Rhunken, David

, ao eminent scholar, was born at Stolpe in Pomerania, on the 2d of January, 1723. His parents, being in good circumstances, and of the better order of the burgesses, destined him, from his early years, for | the church. After receiving some instruction in the school of Stolpe, in the principles of his mother-tongue, he was sent first to Schlave, and afterwards to Koenigsberg, for education in the classical languages, the usual course of which studies he finished at the age of twenty-two. With some difficulty he then obtained his parents’ consent to repair to Gottingen, and study Greek under Matthew Gesner, at that time the great ornament of that university. On. his way to Gottingen, he passed through Berlin, and went to visit the Saxon university of Wittemberg. There he was so much pleased with the lectures and conversation of J. D. Kutter, professor of history and civil law, and of J. W. Berger, professor of oratory and antiquities, that he persuaded his parents to allow him to continue his studies for some time at Wittemberg, before he should proceed to Gottingen. He remained with these professors two years, and, under their auspices, took a degree in laws. He went then to perfect his knowledge of Greek, not with Gesnerat Gottingen, as he intended, but under the celebrated Hemsterhuis of Leyden. Hemsterhuis received this ingenuous youth with great kindness, gave him the readiest assistance in his favourite studies, recommended him to good employment as a tutor, and at length used every means to secure his appointment to a professorship in the university in which, he himself taught. Rhunken applied with great zeal to Greek and Roman literature, and at the same time made himself highly acceptable by the gentleness of his manners, the liveliness of his conversation, and by his taste and skill in the favourite amusements of the place.

His first printed display of critical Greek erudition, was in an epistle upon certain Greek commentaries on the title in the Digest De Advocatis et Procuratoribus. He gave next, at Hemsterhuis’s persuasion, an edition of the Greek Lexicon of Timseus, for the illustration of words and phrases peculiar to Plato. This was published in 1754, 8vo. Next year he went to Paris, with a view chiefly to inspect th libraries of that city and their manuscript treasures. Here he formed an acquaintance with Dr. S. Musgrave and Mr. T. Tyrwhitt, who was then examining some of the Mss., particularly those of Euripides. During a year’s residence in that metropolis, Rhunken passed most of his time in the king’s library, and in that of the Benedictines of St, Germain’s, transcribed a number of unprinted remains of ancient literature, and collated many manuscripts and rare | editions of the most popular classical authors. In October 1757 he was appointed reader in Greek literature, and thus became assistant to Hernsterhuis in the university of Leyden, and upon the death of Oeudendorp, professor of Latin oratory and history, he was advanced to the vacant chair of that eminent scholar. In 1763, he married Marianne Heirmans, a young lady of uncommon beauty and accomplishments, the daughter of a gentleman who had long resided as Dutch consul at Leghorn.

In the course of his studies he discovered in Aldus’s collection of the “Rhetores Graeci,” a valuable fragment, unknown to modern scholars, of the treatise of Longinuson the Sublime, which was, by his favour, afterwards published in Toup’s excellent edition of that work. On the death of his old master Hemsterhuis, he did justice to his memory in an elaborate eulogy, from which our account of Hemsterhuis was taken. He soon after published an excellent edition of the rhetorical treatise of Rutilius Lupus, and in 1779, a most valuable edition of Velleius Paterculus. Next year he gratified the learned world with the Hymns of Homer. One of his last labours was the superintending a new edition of Scheller’s Latin dictionary. With all these studies, as well as his professional engagements, he found leisure to attend to the pleasures of the chase, of which he was very fond. He died May 14, 1798, in the 76th year of his age. He left a niece and a daughter totally unprovided for, but the government of Batavia purchased his library for a pension granted to them. This library was rich in scarce books, and valuable transcripts from other collections.

Whyttembach, whom we have followed in this sketch, draws the character of Rhunkenius at some length. His knowledge and his learning are unquestioned. In other respects he was lively, cheerful, and gay, almost to criminal indifference, but he knew his own value and consequence. He said once to Villoison, “Why did not you come to Leyden to attend Valckenaer and me?” He once showed, with pride, a chest of Mss. of Joseph Scaliger to a Swede called Biornsthall “Ah” said Biornsthall, “this is a man who wants judgment,” alluding to his epitaph, but playing a little too severely on the equivoque. Rhunkenius grew angry, and replied with warmth, “Be gone with your ignorance” “aufer te hinc cum tuo stupore.A German professor, to whom he showed the same | collection, observed, “We now write in Germany in our own language, and cannot comprehend the obstinacy of those who continue to write in Latin.” “Professor,” replied Rhunkenius, “look then for a library of German books,” refusing to show him any thing more. 1

1 Vita Rhunkenii, by Whyttenbach,