chapter  4
76 Pages

The Uses of Latin and Greek in the Senior Forms and Universities

Once a mastery of the basics of Latin grammar and vocabulary had been achieved, students in English grammar schools proceeded to the middling forms, and if sufficiently capable and assiduous, to the upper forms. Here they encountered a variety of new exercises, such as double translation, the writing of ‘themes’, participation in plays, the composition of Latin verses in different metres, and the writing and delivery of declamations and orations. They also encountered at a much more profound level a variety of original texts from the ancient world, and in some schools, humanist handbooks on rhetoric and logic. The bones of this programme were much the same as that practised on the Continent, where the humanist curriculum that was widely adopted in the late fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries placed a much greater emphasis on Cicero’s epistles and orations than had the medieval curriculum, and also on ancient Roman histories as well as the poetry of Virgil, Ovid and Horace. It also promoted the study of Greek and of Greek literature as means of improving style and further broadening the range of instructive and edifying material to which students were exposed.1