Love Libraries and Despise Fools

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy 2.2.4:

“King James, 1605, when he came to see our University of Oxford, and amongst other edifices now went to view that famous library, renewed by Sir Thomas Bodley, in imitation of Alexander, at his departure brake out into that noble speech, If I were not a king, I would be a university man: and if it were so that I must be a prisoner, if I might have my wish, I would desire to have no other prison than that library, and to be chained together with so many good authors et mortuis magistris. So sweet is the delight of study, the more learning they have (as he that hath a dropsy, the more he drinks the thirstier he is) the more they covet to learn, and the last day is prioris discipulus [the student of the one before]; harsh at first learning is, radices amarae [bitter roots], but fructus dulces [sweet fruits], according to that of Isocrates, pleasant at last; the longer they live, the more they are enamoured with the Muses.

Heinsius, the keeper of the library at Leyden in Holland, was mewed up in it all the year long: and that which to thy thinking should have bred a loathing, caused in him a greater liking. I no sooner (saith he) come into the library, but I bolt the door to me, excluding lust, ambition, avarice, and all such vices, whose nurse is idleness, the mother of ignorance, and melancholy herself, and in the very lap of eternity, amongst so many divine souls, I take my seat, with so lofty a spirit and sweet content, that I pity all our great ones, and rich men that know not this happiness.

I am not ignorant in the meantime (notwithstanding this which I have said) how barbarously and basely, for the most part, our ruder gentry esteem of libraries and books, how they neglect and contemn so great a treasure, so inestimable a benefit, as Aesop’s cock did the jewel he found in the dunghill; and all through error, ignorance, and want of education. And ’tis a wonder, withal, to observe how much they will vainly cast away in unnecessary expenses, quot modis pereant (saith Erasmus) magnatibus pecuniae, quantum absumant alea, scorta, compotationes, profectiones non necessariae, pompae, bella quaesita, ambitio, colax, morio, ludio, &c., what in hawks, hounds, lawsuits, vain building, gormandising, drinking, sports, plays, pastimes, &c. If a well-minded man to the Muses, would sue to some of them for an exhibition, to the farther maintenance or enlargement of such a work, be it college, lecture, library, or whatsoever else may tend to the advancement of learning, they are so unwilling, so averse, that they had rather see these which are already, with such cost and care erected, utterly ruined, demolished or otherwise employed; for they repine many and grudge at such gifts and revenues so bestowed: and therefore it were in vain, as Erasmus well notes, vel ab his, vel a negotiatoribus qui se Mammonae dediderunt, improbum fortasse tale officium exigere, to solicit or ask anything of such men that are likely damned to riches; to this purpose. For my part I pity these men, stultos jubeo esse libenter, let them go as they are, in the catalogue of Ignoramus.”

Dialogus creaturarum moralisatus. [Geneva]: Jean Belot, 1500. Illustration at beginning of book (a1v). Sp Coll S. M. 1986.

Latin vs. Philology, Part XVII

Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 17)

“How great a change of speech and of manners occurred in the Roman people is made clear enough to us by the opinion of Publius Scipio Aemilianus. When he returned after the defeat and ruin of Numantia, he had scarcely entered the city when, led forth onto the speaker’s platform by the tribune of plebs Gnaeus Carbo, who was eager to agitate the Gracchan sedition had been nearly extinguished, asked him what his opinion was on the death of Tiberius Gracchus. Carbo did not doubt that Scipio would censure his death, since he had his sister conjoined in marriage, and he thought that it would transpire that he would add much to the flames of sedition from the authority of such a great man. But the outcome was much different than he had hoped.

For Scipio, being a man endowed with gravity and a singular sense of justice, said that it appeared that Gracchus had been justly killed. When the assembly, provoked by the tribune’s goading and its own madness, was railing against this response, he said, ‘Those to whom Italy is a stepmother – not a mother – should be silent.’ He then added, ‘…those, whom I sold under the crown.’ And when a murmur arose again, he said, ‘You will not bring it about that I fear those whom I led as captives now that they are free.’ Scipio said that Italy was the stepmother, not the mother, to that ignorant mob, because it had been mixed together from so many and such different peoples.

Therefore, it was not absurd for Lucius Crassus to advise (as we read in Cicero), that there was no better mode of speaking, ‘than Latin, so that we can speak plainly, aptly, and fittingly for whatever is the matter at hand.’

He adds that we would try in vain to teach one who does not know how to speak, and that further, we cannot hope that one will speak decorously if they cannot speak Latin.”

Comic History of Rome p 240 Scipio Aemilianus cramming himself for a Speech after a hearty Supper.jpg

Quanta esset in populo romano et locutionis et morum facta mutatio perspicuo nobis sit argumento unius Publii Scipionis Aemiliani sententia, qui post eversionem ruinasque Numantiae ubi revertisset, vix urbem ingressus cum esset, productus in rostra a Cn. Carbone tribuno plebis, qui gracchanam seditionem iam propemodum extinctam excitare cupiebat, quae sua de Tyberii Gracchi morte sententia foret interrogavit. Non enim Scipionem dubitabat Carbo illius necem accusaturum, quoniam eius sororem coniunctam matrimonio haberet, et ita fore ut ex auctoritate amplissimi viri incrementi plurimum, quod animo cogitarat, seditionis incendiis adiiceret. Sed longe evenit contra.

Nam Scipio, ut erat vir gravitate et iustitia singulari, respondit illum iure sibi caesum videri. Ad quod quidem dictum ubi concio, tribunicio suasu furoreque irritata, obstreperet, “Taceant” inquit “quibus Italia noverca, non mater est”. Moxque addidit: “quos ego sub corona vendidi”. Atque orto deinde murmure, “Non” inquit “efficietis ut quos vinctos adduxi, solutos verear”. Italiam inquit Scipio novercam esse, non matrem, illi multitudini imperitae, quod ex tot et tam variis gentibus confusa esset.

Non igitur absurde monet apud Ciceronem L. Crassus, nullum esse dicendi modum meliorem “quam ut latine, ut plane, et ad id, quodcunque agetur, apte congruenterque dicamus”.

Subditque frustra conandum esse ut eum doceamus qui loqui nesciat, nec sperandum, qui latine non possit, hunc ornate esse dicturum.

Buried Under Mountains of Philology

James Loeb,

Letter from A Symposium on the Value of Humanistic, Particularly Classical, Studies as a Training for Men of Affairs:

“It would be a waste of your time and of my energy, were I to try to plead the cause of the Classics. America does not stand alone in its decreasing attention to Greek and Latin. Schoolmasters and university professors in England, France, and Germany make the same complaint. We must not close our eyes to the fact that the prevalent methods of teaching classical literature are largely to blame for this decrease. The dry, pedantic insistence on grammatical and syntactical detail, so usual in High School and University, has driven many a student out of the fold. It is asking too much of even a well-disciplined lad to read the Prometheus or the Antigone in this spirit. His eyes must be opened to the human values and to the aesthetic charm of -ancient literature ; and for this the teacher is often too incapable or too unwilling. I am confident that the younger generation of teachers, who are now coming into their own, and who have ‘tasted the dragon’s blood’ in Greece or in Italy, will inject new life into their subject, or rather, that they will understand how to show forth to their hearers that eternal life and beauty of the Classics which is so often buried under mountains of dry philology.

In an age like ours, where ambitious youth no longer treads the cloistered walk, where ‘Make Money,’ ‘Win Success,’ ‘Out-do Croesus’ are written in large letters on the blackboard of School, College, and University, usurping the place of the γνῶθι σαυτόν, how can we expect people to find value in Homer or Euripides, in Caesar or Catullus?

$uccess, written with the dollar sign, instead of with the commoner, but more harmless sibilant, is the shibboleth of our day. In his last year’s Phi Beta Kappa oration President Woodrow Wilson, of Princeton, said:

Is it not time we stopped asking indulgence for learning and proclaimed its sovereignty? Is it not time that we reminded the College men of this country that they have no right to any distinctive place in any community unless they can show it by intellectual achievement? that if a University is a place for distinction at all, it must be distinguished by conquest of mind?

Splendid! But what does the average undergraduate think of such words as these? ‘Stuff and nonsense; very pretty in theory, but how do they apply to my case to me, who want to make a Success of my life?’ We have made the path of education too smooth; our young men and women rush over it on the soft cushions of hurrying automobiles. They are no longer forced to face that healthy struggle for knowledge that wearies the body, but refreshes the mind. Why, there are Colleges and Universities in our land where ‘original research’ is recommended to young people as a profitable pastime before they know what a bibliography looks like! Most things can be popularized; original research cannot.”

Latin vs. Philology, Part XVI:

Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 16)

“What pure and uncorrupted Latinity could exist in the Roman people, who consisted of so many tribes and nations? A people which the numberless multitude of slaves, from nearly the entire world, given first their liberty and then their citizenship at one time or another and because of the calamities of the republic, corrupted in both language and customs?

I pass over how many people were received into the city by Romulus, and then by the kings which succeeded him – the Sabines, the Hernici, the Veientes, the Samnites, the Etruscans, the Oscans, and many others afterward were received not only into the city, but into the civic body. Wasn’t all of Carthage transported to Rome? Was it not the same with the Numantini? What about the Macedonians? What about the Greeks? Why should I even bring up the Asiatic mob?”

Portrait of Francesco Filelfo, bust, in profile, facing left, wearing gown with fur collar and hat with laurel band; illustration from Paulus Freher's "Theatrum virorum eruditione clarorum" (Nuremberg: Hoffmann, 1688)<br/>Engraving

Quae enim mera integraque latinitas esse iam poterat in romano populo, qui ex tam multis gentibus nationibusque constabat? quem innumerabilis etiam multitudo servorum, ex universo poene orbe, aliis temporibus atque aliis, ob reipublicae calamitates, libertate primo, deinde civitate donata, et lingua et moribus inquinarat?

Omitto quot populi, ab ipso usque Romulo urbis conditore, a caeterisque deinceps regibus in urbem recepti sunt, Sabini, Hernici, Veientes, Samnites, Ethrusci, Osci aliique postea permulti, nec in urbem solum sunt recepti, sed etiam in civitatem. Nonne tota Carthago Romam advecta est? Non item Numantini? Quid Macedonas? Quid Graecos? Quid asiaticum vulgus meminero?

Pondering the Past

James Bryce,

Letter from A Symposium on the Value of Humanistic, Particularly Classical, Studies as a Training for Men of Affairs:

“I do not say that the classics will make a dull man bright, nor that a man ignorant of them may not display the highest literary or the highest practical gifts, as indeed many have done. Natural genius can overleap all deficiencies of training. But a mastery of the literature and history of the ancient world makes every one fitter to excel than he would have been without it, for it widens the horizon, it sets standards unlike our own, it sharpens the edge of critical discrimination, it suggests new lines of constructive thought. It is no doubt more directly helpful to the lawyer or the clergyman or the statesman than it is to the engineer or the banker. But it is useful to all, for the man of affairs gains, like all others, from whatever enables him better to comprehend the world of men around him and to discern the changes that are passing on in it.

Without disparaging the grammatical and philological study of Greek and Latin, the highest value a knowledge of these languages contains seems to me to lie less in familiarity with their forms than in a grasp of ancient life and ancient thought, in an appreciation of the splendor of the poetry they contain, in a sense of what human nature was in days remote from our own. It is for all of us necessary to live for the present and the immediate future. But it is a mistake to live so entirely in the present as we are apt to do in these days, for the power of broad thinking suffers. It is not only the historian who ought to know the past, nor only the philosopher and the statesman who ought to ponder the future and endeavor to divine it by filling his mind with the best thought which the men of old have left to us.”

This famous illustration for which the manuscript is named has been the subject of numerous scholarly interpretations.

The Soul of Genius

John Snelling Popkin, Three Lectures on Liberal Education:

“The rules and observations of the rhetorical art are highly useful, if they are sound, to lead the mind to perceive and feel the inspirations of genius, and the corrections of judgment; and to show the correct, and check the perverted use of its own faculties. But it must not stop there. It must go to the fountains; it must learn of the original masters; it must peruse the great authors and there it must be nourished, and cherished, and replenished, invigorated, and stimulated to exert its own powers, and put forth its own productions. From them the laws of Rhetoric were first derived. This art was not first formed as a mould, in which their works might be cast. It may well assist to form the taste and direct the judgment of the aspirant. But it is not enough for him to have studied the art; he must also, and chiefly, find the materials and their use m the best authors, and in his own mind. And in these sources, with his art, he may by habit acquire both matter and form.

The soul of genius works its own way, and makes its own laws, and gives laws to others. It may be corrected; it may be improved. But, I imagine, it was hardly conscious to itself of half the principles and purposes, which are ascribed to it by the critical reader. Yet it had them, and it used them, and produced the effects, and sent them forth to the world, by the spontaneous operation of the .mysterious powers of the human mind. If the superiority of the earlier over the later poets, in point of genius, be justly asserted, one great cause may have been, that they wrought fervently in liberty and passion; but their successors labored humbly and timidly in chains and fetters under a severe dominion. Yet Homer was not the first of his line, but the acme of an ascending order of poets, as Olen, and Linus, and Orpheus, and others known and unknown. It is said, there were schools in his day, and chiefly schools of poetry, and he was a Master. Every palace of Homer, or of Homer’s kings, had its divine poet, θεῖος ἀοιδός; and Achilles in his tent and in his wrath sang the glories of men to his harp. The dawn and the morning precede the rising sun; and the light arose on the darkness of chaos, before the central orb shone forth from the heavens.”

Latin vs. Philology, Part XV:

Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 15)

As it was, among the Athenians, one thing to speak Attic and another to speak grammatically, so too the same difference may be observed among the Romans, that there is one mode for Latinity, and another for literature, but it is nevertheless a small distinction. This is obvious from the nouns which are found in both the fourth and second declensions.

For, words like ornatus, tumultus, senatus, victus, and many others of this sort have genitives, grammatically speaking, which end in –us, as huius ornatus, huius tumultus, huius senatus, huius victus, though they are declined in Latin as ornatus ornati, tumultus tumulti, senatus senati, and victus victi.

In the same way, nouns of the fifth declension will for the most part take, according to the grammarians, nominatives in –es and genitives in –ei, as for example barbaries barbariei, segnities segnitiei, duricies duriciei, mollicies molliciei, but in actual Latin use, the nominative ends in –a and the genitive in the diphthong –ae, as barbaria barbariae, segnitia segnitiae, duricia duriciae, mollicia molliciae.

Bearing on this, one may observe in actual Latin the use of the word nex in the nominative, which the rules of the grammarians prohibit.

The grammarians would also argue that the word sponte is in the ablative and lacking all of the other cases. But Cornelius Celsus shows that actual Latin uses the word differently, when he writes in the first book of his Art of Medicine, ‘A healthy person, who is in good health and in possession of their own will, should bind himself to no set rules.’

So, I say, Latin speech is common and known to all, but literary speech is not so. But while it is primarily restricted to the educated and the learned, yet it is such that it can correct and nourish Latin speech which has become degraded.”

File:Master and scholars - 1464 - L'image du Monde.jpg

Et ut apud Athenienses aliud erat attice loqui, aliud grammatice, eadem quoque differentia fuit apud Romanos, ut alia esset latinitatis ratio, et litteraturae alia, sed ea tamen admodum parva: quod patet in iis nominibus quae et in quarta reperiuntur et in secunda declinatione.

Nam ornatus, tumultus, senatus, victus multaque huiusmodi emittunt grammatice genitivos in – us, ut huius ornatus, huius tumultus, huius senatus, huius victus, cum latine declinentur ornatus -ti, tumultus -ti, senatus -ti et victus victi.

Et eodem modo quintae declinationis nomina secundum grammaticos emittunt, maiore ex parte, rectos in -es et genitivos in -ei, ut barbaries barbariei, segnities segnitiei, duricies duriciei, mollicies molliciei, quae in recto, secundum latinitatem, desinunt in -a et in genitivo in -ae diphtongon, ut barbaria barbariae, segnitia segnitiae, duricia duriciae, mollicia molliciae.

Ad haec latine reperitur nex in casu nominativo, quod grammaticorum praecepta prohibent.

Et sponte grammatice ablativum habere volunt, caeteris autem casibus carere. At latinitatem aliter eo uti ostendit Cornelius Celsus, qui libro primo suae artis medicae ita ait: “Sanus homo, qui et bene valet et suae spontis est, nullis obligare se legibus debet”.
Latinus, inquam, sermo et vulgaris erat et omnibus cognitus, litteralis vero non ita prorsus, sed viris peritis ac doctis duntaxat, caeterum talis qui depravatam latinitatem et emendaret et aleret.