Frightfully Stupid Classics

E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey (Chp. 17):

Mr. Pembroke was silent. Then he observed, “There is, as you say, a higher attitude and a lower attitude. Yet here, as so often, cannot we find a golden mean between them?”

“What’s that?” said a dreamy voice. They turned and saw a tall, spectacled man, who greeted the newcomer kindly, and took hold of his arm. “What’s that about the golden mean?”

“Mr. Jackson—Mr. Elliot: Mr. Elliot—Mr. Jackson,” said Herbert, who did not seem quite pleased. “Rickie, have you a moment to spare me?”

But the humanist spoke to the young man about the golden mean and the pinchbeck mean, adding, “You know the Greeks aren’t broad church clergymen. They really aren’t, in spite of much conflicting evidence. Boys will regard Sophocles as a kind of enlightened bishop, and something tells me that they are wrong.”

“Mr. Jackson is a classical enthusiast,” said Herbert. “He makes the past live. I want to talk to you about the humdrum present.”

“And I am warning him against the humdrum past. That’s another point, Mr. Elliot. Impress on your class that many Greeks and most Romans were frightfully stupid, and if they disbelieve you, read Ctesiphon with them, or Valerius Flaccus.”

Intertextuality in Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica


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