Saturday, July 23, 2011
A Lover of Good Books
There was no way to separate the scholar, the Sanskritist, the teacher from the man. Most scholars even of the better sort are able to bring away their souls unscathed by their studies; Roger Jones used to say that Sanskrit had so throroughly permeated Ryder that it had even changed the color of his skin. The great books that he had read were part of him, not saws and jingles, quotations and analyses, the rags and tatters of a pompous erudition; their beauty and wisdom had been distilled through the limbeck of his mind and were inseparable properties of his soul. To us who read these books with him he is forever a part of them; as they fed his soul, so he gave them life. Can more be asked of a scholar or a teacher?p. 7:
For Arthur Ryder the only important reason for studying a language was the literature written in that language; and the object of the study of literature, he believed, is the great books themselves, not factual erudition around and about the books or their authors. With the antiquarian and archaeological research which parades as "history of literature" he had no patience ("the 'who's who' brand of scholarship" he called it); since in the modern world the word "scholarship" has been practically restricted to this kind of activity, the concern of which is not really literature but secondary facts about literature, he denied that he was a scholar and distinguished himself as a "lover of good books."p. 8:
Ryder was one of those men to whom the reading of books is as breathing. He scorned "those scholars who read in books but never read books" and the habit of reading selections he execrated. When he read the Mahabharata or the Ramayana he read it from first to last; and that he read them thus not once but several times will furnish some notion of the way in which he read Sanskrit. His taste in literature is not to be learned by asking what he read (for he read almost everything) but what books he read constantly.Thanks to Ian Jackson, who sent me a photocopy of this privately-printed memoir.
Related post: Arthur William Ryder.