Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Adverbs in Lieu of Argument

A.E. Housman, "Juvenal and Two of His Editors," Journal of Philology 34 (1918) 40-46 (at 41, first quoting S.G. Owen):
'[T]his is clearly one of the cases in which the vocabulary of later Latin appears first or nearly first in Juvenal. The word is doubtless colloquial.'

'Clearly,' for revelation makes all clear. 'Doubtless,' for revelation dispels all doubt. But if one is a simple ζῷον λογιστικόν, not entitled to use adverbs in lieu of argument, one cannot talk in that style.
A ζῷον λογιστικόν is a rational animal, which Owen was not, at least in Housman's opinion. Id. (at 40):
The causes which render me unintelligible to Mr Owen and Mr Owen unintelligible to me are probably many and various, but perhaps it is not difficult to distinguish and isolate one. I am accustomed to reach conclusions by reasoning and to commend them by argument. How Mr Owen reaches conclusions I have no means of knowing except by observing how he commends them; and I observe that argument is not his favourite method. His favourite method is simple affirmation, which he applies to the settlement of disputed questions with the utmost freedom and confidence. For this confidence I see so little ground that I infer it has some ground which I cannot see; and the less evidence of reason I find in Mr Owen's writing the more am I forced to the hypothesis that he has access to a higher and purer source of illumination.
I can't find out much about the unfortunate Sidney George Owen (1858-1940), who was contemporary with Housman (1859-1936). He was an undergraduate at Balliol, a lecturer at Manchester, and finally a tutor at Christ Church. His nephew Guy Boas wrote some appreciations of him, e.g. in A Teacher's Story (London: Macmillan, 1963), but these are unavailable to me. Both Owen and Housman were connoisseurs of food and wine.

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