Dialogues of Roman Life/Preface

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editio: G. Bell & Sons
fons: librum vide
I. Ars Scrībendī 

In 1907 the Board of Education issued a circular on the Teaching of Latin in Secondary Schools (Circular 574). It was intended to apply to the great number of schools in which no Greek is taught, but the Latin course extends over about four years, between the ages of twelve and sixteen. One of the aims of the instruction is stated to be, ‘to convey … as much knowledge as can be obtained of the history and life of Rome, especially during the century preceding and the century following the beginning of the Christian era.’ In the books in common use, such as Caesar and Livy, something may be learnt of the history of Rome, but for gaining any knowledge of the social life, private or public, there exists to-day hardly any convenient apparatus. A boy can go through his Latin course without acquiring the faintest notion of how Romans lived in town or country, of the kind of sights that were to be seen in a ramble through Rome or along the Appian Way. Of school life, of games, of dress, of the interior of a Roman house, of a seaside resort, the ordinary boy leaving school knows practically nothing. And yet these are just the things that would naturally interest him. The reason, of course, is that there is extant no convenient account of such matters written by any Roman author in language simple enough for our purposes. It remained, therefore, to make such an account, and this I have attempted to do. This explains the matter of this little volume.

Then as to the form: the reason for putting the information into dialogue shape is the sameinterest. The appeal of conversation must necessarily be more direct, simple, and lively than that of unbroken narrative. The dramatic is one of the strongest instincts in young pupils, and it should be encouraged. Without any trouble any of the following lessons can be acted in class, and so readily by this method will their meaning be apprehended that in many cases there will be no need at all for actual construing or translation into English. It is much to be regretted that the hands of the clock have been set back so far that what was a common and effective instrument of Latin instruction in Tudor times has now been almost entirely discarded. Erasmus, Corderius, Castalio, Vivesthese writers of Latin dialogues for the young smoothed the way to the acquisition of Latin in a reasonable manner for beginners some three and a half centuries ago. Happily it is beginning to be admitted that we have made a mistake in confining our instruction to duller methods.

I have ventured in this collection of original and adapted dialogues to put before second or third year pupils Latin lessons which I hope have the merit of being interesting both in matter and manner.

The marking of long vowels.As to the marking of long quantities, I cannot accept the all-or-none theory. My intention is to help, but also gradually to withdraw help, and so make the pupil use thought and memory. Occasionally I help yet again, to nudge the memory. Such a plan is bound to be largely a matter of the editor’s own personal experience. In this book the guidance of a teacher is assumed, and his (or her) co-operation is asked in a method which, I believe, gives the best results.


Christ’s Hospital, Horsham

July 1913.