“He Could Probably Stumble Through Homer”

Sir Leslie Stephen: Alexander Pope

“It is needless to say that he never became a scholar in the strict sense of the term. Voltaire declared that he could hardly read or speak a word of French; and his knowledge of Greek would have satisfied Bentley as little as his French satisfied Voltaire. Yet he must have been fairly conversant with the best known French literature of the time, and he could probably stumble through Homer with the help of a crib and a guess at the general meaning. He says himself that at this early period, he went through all the best critics; all the French, English and Latin poems of any name; ‘Homer and some of the greater Greek poets in the original,’ and Tasso and Ariosto in translations.”

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