Monday, May 22, 2023
In Unexpected Quarters
M.L. Clarke, Greek Studies in England 1700-1830 (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1945), pp. 6-7 (notes omitted):Newer› ‹Older
A knowledge of the classics was sometimes to be found in unexpected quarters. Even the most uncultured of country gentlemen might yet be possessed of a tincture of learning. John Mytton, toughest of hunting squires, expelled from Harrow and Westminster, and drunk for twelve years on end, 'always', we are told, 'had a quotation at hand from a Greek or Latin author'. Nor does one associate the Hanoverian dynasty with learning; yet George IV used to read Homer—with two bishops to help him. Byron, writing to Scott in 1812, describes how he had met the Regent, who 'spoke alternatively of Homer and yourself, and seemed well acquainted with both'. He could produce a Homeric quotation suitable to the occasion, as when Dr Davies of Eton, somewhat drunk after dinner, said to him, ' What do you know of Homer? I'd bet you don't know a line of the Iliad.' The Prince of Wales, as he then was, immediately quoted a line beginning with the word Οἰνοβαρές [Iliad 1.225].