30 MAY 1925, Page 22


Roman Private Life and its Survivals : Our Debt to Greece and Rome. By W. B. McDaniel, Ph.D. (Harrap. 5s.) THE application of business methods to culture is better understood in America than in this country. To America we owe the Loeb translations, and this well-printed little volume is one of a series of fifty which could not have been put on the market but for the generosity of a group of American believers in the classics, who think money well spent in impressing on the public by judicious propaganda how much they have to gain by reading those translations and by supporting the Classical Departments of the Universities.

Professor McDaniel is a man of wide reading, and has a familiar acquaintance with modern Italian life. He makes a rapid survey of the material side of the career of a Roman of the classical period from the cradle to the grave, and illustrates it by reference to parallels in Italian life both at home and in America. To an English reader with an old- fashioned equipment in Realien, the main interest of his book

lies in its sidelights on America. To kiln-dried Americans a winter in sunny Italy is an Arctic experience." Or, " What would bore to melancholy an American crowd illumines Italian faces with delight."

But he seems to miss one of the parallels betwixt the Romans and the modern Americans, their common appreciation of oratory. Public speaking, of which he says little, flourishes almost as freely in America as in ancient Rome. Perhaps that is why this characteristic of the Romans is so lightly passed over. On another subject, the still surviving charms against the " evil eye," Professor McDaniel remarks very sensibly : " The grotesque, the comical and the obscene were particu- larly efficacious. . . . We must not therefore draw wrong conclusions from the presence on Pompeian houses of symbols that we deem indecent to a degree. The practice is not quite dead yet in that region, but none the less the people using such safeguards are and were quite respectable." It is cer- tainly difficult for English-speaking people to understand the attitude of the Latin nations in this matter, and still more that of a pagan society where so much of religious observance was bound up with symbols which they themselves, as witness Juvenal, regarded as indecent. Neither then nor now does this difference of attitude imply any serious divergence of moral standard.

On some matters of detail too the European reader will read this book with surprise. " Knuckle-bones," familiar enough to English children, are presumably unknown in America, since they are called " astragals " and carefully described. It is strange, again, to have the old-fashioned ovens, some of which still survive in English villages, heated by making a fire inside which is drawn before the bread is put in, called " Dutch Ovens," a term employed in English kitchens for a tin reflector placed before an open fire. Nor is it necessary to go so far as Italy for an instance of the emptying of dirty water into the street from an upper window. The reviewer has himself been drenched—with clean water happily—by an Irish maid- servant in Quebec, who had neglected to give the traditional warning of " Gardyloo " once obligatory on Edinburgh housewives.

But in the main the book is a good companion to the classics, and might well be carried in the pocket, as the author suggests, by visitors to Pompeii or Ostia. It gives a lively-and credible picture of Roman life, both in its likeness and its unlikeness to our own. Its worst fault is a certain jocularity which recalls Mark Twain's. Yankee at the Court of King Arthur. Such a

charge must be supported by a quotation, so we will select the following : "On the day before her wedding the maiden dedicated to deity her toys and her gown of childhood— luckily not a limousine and a Worth frock ! " The offence is not a grave one, but it tries our belief in the efficacy of classical studies as a school of taste in America.