Wednesday, May 11, 2016


The Laborious Mastery of Details

W.R. Hardie (1862-1916), "Aims and Methods of Classical Study," Lectures on Classical Subjects (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1903), pp. 309-336 (at 335-336):
Finally, what shall we say of this study of philology as a whole—the study of the language, the literature, and the life and thought of an ancient people—three things which we placed in an ascending scale of importance? It might perhaps be supposed that the last of them can be attained without the other two, or the two highest without the lowest; that all we need do is to read some clear and eloquent account of the life and thought of the ancients, or some authoritative critical treatise on the ancient authors, in order to get all the real advantage that can be got from a classical training. This view is quite illusory. Generalisations about the life and thought of a past age are mere empty phrases, unless we possess some direct acquaintance with that life and thought. Critical description of an author's merits and defects is one of the most useless forms of human knowledge, unless we can read the author ourselves, and feel that it is true. The key to the whole lies in the laborious mastery of details—in the first instance, in minutely accurate study of grammar and idiom.

If it be true that many or most theological controversies arise 'ex ignoratione grammaticae,' and if in the sphere of law it is a not uncommon occurrence that important issues depend on the place of a comma or on some minute point of verbal interpretation, it is evident that there can be no short and easy way to the kind of insight which is the scholar's aim. We must climb the hill step by step, if we are to see for ourselves the prospect which it commands from its summit.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?