Definition of ‘Scholar’

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship”

“The term ‘scholar’, in its primary sense a ‘learner’, is applied in its secondary sense to one who has learned thoroughly all that ‘the school’ can teach him, one who through his early training and his constant self-culture has attained a certain maturity in precise and accurate knowledge. Thus Shakespeare says of Cardinal Wolsey : — ‘he was a scholar, and a ripe and good one’[1] The term is specially applied to one who has attained a high degree of skill in the mastery of language, as where Ruskin says in Sesame and Lilies : — ‘ the accent, or turn of expression of a single sentence, will at once mark a scholar[2]. It is often still further limited to one who ‘has become familiar with all the very best Greek and Latin authors ‘, ‘has not only stored his memory with their language and ideas, but has had his judgment formed and his taste corrected by living intimacy wth those ancient wits’[3] The true scholar, though in no small measure he necessarily lives in the past, will make it his constant aim to perpetuate the past for the benefit of the present and the future. He will obey the bidding of George Herbert : — ‘If studious, copie fair what Time hath blurr’d ‘[4]. Even if he has long been in the position of a teacher of others, he will never cease to be a learner himself; his motto will be discendo docebis, docendo disces [by learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn]; like the ‘Clerk’ in Chaucer’s Prologue, ‘gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche’; as he advances in years, he will still endeavour to say with Solon : — γηράσκω δ’ αἰεὶ πολλὰ διδασκόμενος [I grow old, always learning many things]; and, when he dies, he may well be content if his brother-scholars or his pupils pay him any part, however small, of the honour paid to a votary of learning by a Robert Browning, and deem him not unworthy of A Grammarian’s Funeral.”

[1] Henry VIII, IV ii 51.

[2] P. 24 (1888)

[3] Donaldson’s Classical Scholarship and Classical Learning, 1856, p.150

[4] The Church Porch, XV.

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