On the Editions of the Classics, in Usum Delphini
THE Scholiasts, or the Interpreters of the Dauphin, in usum Serenissimi Delphini, were undertaken under the conduct of Messieurs De Montausieur, Bossuet, and Huet. To a correct text, they have added a clear and concise paraphrase of the text, with notes. The dissimilarity of the genius, and the peculiar characters, of all these authors, have been one great cause that they have not all been treated with the same ability, and with equal felicity: but still, it must be allowed, they form the most beautiful body in literature that the public has ever been gratified with.
Another critic presents us with a more satisfactory account of this celebrated edition of the Classics. The greater part of these interpreters have but indifferently executed their employment: they have followed, in their text, the inferior editions, instead of making use of the best; and they have left in the notes those fame faults which were so much censured in the Dutch editions, with the Notes Variorum. There is, however, one thing valuable in the Paris editions—a Verbal Index, by which any passage may be found on recollecting a few words. However, it must be confessed, the munificent patronage of a great monarch has not produced adequate effects. The project was excellent, but the performance was bad.
I cannot conclude this article without observing what benefits the student derives from Verbal Indexes. He not only saves a great expence of time, which is squandered in the examination for passages; but he may more easily trace the imitations of others, when they happen to catch the words of the original. I have received such services from Newton’s edition of Milton, which is enriched with a Verbal Index, that I cannot recollect them without gratitude. If a Verbal Index was formed to Johnson’s edition of the Poets, it would then become invaluable; and I am sure there are porters enough in literature, unemployed, who desire nothing better than to bear this burthen on their shoulders.