Page 2, 26th January 1945

26th January 1945
Page 2
Page 2, 26th January 1945 — LEARNING LATIN

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Locations: Cardiff, London


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SIR,-'--Latin is a_racket! Un seemly as it may appear to say so it is one of the few things which Churchmen should have been stopped inflicting on a flat-footed public.

Let us get an angle. From immediate post-Roman times until Henry VIII the only educated teachers were Churchmen end part of their system was Latin. King Harry and Elizabeth and the rest stopped Churchmen' teaching but the theory Ttayed around that to be a scholar one must know Latin. This eminently false theory has never yet been killed though we hope it's dying.

Lawyers are slightly different in that before Tudor times they had toddled off to found their Inns to avoid the influence of Canon Law on State Law. At that time they-the lawyers-had so much contact with Churchmen that they had to be in the Latin racket too. They should have been shot or piked or stuck on the end of a javelin and his robus beds unfortunate law students of to-day like your correspondent Wilmer-to whom sympathy and salutation-and the present writer would not be forced to do badly what Moyle and Sandars, Ginard and Sohm did so excellently, e.g., translate old man Justinian.

Law students have to learn tivo separate Latins. One, that of Caesar and Livy aed Cicero and Ovid of the Big Nose Which treats of javelins and bad geography and rather doubtful love stories, the other that of Justinian which is legal parlance and treats of the citizen when law abiding. To what end? No one knows, examiners require it, and it is in the bond. It's a good old English custnm, like Calling a chappie from a very private and exclusive school a Public School Boy!

But of curse your correspondence started about Church Latin. Church Latin is a third and different Latin. An awfully easy Latin which amuses itself breaking all the best rules in quite a charming way and is therefore comparatively easy to learn. But Church Latin serves a parpose. It is the " esperanto " of the Church (though try talking Church Latin with, say, a Frenchman and you won't recognise the.thing!) It is, however, as a written lunguage universally understood by the

priesthood. To those of us who travelled in happier days its use and universality in the Mass and Holy Office is manifest. Church Latin and Church Latin alone can produce that understanding, unity and true catholicity waich can be sensed ill the dusk of the Pyrenees on the square before the basilica of OK Immaculate when polyglot and cosmopolitan throng unites in one vast and symbolic Credo. While that scene can be remembered and the inference from that scene so long will Church Latin be worth such little trouble as it demands.

But those other Latins. No!' A thousand times, No, They are a humbug. I have no interest in Chinese, yet that does not debar me front the writings of Confticito, I have . no Greek. yet Pythagoras, ,Archimedes, Aristotle are not unknown tel me. I have no Russian, yet I can read Chekov, my Spanish is weak, yet Cervantes' epic is well known to me, why then, by what logic or reason beyond an obvious hoax that Latin is good for me am I compelled by tradition to learn the language to show that I have read Justinian or for that matter Caesar or Livy or Cicero?

To vent g final spleen let me say with a greater Antony:

" Friends, ' Romans,' Countrymen, lend me your ears.

Let's go and bury Latin, never praise it.

The good that it has done lives after it,

The rest is well interred with its honest"


, 33, Rochester Avenue, Feltham, Middessex.

SIR.-Perhaps a short account of my experience in learning Latin may be of help to others. As a thild I went to a small Country school in the West of Ireland. I finished my schooling at a very early age and after sundry vicissitudes entered a Training College. I taught in many elementary schools in Great Britain and Ireland and at 32 decided to study for a London degree. I knew no Latin but in two years, without any outside help, I took Latin at Inter Arts. The standard is fairly high. Thereafter I took an Honours Degree in Philosophy. took Inter B.Sc. .and sat for M.A. Philosophy. I recount this experience merely for the encouragement of those who feel frightened by the study of Latin, especially if they are no longer young. I am now 46 and am still studying. There is no royal road to the learning of Latin nor for that matter to the learning of any other subject. " It's dogged as does it."


St. Brendan, Wenvoe, Cardiff.

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