Sunday, March 13, 2016


Bertie's Doctorate

A.N. Wilson, The Victorians (2002; rpt. New York: 2003), p. 273 (on Albert, Prince of Wales):
It must have taxed the ingenuity of Oxford's chancellor, Lord Derby, to find reasons why Bertie should be made a doctor of civil law in 1863 — a ceremony which took place after Bertie had married Princess Alexandra of Denmark. In a speech of his own composing (how many twentieth- or twenty-first-century prime ministers could pen Latin prose which was praised for its ease and excellence by professional scholars?) the three-times prime minister chancellor of Oxford wisely chose to dwell on Princess Alexandra's enchanting beauty rather than the Prince's academic attainments.*

One can be certain that the amiable Bertie did not understand a word of it.

* 'Ipsa adest; et in egregia format pulchritudine in benigna dulcium oculorum luce, in fronte illa nobili et pudica, nobis omnibus qui hic adsumus innatus virtutes animae velut in speculo licet ...' (She is here present; and to all of us who are gathered here it seems as though, as in a looking-glass, these innate virtues are reflected, in the surpassing beauty of her appearance, in the kindly lights of her sweet eyes, in her noble, modest face.) Oratio ad illustrissimum principem Albertum Edwardum Principem Walliae ab Edwardo GaIfrido Comite de Derby. 16 June 1863.
There's a misprint in the Latin of the footnote. For innatus read innatas.

I think there's another mistake in the same book, p. 131 (on Wordsworth's Prelude):
As in his other long philosophical work, The Excursion, city life becomes synonymous with corruption. 'Cities where the human heart is sick' (XII.204) are contrasted with those small rural communities where there is still space and time to listen to the dictates of that inner voice which prompts virtue. Apart from its bearing on the question of religious language — Wordsworth saw in Nature 'the type of a majestic intellect' (XIV.64) — there is the vital issue of humankind itself. For the generation before Wordsworth's — that of Samuel Johnson — it was axiomatic that the good life, the civilized life, was to be lived in the civis.
In Latin, a civis is a person, not a place. Because a place seems to be called for here, perhaps civitas should be read.


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