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Did Jowett know Greek?

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Did Jowett know Greek?

Postby jeidsath » Thu Aug 04, 2016 6:31 pm

A.E. Housman was not a fan:

https://sententiaeantiquae.com/2015/03/ ... or-jowett/

“The Regius Professor of Greek throughout Housman’s time was Jowett, and from the single lecture of Jowett’s which he attended, Housman came away disgusted by the Professor’s disregard for the niceties of scholarship.”

-A.S.F. Gow, A.E. Housman: A Sketch (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press) p.5

“The story is current in Oxford, I am told, that the particular offense of the Regius Professor was a false quantity, that cardinal crime of English tradition, the pronunciation of ἀκριβῶς, which from the English habit of applying Latin rules to Greek pronunciation yielded a monstrosity…”

-G. L. Hendrickson, The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 58, No. 4 (1937), pp. 463


I have seen the same story, but there the complaint was that Jowett accented the word incorrectly. Another quote from Housman:

“Jowett’s Plato: the best translation of a Greek philosopher which has ever been executed by a person who understood neither philosophy nor Greek.”

-C.O. Brink, English Classical Scholarship (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1986), p. 130


The above link also include's Hylander's poem from the other thread:

Here come I, my name is Jowett.
All there is to know I know it.
I am Master of this College,
What I don’t know isn’t knowledge!


http://laudatortemporisacti.blogspot.co ... greek.html

Alfred North Whitehead's opinion:

It being forty years since I read Greek fluently I now take a Loeb translation with the English on a parallel page, but with the help of Liddell and Scott's lexicon I can generally tell where old Jowett is making a fool of himself, which is about every other sentence....


http://laudatortemporisacti.blogspot.co ... holar.html

Hugh Lloyd-Jones:

Jowett defined a scholar as a man who read Thucydides with his feet on the mantlepiece; by that test he was a scholar, scarcely by any other.


There are many other quotes along the same lines, especially at Laudator Temporis Acti.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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κλέπτε νόῳ, ἐπεὶ οὐ παρελεύσεαι οὐδέ με πείσεις.
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Re: Did Jowett know Greek?

Postby Hylander » Fri Aug 05, 2016 4:04 am

With all due respect for Housman, Whitehead and Lloyd-Jones, I'm in awe of someone who translated all of Plato and Thucydides into English, even if he made some mistakes. He certainly knew Greek better than I do.
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Re: Did Jowett know Greek?

Postby mwh » Fri Aug 05, 2016 5:05 am

I suspect that Jowett’s particular offense was to have put the stress on the first syllable of ἀκριβῶς, as if the iota were short, instead of on the second as he would have if he’d remembered the iota was long. Or am I wrong in thinking that Englishmen in those days ignored the accents in pronunciation?
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Re: Did Jowett know Greek?

Postby Timothée » Fri Aug 05, 2016 2:02 pm

I didn't read Hendrickson's account carefully enough the first time, but Latin-style pronunciation of Greek suggests you're right, mwh. I don't know if you, Joel, know Latin but just in case (I don't mean to patronise you): in Latin word-stress is determined by the length of penult—when long, it carries the stress, when short, the antepenult. A little easier than Greek (though Greek is more fun—in this regard at least, maybe in some others, too).

But what a weird way to pronounce Greek! (Though maybe they'll laugh at us hundred years from now, who knows.)
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Re: Did Jowett know Greek?

Postby jeidsath » Fri Aug 05, 2016 2:05 pm

One of Housman's biographer's (I would have to search for the link) said that the ἀκριβῶς story was unbelievable, and that the real reason that Housman took such an instant dislike to Jowett, was Jowett's belief that the classics of Greek literature should be translated to English and be made English classics. Ie., that the language was just the vessel.

I have seen in modern authors the accusation that Jowett thought that male homosexuality was a 'mainly figure of speech' in Plato. This is such an amazing claim that I dug into it a while back. The source is a letter from John Addington Symonds to Jowett, where Symonds makes the claim that Jowett called Greek love a 'figure of speech.' Letters from Jowett to Symonds at that time are missing, but after examining the wording of the Symonds letter carefully, I believe that Symonds is actually responding to Jowett's introduction to Phaedrus (he mentions reading his new translation), where Jowett writes this:

The two Dialogues together contain the whole philosophy of Plato on the nature of love, which in the Republic and in the later writings of Plato is only introduced playfully or as a figure of speech. But in the Phaedrus and Symposium love and philosophy join hands, and one is an aspect of the other.


This sends Symonds into what can be best described as "a tizzy." And it is clearly not the same as calling Greek homosexuality a figure of speech. In various places, Jowett makes clear that he knew what was up. So this is simply one of those stupid academic memes that gets passed around.

Hylander wrote:With all due respect for Housman, Whitehead and Lloyd-Jones, I'm in awe of someone who translated all of Plato and Thucydides into English, even if he made some mistakes. He certainly knew Greek better than I do.


I like Jowett a lot. He was my introduction to a fair amount of Plato. Housman's ἀκριβῶς story isn't too impressive to me. But I am curious whether Jowett was attacked in so many quarters for his Greek, or for being an advocate of more English translation. Or both.
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Re: Did Jowett know Greek?

Postby jeidsath » Fri Aug 05, 2016 2:33 pm

Timothée wrote:I didn't read Hendrickson's account carefully enough the first time, but Latin-style pronunciation of Greek suggests you're right, mwh. I don't know if you, Joel, know Latin but just in case (I don't mean to patronise you): in Latin word-stress is determined by the length of penult—when long, it carries the stress, when short, the antepenult. A little easier than Greek (though Greek is more fun—in this regard at least, maybe in some others, too).

But what a weird way to pronounce Greek! (Though maybe they'll laugh at us hundred years from now, who knows.)


Thank you for the explanation, though I was actually aware of this. As my ability to read poetry aloud becomes better, I've become more and more convinced of Allen's idea that Greek had a secondary stress. It's similar to Latin but different in several aspects. You can see Allen for details. According to Allen's scheme ἀκριβῶς would have the same stress pattern whether or not the ι was long: ἀκριβῶς (Attic) or ἀκριβῶς (without correptio attica).
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Re: Did Jowett know Greek?

Postby Hylander » Fri Aug 05, 2016 6:34 pm

Jowett was a popularizer who made Plato and Thucydides accessible to people who didn't know Greek or whose Greek was not up to reading those authors in the original. Popularizers, even those whose standards are high, are often looked down upon by a certain type of professional scholar. And in Victorian Britain, knowledge of ancient Greek was considered a more or less essential attainment of an upper class gentleman.
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Re: Did Jowett know Greek?

Postby Victor » Fri Aug 05, 2016 7:26 pm

I can remember being scandalized when as a schoolboy I first listened to a recording of T.S. Eliot reading The Wasteland and he pronounced "chelidon" (in that line near the end lifted from the Pervigilium Veneris) with a short i.

I got over the shock as I grew up. Maybe Housman got over Jowett's little misdemeanour eventually too, or maybe he never really grew up.
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Re: Did Jowett know Greek?

Postby jeidsath » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:14 pm

According to the Life & Letters of Fenton Hort,

[Hort] contributed four years later to the Record [Record, April 27th, 1864] a vigorous answer to an attack on Dr. Jowett's Greek scholarship, which he believed would never have been assailed "by any scholar worth of the name in the absence of theological causes of difference." The immediate occasion of the attack was the controversy at Oxford over the endowment of the Greek Professorship in which Professor Jowett's contribution to Essays and Reviews was brought up against him, and his opponents found fault with his scholarship, quoting in support of their criticisms some remarks by Lightfoot and Hort in the Journal of Philology ; the former directly, in a review of Stanley's and Jowett's editions of St. Paul's Epistles, the latter in an answer to a contributor's defence of a lax rendering of Greek tenses, had criticised the Oxford Professor's methods of translation. But when his authority was quoted against Jowett, Hort, with Lightfoot's full concurrence, explained that they had been criticising, not 'ignorance,' but what seemed to them 'erroneous opinions' ; and that in fact these opinions as to the rendering of New Testament Greek were not peculiar to Professor Jowett, but belonged to the interpretative method which was 'generally in use in England till very lately, while the stricter method now coming into vogue was due almost entirely to Germany.'


I couldn't find The Record citation on Google. What journal was The Record exactly? The Times in Fenton's letters in the London Times.

Wikipedia has a (somewhat confused) description of the Jowett essay in E&R, which I will have to read:

On the Interpretation of Scripture by Benjamin Jowett—"in which he urged that the Bible be read 'like any other book' and made an impassioned plea for freedom of scholarship"

The essay "On the interpretation of scripture" was contributed by Benjamin Jowett. When asked to contribute, Jowett saw the opportunity to challenge traditionalists.[7] He was a rationalist and insisted that the bible ought to be treated as scholars treated classical texts. Jowett was a proponent of progressive revelation. The books of the Bible written later were seen to be closer to the ultimate revelation of God as seen in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Gospels. The epistles and other New Testament writings were seen to look back.[7]

The implication of Jowett's essay (and his other writings) — that revelation was ongoing and that scripture was always subject to reinterpretation as each generation encountered them — was the target of his traditionalist foes. Jowett felt he was being slandered for his honesty concerning his beliefs but he suffered no actual penalty other than an infamously low salary at Christ Church, Oxford. However, in 1863 Jowett was brought before the vice-chancellor's court for teaching contrary to the doctrines of the Church of England; the case was eventually dropped.[7]
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