J. P. Postgate

Web edition Claude Pavur

September 14, 2014

Paedagogica Index



This article by the renowned British philologist John Percival Postgate (b. October 24, 1853, d. 15 July 15, 1926) appeared in the Fortnightly Review LXXII (November 1902) 866-880. It is reproduced here to help us learn from the history of Latin pedagogy. Especially noteworthy is the sentiment that "if the 'dead' languages and literatures are not to retire into the background, they must be taught as if they were alive." Such a path seems to suggest, beyond what Postgate offers here, the abundant use and solid mastery of short and simple phrases in the first phases of the learning experience.

This edition numbers all notes sequentially, with only slight changes, and places them immediately after the relevant paragraphs for ease of reference.



THE languages and literatures which have had the greatest influence upon the modern world are incontestably three — the Hebrew, the Greek, and the Latin. The first of the three is now hardly more than a study for specialists; and the world is asking already, in Europe at any rate, "Is not this the doom of the remaining two as well?" On many sides we hear confident assertions, met for the most part by half-hearted and apologetic denials, that the work of Greek and Latin is done — that their day is past. If the extinction of these languages as potent instruments of education is a sacrifice inexorably demanded by the advancement of civilisation, regrets are idle, and we must bow to necessity. But we know from history that not the least of the causes of the fall of great supremacies has been the supineness and shortsightedness of their defenders. It is therefore the duty of those who believe, as I do, that Greek and Latin may continue to confer in the future, as they have done in the past, priceless benefits upon all higher human education, to inquire whether these causes exist, and how they may be at once removed. For if these studies fall, they fall like Lucifer. We can assuredly hope for no second Renaissance.

At a time when we appear to be on the eve of extensive reconstructions in the higher educational system of the country, the first duty of those who believe that a due recognition of the claims of Greek and Latin is vital to our intellectual welfare is to know what they want. It is clear that the Classics will not be allowed the lion's share which has been theirs in the past, and the question is, how much must we struggle to retain. For my own part, I think it is necessary that the study of Latin should be kept as an integral part of all higher education, and that of Greek as an integral part of the higher literary training. As a member of the Council of the Modern Languages Association, as a member for a number of years of the Modern Languages Board at Cambridge, I have every disposition to desire for French and German the fullest recognition possible in the school curriculum. I rejoice to think that these languages, so useful in nearly almost every walk of life, are and will be far better taught than they were in my own school days. But I cannot conceal from myself the fact that in themselves French and German do not furnish so valuable a mental training as the classical languages when properly taught, and that under no conditions that seem likely to arise can they be made to do so.

I have no wish to dwell upon the superiority of Greek and Latin in this respect. I would rather help on a pacific and friendly settlement of the different and not necessarily conflicting claims of the ancient and modern languages. So I will confine myself to indicating, chiefly by brief quotations, some of the advantages which the study of Greek and Latin confers.

The Head Master of Harrow, in an interview reported in the Pall Mall Gazette of June 21, 1901, says: —

"I still think that a classical education produced better men than modern education ever can produce. They knew fewer things, but they knew them better. They were better able to teach themselves later on. …I think the value of a classical education is specially seen. in learning other languages.[1] I know it in the case of India. People there are agreed that the classical men who go out learn the language with infinitely greater rapidity than the men who get into the Service through mathematics: the classical men prove themselves better all round."

[1] The advantage which a mastery of the classical languages, or indeed of a classical language, gives in the acquisition of other ones appears to be indubitable; I have noticed it more than once in my own experience. I used the argument lately in conversation with a brother Fellow of Trinity, whose zeal for science took the form of disparagement of the Classics. His reply is worth quoting. "The Classics may help towards acquiring a literary knowledge of a language, but when I want to learn a language I want to speak it."

Sir Frederick Pollock writes in The Times of January 1, 1901: —

"I have no doubt that a trained classical scholar can acquire German in about one third of the time it would take an untrained learner, and Italian, or any other Romance language, by reason of their relation to Latin, in even less."

One of our most distinguished men of science, who finds time in the midst of his scientific teaching and research to help his little boy in Latin, writes to me: —

"If Latin can be studied in a leisurely way, as it is done in the better schools, then I think it should form part of every liberal education. Personally, I should prefer Greek but that is out of the question. But to learn a little Latin in a year for the purpose of matriculating is useless and folly."

I quote from the same letter some sentences in which the reason for including Latin the school course is admirably stated: —

"Latin is the easiest and best way of presenting to a youngster a set of small problems, suitable for his age and understanding. You can teach a small boy science of a kind that is, you can make him learn a lot of facts, and you may try to awaken his understanding you may teach him how to weigh and measure after a fashion. But he will no more grasp fully what he is taught than if you try to teach him quaternions, or say ethics, at fourteen years of age."

One of the most signal testimonies upon this subject that I know is that quoted by the Head Master of Loretto School in a letter to The Times of January 14, 1901, from the address of Professor Hofmann, Professor of Chemistry to the University of Berlin in the year 1880. [2]

[2] For another very weighty testimony to the educational value of a classical training see Addresses on Educational and Economical Subjects, by the Right Hon. G. J. Goschen (1885), pp. 38 and 99.

"The Real-schule of the first rank … is incapable of furnishing a preparation for academic studies equal to that offered by the Gymnasium … According to the unanimous judgment of experienced teachers in the departments of mathematics and the natural sciences graduates of the Real-schule are almost without exception overtaken in the later semesters by students from the Gymnasium, however much they may excel them in the same branches in the first semester."

It should hardly be necessary to show that public opinion has been shifting in a direction more and more adverse to the Classics. This is obvious to those who observe it in those recognised anemometers, the utterances of public men. [3] When a Head Master of Harrow declares that resistance to this tendency is "fighting against the inevitable" [4]; when a graduate in classical honours from the University which has the largest classical school in the country maintains that " the classical literature is by its very nature a study for the specialist; no real appreciation of it is possible except to the specialist; and classical education is the education of the specialist or it is nothing," [5] and again that "classical books should be left to classical men" [6]; when the sharp-sighted, if truculent, critic who, under the pseudonym of "Max Schmidt" has been lecturing the English people upon their shortcomings in the Daily Mail, denounces in no measured terms the uselessness of our classical education — the friends of Greek and Latin must be blind if they do not recognise the precariousness of the position.

[3] As, for example, in a recent speech of Lord George Hamilton.

[4] In the interview already referred to of June 21, 1901.

[5] G. H. S., in "Two Letters to a Classical Friend," published in the Classical Review for June and July, 1901. The italics are not mine.

[6] [Ibid.]

There are, indeed, certain features in the situation which might seem to warrant a less anxious view. Our highest classical scholarship is at present in a more flourishing condition than it has been within the range of living memory: at the junior universities and colleges Greek and Latin have a considerable and eager following, while the two oldest ones still require both classical languages from all who would take their degrees. But the prosperity of the higher branches must, in all exactness, be ascribed to the past: the present activity of the local institutions is not limited to Classics, and in this sphere it may be only brief and temporary; their extraordinary privileges at the two universities might at any moment be swept away.

The complaints against our present classical education are not limited to generalities they take specific forms.

In reference to the average boy, an "Old Etonian" wrote in The Times of January 7, 1901: —

"If he goes to a public school he will, by the time he leaves, have spent nearly ten years in learning Latin and Greek, that is including the usual time at a preparatory-school. If he has really profited by his studies he ought, at the end of the period, to be at least a sound classical scholar. It is notorious that he is nothing of the kind. [7]

[7] The italics are mine.

"The average schoolboy, at the end of his school career has but a poor and superficial smattering of Latin and Greek. He has spent ten years in not learning two languages. That this can be deemed a fine mental training for this poor average boy is to me inconceivable."

The question inevitably occurs: If Eton cannot teach Classics, where can it be taught? I turn to a witness of a different kind. "G. H. S. "is, as we learn from himself, [8] a graduate of the University of Oxford, who obtained a fair third class in Classical Moderations. His literary appreciations of the great authors of antiquity are indeed on a par with those of Mr. "Max Schmidt," who puts Schiller as a poet on the same level as Aeschylus. But he can write English with some spirit and style and, from a certain standpoint, there is not a little acumen in some of his judgments. We have it also from him that he had "the keenest love of poetry," that he "read English verse with avidity," that he "wanted to read all the great poets of the world." What are his impressions of the Classics? A few extracts will show: —

[8] In the letters already referred to. The publication of these singular letters in the Classical Review has not unnaturally provoked some protest from scholars whose judgment is entitled to every respect. But the Classical Review is the only journal in the country which is directly concerned in the vigorous maintenance of classical studies. We all know the saying, " fas est et ab hoste doceri," and it does not apply least of all to a case where the enemy honestly believes himself to have once been a friend.

"The predominating impression which Virgil left upon my mind was that of sheer fag, of the stiffest piece of grind which I had ever gone through. And you know I still retain the opinion that grind is one thing and poetry quite another, as different (to put it briefly) as Martha and Mary. … To me and to most others on my own level of attainment it [the study of the Classics] was just mere cram and grind and shop, and could by no possibility be anything more. … The Classics I then felt, and I feel still, were hackneyed to death, and nothing short of a miracle could impart to them the least touch of freshness. A classic text to me both was, and is, a thing of verbs and adjectives; of the grammar and the lexicon and the study of it had no more to do with poetry than it had with chemistry. Indeed, the one solid result which I brought off from four years' work was not literary but scientific — a certain grip of the Latin language and an elementary knowledge of Greek."

As G. H. S. did not begin Classics till he was eighteen years of age, and took his third in Moderations at twenty-two, it is clear that, if there is anything in his strictures, some part of the reproach must attach to the universities. Speaking of my own university, I must admit with regret that there is ground for complaint and room for improvement. But in the case of a very great number of students the mischief is already done, and the universities cannot undo it. "The English schoolboy's mind," said the Bishop of Hereford in his recent address to the British Association, [9] is quiescent in front of Virgil, Euclid, or Xenophon." It too frequently remains "quiescent" at school; and when the youth comes to the university its repose is statuesque. We have at Trinity a supplement to our formal lectures in the shape of "construing classes "; in these, in lieu of a formal lecture, some classical book is translated aloud by the members of the class in turn. These are for the most part drawn from the weaker scholars in the college, and nothing has brought home to me more painfully the mental apathy and inattention with which men read the Classics by themselves than my observation of such classes. During a number of recent years the classical teachers of Cambridge have spent a good deal of time and labour in the endeavour to improve the scheme of the Classical examination which all Honours students must take, and which consisted, of Unprepared Translation in both languages, composition, both prose and verse, and a certain modicum of Greek and Latin grammar (including elementary etymology), and of Greek and Roman history. Their task was much embarrassed by the following dilemma, which crossed every effort towards a solution. It was felt, on the one hand, that the better scholars must be provided with something to awaken fresh interest in them and form a relief from the work of the "school mill," as it was called; on the other hand, it was urged with equal force that for the weaker vessels the mere preparation for the existing and admittedly inadequate curriculum was as much as they should attempt.

[9] Times of September 19, 1901.

Examinations, so far as my knowledge goes, tell the same tale. For the five years ending in June, 1901, I had, as one of the two examiners in Latin at the London University, to review the work of those candidates for Matriculation whose papers were returned by the assistant examiners as "failures" or "doubtfuls." Some four thousand candidates enter for this examination, and the minimum age is sixteen. Now what might reasonably be expected from a youth or girl of sixteen who had studied Latin for the average time before the examination? They might reasonably be expected to translate a fairly easy and straightforward piece of unseen Latin so as to make decent sense, and to write two or three Latin sentences without gross blunders. If this test were rigidly enforced, the result would be a very considerable increase in the percentage of failures: of this I have not the slightest doubt. However I will waive this, and will allow, for the sake of argument, that those who obtain the required minimum have reached a sort of standard.

What of the failures amounting to thirty per cent and over? Of these it must be said that if they have given the normal amount of time to preparation their time has been absolutely wasted. The work sent up by many of these candidates is of a badness positively appalling. They are often ignorant of the simplest facts of accidence and construction. They confound subject and object, active and passive, noun and verb; they mix up different cases, persons, numbers, and moods in inextricable confusion. A certain proportion of hopeless candidates there must of course always be but the percentage here is, for an elementary examination, far too high.

I turn to the last official report of another of the largest system of examinations in the country — the Cambridge University Local Examinations — and I find these painful impressions confirmed. I subjoin a few extracts from the Cambridge University Reporter of March 25, 1901. But the whole section should be read. It stands in marked contrast to those which deal with the results of the examinations in modern languages, and especially in French.

"LATIN. — Juniors. — Much of the work was mechanical. Syntax: The work (of a majority of the centres) showed that the writers either had no knowledge of the rules in question, or knew them without understanding them. Only a few candidates were able to scan with any degree of accuracy. Most of the candidates appeared not to know what parsing means, and the blame must lie with the teachers.

"Seniors. — Evidences of indifferent training and insufficient preparation were of discouraging frequency. The work of the girls was disappointing. Nearly forty-five per cent failed to secure the minimum for passing in unprepared translation, and in many cases there was scarcely any approximation made to the meaning of the piece.

"GREEK. — Juniors. — The badness prevailing throughout whole groups of candidates seems to show that the schools, rather than the boys, were at fault."

It is a pertinent and a pressing question: if such are the results of the teaching of the Classics with the amount of time and attention at present allotted to them, what are we to expect when this, as seems only too likely to happen, is still further reduced? What then, it will be asked, are the causes of this unsatisfactory state of things? They would appear to be two. We attempt too much; and we do not go to work in the right way. We must limit our aims, and thoroughly reform our methods. Between these two propositions there is an obvious connection; but I will deal with them separately, as far as I can.



In the elementary stage there are obvious limits to reduction. The skeleton of the language, whether Latin or Greek, must be acquired; but the memory should be burdened as little as possible, and far less than it is at present. In Latin, for example, I should cease to teach the rules for irregular genders, the declension of rare anomalous substantives, the perfects and supines of all but the commoner verbs. Elementary books include such things as the perfect of lambo and the irregularities of penus: I have been reading Latin for a third of a century and over, but I never met the perfect of lambo, and I doubt if there are a score of Latin scholars in the country who could say straight off in what authors the different declensions of penus oocur. For the beginner in a language such items of information are useless lumber, and should never be given in school or demanded in examination. The range of teaching should be strictly limitecl to the forms in common use during the period between Cicero and Ovid, the rarities of this period only being required when they occur in a book which has been specially prepared.

The same considerations, mutatis mutandis, apply to Greek. The load here has, it is true, diminished considerably since I was at school. But it would be none the worse for a further reduction. Nothing should be required outside Attic Greek, nor any thing rare within it. [10]

[10] Of course, I do not mean that a knowledge of the later, rarer, or dialectical forms in either Latin or Greek, should be made inaccessible to the young student. That is quite another thing.

In the higher stage it is Greek and Latin composition that make the most serious demand upon a student's time. I have before me a number of my old school exercises, with the time which each piece consumed marked upon it; and I cannot believe that either my own case or in that of others who might have less facility than myself the expenditure of time which these records indicate was profitable.

Latin prose must of course be retained for all, and the elements of Greek and Latin versification should be taught. There is no better or less tedious method of imparting that knowledge of the metres of the ancient poets without which their poetry is unintelligible. But no one should be obliged or even tempted to pursue the practice of verse composition, whether original or in rendering of English poetry, a single day after it is seen that he has no natural bent in this direction. On these grounds I sincerely regret that my own university has not yet seen its way to make verse composition an optional subject in the scheme of its Honours examination.

About Greek prose it is difficult to speak. Some elementary knowledge of it will, it is needless to say, be imparted in the ordinary course of tuition but its higher practice appears to be no easy matter. So far as my observation goes, the results in it are relatively less satisfactory than any other form of composition. Its principles seem more difficult for average minds to seize, and their efforts issue in a distressing jumble of poetic and dialectical forms and usages, with a plentiful sprinkling of Latinisms. There is the additional difficulty of the accentuation but of that I shall speak anon. On the whole, then, I think that only two species of composition should be required: Latin prose, and one other at the choice of the student; but that the specially gifted should be given opportunities and encouragements to take all that they are interested in. It must be remembered that a liking for a particular kind is a by no means uncommon occurrence. I recollect a school contemporary of my own who had a wonderful turn for Latin elegiacs, but cared nothing for any other sort of composition. In the examinations matters could be adjusted by means of alternative papers.



Let us speak first of books, the most important instruments of instruction. Here it is necessary to distinguish. The advance which has taken place within the last thirty years in the quality of the classical books of the more advanced type is very noticeable. Editions and handbooks are with few exceptions fuller, more accurate, and more interesting. It is all the more to be regretted that the same cannot be said of the elementary books. At no period is the quality of the text-books a matter of indifference but it is imperative that the rudimentary ones should be good, for early teaching is at their mercy. Nothing is less easy to write than a good elementary book, and many of those who are now tempted to compile them do not possess the requisite knowledge. I am at the present moment using one of those books (a collection of easy Latin sentences and narratives) with my little girl. Much of the Latin no Roman could have written; and I have to read and usually to score liberally in blue pencil each exercise before I can put it into her hands. The vocabulary in the case of this book, and I fear in that of many others, is very negligently put together. A friend, a practical schoolmaster, told me this autumn that in one instance he had sent to the publishers a list of over forty omissions in a vocabulary to a schoolbook, to say nothing of cross-references which made one of the unfortunate boys exclaim at last, "Please, sir, this book is always making an April fool of me!"

I open an elementary edition of a Latin text in a well-known series, and I find within the first fifty lines eodem translated, without comment, "in the same place," "space" and "ether" used interchangeably, and a comment to the effect that it does not matter whether we consider the poet conceived of the earth as a globe or a circle, when it is plain that the second sense makes nonsense of his language. The indifference which is shown to correctness in schoolbooks may be illustrated by an anecdote which was current a good many years ago. A head master was told that a certain grammar was not up to date. "What" said this Diogenes, "Is not the perfect of sum still fui ?" The perfect of sum is still fui; but the conjugation of the Latin verbs for "to eat" and "to drink" is correctly given in no grammar that I know. For the elementary Latin grammar most widely used in this country I have never heard a good word spoken. A practical schoolmaster declares of it that "practically the whole Latin education of the country is based upon a work, for which 'unsatisfactory' is a euphemism." [11]

[11] Mr. A. Sloman, in the Classical Review for 1899, p. 275, where his reasons are given. Mr. Sloman says, charitably, that the head masters, in whose schools it is used, are ignorant of the facts of the case.

Fortunately the remedy for this state of , things is not far to seek. All the elementary books should be carefully examined and tested before being adopted for use; and they should be written only by good scholars, who are also experienced teachers of the elements, or, in default of this, by good scholars in partnership with experienced teachers.

The pronunciation of Latin has never been in a worse condition than at the present time. The "old," or native pronunciation, and the "new," or reformed, are both in use, and cross and tangle to such a degree that lecturers cannot be sure whether members of his class know what he is talking about. For this the head masters of England are directly responsible. "The head masters of schools, at their conference held in 1871, declared the system of Latin pronunciation prevalent in England to be unsatisfactory, and agreed to ask the Latin Professors of Oxford and Cambridge to draw up and issue a joint paper to secure uniformity in any change contemplated. This request they repeated at their meeting of 1872." [12] Now did these head masters, seeing clearly the evils, take action to remove the mischief they deplored and ensure the uniformity they desired? On the contrary, they declared by resolution that the adoption of the new syllabus by masters should be voluntary. They flung the old and the new systems together, and the teaching and learning of Latin in England after them, to struggle together in the morass. The present head masters are of course not to be blamed for this; but none the less are they bound to seek a remedy for the mischief which has been caused by their predecessors.

[12] From a Syllabus of Latin Pronunciation, drawn up at the request of the head masters of schools. By Edwin Palmer and 11. A. J. Munro. Cambridge and Oxford, 1873, p, 3. All the italics are mine.

The Reformed Pronunciation thus invoked has come to us to stay. It would require overwhelming arguments of expedience to induce those who have adopted it to give it up and revert to barbarism. [13] Its advantages, literary, philological, and practical, need no demonstration now. [14]

[13] The "English" pronunciation of Latin is the worst pronunciation in Europe, except perhaps, the "French," which Dr. A. Bos, of Marseilles, has been making such gallant efforts to reform. Petit Traité de Prononciation Latine, par le Dr. A. Bos, Paris, 1893. Livre de lecture latine, by the same. Paris, 1897.

[14] Ignorance of the proper pronunciation of Latin may produce distressing results. A number of years ago a classical scholar in high place at one of the universities (the place, date, and the name are not essential) was present at an ordination service in a Roman Catholic church on the Continent. There he heard the Deity addressed as "Domine," which be was in the habit of pronouncing "Dominee." So he did not recognise it, and mistook it for "Domina," which he was in the habit of pronouncing "Dominer." Furious with zeal, he wrote to the local newspaper on his return, denouncing upon the evidence of his own ears the idolatry of the Virgin in the Romish Church. The Roman Catholic priest of the place promptly took up the challenge. Over the painful sequel I draw a veil.

One of them, however, the adherents of the old might at least secure. I mean its preservation of quantity. It is often made a cause of congratulation among English scholars and an argument for the practice of verse composition, that their emendations do not sin so frequently or flagrantly against the laws of quantity as those of their Continental rivals. [15] The argument for verse composition would indeed be weak if it rested only upon this, and it does not seem to be matter for national pride that our scholars have been able to avoid, in their relatively unfrequent emendations of texts, the false quantities with which they liberally bestrew their lectures and their conversation. Those who can thus detach their knowledge from their practice may no doubt do what they please; but they should not let their example be a stumbling-block in the way of the many who do not possess this curions faculty. They should recognise the mental waste which is involved by pronouncing quasi as a spondee, aqua as a trochee, and so on, when one has to remember that the first is a dibrach and the second an iambus. As a matter of fact one frequently does not remember. The son of a friend of mine, who is beginning verses at one of the great public schools, was told by his master that Boreas was a dactyl! [16]

[15] Englishmen are not, however, impeccable, even here. Our greatest Latinist in the nineteenth century introduced a false quantity into Lucretius, and one of the most exigent of our metrists has lapsed similarly in an attempt to correct Sophncles.

[16] It is, of course, possible that it was not a "slip." But I should hesitate to suppose that a teacher would deliberately set himself to confuse a pupil's mind.

Most Cambridge men will know what Tripos verses were, though they have been for some years a thing of the past. For the benefit of others I may mention that they were sportive offusions in Latin and Greek verse dealing with the events of the day, usually written by the junior classical scholars of the University, which were printed and circulated with the collected Tripos lists of the year. On one occasion one of the contributors was an undergraduate who hailed from a school which has always plumed itself upon its verse composition, and who himself was in the first rank of the classical scholars of the year. The mathematical friend who asked him to contribute requested a classical colleague to read the verses before they were printed. It was as well that he did so, as the copy of some forty lines contained four false quantities. The examination for the M.A. in Classics at the University of London marks (or marked) the highest and most advanced. stage of the subject in which that University examines. The amplitude of its range is indicated by the contents in its schedule "Greek and Latin Classical Literature, Prose Composition in Greek, Latin, and English, Greek and Latin Philology, Greek and Roman History." The extra qualification which it gives is much sought after by B.A.'s, men and women, actually engaged in tuition. In recent years the examiners in Latin have usually set one more or less elementary question in metre and prosody. This question has hardly ever been well done, seldom even tolerably, and often atrociously. In one year the candidates were asked to give examples of some of the commoner kinds of verses; for this they were allowed to choose their own words from the Latin extracts in the rest of the paper. Here are some of the actual specimens sent up. Of an ordinary hexameter: —

"Feceris quod bene sed obstaret ut rude sileant

Tantus terror rex stabulis puer Martius omnes:

Currebat quae situm minuenti ego inuida chartae."

Of an ordinary pentameter: —

"Currebat puer non inuida perfugerit:

Si Numidae quicquid maxima quoque donari

Tarda uires polypos feceris aequale me."

An ordinary iambic: —

"Junonis chartae saepe ostendere senecta:

Mauortis mercedem senecta quae situm:

(This was scanned as a pure iambic)

Puer fuit noui uelut sacra ferret

Perfugerit nil aequale agnum obstaret."

It is not too much to say that to such crass ignorance as this classical poetry is a sealed book, and not classical poetry only, but classical prose. That ancient prose was strictly rhythmical, and that its rhythm was based on differences of quantity, we all know, or if we do not, we need only glance at one of the ancient authorities, e.g., at Cicero, Orator, 168-236. But I need say no more on this subject, as the whole matter is admixably treated in, I fear, too little known a work by that eminent scholar and man of science, Alexander J. Ellis, The Quantitative Pronunciation of Latin. Macmillan, 1874. [17]

[17] Of the pronunciation of Shrewsbnry and Eton, in his time, Ellis writes in the preface. He says that the verse "sic uos non uobis nidificatis aues" was pronounced so that five false quantities were made in one short line.

The case is no better with the pronunciation of Greek, though happily here we are spared the conflict of systems, and the effects of our neglect of quantity are somewhat mitigated by the circumstance that Greek has separate signs for two of its long vowels. Whenever this protection is withdrawn we have the same phenomena as in Latin, and within this very year one of our eminent Greek scholars imputed to another the "slip" of shortening the [Greek] -âs of [Greek] elixas in a fragment of Euripides. The charge proved to be mistaken. But why was it made? Why, of course, because everyone in England pronounces ass in this final syllable. In one respect, however, Greek is in a far worse predicament. I refer, of course, to the accents. Latin we pronounce with its own accents, but Greek with the accent of Latin. Modern Greeks and Americans, guided right by tradition or intelligence, pronounce the accent where they write it. For them the proper accent is, as it should be, an integral part of the word, and thus they get rid of a needless burden upon the memory, and avoid the "slips" into which even the best Greek scholars of England must lapse at times. I do not say that Greek accents should be omitted in Greek as once was the custom in this country but I say that, as matters stand at present, a knowledge of them, for all except advanced scholars, is an utterly useless accomplishment, that it is intellectual tyranny to require it, and that the fact that it is required is a serious hindrance to the study of Greek. After many years of endeavour to impart some moderate knowledge of accents to the average student, I have now given up the struggle in despair.

It seems most unlikely that teachers will ever make the effort to restore to the accent its original musical character; it will probably continue to have the modern value of stress. And it has been urged that to put the accent on the accented syllable will ruin the quantity. This sudden tenderness for the quantity, after what we have seen, is a little surprising, and the objection, such as it is, is confined to a very small range. Both the accent and the quantity can be conserved without difficulty in all cases, except where a short accented vowel (i.e., [Greek] a, i, u [18]) is followed by another vowel, e.g., in [Greek] enantíos. In these uses the stress accent undoubtedly tends to lengthen the vowel, but confusion might be avoided by pronouncing the circumflex accent with a trill or quaver.

[18] For [Greek] i, ê, and o, ô are distinguished by the writing.

What I have spoken of hitherto are not indeed trifles. But they may be called details. I now come to a matter of wide-reaching importance. Our whole teaching of Greek and Latin too formal, too verbal, too unreal.

To begin with, too much grammar is taught at any rate, it is taught far too mechanically. For many years I have had to do the chief part of the teaching in Greek and Latin grammar at my college, and the sum of my experience is this: the average classical student does not know grammar when he comes up, he does not know that he is ignorant, and he does not want to learn. A series of grammar papers will probably take from him the hallucination of knowledge; but it is too late to rouse his jaded interest or to lay the foundations anew. The cause of this seems clear. From the first our teaching of grammar, of syntax, that is, pays too much regard to rules — too little to methods and principles. A particular usage of language must either have a meaning now, or have had one once, or have been modelled upon one that had. If we know which of these it is, we know all that grammar can teach us. It is a matter of altogether minor importance, whether we have learnt the conventional nomenclature and classification or not. It ought to be added that the blame here devolves quite as much, or even more, upon examiners than upon teachers.

This leads us to the cardinal point of all. A number of years ago, the living languages and literatures were studied as if they were dead. We have changed all that, and now, if the "dead" languages and literatures are not to retire into the background, they must be taught as if they were alive.

In the first place the eyes of teacher and taught must be kept steadily on the external realities of ancient life. It is much easier to do this now than thirty years ago. Illustrations of every kind of the life and art of the ancients are both more numerous and accessible. Within the last few years three series of illustrated elementary classics have been started by enterprising publishers. This is all to the good and forms a hopeful feature in the situation. But these aids to intelligence must be still farther increased, [19] and they must be much more used than at present. I will give one example of what I mean. Lucretius and other ancient writers speak of "the wheel of the sun." This use is not clear to a modern Englishman, to whom "wheel" means "a spoked wheel," and bears no resemblance to the sun's disk. But a reference to a picture of the solid wheel which was common in antiquity makes the metaphor clear at once. From the first, then, the trusty eyes should be called in to correct and inform the ears. But there are large regions where they can be of no service, and some other means must be adopted for replacing the phantoms, which rise out of verbal translations, by real conceptions. In a recent trial a working-man stated in evidence, that a meeting was held "under the auspices" of the local Liberal Association. "What are auspices?" asked the judge. "I don't know," said the witness. I wonder how many boys who translate " auspice Teucro" (Hor. Odes, I. 7,27) by the same substantive are in the same predicament.

[19] For example, illustrated school dictionaries of both Latin and Greek are badly wanted.

The important part which mere sound plays in modifying our mental conceptions is still but very imperfectly grasped by the majority of teachers. Cross-associations, of a sound in particular, are a most fruitful source of error and misconception. One never knows where it may not have been at work. Not so long ago I was looking over a paper, which included a question upon Q. Seruilius Caepio, and to my amazement, candidate after candidate gave me a biography of Scipio. One of the chief factors which we have to reckon in teaching Latin to English boys, is the external similarities in the vocabularies, due to our copious borrowing from the ancient tongue. The perception of these similarities smooths the beginner's path, for the English word gives him a clue to the meaning. But later on, as every teacher knows, it is more of a hindrance than a help. Now, for all this there is a very simple remedy. Students of a language are told, and most properly told, that they must "try to think in that language," but what is the use of this advice if they never speak or write in it? Translation from English into Latin or Greek is a most valuable training, and necessary part of classical training; but it ought not to have superseded original composition. The consequence of this supersession is that while in the correctness and elegance of their compositions in Latin prose English scholars are far superior to the Germans, in the matter of readiness and fluency they are as much their inferiors while, as for students of a lower calibre, their one idea of original composition is to compose in English and to translate that into Latin. From the first, speaking and writing Latin should go hand in hand with reading it. The topics should be those of every-day life — taken from the field where modern and ancient are upon common ground. It is a sufficiently ample one. It would be an error to suppose that Latin is not capable of being so employed. At the present time I know of two journals, dealing with the ordinary life of our times, which are written in Latin — the Vox Urbis, published in Rome, and the Praeco Latinus in Philadelphia. New words are used in both for the objects which were not known to the ancients. But what does this matter? The Latinity is not always as correct as it might be but in England we need not copy that. There is, of course, nothing new in the enunciation of this principle. The late Professor Blackie used the conversational method, and his book of dialogues is not yet, I suppose, forgotten. Two useful little manuals have been published in Germany — Sprechen Sie Attisch? (E. Joannides, 1889), and Sprechen Sie Lateinisch? (G. Capellanus, 1890). The method has only to be introduced, and teachers and text-books will be speedily forthcoming. Let it only once be fairly tried and I will engage to say that it will never be given up. For those who are taught under it will run away from their less fortunate compeers. Let it be tried in the teaching of Latin first, and the teaching of Greek will not be long in following suit.

The adoption of the improved methods which we have seen to be desirable would do more than anything else to do away with the reproach that the Classics are "hackneyed." In itself the charge is a paradox. How anyone coming fresh to the literatures of races and civilisations so far removed at numberless points from our own can find them "hackneyed" is indeed a mystery. And the calumny appears to be sufficiently refuted by the enthusiasm which classical, and especially Greek, literature awakens in the classes of university extensions. No "miracle," but an intelligent development of this natural interest is required to restore to their study the "freshness" of which it is said, not without a certain justice, that it now stands in need. Why should the Classics be stale in England? They are not stale in America. Let me cite a few words from Professor A. F. West, of Princeton University, whose paper, published in the Educational Review for 1899, contained an analysis of the material furnished by the U.S. Commission on Education.

"In the eight years from 1890 to 1898 the total enrolment of pupils in the various Secondary Schools has risen from 297,894 to 554,814. This large gain of 86 per cent represents a rate of increase about four times as rapid as the rate of increase in population, and is without precedent in our history. Percentages of increase: (1) Latin, 174; (2) History (except U.S.), 152; (3) Geometry, 147; (4) Algebra, 141; (5) German, 131; (6) French, 107; (7) Greek, 94; (8) Physics, 79; (9) Chemistry, 65. Latin is thus advancing faster than any other secondary study, with the possible, but entirely improbable, exception of English, for which latter study the statistics are not sufficiently complete to warrant a definite statement. In point of absolute numbers Latin also enrols more pupils, excepting Algebra and (probably) English. It also enrols twice as many pupils as French and German combined. Greek, notwithstanding its light enrolment, is gaining rapidly, though far less rapidly than Latin. It has almost doubled in eight years. Moreover, the great gain in Latin is likely to accelerate the present rate of gain in Greek very soon."



P.S. — The foregoing article was written some months ago. Since then there have been some signs of an awakening on the part of teachers in respect of some of the matters referred to. The formation, on March 1st, of a "Classical Association for Scotland" (Classical Review, April), was a notable event. The Reformed Pronunciation of Latin has been approved of by two important bodies — the Modern Languages Association and the Assistant Masters' Association.










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