T.R. Glover (1869-1943), From Pericles to Philip
, 2nd ed. (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1918), p. 1:
and Eckermann were once talking about
Schlegel, and his criticisms of Euripides came up, and
Goethe, as frequently happened, said something that
Eckermann carried home with him and wrote down.
modern man like Schlegel," said Goethe,
"must pick out
faults in so great an ancient, he ought only
to do it upon
his knees." Goethe is profoundly right; the great vice in
criticism of ancient literature is that the critic seems more
often anxious to find out what is wrong than what is right.
Something must be very right indeed in a man's work if it can
hold and delight mankind centuries after he is dead and gone,
and not only his fellow-countrymen, but every foreigner also,
who can even with a lexicon's aid pick out his meaning and
who has, consciously or unconsciously, any idea of what a
book is. For it is only to the sympathetic, to those who
somehow have the right instinct, that a book will reveal itself.
Books are strange things and have strange ways—like certain
insects, when they feel themselves in wrong hands, they will
sham dead. With the great writers of ancient Greece this
often happens, and men say they are dull, and find faults in
them; but when they reach the right hands, they change
and live and move, and even the barest minimum of Greek
will let the right man see that they too are right, and life
begins anew with all its gladness and variety.