Tuesday, June 3, 2014

2014.06.05

Edmund Richardson, Classical Victorians: Scholars, Scoundrels and Generals in Pursuit of Antiquity. Classics after antiquity. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xvi, 227. ISBN 9781107026773. $90.00.

Reviewed by Christopher Stray, Swansea University (c.a.stray@swan.ac.uk)

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[Detailed supporting text for this review will be found on the BMCR blog.]

This is the first volume in a new Cambridge series devoted to classical reception. The book's blurb announces that 'Victorian Britain set out to make the ancient world its own. This is the story of how it failed.' In an enthusiastic preface, the series editors declare that 'Instead of the focus on canon and corpus which is so familiar from studies of the classical tradition, Richardson gives us the metaphor of classical antiquity as corpse—a deceased past which was resurrected by the living with unpredictable results. The master tropes here are fragility, uncertainty, instability and misdirection' (xiii). They conclude that the book 'offers an inspiring...model for how to approach classical reception studies in all their complexity' (xv). In his introductory chapter, Richardson himself declares that 'Victorian classicism is labyrinthine ... This ... is the story of those who forever seek the dead, yet rarely find peace' (9-10); and at the end of the book, he asserts that for those he has been discussing, 'Classicism was ... scattered with moments of longing, moments of light, moments of despair—but never moments of peace; for them, the classical was history, interrupted—and that was its misbegotten beauty' (181). The prose is rhapsodic, and so is the book, which is made up of a series of episodes woven into three chapters.

Chapter 2, 'Old fashioned ambition: a Victorian seduction' (11-71), looks at attempts at social advancement through classical learning. It includes episodes on Thomas Hardy's (fictional) Jude the Obscure; the talented Theodore Buckley, whose classical learning led to his being taken up by gentlemanly patrons but who succumbed to drink and drugs and died aged 30; the 'Greek play bishops' who were identified as owing their preferment to classical scholarship, especially Charles Blomfield, editor of Aeschylus and Bishop of London; 'hungry professors', including the Scottish scholar John Stuart Blackie; and John Selby Watson, like Buckley a contributor of translations to Bohn's Classical Library, a headmaster, who after being dismissed in 1869, murdered his wife and ended his days in prison. The account of Buckley benefits from an imaginative use of his fictional accounts of social climbing, including several engaging illustrations in the style of Punch, but fails to take into account the snobbish atmosphere of his Oxford college, Christ Church, whose head Thomas Gaisford was notorious for refusing access to fellowships for poor students. The 'Greek Play Bishops' constitute a problem for Richardson's failure-based agenda, and so Charles Blomfield, scholar and bishop, is described, without evidence, as a 'formidably ambitious and effective social climber' who 'carefully cultivated members of the aristocracy'. No mention is made of the fact that his patron Earl Spencer, who was previously unknown to him, first contacted him after reading and admiring his edition of the Prometheus Vinctus (1810). Richardson states that 'the picture of the classical scholar plucked wide-eyed from obscurity and offered the bishopric of Chester on the basis of his academic merit is quite simply unsound' (28: an embellishment of 'plucked from obscurity', 26); but whoever held such a view? The treatment of struggling schoolmasters (36-45) is similarly unsatisfactory. ' 'Britain's schoolmasters ...hoped that their classical knowledge would make them a living' (37). This not only ignores women, but assumes that all schoolmasters taught Classics, something which is patently untrue. One case deals with James Shives, a schoolmaster who almost certainly lacked any classical knowledge; another with the complaints of John Stuart Blackie, a rambunctious campaigning Scottish classicist whose eccentricities are not taken into account.

A more substantial episode (46-57) concerns the trial and death of John Selby Watson (1804-84), the headmaster who killed his wife in 1872; his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he spent the rest of his life in jail. Before trying unsuccessfully to kill himself, Watson left a confession and other statements. Also found in the house was a piece of paper on which he had written, 'Felix in omnibus fere rebus, praeter quam quod ad sexum attinet foemineum. Saepe olim amanti nocuit semper amare'. The second sentence provoked discussion in the letter columns of the Times on 'Watson's Latinity'. The juxtaposition of John Watson and murder in this period brings Sherlock Holmes to mind, but here the hapless Inspector Lestrade seems to be in charge of the case, since Richardson quotes the Latin from a mangled report of the first sentence which misreads 'sexum' as 'saxum' ('…except as regards a woman hard as a stone': 54 n.228). Another newspaper commented that only a madman would sit down calmly to write Latin after killing his wife; in the book's blurb this becomes fact: '...the headmaster who bludgeoned his wife to death, then calmly sat down to his Latin'. Richardson's peroration (181) refers to Watson 'writing Latin with his wife's corpse in the next room', but in fact we cannot tell when or where he wrote the Latin, which was not, as Richardson claims, part of the 'suicide note'. Watson died in 1884 after cutting his ear on a tin pot after falling from his hammock in Parkhurst Jail. Richardson concludes, 'The archives maintain a diplomatic silence on exactly whose chamber-pot it was' (46); one wonders just what archives, since none are cited, but at that time Parkhurst prisoners lived one to a cell, and the 'tin pot' was the regular term for a vessel used for food or drink. Watson was a classical scholar, but he too does not belong in this book: he was a failure as a human being, not as a classicist.

Chapter 3, In search of an empire of memory (72-130), includes a substantial discussion of the role of classical remains in the Crimean campaigns of the 1850s. This is one of the best things in the book, and relatively error-free, as is a section on the writer of classical burlesques Robert Brough.

Chapter 4, 'The Children of Babel' (131-81), includes a section on the notorious forger Simonides which opens, 'Constantine Simonides packed in a hurry. His razor, his books, his shirts, and the lotus leaves which held the oldest known text of Homer all went into his trunk, upside down and jumbled up' (142). Thus begins Richardson's account of Simonides' unsuccessful attempt to sell his 'Homer' to the King of Greece. Richardson dates this to 1836—hardly possible, since Simonides seems to have been born no earlier than 1820. His source is a paragraph in an article on forgers in a 1903 issue of a Philadelphia popular monthly, whose author gives Simonides' forename as 'Alcibiades'; but the text quoted above is not to be found there. The scene, we must presume, has been imagined by Richardson: but how is the reader to know that this is fiction, and that the account it introduces is based on a worthless source? The next section gives an interesting account of Samuel Butler, inventor of the 'authoress of the Odyssey'. Butler's management of his marginal identity is well presented, but the account of Butler's eponymous grandfather's marginality in 1820s Cambridge is rendered unintelligible by the lack of any picture of the local curricular politics of the time.

The chapter ends with an attack on two men whom Richardson takes to be proponents of 'the unbroken line' of classical tradition: the stability his book is challenging. First, Richard Jebb's 1893 speech 'In defence of classical study' is taken as a text, but its location as a graduation speech at Mason College, Birmingham is not explained. Jebb has previously been referred to as 'Professor Jebb ... Knight of the Order of the Saviour' (p.165, without explanation; only on p.171 are we referred to the title page of his Bentley (1882)). Richardson does not explain what is presumably intended as a dig at self-promoting pomposity; had he bothered to investigate, he would have found that the LLD was Jebb's first honorary degree (Edinburgh 1878), and the 'knighthood' an honour bestowed by the King of Greece in the same year after Jebb's visit to Athens to prepare for his campaign to found the British School at Athens. He was understandably proud of these unsought honours.

Worse than this passing sneer is to come, in the discussion of K. D. White (1908-98), the pioneering investigator of Roman agriculture, who spent most of his academic career in South Africa. (What is White doing in a book on Victorians?) Richardson quotes from a broadcast talks on 'Our Classical Tradition' which White gave for the South African Broadcasting Corporation in 1957: 'those who are able to enter fully into the Greek tradition of thought have a powerful weapon ready to their hand against the violent influences of emotion undisciplined by reason, and against the dark forces' (169). He concludes that 'White and his white audience define themselves in opposition to the "dark forces" of black South Africa'. But it is clear that the quotation is incomplete, despite Richardson's attempt to conceal this by omitting an ellipsis; in White's original the sentence continues '... unleashed by those cults of the Will that have wrought such havoc in our time'. The obvious explicit referent is the Nazi regime, but White's real target was probably the South African apartheid regime. This section is driven by an ideological agenda which encourages the construction of caricatures rather than the understanding of historically-situated texts.

Richardson has obvious talents: he is, as Schliemann was called by a contemporary, a 'veritable truffle-hound', and is able to tell a good story: but a good story is not the same as a true story. If the claim that Classicism brought to Richardson's cast of characters 'never moments of peace' (181) is unprovable, his assertion that 'The quiet assurance of the eternal has never clung to the classic' (127) is demonstrably false. Macaulay opened his essay on Francis Bacon in the Edinburgh Review in 1837 by describing the great minds of former ages as 'comforters in sorrow, nurses in sickness, companions in solitude'. Montagu Butler wrote in the preface to his Some leisure hours of a long life (1914) of 'the old habit of making verses, begun ... [in] 1846, ...helping me ...to keep in touch with the thoughts of the wise, the pious and the pure, and giving a kind of quiet unity to a life of some labours and many distractions'. As recently as 1966, Hugh Stubbs (1917-2014) wrote that 'Antiquity has always been, to me, a radiant world, to be visited on a kind of time-machine ... a world of brightness, vigour, wisdom, heroism' ('Troubles of a lexicographer', Pegasus 5 (1966), 11).

Classical Victorians is intended as an ideological intervention in the study of classical reception, one which emphasises instability and failure. The agenda is advanced, in part, by overemphasising the themes of stability and success in previous work, though the critique of my own work and that of Charles Martindale in Richardson's PhD thesis have been much toned down for publication. This fresh thinking is to be welcomed, but the book's virtues are outweighed by its defects. Some of its subjects are not Victorians, some are Victorians whose failures are unrelated to their classical work, others not classicists at all. Richardson appears to be unfamiliar both with Victorian Britain, and with much of the secondary literature which could have enlightened him. He is often careless with his sources, misquoting, misinterpreting and (in the case of White) apparently suppressing evidence; the series editors' reference to the trope of misdirection, and Richardson's own invocations of labyrinths and halls of mirrors, apply all too well to his own text. It is a matter of regret that the flaws in this book should have survived examination during its progress from thesis to publication.

9 comments:

  1. (25-9) The Greek Play Bishops. Richardson stresses, without evidence, Blomfield’s cultivation of patrons, but there is substantial evidence of their cultivation of him. Lady Spencer in 1824 urged him to accept the offered bishopric of Chester, despite its poor salary, since it would offer a stepping-stone to the see of London, thought soon to be available (it was, and he gained it in 1828). Richardson states that some of Blomfield’s aristocratic friends feared he might reject Chester ‘with contempt’ (28), a phrase unsupported by the quoted evidence. Blomfield is claimed, again without evidence, to have ‘both cultivated and relished ...the “Greek Play Bishop” persona’ (21). A marble bust by William Behnes (22), seen by Richardson as a deliberate blend of clerical and classical, is in fact in a conventional style of the period, made in 1833 when Blomfield was entering public affairs, showing him as statesman rather than scholar. A quotation from an 1898 account by George Russell is described as a sketch by Russell of ‘an ideal career for those hoping to obtain a bishopric’, but is actually is a quotation (marked as such) from Sydney Smith’s attack on Blomfield in his Second Letter to Archdeacon Singleton (1838). (Elsewhere (15 n.24), Richardson writes of the phrase (again in quotation marks) ‘great broad-shouldered genial English country gentleman’ that it is ‘as if a stock figure is being invoked’; the phrase is in fact a (mis)quotation from the description of Sir Walter Vivian in Tennyson’s The Princess.) The only susbtantial analysis of the topic, A. Burns and C. A. Stray, ‘The Greek-play bishop: polemic, prosopography and nineteenth-century prelates’, Historical Journal 54.4 (2011), 1013-38, appeared while Richardson’s book was in press, but a thematic article by the same authors had been published in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in 2009, and a biography of Blomfield by M. Johnson: Bustling Intermeddler? The Life and Work of Charles James Blomfield , in 2001. Neither is referred to by Richardson.
    (34-6) Benjamin Jowett and Balliol. Quoting Jowett’s statement that ‘the Universities offer great opportunities...for ...rising from poverty and obscurity’, Richardson goes on, ‘his college’s classical curriculum, in other words, worked explicitly as enabler of upward social mobility’ (34). (The Jowett quotation Jowett is from his college sermon on ‘Success and failure’, given in 1879. It was published in W.H. Fremantle’s edition of Jowett’s college sermons in 1895, but is here unhelpfully cited from an inaccurate American private press reprint of 1945; there are errors in both quotations on p.34.) Further, the inference is illegitimate, and not just in the slide from ‘Universities’ to ‘college’. There is no evidence that the Balliol classical curriculum was planned to facilitate social mobility, and Jowett was a keen supporter of developing provision in other subjects (for example, he was responsible for the building of a chemical laboratory in the college). By 1873 Balliol had mathematics and modern history lectures, and more than half of the award-holders of 1879 read non-classical subjects.

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  2. (37-8) John Stuart Blackie. Richardson’s account of Blackie’s defence of poor schoolmasters claims that he was not standing up for the unprivileged, but was impelled by his own bitter experience – why cannot both be true? He asserts that Blackie’s romance was blocked by his beloved’s parents on financial grounds, but reference to Stuart Wallace’s John Stuart Blackie: Scottish Scholar and Patriot (2006) would have told him that they were alarmed at Blackie’s madcap manner. As for Blackie’s complaint that Scottish professors were badly paid, and that some in Edinburgh (his own university) received only £30 a year: Richardson fails to recognise that Blackie had an agenda to pursue, and was being economical with the truth. Many Scottish professors received most of their income not from salary but from student fees, and student recruitment had been declining since the 1820s. All this could have been learned from the standard discussion, R. D. Anderson, ‘Scottish professors 1800-1939: profile of an elite’, Scottish Economic and Society History 1987, 27-54, at 34-7.
    (39-40) Britain’s schoolmasters: James Shives and ‘shambolic seduction’. Richardson cites a court case following an assault by an outraged father who believed his daughter was being propositioned by a local schoolmaster, James Shives, who taught at the same Sunday School she did (39). The hapless Shives offered to explain what had happened to the father and to the rector of the church; the former assaulted him, the latter sacked him and refused to hear his explanation. ‘James Shives, a schoolmaster, hoped to use his classical learning to win a lady’s heart’ (4). But there is no convincing evidence of any romantic intentions, and none at all of any classical learning, which he is unlikely to have possessed. For Richardson, ‘it would be an understatement to call this romance a failure’; on the contrary, it is a mis-statement, and a later reference to a ‘strikingly shambolic seduction’ (58 n.255) only gilds the festering lily. Richardson is curiously incurious about the hapless Shives. Born in London in 1819, he had been trained at an institution run by the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, and probably taught at the Society’s school in Marylebone High Street, where he himself lived. (The National Society’s schools taught religion, writing, arithmetic and other basic skills at an elementary level.) In 1863-4 he was in Yorkshire, running a private academy which offered ‘professional, mercantile and agricultural training’. Shives married Eliza Bunnage, daughter of a laundress. This is not the career of a man with ‘classical learning’. (. The rector Charles Baring, unnoticed by Richardson, reappears later in the book as an 1865 bishop.) Shives’ (imaginary) classical learning is a product of Richardson’s determination to tell the story he wants to tell. His assailant was unwilling for his daughter to give evidence in open court, and so the voices of the woman and the lower-class male are hardly heard in this story; it is a minor tragedy of class and gender, but it has nothing to do with Classics, and so has no place in the book.

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  3. (46-57) John Selby Watson. The phrase ‘bad Latin’ was not used by a lawyer at the trial, as Richardson claims (54), but in a letter to the Times (16 Jan. 1872) referring to a speech by the Hon. George Denman, prosecuting counsel, who remarked of Watson’s Latinity, ‘Perhaps it is not the purest possible Latin’. Here we have another missed opportunity, for Denman (Senior Classic at Cambridge in 1842, when he beat H. A. J. Munro into second place) was a keen classical composer whose versions were later published; he had also defended another murderous classicist, George Henry Smith, in 1855 (the case is mentioned by Richardson, 46 n.186). Relevant secondary literature once again goes unmentioned, e.g. M. Horder, ‘Author and murderer: the case of the Rev John Selby Watson’, London Magazine 19 (Oct. 1979): 66-72. Beryl Bainbridge’s Watson’s Apology (1984), a novel based on extensive research into Home Office files on the case, appears in the bibliography but is not referred to in the text. Her account of Watson, a fictional work based on what she herself called ‘a two years’ orgy of research’, contrasts strikingly with Richardson’s, apparently factual but unreliable and in part fictional.
    (72-112) The Crimean War. The chapter opens with a vivid account of the banquet given to the allied forces in the Parthenon on 22 June 1854 – ‘one night in 1854’, writes Richardson, but his source, a paragraph in the Illustrated London News of 15 July, supplies the date. What it does not supply is any of the detail in the author’s account of the dinner – ‘Leaning against broken pillars, they exchanged ever-taller stories’ (73), itself a tall story. The mention of two warships called HMS Agamemnon sent to the Crimea creates a missed opportunity to tell the neglected story of the role of warship names in the revival of Hellenism. In the Royal Navy, classical naming began in the 1750s; the first HMS Ajax was commissioned in 1767, the first HMS Agamemnon in 1781. (Ordinary sailors were unfamiliar with the names, and tended to substitute nicknames: thus HMS Bellerophon became ‘the Billy Ruffian’.)
    (142-8) Constantine Simonides. No figure could better represent the notion of classical reception as a ‘hall of mirrors’ (162) than Simonides. He declared two birth dates for himself (1820 and 1824) on different occasions; his death was reported in 1867, then denied, then announced again in 1890. Richardson seems to be unaware of the birth dates.

    (148-61) Samuel Butler. Butler’s pamphlet on Cambridge examinations brought a response from J.H. Monk of Trinity (‘Philograntus’), and Butler responded with a second pamphlet. Though this last ended with some caustic criticism, the pamphlets cannot be called ‘venomous’, and Richardson’s hyperbolic reference to ‘the ensuing controversy...venomous pamphlets flying right and left’ (160) is misleading on both the nature and the number of the pamphlets. It is also misleading to call Butler’s initial pamphlet ‘an insider’s pamphlet written in an outsider’s guise’: it refers several times to ‘this university’, and is signed from Cambridge. Sterne’s Tristram Shandy is asserted to be a favourite of Butler’s (176-7), but there is no evidence for this.

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  4. (165-7) Richard Jebb. A culture hero in his time, in the 1890s Jebb (Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge from 1889, MP for the university from 1891, knighted in1900) was the leading national spokesman for the humanities in Britain: Stray (ed.), Sophocles’ Jebb: A Life in Letters (2013), 165-272. Richardson notes (as did Jebb himself) that the phrase ‘the classical tradition’ came into increased use in this period, when Classics was under challenge. But he fails to contextualise Jebb’s Mason College speech. His reference to ‘pupils’ (166 n.129) suggests that he thinks the college was a public school; it was in fact Mason Science College, founded in 1875 mainly to provide scientific and technical education (it became the University of Birmingham in 1900); its opening in 1880 was marked by a speech by T.H. Huxley on ‘Science and Culture’ which became famous as an attack on the dominance of humanities, especially Classics, in educataion. Previous graduation speeches had been given by scientists; Jebb was probably invited by Edward Sonnenschein, professor of Classics at the college since 1883 and a former colleague of Jebb’s at Glasgow, to deliver a counter-blast. Richardson quotes from the report of the speech in the Times; a better source would have been Jebb’s own published text, ‘In defence of classical study’, New Review 9 (1893), 494-501, reprinted in his Essays and Addresses (1907). Quoting Jebb’s appeal to ‘the rising generation of scholars, the guardians of the classical tradition’, Richardson writes that Jebb ‘calls upon contemporary “disciples” of the tradition to ... “guard” it... He establishes the unity of Britain’s relationship with the ancient world, and sets the task of watching over it (and the power which comes with that task: the power of excluding illegitimate claims on “the tradition”) to the academy. Jebb’s young academics must guard the door which leads to the riches and beauties of antiquity – only stepping aside, like the chief eunuchs of some Orientalist fantasy, to let the appropriate fine gentleman through, at the appointed time’ (166-7). The fantasy, however, is Richardson’s own, based on an illegitimate slide from Jebb’s ‘guardians’ to ‘guards’ (‘guardian’ in the latter sense was obsolete in the 1890s) and the attribution to Jebb in quotation marks of a word ( ‘guard’) that he does not in fact use. Jebb’s concern for the unity of scholarship was based on his own attempts to broaden his own scholarship from language and literature to history, archaeology and comparative philology, but it also reflected his concern at the growing division between specialisms within Classics, promoted by the foundation of specialist sections on the above fields in the Cambridge Classical Tripos in the late 1870s. The speech needs to be assessed as a diplomatic intervention in an ongoing debate, but is also much more nuanced than Richardson makes it out to be. Jebb begins by noting the variation in literary responses to antiquity, and goes on quote E.A. Freeman’s plea for Classics to be the subject of ‘reasonable homage’ rather than ‘exclusive superstition’. He concludes, quoting Dante’s address to the shade of Virgil: ‘the relation of ancient to modern literature is that of a disciple who renounces no part of his originality or his independence when he acknowledges his debt to a master and a guide.’ In quoting from Jebb’s peroration, Richardson elides several hundred words, which end by urging the ‘deeper and more systematic study of modern languages and literatures’.

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  5. (169-70) The denigration of K.D.White. If Richardson’s account of Jebb’s speech suffers from the dominance of an ideological agenda over a concern for historical context, worse is to come in his critique of Kenneth White. The manipulation of White’s text is not confined to the ‘dark forces’ sentence. Claiming that White insists on a single classical tradition, Richardson notes that on page 2 of his published lectures alone, ‘our legacy’ is mentioned three times, but does not mention that this is the contents page. Also omitted is White’s statement that in following the history of the transmission of classical culture, ‘we shall find that it is no single stream that we are following’ (White, 9.) Nowhere in the critique of White is there any attempt to locate his lectures in the context of 1950s South Africa, or to find evidence of White’s actions and opinions. White, a Cambridge-educated Englishman, had taught in South Africa since 1938; in 1957 he was at the University of Natal, one of four English-speaking universities which in the late 1950s mounted an unavailing resistance to the National Party’s extension of apartheid policies to universities. English speakers had become in some ways an oppressed minority, marginalised by the Afrikaners. ‘White and his white audience define themselves’: not only does Richardson presume to know what White’s audience thought, he seems unaware that it may have included Blacks, to whom English-language broadcasts were more accessible than those in Afrikaans. In 1957 the director of the South African Broadcasting Corporation was Gideon Roos, a liberal Afrikaner who held to a Reithian vision of objectivity. From 1959 the chairman of the SABC’s board was Piet Meyer (a member of the Afrikaner secret society the Broederbond, and its chairman from 1960), whose marginalisation of Roos led to the latter’s resignation in 1961 (see R. and K. Tomaselli and J. Muller, Broadcasting in South Africa (1989), 54-6). White’s lectures, then, were conceived and broadcast within the last gasp of the liberal humanistic enclaves that resisted the National Party and its apartheid policies. After the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, White left for a year’s fellowship at St John’s College, Cambridge, then returned to Africa, but to black Africa: to the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. After ending his career at Reading, he went back to Nigeria in 1976 to teach at the new university of Jos. According to the testimony of several former colleagues, he was (to quote one of them) ‘no racist: a humane idealist’. So much is plain in his lectures, if they are read without preconceptions: the emphasis on natural rights and on the worth of all human beings is explicit in his discussion of the Roman Empire. If we are prepared to read between the lines (something which must have been common in 1950s South Africa), such references, and those to ‘the dark forces ...unleashed by ... cults of the Will’, on the surface applying to the Nazi regime, most likely refer to the National Party, in power since 1948, and its increasingly harsh imposition of apartheid. Richardson could have learned about White through the article on him in the Dictionary of British Classicists, ed. R.B. Todd (2004) – a book which also has entries on J.S. Watson, T. Buckley and G. Burges among others, and which appears to be unknown to Richardson (who consistently misspells ‘Burges’ as ‘Burgess’). The article on White in turn would have led him to the obituary by H.C. Guite (The Independent 4 July 1998), which remarked of White’s time in England that ‘It gave him respite both from his normal duties and from the stress of being a liberal under apartheid’. A little more effort would have uncovered John Crook’s obituary in the St John’s College magazine The Eagle (1999, 242-3), which reports that in 1960 ‘He was back in Britain, after 20 years of Chairs in South Africa, in flight from the culture of apartheid’. Richardson’s critique of White is defamatory; were White still alive, it would be libellous.

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  6. (182-5) Appendix A: Anglican bishops in office in 1800 and 1865. The choice of dates (the first being well before the Victorian period) is not explained, and no analysis of change is attempted. It may be significant that the two best-known Greek play bishops, Charles Blomfield (bishop 1824-56) and James Monk (bishop 1830-56) are excluded by the dates chosen. Two bishops of 1865 are listed as having ‘gained advancement from classical learning’; neither should be so listed. John Graham’s undergraduate achievements at Cambridge are referred to, but not his mastership of Christ’s College 1830-48, the probable basis for his elevation in 1848. Graham held liberal religious views, and so it is unsurprising that he was nominated by the Liberal prime minister Lord John Russell. Such causal factors are left out of account in Richardson’s rather simplistic exercise in correlation. Charles Baring, another 1865 bishop, was one of a handful of men elevated by Lord Palmerston in the 1850s because they were evangelicals (N. Scotland, Good and Proper men: Lord Palmerston and the Bench of Bishops (2000): yet another intervening factor. ( Richardson has not noticed that Baring was the rector who refused to hear James Shives’ explanation.) James Prince Lee’s ‘formidable reputation as a classical scholar at Cambridge’ apparently refers again to undergraduate achievement (he never published in the field). Lee was fifth-form master at Rugby from 1830, and headmaster of King Edward VI School, Birmingham, from 1838 till 1847, when he was created first bishop of Manchester. His elevation surely derived from his success as a schoolmaster in the mould of Thomas Arnold, his headmaster at Rugby. As with Graham, student classical success formed only the first link in a long chain of achievements which led to a bishopric. Some of the individual descriptions in this appendix are misleading, and several are simply wrong. Connop Thirlwall is listed as a bishop who rose through patronage (a considerable over-simplification), and Richardson’s note on him reads simply ‘Founded the Cambridge Apostles’. This is so far from being correct that Thirlwall was never even a member, as a glance at the studies of the Apostles by Peter Allen (1978) or William Lubenow (1998) would have shown.

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  7. (186-90) Appendix B: The Balliol exhibitioners. This is claimed to be a tabulated list of ‘the most brilliant students’ who entered Balliol College 1870-9 (the list is taken from Hilliard’s 1914 Register; Elliott’s edition of 1934, which is fuller and more accurate, should have been used.) Why, then, choose exhibitioners, rather than their superiors, the scholars? Richardson provides 41 names (not 42 as he states on p.35), but the Register lists twice as many exhibitioners in this period. (The Appendix is not, as one might think, confined to classical exhibitioners, nor are all the classical exhibitioners listed.) The heterogeneity of the awards makes comparison impossible: some awards were restricted to particular schools, and won by students of very moderate ability, while the Snell Exhibitions were awarded to outstanding graduates of Glasgow University. A further complication is that some students entered in one subject and then changed to another. The choice of period is not explained, and no attempt made to look at change over time. The entries are often inaccurate. James Rendel (187) is called ‘Son of a knighted civil servant; Indian Civil Service’: his father was in fact a celebrated civil engineer, knighted for building bridges and railways in India, and Rendel himself was chairman of several Indian railway companies. The Latinist Albert Clark (189) was the son not of a fishmonger, but of the writing-master at Haileybury College. John Haines (188) was fellow not of University College London, but of University College Oxford. His is a salutary case. The son of a music teacher, he gained several college offices, became engaged to the Master’s daughter and seemed set for success. Then in 1890 Haines’s jilted lover shot and wounded the Master, and after the ensuing court case Haines resigned his fellowship, left Oxford and became a private tutor. The correlation of class origin and destinations attempted by Richardson leaves such crucial events out of account.
    (191-202) Appendix C: Anglican archdeacons in office in 1840. Once again, no explanation is given for the choice of year, and the lack of chronological range makes it impossible to look at change over time. Some men classified as having risen through theological publication in fact published only after advancement. Of the four men listed as having advanced through non-theological academic work, three are wrongly classified. Robert Buckle is called ‘a distinguished mathematician’ on the basis of his achievement in the degree examination. He was not ‘tutor at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, for much of his adult life’; in fact he was never a tutor at the college, holding a fellowship for two years (vacated on marriage), and a lectureship for one of those years. W. Strong is called a ‘prolific translator’, but I can find evidence only for one translation, Frithiof’s Saga (1833): Strong had been made archdeacon long before, in 1797. Thomas Thorp (whose name is mis-spelled) is said to have had ‘a very successful academic career at Cambridge’ – again, this consists solely of undergraduate achievement. The Appendices, I conclude, are ill-conceived and unreliable.

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  8. I can only congratulate Christopher Stray on his defence of the reputation of K. D. White. The supper that I shared with Prof. White at the end of a conference at the University of Exeter held very close to the end of his life left a lasting impression on me. Prof. White was a memorably wise and humane individual. The notion that he was any sort of racist should be resisted with determination.

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  9. While certain scholars try to de-construct the undeconstructible, our duty and our pleasure is to live our lives in the light of antiquity's beginnings and achievements, and to do what every generation of Western civilization has to do: To re-construct again and again our very own reading of our classical heritage. It is fully allowed to cite Edith Hamilton here: "What was then produced of art and of thought has never been surpassed and very rarely equalled, and the stamp of it is upon all the art and all the thought of the Western world." Edith Hamilton's book lives on, despite of some errors - will Richardson's book, too?

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