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CAREL GABRIEL COBET (1813-1889)

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Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 612 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CAREL GABRIEL COBET (1813-1889), Dutch classical scholar, was born at Paris on the 28th of November 1813, and educated at the Hague Gymnasium and the university of Leiden. In 1836 he won a gold medal for an essay entitled Prosopographia Xenophontea, a brilliant characterization of all the persons introduced into the Memorabilia, Symposium and Oeconomicus of Xenophon. His Observationes criticae in Platonis comici reliquias (184o) revealed his remarkable critical faculty. The university conferred on him an honorary degree, and recommended him to the government for a travelling pension. The ostensible purpose of his journey was to collate the texts of Simplicius, which, however, engaged but little of his time. He contrived, however, to make a careful study of almost every Greek manuscript in the Italian libraries, and returned after five years with an intimate knowledge of palaeography. In 1846 he married, and in the same year was appointed to an extraordinary professorship at Leiden. His inaugural address, De Arte interpretandi Grammatices et Critices Fundamentis innixa, has been called the most perfect piece of Latin prose written in the 19th century. The rest of his life was passed uneventfully at Leiden. In 1856 he became joint editor of Mnemosyne, a philological review, which he soon raised to a leading position among classical journals. He contributed to it many critical notes and emendations, which were afterwards collected in book form under the titles Novae Lectiones, Variae Lectiones and Miscellanea Critica. In 1875 he took a prominent part at the Leiden Tercentenary, and impressed all his hearers by his wonderful facility in Latin improvisation. In 1884, when his health was failing, he retired as emeritus professor. He died on the 26th of October 1889. Cobet's special weapon as a critic was his consummate knowledge of palaeography, but he was no less distinguished for his rare acumen and wide knowledge of classical literature. He has been blamed for rashness in the emendation.of difficult passages, and for neglecting the comments of other scholars. He had little sympathy for the German critics, and maintained that the best combination was English good sense with French taste. He always expressed his obligation to the English, saying that his masters were three Richards—Bentley, Porson and Dawes. See an appreciative obituary notice by W. G. Rutherford in the Classical Review, Dec. 1889; Hartman in Bursian's Biographisches Jahrbuch, 189o; Sandys, Hist. Class. Schol. (1908), iii. 282.
End of Article: CAREL GABRIEL COBET (1813-1889)
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