BMCR 2000.11.13

Response: Stray on Traill on Stray

Response to 2000.05.04

Response by

David Traill’s review of the volume I edited ( Classics in 19th and 20th Century Cambridge: Curriculum, Culture and Community) is balanced and fair, and I have no major quarrels with its judgments. I would, however, like to clarify some minor points.

1. In his comments on my introductory chapter, Traill summarises the problems caused by the new specialised Part II of the Classical Tripos in the 1880s and ’90s, which attracted few students because a degree could be obtained on the basis of Part I alone. He ends by quoting from the text to the effect that in 1918 the problem was solved “by forcing the undergraduates to take it.” This quotation is in fact from a chapter by another contributor to the volume. I would not have written it, since in my view students were not forced to take Part II in Classics: they could change to another course after Part I, and then proceed to the BA. The 1918 decision was simply that passing the Classics Part I examination would no longer in itself qualify a student for a degree.

2. Breay’s chapter on women in classics. Traill shares a widespread difficulty with the terminology of nineteenth century English schooling. The messiness of the terminology reflects a messy situation arising in large part from a lack of standardised central provision. State intervention came very late in England — at primary level in 1870, at the secondary level only in 1902. In Victorian England, a private school was one run by an individual for profit; a public school was run by a trust, or a limited company in which shares were held by the parents of pupils. The girls’ schools Breay discusses were mostly either endowed grammar schools remodelled by the Endowed School Commissioners in the late 1860s and early 1870s, or high schools founded by charitable trusts.

3. Of the final chapter, a dialogue between John Crook and Joyce Reynolds on the Greek and Latin Book Club, Traill writes that to American readers it “must seem infinitely more remote than the nineteenth-century squabbles over the curriculum.” At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Club served (perhaps was founded) to promote a sense of community among scholars whose specialised work was beginning to take them apart from one another. In time, its meetings became ritual events, book buying, reading and auctioning becoming secondary to the reinforcement of social solidarity. I would be surprised if American academic institutions were entirely lacking in functional, if not formal equivalents — though perhaps they have been rarer on the west coast than among the New England hederati celebrated by Tom Lehrer.

4. Finally, in his opening remarks, Traill correctly indicates that “there is precious little here on Jebb or Housman.” Much has, of course, been written on Housman: one thinks immediately of the work of the indefatigable Paul Naiditch. (Yet there is perhaps room for a discussion of Housman situating him among his Cambridge colleagues.) Jebb is another matter: idolised before and at his death, forgotten, ignored or dismissed by many since then, he is overdue for a reappraisal. I am therefore glad to be able to inform readers of BMCR that a further PCPS supplementary volume centred on his work and career is in progress, under the title The Owl of Minerva. This will, like Classics in Cambridge, be a collaborative volume, and will include chapters not only on Jebb but also on the five Cambridge scholars who sought to succeed him in the chair of Greek in 1906: James Adam, Walter Headlam, Henry Jackson, William Ridgeway and Arthur Verrall.