A Commentary (Apr 1925)
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576 ] A Commentary The Criterion: A Quarterly Review, 3 (Apr 1925) 341-44 It is regretted that, owing to severe illness, Mr. T. S. Eliot has been unable to prepare his essay on “A Neglected Aspect of George Chapman” for this number; also a review of The Sanskrit Theatre, by Professor A. B. Keith, and a review of Restoration Comedy, by Bonamy Dobree.1 The Study of Greek TheHeadMasterofEton,writingon“ThePraiseofGreek”inTheEvening Standard, has put in a couple of columns the usual arguments in favour of the study of Greek.2 Any argument in favour of the study of Greek is a good argument – though it is a pity that Doctor Alington thought to reinforce his case by quoting some turgid generalities by Professor Gilbert Murray3 – and we have no quarrel with those advanced in “The Praise of Greek.” It would be as well, however, if advocates of Greek would occasionally expound the best reasons, as well as those most likely to persuade the modern public. The latter are those attached to the romantic conception to which Mr. Frederic Manning has given the title of “Hellas.”4 They include the rather doubtful assertions that Greek is “the greatest of languages ” and that Greek literature is “the greatest of literatures”: assertions doubtful because the standards for such a comparative judgment cannot be found. The former, i.e. the unpopular, reasons include two which immediately occur to my mind. One is that the study of a dead language is the study of a language not in process of change, and therefore an exact study; and the study of Greek is the exact study of an exact language, a language of refinement and precision. And the other reason is that the study of Greek is a part of the study of our own mind. Our categories of thought are largely the outcome of Greek thought; our categories of emotion are largely the outcome of Greek literature. One of the advantages of the study of a more alien language, such as one of the more highly developed oriental languages, is to throw this fact into bold relief: a mind saturated with the traditions of Indian philosophy is and must always remain very different from one saturated with the traditions [ 577 A Commentary (April) ofEuropeanphilosophy–asiseveryEuropeanmind,evenwhenuntrained and unread. What analytic psychology attempts to do for the individual mind, the study of history – including language and literature – does for the collective mind. Neglect of Greek means for Europe a relapse into unconsciousness. Mr. Saintsbury’s Last Scrap Book The appearance of a new book by George Saintsbury is now the occasion for editorial rather than critical notice.5 For the readers of Mr. Saintsbury resemble the readers of Anatole France in this respect, that they receive with equal delight everything that he writes. The work of George Saintsbury, even when he writes of Quintilian or Scaliger, is extremely personal :6 I imagine that many persons who do not share his general point of view must find his writings antipathetic. In his literary interests, in his political views, in his culinary tastes, he is the representative of a fine tradition . I am not sure that his intimate readers will not treasure his Scrap Books more than any other of his works; for here all the sides of his personality are illustrated. And I am not sure that this personality is not as great an asset to England as was that of Anatole France to his country. But the services of Mr. Saintsbury are not such as are often distinguished, or measured , by official recognition. Sir James Frazer and the Order of Merit In recording the death of Francis Herbert Bradley I expressed the hope that his successor in the Order of Merit might be Sir James Frazer. This hope has been fulfilled.7 It is satisfactory that the greatest representative, in his time, of the mind of Oxford should be succeeded by the greatest representative of Cambridge. The influence of Frazer on our generation cannot yet be accurately estimated; but it is comparable to that of Renan, and perhaps more enduring than that of Sigmund Freud. Miss Marianne Moore Our contemporary, The Dial, of New York, has justly bestowed its annual award for literature upon Miss Marianne Moore. In the dismal flood of affected and fantastical verse poured out in America within the last ten years, Miss Moore’s poetry endures, “The wave may go over it if it likes.”8 She is one of the...