Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
of this, which was never completed, we have some fragments, not equal in force and compactness to the original sketch.  But sketch and fragments together present a very vivid picture of this remarkable person, whose temper and extravagant vanity his biographer admits, but who was undoubtedly a marvel both of knowledge and of the power to use it, and to whom we owe the beginning of order and system in chronology.  Scaliger was to Mr. Pattison the type of the real greatness of the scholar, a greatness not the less real that the world could hardly understand it.  He certainly leaves Scaliger before us, with his strange ways of working, his hold of the ancient languages as if they were mother tongues, his pride and slashing sarcasm, and his absurd claim of princely descent, with lineaments not soon forgotten; but it is amusing to meet once more, in all seriousness, Mr. Pattison’s bete noire of the Catholic reaction, in the quarrels between Scaliger and some shallow but clever and scurrilous Jesuits, whom he had provoked by exposing the False Decretals and the False Dionysius, and who revenged themselves by wounding him in his most sensitive part, his claim to descent from the Princes of Verona.  Doubtless the religious difference envenomed the dispute, but it did not need the “Catholic reaction” to account for such ignoble wrangles in those days.

These remains show what a historian of literature we have lost in Mr. Pattison.  He was certainly capable of doing much more than the specimens of work which he has left behind; but what he has left is of high value.  Wherever the disturbing and embittering elements are away, it is hard to say which is the more admirable, the patient and sagacious way in which he has collected and mastered his facts, or the wise and careful judgment which he passes on them.  We hear of people being spoilt by their prepossessions, their party, their prejudices, the necessities of their political and ecclesiastical position; Mr. Pattison is a warning that a man may claim the utmost independence, and yet be maimed in his power of being just and reasonable by other things than party.  As it is, he has left us a collection of interesting and valuable studies, disastrously and indelibly disfigured by an implacable bitterness, in which he but too plainly found the greatest satisfaction.

Mr. Pattison used in his later years to give an occasional lecture to a London audience.  One of the latest was one addressed, we believe, to a class of working people on poetry, in which he dwelt on its healing and consoling power.  It was full of Mr. Pattison’s clearness and directness of thought, and made a considerable impression on some who only knew it from an abstract in the newspapers; and it was challenged by a working-man in the Pall Mall Gazette, who urged against it with some power the argument of despair.  Perhaps the lecture was not written; but if it was, and our recollection of it is at all accurate, it was not unworthy of a place in this collection.

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Occasional Papers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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