Richard Porson (1759-1808)
From 18th Century Literary Anecdotes

Porson thought Gibbon's Decline and Fall beyond all comparison the greatest literary production of the eighteenth century, and was in the habit of repeating long passages from it. Yet I have heard him say that

'there could not be a better exercise for a schoolboy than to turn a page of it into English.'

Rogers, Table Talk, p. 270.

Porson was walking with a Trinitarian friend; they had been speaking of the Trinity. A buggy came by with three men in it:

'There',says he, 'is an illustration of the Trinity.'
'No,' said his friend Porson, 'you must show me one man in three buggies, if you can.'

E. H. Barker, Literary, Recollections and Contemporary Reminiscences (1852), ii. 2.

A MAN Of such habits as Porson was little fitted for the office of Librarian to the London Institution. He was very irregular in his attendance there; he never troubled himself about the purchase of books which ought to have been added to the library; and he would frequently come home dead-drunk long after midnight. I have good reason to believe that, had he lived, he would have been requested to give up the office—in other words, he would have been dismissed. I once read a letter which he received from the Directors of the Institution, and which contained, among other severe things, this cutting remark:

'We only know that you are our Librarian by seeing your name attached to the receipts for your salary.' . . .

As Librarian to the Institution, he had £200 a year, apartments rent-free, and the use of a servant. Yet he was eternally railing at the Directors, calling them 'mercantile and mean beyond merchandise and meanness'.

Rogers, Table Talk, p. 283.

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