Tuesday, July 11, 2017


The Bare Irreducible Minimum

J.P. Postgate (1853-1926), Dead Language and Dead Languages, with Special Reference to Latin. An Inaugural Lecture Delivered Before the University of Liverpool ... on Friday, December 10, 1909 (London: John Murray, 1910), pp. 12-13 (endnote omitted):
But first we must lay down some principles. And this to begin with: that a knowledge of some foreign language, ancient or modern, is the bare irreducible minimum for anyone who desires to be educated in any true sense of the term, and that for him who would have a liberal education two are required. Such a one would own the treasure which Ennius, the father of Roman poetry, described when he said, with a grip upon reality not always observable in modern professors of education, that he had three souls, because he could speak Latin, Greek, and Oscan.
Id., pp. 14-15:
Is there anyone who, if he could, would not wish to read Dante in the original? Well, if he knows Latin, he need only acquaint himself with the not very numerous changes which Latin has undergone in Italy since the Roman age, and I will promise him that he shall be able to read the third canto of the 'Inferno' in a day. I will promise it, I say, for I did it in half a day myself.
Id., p. 25:
Such literature surely is not dead; it is for all times surely real and alive. Because it deals, not with what is transitory, superficial, or material, but with what is permanent, essential, and spiritual; because it deals with that universal humanity which neither custom, fashion, nor soi-disant progress can ever change, the same on the Tiber as on the Thames, the same whether those who the moment embody it are carried in litters, or are conveyed in taxicabs or, it may be, on aeroplanes. Should we not say that our Scottish friends showed their insight into the truth of things when they named professorships of Latin professorships of 'Humanity'?

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