Friday, September 11, 2015


Scraps of Greek

Richard Steele, The Spectator, no. 278 (January 18, 1712; a supposed letter to "Mr. Spectator"):
I am a Shop-keeper, and tho' but a young Man, I find by Experience that nothing but the utmost Diligence both of Husband and Wife (among trading People) can keep Affairs in any tolerable Order. My Wife at the Beginning of our Establishment shewed herself very assisting to me in my Business as much as could lie in her Way, and I have Reason to believe 'twas with her Inclination: But of late she has got acquainted with a Schoolman, who values himself for his great Knowledge in the Greek Tongue. He entertains her frequently in the Shop with Discourses of the Beauties and Excellencies of that Language, and repeats to her several Passages out of the Greek Poets, wherein he tells her there is unspeakable Harmony and agreeable Sounds, that all other Languages are wholly unacquainted with. He has so infatuated her with this Jargon, that instead of using her former Diligence in the Shop, she now neglects the Affairs of the House, and is wholly taken up with her Tutor in Learning by Heart Scraps of Greek, which she vents upon all Occasions. She told me some Days ago, that whereas I use some Latin Inscriptions in my Shop, she advised me with a great deal of Concern to have them changed into Greek; it being a Language less understood, would be more conformable to the Mistery of my Profession; that our good Friend would be assisting to us in this Work; and that a certain Faculty of Gentlemen would find themselves so much obliged to me, that they would infallibly make my Fortune: In short, her frequent Importunities upon this and other Impertinences of the like Nature make me very uneasy; and if your Remonstrances have no more effect upon her than mine, I am afraid I shall be obliged to ruin my self to procure her a Settlement at Oxford with her Tutor, for she's already too mad for Bedlam. Now, Sir, you see the Danger my Family is exposed to, and the Likelihood of my Wife's becoming both troublesome and useless, unless her reading her self, in your Paper, may make her reflect. She is so very learned, that I cannot pretend by Word of Mouth to argue with her: She laughed out at your ending a Paper in Greek, and said 'twas a Hint to Women of Literature, and very civil not to translate it to expose them to the Vulgar.

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