Friday, August 20, 2010


The Classics and Books about the Classics

William Cowper, letter to Samuel Rose (February 14, 1788), in The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper, Vol. III: Letters 1787-1791, edd. James King and Charles Ryskamp (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), pp. 100-102 (at 102):
A thousand thanks, my dear Sir, for your kind offer of the books you mention. But I have already felt myself obliged to decline similar offers, lest by connecting the study of writers upon Homer and about him with the study of Homer himself, I should not live long enough to reach the end of my undertaking. I am not vain enough to think that they could not assist me, but I am too old to have so much time to spare as they would cost me.
Hugh E.P. Platt, Byways in the Classics (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1905), p. 146:
Literature is in real danger of being choked by its parasite, commentary. So I will end this little book, ut vineta egomet caedam mea, with a piece of advice which the first Lord Selborne gave to the late H.M. Wilkins, and Wilkins passed on to me,—we were all Scholars of Trinity, Oxford. It is this: READ THE CLASSICS RATHER THAN BOOKS ABOUT THE CLASSICS.
Anonymous (English, 17th century), Portrait of a Bibliophile

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