13 MARCH 1953, Page 16

"The Dead Humanities"

Snt,—Mr. Peter Green's contribution to the rapprocheinent which he pleads for between our moral and our factual heritage takes the curious form of equating "classical scholarship" with one of its minor and purely scientific ingredients, textual criticism. A hundred years ago there might have been some grounds for his charge—too often in the past the cart has preceded the horse—but to imply that classical studies today consist of no more than a series of arid controversies over the rival merits of " nunc " and " tunc " is merely ludicrous. Greek studies have long ceased to be "all optative and no Parthenon."

Naturally there are certain largely factual sciences which assist the study of the classics—numismatics, archaeology, papyrology and many others, textual criticism among them. None is of supreme value by itself; each has its contribution to make—even in the hated field of textual criticism. For example, MiT Green could hardly deny the value of, say, Westcott's and Hon's work on the texts of the Gospels. And it is, of course, true that eminence in one of these fields confers of itself no right to the title of "humanist." But the existence of a false claimant does not invalidate a title; to speak of the humanities as dead, when Greek ideas and ideals are continually stimulating and inspiring so much live and vital writing, is to do a wanton disservice to that very rapprochement to which Mr. Green pays lip-service. Why must the achievements of the humanities be judged by the out-of-date symbol of the mummified gratnrnarian'(long ago decently and -honour- ably interred by Browning), and not by their contribution to the work of Giraudoux, Cocteau, Sartre and Anouilh, Pound, Eliot, Fry, O'Neill, MacNeice and Day Lewis, to make no mention of the fields of philosophy and criticism ? And if the "specialist," the scholar himself, is to be held up as exhibit " A " in the trial of classicism, is there any true resemblance between Mr. Green's superannuated lay figure and the rich personalities of such scholars as Gilbert Murray, L. T. Sheppard, Cyril Bailey, Sir Maurice Bowra and Gilbert Higtiet ?

Mr. Green is assaulting the wrong objective; his fossilised textual specialist is no more a classicist than a laboratory assistant is a scientist —no more and no less. The classics do not exist for the specialist alone; it is by their power of impact upon the ordinary intelligent man that they must be judged. Cicero himself said of "litterae humaniores": " Haec studio adolescentiam agunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfugium ac solarium praebent, delectant domi, non imp ediunt forts, pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur." Are these humanities dead ?—Yours faithfully, The College, Eastbourne, Sussex.