Saturday, May 14, 2016


Our Intellectual Grandfathers

G.G. Ramsay (1839-1921), Efficiency in Education: Inaugural Address Delivered at the First Annual Meeting of the Scottish Classical Association, 29th November, 1902 (Glasgow: James MacLehouse and Sons, 1902), pp. 8-9:
We teachers of classics, gentlemen, have long been in possession of the field—until recently, in almost exclusive possession of it. We train by means of subjects which lie at the very root of human culture in all those great departments of life without some knowledge of, and interest in, which, no one can be deemed to be educated at all. In studying Latin and Greek, the life and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, we are drawing from the fountain-heads of language, literature, art, philosophy, government, and law: and upon that foundation, whether the foundation be seen or not, the superstructure of our modern civilisation rests. Those foundations can never be disturbed; no country, no age, can ever turn its back upon its past, and ignore, or attempt to undo, as the French Revolution vainly attempted to undo, all that has gone to its own making. Any such attempt recalls the advice given to a patient who consulted an eminent doctor for chronic gout. 'I can do nothing for you,' said the doctor. 'What! absolutely nothing?' 'Well, there is only one thing in the world that would do you any good. Dig up your grandfather and get a new one.' We cannot, as a nation, dig up our intellectual grandfathers, and provide ourselves with new ones in language, history, or literature. Classical studies can never die; least of all in these days, when men are penetrating into the past history of our race with an enthusiasm and a wealth of results unknown before.

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