Saturday, May 25, 2013


FitzGerald Reads Thucydides

Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883), Letters and Literary Remains, vol. I (London: Macmillan and Co., 1889), p. 84 (letter to Frederic Tennyson, February 6, 1842):
I mean to take down a Thucydides, to feed on: like a whole Parmesan.
p. 144 (letter to Frederic Tennyson, December 8, 1844, ellipses in original):
I am meditating to begin Thucydides one day, perhaps this winter....
p. 169 (letter to Thomas Carlyle, February 1847):
I have begun to read Thucydides, which I never read before, and which does very well to hammer at for an hour in a day: though I can't say I care much for the Greeks and their peddling quarrels; one must go to Rome for wars.
p. 181 (letter to Edward Byles Cowell, 1847):
I am only got half way in the third book of Thucydides: but I go on with pleasure; with as much pleasure as I used to read a novel.
pp. 184-185 (letter to Edward Byles Cowell, January 25, 1848):
I have just finished, all but the last three chapters, the fourth Book of Thucydides, and it is now no task to me to go on. This fourth book is the most interesting I have read; containing all that blockade of Pylos; that first great thumping of the Athenians at Oropus, after which they for ever dreaded the Theban troops. And it came upon me 'come stella in ciel,' when, in the account of the taking of Amphipolis, Thucydides, ὃς τάδε ξυνέγραψεν, comes with seven ships to the rescue! Fancy old Hallam sticking to his gun at a Martello tower! This was the way to write well; and this was the way to make literature respectable.

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