Wednesday, April 20, 2016


The Reading Animal

Paul Shorey (1857-1934), "Philology and Classical Philology," Classical Journal 1.6 (May, 1906) 169-196 (at 182):
Man is, in short, a reading animal. If he has few books, he will interpret them fanatically and fantastically; and the result is the civilization of the Koran or the Latin Vulgate. If he has many, he will collect them like postage-stamps, list them in British Museum catalogues and Callimachan πίνακες τῶν ἐν πάσῃ παιδείᾳ διαλαμψάντων, gossip about them with the Deipnosophists and Mr. Andrew Lang, make extracts with the elder Pliny, or commentaries with Didymus and Simplicius, imitate them with Virgil, Shakespeare, and Tennyson, quote them with Bacon, Burton, and Montaigne—write doctoral dissertations on them as we do. And finally, by nature's wasteful method, from all this pedantic travail of bookishness is born the scholarship of Alexandria and Pergamon, the humanism of Florence and Rome, the philology of Göttingen and Berlin, whereby he comes to understand his books and the human spirit and himself as he can in no other way.

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