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modo posita, quasi vacua et a nemine occupata." And that this is the true meaning of communia is evidently fixed by the words ignota indictaque, which are explanatory of it; so that the sense given it in the commentary is unquestionably the right one. Yet, notwithstanding the clearness of the case, a late critic has this strange passage: Difficile quidem esse propriè communia dicere, hoc est, materiem vulgarem, notam et è medio petitam, ita immutare atque exornare, ut nova et scriptori propria videatur, ultro concedimus; et maximi procul dubio ponderis ista est observatio. Sed omnibus utrinque collatis, et tum difficilis tum venusti, tam judicii quam ingenii ratione habitâ, major videtur esse gloria fabulam formare penitùs novam, quàm veterem, utcunque mutatum de novo exhibere." - Poet. Præl. v. ii. p. 164. Where, having first put a wrong construction on the word communia, he employs it to introduce an impertinent criticism. For where does the poet prefer the glory of refitting old subjects to that of inventing new ones? The contrary is implied in what he urges about the superior difficulty of the latter, from which he dissuades his countrymen, only in respect of their abilities and inexperience in these matters; and in order to cultivate in them, which is the main view of the epistle, a spirit of correctness, by sending them to the old subjects, treated by the Greek writers. For my own part (with all deference for Dr. Hurd, who thinks the case clear), I consider the passage," Difficile est propriè communia dicere," to be a crux for the critics on Horace. The explication which my Lord of Worcester treats with so much contempt is, nevertheless, countenanced by authority which I find quoted by the learned Baxter, in his edition of Horace, " Difficile est propriè communia dicere, h. e. res vulgares disertis verbis enarrare, vel humile thema cum dignitate tractare. Difficile est communes res propriis explicare verbis. Vet. Schol." I was much disappointed to find that the great critic, Dr. Bentley, has no note upon this very difficult passage, as from his vigorous and illuminated mind I should have expected to receive more satisfaction than I have yet had. Sanadon thus treats of it: " Propriè communia dicere; c'est à dire, qu'il n'est pas aisé de former à ces
personnages d'imagination des caractères particuliers et cependant vraisemblables. Comme l'on a été le maître de les former tels qu'on a voulu, les fautes que l'on fait en cela sont moins pardonnables. C'est pourquoi Horace conseille de prendre toujours des sujets connus, tels que sont, par exemple, ceux que l'on peut tirer des poèmes d'Homère." And Dacier observes upon it, "Après avoir marqué les deux qualités qu'il faut donner aux personnages qu'on invente, il conseille aux poètes tragiques, de n'user pas trop facilement de cette liberté qu'ils ont d'en inventer, car il est très-difficile de réussir dans ces nouveaux caractères. Il est mal aisé, dit Horace, de traiter proprement, c'est à dire, convenablement, des sujets communs ; c'est à dire, des sujets inventés, et qui n'ont aucun fondement ni dans l'histoire ni dans la fable; et il les appelle communs, parcequ'ils sont en disposition à tout le monde, et que tout le monde a le droit de les inventer, et qu'ils sont, comme on dit, au premier occupant." See his observations at large on this expression and the following. After all, I cannot help entertaining some doubt whether the words Difficile est propriè communia dicere may not have been thrown in by Horace to form a separate article in a "choice of difficulties" which a poet has to encounter who chooses a new subject; in which case it must be uncertain which of the various explanations is the true one, and every reader has a right to decide as it may strike his own fancy. And even should the words be understood, as they generally are, to be connected both with what goes before and what comes after, the exact sense cannot be absolutely ascertained; for instance, whether propriè is meant to signify in an appropriated manner, as Dr. Johnson here understands it, or, as it is often used by Cicero, with propriety or elegantly. In short, it is a rare instance of a defect in perspicuity in an admirable writer, who, with almost every species of excellence, is peculiarly remarkable for that quality. The length of this note, perhaps, requires an apology. Many of my readers, I doubt not, will admit that a critical discussion of a passage in a favourite classic is very engaging. — BOSWELL.
This passage was the subject of an ingenious discussion be
tween the young Marquis de Sevigné and M. Dacier, which will be found, together with Sanadon's and Dumarsais' opinions, in the last volume of the best edition of Madame de Sevigne's letters. It seems to result from the whole discussion that, in the ordinary meaning of the words, the passage is obscure, and that, to make sense, we must either alter the words, or assign to them an unusual interpretation. All commentators are agreed-by the help of the context- - what the general meaning must be, but no one seems able verbum verbo reddere fidus interpres.-C.
END OF THE SIXTH VOLUME.