Monday, February 13, 2012

William Wotton


‘…Among the most acceptable services which Swift could render Temple during this period, was his powerful assistance in the dispute concerning the superiority of ancient or modern learning, in which his patron had experienced some rough treatment from Wotton. …The arguments in favor of the moderns were adopted in England by Mr. Wotton, in his Reflections on Ancient and Modern Learning, and indignantly combated by Sir William Temple, in his treatise on the same subject…’

The text above comes from Walter Scott’s “Memoirs of Jonathan Swift, DD”, which is included as part of Scott’s “Miscellaneous Prose Works”.  In addition to William Temple, Wotton had differences with Swift, himself. 

Regarding the debate on ancient versus modern, Scott weighs in more with the ancients, in terms of language, stating elsewhere in the same text ‘In works of poetry and imagination, the preference may be decidedly allotted to the ancients, owing to the superior beauties of their language…’  Still, a man who could learn Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic and others, is worth listening to on the topic of languages.  William Wotton died on February 13, 1721.

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