Latin Enough to Ruin Your Life

Benjamin Rush, Essays: Literary, Moral, and Philosophical

“The famous Busby is said to have died of ‘bad Latin;’ that is, the ungrammatical versions of his scholars broke his heart. How few boys relish Latin and Greek lessons! The pleasure they sometimes discover in learning them, is derived either from the tales they read, or from a competition, which awakens a love of honour, and which might be displayed upon a hundred more useful subjects; or it may arise from a desire of gaining the good will of their masters or parents. Where these incentives are wanting, how bitter does the study of languages render that innocent period of life, which seems exclusively intended for happiness! ‘I wish I had never been born,’ said a boy of eleven years old, to his mother: ‘why, my son?’ said his mother. ‘Because I am born into a world of trouble.’

‘What trouble’, said his mother smiling, ‘have you known, my son?’

—’Trouble enough, mamma,’ said he, ‘two Latin lessons to get, every day.’ This boy was not deficient in genius nor in application to books. He often amused himself in reading natural and ancient history, was inquisitive after knowledge of every kind, and was never heard to ask a foolish or impertinent question.”

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