Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
A Famous Classical Teacher
By Henry Drisler (18181897)
[Born on Staten Island, N. Y., 1818. Died in New York, N. Y., 1897. Discourse Commemorative of Prof. Charles Anthon. 1868.]
IN his earlier years he had been strict in requiring a literal translation of the authors language, but after taking charge of the upper classes he adopted a system to which he adhered throughout his subsequent teaching, of preparing a carefully elaborated version of everything read by his class, in which he sought to develop the signification of mood and tense, and the force of particles and compounds, which he required to be written down by the student from his dictation, and committed to memory for review and for examination, allowing no other translation to be given. He sought in this way to fix permanently in the memory of his pupils a certain portion of their reading, and to protect them from the effect of perturbation at examination by the thoroughness of their knowledge, and to give them a model after which to shape their own subsequent reading. With this translation he combined the analysis of words and sentences, dwelling more upon etymological forms than syntactical rules, but illustrating the whole from his ample stores of philological learning, and rich fund of anecdote. The attention of his pupils was kept alive also by a constant stream of questions directed everywhere about the class, but especially to any one observed to be listless or wandering from the work before him. The unexpectedness of the question, with the strong likelihood of being called up next to recite, or some sarcastic remark on the value of habits of attention, or on the appropriateness of the furniture, or a reproof from the lips of some of the worthies of old, whose portraits looked down from the walls of the room upon the offender, dispelled the listlessness and recalled the wandering attention.
Dr. Anthon was always ready to answer questions on the subject under discussion, and allowed a somewhat wide range to the extent of such subject; in fact, he made it a principle of his system of instruction to give an answer of some kind to every question that was put to him. In his lecture-room good order prevailed. His striking personal appearance, his prompt and decisive manner, his authoritative tone, his ready wit, and sometimes biting sarcasm, and his thorough mastery of his subject, gave him entire and ready control of his classes. In fact, with his pupils Dr. Anthon bore something of the character which Xenophon ascribes to Clearchus among his soldiersthat of one fitted to inspire those around him with the feeling that he was a man to be obeyed.
For many years he was never absent from his class-room; he was never tardy, nor ever known to have met his class flurried and excited by the effort to make up accidental delay; he allowed no personal engagements, no private business to detain him from his college duties;the class invariably found him at his post, his book open before him, pencil in hand, cool and collected. In regularity of attendance, in devotion to his work, in the faithfulness and thoroughness of his own preparation, and in the zealous earnestness with which he sought to imbue the minds of his pupils with a love of classic literature, Dr. Anthon stood preëminent. So, too, as an officer of the college, he was regular and punctual in his attendance at the meetings of the board, where his experience in the management of youth, and his promptitude and decision, gave him great influence .
His walks for exercise were usually taken after dusk, or confined to the limits of the college green; he never attended lectures or places of public amusement; never was seen at evening parties; was a member of no political or religious association; rarely visited the libraries or bookstores; yet he kept himself acquainted with what was passing in the world around him, knew all the new books that were issued from the press, and continually added to the stores of his own collection, making his purchases from catalogues, or using the eyes of others to make the necessary examinations. His taste became very nice in the appearance as well as in the character of his books; he was not a black-letter scholar, and did not spend much for the purchase of simple rarities; but he loved his books even as books, and sought after fine paper editions, which he took delight in clothing in elegant bindings. In the preparation of his manuscript for the press he was very particular. He for years used only the finest satin paper, gilt-edged and tinted; he did this not out of mere fastidiousness, but from the facility it afforded from its solid texture for erasing, as he never obliterated with his pen or finger. If he failed to accomplish his purpose after one or two erasures, he tore the page and rewrote the whole. Like Porsons his manuscript attracted attention for its neatness; he wrote without lines very evenly, and the characters resembled print more than writing. From its marked peculiarity, requests were often made to his publishers for specimens of it.