Robert Wood

Life
?1717-1771; b. 1717, Riverstown Castle, Co Meath; prompted by Pococke’s visit, travelled in 1750 with James Dawkins and John Bouverie, and a draughtsman, Borra (or poss. Dorra in a note by Charlemont); visited Palmyra, Baalbec, and Athens; issued Comparative View of the Antient and Present State of the Troade with an Essay on the Original Genius of Homer (1767); published Ruins of Palmyra (1753) and Ruins of Balbec (1757); member of Society of Dilettanti, 1763; Under-Sec. of State, 1756-63; Brackley MP, 1761-71; siezed papers of John Wilkes under warrant of Lord Halifax, 1763, and fined in action for trespass; under-sec. to Lord Weymouth, 1768-70; an essay on The Original Genius of Homer (1775) embodying his impression of Troad and other writings, posthumously published. ODNB

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Works
Essay on the Original genius and Writings of Homer (London 1775), with title-page vignettes.

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Commentary
W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; this ed. 1984), writes that Robert Wood’s Ruins of Palmyra (1753) and Ruins of Balbec (1757) were widely influential; in 1761 a monument at Kew Gardens was designed by William Chambers from the illustrations of the smaller temple in Balbec [116]. Further: From observations on his travels, he showed that Homer could be identified with the Levant. ‘A review of Homer’s scene of action leads to the consideration of the times, when he lived; and the nearer we approach his country and age, the more we find him accurate in his pictures of nature, and that every species of his extensive Imitation furnishes the greatest treasure of original truth to be found in any poet ancient or modern.’ Praised by Sir John L. Myres, Homer and His Critics, ed. Dorothea Gray (London 1958) as approaching modern anthropologists in his appreciation of the comparison between Homer as poet and the customs of the Bedouin arabs. His contention that the location of Troy was not now discoverable since ‘the face of the country has been considerably changes’ and ‘not a stone is left to certify where it stood’ regarded as disappointing by stay-at-home classicists such as Prof. Andrew Dalzell of Edinburgh (see T Spencer, Fair Greece Sad Relic, London 1958, p.202). Lively style and lack of pedantry made his work memorable; translated into French, German, Italian, and Spanish; it helped Schlieman to maintain and prove that Troy lay under the hillock of Hissarlik. [137]. Further, Robert Wood, Essay on the Original Genius and Writings of Homer (1769), though privately circulated in draft form in 1767. He was Under-secretary of State in 1756, restricting his scope for classics. Woods broke ground by considering Homer not in terms of literature and language so much as in the context of the lands he had visited, interpreting it as oral poetry in the manner confirmed by Milman Parry [‘formulaic’], after listening the Eastern reciters; he questioned whether Homer was more literate than many contemporary ballad-makers in Greek lands; he also argued that Odyssey was superior to Iliad. His Essay won high praise on the continent, especially from Goethe and the best Homerist of his time, Heyne. Friedrick August Wolf studied it before his epochmaking Prolegomena ad Homerum (1795). [167] Complete edition of his Essay, with additions and corrections, ed. 1775,four years after his death, by Jacob Bryant; bibl. Sir John L. Myres [sic] Homer and his Critics, ed. Dorothea Gray (Lon 1958); A Parry, The Making of Homeric Verse (Oxford 1971), xiii-xiv) [‘Wood’s insight was in many ways the most valid conception until modern times of what sort of poet Homer was and of how the Iliad and Odyssey came into being.’

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