On The Art of Reading eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 241 pages of information about On The Art of Reading.

Well, now, I put it to you that without mental breeding, without at least some sense of ancestry, an Englishman can hardly have this perception of value, this vision.  I put to you what I posited in an earlier course of lectures, quoting Bagehot, that while a knowledge of Greek and Latin is not necessary to a writer of English, he should at least have a firm conviction that those two languages existed.  I refer you to a long passage which, in one of those lectures, I quoted from Cardinal Newman to the effect that for the last 3000 years the Western World has been evolving a human society, having its bond in a common civilisation—­a society to which (let me add, by way of footnote) Prussia today is firmly, though with great difficulty, being tamed.  There are, and have been, other civilisations in the world —­the Chinese, for instance; a huge civilisation, stationary, morose, to us unattractive; ’but this civilisation,’ says Newman, ’together with the society which is its creation and its home, is so distinctive and luminous in its character, so imperial in its extent, so imposing in its duration, and so utterly without rival upon the face of the earth, that the association may fitly assume for itself the title of “Human Society,” and its civilisation the abstract term “Civilisation".’

He goes on: 

Looking, then, at the countries which surround the Mediterranean Sea as a whole, I see them to be, from time immemorial, the seat of an association of intellect and mind such as deserves to be called the Intellect and Mind of the Human Kind.

But I must refer you to his famous book “The Idea of a University” to read at length how Newman, in that sinuous, sinewy, Platonic style of his, works it out—­the spread, through Rome, even to our shores, of the civilisation which began in Palestine and Greece.


I would press the point more rudely upon you, and more particularly, than does Newman.  And first, for Latin—­

I waive that Rome occupied and dominated this island during 400 years.  Let that be as though it had never been.  For a further 1000 years and more Latin remained the common speech of educated men throughout Europe:  the ‘Universal Language.’  Greek had been smothered by the Turk.  Through all that time—­through the most of what we call Modern History, Latin reigned everywhere.  Is this a fact to be ignored by any of you who would value ‘values’?

Here are a few particulars, by way of illustration.  More wrote his “Utopia,” Bacon wrote all the bulk of his philosophical work, in Latin; Newton wrote his “Principia” in Latin.  Keble’s Lectures on Poetry (if their worth and the name of Keble may together save me from bathos) were delivered in Latin.  Our Vice-Chancellor, our Public Orator still talk Latin, securing for it what attention they can:  nor have

     The bigots of this iron time
     Yet call’d their harmless art a crime.

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On The Art of Reading from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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