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he; and after the strictest and most malicious examination, could find but two faults in him: one of them is in the Æneid, where there are two commas instead of a parenthesis ; and another in the third Georgic, where you may find a semicolon turned upside down.' 'Perhaps, (said I,) 'these were not Virgil's thoughts, but those of the transcriber.' 'I do not design it,' says Tom, 'as a reflection on Virgil : on the contrary, I know that all the manuscripts “reclaim” against such a punctuation. Oh! Mr. Bickerstaffe,' says he, 'what would a man give to see one simile of Virgil writ in his own hand ?' I asked him which was the simile he meant; but was answered, 'Any simile in Virgil.' He then told me all the secret history in the commonwealth of learning; of modern pieces that had the names of ancient authors annexed to them ; of all the books that were now writing or printing in the several parts of Europe; of many amendments which are made, and not yet published ; and a thousand other particulars, which I would not have my memory burthened with for a Vatican.
At length, being fully persuaded that I thoroughly admired him, and looked upon him as a prodigy of learning, he took his leave. I know several of Tom's class who are professed admirers of Tasso without understanding a word of Italian ; and one in particular, that carries a Pastor Fido in his pocket, in which I am sure he is acquainted with no other beauty but the clearness of the character.
There is another kind of pedant, who, with all Tom Folio's impertinencies, hath greater superstructures and embellishments of Greek and Latin, and is still
more insupportable than the other, in the same degree as he is more learned. Of this kind very often are editors, commentators, interpreters, scholiasts, and critics ; and in short, all men of deep learning without common sense. These persons set a greater value on themselves for having found out the meaning of a passage in Greek, than upon the author for having written it; nay, will allow the passage itself not to have any beauty in it, at the same time that they would be considered as the greatest men in the age for having interpreted it. They will look with contempt upon the most beautiful poems that have been composed by any of their contemporaries; but will lock themselves up in their studies for a twelvemonth together, to correct, publish, and expound, such trifles of antiquity as a m rn author would be contemned for. Men of the strictest morals, severest lives, and the gravest professions, will write volumes upon an idle sonnet that is originally in Greek or Latin; give editions of the most immoral authors, and spin out whole pages upon the various readings of a lewd expression. All that can be said in excuse for them is, that their works sufficiently show they have no taste of their authors; and that what they do in this kind, is out of their great learning, and not out of any levity or lasciviousness of temper.
A pedant of this nature is wonderfully well described in six lines of Boileau, with which I shall conclude his character :
Un Pédant enyvré de sa vaine science,
The Man of the Town.
My friend Will. Honeycomb values himself very much upon what he calls the knowledge of mankind, which has cost him many disasters in his youth ; for Will. reckons every misfortune that he has met with among the women, and every rencounter among the men, as parts of his education, and fancies he should never have been the man he is, had not he broke windows, knocked down constables, disturbed honest people with his midnight serenades, and beat time a lewd woman's quarters, when he was a young fellow. The engaging in adventures of this nature Will. calls the studying of mankind; and terms this knowledge of the town, the knowledge of the world. Will. ingenuously confesses, that for half his life his head ached every morning with reading of men overnight; and at present comforts himself under certain pains which he endures from time to time, that without them he could not have been acquainted with the gallantries of the age. This Will. looks upon as the learning of a gentleman, and regards all other kinds of science as the accomplishments of one whom he calls a scholar, a bookish man, or a philosopher.
For these reasons Will. shines in mixed company, where he has the discretion not to go out of his depth, and has often a certain way of making his real ignorance appear a seeming one. Our club, however, has frequenty caught him tripping, at which times they never spare him. For as Will. often insults us with the knowledge of the town, we sometimes take our revenge upon him by our knowledge of books.
He was last week producing two or three letters which he writ in his youth to a coquette lady. The raillery of them was natural, and well enough for a mere man of the town; but, very unluckily, several of the words were wrong spelt. Will. laught this off at first as well as he could, but finding himself pushed on all sides, and especially by the templar, he told us, with a little passion, that he never liked pedantry in spelling, and that he spelt like a gentleman, and not like a scholar: upon this Will. had recourse to his old topic of showing the narrow-spiritedness, the pride, and ignorance of pedants; which he carried so far, that upon my retiring to my lodgings, I could not forbear throwing together such reflections as occurred to me upon that subject.
A man who has been brought up among books, and is able to talk of nothing else, is a very indifferent companion, and what we call a pedant. But, methinks, we should enlarge the title, and give it every one that does not know how to think out of his profession, and particular way of life.
What is a greater pedant than a mere man of the town? Bar him the play-houses, a catalogue of the reigning beauties, and an account of a few fashionable distempers that have befallen him, and you strike him dumb. How many a pretty gentleman's knowledge lies all within the verge of the court? He will tell you the names of the principal favourites, repeat the shrewd sayings of a man of quality, whisper an intrigue
that is not yet blown upon by common fame; or, if the sphere of his observations is a little larger than ordinary, will perhaps enter into all the incidents, turns, and revolutions in a game of ombre. When he has gone thus far, he has shown you the whole circle of his accomplishments, his parts are drained, and he is disabled from any further conversation. What are these but rank pedants ? and yet these are the men who value themselves most on their exemption from the pedantry of colleges.
I might here mention the military pedant, who always talks in a camp, and is storming towns, making lodgments, and fighting battles from one end of the year to the other. Everything he speaks smells of gunpowder ; if you take away his artillery from him, he has not a word to say for himself. I might likewise mention the law pedant, that is perpetually putting cases, repeating the transactions of Westininster Hall, wrangling with you upon the most indifferent circumstances of life, and not to be convinced of the distance of a place, or of the most trivial point in conversation, but by dint of argument. The state pedant is wrapped up in news, and lost in politics. If you mention either of the kings of Spain or Poland, he talks very notably ; but if you go out of the gazette, you drop him. In short, a mere courtier, a mere soldier, a mere scholar, a mere anything, is an insipid pedantic character, and equally ridiculous.
Of all the species of pedants, which I have mentioned, the book pedant is much the most supportable ; he has at least an exercised understanding, and a head which is full though confused, so that a man who converses with him may often receive from him hints