More Than Particles

C.M. Bowra, John Dewar Denniston

[Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. XXXV]

“In Denniston’s approach to classical studies composition had a central place. He believed that you cannot claim to know a language unless you can write it, and insisted that a proper understanding of classical literature is impossible without the exact discipline provided by composition. He was not, however, an uncritical advocate of composition as it was taught at schools and universities in his early years. Indeed he felt that its practitioners tended to move away from the study of classical texts and actual usage to that of modern versions and to produce inbred, artificial results, which might look elegant but were fundamentally unsound. Even so respected a book as Cambridge Compositions received his strictures on the ground that too often its contributors shirked real difficulties by a showy brilliance. Much though he admired the work of H. A. J. Munro and R. C. Jebb, he thought that even they did not fully satisfy the highest standards of accuracy and faithfulness to actual usage. He believed that the first duty of anyone who translates from English into Latin or Greek is to reproduce as exactly as possible the meaning of the English as a Roman or a Greek would have expressed it. His first aim was scientific. Once this demand was met, he was more than ready to give a place to elegance, but he would never allow it to be a substitute for exactness.”

Image result for J.D. DENNISTON

Leave a Reply