Friday, July 23, 2010

Evelyn Waugh on the Classics

From Scott-King's Modern Europe (a story of the declining career of a classics teacher):

"You know," the headmaster said, "we are starting this year with fifteen fewer classical specialists than we had last term?"
"I thought that would be about the number."
"As you know I'm an old Greats man myself. I deplore it as much as you do. But what are we to do? Parents are not interested in producing the 'complete man' any more. They want to qualify their boys for jobs in the modern world. You can hardly blame them, can you?"
"Oh yes," said Scott-King. "I can and I do."
"I always say you are much more important man here than I am. One couldn't conceive of Granchester without Scott-King. But has it ever occurred to you that a time may come when there will be no more classical boys at all?"
"Oh yes. Often"
"What I was going to suggest was - I wonder if you will consider taking some other subject as well as the classics? History, for example, preferably economic history?"
"No, headmaster."
"But, you know, there may be something of a crisis ahead."
"Yes, headmaster."
"Then what to you intend to do?"
"If you approve, headmaster, I will stay as I am here as long as any boy wants to read the classics. I think it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world."
"It's a very short-sighted view, Scott-King."
"There, headmaster, with all respect, I differ from you profoundly. I think it the most long-sighted view it is possible to take."


JoAnna said...

Wow. This is WONDERFUL.

Kacie said...

I adore the classics, and I'm sad anytime someone starts into one and gets discouraged because it's "boring".

Carol in Oregon said...

I MUST get my hands on that book. Wow.