Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gildersleeve on Jebb

I'm reading selected letters of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, whom I consider one of America's foremost Hellenists, and who was one of Pindar's most sensitive readers. In 1880 he made a trip to Europe to make the enterprise of Johns Hopkins University known among the scholarly community, and to recruit for the university's chair of Latin, and for contributions to the American Journal of Philology. There are all kinds of interesting tidbits, but I pass along this description of G.'s meeting with Richard Claverhouse Jebb:

To: Daniel Coit Gilman
[President of Johns Hopkins]
Oxford, June 1, 1880

In Oxford I have met several men whom I wanted to see for various reasons. Jebb I found at last. He is an excessively nervous man and all the time he is lecturing tries to make a double spiral twist out of his legs and casts from side to side an agonized stare at his auditors. His voice is highpitched, fashionable English style, though not so disagreeable as most readers of that persuasion make it. And his utterance is broken every few minutes by a distressing hysteric cough. When he translates poetry, he lets his voice fall into the lower ranges, which are not unpleasant, only you wonder which is his own voice. Of course the language is elegance itself and the literary judgment in the main sound. I had a very pleasant talk with him after his lecture and while his manner is nervous, he was by no means the shrinking creature I had heard him described. He urged me very much to spend some days with him in Cambridge before my departure and actually volunteered to write for the Journal, a favor which, in my modesty, I should hardly have dreamed of asking. As Jebb is one of the most prominent Greek scholars in England, I was especially interested in him and so have been betrayed into a bit of description, though, of course, he is out of our range.


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