Sunday, March 31, 2013


Wise Ones

John Harrington, letter to Thomas Howard (April 1603), in The Letters and Epigrams of Sir John Harrington, ed. Norman Egbert McClure (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1930), pp. 99-100:
I am now settynge forthe for the countrie, where I will read Petrarch, Ariosto, Horace, and such wise ones. I will make verses on the maidens, and give my wine to the maisters; but it shall be such as I do love, and do love me. I do muche delight to meete my goode freindes, and discourse of getting rid of our foes. Each nighte do I spende, or muche better parte thereof, in counceil with the aunciente examples of lerninge; I con over their histories, their poetrie, their instructions, and thence glean my own proper conducte in matters bothe of merrimente or discretion...
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


I Too Am an Epicurean

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short (October 31, 1819):
As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us. Epictetus, indeed, has given us what was good of the stoics; all beyond, of their dogmas, being hypocrisy and grimace. Their great crime was in their calumnies of Epicurus and misrepresentations of his doctrines; in which we lament to see the candid character of Cicero engaging as an accomplice.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Even Jupiter Does Not Please Everybody

Erasmus, Adagia II vii 55 (tr. R.A.B. Mynors):
Ne Jupiter quidem omnibus placet
Even Jupiter does not please everybody

Theognis among his moral maxims: 'For Jove himself may not content us all, / Whether he holds rain back or lets it fall.' For in our own day too there is a common saying that no one can be found who pleases everybody. For different people like different things, and 'Three guests1 I have, of wishes quite contrary; / As their tastes differ, so their orders vary.' Pindar2 in the eighth of his Olympians: 'But among men nothing will be equally delightful,' because of course some like one thing, some another, and 'What is one's own is beautiful.'3 This resembles that saying in the Gospel4 which I referred to in the outset of this work, when I was speaking of the respect due to proverbs: 'We have piped to you and you have not danced; we have mourned to you and you have not wept.'

55. From Theognis, the moralist-poet of the sixth century BC, 25-6; our version is borrowed from section V of Erasmus' introduction (C[ollected]W[orks of]E[rasmus] 31, 13). Suringar [Erasmus over nederlandsche spreekwoorden ...(Utrecht 1873)] 134; Tilley [Dictionary of Proverbs in English in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Ann Arbor 1950)] J 103 Jupiter himself cannot please all.
1 Three guests] Horace Epistles 2.2.61-2, already cited in I iii 7
2 Pindar] Olympians 8.53, one of nearly thirty texts from that book added in [Erasmus's adages of] 1533
3 beautiful] I ii 15
4 Gospel] Luke 7.32; the Latin, added in [Erasmus's adages of] 1515, is not the Vulgate version
The original:
Ne Jupiter quidem omnibus placet

Theognis in Sententiis:
                                     Οὐ δὲ γὰρ ὁ Ζεὺς
Οὔθ' ὕων πάντας ἀνδάνει οὐτ' ἀνέχων

                         Neque Jupiter ipse
Sive pluat seu non, unicuique placet.
Hodie vulgo dicunt neminem inveniri, qui satisfaciat omnibus; nam aliis alia probantur. Et:
Tres mihi convivae prope dissentire videntur,
Poscentes vario multum diversa palato.
Pindarus in Olympiorum octavo:
Τερπνὸν δ᾿ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἴσον ἔσσεται οὐδέν. Id est,
Inter homines nihil erit aeque jucundum,
videlicet quod alios alia delectant et suum cuique pulchrum est. Cui simile est illud Evangelicum, quod in operis initio retulimus, cum de paroemiae dignitate loqueremur: Ηὐλήσαμεν ὑμῖν, καὶ οὐκ ὠρχήσασθε, ἐθρηνήσαμεν, καὶ οὐκ ἐκλαύσατε. Id est, Cecinimus vobis et non saltastis; lamentati sumus vobis et non plorastis.
Cf. Plutarch, Life of Solon 25.5 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
for 'in great affairs,' as he says himself, 'it is difficult to please all'

ἔργμασι γὰρ ἐν μεγάλοις πᾶσιν ἁδεῖν χαλεπόν, ὡς αὐτὸς εἴρηκε.
See Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010) #144, p. 147.

In an alternative formulation (Gilleland's Law):
Everything offends someone.
Thanks to Ian Jackson for sending me the end notes to Mynors' translation of Erasmus.

Friday, March 29, 2013


Omnia Mutantur

Luís de Camões (1524-1580), Sonnet LVII (tr. William Baer):
Time changes, and our desires change. What we
believe—even what we are—is ever-
changing. The world is change, which forever
takes on new qualities. And constantly,
we see the new and the novel overturning
the past, unexpectedly, while we retain
from evil, nothing but its terrible pain,
from good (if there’s been any), only the yearning.
Time covers the ground with her cloak of green
where, once, there was freezing snow—and rearranges
my sweetest songs to sad laments. Yet even more
astonishing is yet another unseen
change within all these endless changes:
that for me, nothing ever changes anymore.

  Mudam-se os tempos, mudam-se as vontades,
muda-se o ser, muda-se a confiança;
todo o mundo he composto de mudança,
tomando sempre novas qualidades.
  Continuamente vemos novidades,
differentes em tudo da esperança;
do mal ficam as mágoas na lembrança,
e do bem (se algum houve) as saüdades.
  O tempo cobre o chão de verde manto,
que já coberto foi de neve fria,
e em mi converte em choro o doce canto.
  E, afora este mudar-se cada dia,
outra mudança faz de mor espanto:
que não se muda já como soía.


An Old Man

Wye Saltonstall (bap. 1602, d. after 1640), Picturae Loquentes, 2nd ed. (London: Tho. Cotes, 1635), no. 2:
An old Man,

Is loath to bid the world goodnight, hee knowes the grave is a long sleepe, and therefore would sit up as long as hee could. His soule has long dwelt in a ruinous tenement, and yet is so unwilling to leave it that it could be content to sue the body for reparitions. He lives now to be but a burthen to his friends, as age is to him, and yet his thoughts are as farre from death as he is nigh it. Howsoever time bee a continued motion, yet the Dyall of his age stands still at 50, that's his age for ten yeares afterward, and love's such a friend that like a flattering glasse tels him hee seemes farre younger. His memory is full of the actions of his youth, which hee often historifies to others in tedious tales, and thinks they should please others because himselfe. His discourses are full of parenthesis, and his wordes fall from him as slowly as water from an Alimbecke; drop by drop. He loves the chimney corner and his chaire which he brags was his grandfathers, from whence he secures the cubboard from the Catts and Dogges, or the milke from running over, and is onely good to build up the architecture of a seacole fyre by applying each circumstant cynder. When his naturall powers are all impotencyes, hee marries a young wench for warmth sake, and when hee dyes, makes her an estate durante viduitate onely for widowhood. At talke hee commonly uses some proverbiall verses gathered perhaps from cheese-trenchers or Schola Salerna, which he makes as applyable, as a mountebank plasters to all purposes, all occasions. Hee cals often to the Servingman for a cup of Sacke, and to that end stiles him friend; and wonders much that new wine should not bee put in old bottles. Though the proverbe be, once a man and twice a childe, yet he hopes from his second childhood to runne backe into his teenes, and so bee twice a man too. Lastly, hee's a candle burnt to the snuffe, the ruines onely of a man, whose soule is but the salt of his body to keepe it from stincking, and can scarcely performe that too.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Simple Fare

Martial 13.7 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):

If pale beans froth for you in a red pot, you can often say no to the dinners of the high-livers.


Si spumet rubra conchis tibi pallida testa,
  lautorum cenis saepe negare potes.
Latin conchis (Lewis and Short, "kind of bean boiled with the pods") comes from Greek κόγχος (Liddell-Scott-Jones, sense III = "soup of lentils boiled with the pods"). According to Andrew Dalby, Food in the Ancient World from A to Z (London: Routledge, 2003), p. 252, it means pea soup. Dalby says, "There is no evidence for the usual translation of conchis as 'beans cooked with the pods'."


Rest Stop

Greek Anthology 10.13 (Satyrus, tr. W.R. Paton):
How lovely are the laurels and the spring that gushes at their feet, while the dense grove gives shade, luxuriant, traversed by Zephyrs, a protection to wayfarers from thirst and toil and the burning sun!

Ἦ καλὸν αἱ δάφναι, καλὸν δ᾽ ὑπὸ πυθμέσιν ὕδωρ
  πιδύει, πυκινὸν δ᾽ ἄλσος ὑποσκιάει
τηλεθάον, ζεφύροισιν ἐπίδρομον, ἄλκαρ ὁδίταις
  δίψης καὶ καμάτου καὶ φλογὸς ἠελίου.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Cast Away Cares

Greek Anthology 10.76 (Paulus Silentiarius, tr. W.R. Paton):
There is no natural pleasure in life itself, but in casting off from our mind anxieties that whiten the temples. I wish for sufficient wealth, but mad lust for gold is a superfluous care that ever devours the heart. Therefore among men thou shalt often find poverty better than wealth, and death than life. Knowing this, make straight the ways of thy heart, looking to one hope, even to wisdom.
The same, tr. J.W. Mackail:
It is not living that has essential delight, but throwing away out of the breast cares that silver the temples. I would have wealth sufficient for me, and the excess of maddening care for gold ever eats away the spirit; thus among men thou wilt find often death better than life, as poverty than wealth. Knowing this, do thou make straight the paths of thine heart, looking to our one hope, Wisdom.
The Greek:
Οὐ τὸ ζῆν χαρίεσσαν ἔχει φύσιν, ἀλλὰ τὸ ῥῖψαι
  φροντίδας ἐκ στέρνων τὰς πολιοκροτάφους.
πλοῦτον ἔχειν ἐθέλω τὸν ἐπάρκιον· ἡ δὲ περισσὴ
  θυμὸν ἀεὶ κατέδει χρυσομανὴς μελέτη.
ἔνθεν ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἀρείονα πολλάκι δήεις
  καὶ πενίην πλούτου, καὶ βιότου θάνατον.
ταῦτα σὺ γινώσκων κραδίης ἴθυνε κελεύθους,
  εἰς μίαν εἰσορόων ἐλπίδα, τὴν σοφίην.
Latin translation by Hugo Grotius:
Vivere non dulce est, animo sed pellere curas
  Quae pingunt celeri tempora canitie.
Divitias cupiam quantum satis: id quod abundat,
  Est animum auratis sollicitudinibus.
Hinc et saepe mori melius quam vivere, et audax
  Paupertas magnas saepe lacessit opes.
Haec bene cum noris, maneat sapientia sola
  Spes tibi, in hanc certum dirige mentis iter.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013



Hávamál 81, tr. R.I. Page in Anglo-Saxon Attitudes: An Inaugural Lecture Delivered before the University of Cambridge on 6 March 1985 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 25:
Don't say, 'It's a good day', till nightfall.
Don't say, 'She's a good wife', till she's buried.
Don't say, 'It's a good sword', till you've tested it.
Don't say, 'She's a good daughter', till she's married off.
Don't say, 'The ice is safe', till you've crossed it.
Don't say, 'This is Real Ale', till you've drunk it down.

At kveldi skal dag leyfa,    kono, er brennd er,
mæki, er reyndr er,    mey, er gefin er,
ís, er yfir kømr,    ǫl, er drukkit er.
Page warns (p. 30, n. 42):
The translation should not be used as a crib. It contains occasional idiosyncrasies of wording.
Another translation, by D.E. Martin Clarke in The Hávamál: With Selections from Other Poems of the Edda (1923; rpt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 63:
Praise no day until evening, no wife until she is burnt,
no sword until tested, no maid until given in marriage,
no ice until crossed, no ale until it has been drunk.
For the idea, cf. the Latin proverb "Omnia tunc bona sunt clausula quando bona est," no. 89 in Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), p. 108.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Here at Life's End

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), "An Acre of Grass," in The Collected Works, Vol. I: The Poems, 2nd ed. (New York: Scribner, 1997), p. 308:
Picture and book remain,
An acre of green grass
For air and exercise,
Now strength of body goes;
Midnight an old house
Where nothing stirs but a mouse.

My temptation is quiet.
Here at life's end
Neither loose imagination,
Nor the mill of the mind
Consuming its rag and bone,
Can make the truth known.

Grant me an old man's frenzy,
Myself must I remake
Till I am Timon and Lear
Or that William Blake
Who beat upon the wall
Till Truth obeyed his call;

A mind Michael Angelo knew
That can pierce the clouds,
Or inspired by frenzy
Shake the dead in their shrouds;
Forgotten else by mankind
An old man's eagle mind.
Yeats, "The Tower," lines 180-194, id., p. 203:
Now shall I make my soul,
Compelling it to study
In a learned school
Till the wreck of body,
Slow decay of blood,
Testy delirium
Or dull decrepitude,
Or what worse evil come—
The death of friends, or death
Of every brilliant eye
That made a catch in the breath—
Seem but the clouds of the sky
When the horizon fades,
Or a bird's sleepy cry
Among the deepening shades.

Monday, March 25, 2013



Willa Cather (1873-1947), "Prairie Dawn," in April Twilights (Boston: The Gorham Press, 1903), p. 40:
A crimson fire that vanquishes the stars;
A pungent odor from the dusty sage;
A sudden stirring of the huddled herds;
A breaking of the distant table-lands
Through purple mists ascending, and the flare
Of water ditches silver in the light;
A swift, bright lance hurled low across the world;
A sudden sickness for the hills of home.


The Main Criminal is Man

Raymond Carr, Spain 1808-1975, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 424-426:
[p. 424] The destruction of forests is the historic crime of agricultural Spain. In the past, sheep and the privileges of the Mesta may have been to blame: but the ravages continued into modern times, long after the great days of sheep. Sheep destroy trees less than goats and even donkeys and the main criminal is man.3 Apart from the demands of the fleet, the building industry, and the kitchen, it was the constant extension of the plough that [p. 425] destroyed the forest cover.1 The hatred of the peasant for trees is one of the most reliably attested and curious features of country life outside of northern Spain: trees harboured sparrows, weakened corn, and 'wasted' land.' Nowhere is the liberal optimism of the eighteenth century more evident than in Jovellanos's dogma that forests were better preserved by private interest than public legislation. In fact, only strict legislative control, a state forestry service, and large-scale state investment could begin the immense task of restoring the forests of Spain.

Without effective legislation the destruction of Spain's forest cover was continued in the late nineteenth century; between 1866 and 1932–largely to meet the increasing demands of the building industry–perhaps half of the woods left standing by the mid-century speculators were cut down, usually without replanting.2 Critics pointed to the crime, to the mean grants for forest services, without realizing the immensity of the difficulties involved in replanting partially eroded scrub. In Murcia 5,000 trees were planted, protected by individual shields and hand-watered: after five years twenty-five trees were still living.3 Without adequate cover crops, the soil of Spain blew away or was washed away by the winter torrents, its balance and texture destroyed. In similar conditions in north Africa the cultivation of a slight slope meant total ruin within ten years.4 Only scientific re-afforestation, combined with cutting on a sustained yield basis, could have re-established a permanent [p. 426] stream flow by absorbing water in the higher reaches of the river system and reducing the enormous and devastating fluctuations characteristic of deforested watersheds: recurrent flood disasters were a consequence of heavy rains on a hard, baked soil. Useful rivers, which could form the basis of profitable irrigation and hydro-electric schemes, were thus a corollary of useful forests.1

[p. 424]
3 Should this be doubted, I had a hundred beech trees ringed by one donkey in less than a month; sheep prefer grass seeds and dry pasture and I have watched sheep for days in Aragon without seeing them destroy saplings. Goats on the other hand, apart from ringing trees, will even climb stumpy trees to destroy foliage.

[p. 425]
1 In some parts of Spain burning ground to improve grazing is common, though illegal, practice. Sometimes fires do great damage in dry years and their origin is attributed to private feuds or to shepherd 'carelessness', a lingering relic of the great feud between graziers and agriculturalists. The tourist may observe such fires on the Costa Brava between Puerto de la Selva and Cadaqués.
2 A farmer in Aragon told me he had cut down all his trees in the lean years after 1939 and had assumed they would replant naturally. In 1952 there were no signs of natural replacement.
3 E.G.H. Dobby, 'The Agrarian Problem in Spain' (Geographical Review, New York, xxvi (1936), 187). For an examination of the budgetary allocations for re-afforestation see Celedonio Rodrigañaez, El problema económica, 187. There was one forestry officer per 41,387 hectares as compared with 3,862 hectares in France. Half of the 'cultivable land' of Spain was counted as forest: of this 58 per cent. had no trees. Understandably the production of wood per capita was among the lowest in Europe (Portugal 1.59 cubic metres; France 0.63; Spain 0.10).
4 It might be argued that latifundia scrub pasture (cf. J. Carandell, Córdoba, 14, for its extent in a typical latifundist area) respected the soil and prevented gully erosion. This is true only where the scrub is not heavily grazed.

[p. 426]
1The flood flow of some Spanish rivers is 1,000 times that of its normal flow. Much Spanish replanting was of eucalyptus, in itself a doubtful remedy (cf. South African experience).
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.




David Konstan, "Excerpting as a Reading Practice," in Thinking Through Excerpts: Studies on Stobaeus, ed. G. Reydams-Schils (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), pp. 9-22 (at 9-10, footnotes omitted):
Excerptors, generally speaking, have a bad name. As mere compilers, their own thoughts, if they had any, are concealed behind the wisdom of others. They are essentially derivative, secondary; at best, they may be classed with authors of synopses and abridgements, or with scholiasts, or even, at a stretch, with commentators, writers who take it upon themselves to make important works composed by others (or sometimes by themselves) more accessible to the general reader — what Markus Dubischar calls 'auxiliary texts' (Auxiliartexte). Of these, excerptors seem the most anonymous and impersonal, even mechanical: they cut and paste, and so lack any voice of their own. We are grateful, of course, when they preserve fragments that would otherwise have been lost, and in this respect we particularly value their dutifulness as copiers: we do not want them to tamper with the extracts they reproduce, but to leave them exactly in the form in which they found them (and can only hope that they chanced upon reasonably good manuscripts). The less creativity they exhibit, the better.

What is more, excerptors represent, according to the common view, a decadent phase of civilization. They copy out bits and pieces of works that are no longer available, or that no one is willing or able to read, any longer, in complete versions. Culture is in decline, and literature must be pre-digested, simplified, abbreviated. In a sense, the excerptors have assumed the noble task of preserving something of the great tradition that has now diminished to a trickle, but their very activity is a sign of loss and diminishment. There is a fin-de-siècle, or fin-d'époque, quality to their enterprise, evoking a sense of nostalgia and even melancholy, something like Gustave Flaubert's last novel, Bouvard et Pécuchet, with its curious appendix, Le dictionnaire des idées reçues. When John Stobaeus wrote, the classical world had reached its end, and the future was dark: literacy itself was threatened with extinction, an impression that some people of a scholarly temperament have of the intellectual state of affairs today.
In the rest of this very interesting essay, Konstan dissents from the "common view" and persuasively argues that Stobaeus continues a "long tradition of excerpting that goes back to the very beginning of Greek and Latin literary culture" (p. 11).

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


O, For a Morsel of Dirt!

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "The Virtue and Fanaticism of Neatness," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 167-173 (at 172-173):
You live under a perpetual and sounding, "Take care." It is "Take care, don't touch that silver, you will tarnish it." "Take care of that sofa, it is newly covered." "Take care! don't sit on that clean chintz; you ought to know better than to sit down on such a chair!" "Take care! let that hat alone, you will soil it." "Take care! pray don't go near that sideboard, you'll scratch it." "Take care! a stick! a knife too!! Whittling in the parlor!!! Go out—out with you; go out of the yard, go into the road; go behind the barn, where the wind won't blow your shavings back." "Take care! don't eat apples in the sitting-room,—you always drop some seeds." "Take care, child, come away from that door. You are not going into that room; it is just put in order!" And thus, family discipline, domestic life, and the whole end of living seems to be, to avoid dirt, and secure neatness. Is there anything so tormenting as ecstatic neatness? O, for a morsel of dirt, as a luxury! How good dust looks! A ploughed field with endless dirt,—all hail! The great sentence itself, which consigns man finally to dust again, becomes a consolation!


Backing into the Future

Lucretius 3.972-975 (tr. Martin Ferguson Smith):
Look back also and see how the ages of everlasting time past before we were born have been to us nothing. Time therefore is a mirror which nature holds up to us, showing the time to come after we at length shall die.

respice item quam nil ad nos anteacta vetustas
temporis aeterni fuerit, quam nascimur ante.
hoc igitur speculum nobis natura futuri
temporis exponit post mortem denique nostram.
James Warren, Facing Death: Epicurus and his Critics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004), p. 65 (discussing whether this passage from Lucretius is a particular version of the "symmetry argument," viz. "looking back from within a lifetime, our pre-natal non-existence is nothing to us; pre-natal non-existence is relevantly like post mortem non-existence; looking forward from within a lifetime, our post mortem non-existence is nothing to us"):
The image is of a viewer who looks back in time at a mirror in front of him.8

8 The image of someone looking backwards in time conforms to the ancient image of us 'backing into the future'. We can 'see' (i.e. remember) the past but the future is not visible. Compare the use of the Greek ὀπίσω to mean 'hereafter' (LSJ s.v. II).
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ὀπίσω (whose primary meaning is backwards, back). sense II:
of Time, hereafter, since the future is unseen and was therefore regarded as behind us, whereas the past is known and therefore before our eyes.
Cf. also Lewis and Short, s.v. post, which means "behind, back, backwards" in reference to place, "afterwards, after" in reference to time.

Warren concludes (pp. 65-67) that Lucretius is in fact offering a different version of the symmetry argument, viz. "our pre-natal non-existence was nothing to us before we were born; pre-natal non-existence is relevantly like post mortem non-existence; our post mortem non-existence will be nothing to us after our death."


Laurence Picken

Dear Mr. Gilleland,

I was delighted to read the extract you have quoted from Roger Scruton's memoir, about the late Laurence Picken; and I promptly ordered the book (to add to some others I already possess by Professor Scruton).

Laurence Picken was one of the most inspiring men I have ever known. I first made his acquaintance as a student at Cambridge in the later 1950s; and he made me aware that there were whole worlds of music outside the European tradition, with their own long history, instruments and musical forms. His Cambridge Asian Music Circle, the offshoot of one created by Yehudi Menuhin in London, brought Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and others to perform in Cambridge; as well as occasional visiting speakers. More particularly, holding court at Jesus College, where he occupied beautiful 17th-century rooms, he would discourse learnedly on Japanese, Chinese and other non-Western music, surrounded by an exotic array of instruments which he had collected from around the world, and which now belongs to Cambridge University. There was even an 18th-century English chamber organ (which on one occasion he used to demonstrate the Javanese scale system); later, as a result of field trips to Turkey and elsewhere, he was to add many other instruments. His library of books on music, in many languages, included the complete Bach Gesellschaft edition; and he was to acquire an important archive of manuscripts on Japanese music, which formed the basis of the studies he edited on Japanese and Chinese court music. The theoretical basis for his work is best seen in the lengthy postscript to his Folk Musical Instruments of Turkey (1975), and in the essays contained in Vol. 7 of his Music from the Tang Court (2000). He brought to the classification and description of musical instruments the mind of a trained scientist, as well as an acute eye for detail; at the same time as he would make original and sometimes startling historical generalisations about music across Eurasia.

In case you have not seen it, here is the link to a short memoir which was put together by Laurence's former graduate students, in celebration of the centenary of his birth. It sketches his life, and itemises some of his scholarly achievements: I was not myself a student under him, and I was at King's College, not Jesus. At that time there was no academic programme in Oriental Music, within either the Faculty of Music or the Faculty of Oriental Studies. Later, Laurence advised me when I was thinking of leaving England for the United States to study ethnomusicology: I stayed the weekend as his guest at Jesus, and he warmly recommended the University of Washington, where he had been a visiting professor of zoology, and where I was to spend two happy years, before coming to Toronto. We continued to correspond in the years that followed, and I visited him from time to time in Cambridge, almost up to the time of his death. I treasure my many letters from him, as well as most of his publications on Asian music.

David Waterhouse

David Waterhouse is Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto. I'm grateful for permission to publish his email.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Under All

Willa Cather (1873-1947), "In Media Vita," in April Twilights (Boston: The Gorham Press, 1903), p. 21:
Streams of the spring a-singing,
        Winds o' the May that blow,
Birds from the Southland winging,
        Buds in the grasses below.
Clouds that speed hurrying over,
        And the climbing rose by the wall,
Singing of bees in the clover,
        And the dead, under all!

Lads and their sweethearts lying
        In the cleft o' the windy hill;
Hearts that hushed of their sighing,
        Lips that are tender and still.
Stars in the purple gloaming,
        Flowers that suffuse and fall,
Twitter of bird-mates homing,
        And the dead, under all!

Herdsman abroad with his collie,
        Girls on their way to the fair,
Hot lads a-chasing their folly,
        Parsons a-praying their prayer.
Children their kites a-flying,
        Grandsires that nod by the wall,
Mothers soft lullabies sighing,
        And the dead, under all!



Emperor Ch'ien Lung, letter to King George III (1793), in E. Backhouse and J.O.P. Bland, Annals and Memoirs of the Court of Peking (from the 16th to the 20th Century) (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914), p. 325:
As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country's manufactures.
Id., p. 326:
[O]ur Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its own borders. There was therefore no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians in exchange for our own produce.
Aristotle, Politics 1.2 (tr. Benjamin Jowett):
When several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough to be nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life. And therefore, if the earlier forms of society are natural, so is the state, for it is the end of them, and the nature of a thing is its end. For what each thing is when fully developed, we call its nature, whether we are speaking of a man, a horse, or a family. Besides, the final cause and end of a thing is the best, and to be self-sufficing is the end and the best.

James Gillray (1756–1815),
The Reception of the Diplomatique
& his Suite at the Court of Pekin



Simon Winchester, The Man Who Loved China (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), p. 44 (on Joseph Needham):
Studying Chinese, he once wrote, was "a liberation, like going for a swim on a hot day, for it got you entirely out of the prison of alphabetical words, and into the glittering crystalline world of ideographic characters."
Winchester doesn't give a source for the quotation. The quotation also appears in Robert Finlay, "China, the West, and World History in Joseph Needham's 'Science and Civilisation in China'," Journal of World History 11.2 (Fall, 2000) 265-303 (at 271, n. 20), who cites as a source Lu Gwei-Djen, "The First Half-Life of Joseph Needham," in Explorations in the History of Science and Technology in China (Shanghai: Shanghai Chinese Classics Publishing House, 1982), pp. 1-36 (at 8), which I haven't seen.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Visions of Bliss

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "Strawberries and Cream," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 375-378 (at 376-377):
And this harvest of strawberries,—what visions of bliss lie in the near future! They shall be picked in great, cool dishes, before the sun rises, with dew fresh on their blushing cheeks! They shall be pulled by delicate fingers; heaped up in saucers forever too small,—great berries,—each one a mouthful,—some to be eaten just as they are, while the red multitude are to be overpoured with cream. Cream! what is that? A pasture, knee-deep with clover, with bluegrass, with orchard grass, and red-top; spring water gushing cool close by; a pail, large, scoured white, and brimming full with milk crowned with foam; pans, bright as silver, in a cool, sweet cellar, through which the air circulates, carrying off every gas or odor; and then, after twelve hours, do not be too particular, but take that which comes first on the pan,—not too long kept and clotted, not too soon skimmed and thin, but cream that is neither young nor old, but a term midway between both,—take this, O inquisitive reader! and let your hand be liberal toward the saucer-full of Jenny Lind, Triumph de Gand, Bartlett's Seedling, or Lanier's Madison, and then, with sweet bread and butter, and your friends around you, eat, and pity the gods that sit above the clouds where they can't have cows or strawberries!


A Bachelor Don of the Old School

Roger Scruton, England: An Elegy (2000; rpt. London: Continuum, 2006), pp. 167-168:
My first discussion with my tutor, Dr Laurence Picken — a bachelor don of the old school, an established scholar in the fields of biochemistry, cytology, musicology, Chinese, Slavonic studies and ethnomusicology, world expert on Turkish musical instruments, Bach cantatas, ancient Chinese science and the reproduction of cells — concerned my course of study. Under Dr Picken's influence I opted for philosophy (then called 'moral sciences'). And so I discovered my vocation.

Dr Picken typified the osmotic process whereby a cultural and intellectual influence was transmitted within college walls. You could pick up from him an amount of knowledge on any number of subjects — from Baroque keyboard ornamentation to the vinification of burgundy, from the wave structure of the benzene ring to the translation of the Confucian Odes, from Frazer’s theory of magic to the chronology of Cavalcanti — and the very irrelevance to the surrounding world of everything he knew made the learning of it all the more rewarding.

This irrelevance characterised the curriculum as it developed in England during the great years of the public school. Although the natural sciences gradually came into their own as subjects of study, they were taught not for their practical but for their theoretical content. Pure mathematics was expressly separated from 'applied mathematics', and given the higher standing proper to a true intellectual pursuit. Latin, Greek and ancient history were at the heart of the old curriculum, literature was studied through classical texts and national history was assumed to have stopped some hundred years earlier than the time of study. You learned poetry by rote, and even at the lowest level of study you were taught to read Chaucer in the original. The further the subject seemed from the day-to-day concerns of the student, the more worthy of study it was held to be.
Related posts:

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Christian and Pagan Antiquity

Mark Pattison, Isaac Casaubon: 1559-1614, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1892), p. 316:
The true approach to christian antiquity is through pagan antiquity. The continuity of history is complete. There is no break. As the christian empire is the pagan empire under a new name, so christian literature is the outcome of the greek classical literature. It is not only built up with the old materials, like the forts which the Turks constructed with the sculptured blocks of the greek temples, it issues from the greek sources of thought.


Apples in the Cellar

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "Apple-Pie," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 251-255 (at 252-253):
"Henry, go down cellar, and bring me up some Spitzenbergs." The cellar was as large as the whole house, and the house was broad as a small pyramid. The north side was windowless, and banked up outside with frost-defying tan-bark. The south side had windows, festooned and frescoed with the webs of spiders, that wove their tapestries over every corner in the neighborhood, and, when no flies were to be had, ate up each other, as if they were nothing but politicians, instead of being lawful and honorable arachnidae. On the east side stood a row of cider-barrels; for twelve or twenty barrels of cider were a fit provision for the year,—and what was not consumed for drink was expected duly to turn into vinegar, and was then exalted to certain hogsheads kept for the purpose. But along the middle of the cellar were the apple-bins; and when the season had been propitious, there were stores and heaps of Russets, Greenings, Seeknofurthers, Pearmains, Gilliflowers, Spitzenbergs, and many besides, nameless, but not virtueless. Thence selecting, we duly brought up the apples. Some people think anything will do for pies. But the best for eating are the best for cooking. Who would make jelly of any other apple, that had the Porter? who would bake or roast any other sweet apple, that had the Ladies' Sweeting,—unless, perhaps, the Talman Sweet? and who would put into a pie any apple but Spitzenberg, that had that?

Levi Wells Prentice (1851-1935), Harvest of Apples

Related posts:


Odd, Quirky Spirits

Lionel Trilling (1905-1975), "A Ramble on Graves," in A Gathering of Fugitives (1956; rpt. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), pp. 23-33 (at 24):
One might spend one's life pleasantly and very profitably with the secondary writers of the English nineteenth century, the writers whom no one would think to call "great," the odd, quirky spirits from George Burrow to Mark Rutherford, the travelers, the autobiographers, the essayists, the men who had a particular, perhaps eccentric, thing to say, and said it fully and well, with delight in what they were doing and no worry about greatness.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Blasted with Regularity and Order

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "The Good of Disorder," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 413-419 (at 417-418):
She steals in! She views the happy scene! There was Bayle lying on the floor, with Mape's Farmer in his lap, and an Atlas genially covering both. There was a squadron of Living Ages lying around, like a picket of cavalry at ease. In one corner was a thicket of newspapers, on the sofa a ream of paper, a shawl, an Affghan, a Concordance, a Bible, new books uncut, magazines, and various other treasures; near the window all the books that at various times for a month we had bought up, but had not put up, waiting till we had time to arrange; near the door a stack of portfolios, and here and there a picture, patiently waiting to be hung. The book-cases were in benevolent sympathy with the floor. Indeed, the book-case might be called a vertical floor, and the floor a horizontal book-case. Whichever way the eye turned it found unexpected contrasts. Nothing was tame. Everything was fitted to excite surprise in a well-regulated housekeeper's mind. It was a stimulating sight. No art could have designedly arranged it. It was the workmanship of distributive and gradual chance. Like frostwork on the window, it defied invention and challenged imitation.

The same remorseless hand that would rub out a windowful of frost etchings, for the sake of seeing vulgar things outside, has invaded our room and "put everything to rights." Two months of industrious carelessness will scarce suffice to bring back my paradise! And all the time that fatal fear will overhang us that, in an unguarded hour, the same calamity will sweep through the room again, and where it found all, everything in disorder and loneliness, leave everything blasted with regularity and order!
Could "loneliness" in the last sentence perhaps be a printer's error for "loveliness"?


Enough of this Silly Worship of Foreigners

D.H. Lawrence, letter to Catherine Carswell (November 27, 1916):
It amazes me that we have bowed down and worshipped these foreigners as we have. Their art is clumsy, really, and clayey, compared with our own. I read Deerslayer just before the Turgenev. And I can tell you what a come-down it was, from the pure and exquisite art of Fennimore [sic] Cooper — whom we count nobody — to the journalistic bludgeonings of Turgenev. They are all — Turgenev, Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, Maupassant, Flaubert — so very obvious and coarse, beside the lovely mature and sensitive art of Fennimore Cooper or Hardy. It seems to me that our English art, at its best, is by far the subtlest and loveliest and most perfect in the world. But it is characteristic of a highly-developed nation to bow down to that which is more gross and raw and affected....No, enough of this silly worship of foreigners. The most exquisite literature in the world is written in the English language.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


A City of Books

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "Outlandish Books," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 290-293 (at 291-293):
At such times I stroll into one of those establishments, now so numerous, that import and sell second-hand books. The moment that one is across the threshold he feels that he has changed worlds. All the clamor of the street, the ceaseless passage and clash of innumerable vehicles, the confusion of voices, seem smothered to a low and gentle hum, and even that is forgotten in a moment. Then one walks up and down the passages lined with books, the alcoves of books, the long tables thick with books, the corners stocked and heaped with books, as if this were a city of books, in ruins, like some Oriental city of desolation. All languages are here, and all of them are dumb. Their silent symbols hold up hieroglyphic significance to such eyes as may chance to know them. But as one might stand over a tomb, and muse who was laid therein, of what nature, disposition, history; of what experience of woe or joy in life; with what hopes, thoughts, ambitions, struggles, failures, or evanescent victories; so do we stand by the side of a book in an unknown language. What means this title-page? What are the words of introduction? Open to the middle: is this a story, an argument, a criticism, a history? Is it a grave affirmation of mighty truth, such as Bacon would have plucked down for heavenly thoughts? or is it some jester, that flashes his momentary say, and waits for an answering laughter? How causeless are causes here. These words that have fallen on many a soul like a bow on the violin, and caused vivid emotions to spring forth from their touch, are now reaching toward my eye, but without a response. They touch, but I do not sound. They are like winds blowing among petrified trees whose leaves are fast and whose branches are stiffened forever. But though their glory is gone, once they were sovereigns. This well-thumbed volume has once been a favorite. It has been the last thing consulted before sleep; a solace to lucid intervals; perhaps often a companion of journeys. Or when the new grass was soft to pavement-worn feet, and the solitary scholar has wandered out to hear blackbirds sing by the side of spring-swollen streams, or to search for cowslips in the watery edges of the marsh lands, under his arm, but with affectionate care, goes this welcome companion. A book is good company. It is full of conversation without loquacity. It comes to your longing with full instruction, but pursues you never. It is not offended at your absent-mindedness, nor jealous if you turn to other pleasures, of leaf, or dress, or mineral, or even of books. It silently serves the soul without recompense, not even for the hire of love. And yet more noble, it seems to pass from itself, and to enter the memory, and to hover in a silvery transfiguration there, until the outward book is but a body, and its soul and spirit are flown to you, and possess your memory like a spirit. And while some books, like steps, are left behind us by the very help which they yield us, and serve only our childhood, or early life, some others go with us in mute fidelity to the end of life, a recreation for fatigue, an instruction for our sober hours, and a solace for our sickness or sorrow. Except the great out-doors, nothing that has no life of its own gives so much life to you.

And here are these uncomplaining favorites, now tumbled in heaps, or keeping dusty company in this great catacomb of literature! No gentle hand now fondles them, no eye searches them. They are foreigners, strangers in a strange land. But, peradventure, there yet shall come a dried and wrinkled man, poor in garb, as befits so poor a purse, and, wandering up and down among these silent souls imprisoned in ink and paper words, who, seeking this dusky volume, shall renew his youth of joy, greet a loving, absent friend, go and sell all that he hath to buy this pearl of price to him, and faintly kindle again in his heavy, dark heart the light of a long-lost treasure.
Related post: Prince of the City of Books.


The Silence of the Trees

Claire Tomalin, Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man (London: Viking, 2006), pp. 201-202 (on Hardy's house Max Gate):
Work started on the site almost at once, and at the end of the year Hardy himself planted an infant forest around the site, mostly beech trees and Austrian pines, to provide shelter from the wind as they grew. He had never planted trees before, as far as we know, but either he knew instinctively how to set about it or he sought expert advice. Two years later, when he described Giles Winterborne and Marty South at work in The Woodlanders, he was able to draw on his own experience:
Winterborne's fingers were endowed with a gentle conjurer's touch in spreading the roots of each little tree, resulting in a sort of caress, under which delicate fibres all laid themselves out in their proper directions for growth...

'How they sigh directly we put 'em upright, though while they are lying down they don't sigh at all,' said Marty.

'Do they?' said Giles. 'I've never noticed it.'

She erected one of the young pines into its hole, and held up her finger; the soft musical breathing instantly set in, which was not to cease night or day till the grown tree should be felled — probably long after the two planters should be felled themselves.

'It seems to me,' the girl continued, 'as if they sigh because are very sorry to begin life in earnest — just as we be.'
Giles plants skilfully, but it is only Marty who notices the sighing of the newly set trees. Hardy must have heard it when he planted his. He became their protector and would never have them lopped back or cut down, even if they grew into dense thickets. He spoke of 'wounding' them and refused to curtail the 'soft musical breathing' he had initiated and given Marty to appreciate.5 His trees were silenced only after his death, when his widow had most of them cut down.

5. The Woodlanders, Chapter 8. He also wrote a poem, 'The Pine Planters (Marty South's Reveries)', printed in Time's Laughingstocks and Other Verses. Marty goes further here and makes the trees' sighing signify grief that they have not remained undeveloped seeds, safe from storm and drought.
Claudia FitzHerbert, "The House that Hardy built," The Telegraph (April 8, 2011):
Little has survived of the forest of Austrian pines which Hardy planted against the winds of the nearby heath and the prying eyes of passers by. During the poet’s lifetime these progressively shaded the house — "I set every tree in my June time. And now they obscure the sky" — but many were cut down by the second Mrs Hardy in the interval between his death and hers nine years later.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Related post: Forest Murmurs.


Monday, March 18, 2013


In Public and in Private

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 94.69-71 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
[69] It is a great part of health to have forsaken the counsellors of madness and to have fled far from a companionship that is mutually baneful. That you may know the truth of my remark, see how different is each individual's life before the public from that of his inner self. A quiet life does not of itself give lessons in upright conduct; the countryside does not of itself teach plain living; no, but when witnesses and onlookers are removed, faults which ripen in publicity and display sink into the background. [70] Who puts on the purple robe for the sake of flaunting it in no man's eyes? Who uses gold plate when he dines alone? Who, as he flings himself down beneath the shadow of some rustic tree, displays in solitude the splendour of his luxury? No one makes himself elegant only for his own beholding, or even for the admiration of a few friends or relatives. Rather does he spread out his well-appointed vices in proportion to the size of the admiring crowd. [71] It is so: claqueurs and witnesses are irritants of all our mad foibles. You can make us cease to crave, if you only make us cease to display. Ambition, luxury, and waywardness need a stage to act upon; you will cure all those ills if you seek retirement.

[69] Magna pars sanitatis est hortatores insaniae reliquisse et ex isto coitu invicem noxio procul abisse. Hoc ut esse verum scias, aspice quanto aliter unusquisque populo vivat, aliter sibi. Non est per se magistra innocentiae solitudo nec frugalitatem docent rura, sed ubi testis ac spectator abscessit, vitia subsidunt, quorum monstrari et conspici fructus est. [70] Quis eam quam nulli ostenderet induit purpuram? quis posuit secretam in auro dapem? quis sub alicuius arboris rusticae proiectus umbra luxuriae suae pompam solus explicuit? Nemo oculis suis lautus est, ne paucorum quidem aut familiarium, sed apparatum vitiorum suorum pro modo turbae spectantis expandit. [71] Ita est: inritamentum est omnium in quae insanimus admirator et conscius. Ne concupiscamus efficies si ne ostendamus effeceris. Ambitio et luxuria et inpotentia scaenam desiderant: sanabis ista si absconderis.


The Poor Scholar

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "Worth of Money," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 192-195 (at 193-194):
The poor scholar passes daily by the stall where books tempt his poverty. Poor clothes he is content to wear; plain and even meagre diet he is willing to subsist upon; and, as for all the gay dissipations and extravagant wastes of fashionable life, he looks upon them without even understanding what they mean, as a child looks upon the Milky-Way, in the heavens, a glowing band of far-away and unexplored wonders. But, O those books! He looks longingly at morning; he peers at them with a gentle covetousness at night. He imagines new devices for earning a few dollars. He ponders whether there is not some new economy which can save a few shillings. And when good luck at last brings a score of dollars to him, with what fever of haste does he get rid of them, fairly running to the stall, and fearing, at every step, lest some fortunate man should have seized the prize.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Stay at Home and Drink Your Beer

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), "The Old Stone Cross," in The Collected Works, Vol. I: The Poems, 2nd ed. (New York: Scribner, 1997), pp. 324-325:
A statesman is an easy man,
He tells his lies by rote;
A journalist makes up his lies
And takes you by the throat;
So stay at home and drink your beer
And let the neighbours vote,
    Said the man in the golden breastplate
    Under the old stone Cross.

Because this age and the next age
Engender in the ditch,
No man can know a happy man
From any passing wretch;
If Folly link with Elegance
No man knows which is which,
    Said the man in the golden breastplate
    Under the old stone Cross.

But actors lacking music
Do most excite my spleen,
They say it is more human
To shuffle, grunt and groan,
Not knowing what unearthly stuff
Rounds a mighty scene,
    Said the man in the golden breastplate
    Under the old stone Cross.
R.F. Foster, W.B. Yeats: A Life, Vol. II: The Arch-Poet (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003; rpt. 2005), p. 600:
As in much of his late verse, there is an echo of his Sligo youth, and an anticipation of last things: Drumcliff Churchyard, where the Sligo Yeatses were buried, was supposedly guarded by an ancient Irish warrior lying in his armour, and an ancient cross stands sentinel nearby.
William Butler Yeats, "Drumcliff and Rosses," in The Celtic Twilight (1893; rpt. London: A.H. Bullen, 1902), pp. 148-159 (at 156-157):
At Drumcliff there is a very ancient graveyard. The Annals of the Four Masters have this verse about a soldier named Denadhach, who died in 871: 'A pious soldier of the race of Con lies under hazel crosses at Drumcliff.' Not very long ago an old woman, turning to go into the churchyard at night to pray, saw standing before her a man in armour, who asked her where she was going. It was the 'pious soldier of the race of Con,' says local wisdom, still keeping watch, with his ancient piety, over the graveyard.


Devil's Latin

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), Philosophical Writings, tr. Steven Tester (Albany: SUNY Press, 2012), p. 48 (Sudelbücher, C 151):
The rules of grammar are merely human dictates, which is why the devil himself speaks poor Latin through the possessed.

Die Regeln der Grammatik sind bloße Menschen-Satzungen daher auch der Teufel selbst, wenn er aus besessenen Leuten geredet, schlecht Latein geredet.
On the other hand, "schlecht Latein" is not incompatible with piety, according to St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job (Patrologia Latina 75.516 B, tr. E.K. Rand):
Wherefore I have scorned to observe all art of style, in which pupils are drilled in schools of the outer [i.e., lower] training. For, as the tenor of the present letter makes evident, I shun not the collision of m's; I avoid not the disorder of barbarisms; I despise a conformity to constructions and moods and cases of prepositions. For I deem it exceedingly inept to fetter the words of the Heavenly Oracle to the rules of Donatus.

Unde et ipsam loquendi artem, quam magisteria disciplinae exterioris insinuant, servare despexi. Nam sicut hujus quoque epistolae tenor enuntiat, non metacismi collisionem fugio, non barbarismi confusionem devito, situs motusque et praepositionum casus servare contemno, quia indignum vehementer existimo, ut verba coelestis oraculi restringam sub regulis Donati.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Peas and Corn

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "The Right Kind of Farming," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 125-129 (at 125-126):
Speaking of vegetables, it may be cruel to say to people in the city, that they have no idea of the flavor of peas or of corn; not unless they remember how they used to taste when they lived in the country.

They must be eaten alive, or they are poor luxuries. They should be plucked only long enough to be shelled or shredded for cooking.

Then, in the sultry days of July and August, as the great tureen comes steaming with the one, and the huge platter smoking with pyramids of the other, who cares for meats, or for all costly confections? Peas alone are a feast; and sweet corn, in its various methods,—on the cob, cut off and mixed with cream, or raised into the ineffable glory of succotash,—is a banquet which would have made all the gods forget ambrosia and nectar, and stroke their beards with celestial satisfaction.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


On Their Own Side

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "Men Need What They Do Not Want," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 161-164 (at 161):
Men love to read "on their own side," to hear the things which they already believe enforced with new arguments; to hear their ministers or political speakers praise the things in which already they are fully established. But they are seldom willing to hear another side, to have enforced the truths which they do not believe, and the qualities which they do not possess. In this way men grow narrow: they intensify their opinions, rather than enlarge their knowledge, and become selfish and bigoted.
Id. (p. 162):
Men strengthen each other in their faults. Those who are alike associate together, repeat the things which all believe, defend and stimulate their common faults of disposition, and each one receives from the others a reflection of his own egotism.


The Epicurean Tetrapharmakos

These are some notes, for my own use, on the summary of Epicurean doctrine known as τετραφάρμακος (tetrapharmakos) = four-fold remedy or cure. I don't have access to an academic library, so I rely on bits and pieces gathered mostly from Google Books.

The tetrapharmakos is preserved in a work by Philodemus. The title of Philodemus' work is uncertain, as only the first two words of the title survive: Πρὸς τοὺς. The preposition Πρὸς could mean either against (Latin adversus) or to (Latin ad). Suggestions for completing the title are Σοφιστάς (against the Sophists), Στωικούς (against the Stoics), and ἑταίρους or συνήθεις (to the companions or associates, sc. of Epicurus' school). See Elizabeth Asmis, "Philodemus' Epicureanism," Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt II.36.4 (1990) 2369-2406 (at 2378-2380, esp. 2379). This work of Philodemus has been edited twice, by Francesco Sbordone as Philodemi Adversus [Sophistas] e Papyro Herculanensi 1005 (Naples: L. Loffredo, 1947), and by Anna Angeli as Filodemo, Agli Amici di Scuola (PHerc. 1005) (Naples: Bibliopolis, 1988).

Philodemus' work survives in Papyrus Herculanensis (PHerc) 1005. The tetrapharmakos is on column IV, lines 10-14, of the papyrus (p. 87 of Sbordone's edition). Here is an image of a copy of column IV of the papyrus, drawn by Gennaro Casanova (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Gr. class. c. 2, fol. 454; click to enlarge):

Here is the Greek text of the tetrapharmakos, with each of the four parts on a separate line:
ἄφοβον ὁ θεός,
ἀνύποπτον ὁ θάνατος,
καὶ τἀγαθὸν μὲν εὔκτητον,
τὸ δὲ δεινὸν εὐεκκαρτέρητον.
In Sbordone's Latin translation:
deus metum non incutit
neque mors perturbationem,
ac bonum quidem facile parabile,
malum vero facile perferri potest.
Here is my translation of the Greek:
Not to be feared—god,
not to be viewed with apprehension—death;
and on the one hand, the good—easily acquired,
on the other hand, the terrible—easily endured.
The adjectives ἄφοβον (aphobon) and ἀνύποπτον (anupopton) both start with alpha privative: ἄφοβον is related to the noun φόβος (phobos) = fear, ἀνύποπτον to the verb ὑποπτεύω (hypopteuō) = suspect, hold in suspicion; look with suspicion or apprehension on. The adjectives εὔκτητον (euktēton) and εὐεκκαρτέρητον (euekkarterēton) both start with the prefix εὐ- (eu-), which in compounds can denote ease, as here. A thing that is εὔκτητον is easy to acquire, related to the verb κτάομαι (ktaomai) = procure, get, acquire. A thing that is εὐεκκαρτέρητον is easy to endure fully, related to the verb καρτερέω (kartereō) = be steadfast, patient; bear patiently, endure.

I haven't seen Francesco Sbordone, "Il quadrifarmaco epicureo," Cronache Ercolanesi 13 (1983) 117–119, or Anna Angeli, "Compendi, eklogai e tetrapharmakos: due capitoli di dissenso nell' Epicureismo," Cronache Ercolanesi 16 (1986) 53-66.

Thanks to Mart van der Hiele for corrections.

Friday, March 15, 2013


When We are Pope

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "Book-Keeping," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 396-399 (at 398-399):
When we are Pope, we intend to make great changes in the Creeds and Articles. Stealing books, i.e. borrowing them, shall be put among the mortal sins, and private revenge upon stealers of books shall be venial, under a very slight tariff.

Then, when we are Emperor, we intend, every year, to require each man in the empire who can read and write, to make solemn search of his household, and to file an affidavit that there is not remaining with him a borrowed book!


A House Furnished with Books

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), "The Duty of Owning Books," in Eyes and Ears (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1862), pp. 154-156:
If on visiting the dwelling of a man of slender means we find that he contents himself with cheap carpets, and very plain furniture, in order that he may purchase books, he rises at once in our esteem. Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house. The plainest row of books that cloth or paper ever covered is more significant of refinement than the most elaborately carved étagère or sideboard.

Give us a house furnished with books rather than furniture! Both, if you can, but books at any rate! To spend several days in a friend's house, and hunger for something to read, while you are treading on costly carpets, and sitting upon luxurious chairs, and sleeping upon down, is as if one were bribing your body for the sake of cheating your mind.

Is it not pitiable to see a man growing rich, augmenting the comforts of home, and lavishing money on ostentatious upholstery, upon the table, upon everything but what the soul needs? We know of many and many a rich man's house where it would not be safe to ask for the commonest English classics. A few gairish annuals on the table, a few pictorial monstrosities, together with the stock religious books of his "persuasion," and that is all! No poets, no essayists, no historians, no travels or biographies, no select fictions, or curious legendary lore. But the wall-paper cost three dollars a roll, and the carpets four dollars a yard!

Books are the windows through which the soul looks out. A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up his children without surrounding them with books, if he has the means to buy them. It is a wrong to his family. He cheats them! Children learn to read by being in the presence of books. The love of knowledge comes with reading and grows upon it. And the love of knowledge, in a young mind, is almost a warrant against the inferior excitement of passions and vices. Let us pity these poor rich men who live barrenly in great, bookless houses! Let us congratulate the poor that, in our day, books are so cheap that a man may every year add a hundred volumes to his library for the price of what his tobacco and his beer would cost him.

Ernest Biéler (1863-1948), Portrait of Édouard Rod

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Ubi Sunt?

"Death Takes All," in John Addington Symonds, Wine, Women, and Song: Mediaeval Latin Students' Songs. Now First Translated into English Verse, with an Essay (London: Chatto and Windus, 1884), pp. 159-160:
Hear, O thou earth, hear, thou encircling sea,
Yea, all that live beneath the sun, hear ye
How of this world the bravery and the glory
Are but vain forms and shadows transitory,
Even as all things 'neath Time's empire show        5
By their short durance and swift overthrow!
  Nothing avails the dignity of kings,
Naught, naught avail the strength and stuff of things;
The wisdom of the arts no succour brings;
Genus and species help not at death's hour,        10
No man was saved by gold in that dread stour;
The substance of things fadeth as a flower,
As ice 'neath sunshine melts into a shower.
  Where is Plato, where is Porphyrius?
Where is Tullius, where is Virgilius?        15
Where is Thales, where is Empedocles,
Or illustrious Aristoteles?
Where's Alexander, peerless of might?
Where is Hector, Troy's stoutest knight?
Where is King David, learning's light?        20
Solomon where, that wisest wight?
Where is Helen, and Paris rose-bright?
  They have fallen to the bottom, as a stone rolls:
Who knows if rest be granted to their souls?
  But Thou, O God, of faithful men the Lord,        25
To us Thy favour evermore afford
When on the wicked judgment shall be poured!
"Stour" in line 11 means "death-struggle."

Latin text, from Carl Bernh. Moll, ed., Hymnarium: Blüthen lateinischer Kirchenpoesie zur Erbauung (Halle: H. Petersen, 1861), p. 138:
Audi tellus, audi magni maris limbus,
Audi omne, quod vivit sub sole,
Huius mundi decus et gloria
Quam sint falsa et transitoria,
Ut testantur haec temporalia,        5
Non in uno statu manentia.
Nulli valet regalis dignitas,
Nulli valet corporis quantitas.
Nulli artium valet profunditas,
Nulli magnae valent divitiae,        10
Nullum salvat genus aut species,
Nulli prodest auri congeries.
Transierunt rerum materies,
Ut a sole liquescit glacies.
Ubi Plato, ubi Porphyrius;        15
Ubi Tullius aut Virgilius;
Ubi Thales, ubi Empedocles
Aut egregius Aristoteles;
Alexander ubi rex maximus;
Ubi Hector Troiae fortissimus;        20
Ubi David rex doctissimus;
Ubi Salomon prudentissimus;
Ubi Helena Parisque roseus —
Ceciderunt in profundum ut lapides:
Quis scit, an detur eis requies.        25
Sed tu, Deus, rector fidelium,
Fac te nobis semper propitium,
Quum de malis fiet iudicium.
There is a somewhat different Latin text in B. Hauréau, Notices et Extraits de Quelques Manuscrits Latins de la Bibliothèque Nationale, Vol. 4 (Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck, 1892), pp. 331-332 (ms. 15363, fol. 231 = Prosa in officio mortuorum).

See James W. Bright, "The 'Ubi Sunt' Formula," Modern Language Notes 8.3 (March 1893) 94, and Geoffrey Shepherd, "'All the Wealth of Croesus...': A Topic in the 'Ancren Riwle'," Modern Language Review 51.2 (April 1956) 161-167. Mariantonia Liborio, "Contributi alla storia dell' Ubi sunt," Cultura Neolatina 20 (1960) 141-209, is unavailable to me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Frigori Consimiles

"The Invitation to Youth," in John Addington Symonds, Wine, Women, and Song: Mediaeval Latin Students' Songs. Now First Translated into English Verse, with an Essay (London: Chatto and Windus, 1884), pp. 66-67:
Take your pleasure, dance and play,
Each with other while ye may:
Youth is nimble, full of grace;
Age is lame, of tardy pace.

We the wars of love should wage,
Who are yet of tender age;
'Neath the tents of Venus dwell
All the joys that youth loves well.

Young men kindle heart's desire;
You may liken them to fire:
Old men frighten love away
With cold frost and dry decay.
Symonds intentionally omitted the refrain from his translation. Here is the original, from Gaudeamus! Carmina Vagorum Selecta in Usum Laetitiae, ed. R. Peiper (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1877), pp. 90-91:
Congaudentes ludite!
choros simul ducite!
    iuuenes sunt lepidi,
    senes sunt decrepiti.
        Audi bela mia,
        mille modos Veneris
        da hizevaleria.

Militemus Veneri
nos qui sumus teneri!
    Veneris tentoria
    res est amatoria.
        Audi etc.

Iuuenes amabiles
igni comparabiles;
    senes sunt horribiles
    frigori consimiles.
        Audi etc.
In the refrain, some read "bel'amia" for "bela mia" and "hahi zevaleria" for "da hizevaleria". According to S. Santangelo, Studio sulla Poesia Goliardica (Palermo: Alberto Reber, 1902), p. 83:
Su zevaleria poi non può esserci dubbio: essa è italianizzamento di parola francese, chevalerie: così si spiega la desinenza italiana ia invece della fr. ie, e la z in luogo del ch francese (cfr. fr. chambre = it. zambra).
Cf. Fritz Peter Knapp, "Die Carmina Burana als Ergebnis europäischen Kulturtransfers," in Kultureller Austausch und Literaturgeschichte im Mittelalter. Transferts culturels et histoire littéraire au Moyen Âge, edd. Ingrid Kasten et al. (Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 1998 = Francia, Beiheft 43), pp. 283-301 (at 284-285):
Ähnliches gilt für CB 94, wo der Refrain in der Hs. heißt:
Audi bela / mia. mille modos ueneris da hizeualeria.
Der Schreiber hat wohl bela mia als italienische Wörter aufgefaßt, hinter denen freilich aprov. bel'amia bzw. afrz. bel'amie stehen könnten. Wenn h1 damit, wie Sayce behauptet (S. 45), virtuos zugleich auf drei Sprachen hätte anspielen wollen, warum hat er dann den Schluß der Zeile so sinnwidrig verballhornt, indem er hi und zeualeria nicht trennt? Dies letzte Wort muß wohl eine norditalienische Schreibung von frz. chevalerie sein. Die italienisch-provenzalische Entsprechung wäre caval(l)eria. In der gesamten mittelalterlichen Galloromania, also auch im Norditalienischen und Alpenromanischen wird k vor i, e zur dentalen Affrikata /ts/ verschoben. Nur in ihrem nördlichen Teil erfaßt die Palatalisierung auch k vor a.4 Der Schreiber (oder seine Vorlage) hat also die altfranzösische Graphemfolge che-, die fur die Phonemfolge /će/ steht, durch die in der eigenen Mundart geläufige Folge ze- (für /tse/) ersetzt. Nur ein verständnisloser Abschreiber konnte aber die Silbe hi vorne darankleben. Sie muß ursprünglich entweder allein gestanden oder zum vorhergehenden Wort gehört haben. Keine der vorgeschlagenen Deutungen befriedigt allerdings wirklich.5

4 Vgl. Heinrich LAUSBERG, Romanische Sprachwissenschaft, II, Berlin 1967, §§ 312-313.
5 Die älteren Vorschläge in der krit. Ausgabe. Den von Hermann PATZIG (da hi zevaleria) greift VÖLLMANN auf und übersetzt: »Tausend Formen der Liebe schenkt - hei! - das Venusrittertum.« Am ehesten ist die Verschreibung in der Hs. aber zu begreifen, wenn dem hi ein (proklitisch herangerückter) Artikel afrz. la, le zugrunde lag. Der lat./afrz. Refrain könnte dann gelautet haben: Audi, bel'amie / mille modos Veneris de la chevalerie (»Vernimm, schöne Freundin, tausend Formen der Venusritterschaft«).
The phrase "da hizevaleria" at first made me think of the nonsense syllables "valeri, valera" in some German folk songs, but I suppose Santangelo and Knapp are right about the connection to French "chevalerie". I haven't seen Olive Sayce, Plurilingualism in the Carmina Burana: A Study of the Linguistic and Literary Influences on the Codex (Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1992), who also discusses the refrain.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


A Garden in Guatemala

Edgar Anderson (1897-1969), Plants, Man, and Life (Boston: Little Brown, 1952), pp. 140-141 (on a garden in Santa Lucia, Guatemala):
Though at first sight there seemed little order, as soon as we started mapping the garden, we realized that it was planted in fairly definite crosswise rows. There were fruit trees, native and European in great variety: annonas, cheromoyas, avocados, peaches, quinces, plums, a fig, and a few coffeebushes. There were giant cacti grown for their fruit. There was a large plant of rosemary, a plant of rue, some poinsettias, and a fine semiclimbing tea rose. There was a whole row of the native domesticated hawthorn, whose fruits like yellow, doll-sized apples, make a delicious conserve. There were two varieties of corn, one well past bearing and now serving as a trellis for climbing string beans which were just coming into season, the other, a much taller sort, which was tasseling out. There were specimens of a little banana with smooth wide leaves which are the local substitute for wrapping paper, and are also used instead of cornhusks in cooking the native variant of hot tamales. Over it all clambered the luxuriant vines of various cucurbits. Chayote, when finally mature, has a large nutritious root weighing several pounds. At one point there was a depression the size of a small bathtub where a chayote root had recently been excavated; this served as a dump heap and compost for waste from the house. At one end of the garden was a small beehive made from boxes and tin cans. In terms of our American and European equivalents, the garden was a vegetable garden, an orchard, a medicinal garden, a dump heap, a compost heap, and a beeyard. There was no problem of erosion though it was at the top of a steep slope; the soil surface was practically all covered and apparently would be during most of the year. Humidity would be kept up during the dry season and plants of the same sort were so isolated from one another by intervening vegetation that pests and diseases could not readily spread from plant to plant. The fertility was being conserved; in addition to the waste from the house, mature plants were being buried in between the rows when their usefulness was over.

It is frequently said by Europeans and European Americans that time means nothing to an Indian. This garden seemed to me to be a good example of how the Indian, when we look more than superficially into his activities, is budgeting his time more efficiently than we do. The garden was in continuous production but was taking only a little effort at any one time: a few weeds pulled when one came down to pick the squashes, corn and bean plants dug in between the rows when the last of the climbing beans was picked, and a new crop of something else planted above them a few weeks later.

I was so impressed by the apparent efficiency of the garden that I have since tried out several of its basic principles on my own vegetable plots with considerable success. Instead of putting my sweet potatoes all neatly in one little bed down at the far end of the garden I plant them one row at a time in different places. They now grow vigorously across the garden by late summer; they keep the ground moist during the dry days of August; and they help keep out weeds. I also plant a few cornfield beans in among the corn plants after they are pretty well up and have a good extra crop of string beans after the sweet-corn season is over. From these experiences I suspect that if one were to make a careful time study of such an Indian garden, one would find it more productive than ours in terms of pounds of vegetables and fruit per man-hour per square foot of ground. Far from saying that time means nothing to an Indian, I would suggest that it means so much more to him that he does not wish to waste it in profitless effort as we do.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Let Us Not Kid Ourselves

Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), Lectures on Literature, Vol. I (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 125 (on Flaubert's Madame Bovary):
Let us not kid ourselves; let us remember that literature is of no practical value whatsoever, except in the very special case of somebody's wishing to become, of all things, a professor of literature.


A Gray Head with a Wise Mind

Owen Felltham (1602?–1668), Resolves: Divine, Moral, Political, 8th ed. (London: Printed for Peter Dring, 1661), pp. 250-252 (II.XXXI [sic, should be XXXIV; p. 252 is also mis-numbered as 225]: The Misery of being old and ignorant):
Since old Age is not only a Congregation of diseases, but even a disease it self; and, That, (in regard of the Decree which Providence hath pass'd upon man) incurable save by death. The best thing next to a Remedy is a diversion or an Abatement of the Malady. When infirmities are grown habitual and remedilesse, all we can do is give them some Respite and a little Allevation, that we may be lesse sensible of the smart and sting they smite us with. The cold Corelian cannot change his clime: but yet by furrs and fires he can preserve himself, and stove out winter arm'd with Ice and Wind. The Drum and Fife can drown the Battails noise, though many times there is no room to escape it. The little Pismire can instruct great Man, that (winter comming) store should be provided. And what thing is there in the fathome of industrious man, that can so qualifie him against the breaches and decays that Age makes on him, as knowledg as study and meditation: with this he can feast at home alone, and in his Closest put himself into what ever Company that best shall please him, with Youths Vigour, Ages gravity, Beauties pleasantnesse, with Peace or Warr as he likes. It abates the tediousnesse of decrepit Age and by the divine raptures of Contemplation it beguiles the wearinesse of the Pillow and Chair. It makes him not unpleasing to the Young, reverenc'd by age, and beloved of all. A gray head with a wise mind enricht by Learning is a Treasury of Grave precepts, experience, and Wisdome. 'Tis an Oracle to which the lesser-wise resort to know their Fate; He that can read and meditate need not think the Evening long, or Life tedious; 'Tis at all times imployment fit for a man: Like Davids harp it cures the evill spirit of this Saul that is naturally testy, froward, and complaining. Though perhaps there was a Vivacity more then Ordinary; yet I doubt not but it was this that in the main from Gorgias produc'd that memorable answer. Being a hundred and seven years of Age, One ask'd him, Why he liv'd so long. He replyes because he yet found nothing in old Age to complain of. And that this is probable, he was master to Isocrates, had got such wealth by teaching Rhetorique that he bequeathed his statue in Gold, to Apollo's Temple; and to any Theme was able well to speak extempore, and certainly, if any thing hath power, 'tis Vertue and Knowledge that can ransome us from the Infirmities and Reproaches of Age. Without this, an old man is but the lame shadow of that which once he was. They honour him too far that say he is twice a Child. There is something in Children that carryes a becomming prettiness, which is pleasant and of grateful relish. But ignorant Old age is the worst picture that Time can draw of Man. Tis a barren Vine in Autumne, a leaky Vessel ready to drop in pieces at every remove, a map of mentall and Corporeal weakness; not pleasing to others, but a Burthen to himself. His Ignorance and Imbecillity condemns him to Idlenesse; which to the active Soul is more irksome then any employment. What can he do when strength of limbs shall fail; and the gust of pleasure which help'd him to mispend his youth, through time and Languid Age shall blunted be and dull? Abroad he cannot stir to partake the Variation of the World; nor will others be fond of comming to him, when they shall find nothing but a cadaverous man, composed of diseases and Complaints, that for want of knowledg hath not discourse to keep Reason company. Like the Cuccow he may be left to his own moultring in some Hollowed Cell: but since the voice of his Spring is gone (which yet was all the Note he had to take us with) he now's not listned after: So the bloudlesse Tortoise in his melancholly hole, lazeth his life away. Doubtlesse were it for nothing else, even for this is Learning to be highly valued, That it makes a man his own Companion without either the Charge or the Cumber of Company. He needs neither be oblig'd to humour, nor engag'd to flatter. He may hear his Author speak as far as he likes, and leave him when he doth not please him, nor shall he be angry though he be not of his Opinion. It is the guide of Youth, to Manhood a Companion, and to old Age a Cordial and an Antidote. If I dye to morrow, my Life to day will be somewhat the sweeter for Knowledg. The answer was good, which Antisthenes gave when he was asked, What fruit he had reaped of all his studies? By them (saith he) I have learned, both to live, and discourse with my self.

Albert Anker (1831-1910), Die Andacht des Grossvaters

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Educated at Home

Helen Cam (1885-1968), "Eating and Drinking Greek," The Listener (May 21, 1964), pp. 836-837 (at 836):
After nursery breakfast—for, incredible as it sounds today, though the family income did not leave room for pocket money, let alone boarding schools for us, we had a nurserymaid as well as a cook and housemaid—mother would come up and take our lessons, beginning with the youngest, who were then free to play when the turn of the elders came. Her technique was, I suppose, that of her own youth. She heard the poetry we had learnt by heart, chosen by ourselves from such poetry books as were available; she corrected our written exercises; she went through the translations we had prepared, she questioned us on the grammar, the history, and the geography books we had read. The first requisite was honesty; we were not allowed to pretend we understood anything if we did not. I can recall early painful strugglings to grasp the meaning of mysterious words like 'the government' or 'the river-basin', and if we had read our history portion carelessly we had to read it again. And we had to be thorough. In our French, for example, when we had got past learning verbs and nouns and were launched into little French story books we had to look up the words for ourselves in the glossary. One sister remembers complaining bitterly that it had taken half an hour to prepare four lines, as there were so many new words to look up; she was told hard-heartedly that it would go quicker in time; and so it did—very soon. Another, trying to skip the difficult words as she translated, remembers mother's needle coming out of the sock she was darning and pouncing down, one after another, on the missing words.

My mother, born in 1857, had learnt her modern languages from the French and German women who helped in my grandmother's small private school. She passed on to us decent foreign accents, but as we grew older we reached the limits of her knowledge of grammar and syntax. She would say: 'I know that's wrong, but I don't know why. Let's look it up'; and with her we would dig into the grammar book and worry out the logic of the correct rendering. By the time we reached our teens our French and German lessons were turning into arguments. We learnt Schiller and Racine by heart; we translated passages from good authors and turned them back again. By the time I got to college I could read history in both languages readily. I remember my early pride when she gave me a French story book to read to myself for amusement.

All the time we were expected to use our minds. If we asked her a question on some general moral or ethical matter she would say: 'What do you think about it yourself?' We lived in an atmosphere of discussion and argument; it was not uncommon for my father to get up from the table at meal times to consult a map or work of reference in order to check some fact. As compared with the schoolchildren of today, I suppose we did far more by ourselves. Lessons with mother did not last more than two hours; preparing them occupied the rest of the morning, and the hours between tea and supper.

The pattern of our curriculum was set by the old Oxford Local Examinations, for which we entered from ten years upwards. We went to Oxford to take them, which meant that examinations were a delightful break in the ordinary routine of life. My B.A. finals in 1907 was the first examination that I did not wholeheartedly enjoy. The wonderful year when an uncle took two of us to Italy with my mother for six weeks in early spring, and lessons went to the wall, did not damage our results, which were even better than usual in July.

There were plenty of books in the house, outside the nursery bookshelves. Reading aloud was a regular institution. Both my father and my mother read very well, and I look back to breathless moments listening to A Tale of Two Cities, and Lorna Doone, or more modern thrillers like Mary Johnstone's By Order of the Company. We had half an hour's sewing after lunch, when one of the four girls in turn read aloud to the other three. Reading aloud persisted in our family to the end of my mother's long life in 1949. My mother, at one period, made me read fiction and non-fiction alternately and keep a record of the books I read. My father's mother (who lived with us till her death in 1902, herself a self-educated scholar of great dignity) gave me on my twelfth birthday a marvellous work called The Treasury of Knowledge, containing half a dozen dictionaries and a choice collection of proverbs (four bordering each page). I revelled in the classical section, from which I compiled genealogies of the gods of Olympus. We still find it handy for crossword puzzles.

The assets that we carried from our home education to the next stage of college or other training were habits of independent working and thinking, standards of thoroughness and a demand for evidence, and, above all, an unspoiled appetite for learning (best, I think, embodied in something my mother said to me when she was over eighty: 'Isn't it nice, Helen, how many things there are still to find out?') I feel that in this we were the heirs of the Victorian age. My mother and her two sisters were educated at home, in my grandmother's little private school, where they also helped to teach. My eldest aunt prepared herself for the Cambridge Higher Locals and so won a scholarship to Newnham, although she did not take it up. To go back to the still older generation, my grandmother's four sisters all went out as governesses when the family fortunes suffered. They had a very different experience from the Brontës, for they became the life-long friends of the families where they taught.

Of the five sisters of the older generation, only my grandmother married; the home of the four great-aunts, where they had lived from childhood, had its own literary associations, as their father had known Coleridge, and in their dining-room, according to tradition, he and Southey had wept at the news of the death of Robespierre. We were not the only children who ransacked their bookshelves.

I do not think we ever considered our family exceptional. When I look at the educational background of the mid-Victorian woman, I keep on recognizing common features. The home teaching on which Charlotte Yonge and Mrs Ewing and Florence Nightingale and Josephine Butler were nurtured is there; so is the passion for reading. Jane Austen wrote that 'a fondness for reading, properly directed, is an education in itself'; and she set the quiet little student Fanny Price over against the complacent and pretentious Bertram sisters, whose schooling is so often quoted as typical. Elizabeth Barrett 'eating and drinking Greek'; Harriet Martineau teaching herself Italian and getting up at 5 o'clock to read Tacitus and Petrarch; Anne Moberley teaching herself Hebrew; Mary Everett Green finding her own way through the scattered and uncalendered national archives—these are simply the outstanding examples from a crowd of less eminent students who one way or another satisfied their hunger for learning.

Gwen John (1876-1939), The Student

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Related post: Home Schooling.

Saturday, March 09, 2013


One by One We Drop Away

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), "The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water," in Poetical Works, Vol. I: Lyrical Poems (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1906), p. 294:
I heard the old, old men say,
"Everything alters,
And one by one we drop away."
They had hands like claws, and their knees
Were twisted like the old thorn trees
By the waters.
I heard the old, old men say,
"All that's beautiful drifts away
Like the waters."
Plato, Cratylus 402 A (tr. H.N. Fowler):
Heracleitus says, you know, that all things move and nothing remains still, and he likens the universe to the current of a river, saying that you cannot step twice into the same stream.

λέγει που Ἡράκλειτος ὅτι "πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει," καὶ ποταμοῦ ῥοῇ ἀπεικάζων τὰ ὄντα λέγει ὡς "δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης."

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