He Really Thought in Greek

Rudolf Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship 1300-1850 (Chp. IX):

“When Robert Étienne died in 1559 in Geneva, the press passed to the eldest of his children, Henri (who was born probably in Paris in 1531). Latin was, we may say, his mother tongue; he learnt Greek as a child and at the age of eleven attended the lectures of the great classical scholars at the Collège Royal. The forties of the sixteenth century were just the age of that passionate Grecism in France which we have tried to describe; Henri Étienne was imbued with the deepest love of the Greek language and became incredibly familiar with its idiom. He really thought in Greek and could speak it; to him it was simply not a foreign language at all. In this respect he was, as far as I can see, unique. He was indeed not an ordinary academic grammarian or critic, but a great adventurer in the field of Greek scholarship.”


For Henri Étienne was neither truly critical nor careful, and had neither the sense of poetry nor literary taste. That is the flaw in the work of this passionate genius. His prefaces are full of personal remarks and would provide ample material for an extensive authoritative biography.”

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