Imperial Dictionary of Universal Biography/Volume 3/SCALIGER, Josephus Justus

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

SCALIGER, Josephus Justus, the son and fourteenth child of Julius Caesar Scaliger, was born at Agen in France in 1540, Inferior to his father in genius, he surpassed him in erudition, and advocated with greater, though with equally unsuccessful vehemence, the title of his family to take rank as the heirs of the princes of Verona. At the age of eleven he was sent to the college of Bordeaux, where he studied for three years. But the plague having broken out at Bordeaux he was recalled home by his father, who from this time superintended his studies himself. He was made to transcribe the finest passages of ancient authors, and to compose a Latin essay or declamation every day on some historical subject. On the death of his father in 1558 the younger Scaliger went to Paris to study Greek under Turnebus. Turnebus, though a learned man, was a tedious teacher: he advanced too slowly to suit the long and rapid strides in scholarship which his pupil was prepared to take. Scaliger accordingly proceeded to study in his own way. he read Homer through in twenty-one days, making a grammar for himself as he went along. In two years he had read carefully all the Greek and Roman classics. He then mastered Hebrew, Arabic, Syrian, Persian, and most of the European languages. He could speak thirteen tongues, ancient and modern—was a thorough proficient in history and chronology, and by universal consent was acknowledged as the most eminent scholar of his day. In 1563 he became tutor in the family of Louis de la Roche-Pozay, afterwards ambassador at Rome, in whose residence near Tours many of his works were composed. He went to Rome in the suite of the ambassador, who treated him with great liberality—enabling him to study with advantage the antiquities of Rome, and providing him with the means of visiting the universities of France and Germany. He extended his travels into Scotland, where he formed no very favourable opinion of the morals of Queen Mary, then in the heyday of her beauty. In the "Scaligerana" the curious remark is recorded, that the court physician was at that time the only physician in Scotland. When at Lausanne he heard of the massacre of St. Bartholomew (1572), and betook himself for safety to Geneva, where he was offered a professorial chair, which he declined. It is said, however, that at a later period, in 1578, he lectured on philosophy at Geneva. He then settled for some years at Preuilly—a delightful retirement for a studious man, in one of the midland provinces of France. In 1591 he was invited by the university of Leyden to fill the chair of the distinguished Lipsius. He delayed his migration for some time, in the hope that King Henry IV. would oppose the departure of the most learned man in his dominions. But as the French king expressed no desire to retain him, he set out for Holland, and arrived at Leyden in 1593. Here his position was a very enviable one, if he could have kept off the unprofitable subject of his genealogy. In literary repute he stood on a par with, if not above, such names as those of Lipsius, Casaubon, Grotius, Heinsius, and other scholars, who formed a group of which he was the central figure, and with most of whom he lived on terms of intimacy. But a controversy about his pedigree ("De vetustate et splendore gentis Scaligeranæ "), in which he got involved with Scioppius, embittered his latter days, and may have somewhat diminished the respect in which his high character and marvellous attainments were otherwise universally held. He never was married, and died in 1609. Some particulars of the fives of both the Scaligers and a complete list of their works are contained in Bates' Theatrum virorum aliquot Doctrinâ, Dignitate, aut Pietate Illustrium.— J. F. F.