Friday, November 01, 2013


Another Howler, Master!

E.F. Benson (1867-1940), As We Were: A Victorian Peep-Show (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1930), pp. 150-151:
Jowett had no pretensions whatever to be a great scholar; he would have thought it imbecile to spend his time like Walter Headlam, who, like the 'Grammarian' whose funeral oration Robert Browning so nobly pronounced, would count any day well spent that had enabled him properly 'to base οὖν.' Jowett knew that οὖν meant, more or less, 'therefore,' and that was sufficient for him; why bother any more about a Greek particle?....Strangely enough in a man who had spent so many years in studying Greek, he was by no means accurate, and knowing his frailty in this regard, he had his translation carefully revised by other scholars. Among these (though I think the Master does not mention him by name) was the poet Swinburne: probably Swinburne was only an occasional reader of his proofs, when he was staying with the Master at Balliol. But there was a certain humour about the situation, for Swinburne had left Oxford without taking a degree, and there he was again looking over the Master's classical work for him. And the humour became even more manifest when he was engaged at his task. One morning the Master was in his study going through with their authors the English essays which the undergraduates had sent in for his perusal and criticism: Swinburne was sitting, with proofs of a Platonic dialogue, in a small adjoining room, the door between the two being open. It was the Master's habit sometimes to make rather withering remarks to these young essayists, and to-day one of his most biting observations was interrupted by a joyful crow of laughter from the next room and Swinburne's exultant voice exclaiming, 'Another howler, Master!' 'Thank you, Algernon,' said the Master meekly, and gently closed the door.

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