Saturday, October 25, 2014


A Crash Course in Greek

Lucy Cohen, Some Recollections of Claude Goldsmid Montefiore, 1858-1938 (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1940), pp. 37-38:
He never went to school, but learnt German (which he spoke perfectly) from his sister's governess, and Hebrew from the Reverend Professor Marks, Senior Minister of the Berkeley Street Synagogue, to whose influence he often refers in his letters. The future Sir Philip Magnus was responsible for his general education, which up to seventeen was wholly on the modern side. But it was after this date that a new world opened up to him; in order to matriculate he had to learn Greek, and on Jowett's recommendation Arnold Page, the future Dean of Peterborough, became his tutor. Page was then reading for the Bar and teaching was a new experience to him; and he told me how alarmed he felt at coming into a completely new environment—the only Jew he had known was Leonard Montefiore—but that he was at once put at ease by the family; their kindliness, he said, could not have been greater if they had been Christians. The servants remained until too old to work, and then were pensioned, and he himself met with nothing but consideration and friendliness, and, like Lord Milner, he was struck by the very happy home atmosphere. He had wondered what would be the best approach to teaching a language completely new to his pupil, and he decided that as children were the quickest linguists, he would proceed on the same lines as they did. Accordingly after a day spent on teaching the Greek letters, he began by reciting a few lines of Homer in a sort of sing-song, and getting his pupil to repeat them; this went on for a few weeks, and gradually Claude, with his quick memory, not only learned the sound, but the meaning; and in eight weeks from knowing nothing of Greek he matriculated at the London University thirtieth out of three hundred, a remarkable achievement.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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