25 JUNE 1994, Page 23

In praise of Greats

Sir: Sir Raymond Carr, reviewing the new history of 20th-century Oxford (Books, 11 June), writes that 'Greats, once the glory of the arts faculty, is in decline.'

If one measures the success of an aca- demic discipline by the number of those taking it, I suppose this proposition can be defended. But if one measures that success by the quality of the scholarship which it produces and the intellectual training which it offers, one may think differently. Classical scholarship is perhaps the one subject in which Oxford at this time can be said to lead the world, and it gives an all- round intellectual training, especially when combined with the study of philosophy, which, as many employers have observed, the study of modern history and of English liter- ature cannot be said to equal.

Only last year there appeared a book well able to display the distinctive qualities of Greats, Bernard Williams' Shame and Necessity. This work, which I reviewed in The Spectator for 21 August last year, shows how much modern moral philosophy can profit from a study of the ethics of early Greece. It is not the product of a discipline that is in decline.

Hugh Lloyd-Tones 15 West Riding,

Wellesley, Massachusetts, United States