Classics, the Straight Road to Starvation

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. 3:

“On the 8th of April, 1777, he [F.A. Wolf] entered his name in the matriculation-book as Studiosus Philologiae. The Pro-Rector, a professor of Medicine, protested: ‘Philology was not one of the four Faculties; if he wanted to become a school-master, he ought to enter himself as a ‘student of Theology’. Wolf insisted that he proposed to study, not Theology, but Philology. He carried his point, and was the first student who was so entered in that university. The date of his matriculation has been deemed an epoch in the History of German Education, and also in the History of Scholarship. He next waited on the Rector, Heyne, to whom he had presented a letter of introduction a year before. Hastily glancing at this letter, Heyne had then asked him, who had been stupid enough to advise him to study ‘what he called philology’. Wolf replied that he preferred ‘the greater intellectual freedom’ of that study. Heyne assured him that ‘freedom’ could nowhere be found, that the study of the Classics was ‘the straight road to starvation’, and that there were hardly six good chairs of philology in all Germany. Wolf modestly suggested that he aspired to fill one of the six; Heyne could only laugh and bid farewell to the future ‘professor of philology’, adding that, when he entered at Gottingen, he would be welcome to attend Heyne’s lectures gratis. When he actually entered, Heyne, who was a busy man, treated him with a strange indifference. However, Wolf put down his name for Heyne’s private course on the Iliad, noted all the books cited in the introductory lecture, gathered all these books around him, and carefully prepared the subject of each lecture, but was so disappointed with the vague and superficial treatment of the subject, that, as soon as the professor had finished the first book, he ceased to attend. In the next semester, he found himself excluded from the course on Pindar. However, he went on working by himself; to save time, he spent only three minutes in dressing, and cut off every form of recreation. At the end of the first year, he had nearly killed himself, and, after a brief change of air, resolved never to work beyond midnight. By the end of the second, he had begun to give lectures on his own account, and, half a year later, was appointed, on Heyne’s recommendation, to a mastership at Ilfeld.”

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