Sunday, October 09, 2016


Conservative Scholars

A.E. Housman (1859-1936), ed., M. Annaei Lucani Belli Civilis Libri Decem (1927; rpt. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1950), p. xxvii:
It would not be true to say that all conservative scholars are stupid, but it is very near the truth to say that all stupid scholars are conservative. Defenders of corruptions are therefore assured beforehand of wide approval; and this is demoralising. They need not seriously consider what they say, because they are addressing an audience whose intelligence is despicable and whose hearts are won already; and they use pretexts which nobody would venture to put forward in any other cause. Emendators should thank their stars that they have the multitude against them and must address the judicious few, and that moral integrity and intellectual vigilance are for them not merely duties but necessities.
Although it goes without saying, perhaps it needs be said anyway—"conservative" here means one who defends corrupt manuscript readings and opposes attempts to emend them.

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