Scaliger, Joseph Justus

, son of the preceding, and heir to his talents and temper, was born at Agen in 1540; and, at eleven years of age, was sent with two of his brothers to the college of Bordeaux, where he was taught Latin. Three years after, on the appearance of the plague, he was obliged to return home to his father, who then superintended his education. He required of him everyday a short exercise or theme upon some historical subject, and made him transcribe some poems, which he himself had composed. This last task is supposed to have inspired him with a taste for poetry, and so eager was he to show his proficiency, that he wrote a tragedy upon the story of Oedipus before he was seventeen. His father dying in 1558, he went to Paris the year following to study Greek, and attended the lectures of Turnebus for two months. But finding the usual course too dilatory, he resolved to study it by himself, and with the assistance of some knowledge of the conjugations, attempted to read Homer with a translation, in which he succeeded very soon, and at the same time formed to himself a kind of grammar, with which he was enabled to proceed to the other Greek poets, and next to the historians and orators, and by persevering in this course, he gained in the space of two years a perfect knowledge of the language. He afterwards turned his thoughts to the Hebrew, which he learned by himself in the same manner. All are agreed indeed, that he had an extraordinary capacity for learning languages, and is said to have been well skilled in no less than thirteen. He made the same progress in the sciences, and in every branch of literature; and he at length obtained the reputation of being the most learned man of his age, and his biographers have handed down to us little else than the progress of his studies and the chronology of his publications. In 1503 he was invited to the university of Leyden, to be honorary professor of Belles Lettres, on which occasion, if we may believe the “Menagiana,Henry IV, | of France treated him with great coldness and neglect. Scaliger had determined to accept the offer; and, waiting upon the king to acquaint him with his journey, and the occasion of it, “Well, Mr. Scaliger,” said his majesty, “the Dutch want to have you with them, and to allow you. a good stipend I am glad of it,” adding some other remarks of a grosser kind. Henry was no patron of learning or learned men: but some have supposed that he wished to mortify Scaliger, who had already shewn too much of his father’s vanity and arrogant spirit. He now went to Leyden, where he spent the remainder of his life; and died there of a dropsy, Jan. 21, 1609, without having ever been married. He was a man of perfect sobriety of manners, and whose whole time was well spent in study. He had as great parts as his father, and far greater learning, having been trained to it from his infancy, which his father had not. He had a profound veneration for his father, and unfortunately extended it to an imitation of his irritable temper, and disrespect for his learned contemporaries. But he was often a discerner and encourager of merit. While at Leyden he was so struck with the early appearance of talent in Grotius, that he undertook to direct his studies. Grotius repaid his care by the utmost respect, and Scaliger’ s counsels were commands to him. The elder Scaliger lived and died in the church of Rome: but the son embraced the principles of Luther, and relates that his father also had intentions of doing so.

The works of Joseph Scaliger are very numerous and various: but his “Opus de Emendatione Temporum,” printed at Paris 1583 in folio, is his greatest performance, in which he has collected every thing which might serve to establish the principles of chronology, and was the first who undertook to form a complete system. He has in this work rendered his name memorable to posterity, by the invention of the Julian period, which consists of 7980 years, being the continued product of the three cycles, of the sun 28, the moon 19, and Roman indiction 15. This pe*­riod had its beginning fixed to the 764th year before the creation, and is not yet completed, and comprehends all other cycles, periods, and epochas, with the times of all memorable actions and histories. Scaliger has, therefore, been styled the father of chronology; and his “Thesaurus Temporum, complectens Eusebii Pamphili Chronicon cum Isagogicis Chronologiae Canonibus,” in which he has cor* | reeled and reformed many things in his “Opus cle Emerrdatiorte Temporum,” seems to give him a sufficient claim to the title. The best edition of “De Emendatione Temporurn” is that of Geneva, 1609, folio; of the “Thesaurus Temporum” that of Amsterdam, 1658, in 2 vols. folio.

He wrote notes and animadversions upon almost all the Greek and Latin authors: those upon Varro “de Lingua Latlrra” were written by him at twenty years of age; but scarcely any of his editions of the classics are now held in esteem. Gerard Vossius observes, that his conjectures are too’boki, and quotes Peter Victorias, who said, that Scaliger was born to corrupt the ancients rather than to correct ttiehh -It is certain, at least, that he dealt too much in cdhjeettiral criticism, although he ofteif shows a great degree of ingenuity, even in the most fanciful of the freedoms he take’s’ with his author’s meaning, and always leaves the reader impressed with his extensive learning.

He wrote some dissertations upon subjects of antiquity; and gave specimens of his skill in all branches of literature. He made a Latin translation to two centuries of Arabian proverbs, which were published at Leyden, 1623, with the notes of Erpenius, at the request of Isaac Casaubon, who tells us, that he employed less time in translating it than others who understood Arabic would have done in reading it. He was also obliged to write some controversial pieces: and his controversy with Scioppius, concerning the biography of his family in his work, entitled “De vetustate & splendore gentis Scaligeranaj,” is a wretched example of literary rancour and personal obloquy. His “Poemata,” in which there is not much poetical spirit, were published at Leyden, 1615, 8vo; his “Epistolse,” which are learned, and contain many interesting particulars of literary history, were edited by Daniel Heinsius, at the same place, 1637, 8vo. ??? 4

There are two “Scaligerana;” one printed at the Hague in 1666; the other at Groningen 1669, and for some reason or other called “Scaligerana Prima.” Desmaizeaux published a neat edition of them, together with the “Thuana,” “Perronana,” “Pithtcaria,” and “Colomesiana,” at Amsterdam, 1740, in 2 vols. 12mo. 1


Gen. Dict.—Niceron, vol. XXIII.—Batesii Vitæ, &c.—Saxii Onomast.