Images de page
[ocr errors]

human speech through which he himself had displayed the almost matchless force of the magic spell of oratory, had constrained applause and approval from an unfriendly populace, or bent the wills of haughty senators to his own, he only the more earnestly would have urged "that the Latin language is not only not deficient, so as to deserve to be generally disparaged, but that it is even more copious than the Greek. For when have either we ourselves, or when has any good orator or noble poet, at least after there was any one for him to imitate, found himself at a loss for any richness or ornament of diction with which to set off his sentiments ?” (Cic., De Finibus, 1, 3, 10; pp. 99–100 of Yonge's translation, Bohn, London, 1853.) We may fancy, moreover, that his exultation would have somewhat sobered down when a careful examination of the more than two thousand compactly filled pages of the volume before him disclosed no Latin name for the kind and character of book which he was examining. He would have been reminded of the fact that his Latin tongue, with all its vaunted copiousness, possessed no term to express the idea, so familiar to our minds, of a dictionary, because, in fact, strictly speaking, no such composition was then to be found in the range of Latin literature. The thing itself and the name were alike unknown. The word glossa, borrowed from the Greek, and used to designate collections of obsolete or foreign words, with explanations thereof, is, indeed, found in the work of the learned M. Terentius Varro, entitled, De Lingua Latina; but nowhere do we find, in Latin authors preceding or contemporaneous with Cicero, a word which designated a compilation of the current words of the language, arranged in alphabetical or some other convenient order, with explanations of their forms, meanings, and applications, and fulfilling with respect to the language the office that an encyclopedia does to art, science, and literature. (See Amer. Cyclop., 8. v. “Dictionary.”) It was not until about thirteen hundred years after the age of Cicero, and at a period when the dominant influence of ecclesiastical literature and modes of thought had relegated his writings and those of his classic compeers to comparative obscurity, that an English grammarian and poet coined the word dictionarius, which has been naturalized in several modern languages, and in English has become a standard term to designate systematically arranged,


[ocr errors]

general or limited, compilations of the words of the language, or of terms belonging to some special branch of knowledge, with explanations of their meanings and uses. John Garland, (Latinized' Joannes de Garlandia,) who flourished in the thirteenth century A. D., was the author of some poems of a religious nature, and of several works on subjects connected with language, among which was a composition entitled dictionarius sive de dictionibus obscuris, which was published by Géraud in his Paris sous Philippe le Bel, (Paris, 1837,) forming a part of the Documens Inédits sur l'histoire de France. The work is of the sort called a classed vocabulary, and is a curious production, containing a medley of notions, often incomplete, but interesting, on a variety of subjects, and is especially deserving of notice here as furnishing the first known example of the use of the word dictionarius. Referring to the title adopted by him, the author says, “This little book is called a dictionary from the more necessary dictions which every scholar should keep, not merely in a book-case made of wood, but firmly held in the casket of his memory." The work of Varro, De Lingua Latina, before mentioned, has come down to our times in a very incomplete condition. Of the original twenty-four books only six (from the fifth to the tenth inclusive) are extant, and these are “disfigured by numerous blanks, corruptions, and interpolations.” The best edition is that of Müller, Leipsic, 1833, 8vo., (reproduced by Egger, Paris, 1837.) Though not a dictionary of the language, it is strictly philological in character, and has been of great value to Latin lexicography by means of the information it supplies respecting the origin and uses of words, (many of which would otherwise have perished or become unintelligible,) and the light thrown by it upon points of grammar and etymology, notwithstanding the many absurd and incorrect views expressed. The study of the Greek language was, at this period, deemed an important part of the curriculum to be pursued by those who aspired to the distinction of being ranked among the well educated, and the spirit of Greek literature and philosophy permeated all forms of intellectual life and activity at Rome. It was, consequently, much the fashion then to have recourse exclusively to the Greek for the solution of difficult and doubtful questions regarding the Latin. Varro, however, did not follow this vicious custom, but adopted the sound principle of connecting Latin words, as far as possible, with the ancient dialects of Italy," and thus pointed out the way to most important results, had it been followed up rightly.

* Dictionarius dicitur libellus iste a dictionibus magis necessariis, quas tenetur quilibet scolaris, non tantum in scrinio de lignis facto, sed in cordis armariolo fir. mitur retinere.

Following the order of time, the next name in the history of Latin lexicography that claims notice is Verrius Flaccus, a grammarian and archæologist, who lived about the beginning of the Christian era. Though belonging to the class of manumitted slaves, he became so eminent for learning and skill in teaching as to secure the favor of the emperor Augustus, who intrusted to him the education of his grandsons, Caius and Lucius Cæsar. Besides many other works of value, he composed an elaborate and voluminous one, entitled, De Significatu Verborum, which, from its scope and method, and partially alphabetical arrangement of the articles, may be regarded as an imperfect prototype of the Latin dictionary of to-day. This work, together with Varro’s, constituted the weightiest authority then known in regard to the sources and history of the Latin language, and was often quoted by the writers of the first ages of the empire and by subsequent grammarians. With the exception of short fragments, the original work of Flaccus has entirely perished, but it was made the basis of a similar, though less extensive, compilation by Sextius Pompeius Festus, a grammarian or lexicographer, whose date is uncertainly fixed somewhere in the third or fourth century, A. D. Of this work of Festus only one MS. has been preserved to our times, and that in a very unsatisfactory and incomplete condition. The curious and interesting story of the misfortunes which befell the MS. copies of Festus well illustrates the perils to which the written records of ancient learning were exposed before the agency of printing was invoked to rescue such monuments of the labors and genius of past ages from further despoilment, and endow them with a perpetuity of life more enduring even than fire-born brass or sculptured marble can assure. Festus abridged and condensed into much less space the voluminous work of Flaccus. He omitted the obsolete words, (intermortua et sepulta verba,) made some other changes, and

added criticisms of his own and extracts from the other works of Flaccus, the whole embraced in twenty books, with the title, De significatione Verborum. This rifacimento of the work of Flaccus furnishes, as I have before said, an imperfect prototype of the modern Latin dictionary. The arrangement is alphabetical to the extent of placing together words beginning with the same letter but grouped in a double series. In the first series the grouping is not merely according to the first letter, but also to the second, third, and even fourth ; but the groupings are irregular; for example, the letter R series begins not with Ra but Ru; then follow groups in Ro, Rum, Rh, Re, and Ri mixed; then Ra, and, again, Re and Ri mixed. In the second series regard is paid simply to the initial letter, though with a certain ground of connection; thus under P we find groups of words, as, Palatualis, Portenta, Postularia, Pestifera, Peremptalia, Pullus-all relating to sacred rites; then Proprius sobrino, Possessio, Præfecturæ, Parret, Postum, Patrocinia, Posticam lineam—relating to civil law; and Pomptina, Papiria, Pupinnia, Pupillia-names of tribes, and so on with other groups.

This abridgment by Festus was itself abridged in the eighth century by Paul, the son of Warnefried, better known as Paulus Diaconus, according to the commonly received, but not undoubted, tradition. Whoever, whether Paulus or some unknown person, was the author of this last abridgment, the work was very poorly executed, and the epitome of Paulus is to be valued, not by virtue of intrinsic and independent merit, but because it has preserved something of the great work of Flaccus and Festus, which would otherwise have perished utterly. The early printed editions, up to the close of the fifteenth century, contained only the work of Paulus. In 1510 there was published at Milan a volume containing Nonius Marcellus, Festus, Paulus, and Varro, wherein the remains of Festus were incorporated with Paulus, and thus gave rise to the confused blending of the two authors, which prevailed until Antonius Angus, in his edition, (Venice, 1559–60,) gave both a correct collation of the Farnese MS., and a separation of the original work of Festus from that of Paulus. Lindemann, in the second volume of his valuable Corpus Grammaticorum Latinorum, (Leipsic, 1831-40,) gives a good edition, embracing a complete separation of the work of Festus and Paulus, a careful revision of the text, and a large number of notes. The best edition by far is that of K. 0. Müller, (Leipsic, 1839, 4to.,) which contains the best results of careful and critical investigations into the history, plan, and text of the several elements which make up the work now given under the name of Festus.

A survey of the field of European literature, if such can be said to have then existed, for a long period after the age of Festus, presents but few examples of efforts made in the direction of lexicography. The overthrow of the Western Roman Empire installed, it is true, a new and a more active race of political masters throughout its domains, but their activities were exhausted in the destructive work of war and rapine-in destroying the monuments of the past, not in perpetuating them. What little of ancient learning there was left found its refuge in the bosom of the Christian Church, which, like Noah's ark, was destined to pass in safety over the turbulent waters that engulfed most of the structures based on classic institutions and knowledge. The Latin language was preserved and held in honor by the clergy and monks. The ritual of the Church and the standards of faith, as contained in the writings of the Fathers of the West, were enshrined in the language of the former masters of the Roman world. But while it escaped destruction in the prevailing deluge, it gives proof of defilement by the surging waves in the sediment of numerous barbarisms in words and grammar which disfigure the degenerate Latinity of the Middle Ages.

The influence of the Church was strongly exerted in favor of the writings of the ecclesiastical fathers as standards both for style and sentiment, and tended constantly to set aside the classic authors. We need not, therefore, be surprised to find in the few lexicographical works originating in this period that greater weight is given to Ambrose and Jerome than to Cicero and Virgil as models to be followed.

Papias, an Italian grainmarian who lived in the eleventh century, compiled for the use of his children, from the glossaries of the sixth and seventh centuries, an Elementarium or Lexicon, which, though very imperfect and full of errors and barbarous Latinisms, is yet very curious, and not without a certain value for the information it gives as to manuscripts. The

« PrécédentContinuer »