The Fathers of the Church
THE present criticism is drawn from the Abbé Longuerue.
He, of all the Fathers of the ancient Christians who best have composed in Latin, is Sulpicius Severus, particularly in his History.
Lactantius has many splendid passages scattered in his works.
St. Augustine, who had studied Cicero very attentively, has not, however, taken him for his model in his writings; or rather, could never approach him in any degree.
St. Jerome has sometimes passages which may be read with pleasure ; but he is strangely unequal.
St. Ambrose has endeavoured to imitate Cicero; but there is a wide difference betwixt them.
Saints are sometimes Plagiarists.—It is a strong trait in the character of the piety of Pope Gregory the Seventh, that he caused the greater part of the most finished compositions of the ancients to be destroyed; doubtless, because the authors of them were Pagans. It was this Pope who burnt the works of Varro, the learned Roman, that Saint Augustine should not be accused of plagiarism; for this Saint owes to the labours of Varro his books of The City of God.
The learned authors of the Literary History of France observe, Vol. IX. p. 406, that Saint Ambrose has made very free use of the writings of Didymus. It will be allowed, at least, that their criticism is fair. They are liberal writers; but as Benedictines, they will, as much as they can, veil the nakedness of the Fathers of the Church. That Saints should condescend to imitate the compositions of profane authors, is rather wonderful; not less wonderful is it that they should attempt, with all the rage of mere human envy, to conceal their depredations in a way, that, in any other person than a Saint, we could not sufficiently reprobate.