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£°°KTM' 011 account of the step so unselfishly taken at their start in life.
William Cureton began his literary labours- as a Exptoeers. Coadjutor-Under-Librarian in old Bodley. Dr. Gaisford introduced him to Dr. Bandinel, in 1834, with the words: —' I bring you a good son. He will make a good librarian.' It was at Oxford that he laid the substantial foundation of his Oriental studies. After three years, he followed the fashion already set him by some of the best and ablest officers the Bodleian has ever had—Ellis, Baber, and H. O. Coxe, for example—by transferring, for a time, his services from the great Library of Oxford to Clreton-s that of London. His first (or nearly his first) Museum
Into The task was to set to work on the cataloguing of the Arabic Museum. ail d Persian MSS. In 1842, he began his earliest Oriental publication (undertaken for the 'Oriental Text Society,' to be mentioned presently), namely, Al Sharastani's 'Book of Religious and of Philosophical Sects.'
At the British Museum, he became quite as notable for the amiability of his character, and the genial frankness of his manners, as for his scholarly attainments and his power of authorship. I have a vivid recollection of my own introduction to him, in the February of 1839, and of the impression made on me by his kindly and cordial greeting. When I noted that pleasant face, which beamed with good nature as well as with intellect, I instantly appreciated the force of the words used by my introducer: 'Let me make you known,' said he, ' to my father-confessor.' I thought the choice to be obviously a felicitous one. Not less vivid is my memory of the delight Mr. Cdreton manifested on receiving, within the Museum vaults, the first importation from the Nitrian Desert. The sight of such a mass of torn, disorderly, and dirty fragments, would have appalled many
men not commonly afraid of labour, but to William Bookih, Cureton the scholarly ardour of discovery made the task, Another from the first, a pleasure. When successive fresh arrivals ^echiologave new hope that many gaps in the manuscripts of GISTS AND
earliest importation would, in course of time, be filled up, the laborious pleasure ripened into joy.
The collection, obtained by the long succession of labours already narrated, reached the British Museum on the first of May, 1843. When the cases were opened, very few indeed of the MSS.. were perfect. Nearly two Fhagmen hundred volumes had been torn into separate leaves, and then mixed up together, by blind chance and human stupidity. It was a perplexing sight. But the eyes that looked on it belonged to a seeing head. Even into a little chaos like this, almost hopeless as at the first glance it seemed, the learning, assiduity, and patience of Mr. Churton gradually brought order. Of necessity, the task took a long time. First came the separation of the fragments of different works, and then the arrangement of the leaves into volumes, with no aid to pagination or catchwords. With translations of extant Greek works, the collection of their originals gave, of course, great help. But in a multitude of cases every leaf had to be read and closely studied.
Within about eighteen months of the reception of the MSS., Mr. Cureton had ascertained the number of volumes —reckoning books made up of fragments, as well as complete works—to amount to three hundred and seventeen, of which two hundred and forty-six were on vellum, and seventy on paper; all in Syriac or Aramaic, except one volume of Coptic fragments. With the forty-nine volumes previously acquired, an addition was thus made to the MS. Department of the National Library of three hundred and sixty-six volumes. Many of these volumes contain two, three, or four distinct works, of different dates, bound together, so that probably, in the whole, there were of manuscripts and parts of manuscripts, upwards of one thousand, written in all parts of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Egypt, and at periods which range from the year 411 to the year 1292. Of the specific character and contents of some of the choicest of these MSS., mention will be made hereafter.
For several years, the labour on the Syriac fragments did but alternate with that on the larger body of the Arabic MSS., a classed catalogue of which Mr. Cureton published in 1846,—only a month or two after he had contributed to the Quarterly Eevieio a deeply interesting and masterly article on the Syriac discoveries. This paper was quickly followed by his first edition of the Three Epistles of St. Ignatius (I, to Polycarp; II, to the Ephesians; III, to the Romans). In an able preface, he contended that, of these genuine Epistles, all previous recensions were, to a considerable extent, interpolated, garbled, and spurious; and also that the other Ignatian Epistles, so-called, are entirely supposititious. In the year 1S70 it need hardly be said either that this publication excited much controversy, or that competent opinion is still divided on some parts of the subject. But on two points there has never been any controversy whatever:—As an editor, William Cureton displayed brilliant ability; as a student of theology, he was no less distinguished by a single-minded search after truth. He was never one of those noisy controversialists of whom Walter LANDORonce said, so incisively,* that they were less angry with their opponents for withstanding the truth, than for doubting their own claims to be the channels and the
* In—unless a memory more than thirty years old deceive me—that noble masterpiece of English prose, the 'Citation of Shakespeare for Deer-stealing' (1835).
champions of Truth. To his dying day, Cureton owned £°a°pKj"' himself to be a learner—even in Syriac. Another
Within three years of the publication of his Ignatius, ARCHjEOLOCureton gave to the world his precious edition of the Eipiomm. fragmentary Festal Letters of Athanasitjs, which Richard Burgess soon translated into English, and Lassow into Dation German. The Syriac version was one of its editor's earliest oTMm discoveries amongst the spoils of the Nitrian monasteries, tixtso
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and it was published at the cost of a new society, of which Cureton himself was the main founder. For the old Oriental publication society * limited itself, as its name imports, to the publication of translations. The new one —the claims of which to liberal support Cureton was never weary of vindicating—was expressly founded to print Oriental texts. This new body had his strongest sympathies, but he co-operated zealously with the 'Translation Fund' as well as with the 'Text Society.'
Among his other and early labours, was the publication of a Rabbinical Comment on the Book of Lamentations, and of the Arabic text of En Nasafi's Pillar of the Creed of the Sunnites (' Umdat Akidat ahl al Sunnat wa al Tamaat'), both of which books were printed in 1843. After 1845, Cureton's literary labours were almost exclusively devoted to that Syriac field in which he was to be so large and so original a discoverer. The first distinctively public recognition of his services was his appointment as a Chaplain to the Queen, in 1847. Two years afterwards, he was made a Canon of Westminster and Rector of St. Margaret's. Thenceforward, his energies were divided. The charms of Syriac discovery were not permitted to obstruct the due performance of the appropriate work of a parish-priest; though it is much to be feared that they
* The Oriental Translation Fund.
Book in, were but too often permitted to interfere, more than a little,
Another with needful recreation and rest.
Abohiolo- Among those of his parochial labours which demanded
Gists And not a sma]i amount of self-sacrifice were the rebuilding
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and the improved organization of the schools; the building of a district church—St. Andrew's—in Ashley Place; and the establishment of Working-Class Lectures, upon a wise and far-seeing plan. Further In 1851, he gave to scholars the curious palimpsest fragments of Homer from a Nitrian manuscript (now Addit. MS., 17,210), and, two years afterwards, the Ecclesiastical History of John, Bishop of Ephesus. This was quickly transMs. Addit. lated into German by Schonfehler, and into English by
14,640. J ...
(B. M.) Dr. R. Payne Smith. Then came the Spicilegium Syriacum, containing fragments of Baroesanes, of Melito of Sardes, and the inexpressibly precious fragments of an ancient recension of the Syriac Gospels, believed by Cureton to be of the fifth century, and offering considerable and most interesting divergences from the Peshito version.
In a preface to these evangelical fragments of the fifth century, their editor contends that they constitute a far more faithful representation of the true Hebrew text than does the Peshito recension, and that the remark holds good, in a more especial degree, of the Gospel of St. Matthew. This publication appeared in 1858. Labour And Enough has been said of these untiring labours to make it quite intelligible, even to readers the most unfamiliar with Oriental studies, that their author had become already a celebrity throughout learned Europe. As early as in 1855, the Institute of France welcomed Dr. Cureton, as one of their corresponding members, in succession to his old master, GAisFORn, of Christ-Church. In 1859, the Queen conferred on him a distinction, which was especially