Tuesday, October 23, 2012


A Utopian Dream

Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894), The Intellectual Life (New York: John B. Alden, 1885), pp. 127-128:
That a modern may be taught to think in Latin, is proved by the early education of Montaigne, and I may mention a much more recent instance. My brother-in-law told me that, in the spring of 1871, a friend of his had come to stay with him accompanied by his little son, a boy seven years old. This child spoke Latin with the utmost fluency, and he spoke nothing else. What I am going to suggest is a Utopian dream, but let us suppose that a hundred fathers could be found in Europe, all of this way of thinking, all resolved to submit to some inconvenience in order that their sons might speak Latin as a living language. A small island might be rented near the coast of Italy, and in that island Latin alone might be permitted. Just as the successive governments of France maintain the establishments of Sèvres and the Gobelins to keep the manufactures of porcelain and tapestry up to a recognized high standard of excellence, so this Latin island might be maintained to give more vivacity to scholarship. If there were but one little corner of ground on the wide earth where pure Latin was constantly spoken, our knowledge of the classic writers would become far more sympathetically intimate. After living in the Latin island we should think in Latin as we read, and read without translating.

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