I Had Not Been Shown How to Read

Mark Pattison, Memoirs:

“I was not well grounded even in the Greek grammar; as to accentuation and metrical law I had everything to learn. But the worst of all was that I had not been shown how to read, and that the general mystery of exact language was hidden from me. The book which had taken most hold of my mind was Thucydides; I had written out translations of all the speeches. The political pregnancy of certain words in these had excited my interest, and served afterwards as a kind of introduction to the study of philosophical terms. But I had no apprehension of the refined beauties of poetical expression, the exquisitely clean-cut wording of Sophocles, and no doubt preferred Horace to Vergil. All that my extensive reading had given me was a mere empirical familiarity with the languages, an enlarged vocabulary, and an idea of various and contrasted styles. I had been practised a good deal in translating back from an English Cicero, and had a general sense of Ciceronian Latin as a type to work to, but was very far from being able easily to compose a Latin theme.”

Mark Pattison (1813–1884), Rector (1861–1884)

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