Practical Essays eBook

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The recent Oxford contest has brought out the eminent oratorical powers of Canon Liddon; and we have some curiosity in noting his contributions to the classical side.  I refer to his letters in the Times.  The gist of his advocacy of Greek is contained in the following allegations.  First, the present system enables a man to recur with profit and advantage to Greek literature.  To this, it has been often replied, that by far the greater number are too little familiarized with the classical languages, and especially Greek, to make the literature easy reading.  But farther, the recurring to the study of ancient authors by busy professional men in the present day, is an event of such extreme rarity that it cannot be taken into account in any question of public policy.  The second remark is, that the half-knowledge of the ordinary graduate is a link between the total blank of the outer world, and the thorough knowledge of the accomplished classic.  I am not much struck by the force of this argument.  I think that the classical scholar, might, by expositions, commentaries, and translations, address the outer world equally well, without the intervening mass of imperfect scholars.  Lastly, the Canon puts in a claim for his own cloth.  The knowledge of Greek paves the way for serious men to enter the ministry in middle life.  Argument would be thrown away upon any one that could for a moment entertain this as a sufficient reason for compelling every graduate in Arts to study Greek.  The observation that I would make upon it has a wider bearing.  Middle life is not too late for learning any language that we suddenly discover to be a want; the stimulus of necessity or of strong interest, and the wider compass of general knowledge, compensate for the diminution of verbal memory.

FOOTNOTES: 

[Footnote 7:  CONTEMPORARY REVIEW, August, 1879.  A few months previously, there were printed, in the Review, papers on the Classical question, by Professors Blackie and Bonamy Price; both of which are here alluded to and quoted, so far as either is controverted or concurred with.]

[Footnote 8:  “The academical establishments of some parts of Europe are not without their use to the historian of the human mind.  Immovably moored to the same station by the strength of their cables and the weight of their anchors, they enable him to measure the rapidity of the current by which the rest of the world is borne along.”]

[Footnote 9:  If the two Literatures were studied, as they might be, by means of expositions and translations, the Greek would be first as a tiling of course.  Historians of the Latin authors are obliged to trace their subject, in every department, to the corresponding authors in Greece.]

[Footnote 10:  No doubt the classical languages would have been required, to some extent, in matriculating to enter college.  This arrangement, however, as regarded the students that chose the modern languages, would have been found too burdensome by our Irish friends, and, on their expressing themselves to that effect, would have been soon dispensed with.]

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