Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wednesday with Words: Education in a Boy's Book

For Wednesday with Words -- go join Cindy for links to more words.   
  This quote below is from Harry Dee, or Working It Out, which I read because my 11 year old read it (several times) and recommended it to me. 

It was fascinating for me to find a description of an older-style classical school in boy's language, specifically a progression in Latin and Greek.     The boys are comparing their Catholic-school curriculum to Harry's, which was a home one (he had a tutor)    It's a pretty nice summary of the traditional Jesuit education.  

I'm fairly sure the Historiae Sacrae mentioned must be Lhomond's.    It's very easy Latin, really nice if you have been breaking your brain with declensions and conjugations and grammar exercises and want to just read something in your new language. : ).. 

The conversation on our nearing St. Maure's, by a natural school-boy transition, turned from base-ball to class matters.

Percy and I are in First Academic," said Tom, "'our third year of Latin and second of Greek. I wish you could get in with us; we've a splendid teacher — Mr. Middleton. He's our prefect, too. Do you know any Latin, Harry?"

"A little; I've studied it about two years and a half under a private teacher. In fact, I've studied hardly anything but Latin, Greek, and arithmetic; and I went through everything in the morning hours from nine to twelve and had the afternoon free."

"Gracious!" exclaimed Tom; "what a nice daily order — half-holiday every day."

"How did you go about Latin?" put in Percy " Did you begin with reading Historiae Sacrae? "

"Yes; for seven months I was kept on nothing but the accidence and Historia Sacra. I declined and conjugated till there was no sticking me. Then I began translating Cicero's letters. My first lesson was half a line; but I had to know everything that could be known about it, and I studied syntax in reference to each lesson. What I translated I learned by heart. Then I was made to put some English sentences into a similar style of Latin — that's what you call theme-work, isn't it?"

" Exactly," said Tom ; " you've just been going on the lines Mr. Middleton sets for us. We learn by heart everything that we translate. How far did you go in Latin ?"

"About five hundred lines of Cicero — mostly his letters. But I know it all, so that were I to lose my book I could put every word on paper."

"That's the system in St. Maure's, pretty much," observed Tom. " They are getting closer to it every year. But how about the Copia verborum ? "

"Well, besides learning the inflection and meaning of every word I came across in Cicero, my teacher put four or five new words into each of my daily themes. In that way I got in about five or six hundred extra Latin words."

"It's a great plan," put in Tom. "Percy and I are terribly interested in Latin. You see, it's this way. Next year, when we get into Humanities, we've a chance to compete for an intercollegiate gold medal to be given to the one who writes the best Latin theme; now we want to hold up our end here at St. Maure' against the other six colleges that are in it."

"And besides," added Percy, " we count on Mr.Middleton's teaching us next year; he's very anxious for us to come out well in the contest, and that alone is enough to make us work for it."

"Just so," resumed Tom, "and it's his last year of teaching. After that he will go off and study theology and come back a priest. And if we don't give him a send-off next year it won't be our fault. You'll work for it, won't you Harry?"

The picture is from a scene where the boys try to "exercise" what they suppose is a demon from a school bully.    The exorcism seems to do him good because he ultimately does take a turn for the better.    

1 comment:

  1. I never read those Tom Playfair books, except I think we did listen to some of the first one on an audio a long time ago. They sound so charming!


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