“I Would Prefer to be Wrong with Scaliger”

From Boswell’s Life of  Samuel Johnson:

Dr. ADAMS told us, that in some of the Colleges at Oxford, the fellows had excluded the students from social intercourse with them in the common room. Johnson. “They are in the right, Sir: there can be no real conversation, no fair exertion of mind amongst them, if the young men are by; for a man who has a character does not choose to stake it in their presence.” Boswell. “But, Sir, may there not be very good conversation without a contest for superiority?” Johnson. “No animated conversation, Sir, for it cannot be but one or other will come off superiour. I do not mean that the victor must have the better of the argument, for he may take the weak side; but his superiority of parts and knowledge will necessarily appear; and he to whom he thus shews himself superiour is lessened in the eyes of the young men. You know it was said, ‘Mallem cum Scaligero errare quam cum Clavio recte sapere.’* In the same manner take Bentley’s and Jason de Nores’ Comments upon Horace, you will admire Bentley more when wrong, than Jason when right.”

*”I would rather be wrong with Scaliger than right with Clavius.”

Jason de Nores’ edition of Horace’s de Arte Poetica.

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