Tuesday, August 08, 2017


The World Has Turned a Sharp Corner Since Then

Thomas Saunders Evans (1816-1889), Latin and Greek Verse. Edited, with Memoir, by the Rev. Joseph Waite (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1893), pp. ii-iii (from Waite's Memoir):
When he was nine years old, he was sent for tuition to an uncle, the Rev. George Evans, Vicar of Ruyton, near Oswestry. He too was a sound scholar, a man of vigorous intellect, and a strict disciplinarian. His nephew was drilled by him into a thorough acquaintance with the Eton Latin and Greek grammars and made to learn by heart a portion of Vergil every day, in the repetition of which he committed a false quantity only at the risk of a flogging. Finding that his uncle was sensitive to an east wind, which as long as it lasted would postpone lessons to a later hour, he tied down the church weathercock so as to point fixedly eastward. The persistent immobility of the vane aroused suspicion, which led not only to a solution of the mystery but to the chastisement of the culprit. This uncle laid the foundations of his scholarship and first introduced him to his favorite Vergil. The impressions left by the two years he spent at Ruyton never faded from his memory and the manner in which he recalled them showed how observant he must have been as a boy. His quaint descriptions of the antique church-services, the high-backed pews, the pictures of Moses and Aaron in the chancel, the old-world congregation, the manners, speech, and rustic costume of the country-people, sounded like some of the best passages of Fielding's novels. He used to say:—'The world has turned a sharp corner since then.'
Id., p. vi:
Mr Evans, before he left the school [Shrewsbury] had filled several manuscript volumes in which Latin and Greek words and idioms are carefully tabulated with their nearest English equivalents. He used to say in his architectural phraseology:—'Words are the bricks of language. With them we must build,'—and he always insisted emphatically on what seems to be very much overlooked, that a copious and exact vocabulary is one of the very first requisites for a scholar.
Id., pp. xii-xiii:
He said modestly at a later date:—'I had no pretensions to scholarship until I reached the age of twenty-seven. It was then I commenced to read and think for myself, carefully analysing the meaning of words and the grammatical structure of the dead languages.'
Id., p. xxv (from a letter of Edward White Benson to Waite):
His perfect simplicity of nature, absence of mind and thoroughness of conviction came out in his first answer to a stranger, who, in reply to some simple observation of his, said 'Ah, I am an Agnostic.' With large bright eyes turned full on him, Evans slowly replied, 'Are you indeed? Is not that a very silly thing to be?'
Id., p. xliv:
He was intolerant of agnosticism, and having been asked in the presence of one who professed that no-creed what 'agnostic' meant, he said:—'The term explains itself. It means an ignoramus.'
Id., p. l:
From some of the Latin poets, whom he otherwise admired, he was repelled by their impurity. He expostulated with a distinguished editor of one of them for not having resorted to expurgation. On receiving the answer that this could not be done 'in justice to the poet,' he rejoined—'In justice to the poet it ought to have been done.'
Hat tip: Joel Eidsath.

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