Monday, August 01, 2022


Winckelmann the Schoolmaster

E.M. Butler, The Tyranny of Greece over Germany (1935; rpt. Boston: Beacon Press, 1962), p. 14:
Winckelmann left the Lamprechts to become a village schoolmaster for five long weary years, a period of tribulation and slavery which he shuddered to remember in later life, and which was indeed the nadir of his fortunes. Yet if the days spent teaching 'mangy-headed little boys how to read the A.B.C.' were sordid enough, romantic beyond description were the nights. Wrapped in an old fur coat in the winter months and huddled in an armchair by the fire, Winckelmann read his beloved Greek until the clock struck twelve. He then slept in his chair from midnight until four in the morning, when he had another two hours at Greek, resuming school work at six. In the summer he slept on a bench; and for fear he should not wake in time, he tied a block of wood to his feet which fell down at the slightest movement. The thudding noise awakened him. Someone was knocking at the door. Banished for over a century from Europe, Greek literature was seeking admittance again. It was next to impossible to procure the texts; and yet in a dreary little provincial town in the Altmark a wretchedly shabby and mortally unhappy young schoolmaster was reading Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Xenophon, Plato and Herodotus in the original and seeing midnight visions of Greece. Let him but be single-minded enough and he will make those dreams come true.

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