If the manuscript was at hand, it was rewritten; if it had been sent to the printer, corrections and additions were appended. Of all this penance he made no secret to his friends, for his character was based upon truth, straight-forwardness, frankness, and honesty.
A happy thought became clear to him, not suddenly but as the work progressed—we mean his Monumenti Inediti. It is quite evident that he was at first tempted by his desire to make new subjects known, to explain them in a happy manner and to enlarge the study of antiquity to the greatest possible extent; added to this was the interest of testing the method once set forth in his history of art, by means of objects which he laid before the eyes of the reader. For he had finally developed the felicitous resolve, in this preliminary treatise, quietly to correct, purify, compress, and perhaps even partly supplant, his already completed work on the history of art.
Conscious of former mistakes which people who were not inhabitants of Rome could scarcely have reproached him with, he wrote a work in the Italian language, which he intended should be appreciated in Rome itself. Not only did he devote to it the greatest attention, but he also selected friendly connoisseurs with whom he carefully went over the work, most cleverly using their insight and judgment, and thus created a work which will go down as a heritage for all ages. Not only did he write it, but he undertook its publication, achieving, as a poor layman, that which would do honor to a well established publisher, or to academies of large means.
Should so much be said of Rome without remembering the Pope, who had, at least indirectly, conferred many, many benefits upon Winckelmann? Winckelmann’s sojourn in Rome fell for the most part under the government of Benedict XIV. Lambertini, a gay and easy-going man, who preferred letting others rule to ruling, himself; and so the different positions which Winckelmann filled may have come to him rather through the favor of his exalted friends than through the appreciation of his services by the Pope.
Nevertheless, we find him on one important occasion in the presence of the Head of the Church; he was honored by being allowed to read several passages of the Monumenti Inediti to the Pope, thus achieving also, along this line, the highest honor which an author could receive.
In the case of very many men, especially in the case of scholars, their achievements seem the important thing, and in these their character finds little expression. With Winckelmann the reverse was the case. All that he produced is principally important and valuable because his character is always revealed in it. As we have already expressed certain generalities concerning his character under the headings, The Antique, Paganism, Friendship, and Beauty, the more detailed account deserves a place here, near the end of our essay.