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Live and Dead Studies
reading the first chapter of John Stuart Mill’s autobiography leads one to take stock of that ancient branch of education, “Classics”, which still sucks into its grip a good many clever pupils, whether among university-college students in West Africa or boys and girls in a British grammar school. Among the Latin and Greek texts which Mill was put through by his inflexible, utterly serious-minded father between the ages of three and twelve were Caesar, Livy, Cicero, the Aeneid and Georgics of Vergil, Ovid, Horace, Lucretius, and Terence; and Homer (Iliad and Odessey), Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Xenophon, Thucydides, Demosthenes, Lysias, and Aristotle. These authors made up the greater part of young Mill’s Classical curriculum, and they were all studied (though not as exhaustively) by the five or six of us who specialised in Greek and Latin at a Scottish grammar school between 1944 and 1950, which makes me think that our course must have been quite gruelling, quite close (though mercifully not in method) to the models of the Classical heyday.
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