Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Hic, Haec, Hoc

Richard Graves (1715-1804), The Spiritual Quixote: Or, The Summer's Ramble of Mr. Geoffry Wildgoose. A Comic Romance, Vol. II (London: Peter Davies, 1926), pp. 137-139:
Mr. Selkirk (as we have already observed) was the schoolmaster of the village. He had formerly been a travelling Scotchman; but marrying a farmer's daughter with four or five hundred pounds, had opened a shop, and set up a little school, and professed to teach not only reading, writing, and accompts, but Latin and Greek, algebra, logarithms, and trigonometry, and all the most abstruse parts of the mathematics. He had really had the rudiments of a learned education, and was intended for the university, and some learned profession; but, being of a rambling disposition, like many of his ingenious countrymen, chose to travel southwards, and carry a pack for his amusement, as he would sometimes humorously confess.

Mr. Slicer then informed the company of Selkirk's excellent plan of education; that, instead of the rigid severity of the usual method in our public schools, he taught his boys all the rudiments of the Latin tongue, amidst their childish sports, by way of diversion.—'What, in Locke's method, I suppose?' says Wildgoose.—'What, Johnny Loke? No,' says Selkirk, 'I hope I have improved upon Johnny Loke, and Milton too.'—'In what manner, sir?' says Wildgoose.—'Here, Jockey,' replies Selkirk, 'let the gentlemen see you decline the pronoun article, hic, haec, hoc.'—Master Jacky immediately began hopping round the room, repeating hic, haec, hoc; gen. hujus; dat. huic; acc. hunc, hanc, hoc; voc. caret; abl. hoc, hac, hoc. &c.

'There now,' says Selkirk, 'in this manner I teach them the whole grammar. I make eight boys represent the eight parts of speech. The noun substantive stands by himself; the adjective has another boy to support him; the nominative case carries a little wand before the verb; the accusative case walks after, and supports his train: I let the four conjugations make a party at whist, and the three concords dance the hay together, and so on.'

The company laughed at Selkirk's project; but the little fat doctor, who had been bred at a public school, observed, that it was very pretty in theory, and so was Milton's and Locke's method, and might please fond mothers; but, he imagined, the great men in Queen Elizabeth's time had studied this affair more deeply than has been ever done since; yet they thought some coercive power in the teacher was very necessary; and, if boys were suffered to lay by the pursuit of dead languages as soon as it ceased to be agreeable to them, he was of opinion they would make but a very slender progress in Greek and Latin.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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