Friday, June 14, 2013

Colin Duckworth's D'Antraigues Phenomenon Was Delivered Today

I haven't posted anything on D'Antraigues claims to have seen Clement's Hypotyposeis at the monastery of St Macarius in a while.  I just finished reading the first hundred and twenty pages of the well written, well researched book.  I am still not convinced that D'Antraigues actually saw the manuscript.  Nevertheless, Duckworth has succeeded in convincing me that I shouldn't go along with the low opinion of French historians about the 'fantasies' of this nobleman. 

First of all, I accept that Duckworth has done a great deal more research than previous generations of historians.  He has gone out of his way to corroborate historical details at first doubted by French historians.  D'Antraigues remains a problematic individual.  He doesn't always prove that D'Antraigues is telling the truth.  He does find instances where he engages in forgery (such as a collection of letters between Rousseau and himself).  Nevertheless Duckworth seems to provide enough evidence that it is probable that D'Antraigues actually met and befriended Rousseau, something rejected by previous generations of scholars. 

With respect to the claims made about his trip to Egypt, Duckworth acknowledges that D'Antraigues had in his possession a hand copied edition of Montfaucon's Montfaucon, sur les recherches à faire dans le voyage de Constantinople et du Levant published in 1708. The text was copied out by someone other than D'Antraigues.  Duckworth writes this off as "carefully doing his homework" for the trip that "d'Antraigues preliminary work on Montfaucon enabled him to make a remarkable discovery."  But I don't think this explains the presence of this document.

I am convinced by the argument of Lumbroso that D'Antraigues lifted the reference to most of what appears in his account of 'discovering' ancient manuscripts at St Macarius.  The one question which still puzzles me is whether D'Antraigues seeing the Hypotyposeis might have prompted him to have someone copy out the information from Montfaucon and thereby add the reference to the various historical works to augment his find. 

I must fully admit that personal interest might be at the heart of my nagging doubt about writing off D'Antraigues claims.  But there is more to it than that.  D'Antraigues only describes the contents of the Hypotyposeis.  He goes into great detail about this text and only this text.  The reference to Polybius and the rest mostly follow from Montfaucon. 

Alin Suciu is certainly correct to point to the fact that all evidence denies the possibility that a Greek text could have been in this monastery at that time.  Stephen Emmel further questions how D'Antraigues could have read the Greek manuscript or identified when it was produced.  I acknowledge all of this and therefore must admit that the story is highly improbable - if not implausible.  Nevertheless despite all the problems with the story I would still like to wait for a friend's examination of the ultra secret library of the Coptic Patriarchate at Mari Mina.  If nothing turns up we probably can close this book on this claim. 

I just wonder with Duckworth why D'Antraigues would have made up this entire account of discovering something ancient at St Macarius.  He was after all only writing to his bisexual lover, the Polish princess Ghika.  He already 'had her' - so to speak.  Was there really any need to augment his experiences in Egypt in what where personal correspondences?  Why would she care about an old historical text like this?  Of course the obvious response would be - why lie at all (i.e. about the Polybius and the rest of the Greek manuscripts)?

I tend to think that D'Antraigues was more of an exaggerator than he was a out and out liar - especially with intimate acquaintances.  Maybe the monks showed him something.  Perhaps he mistook the information to relate to a text he later identified as Clement's Hypotyposeis.  Maybe he saw a fragment of what was said to be the Hypotyposeis and then, after researching the material in Montfaucon augmented his account with details of other lost texts.  Who knows. 

There is no doubt that D'Antraigues is a problematic witness.  The question comes down to whether there is a scrap of truth at the core of this untruth. 

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