…if ever we should find ourselves disposed not to admire those writers and artists […] whom all the learned had admired, not to follow our own fancies, but to study them until we know how and what we ought to admire: and if we cannot arrive at this union of admiration with knowledge, rather to believe that we are dull than that the rest of the world has been imposed upon.
—Edmund Burke (An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs)
It’s easy enough to rattle through the comments – to point out the apt use of quotation, to suggest the need for correct spelling of a character or author’s name or the book’s title, to urge (with tact but firmness) the necessity of providing page or line numbers and appropriate references – but one tries to read the essays as individual productions, to write responses that engage with the personality that is or is not suggested by the combination of error and insight, as one does with any text. Some weeks are more successful than others.
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The weeks with Vergil are more difficult; whether owing to one’s own dullness (as Burke would suggest) or to Vergil’s, the meeting of minds is not usually productive – all tawdry angst, tedious male anxiety, and childish divine shenanigans. Even attempting a sortes finds one in the commentary, an outcome to be expected if one is using the Eclogues instead of the opera omnia.1 One finds what one is looking for, particularly if one is unwilling to see anything else.
- It was the commentary to the fourth eclogue, line 62, and observes ‘parenti: ridere with the accusative regularly means “to laught at,” “make fun of,” e.g. Cic. Quinct. 55, Prop. 2.16.47’.