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Masterly Imitators
by [?]

The same thing was, however, done by Goltzius, who being disgusted at the preference given to the works of Albert Durer, Lucas of Leyden, and others of that school, and having attempted to introduce a better taste, which was not immediately relished, he published what were afterwards called his masterpieces. These are six prints in the style of these masters, merely to prove that Goltzius could imitate their works, if he thought proper. One of these, the Circumcision, he had printed on soiled paper; and to give it the brown tint of antiquity had carefully smoked it, by which means it was sold as a curious performance, and deceived some of the most capital connoisseurs of the day, one of whom bought it as one of the finest engravings of Albert Durer: even Strutt acknowledges the merit of Goltzius’s masterpieces!

To these instances of artists I will add others of celebrated authors. Muretus rendered Joseph Scaliger, a great stickler for the ancients, highly ridiculous by an artifice which he practised. He sent some verses which he pretended were copied from an old manuscript. The verses were excellent, and Scaliger was credulous. After having read them, he exclaimed they were admirable, and affirmed that they were written by an old comic poet, Trabeus. He quoted them, in his commentary on Varro De Re Rustica, as one of the most precious fragments of antiquity. It was then, when he had fixed his foot firmly in the trap, that Muretus informed the world of the little dependence to be placed on the critical sagacity of one so prejudiced in favour of the ancients, and who considered his judgment as infallible.

The Abbe Regnier Desmarais, having written an ode or, as the Italians call it, canzone, sent it to the Abbe Strozzi at Florence, who used it to impose on three or four academicians of Della Crusca. He gave out that Leo Allatius, librarian of the Vatican, in examining carefully the MSS. of Petrarch preserved there, had found two pages slightly glued, which having separated, he had discovered this ode. The fact was not at first easily credited; but afterwards the similarity of style and manner rendered it highly probable. When Strozzi undeceived the public, it procured the Abbe Regnier a place in the academy, as an honourable testimony of his ingenuity.

Pere Commire, when Louis XIV. resolved on the conquest of Holland, composed a Latin fable, entitled “The Sun and the Frogs,” in which he assumed with such felicity the style and character of Phaedrus, that the learned Wolfius was deceived, and innocently inserted it in his edition of that fabulist.

Flaminius Strada would have deceived most of the critics of his age, if he had given as the remains of antiquity the different pieces of history and poetry which he composed on the model of the ancients, in his Prolusiones Academicae. To preserve probability he might have given out that he had drawn them, from some old and neglected library; he had then only to have added a good commentary, tending to display the conformity of the style and manner of these fragments with the works of those authors to whom he ascribed them.

Sigonius was a great master of the style of Cicero, and ventured to publish a treatise De Consolatione, as a composition of Cicero recently discovered; many were deceived by the counterfeit, which was performed with great dexterity, and was long received as genuine; but he could not deceive Lipsius, who, after reading only ten lines, threw it away, exclaiming, “Vah! non est Ciceronis.” The late Mr. Burke succeeded more skilfully in his “Vindication of Natural Society,” which for a long time passed as the composition of Lord Bolingbroke; so perfect is this ingenious imposture of the spirit, manner, and course of thinking of the noble author. I believe it was written for a wager, and fairly won.