Richard Porson - drunkard

Steven Avery

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Richard Porson - drunkard

Lives of Wits and Humourists: R. Brinsley Sheridan. Richard Porson. Rev. Sydney Smith. Theodore Hook. James and Horace Smith (1862)
John Timbs 1801-1875

Innumerable are the stories of Porson’s intemperance.

The former has found an able apologist in the Saturday Review, who says of his thirst, “rather than the uglier word drunkenness, although Porson unhappily was a drunkard, yet his excesses, even in an age of hard drinking, were so marked and abnormal, that we are driven to the supposition of some unexplored disease being at the root of them.
Recollections of the Table-talk of Samuel Rogers: To which is Added Porsoniana (1856)
Samuel Rogers (1763-1855)
Porsoniana by Wililam Maltby (1763–1854)
Porsoniana - p. 295-334

When Poison dined with me, I used to keep him within bounds; but I frequently met him at various houses where he got completely drunk. He would not scruple to return to the dining-room, after the company had left it, pour into a tumbler the drops remaining in the wine-glasses, and drink off the omnium gatherum.* p. 217

During the earlier part of his career, he accepted the situation of tutor to a young gentleman in the Isle of Wight; but he was 6oon forced to relinquish that office, in consequence of having been found drunk in a ditch or a tumip-field. p. 296

Tooke used to say that “ Porson would drink ink rather than not drink at all.” Indeed, he would drink any thing. He was sitting with a gentleman, after dinner, in the chambers of a mutual friend, a Templar, who was then ill and confined to bed. A servant came into the room, sent thither by his master for a bottle of embrocation which was on the chimney-piece. “I drank it an hour ago,” said Porson. p. 298

See p. 298 (more). 299

The Life of Richard Porson ... Professor of Greek in the University of Cambridge from 1792 to 1808 (1861)
John Selby Watson (1804-1882)

The redness of his nose, to which he alludes in the letter above, proceeded greatly from his indulgence in port, which he preferred to every other wine, as well at dinner as after it. Of liquors his favourite was brandy, the drink of heroes. Mrs. Parr said that more brandy was drunk during three weeks that Porson spent at Hatton than during all the time that she had kept house before.

Literary Anecdotes and Contemporary Reminiscences of Professor Porson and Others: Porsoniana, or Anecdotes of Prof. Porson, &c
Edmund Henry Barker (1788-1839)

This book has some additional scuzzy stuff that I will bypass.
G. L. Hendrickson reviewing M.L. Clarke used the phrase
"eccentric slave to drink".
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Steven Avery

Porson's arguments laid the ground work for the rightful rejection of the Comma Johanneum.
Richard Porson is a real hero here on BVDB, and also to Grantley McDonald (we discussed this aspect.)

Biblical Criticism in Early Modern England

For agnostic humanists like Gibbon or Porson, the rejection of the comma was an important symbolic gesture in their general critique of religion and the church. p. 312

For sceptics like Gibbon or Porson, the presence of the comma within the biblical text was simply one more reason to despair of the reliability of Scripture and the arbitrariness of ecclesiastical structures. p. 313
At least Grantley correctly pegs Porson as agnostic and skeptic and basically an unbeliever.

Here you can see some of the lauding of Porson by Grantley.

Gibbon was attacked by the clergyman George Travis, whose misdirected defence of orthodoxy was in turn exploded by the philologists Richard Porson and Herbert Marsh. p. 7

Once Newton’s Historical Account was rediscovered and published in fragmentary form in 1754 and in a complete text in 1785, its impact increased substantially, working upon later critics such as Richard Porson. p. 181

Richard Porson, later regius professor of Greek at Cambridge, took up the lance in his Letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis.635 The Letters were first published under the pseudonym ‘Cantabrigiensis’ in the Gentlemen’s Magazine in 1788–1789. In 1790 a revised text was published as a book, under Porson’s real name.636 In these acute letters, miniature masterpieces of criticism and prose style, Porson, not quite thirty years old, poured out blistering torrents of scorn on the unfortunate Travis.637 ... (continues) ... Porson owned and admired Newton’s treatise on the comma.64 ... Porson dismissed Travis’ accusation that Erasmus tended towards Arianism p. 271-273

Travis was a disaster on Greek manuscripts.

This next from Grantley is a confusing error. It could refer to Erasmus and the Valla mss. and how all of that was incorrectly reckoned by Travis, however Erasmus did not possess those mss.

Porson rejected Travis’ insinuation that Erasmus possessed – but concealed – a large number of Greek manuscripts containing the comma: p. 272
In the writing from Porson, given in the footnote in the book, it is clear that the Erasmus count was one, he did not insinuate that Erasmus had more mss. in his possession.

You, Sir, reckon up seven belonging to Valla, one to Erasmus, some (you are so modest, you will not say, p. 280, how many,) to the Complutensian editors, sixteen to Robert Stephens, and some that the Louvain divines had seen - Porson 1790, 22–23

Here is more confusing writing from Grantley.

In a third edition of his letters against Gibbon (1794), Travis dismissed Marsh’s arguments, but passed over Porson’s book in complete silence, an astonishing omission contemporary observers did not fail to notice.660 p. 275
Grantley uses a very obscure reference for this comment, but Travis did address the arguments from Porson. Note that the British Critic has this right:

Archdeacon Travis makes no mention of his antagonist, the Greek Professor, He has, however, noticed the most important of his arguments.
Grantley messes up the Erasmus promise, which was really created by Porson, it was not "invented by Simon".

Variations on the legend, invented by Simon, developed by Newton and Martin, and publicised by Porson, p. 280
Forster was particularly perturbed by the rejection of the comma by ‘progressives’. He identified Richard Simon as the fountainhead of critical opposition to this passage, and blamed Porson for bringing the issue to the attention of a wider public.
This looks like typical psycho-babble. Where did Forster cite 'progressives'? And where did he "blame Porson for bringing the issues to the attention of a wider public." Without actual quotes (or references to the quotes) this is the typical skewed writing.

Steven Avery

The last question is .. where did Porson make substantive contributions to the heavenly witnesses scholarship?

Clearly, he took apart some very poor positions and argumentation of Travis on the Greek manuscripts, especially the Stephanus but also Valla et al. Most of that stuff that was generally well known before Travis. There were a few other lesser blunders from Travis that Porson disassembled, I have notes on about five. However, when it comes to citations from ECW, and discussions of the Latin evidence, Porson is basically nothing more than a posturing politician. And he utilizes pretty much every cheap debating trick. Which we should expect from an unbelieving drunkard.

Porson artfully avoided referencing the Eugenius Bulgaris grammatical text, which Travis did not reference to 1794.

And Porson was able to use Newton and others, but what did he contribute?

I'll leave that as an open question for now.
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