Do It Well or Not At All

Mark Pattison, Muretus (Times, Aug. 23, 1882):

“At the present moment our grammar school curriculum is in a period of transition. Latin composition (so called) is still exacted, but it is no longer cultivated with the attention necessary to reach excellence. There are many things of which it may be said that if they are worth doing at all they are worth doing well. But of Latin style we may say, what is much more, that if it is not taught well it had better not be taught at all. It is not difficult to foresee that, first, Latin versification, and, next, Latin prose, will disappear from the grammar school. The art will not be expelled; it will die a natural death. The article produced has now so little art or beauty to recommend it, that it must soon be felt that it is not worth producing. As long as Latin style was the first and highest accomplishment of our classical schools, Muretus, with his finished periods of modernized Ciceronianism, was always in demand. His imitation of the ancients was the most perfect, because, unlike the servile procedure of Manutius and the Ciceronians, it was imitation, and not a copy. Apart from Muretus’s survival as a model of style, the life of the man was known to historians of literature as a typical life of a man of letters of the day, Muretus’s day was the age which followed the age of Erasmus.”

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