Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

[Review of Charles Anthon, A System of Latin Versification]

The author says in his short preface—“It will be perceived, from an examination of the present volume, that the exercises contained in it have been arranged in such a way as to form a regular and progressive course; and it is believed that, after the student has been carefully taken over the entire work, he will be fully qualified to enter upon the task of original composition in Latin verse, an accomplishment which forms decidedly the truest and most enduring ornament of classical education.” Such an accomplishment is, indeed, of great value to one who can estimate its bearings, or who, in receiving the discipline its attainment brings, has not forfeited others of far greater importance. A growing prejudice prevails in the more living and larger portion of our society against the boasted advantages of a “classical education.”— The man brought up in familiarity with outward nature, and to a use of his own bodily and instinctive powers, feels a contempt for the purblind scholar who cannot see through his spectacles what is imperatively required by a young and growing life like ours. The man whose mind has been cultivated not classically, nor in classes, but by earnest seeking and grasping on every side for what is demanded by the wants of his individual mind, doubts whether there is time, amid the vast new conquests of science, the profuse fruits of modern literature and arts, the needs in a great novel life of original thought and methods suited to the period, for a careful attention to the making of verse in the dead languages. He doubts whether the boy whose eyes have been during his best years turned too exclusively to the past will ever see as clear into the present and future as his neighbors, less schooled in the classics but better in nature and the spirit of the times.

Yet there is a beautiful propriety in referring back to the Greeks and Romans, could this but be done with intelligence and in harmony with the other branches of culture. It is only pedantry and indolence that makes this dangerous. The honey of Hymettus need not spoil the taste of the American

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