A History of Nineteenth Century Literature (1780-1895)

By George Saintsbury | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
SCHOLARSHIP AND SCIENCE

THE remarks which were made at the beginning of the chapter on Philosophy and Theology apply with increasing force to the present chapter; indeed, they need to be restated in a much more stringent and exclusive form. To give some history of English philosophy and theology in the nineteenth century, by noticing its literary expression, was possible, though it had to be done, so to speak, in shorthand. To do the same thing with science, or even with what is technically called scholarship, would be simply impossible. Much of their expression is hardly susceptible of literary form at all, hardly any ever receives such form, while the subdivision of the branches of physical science is now so great and their shadow so wide that no systematic sketch of them is to be thought of. It is only possible to mention a few distinguished writers, writers who would have been distinguished whatever their subject, but who happen to have devoted themselves, solely or mainly, to scientific writing, or to classical criticism and philology.

A curious independent study might be made of the literary gradations of classical scholarship. In the Middle Ages, though the complete ignorance of the classics, once imagined as prevailing, has been shown to be a figment, scarcely anybody could claim to be a scholar. During the Renaissance almost every man of letters had necessarily some tinge of scholarship, and some of the greatest in its earlier period, such as Erasmus, were scholars

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