grave & weatherworn
Scaliger was far from untouched by the religious troubles of his day, but the way they bedevilled the scholarship of the sixteenth century is more starkly illustrated in the case of his friend and younger contemporary Casaubon. Born in Geneva of refugee Protestant parents, obliged to learn his Greek hiding in a cave in the French mountains, unable to avoid being drawn into the wrangle because of his distinction as a scholar and forced to spend much of his time and talents on arid polemic, this great French scholar finally found rest as a naturalised Englishman in Westminster Abbey. With him the French scholarship of the period ended, as it had begun, on a chalcenteric1 note. He was a man of vast industry and erudition, but had the rarer gift of being able to use his learning as a commentator to illumine rather than impress. He appears to have chosen to work on those texts that offered the most scope to his wide knowledge, such as Diogenes Laertius, Strabo, and Athenaeus. His choice of difficult and often diffuse texts, with which most students of of the classics have but a passing acquaintance, means that his services are not always recognized. For Casaubon is still with us. His Animadversiones on Athenaeus formed the core of Schweighäuser’s commentary of 1801, Strabo is still usually cited by reference to Casaubon’s pages, his notes on Persius loom large in Conington’s commentary. Son-in-law to Henri Estienne and for a time sub-librarian to de Thou at the royal scripts, Casaubon was most at home in the world of books and manuscripts, able to find material for his own needs and to supply scholars all over Europe. His use of manuscript material has not been properly appraised, but he seems to have made no dramatic advances, except that his second edition of Theophrastus’ Characters (1599) added five more characters (24–8) to those then known. Some of his most distinguished work was long buried in his unfinished commentary on Aeschylus.
—Scribes & Scholars2, p. 177.
- A word which should be used more often in casual conversation; literally, bowels of bronze — hence tough, vigorous or sturdy. [↩]
- According to Powell’s, this belongs in the reference – trivia section. Personally, I think it belongs in the classical literature section, but that’s just me… [↩]