Home  »  Volume IX: English FROM STEELE AND ADDISON TO POPE AND SWIFT  »  § 14. Joseph Wasse; Conyers Middleton; Jeremiah Markland; John Taylor; Richard Dawes

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

XIII. Scholars and Antiquaries

§ 14. Joseph Wasse; Conyers Middleton; Jeremiah Markland; John Taylor; Richard Dawes

Of Bentley’s contemporaries at Cambridge and elsewhere, several made a reputation for learning and scholarship; and these will be briefly mentioned here. Of Joseph Wasse, Bentley said: “When I die, Wasse will be the most learned man in England.” He was a fellow of Queens’ college and edited Sallust, besides preparing material for an edition of Thucydides. John Davies, president of Queens’ college and one of Bentley’s few intimates, edited many of the philosophical works of Cicero. Conyers Middleton, fellow of Trinity college and protobibliothecarius of the university (1721), bore a prominent part in the warfare against Bentley. During his lifetime, he enjoyed a great reputation as a keen controversialist and the master of an excellent style. Of his numerous works, the chief are his Life of Cicero, which brought him much profit, and his Free Enquiry, which involved him in prolonged controversy with more orthodox divines. William Warburton, bishop of Gloucester, cannot be called a scholar, in the strict sense of the word: his knowledge of the ancient languages and literature was very small. Yet he had vigour of mind and much miscellaneous reading, so that his chief work, The Divine Legation, was regarded by many of his contemporaries as a genuine masterpiece.

The influence of Bentley is clearly seen in the work of three Cambridge scholars who belong to the generation after him.

Jeremiah Markland, fellow of Peterhouse, had some intimacy with Bentley in his studious old age, and devoted his own life to study and retirement. He twice refused to stand for the Greek chair at Cambridge. He edited several Greek plays; but his masterpiece is his edition of the Silvae of Statius. It shows great acumen, together with a wide and exact knowledge of the Latin poets; and it still remains the best commentary on this author. John Taylor, fellow of St. John’s college, and librarian (1732) of the university, won his reputation by learned editions of portions of the Greek orators. Richard Dawes, fellow of Emmanuel and, afterwards, a schoolmaster at Newcastle, published only one book, his Miscellanea Critica; but it marks a distinct advance in Greek scholarship. Though it pleases him to speak slightingly of Bentley, yet it is clear that he had studied Bentley’s writings with minute attention; and thus he was enabled to make important discoveries in Greek syntax and Greek metre, which no one would have applauded more heartily than Bentley, had he lived to hear of them.