumentative they may be, they are barely honoured with a hasty glance from the majority of readers, on the idle plea that they are at least as difficult as, and infinitely more dull than, the author they were designed to illustrate. If, on the other hand, short and sketchy notes be attempted, they are disparaged, and not unjustly so, as being inadequate to the full elucidation of the text. They have, besides, in the case of really difficult works, the disadvantage of encouraging a cursory and superficial sort of reading, in the process of which a student is apt to overlook nearly as much of the author's meaning as he comprehends. If, again, notes are solely engaged in the discussion of various readings, like Hermann's book, these are, for ordinary students, practically useless'. What they want is to get at the full and exact meaning of the text, which they have seldom the patience, and still more seldom the ability, to investigate for themselves. Context, suppressed or implied meaning, logical sequence and coherence, irony and allegory, are matters easily overlooked by mere students of words; but they are matters of primary importance to students of poetry. Something then was required between the occasional observations in Prof. Scholefield's edition, and the diffuse and voluminous commentaries which Dr. Peile
· Hermann himself well says of certain critics of the old school, “ Dum toti in varietate scripturae adnotanda vel in verborum formulis explicandis desudant, fere quae interprete non indigent explanant, quibus autem opus est enodatore, ea ne animadvertunt quidem.” (Praef. ad Eur. Phoen. p. xii, ed. 1840.)
has appended to his Agamemnon and Choephoroe. And that desideratum has been held in view, and an attempt made to supply it, in this volume.
Besides the want of a good running commentary, in the way of foot-notes, compiled uniformly for all the plays of Aeschylus, one cause of the distaste which many feel towards the careful study of this great poet is the exaggerated notion which they entertain of the uncertainty of the text. Unfortunately, Aeschylus has more often been made a field for critical ingenuity than for the exercise of sober judgment and sound poetical taste. This is evidenced in the thousands of improbable conjectures which have been hazarded by critics of the so-called Porsonian school, who, mistaking a mere aptness at guessing for scholarship, and ambitious only to surpass their predecessors in this kind of sagacity, have so handled the more obscure parts as scarcely to leave a line unquestioned or a phrase unassailed ?. Even where they have not ventured to alter, they have indulged in needless suspicions, and thus have tended to throw discredit upon the entire works on which they thought to shed a new light. Now, although a very large number of conjectural corrections must of necessity find a place in every good edition of this poet, and indeed are now adopted by almost universal consent, as possessing either self-evident truth or a degree of probability closely approximating to absolute certainty, these bear no proportion to the attempts that have been made upon passages which may, with at least equal probability, be pronounced perfectly genuine, and may often be proved so by parallel examples from the author himself. On the other
: “Est haec communis sors eorum qui arti criticae operam dant, ut initio nihil non corruptum esse suspicentur; ubi autem maturuit scientia, paullatim intelligunt, multo minus corruptos ad nos pervenisse veteres scriptores, quam a criticis esse corruptos.” (Hermann, on Elmsley's Medea, Pars i. init.) — It is due to the talented author (Professor F. W. Newman, of University College, London) to speak with respect of his pamphlet, “Corrigenda in corruptissimis quibusdam Aeschyli canticis" (1859) But the corrections which he proposes, though occasionally ingenious, are often of the most violent kind, and such as could rarely or never be admitted into the text with the least chance of becoming standard emendations. A critical structure raised on the very arbitrary assumption that an original writing has been utterly corrupted, stands on a very insecure basis.
hand, there are those who cause scarcely less dissatisfaction to a reader of taste, by rejecting all, or nearly all, conjectural correction, and by as greatly overrating the authority of our present imperfect MSS. as the others depreciated it. They seem to think no idiom too complex, no figure of speech too harsh, no violation of the ordinary grammatical rules too gross, no metrical deviations too violent to be accepted as from the pen of Aeschylus himself. They construe through thick and thin, and convert nonsense into sense with a facility absolutely startling to sober scholars. With such a Scylla and such a Charybdis to avoid, an editor has a perilous task to steer his bark according to the golden rule, medio tutissimus ibis.
But every editor who labours with a conscientious regard for modern scholastic requirements, has a reasonable claim to indulgence in proportion to the difficulty of his work. As it is no vain boast on the part of the present Editor to say that this volume contains the results of more than forty years' particular and critical study of Aeschylus, so it is no affectation to state, that he only now fully knows the difficulties which beset the right understanding of this author. It is, indeed, almost painful to reflect how many really great intellects have been for the last half-century devoted to a task, we will not say thankless, but interesting to comparatively few, and the extent and perplexities of which still fewer can rightly appreciate. Considerable has been their success, but yet very far from complete. If each critic did something which gained him repute in his own generation, many of his views were rejected as erroneous in the next. The very fact of many differing so widely, where one only can be right and all may be wrong, seems almost to throw a doubt on the utility of such labours; and yet it is a doubt which ardent lovers of literature will scarcely allow themselves to entertain. Suffice it to say, that the conflicting opinions of really learned men, while they raise a smile of contempt in the unlearned, and are used by them as an argument against the study of ancient literature, cannot fail to furnish materials for earnest thought to succeeding editors, who feel
* "Multa quodque seculum obliviscenda profert futuro" (Hermann, Praef. ad Iph. Taur. p. vi).