Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Scholars and Scholarship, 1600–60 > Latin and Greek scholarship
  The spread of patristic learning in England Hebrew scholarship  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XIII. Scholars and Scholarship, 1600–60.

§ 8. Latin and Greek scholarship.


The seventeenth century entered into a noble heritage of accumulated knowledge of the classics. The sixteenth century had been a period of acquisition and ingathering of knowledge of classical authors; and grammars, rhetorics and logics, together with phrase-books, colloquies, vocabularies and dictionaries, collections of adages, apophthegms, epigrams, proverbs, emblems, synonyms, were rapidly produced. Not only were the whole of the available literary remains of Rome and Greece thus presented, but they were broken up into such a systematic analysis that every detail was at hand for the synthetic process of composition modelled on the style of Cicero or Demosthenes. With marvellous skill and prodigious research, analytical and inductive methods were applied more and more daringly to writing on topics concerning Roman and Greek antiquities, as well as on medieval and modern history and contemporary events and interests. As the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries had developed style and form in writing the classical languages, the seventeenth century entered into assured possession of literary instruments for the treatment of all kinds of material of investigation and enquiry. In the earlier part of the seventeenth century, works of importance, however long and recondite, were written in Latin, not merely from the love of masterful pedantry, but for the absolutely practical reason that Latin was the international language of well educated people. 5  A typical instance was Bacon, with his Novum Organum and De Augmentis Scientiarum, the latter of which was an expansion of the treatise in English named The Advancement of Learning. The publication of books in both Latin and English thus marks a transition stage in the movement from Latin to English, as the medium for communication. But it will be remembered that Copernicus, Gilbert, Harvey, Newton, announced their scientific discoveries in Latin, not because they were profound classical students, but because Latin was the common language of scientific writers at home and abroad, as it was the ordinary language both for speech and writing between scholars, scientific people, professional men and diplomatists. The erudite Savile was Latin secretary to queen Elizabeth. In 1644, the title of the office was changed to “Secretary for Foreign Tongues to the Joint Committee for the two Kingdoms,” and, as already stated, it was under this designation that John Milton assumed the post in 1649. Though this is a sign of the coming change, when the French ascendency in Charles II’s reign was to lead, eventually, to the substitution of that language in the sphere of diplomacy, it is not to be supposed that the change was a tour de force. It had been silently prepared for in the close rapprochement of England with French protestants and in the inter-relations already described. Yet, in 1659, John Pell, on a mission in Germany, spoke Latin to a burgomaster “who told me he had given over speaking in Latin these 50 years,” and answered in High Dutch. Edward Leigh, in his Advice on Travel (c. 1660), still requires gentlemen to be well equipped in conversational Latin. Academically, the ideal of Latin-speaking was well preserved. Brinsley, in his Ludus Literarius, 1612, expects school lessons in grammar to be conducted by questions and answers in the Latin language. Disputations and orations were in this language, not only in universities but, also, in grammar schools. Casaubon conversed in Latin with James I and with the bishops; university plays were often in Latin; and sermons had to be in the same tongue for degrees in divinity.   16
  In 1635, Cornelius Burgess preached in Latin to his fellow puritan ministers in London. In fact, Latin occupied very much the position that mathematics now assumes on the modern side of a public school, in relation to physical science studies. It provided the necessary equipment for other studies, and the school curriculum was framed with a view to relieving the university from its teaching. The curriculum consisted of Pueriles Confabulatiunculae (children’s Latin talk), colloquies, catechisms in Latin and Greek, systematic grammar, translation and re-translation, and the whole round of vocabularies, the making of Latins, letter-writing (on the model of Cicero’s Epistulae, proceeding to those of modern writers—Politian, Erasmus, Ascham, Manutius, Lipsius—and the composition, concurrently, of original epistles), themes, with full equipment of adages, apophthegmata, flores, phrase-books; then making verses, and, finally, the glory of sixth form work, producing and declaiming original orations. Thus, the school discipline in Latin was never more complete than in the first half of the seventeenth century. For, in all the above divisions of work, a bewildering collection of textbooks had accumulated, and the foreign apparatus of Latin study was more prominent in English schools than the textbooks written by Englishmen. Nothing, perhaps, better illustrates the progress of Latin studies than the increase in size, exactness and comprehensiveness, of Latin dictionaries, say from that of Elyot’s Dictionary in 1538 to Holyoke’s posthumous monster Dictionary of 1676, or, indeed, from the first edition of Francis Holyoke in 1617 to the final form given to it by his son in 1676.   17
  If the output of critical scholarship in Latin by English scholars in this period be relatively small, it is accounted for by the fact that excellent editions of Latin classical writers had already been provided in foreign editions, as, for instance, in the Elzevir texts. What was accomplished was, therefore, rather in the way of selection and compilation from the research work of foreign Goliaths of scholarship.   18
  The highest Latin scholarship was centred in its practical use in writing, as, for instance, in the works of Ussher, Gataker and Selden. As showing a fluent control over rhythm, metre and style, English writers made a high bid for excellence, in the persons of such Latin poets as Owen, Barclay, Dempster, Milton, May and Cowley. 6    19
  If Latin, then, was a necessity, Greek, also, was a pressing accomplishment, for a large constituency besides the professor and scholar. Nor were Greek experts so few as is often supposed. In The Authorised Version of the Bible (1607–11), adequate scholarship in Greek was available in Thomas Ravis, George Abbot, James Montague, Thomson, Savile, Perin, Harmar, William Barlow, Hutchinson, Spencer, Fenton, Rabbett, Sanderson, Dakins. Of the other translators employed on the Old Testament Apocrypha, John Duport, Downes and Bois were of still greater renown for their knowledge of Greek. J. Bass Mullinger remarks on the low state of Greek in English universities in the latter part of the sixteenth century. He names Whitaker, Dering, Gabriel Harvey, Aylmer, as almost alone proving that Greek at Cambridge was “not extinct.” It was otherwise in the period 1600–60. Andrew Downes, professor of Greek in Cambridge from 1585 to 1625, published lectures on Lysias: De Caede Eratosthenis (1593) and on Demosthenes: De Pace (1621). Francis Hicks, a gentleman of Worcestershire, made Greek his study and recreation, and published a translation into Latin, with notes, of select dialogues of Lucian, 1634. John Price, one of the greatest scholars of the period, professor of Greek at Pisa, showed great learning in his commentaries on the New Testament, illustrated by references to Greek and Latin Fathers (1646–7). In 1636, Gerard Langbaine published his notes on Longinus. In 1637, John Harmar, regius professor of Greek at Oxford, issued his etymological Greek lexicon. In 1652, Thomas Gataker produced his Marcus Antoninus, Greek text, with Latin translation and commentary. Finally, in 1661, Joseph Caryl, Thomas Cockayne, Ralph Venning, William Dell, Matthew Barker, William Adderley, Matthew Mead, Henry Jersey, all nonconformist ministers, jointly published a Greek-English dictionary of all the words in the New Testament.   20
  This list is only representative of the types of works in Greek. But we must take into account the undoubtedly deep knowledge of Greek possessed by Gataker (who had been taught by Bois), overshadowed as it is by his Hebrew and other oriental studies; by Ussher with his expert knowledge of Greek geography, astronomy and other Greek material for chronology, his treatise on the origin of the Greek Septuagint and the editing of two ancient Greek versions of the Book of Esther; by Selden, the great dictator of English learning, in his Marmora Arundeliana, 1628, in which he was helped by Patrick Young and Richard James; by John Hales and the Cambridge Platonists; by John Milton; by Philemon Holland 7  and the other translators.   21
  Besides grammar text-books and annotations on Greek authors, there is evidence of ready knowledge of Greek in all kinds of writers, and indications of a not uncommon erudition. Jeremiah Whitaker, of Oakham free school, read all the epistles in the Greek Testament twice every fortnight. John Conant, regius professor of divinity in Oxford, often disputed publicly in Greek in the schools. In the period 1648–59, the disputations at Oxford were often in Greek. Henry Stubbe, in 1651, wrote, in Horae Subsecivae, translations into Greek from Randolph and Crashaw. But the readiest in this art was James Duport, who wrote Greek hexameters on the death of the vice-master of Trinity college, Cambridge. He rendered into Homeric verse The Book of Job (1637) and Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and The Song of Solomon (1646), and won high recognition by these feats.   22

Note 5. In 1635, Sir Francis Kynaston published a translation into Latin of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, for the use of foreign readers. [ back ]
Note 6. See the account of John Barclay’s Argenis and Euphormionis Satyricon (ante, Vol. IV, pp. 291,292 ff.). The anonymous prose Nova Solyma (1648), with its remarkable scheme of education, deserves mention. [ back ]
Note 7. Although Philemon Holland cannot be regarded as a scholar in the same sense as Salmasius in Plinianae Exercitationes (1629), his translation of Pliny justifies the attribution to him of considerable Latin learning. Holland’s translation of Plutarch’s Moralia (1603) and the Cyropaedia of Xenophon (1632) show his knowledge of Greek. [ back ]

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  The spread of patristic learning in England Hebrew scholarship  
 
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