restricted access Professor H. H. Joachim. To the Editor of The Times
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646 ] Professor H. H. Joachim To the Editor of The Times The Times (4 Aug 1938) 12 Mr. T. S. Eliot writes: I trust it will not be amiss for an old pupil to add a postscript to your obituary notice of the late Professor Joachim.1 To him I owe not only whatever knowledge of the philosophy of Aristotle I may have once possessed but also whatever command of prose style I may still possess. There are other teachers also to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for stimulation of thought and curiosity, and for direction of studies: to Joachim alone am I aware of any debt for instruction in the writing of English. All readers of The Nature of Truth will acknowledge the distinction of Joachim’s own writing: only those who have been his pupils know his influence upon the writing of others.2 He taught me, in the course of criticizing weekly essays with a sarcasm the more authoritative because of its gentle impersonality, and because he was concerned with clearing up the confusion rather than with scoring off his victim, that one should know exactly what one meant before venturing to put words to paper, and that one should avoid metaphor wherever a plain statement can be found. To his explication de texte of the Posterior Analytics I owe an appreciation of the fact that good writing is impossible without clear and distinct ideas. Any virtues my prose writing may exhibit are due to his correction: my vices are too obviously my own for me to need to disclaim his responsibility . I would not offer you this note, did I not believe that I write, not as a singular example, but as a representative of those who have had the good fortune to have been taught by Harold Joachim. Notes 1. Following Joachim’s death on 30 July at age 70, the Times published on 2 Aug an obituary, “Professor H. H. Joachim” (12), describing his full teaching and scholarly career at Oxford – as a fellow of Merton College from 1897 to 1919 (where TSE was his student from 1914 to 1915), and as the Wykeham Professor of Logic at New College from 1919 to 1935. “His unpublished lectures on the Ethics of Aristotle,” wrote the author (presumably a former student or close colleague), “his notes on the Posterior Analytics and other works which he read with his classes all had the same authoritative character” as his philosophical writings. “Joachim was an impressive lecturer. His spare figure, his beautiful voice, his sensitive features and hands, seemed [ 647 Professor H. H. Joachim congruouswiththetextureofhisthought,andheconveyedforciblythesenseofadetermination to follow out the implications of his subject-matter and to have nothing in his lectures loosely articulated or imperfectly expressed. . . . Many generations of students in philosophy in Oxford will remember the hospitality of Joachim and his wife, and the charm of a house which . . . was marked by great simplicity, friendliness, and dignity, and seemed subtly to convey the suggestion of an earlier Oxford tradition.” 2. TSE read Joachim’s The Nature of Truth (1906) at Harvard in the spring of 1913 before he went to Merton College in the fall of 1914 to begin weekly tutorials with Joachim that were focused on the philosophy of F. H. Bradley. Six of the essays that TSE wrote for Joachim during that Michaelmas term survive (1.165-92). During the Hilary and Trinity terms (Jan to June 1915), he studied Plato and Aristotle under Joachim, with six extant essays from that period (1.193-237). Though Josiah Royce, at Harvard, was the nominal director of TSE’s doctoral dissertation on F. H. Bradley (1.238), Joachim was his primary mentor. Reflecting on his decision to leave the study of philosophy, TSE wrote to his mother on 2 Feb 1929: “I learnt all that I know about writing prose from studying the works of F. H. Bradley, and from the criticism I had from H. H. Joachim while at Oxford, and my study of philosophy has been of great advantage to me in directions in which I never expected it to be. So one never knows what to regret and what to be glad of!” (L4 411-12). ...


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