The Classical Association: the First Century 1903-2003. Edited by Christopher Stray. In England in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, the study of Classics was forced onto the defensive. By that time Latin as a living language was moribund. Enlargement of the middle-class; increases in the number of schools, colleges and universities; changes in the curricula; these, and other factors besides, had their effect.
Many scholars, instructors and enthusiasts recognized how matters stood. Dr Stray, emphasizing the influence of the Education Act of 1902, rightly observes that “we have to remember that English education had up till then been free of state intervention to a degree unparalleled elsewhere in Europe ( The Classical Association: the First Century 1903-2003 [henceforth, CA ], p. 7). The Classical Association was meant to address this state of affairs and to mediate what Gilbert Murray delicately called “an orderly retreat” CA p. 12).
The Classical Association of England and Wales was created at the close of 1903. It was hardly the first organization founded in support of classical studies. Both Oxford and Cambridge already had classical societies; the Hellenic Society had come into existence in 1879; the Classical Association of Scotland in 1902. The new Classical Association grew rapidly; albeit not everyone regarded its creation with pure-hearted benevolence. Indeed Sir Oliver Lodge, it is said, “viewed the foundation of the Association with satisfaction … because the forming of such protective associations was the beginning of the end” ( Proceedings of the Classical Association 1, 1904, p. 46). It has not proved to be the death-knell.
The present celebratory book consists of introductory matter, four sections comprising seventeen chapters, four appendices, and an index. Aside from ordinary information, the preliminaries include a “Foreword” by Robert Fowler (pp. ix-xi) and an Introduction by the editor, Christopher Stray (pp. xiii-xiv). The first section, “Narrative”, has five chapters: (1) “The Foundation and its Contexts” (pp. 3-22), by the editor; (2) “Getting under Way: Challenge and Response, 1904-22” (pp. 23-37), by the editor; (3) “A Lull between Two Storms: from the 1920s to the 1950s” (pp. 38-41), once again by the editor; (4) “The Abolition of Compulsory Latin and its Consequences” (pp. 42-66), by Martin Forrest; and (5) “The Recent History of the CA” (pp. 67-100), by Malcolm Schofield, with a note “The View from HQ” (pp. 101-103), by Clare Roberts.
The first five chapters can be evaluated together. All of them are very well done. The chief writers are expert, their chapters well organized and almost always clear. More particularly, there are able discussions of subjects such as the absence of compulsory Greek as a topic especially treated by the Classical Association; the pronunciation of Latin; curricula; orthography; and the Association’s expansion. Contributors use, as appropriate, published and unpublished material alike. Actual errors and infelicities are rare. By inadvertence, Herbert Warren is twice called the “Master”, not the “President”, of Magdalen College, Oxford (Stray, CA pp. 9 n. 16, 21; correct on p. 19). From the citations, it is occasionally difficult to be sure where materials actually are preserved. Where are the “Dora Pym Papers/Memorandum, 21 April 1954” (Forrest, CA p. 44 n. 3)? Are they in Bristol, at the Institute of Classical Studies in London, with Pym’s unpublished autobiography (I think in Cambridge), or elsewhere? Stylistically, one criticism is in order. At times, the reader can drown beneath a text awash with abbreviations. Merely in the first sixteen pages appear AAM, ACT, AIGT, AMA, APSSM, ARLT, ASE, AWST, CA, CAAS, CAS, MA, NUT, SMA, TCD, UCD and UCL.
I agree with the editor that the decision to hold the foundation meeting in London was reasonable. But I doubt London was chosen because J. P. Postgate, the moving force in the Association’s creation, was a Professor of Comparative Philology at University College, London, though that might have given him ready access to the Botanical Theatre: Postgate’s home was in Cambridge, and he only rarely had reason to come to UCL. Rather, the choice escaped the potential criticism of centering the Association in one or the other of the two older Universities. For my part, I think it surprising that the inaugural meeting itself was held in Oxford. No information, save the statistic of 450 members by the end of the foundation meeting, seems to survive ( CA p. 10), and that weakens the force of the following observation: at the close of its first year, out of 823 then-members, some 175 (21.26%) dwelt in London. In comparison, 107 (13%) lived in Oxford; 84 (10.20%) in Cambridge. As E. A. Sonnenschein was a very active member, I also note that a mere dozen resided in Birmingham proper (1.45%) ( PCA 1 pp. 63-87). But statistics have to be used with care, albeit it is curious that it was not the size of its constituent members that controlled the order of meetings. If the foundational meeting was at UCL, and the first formal meeting in Oxford, the next meetings were respectively at UCL; King’s College, London; Manchester; Cambridge; Birmingham; London; Liverpool; KCL; Sheffield; Bedford College, London, etc. ( CA pp. 275 sq.). Of course, the membership of the Classical Association included not only those affiliated with universities. I observe however that the public schools were unevenly represented: e.g. Eton, some 32; Haileybury, 12; Rugby 6; and Shrewsbury, 2. It also is noteworthy that, unlike the Hellenic Society, the Association recorded in its membership lists not only titles, but ordinary academic degrees. Thus B.A.’s for J. N. Barran, A. W. Benn, E. L. Churchill et al., M.A.’s for Rev. C. A. Alington, T. W. Allen, J. G. C. Anderson, Cyril Bailey, and so on. These kinds of self-description say much about the relative standings of the two groups.
Since the Association was an advocacy group, one might also have remarked that the earliest published membership list included only three or four Members of Parliament: H. H. Asquith, J. G. Butcher and Sir R. C. Jebb; Sir R. B. Finlay, though a Vice-President, does not appear in this list. In comparison, in 1880/81, the Hellenic Society counted amongst its original members seventeen M.P.s: A. J. Balfour, G. W. Balfour, James Bryce, Sir Charles Dilke, R. C. Jebb, Sir John Lubbock, Justin McCarthy et al., but surprisingly not W. E. Gladstone ( Journal of Hellenic Studies 1, 1880, pp. xv, xvii-xxvi). As Stray rightly observes, the Hellenic Society allowed women a role; with the new Association, its first resolution in 1903 was that the “Association was open to persons of either sex” ( CA p. 3, with discussion pp. 3 sq.).
The second section, “Perspectives”, includes eight chapters: (6) “The CA’s Publications” (pp. 107-121), by Dr Stray; (7) ” Greece & Rome” (pp. 122-128), by Ian McAuslan; (8) “Robert Sewter—a Personal Reminiscence” (pp. 129-131), by John Muir; (9) “Silence and Women in Greece & Rome” (pp. 132-134), by Gillian Clark; (10) ” CA News : a Personal View from the Editor” (pp. 135-146), by Jenny March; (11) “The Ups and Downs of Branches” (pp. 157-168), by Barbara Finney; (12) “The Conferences” (pp. 169-182), by Philip Hooker; (13) “The Presidents” (pp. 183-190), again by Mr Hooker.
Little in these chapters, which let it be said are also ably written and ably researched, calls for comment. One remembers that the publications of the Classical Association are significant. They include the “Proceedings”; eventually both Classical Review and Classical Quarterly; The Year’s Work in Classical Studies; and Greece and Rome; to say nothing of pamphlets. In the tenth chapter, some of the text is light-hearted. But I have to admit that Jenny March’s introduction to an American’s limerick ( CA pp. 152 sq.) was exquisitely tactful. Doug’s cartoons, reproduced in the same article, might occasion an apotropaic reaction from Gary Larson (ibid. pp. 137, 145 [bis], 146, 151).
The third section has one general survey (14) “The Presidential Addresses” (pp. 193-208), by Prof. Schofield, and three reprinted presidential addresses: (15) “Things that Matter” (pp. 209-225), by Carol Handley; (16) “Still Yearns My Heart” (pp. 226-236), by Robert Runcie; and (17) “The Mirror of the Present” (pp. 237-249), by Dilys Powell. In chapter 14, errors in quotation are not uncommon: “the Lie in the Soul” appears for Gilbert Murray’s “the Lie in his Soul” (p. 193); “Rests like a shadow, and the winds are dead” (p. 198), where the last four words should be italicised. “Aeneas carried Anchises on his shoulder through the flames of Troy” (p. 198), where “shoulder” should be followed by “out”. In a long quotation from Sir Idris Bell’s address (p. 199), after “platform,” has fallen out “to the right of the chairman”; “Wilamowitz-Moellendorf” appears, though Bell gave the name correctly; for “he had aged” read “he had aged greatly”; delete “as” in “as the greatest orator I have ever heard”; and, again, “Wilamowitz-Moellendorf” is wrong.
There are four appendices: (1) “The Classical Association of Scotland: the First Hundred Years” (pp. 253-274), by Ronald Knox; (2) “Annual General Meetings, Presidents and Addresses” (pp. 275-283), by Mr Hooker; (3) “Officers of the CA” (pp. 284-291), again by Mr Hooker; and (4) “The CA Archive” (p. 292), by the editor, Stray. The first appendix is especially deserving of praise. In the second, there are a couple of minor errors: the Botanical Theatre was, in 1903, at University College, London, not the “University of London”; on p. 281, under “1982”, no comma is wanted in “University College, London”, the name having by then revised. In the third appendix, B. D. Meritt’s family-name is misspelled. The last appendix, the “Archive” admittedly needs to “be properly catalogued”.
The Index (pp. 293-300) seems to be accurate enough, though it omits not a little of interest: e.g. H. H. Asquith, add p. 9 n. 16; Robert Graves, add entry and p. 163; A. E. Housman, add p. 5 n. 5 and pp. 143-144; W. Ridgeway, add entry with citation to p. 170; Flamstead Walters add entry and p. 158; J. T. Sheppard, add p. 160; T. H. Warren (given as “Warren, H.”), add p. 9 n. 16.
As emphasis is given to the problems of “sexism” (pp. 3-4, 133), one may jib at references to Emily Penrose as “Emily” (p. 4), and to “Kitty Jex-Blake” (p. 29); and especially to the overly personal ” [Mrs Haigh’s] fragrant presence” (p. 33).
Finally, if in England the study of Classics had been forced onto the defensive, and in 1904 the Association only had some 825 members, by the late twentieth century the membership had more than quadrupled. This great increase, even allowing Prof. Schofield’s admirable analysis of the period 1989 to 2002 ( CA p. 67), makes one wonder whether the “retreat” was ultimately camouflage for a moderately successful offensive.