The Latin Tradition. An unsigned review of Founders of the Middle Ages, by Edward Kennard Rand
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[ 589 The Latin Tradition An unsigned review of Founders of the Middle Ages, by Edward Kennard Rand Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP; London: Milford, 1928. Pp. ix + 365. The Times Literary Supplement, 1415 (14 Mar 1929) 200 This book consists of a series of Lowell Lectures delivered in Boston in 1928.1 Though obviously lectures, or obviously to anyone who has ever lectured , reproduced (in the author’s words) “substantially as they were delivered ,” and though decidedly readable, these are not popular lectures; the subject is too limited and the author too learned [vii]. The eight chapters have, as in such a course of lectures they might be expected to have, eight topics: one is on St. Ambrose, one on St. Jerome, a third on a man on whom Professor Rand is one of the greatest living authorities – Boethius.2 The period of Christian culture treated is mainly the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries. Though each lecture may be read by itself, for information on its special subject-matter, at least two theses run through the whole and connect the essays. One is that the attitude of the Church towards classical culture was always double – an attitude of disapproval of pagan literature and learning was offset by one of pious preservation and enjoyment, so that Dr. Rand is able to insist upon the continuity of the classical tradition in Christianity. His other thesis appears more fitfully, and rather in the guise of jocular slaps at Mr. Paul Elmer More. It will not be wholly intelligible to readers who do not know Mr. More’s great work on “The Greek Tradition,” and especially the volume entitled Christ the Word.3 We may explain briefly that Mr. More’s contention is for the superiority of the Greek over the Roman tradition in orthodox Christianity, for the superiority of Greek theology, down to Athanasius, over Roman theology, and that Mr. More finds in Latin theology, at the same periods and through the Middle Ages, an excessive imprint of the Roman legal mind, over-refining and over-defining. Without entering into any theological controversy, or revealing his own point of view in these matters – for his book is strictly concerned with literary , not theological, criticism – Dr. Rand presents himself as a champion of 1929 590 ] the Latin tradition. Hence such pleasant asperities as calling Mr. More a “Binitarian contra mundum” [11].4 But as Dr. Rand does not really tackle Mr. More in this book, we must leave them to wrangle the matter, if they will, on some other occasion; meanwhile reflecting that the difference may be partly due to Mr. More’s being more saturated in the Greek and Dr. Rand in the Latin Christian literature. There is no doubt that Dr. Rand is a very fine scholar, and a scholar of intelligence and wide sympathies. Perhaps there is no first-rate Latinist, whose primary business it is to teach the Latin classics, who knows so well, and so humanely, the literature of Christian Rome. He shares the high view of humanism of his colleague Irving Babbitt, whom he quotes; and he carries his learning lightly and gracefully. His book, though crowded with suggestion , can be read through at a sitting. But each part, as we said, has its particular subject. In connexion with his first thesis, that of the continuity of pagan and Christian culture, he insists again and again upon the importance of Cicero to the early Christian writers. In one essay of much interest (“St. Augustine and Dante”) he takes pains to show the influence of classical culture , and particularly the influence of Cicero, upon Augustine, and through Augustine upon Dante. And Dr. Rand is manifestly qualified in temper to sustain his own thesis, for he manifests throughout a balanced sympathy both with classical Roman thought and with the Catholic Church. Dr. Rand hardly touches upon the literature of the High Middle Ages, and therefore his essay on “The New Poetry” is mainly a defence and exposition – and a persuasive one – of the poetry of Prudentius.5 The hymns of St. Ambrose are the only hymns of the canonical Latin hymnology to come within his field in this book. This essay is full of curious and fertile suggestions . Dr. Rand quotes a hymn of Ambrose, Inventor rutili, dux bone, luminis, Qui certis vicibus tempora dividis, Merso sole chaos ingruit horridum, Lucem reddite tuis Christe fidelibus,6 to remind us that the author probably had in mind the line of Horace, Lucem...