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The Classics

Why does it seem such a difficult business to acquire a familiar knowledge of any foreign language, and why is so much brain and so much time spent so frequently on their acquisition with such scanty results? The answer can be only one: because your teacher has ignored the method of Nature, and given you a bad substitute for it in his own devices; instead of speaking to you and making you respond, in direct connection of the old object with the new sound, and thus forming a living bond between the thinking soul, the perceptive sense, and the significant utterance, he sends you to a book, there to cram yourself with dead rules and lifeless formulas about the language, in the middle of which he ought to have planted you at the start.
John Blackie, Greek Primer: Colloquial and Constructive (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891)

Before relating my tales of woe and my tedious run-on gripes, let’s cut to the chase with the solutions. First, forget everything you learned in school. Gather up your old school texts and toss them into the fireplace. Use these instead:

George J. Adler, Key to the Exercises Contained in Adler’s Practical Grammar of the Latin Language, Prepared by the Author (Boston: Sanborn, Bazin & Ellsworth, 1858). Free PDF download.

If the above ever disappear, worry not, for I made a backup, in which I cleaned up many inkblots and instances of smeared text, aligned the margins better, and combined the two volumes into one. I also went through the errata sheet and incorporated all those corrections into the main text. I even corrected the erratum in the errata sheet!

Father William George Most, Latin by the Natural Method (back in print from Mediatrix Press). Order on line for a very low price.

William Henry Denham Rouse, Linguaphone: The Direct Method Applied to Latin (London and New York: The Linguaphone Institute, [1932]). Free PDF download.

William Henry Denham Rouse, “Linguaphone Latin Records” (London and New York: The Linguaphone Institute, [1932]). Free MP3 download. (If you have Windows, right-click and Save-as. If you have a Mac, control-click and Save-as.)

William Henry Denham Rouse, “The Sounds of Ancient Greek” and “Passages from the Greek Classics” (London: The Linguaphone Institute, [1932]). Free PDF and MP3 downloads.

Asahel Clark Kendrick, The Child’s Book in Greek, Being a Series of Elementary Exercises in the Greek Language (Hamilton, NY: S. C. Griggs; and New York: Mark H. Newman & Co., 1847). Free PDF download.

That’s a good start.

Now for my autobiographical ravings, which are probably not too different from yours. I shall hazard a guess that since you are interested in Caligula, you are probably interested in Classical history, and you probably enrolled in Greek and/or Latin in high school or college. Yes? If so, I shall further hazard a guess that, after several years of studying Greek and/or Latin, you emerged unable to speak, read, or write either language, and could translate only with difficulty and constant reference to dictionaries. That is because we were all cheated. Deliberately. Intentionally. Our teachers and professors never had any notion of teaching us either language, and they made sure we would give up. Below is my personal story. It will probably resonate all too painfully with you. Yes, in this autobiographical story I do go off on tangents, and that’s simply because I’ve been bottling this all up for four-fifths of my life. Now I’m opening the bottle, and I’m discovering tons of rage I never even knew I had.

I admit, to my great embarrassment, that I have not learned either Latin or Greek. The few Classics I have read (frightfully few) were all in translation. That should never have been the case. I should have been able to read them in the original. You see, some of the relatives who raised me were Greek, but refused to speak (Modern) Greek with me. Yes, they spoke Greek — quite a lot, really — but only with each other. When I would enter the room they would switch to English. The ideology, at least in part, was simple: “We are Americans now! We speak only English!” More to the point: The children must be raised as Americans. Goodness gracious! Beginning at about age 15 I deviously picked up a little bit anyhow, courtesy of Sofroniou’s little Teach Yourself book and the Cortina book with its accompanying 12" vinyl records (I think the set included ten records, which seem not to be available anywhere anymore for any price — I should dig mine out of storage), and when I could finally understand some of what they were saying behind my back, I discerned at once the real reason why they had not wanted me to learn Greek. (Life Lesson Number Two: Genuinely sweet people never make a show of being sweet. People who make a show of being sweet are putting on an act. Beware.) Other members of my family did not speak a single word of Greek and had no interest in learning. My father grew up speaking Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu, and the RAF taught him some French and German. (How do I know this? I know this only because my seventh-grade English teacher at Cleveland JHS was John Duran, who reminded me so much of Mitch Miller. Mr Duran asked my father to address class one day for a couple of minutes, and this is what my father told everybody. It was all news to me. In those few minutes I heard nearly all I ever learned about his earlier life. He was an extremely uncomfortable public speaker, by the way.) Only once did I hear him speak one of those languages. We were in a car with one of his acquaintances from the old country, and the conversation was in English. Then, for just a few seconds, when he said something that he didn’t want me to understand, he switched to one of his native languages. Then it was right back to English. Never again did he speak so much as a syllable of any of these languages in my presence. “We’re AMERICANS now!!!” He was disgusted beyond words when I showed interest in Greek.

It was hearing all that nasty Greek conversation that, as a teenager, got me interested in learning not just Modern and Classical Greek, but Latin as well, since Greek and Latin were the two major languages of the Roman empire. Other things sparked my interest as well, not least of which was my sixth-grade teacher at Zuñi Elementary School, Manny Smith, formerly of Elmira and Oswego, NY, of all places, who moonlighted as an Equity actor. It was funny to turn on the TV set and see my teacher in a public-service announcement and in The Man and the City and so forth. (He was the helium-balloon salesman at Uncle Cliff’s Family Land in the first episode, speaking his single line with a horribly exaggerated NY accent. He was also in the pilot, The City, which I missed. I’d so much love to get the entire series on video, but as far as I can tell it has never been seen since its original airings in 1971. Oh. Wait. Whoah. Here’s a clip from an episode. This is from a 16mm print that somehow escaped from the vault. To my genuine surprise, I still find this interesting. I thought I’d be cringing, but no, not at all. Not great, by any means. I wouldn’t put it in the same class as Napoléon vu par Abel Gance or King of Jazz or Valerie and Her Week of Wonders or Una vez, un hombre... or Rhymes for Young Ghouls or Their First Mistake or Search for the World’s Best Indian Taco, but it holds up.) Whether we loved Mr Smith or hated him, we students found him fascinating. One day a student asked him about his family origins. He wasn’t expecting that and was rather taken aback. After a double-take, he began his story. This was a story he had never practiced, and so he began quietly by telling us that his ancestors had emigrated to the US from Latvia. Since nobody in class had heard of such a country, and since the name sounded funny, we all chuckled. That was it. He stopped his story before he finished his first sentence. We begged him to continue, but he refused. It was surprising that such a tough guy, who specialized in comedy rôles and who loved making everybody laugh, could be so insecure about such a minor little chuckle.

Ah. Here’s a picture of him on stage, wearing a rug.
The Albuquerque Journal, Thursday, 14 March 1974, p. C1.

Another stage rôle.
The Albuquerque Journal, Thursday, 19 June 1975, p. C1.

Back to the story. Mr Smith invented a game to teach us the Greek alphabet, albeit with an appalling American mispronunciation. That was my introduction to the alphabet. Paradoxically, the one and only sentence of Greek he knew, “Θέλω ἕνα ποτήρι νερό,” he pronounced in perfect Modern Greek. He read to us aloud large swathes of a shortened modern retelling of The Odyssey (perhaps Rouse’s The Story of Odysseus?), and he told us amusing stories about the ancients. His stories had me salivating for more — but there was no more. When he finished his stories a week or two later, that was the end of that. It was time to move on to something else. There was no place to turn to continue. School library? No. Neighborhood library? No. That brief glimpse at the Classical world was a tease, one that drove me nearly mad. The resulting frustration has never left me. At the beginning of the year I sang praises to Mr Smith and I loved attending class. He had a wonderful sense of humor and had me almost rolling on the floor. Better yet, he was buddies with George R. Fischbeck, who visited class for a failed “experiment” involving balloons and who autographed my notepad. Dr Fischbeck was a weatherman on Channel 4 and he was also the lab-coat-wearing host of Science 6, a science show on the educational channel, KNME-TV 5, for use in sixth-grade classrooms. He was so much fun, with his silly mustache-wiggles and off-beat sense of humor. He also sometimes popped up on the companion music show for classroom use, predictably called Music 6, hosted by Nancy Johnson, and I’ll never forget the Nancy/George version of “There’s a Hole in the Bucket.” Channel 5, always hurting for funds, re-recorded all its quad tapes and ¾" tapes 70 times and more, by which time the oxide had all fallen off. So in all likelihood not a single moment of those shows still exists anywhere. Talk about a loss. (If anybody has any of these episodes, please write to me. Thanks!) People tuned in to the Channel 4 nightly news just to get their giggles from watching this guy. Dr Fischbeck was in love with Albuquerque (Al buh kyoo er kyoo as he called it one day on Science 6) and steadfastly vowed never to leave — until a talent scout for Channel 7 in Los Ángeles discovered him and lured him away with promises of endless wealth. The entire city was so sorry to see him go.

Back to class. From being one of Mr Smith s best students at the beginning of the school year, I quickly became by far his worst. All I did was sit and stew with resentment and had not another kind syllable to say about my teacher. Something called “discipline,” by the way, is the worst thing you can do for a student who is bored to distraction. Take it from me. It is not only discipline directed towards me that I resent; I resent discipline directed towards anybody. (To this day I feel so sorry for a fellow student named Vicky. It was that day that I saw the dark side.) Well, admittedly, it wasn’t solely the frustration that converted me into the worst student. It was home life as well, as I can now finally see. My father refused to allow me to do my homework for several months, which killed my grades dead. I was totally miserable, felt utterly defeated, and devoted all my time to the worst TV shows just to tune everyone and everything out. At the time, I didn’t understand the reason for my change in behavior. I just thought I had discovered lots of good TV shows that deserved careful attention. When I look back on it all, four decades later, it’s as clear as a bell. Anyway, before I knew it I was addicted. I learned that TV is the hard stuff, dangerous to the nth degree. The occasional Man and the City or educational program, okay, but once you find yourself obsessing over the tube, you need to quit, cold turkey.

Here he is as his own peculiar interpretation of Dracula.
The Albuquerque Journal, Thursday, 29 September 1978, p. C1.

A few years later I visited Mr Smith again, in his classroom after school hours, and we finally hit it off. Then I saw him perform a campy Dracula on stage and later he popped up in a bit part with John Carradine in an abysmal flick called either Monster or Monstroid that went straight to VHS, where it was hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Oh, here it is. Download it before it disappears.

That ain’t his voice. No idea who dubbed him.
My heavens! His voice could almost rival that of Christopher Lee,
and so filmmakers either told him to do silly accents or they got somebody to dub him.
Go figure.

In my memory it was only months afterwards, but in fact, now that I check, I see that it was decades afterwards that the newspaper reported that he had died. He wasn’t even old.

The Albuquerque Journal, Tuesday, 29 August 1995, p. C2.

The Albuquerque Journal, Friday, 1 September 1995, p. D15.

In school, there was another issue that bothered me as well: I had tired of the Greek world and the Roman empire being covered almost every autumn with a week or two of insipid narratives. The teachers (except for Mr Smith) and the texts made the ancients an unfathomable enigma, entirely unhuman. Worse, those dreadful illustrations, supposedly designed to show us what ancient Greece and Rome looked like, made the topic entirely alien. This may as well have been another species in another galaxy. I couldn’t relate, but I wanted to. I couldn’t articulate the problem at the time, but now I can: I resented real people being distanced from me, from my understanding, from my emotions. I resented having them depicted as something other. That bothered me. The descriptions and illustrations were nightmarish. I wanted to humanize the ancient Greeks and Romans, else I would continue to live inside a nightmare. I wanted to dig in, and I thought the best way would be through the actual literature. Oh if only Mr Smith had just told me about Edith Hamilton’s seductive book, The Greek Way. If only he had shown me where I could learn conversational Classical Greek. Ohhhhh....

There was also a further ingredient that got me interested, and this was the trigger: The way teachers pronounced the letters of Greek alphabet in school, for math class and so forth, and the way they pronounced the occasional Greek root of an English word, was so dreadful, so totally wrong in every way, that I cringed in agony. I was determined to set this right once and for all. ’Twas a childish ambition. Though I had no resources to learn to speak Modern Greek (there was nobody to converse with), what little I was able to pick up through Sofroniou’s wafer-thin book and Cortina’s silly elementary book demonstrated that it was easy to learn, and so I assumed that Classical Greek and Latin would be equally easy to learn.

In tenth grade I elected Latin class and took two years’ worth. As with all the other students in the class, I came out of the second year knowing nothing. We could not speak, understand, read, write, or even translate Latin. To my surprise there was no Latin conversation. None. Not a sentence of Latin conversation. Not even once. Never. I assumed, like all the other students seemed to assume, that once we had mastered the basics, we would begin to talk. Wrong! You see, our teacher emphasized the importance of grammatical terminology as well as the technical names of all noun and verb endings. We all got passing marks because we could distinguish a third-declension noun from a first-declension noun and because we could distinguish an ablative from an accusative. Not one of us could understand a sentence, though. Our job was to translate into English, not aloud, but only on paper.

At first the stories were simple. After we studied countless charts and learned endless grammatical terminology, and as we were being drilled and tested relentlessly on this material, our teacher (who shall remain nameless) assigned us a simplified version of “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” reduced to six short paragraphs, as it appeared in our textbook. What was that textbook? A ha! I just visited a book shop and there it was! What a coincidence! I hadn’t seen this since 1977, and as soon as I wonder about it in early 2016, there it suddenly is, right in front of my nose! Is the universe trying to tell me something? Annabel Horn, John Flagg Gummere, and Margaret M. Forbes, Using Latin, Books One (1961) and Two (1963), Chicago: Scott, Foresman and Company. Bingo! Five bucks a volume, and each volume was unused, unread, brand-new condition though the paper had inevitably aged. The hinges were still stiff. These two volumes had never been opened. These were promotional copies, and tucked inside the front cover of Book Two was an advertisement boasting the virtues of the course. I couldn’t resist and purchased the set. My memory is that our teacher selected certain exercises and skipped around, that she only used Book One, and that in two years of schooling, she never even had us finish that first volume. We never saw the second volume. Now that I’m looking through these two volumes, I see that my memory was right.

We were not to speak “The Ant and the Grasshopper” aloud. We were not to have a class discussion about it. We were to translate it into English, with pen and paper, in our 55-minute class time. To get some air into our lungs, our teacher walked us out of the classroom and sat us down on a sports field nearby, breaking us up into five or six groups. Though “The Ant and the Grasshopper” was the simplest Latin imaginable, we were reduced nearly to tears at our inability to make sense out of any of it. Even such a basic statement as “Tu pigra es!” elicited gales of laughter from those who attempted to force it to make sense: “You lazy es!” Unforgettable. Am I saying that I immediately understood that three-word sentence? No. It gave me enormous difficulty. As a matter of fact, all 30 or so students in the class labored mightily over that three-word sentence. Not one of us could understand it on first reading — or even on tenth reading. “Pigra” was in the dictionary at the back. Most of us remembered that “tu” meant “you,” but nobody could find “es” in the dictionary at the back of the book. After maybe five minutes I finally remembered that “es” followed “sum” and blurted that out to everybody in my group. Ah! At long last we deciphered that sentence. Why did it give us such difficulty? You see, we had by then been trained on nominative and accusative singular; subject; direct object; predicate noun/adjective; ablative with preposition; plural nouns; verb endings in -t and -nt; ablative/accusative with prepositions; apposition; position of adjectives; case uses; words ending in -ia, -tia/-cia, -ula; genitive case; tense; forms of sum; person; number; dative case; indirect object; dative with adjectives; masculine nouns in -a; declension I cases and case uses; first and second conjugations; infinitives; present stem/tense. Oh heavens above. No wonder nobody could get a grasp of the language. With painstaking analysis, we could name the forms we were looking at. We could reproduce these charts in our sleep — actually, I think I did. We had not been taught how to make sense out of any of this, though. We had not been taught how to put this knowledge together to express thoughts. As I said before, and as I shall say again, there was no Latin conversation.

Think about it. Think think think. If you’re reading this web page, you are fluent in English. I bet you cannot tell me how many conjugations there are in English. I bet you cannot tell me how many declensions there are in English. I bet you cannot chart an English verb or an English noun. I don’t know how many conjugations and declensions there are in English, and I can’t chart English verbs or nouns either. Many people argue that there are no conjugations or declensions in English, and that English words are not inflected, which, they kindly explain by way of excuse, is why native English speakers have difficulty learning inflected languages. What a load of dingo’s kidneys! English IS inflected!!!!!! Many languages splice the inflections onto the ends of the words. English usually staples them onto the beginnings, though in writing we leave a space before the root. You don’t believe me. Okay:

vocāre to summon
vocō I summon
vocās you summon
vocat she summons
vocāmus we summon
vocātis you summon
vocant they summon
vocem I may summon
vocēs you may summon
vocet she may summon
vocēmus we may summon
vocētis you may summon
vocent they may summon
vocer I am summoned
vocēris you are summoned
vocētur she is summoned
vocēmur we are summoned
vocēminī you are summoned
vocentur they are summoned
vocātus sim I may have been summoned
vocātus sis you may have been summoned
vocātus sit she may have been summoned
vocāti sīmus we may have been summoned
vocāti sītis you may have been summoned
vocāti sint they may have been summoned

rana frog
ranæ frog’s
ranæ to the frog
ranam frog (direct object)
ranā by the frog
ranæ frogs
ranārum frogs’
ranīs to the frogs
ranās frogs (direct object)
ranīs by the frogs

See? English is inflected, and the inflections are pretty much as confusing as they are in other languages. Why do so many people insist that English is not inflected? Answer: Because, in writing, we split the nouns and verbs with spaces between most of the varying inflections and the unvarying roots. So I suppose that if in Latin we were to write “voc ētur” and if in English we were to write “sheissummoned,” we would conclude that English is inflected and that Latin isn’t. Whatever. Let’s go further. I bet you cannot identify which verbs and nouns are irregular. I certainly can’t. I haven’t got a clue. We do have irregulars, but I don’t know which ones they are, because they all seem regular to me. (Oh, here’s one that just occurred to me: “go/went.” Oh, and for a noun, we have the singular nominative/accusative “sheep” and the plural nominative/accusative “sheep.” There are plenty of others. Heck if I know what they are. I don’t want to see a list, because it would confuse me.) I know we have more than one conjugation and more than one declension. I don’t know what they are and I can’t tell the difference. Yet I never make a mistake in these matters (unless I do so deliberately for satirical effect), and you probably don’t either. So why, when teachers instruct us in another language, do they abandon conversation in favor of all this meaningless technical garbage that not even native speakers know? As has been proved, when a teacher discards all this gobbledygook and instead teaches conversation, the students learn at lightning speed and nearly without effort. We shall witness an actual demonstration in a link below, when we hear an antique recording of W.H.D. Rouse conducting a Latin class.

In looking through this Using Latin course again now, I see that it’s not terrible. Not at all. Actually, I have to admit it, this course is pretty darned good, much better than most courses I’ve run across. The readings are dull, but they are fulsome, and a creative teacher would be able to use this book as a basis for conversation. A creative teacher, using this book, would have students speaking within the first minute of the first day of class. Classroom conversation, entirely in Latin, would have been the key to understanding. If, instead of having us painfully decrypt “The Ant and the Grasshopper” into English, the teacher had conducted a one-hour conversation with all the students about it, using only vocabulary we already knew, asking simple questions about the story, that would have made a world of difference. We all would have understood. The thought never crossed the teacher’s mind. That’s not the way she taught. She would drill us mercilessly on charts of noun endings and verb endings, assign us to do the multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank exercises with pen on paper, and then have us translate the stories into English, with pen on paper. She was satisfied when, after an hour in class, we managed torturously to translate a few sentences into English. It was not her job to teach us to understand Latin, but rather just to decrypt it and render it into English. The endless charts were the decryption keys. That, apparently, is why we needed to memorize those charts. The goal, she said, was to improve our English skills. That was the only stated goal. She seemed to assume that understanding followed memorization of technical names and memorization of charts, that the language would then be so obvious that conversation would be entirely unnecessary, and that we would somehow figure it all out for ourselves — by what form of magic I do not know. I was so embarrassed when the other kids in school, upon discovering that I was in Latin class, would request, “Say something in Latin!” I couldn’t. No Latin student could. We never spoke a sentence of Latin in class; we seldom even spoke a word, but we could recite the verb endings and the noun endings. Not long after “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” we were assigned texts of considerably greater difficulty.

I’m looking through this Using Latin book some more. If students would simply ignore their teachers and work their way through this book leisurely, reading the stories aloud over and over and over and over and over and over again until they become as easy as English, then students could learn the language through this course. Skip the multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank exercises, please. Skip the numerous sections about Latin roots of English words, please. Other than that, the book is fine. Rather, I should say that it is about as fine as such a book could possibly be. I wish language courses would be taught without books, without writing. There should be only speaking. Students should not see anything written until after they’re speaking with confidence. Even with a good book, though, the problem is that the class work and the homework consisted only of written translations and fill-in-the-blanks. In my view, translation should be forbidden. The students should simply speak Latin in class. English should be used only sparingly. By the end of the first semester English should be dropped altogether, and class should be conducted entirely in Latin. That would solve all the problems in a moment. That isn’t done, though, ever. The normal excuse is that it is literally impossible to speak a dead language. Drop that lame excuse. Latin is not a dead language. It has been continuously spoken for over two thousand years. It’s no longer a native language, but it’s not dead by any means. Speaking, though, is not what happens in any course. Translation is the rule — the only rule. So students labor through a lesson and stop, dead exhausted, when the homework assignment is finally finished at eleven at night. That is so wrong. That method is entirely counter to the goal of the Using Latin book. It is amazing to me that, using a course like this, our teacher was able to render the language incomprehensible. She was typical, though. I doubt there was ever a teacher anywhere who, using Using Latin, did it any differently. Our teacher should have named her course “Misusing Latin.” The homework, which converted simple readings into impossibly difficult readings, should never have been given. If the subject — any subject — cannot be covered in class time, then homework cannot make up for the deficit. Homework is nothing more than useless and unproductive labor, much like Bentham’s Panopticon. It is designed to keep idle hands busy and to bore students nearly to death. As such, it’s a great way to flunk out the brightest students (whose minds are too active to endure tedium) and to heap all credit onto mediocre students (who have no problem with mindless tedium). If class were taught well, no homework would be necessary or helpful in any way at all.

Let’s think about homework for a minute. School begins at eight in the morning and ends at about three-thirty in the afternoon: seven and a half hours, usually six classes a day, to which must be added travel time, an average of about 30 minutes each way. So say school is eight and a half hours per day. Each class demands about one hour of homework a night. Eight and a half plus six equals 14+ hours a day that students need to take copious notes as boring teachers drone on and on and then suffer through boring reading and writing exercises in the evening. Homework is doubled or trebled for the weekends. When I was in school, I thought that was a bit much. (Home life was, if anything, even more maniacal than school life, and so for the sake of my sanity I would skip homework and sometimes even skip class just to get a breath of fresh air, chat with a friend, see a Lloyd or Chaplin movie at the Sunshine Theatre, stroll the streets in downtown to admire the old architecture that nobody else noticed, read a Dostoyevsky novel, something, anything, to escape the madness for a few hours. I could never catch up on missed lessons, my grades suffered, and that led to countless panic attacks. My attitude was horrible, I was about as approachable and snuggly as a cactus, and there is good reason that a number of people disliked me intensely.) With such a schedule, it is impossible to lose oneself in any topic. Learning can happen only by losing oneself, and school forbids that.

Now let’s return to “Tu pigra es!” Even without ever having learned the technical names of formal second-person present singular, emphatic personal pronoun, and so forth, anyone raised speaking English can, by the age of three, easily understand the sentence, “You’re lazy!,” or even “Lazy you are!” Nobody needs to know how to chart the phrase and break it down and provide the technical name for each part of speech in order to speak such an impromptu sentence or to understand it. We don’t — and shouldn’t — learn the technical linguistic terms until after we know how to speak with ease. The linguistic studies are to refine our understanding of a language we already speak fluently. Latin class was all backwards. I did not understand this at the time. I just thought I was stupid. I was embarrassed half to death by my stupidity. For two whole years I kept trying harder and harder and harder not to be stupid anymore. The harder I tried, the harder I failed. Looking back on it, how I wish someone had simply given me the simplest advice: “Go over the first volume again, beginning on page one, and read each story twenty or thirty times over, aloud, until it becomes as easy as English. Take your time. Don’t rush. Do it over summer vacation. You’ll be surprised at the result. It’s like magic!” There was no such advice. Two years did I suffer failure after failure after failure, each worse than the last, as the class got harder and harder and harder. We would spend hours — in groups! — attempting to translate a mere few lines. A week or more could go by, in sheerest torment, before we succeeded in translating a single paragraph into English, only to discover upon submitting our result that we had translated it incorrectly (only the teacher had the answer book). In succeeding years I looked into various language courses taught in schools and universities and even enrolled in a few. They are all backwards. The students never learn to speak the languages they are studying. The rare student who is rich enough to spend a year or so in the country of choice, of course, comes back with fluency. The majority who do not have that luxury conclude that they have no talent for languages.

Just discovered there was also a Using Latin Book Three in 1968. Never seen a copy. I have one on order. 22 February 2016: Just arrived. As-new condition. Wow. Impressive. Previous editions were copyrighted in 1939 and 1954. Who knew? Why isn’t this course being used anymore?

Did you notice that I mentioned the answer book? Answer book. Answer book. Answer book. That makes me wonder something. Yes, each volume had answer books and teachers’s guides: Using Latin 1 Guidebook, Using Latin 1 Translation Key, Using Latin: Answer Key to Tests and Practice for Book One, Attainment Tests for Using Latin Book One, Using Latin 2 Guidebook (earlier edition here), Using Latin 2 Text Edition, Using Latin: Tests for Book Two, Attainment Tests for Using Latin II, Using Latin 2 Translation Key, Exercises in Writing Latin for Using Latin III, Tests and Practice for Using Latin III, and Guidebook and Translation Key for Using Latin III. Isn’t this ridiculous? Why on earth would this rubbish be needed? If the teacher knew the language, the teacher would not need cheat books. So apparently the authors of Using Latin understood from the outset that their exceptional text would be in the hands of incompetent teachers who were unable to speak a sentence of the language.

Now, let’s think this through. When your mommy took a few steps in front of you and said, “I’m walking,” and then when she held up your hands and helped you take a few steps and said, “You’re walking,” and then when she took a few steps along with you, saying, “We’re walking!,” you began to learn English. Now, suppose your mommy hadn’t done that. Suppose, instead, that your mommy had taken a few steps and said, “First-person singular present gerund of the regular intransitive ‘walk,’ ” and then held your hands up and helped you take a few steps with the explanation, “Formal second-person singular present gerund of the regular intransitive ‘walk,’ ” and then walked with you to say, “First-person plural present gerund of the regular intransitive ‘walk,’ ” you would have burst into tears and to this day you would never have learned a word of English. Evening: “Tell your daddy what we did today!” Silence. Mommy gets worried and nervously prods you along: “First-person singular and plural and formal second-person singular present gerund of the regular verb ‘walk.’ Don’t you remember, dear?” Daddy would not have been pleased. Why couldn’t his child answer right away?

Yes, that’s how we were taught Latin. “Pop quiz: Write an active-voice sentence using a second-declension masculine-singular nominative with past participle and plural third-declension neuter genitive with a third-conjugation third-person-plural pluperfect main verb and a perfect-tense third-person-singular intransitive fourth-conjugation auxiliary verb with plural feminine accusative in the third declension and neuter dative and masculine ablative both second declension, and be sure to emphasize the locative, while ending with a subjunctive phrase. Geraldine, what’s taking you so long? If you can’t follow such simple instructions, why don’t you drop and take an F and switch to some Mickey-Mouse class like basket-weaving or something?” Yup. The only way to learn. Yet we all got passing marks. Despite my passing marks, the class wore me down, defeated me, made me feel like a total idiot, an abject failure. It also made me much more hostile, much more of a nasty cynic than I had ever been before. If memory serves, I got straight B’s.

Remember when you learned arithmetic? You didn’t spend one night staring at an addition table and at a multiplication table to master the topic. It took a lot of practice, didn’t it? It took hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours of practice for seven or eight years, didn’t it? After you were done, you never thought again about an addition table or a multiplication table, did you? You just know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, right? You see 8×7 and you know that means 56, yes? You don’t need to think of the table anymore, do you? Similarly with languages. Languages are more than tables and charts and rules. Without conversation and/or immersion, you can’t learn a language. There is no conversation or immersion in any school that I know of, at least not in this country.

I went to the university. I didn’t want to, but my father’s word was law, and he was paying out of his meager funds. Meager the funds were, and meager was tuition: about $400 per semester and a further $400 per semester for textbooks. (Nowadays the price has gone up ten-fold.) This was about the last thing in the world I wanted. I so much wanted to get a job and move out on my own. Surprisingly I had gotten a job while still in high school: minimum wage and fired within four months. This was Albuquerque: If you were a CPA or a nuclear physicist, the gates would swing open wide. If you were anything else, good luck. Maybe after a year of searching you could land a job as a janitor or busboy and then be fired without pay after two days. New Mexico was the third-poorest state in the union, so what do you expect? (Things have improved, though. Now it’s the sixth-poorest, with the second-highest poverty rate and third-highest unemployment rate.) Since I couldn’t find employment anywhere, I continued to live at home where I was at my father’s mercy. He had no mercy. So I went to the university. I soon came to a conclusion that I never had the courage to utter aloud until just these past few weeks: Higher education is a scam. “Racket” might be a more appropriate word. There are rituals, but there is no learning, or almost none.

I enrolled in Latin 101, hoping that this time it would be better and that I would finally master the language. Since we were required to take four semesters of a foreign language, I took four semesters. Text: Frederic M. Wheelock, Latin: An Introductory Course Based on Ancient Authors (Harper & Row, 1971), supplemented, of course, by the professors’ own ideas and mimeographs. There it was again: chart after chart after chart after chart after chart after chart of noun endings and verb endings and the technical names of each, along with rules, rules, rules, rules, rules, rules, rules, rules, rules, followed by maybe 50 words of vocabulary for memorization, then ten practice sentences, and finally a fill-in-the-bank quiz and a three-line translation exercise. No conversation. No spoken Latin. None. Ever. Never never never never never never never never never. Next lesson: charts and charts and charts and charts and charts and rules and rules and rules and rules and rules, 50 words of vocabulary, ten practice sentences, a brief fill-in-the-blank quiz and a three-line translation exercise. Then the professor (whose name I cannot remember) would hand out mimeographed sheets, saying, “Now for some real Latin. Your homework tonight is to translate this poem by Vergil.” Nobody was learning anything. Most students dropped out. I couldn’t blame them.

Out of curiosity I just ordered a used copy of Wheelock’s 1971 edition. I see now that my description above is not quite accurate, but who cares? The gist is correct. Dreadful book. One of the worst books ever written. Impossible to learn anything from it, except how to write a truly awful book. Worse than philosophy books. Worse than sacred religious books. Worse than Krishnamurti. Worse than von Däniken. Not as bad as The Courage to Heal. Worse than Finnegans Wake and if anything even less comprehensible.

You probably think I’m exaggerating about how badly languages are taught in school. Well, read this and you’ll see that I’m not the only one griping. I’m in good company.

I remember in the third semester we had a substitute professor one day when our regular instructor called in sick. I can’t remember his name either. He had us painfully translate some authentic Latin jokes, which he had recently discovered, and he told us how shocked he had been by this discovery. He had never before realized that the ancient Romans had had a sense of humor. This, for him, was a revelation. I listened in disbelief. This was a professor? A professor, a Ph.D., who had passed his oral exams and had been admitted to teach at a university, who didn’t comprehend that people 2,000 years ago could joke around and laugh?????? I didn’t even know how to react. I remember that my mouth was agape. What did this guy grow up believing? Did he grow up believing that laughter was a US invention first patented in 1950?

Towards the end of the fourth semester I was one of only four remaining students. No. What am I saying? I’m misremembering. I was one of only three remaining students. Lester gave up after the third semester. With such a small population, there was no need to meet in a classroom. We met instead in the instructor’s office. (I refuse to provide her full name.) Our instructor grew excited when she discovered a passage of prose she had never seen before. “Let’s translate this together!,” she exclaimed. She examined the first sentence for maybe ten or fifteen seconds, trying with difficulty to figure out where the verb was. “Maybe this is the main verb. Let’s see.” Then she got lost and started looking up words in the Latin-to-English dictionary. She tried the sentence again and again, “No, that’s not it. That’s probably the auxiliary verb. So this is probably the main verb.” She tried it again, “Yes, that’s it. This is the main verb. Okay. Let’s see. Hmmmmmm. That ablative must mean something else. Let’s see what else it might mean.” She looked it up in the dictionary. Maybe five possible definitions. She tried them one by one until she found something that seemed to work. This went on and on and on. At the end of the hour, as we left her office and walked down the hall, I asked her, “Diana, can you speak Latin?” “Of course not! Nobody can!” She said that happily, with a wide smile on her face. “Can you read Latin without translating?” “Of course not! Nobody can!” That’s when I finally understood why I could never understand. Never before had the light bulb come on. Never before had it clicked. So it wasn’t me after all! It wasn’t my fault! I wasn’t stupid! I was being taught by someone who didn’t know her topic. I thought back and realized that none of my Latin professors and teachers was qualified to teach, since not one of them could speak the language. That’s why there was never any Latin conversation — not one line of Latin conversation. Ever.

How did the other college kids manage the language requirement? I watched. I observed. I learned. The kids who had grown up speaking French at home all enrolled in beginning and intermediate French. Easy A. The kids who had grown up speaking German at home all enrolled in beginning and intermediate German. Easy A. The many, many, many kids who had grown up speaking Spanish at home all enrolled in beginning and intermediate Spanish. Easy A. Lower-class scum like me who had grown up speaking only English at home had a really tough time.

Okay. Two can play at this game. By this time, I had no choice but to play the game. I don’t like to play games, but I played the game. You see, by my senior year my GPA was so low that I would not be allowed to graduate. I needed to act quickly. I needed to make straight A’s to up my GPA to a C and graduate else my father would become violent. I enrolled in the easiest qualifying courses I could find and I employed short-term memory tricks, such as visualization and mnemonics, which are utterly useless for understanding or for long-term memory but more than good enough for cramming. I had never used these tricks before and have only once used them since. To hedge my bets, I needed a sure-fire Easy A. That is why I enrolled in New Testament Greek for just one semester. The course was conducted entirely on computer, and the computer graded the students. There was almost nothing for the professor to do except grade the occasional handwritten test to make sure we weren’t cheating. This was the same professor, by the way, who had not known that Romans could laugh. Predictably he could not speak Greek, and I winced every time he attempted to pronounce a word. He ignored accents and stressed long syllables. That was wrong, but it wasn’t too bad, since many or most Greek dialects had already lost the eccentric off-beat Classical pitch several centuries prior to the New Testament (see Wikipedia). His other mistakes, though, were indefensible. Ψ became S. Ξ became Z. Ο became ah. Ω became owe. Χ became K. It was torture. It was sheerest torture to listen to that nonsense. He also insisted that I cease writing my tests in current-day Greek cursive. He had never learned cursive and had trouble reading it. He said that since we were learning New Testament Greek, I should print, using the authentic writing style of the time, as displayed in standard upper/lower with diacritics on the computer screen. He didn’t realize that the standard upper/lower displayed on the computer screen was Modern Greek typography, that New Testament Greek used only uppers without diacritics, that lower case had not yet been invented, and that the diacritics displayed on the computer screen were not included in manuscripts of the Christian Bible until many centuries later. The early manuscripts didn’t even have spaces between the words, for goodness’ sake. How do people such as this get to be professors? How? How? How? Can anybody explain this to me?

New Testament Greek (ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος) is so surprisingly similar to Modern Greek that it was no problem for me to fill in the blanks and choose the correct multiple-choice answers. Ha ha. I knew all the vocabulary already and had almost no studying to do. Sofroniou and Cortina, which supply only the most basic of basics, not nearly enough for you to speak the language, were enough that I just breezed through the course almost with my eyes closed. So this is what the other kids did, huh? Easy A indeed! The irony: I still could not speak the language! That’s how pitifully basic my understanding was. Pitifully basic was sufficient for an Easy A. I recognized, also, that no student coming to this cold would understand a single thing. I mean, Lesson One was the opening of the Gospel according to John. Lesson One. Really, Lesson One. If you were to teach your Albanian friend English, would you open Lesson One with Twelfth Night? I bet you would rather your Lesson One be more along the lines of: “Hey, how’re you doing this morning?” “Well, I stubbed my toe, but other than that I’m fine.” Fortunately, I already knew the opening of the Gospel according to John. Yay. No prob — for me, at least. The computer gave us fill-in-the-blank exercises, which teach me nothing, and multiple-choice quizzes, which teach me nothing, and translation exercises, which teach me nothing. If memory serves, the computer even gave us the equivalent of flash cards, which teach me nothing. (The computer was DOS, and so I don’t remember how that worked. Maybe the flash cards were actual cards? Or maybe this never happened?) To top it off, there were vocabulary lists for memorization, which teach me nothing. How on earth can anybody remember a vocabulary list? Once I get used to encountering a word, I know it. I can’t stare at “ἡ θύελλα — storm, tempest” and remember it! On the other hand, if I read a nice and easy paragraph about a θύελλα I’ll never forget it. A guided conversation about it would make the memory stronger still. Humans are the world’s only story-telling animals. We learn only by listening to stories, telling stories, and exchanging stories. We do not learn by staring at lists. Why do so few people comprehend this? It drives me totally mad! A professor or computer hands us a list of 200 words to memorize and then tests us on all those words the next day and expects us to pass? Oh give me a break! Yes, I passed with 100%, but only because I already knew all the words from hearing and reading them. That was an advantage no newcomer could possibly have. I can’t learn languages with vocabulary lists, fill-in-the-blanks, flash cards, translations, and I doubt anybody can. I need simple readings and (my dream) conversation! I don’t mean those dull and meaningless synthesized mini-conversations memorized from textbooks, but guided conversation at first and finally impromptu real-life conversation. That is not what schools or universities offer. By luck of the draw, I had a little taste of that — very little — by eavesdropping on my relatives and looking up words in Divry’s dictionary. Eavesdropping and catching maybe one-third of what’s being said, though, does not teach anybody a language. Eavesdropping is not the same as conversing. So that’s how I got my Easy A. What had I learned? Nothing! Well, almost nothing. I learned that to pronounce κοινή as though it were Modern Greek, as Greek Orthodox churchgoers do, renders the language too ambiguous to understand. I had suspected as much, and I was right. By the time of the New Testament, Greek pronunciation was pretty close to the current-day pronunciation, but there’s just enough of a mismatch in the vowels and diphthongs to cause much gnashing of teeth. To make sense of it orally, we really do need to learn the old vowels and diphthongs, and, preferably, all the other traceable differences as well.

School was crazy-making time, and university was even dumber than grade school. Home was worse. It didn’t help that all through school, from kindergarten through senior year at the university, I was caught in the crossfire of a multipronged religious war. Greek Orthodox GOC versus Religious Science versus Christian Science, with hints of Sikhism and Protestant prosperity theology thrown in for good measure. That is why every moment of every day I was in trouble — big trouble — with one or another of my relatives. It helped even less that my father, he of the perpetually volcanic temper, insisted that I sign on to his crackpot sales schemes (Amway, Bon-Del, Herbalife, you name it) and register all my professors and fellow students as distributors. I was not permitted to refuse this commandment. Decades later I’m still embarrassed about it all. The endless rallies and pep talks and conventions to which he dragged me early mornings and late evenings and holidays and weekends ate up much of the time I would otherwise have devoted to homework. That took a severe toll on my grades, which would have been terrible in any case. It also took a severe toll on my health, and thirty-plus years later I have yet to recover fully. In such a milieu, sane behavior and coherent thought are impossibilities. My behavior was certainly not sane and my thoughts were certainly not coherent or even consistent. What I found really funny was that in the midst of all this needless drama, my grandmother let the cat out of the bag and mentioned that, several generations ago, the Greek side of my family were Jewish. Oh that caused such a scene. It was the family scandal that others had tried to keep hidden. To top that off, the Greek side of my family were best buddies with a Turkish family, and so I often wondered if they were related to us. I’ll never know. I never saw the Turkish family after I was three years old. We moved one way, they moved another, and that was the end of that. The Greeks occasionally kept in touch with the Turks, but they had no interest in involving me in such reunions. In my heart of hearts, I had zero interest in sales schemes and religions and my family’s genealogy and the decades’ worth of resultant screaming matches, yet I was stuck in the midst of it and there was no escape hatch. I tried to adapt. Wrong move. My entire childhood, from the time I was old enough to talk until I was finally old enough to move away from home, consisted of nothing but lies and play-acting to please whoever the dominant adult was at any given moment. It wore me down, and I’m still worn down, and I’ll go to my grave still worn down from it all. The bright side, of course, is that I certainly got an unintentional education about the old countries. Ugh. Even had high school and college actually offered an education, even had they been delightful refuges from domestic madness, I would still have been largely nonfunctional because of home life; and yes, I did occasionally play hooky from home by staying out late at school.

Life is so easy. Life is so simple. Civilization complicates it by forcing us to compete for jobs and by forever threatening us with loss of said jobs. Even so, life is easy; life is simple. We are designed to be each other’s caretakers, and we are designed to be the caretakers of this planet. That’s it. Simple. The Doug Coes and the Kochs and the Paul Singers and the Robert Mercers and the Rebekah Mercers and the Bushes and the Trumps and the Tillersons and the Gorsuches and the Paul Millers and the Jared Kushners and the Stephen Bannons of the world, with their deformed brains, will never be physiologically capable of understanding this, but it is the truth, and it is a simple truth. Why do parents and churches and sales firms and teachers and professors and schools and universities and bankers and real-estate developers and military strategists and television programmers and entertainment promoters feel so compelled to throw so many monkey wrenches into the works, wrecking the lives of nearly every creature on the planet? There is a reason — not a good reason, but a reason — and so it is no wonder to me why most people do nothing with their lives apart from quarrel and bicker and fight and hypnotically repeat-until-belief-sets-in the patently obvious lies of media pundits and then defeatedly tune everything out so that they can accept more bombing of Syria and Afghanistan and Libya and Yemen and Iraq and more poisoning and murdering of American Indians and anyone else with a darker complexion and convince themselves that this is all the right thing to do. They’ve all been emotionally sledge-hammered into submission by a fiendishly brilliant Eddie Bernays-like social-engineering machine and so spend every waking moment numbing themselves with parties and beer and television and Smartphones and antisocial media and celebrity gossip. Our current survival mechanism is to live as though we were already dead. This is something new. Such an attitude prevailed among subjugated peoples, but never in pre-modern history did this attitude prevail almost universally. Now it does. I find this sad.

Oh, I remember something now. During my senior year at the university, employing dumb little memorization tricks, I was getting top marks everywhere, with relatively little effort. I was just going through the motions, and that’s when I finally realized that I was doing what most of the ace students had been doing all along: going through the motions. So that explained it. People who simply memorize facts by rote, who simply go through the motions, are assessed as “intelligent.” People who, on the other hand, try to think things through, who try to understand, are assessed as fools. Okay. I went through the motions. Not a darned thing did I learn in class, but I could ace any assignment or test. So at long last I learned the lesson the hard way: If you want a good grade, don’t think things through. If you think things through, you’ll fail. Just memorize what the professor said and what the illiterate textbook proclaimed. That’s it. Do that and you’re automatically a straight-A student. Whoopeedoopeedoo. Why was I not impressed? Now that I at last had that problem licked, I needed to detoxify. Through Interlibrary Loan I ordered the first volume of the Foreign Service Institute course in Modern Greek with the accompanying cassette tapes. Whoah! This was pretty good. The second and third volumes were not available through Interlibrary Loan, and so I pleaded with my mother to purchase the full set with money she didn’t have. (I think it was $200 when ordered directly through the FSI, which is what we did. Two hundred dollars, in my family, was almost inconceivably vast wealth. I had rarely seen so much money all at once. The price was considerably higher when ordered from a reprinter such as Barron’s or Audio Forum.) The course arrived and I just breezed through Volume One. Despite that, I was only half-learning — or tenth-learning — because, as good as the books and the tapes are, they are not the course; they are supplementary materials for a “direct method” course designed for classroom use only, with guided conversation. To take the course minus an instructor is to cripple one’s learning. Nonetheless, I kept at it, and, almost with a broken heart, discovered that no amount of self-study with this or any other course would grant me an ability to speak, read, write, think. Still, though, it was a good departure point, a thousand times better than Sofroniou and Cortina. Between classes in my final semester, I played with this, and it was really fun. It helped me hold onto what little sanity I still had left. Maybe, maybe, just maybe, someday, I’d be able to escape Albuhkyooerkyoo and hang out with some Greeks to practice the language. It was a pathetic hope for someone who had no job prospects whatever. (I didn’t dare visit the local Greeks because my Greek elders would have gone ballistic — all because of some dumb religious feud, GOC versus Greek Archdiocese, ya know. That means as little to me as it means to you.)

School ended for me at the close of spring semester 1982. I finished my final final and walked away feeling fine, but as soon as I took my first step off the campus grounds onto the sidewalk I almost fell over. Never had I realized how much the university had taken out of me. I was so fatigued that I could barely make it across the street to the bus stop in front of Frontier Restaurant. I vowed never to set foot on any campus ever again as long as I lived. Except for one day, I slept between 20 and 21 hours a day for the next four weeks. In junior year, almost deathly ill, I looked like I was in my sixties, with grizzled hair, dried-out wrinkled skin, hollow cheeks. Strangers assumed I was a professor. When I mostly recovered, I looked maybe like I was in my thirties. After sleeping those four weeks I woke up and looked sixteen. You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not exaggerating.

A friend called just a few days after my graduation to say that someone by the name of Wolf Mankowitz would give a “Lecture under the Stars” at the university the following Monday evening, 14 June. Had I ever heard of him? “Wolf Mankowitz? No, I’ve never—. WOLF MANKOWITZ!?!?!?!?! Of course I’ve heard of him! He did Expresso Bongo! He worked with Tinto Brass!!!! He worked with Orson Welles! He worked with Peter Sellers!” That’s why I forsook my vow and stepped onto campus again. Once I had done that, there was no reason to reinstate my vow. I started haunting the university’s library again, and one day I stumbled upon a book — three volumes + teacher’s guide — entitled Latin by the Natural Method, written by a Catholic priest named Father William George Most. Huh, what’s this? I pulled out the slim teacher’s manual and read, among other things:

Present deficiencies: Most Latin teachers will readily admit that Latin is not taught with very great success today. Even after as much as eight years of Latin, students often find it quite an effort to translate fifty lines of Cicero in an hour and even then, they will not always get the sense.
   Things were not always thus: for about a thousand years after Latin ceased to be a native language, it was taught with far greater success, so that students, even those of very ordinary intelligence, actually learned to read, write, and speak the language fluently. The methods used then were not very much like the method that has now come to be considered as “traditional”. Actually, the so-called traditional methods today go back only to about the 16th century. History shows a constant decline in the popularity of Latin and in the ability of students ever since that “traditional” method was introduced....

Former more successful methods: During the Middle Ages, students began the study of Latin between the ages of 5 and 7. The method used was the purely direct method (we do not propose here to revive a purely direct method, for reasons to be indicated later. Rather, we would use its basic principles and advantages and combine them with additional techniques suited to the difference in the age at which students today begin Latin). Only very easy materials were used for reading, chiefly dialogues. Works like Caesar, and Cicero’s orations, even when they came to be used commonly, were not attempted until after the student had spent from 3 to 5 years on easier materials. The result was that when he finally did begin to study these works, he was in a good position to gain a real appreciation of them, for he had learned by that time to read, write, and speak Latin with fluency.

Father William G. Most

Reproduced by permission

Interesting, yes? I did the first lesson, which consisted of three short and simple children’s stories. Not really children’s stories. Baby stories. It doesn’t matter that they’re historical nonsense. (Nobody thought the world was flat. Columbus did have money. He is not one of my heroes and he should not be one of yours. Never mind. These nonsense stories are a good way to adjust your thoughts to a new language.) The vocabulary was short, 25 words, and the few grammatical rules were explained simply. Before I even finished reading the first lesson, I was no longer thinking in English. I was not translating. I was just going with the flow in Latin. Effortlessly. That had never happened before. You don’t believe that’s possible, do you? By permission, here it is (I added macrons). Try it yourself. Go ahead. Try it.

     De tertia persōna in numero singulāri in tempore perfecto
     De cāsū nominatīvo et de cāsū obiectīvo in numero singulāri

Maria habuit parvum agnum.
Mary had a . . . (three guesses)
habuit — had
Agnus fuit albus.
parvus — small, little
Maria vēnit in scholam.
agnus — lamb
Agnus vēnit in scholam.
albus — white
Agnus vēnit cum Maria.
fuit — was
Marcus vīdit agnum in schola.
vēnit — came
Agnus dīxit: baa, baa.
cum — with
vīdit — saw
dīxit — said

Columbus fuit nauta. Sed Columbus non habuit navem. Columbus vēnit ad Rēgīnam Isabellam. Columbus dīxit: Mundus est rotundus. Mundus non est plānus. Rēgīna dedit pecūniam. Columbus non invēnit Indiam. Columbus invēnit Americam. America non fuit parva.

dedit — gave
sed — but
dīxit — said
agnus — lamb
fuit — was
mundus — world
habuit — had
nauta — sailor
invēnit — found
nāvis — ship
vēnit — came
parva — small
vīdit — saw
parvus — small
ad — to
pecūnia — money
cum — with
plānus — flat
ergō — therefore
puella — girl
in — in, into, on
rēgīna — queen
nōn — not
rotundus — round


Here is an English sentence: Marcus saw the lamb (Marcus vīdit agnum). There are three important words in it: Marcus is the subject; it is in the nominative case. The verb is saw. The object is lamb; therefore, it is in the objective case. Notice that the Latin verbs above all end in -it. Notice that the word lamb in English, comes after the verb. Lamb is the object. In Latin we do not depend on the order of words to show the object — we depend on the ending. Notice that many words above end in -m. That is the ending for the object. Some have -am: some have -um: some have -em. Notice the various endings for the nominative case. We need not be concerned about them today. After words like ad, cum, and in, we have still other endings. Do not bother about them today. We can understand the story without knowing about them.
   Notice also that Marcus is just one person. So we say the subject is nominative singular. There is also only one lamb in school. That is singular too. More than one would be plural. It would be too much. So we could say that the object in our sentence, agnum, is objective singular. And we could say that the subject in our sentence, Marcus, is nominative singular. There is no Latin word for the, no word for a or an. Just supply these in English when you need them.


Columbus nōn fuit puella. Maria fuit puella. Columbus nōn fuit plānus. Fuit Columbus rotundus? Columbus nōn habuit pecūniam. Isabella habuit pecūniam. Isabella nōn habuit parvum agnum. Isabella habuit pecūniam. Columbus nōn habuit parvum agnum. Maria habuit parvum agnum. Maria nōn dedit pecūniam. Isabella dedit pecūniam. Sed Maria nōn dedit parvum agnum. Isabella nōn vēnit in scholam. Columbus nōn vēnit in scholam. Columbus vēnit in Americam. Columbus nōn vēnit in Americam cum agno. Columbus nōn vēnit in Americam cum Isabella. Isabella nōn vēnit in Americam cum Columbo. Isabella nōn vēnit in nāvem. Agnus albus nōn vēnit in nāvem. Maria nōn vēnit in nāvem. Agnus albus nōn fuit in India. Columbus nōn fuit in India. India nōn est agnus. India nōn est nāvis. Columbus fuit albus. Sed India nōn fuit alba. Mundus fuit rotundus. Sed India nōn fuit rotunda.


Find all the English words that are similar to those in the vocabulary. This should be done with every vocabulary.

“This is easy!,” I exclaimed to myself. Note the section entitled “Columbus and Lamb Stew.” This is a template for the teacher to conduct Latin conversation. Imagine a teacher interacting, verbally, with each and every student in the class, one by one, asking questions based on these sentences for a full thirty minutes or more. After such an exercise, you would never need to be reminded of what you learned in Lesson One. You’d know it forever. It would never pose any difficulty for you to the end of your days. I was still apprehensive, though: “The second lesson can’t be as easy, I’m certain.” So I did the second lesson, and it was, again, a short vocabulary, another grammatical rule, and a highly repetitive reading, with the same minimalist story told many times over with different wordings. No problem. My brain never once switched to English. “This is too good to be true,” I thought to myself. So I did the third lesson, and it was every bit as easy. My heavens! WHY DIDN’T THEY TEACH IT THIS WAY IN SCHOOL???? Yes, the first few lessons are at infant level, but only the first few. Students need to start at infant level. They really do. Always. This course grows rapidly but painlessly. With Lesson Nine we finally put sentences into traditional Latin order: subject, object, verb. Beginning with Lesson Twenty-Five we start putting sentences into every possible random scrambled order, as fluent Romans did. By the second volume we’re reading Cæsar. By the third volume we’re reading Cicero and Seneca.

By this time I had just finished Lesson 29 of the FSI Modern Greek course. What a conundrum! Oh this was agony. What was I to do? Finish the FSI course, or put it aside for a while so that I could delve into this beautiful Latin course? I chose the latter.

My father would occasionally give me a few dimes, or, if I was lucky, even a dollar or two to ride buses and whatnot, but I cheated: I walked many miles each day so that I could hoard everything until I had enough nickels to photocopy the entire course. Every spare moment (between debilitating bouts of job hunting) I went right back to the course. Addictive. Indescribably addictive. If you want to learn Latin, THIS is the course you should use. (There is another excellent course too, which we shall get to below.) All the other Latin-instruction manuals that you’ve collected should go into the recycling bin. There is no other useful purpose they can possibly serve. I wish all languages were taught the way Father Most taught Latin. No such luck. It’s a one-off. Fiddlesticks!

Don’t let that stop you from writing one, though. All you have to do is license the rights, translate Father Most’s Latin text into any other language, et voilà, you’ll have Comanche by the Natural Method, Veps by the Natural Method, Hungarian by the Natural Method, Albanian by the Natural Method, Chuvash by the Natural Method, Shmuwich by the Natural Method, Navajo by the Natural Method, Iñupiat by the Natural Method, Latvian by the Natural Method, Choctaw by the Natural Method, and so on. Any language you choose. Of course, you’d have to make some adjustments for each language’s distinctive peculiarities, but Father Most’s course is so slow, so leisurely, so long, so insistent on never moving to the next step until you’re incapable of making a mistake, that I’m certain it could be adapted to any other language. Why hasn’t anyone done this? I don’t understand. The only thing that comes even vaguely close is Pimsleur, but Father Most was light years ahead of Pimsleur. I know little about Father Most except for this course. (There was a short essay about him in Chapter 6 of John M. Janaro’s book, Fishers of Men: Apostles in the Modern Age [Manassas, Virginia: Trinity Communications, 1986]. Oh, and here’s his obit: The Arlington Catholic Herald, 19 September 1996. It figures. I would have given almost my last cent to have met him, but I had no idea how to find him until long after he was no longer with us. So I didn’t even pursue the quest. My loss.) What I know from this course, though, is that he was brilliant, more brilliant than probably anyone I’ve ever met. (It’s neither here nor there that my religious inclinations are nonexistent. I can generally get along with religious folks, no prob.) He published his course in 1957, and there were a few reprints, which I suppose went to a handful of churches. A fellow in Québec by the name of Victor Coulombe issued an edition in 1963 for his French-speaking students who wished to learn Latin: Le latin vivant par la méthode naturelle — click here for libraries that own copies. Better yet, click here to take the course! (Only the first volume has been posted so far. The rest is soon forthcoming, I’m certain. Keep checking back at that link.) That, though, was about the entire extent of the recognition of Father Most’s magisterial work. Perhaps a problem was that Father Most wrote specifically for Catholic students, with the result that some of the lessons are from the bible and one even preaches against communism! Perhaps that’s why educators ignored the course. If that was the reason, that was a grave error. If a handful of the readings were inappropriate for secular schools, it would have been so simple to request rewrites. By 1964 it was all over. Only a scant few copies of the course survive. I feel privileged that I was able, against all odds, to acquire an original of Volume One as well as the accompanying tape script to Volume One: The Henry Regnery Company of Chicago amazingly still had a copy of each in its warehouse after all those decades! I never found the Teacher’s Manual or Volumes Two or Three for sale anywhere. I have never found the language-laboratory tapes. I have never found the tape scripts for the second and third volumes, but I doubt that there were tapes for the second and third volumes. Maybe there were, but I’ve never found reference to them. (If you can locate any of the tapes, the second script, or the third script, please write to me! Also, if there was a Teacher’s Manual for the Third Year, it would be wonderful to locate that as well. A million thanks!!!!!)

As I was working (“working”? — no, playing) through Father Most’s first volume, I began to wonder if there was, perchance, a comparable course for Classical Greek. In my search I discovered that there had once been another William, an English public-school teacher by the name of W.H.D. Rouse. Ahhhhhhhhh! I ordered every available language-instruction book of his through Interlibrary Loan, and as the books arrived one by one my heart sank. His First Greek Course was only marginally superior to the regular charts-and-rules books, and I understood immediately that he used his books only as memory jogs or quick notes to help him guide his instruction, since his classes were primarily spoken. (Click here for a detailed description of his teaching method and its results.) His books were certainly never meant for self-study and cannot be used for such. Nonetheless, I photocopied them all, though I never managed to scrape up the money to bind them. It tormented me (and torments me still) that he never wrote down his spoken course. All we have left are his small, slender textbooks. I learned also that he had recorded himself speaking Classical Greek with what he wrongly claimed was the Classical pronunciation. I found a library in Britain that agreed to make a cassette recording of the two 78rpm shellacs along with a photocopy of the accompanying brochure. The library staffers didn’t do a professional job. They just pulled out a wind-up gramophone with a steel needle and plopped a cassette recorder in front of the horn. The package arrived and I listened to it and read along and I was in heaven. By that time I was half-way through Volume One of Father Most’s course, and that’s when the unthinkable happened: I got a job. No. Not a job. No. “Job” is too generous a term. A lousy, stinking, demoralizing, less-than-minimum-wage, back-breaking, day-and-night-and-weekend job that sapped all my energy. The Bank Vault Restaurant and Sugar Daddy’s Saloon, if you must know. Believe me: When you work 100+hrs/wk under tremendous stress — especially stress derived from a hostile forever-nagging unshutupable supervisor — and have to carry a single can filled with hundreds of pounds of garbage up a flight of stairs and lift it above your head to toss it into the dumpster, every day, often several times a day, you don’t do something fun when you crawl home. You just collapse. You don’t wake up until it’s time to go back to work, and waking up while still exhausted is not an easy task. Your personal life is over. That was the definitive end of my short and happy life as an autodidact. The Bank Vault soon went bankrupt, and so I ended up working briefly at three restaurants that were even worse (the last one, Kashmir Palace, was downright terrifying — the owner was a screaming lunatic who should have been committed; hope he never killed anybody, and I certainly feared for his girlfriend). With only a few brief breaks that did not allow me to recover from emotional fatigue, I was day-and-night 24/7 busy almost every day from early 1983 through 1994, with a semi-break in 1991 when things calmed down a bit. There were a few nice stretches, lasting a few weeks or months each, when I would have a few hours to myself each week. Then from summer 1994 through autumn 2000 I experienced a miracle: only one job, and with mere eight-hour shifts! This was a brand-new experience for me. I spent my spare time researching and writing a book dealing with local history, but then the police chased me out of town. Something about keeping the neighborhood safe, they said. I was never able to finish that book, and now I never want to. Volume One is a gem and I’ll publish it some year, but I never wrote a word of Volume Two and I never shall. Beginning in mid-2004, my newly found busy-ness has all been self-imposed, and you know what that is: 200 Degrees of Failure — and now, of course, even that has been set aside now that I’ve found a mountain of important information which forced me to realize that the 1,600+ pages have been rendered useless and unpublishable. Always sumpn.

There’s a lesson here too, and please take it to heart. When you get a series of lousy jobs that suck up literally every minute of your spare time, and when you discover that you’re working for a series of vampire bosses who make themselves feel good by cutting you down, and when your fellow employees are nasty gossips who make up vicious rumors about you out of whole cloth, and when no matter how frugally you live you can’t pay your bills except by borrowing on credit cards, you will get depressed. You will. No two ways about it. I didn’t realize that my inability to go back to Father Most’s course or the FSI course, even on those rare months when I did have time, was not the result of a mysterious onset of inexplicable laziness or of a newly acquired character flaw. It was depression. I had no idea it was depression. I really didn’t. Every day before work and after work I’d see the Most course and the FSI course sitting on my shelf waiting for me, and I could never work up the energy even to open the covers. I didn’t know why. All I knew was that I couldn’t. I physically couldn’t. I’m not exaggerating. I physically couldn’t. I often thought about opening the covers and glancing at the texts again, but it was impossible. The restaurants were followed by the Sunset Drive-In, to which was added the USPS. Awful, awful, awful, unspeakably awful. Abusive. Crooked. Evil. During my rare spare time, again, I just stared at the tube and nearly went broke paying outrageous cable bills and purchasing countless blank VHS tapes to record everything possible. Again, I had no concept of why I was doing this. I just was. Obsessively. Looking back on it now, I can understand.

It is only now that I finally understand that compulsive television watching is no different from alcoholism or drug addiction, that I at long last began reading Jerry Mander’s supremely brilliant Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, a book I cannot recommend highly enough. I first encountered it at Talking Leaves in Buffalo back in 1987, but back then I was not ready for it. I looked at the back cover and put it back onto the shelf. At the time I was working for an outfit that was forever begging, with quite a lot of success, to get onto network-TV talk shows, TV news shows, and TV documentaries, and that viciously mocked all primitive cultures. The former behavior I understood and lauded. The latter I found deeply offensive, as I was (and still am) quite fond of the American Indians and found (and still find) primitive cultures endlessly fascinating, and, in many ways, superior to our own. Nonetheless, at my new job I was being indoctrinated with something wrongly called “science” and “reason” (those idiots wouldn’t have recognized science and reason if it bit them), and the indoctrination was having a powerful effect. Mander would have none of this, advocated against television, and encouraged us to learn all we can from primitive cultures. Now, thirty years later, I’m more than ready for Mander’s book, which, among other things, coincidentally makes sense of my previous aberrant behavior.

The exhaustion and defeat and the lousy life I was living with lousy employers and lousy coworkers and lousy neighbors and lousy pay was a trap from which I did not know how to escape. There was no energy to spare on fun stuff, and in any case I no longer regarded it as fun. I convinced myself that such interests were childish things best left behind. ’Twas better to concentrate on a pressing issue of much greater urgency: finding a way out of my trap. Almost miraculously, I found a way out — only to land in the worst imaginable trap (the above-mentioned Buffalonian firm), and then another about as bad (a firm not far from Buffalo that shall remain nameless) and then another nearly as bad (another firm not far from Buffalo that shall remain nameless). Well, duh. What else could I have expected? So don’t let depression win. I let it win, which is why now, all these decades later, I’m still a dunce. Had I just put in a few months’ worth of effort back in the 1980s, I would by now have been able to write my own ticket anywhere. Instead, I didn’t, and so I’m still a dunce.

I mention all this why? Because Father Most’s incredibly rare, almost-impossible-to-find course is back in print! At a pretty darned good price, too! Mediatrix Press, a Catholic publishing house, just typeset it anew and is running it off. Yay! One word of caution: If you decide to study this course, please look up each word in a dictionary so that you’ll know which vowels are long and which are short. Church Latin doesn’t make the distinction. Classical Latin most definitely did. So if you learn only the ecclesiastical pronunciation, then you’ll have the horrendous onus of learning every last word all over again to read the Classics. Ugh. If you learn Classical first, then learning ecclesiastical is easy: Just pronounce every vowel as short. There are a few other changes too, which you can read about here, but they’re no big deal to learn. After you learn Classical Latin, you can master the ecclesiastical pronunciation in five minutes. If you learn the ecclesiastical pronunciation first, no, you can’t go the other way without doing double work.

Mediatrix is currently typesetting Volume Three. If you really can’t wait, you can read it here.

Funny thing, you know: I was planning — really, no kidding, I really was — to inquire about licensing the rights to Father Most’s course so that I could post it online on this Caligula site for free. I would have added macrons over the long vowels, too. Well, the church beat me to it. Well, uh, like, you know, hey.

I’m just so glad I never had kids, because I wouldn’t wish school on anybody, unless, of course, class were taught by Bill Most or by Bill Rouse — but will their likes ever be seen again? As for me, school, from the first day of kindergarten to the last day of university, was mental/emotional torture. It was not education. I aced some classes, true, and there were a few teachers I really liked and learned a great deal from (here’s lookin’ at you, Blanche Griscom), but for the most part my grades were about the lowest, though few of my classmates realized that or would have believed it. When we were given those federally mandated annual standardized tests, if my memory is not failing me, I usually came out right at the top, close to genius level, though once every few years I was ranked right at the bottom, at retard level. Go figure. It’s all so useless. The questions on those standardized tests measure only what you’ve recently been practicing. If you’ve recently been practicing mathematical word problems and geometric puzzle drawings, you’ll pass with flying colors. If you’re a bit rusty with mathematical word problems and with geometric puzzle drawings, you’ll flunk. That’s all. Totally stupid. The tests don’t measure intelligence or education. If you want to learn, nobody’s stopping you. If you want to be an illiterate moron, nobody’s stopping you. School makes no difference in that equation. If you want a good job, be born into a prominent family. If you want to struggle to get by and never get ahead, be born into any other family. School makes no difference in that equation, either. On the other hand, if you want to be in the school-to-prison pipeline, then yes, absolutely, you should go to school, and make sure to taunt Officer Slam.

This, I take it, is the whole purpose of school.

Helpful hint: If you have no choice but to go to school, first grade or university or anything in between, do your research to find the best self-study books, master the topics during summer vacation before class starts, and just whiz through. There are some really good self-study books now that didn’t exist even a few years ago. (There have been self-study books for centuries, but few were any good. The world is a different place now!) A friend who’s getting ready to retire is back in school attempting to learn algebra, a topic she had never studied before. She couldn’t understand the teacher or the textbook. Could I help? Yes. I got her Lynette Long’s Painless Algebra. I hope it helps. She and her husband say it does. Hope they’re telling the truth and not just trying to be nice. Algebra had been difficult for me. I was the slowest learner in class. I was the best learner, but the slowest. The teacher and textbook would tell us which formula to use when confronted by which pattern. The other kids latched on right away. They had no problem at all memorizing a formula and memorizing which pattern it goes with. I can’t even imagine how they could do that, but they all did it — all of them. Their ability is not something I share. I can’t memorize formulæ. I really can’t. I need to understand the logic behind each formula. Once I can understand the reasoning, I don’t memorize the formula; I just reinvent it whenever the need arises. Nothing clicked until seven or ten days after the weekly Friday test, when it would finally dawn on me what was being called for and why, and how the formula satisfied that requirement. Once I understood, I had no further problem. Of course, the test had already been graded a week before and I had failed it. Once the understanding set in, though, it could never be dislodged. Not one of the other students needed to understand. The other students just memorized the formulæ and so the class was a cinch for them. I looked through Lynette Long’s book before I handed it to my friend, and I must say that we never had explanations this plain and simple and easy to understand when we were growing up. Long explains the why’s and the how’s in the simplest terms possible. This is something new, and this is what I had really needed back in ninth grade. I wouldn’t have been a low-C student; I would have been a high-A student. Oh well.... Actually, I would have been an F student had it not been for the mid-term and final exams, which came late enough that I could do rather well on them. I’m willing to bet that any average 12-year-old would be able to get through Long’s book in a month or less during summer vacation and understand algebra better than an A student who just finished taking it in ninth grade.

With a good self-study book, in a few weeks you can master a topic that will drag on for two whole semesters in school. While your classmates are all in agony, beating themselves up all night to get their homework done, you’ll breeze through it all without effort. Yes, it will eat up part of your goof-off summer, but it’s far better to eat up some of your goof-off summer than it is to suffer through every minute of your oppressive autumn, winter, and spring. Do not trust any teacher to help. Your teacher’s job is to make you feel like a moron by presenting everything in the most obtuse fashion imaginable. Intimidation is the name of the game. Teachers love to intimidate their students. I guess that’s how they make themselves feel superior. By no means assume that your assigned texts will make even the tiniest bit of sense. More often than not they are horribly written and utterly incoherent. Remember, it is professors who write this trash — or at least it is professors who take credit for it. I suspect they hire students and temps to do the work for them for minimum wage or less, or maybe just for an inflated grade. I am pretty much convinced that the authors, whoever they really are, were stone-drunk while writing. You won’t believe this until you witness it, but many teachers never bother to read the textbooks they assign. So when you take a test and you answer what the textbook says, the teacher will mark your answer as incorrect, and even make fun of you in front of the whole class for providing such a ridiculous response. You don’t believe me; I know you don’t — but you will when it happens to you. Books in high schools are seldom replaced and are loaned out to students for free. In the late seventies we were using books printed in the early sixties. Books in universities come with prohibitive price tags that put us into debt for life. To prevent university students from purchasing used copies of the brutally overpriced texts, new editions are offered every semester, and old editions do not qualify for class work. The only difference between the new edition and the old edition is the cover illustration and the edition number. Racket? Racket? Why would anyone think this is a racket?

Some textbooks — for instance, calculus — are deliberately written in such a way as to defy comprehension. They are intentionally written to flunk low-class kids out. Really. They are — and the professors are no better. They enjoy flunking students out. They excel at that task. Calculus 101 is a hugely popular class. So many kids eagerly enroll. A few weeks later the classroom is a ghost town. Almost everybody dropped out in discouragement and defeat. The professors are miserable little grouches who resent having to deal with all those teeming masses of louse-infested commoners and are just hoping to be promoted to teaching graduate courses. Besides, teaching 100 students per class means more grading to do. So they do all in their power to make the subject unfathomable. That’s how they get rid of all those irritating students. That makes the professors’ workload much lighter. You flunked calculus just like all the other poor kids in class? Read Eli S. Pine’s little book, enroll in the class again, and easily get better grades than your rich classmates will ever be able to get. That’s a self-study book that was available but that I didn’t know about until shortly after graduation. Drat! I bumped into it on the new-arrivals case in Jerry Lane’s Book Stop at the Nob Hill Shopping Center in Albuquerque, read the first three pages, and nearly fell over. “That was it? That’s all there is to it? That’s it?????? That’s EASY!!!!!! Why didn’t they tell us this in school? Why were the explanations entirely left out of all class lectures and textbooks?” ’Twas too late. I had flunked calculus three years earlier. Upon flunking, I enrolled again, this time with a different professor who used a different textbook, and failed again. Without passing marks in calculus, I was not permitted to take electronics or engineering. My whole life would have been different (and much better!) had I known about Pine’s little booklet. Instead, I just thought I was stupid. The day I concluded that I was too stupid to understand calculus was one of the most devastating, demoralizing, and humiliating days of my life. Little did I realize that I was not stupid. I was simply the victim of yet another scholastic confidence game. I’m thinking about something else now: The calculus textbooks were enormous! They were as big as the bible. The sheer size of those books, which was utterly needless, was another factor in the deliberate intimidation.

Remember, the “smart kids” are not smart. All your life you thought they were smart. All my life I thought they were smart. They are not smart. Read aloud fifty times until it begins to sink in: The “smart kids” are not smart. The “smart kids” are not smart. The “smart kids” are not smart. The “smart kids” are not smart. The “smart kids” are not smart. They just found a helpful crutch, or, far more likely, they were given one. I remember Jonathan from eleventh-grade Algebra II/Geometry/Trig class and twelfth-grade Math Analysis class. He was a nice guy. A really nice guy. Zero ego. He never needed the teacher to explain anything, he never had any trouble at all, he never worried about a thing, and he never got an answer wrong. I thought he was exceptionally bright. I expressed my admiration of his superior abilities, and a classmate put me right: “No. He’s not smart. He’s just average. His parents just push him and he gets tutoring at home.” That had never occurred to me before, but once my classmate said that, it was completely obvious. Unfortunately, right after he said that I forgot all about it. I went to the university mystified as to why I couldn’t understand the first thing about calculus and never got a single answer right, even though all my life math had been my best subject. As much as I loved history, I was miserable in my university history classes, which were torment. Though I had never mastered Modern Greek, Sofroniou and Cortina demonstrated that it was easy to learn, and yet Latin was proving impossible. As I was suffering, many of my classmates were breezing along without a care in the world, effortlessly making top marks. Okay, they were smarter than I was, no question about that, but they weren’t that much smarter than I was. While the university demonstrated that they were brilliant, the university was demonstrating that I was a hopeless moron. There was something wrong with this picture, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Soon I concluded that the fault must be of my own making, and I became dejected — and arrogant, and insulting, and disparaging, and nasty, and mean. It wasn’t until just a few weeks before I began to write this tirade that I remembered what my classmate had mentioned about Jonathan’s tutors. A ha!!! That was the difference. The other students all had a head start, and the classes were tailored for them. I was dropped into a narrative already in progress and was unable to pick up the thread. (Read this.)

As for how smart the “smart kids” were, yes, we all have slightly different intellectual capabilities, I admit. Some of us are gifted in certain areas — not all areas, never all areas. Some of us are born with brain deformities. I would never deny that. On the other hand, even a gifted child who is raised in unfortunate circumstances will perform poorly and have difficulty learning, and even a below-average child will perform remarkably well and learn with relative ease when guided by a gifted teacher. Further, I am convinced that people who say that they are good at the humanities but incapable of understanding math and science, and those who say they are good at math and science but incapable of understanding the humanities, were simply poorly taught. (Speaking for myself, I have trouble recognizing any difference between the sciences and the humanities. In my mind the dividing line is arbitrary and false and irritating. All topics overlap at every level. One of the many things I hated about school was dividing knowledge into different class periods, different teachers, different textbooks. Why aren’t they all lumped together? Why are they even considered different topics with different names? Separation is artificial. For example, the ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Greeks made splendid advances in mathematics and engineering. This was all deleted from history class because it was math and science stuff, and it was deleted from math and science classes because it was history stuff. How can anyone break them apart? I really don’t understand. It’s dishonest to break them apart. All these little discoveries and advances are part of the human story; they’re all part of the world we live in. I just enjoy learning things — except for sports, pop culture, and rock music. That’s where I draw the line.) Given the reality that different people have slightly different intellectual capacities, we can look beneath the surface, for, as my classmate observed, rich kids all have tutors who give them head starts. Poor kids don’t have tutors and are confronted by hostile teachers and incomprehensible textbooks. Rich kids sail through. Poor kids flunk. (I never bothered to read Vince Sarich’s books and I never want to. Apparently he used this data to draw the conclusion that intelligence is genetically inherited, not cultivated, and that poor kids — read: black kids — are simply born less gifted. He used DNA studies and physical anthropology to support his thesis. As Monty Python might say, that’s what we can call “The Waste-of-Time Theory.”) Now that we have the Internet we can change all that, because we can discover which are the best, easiest-to-understand self-study books. Find the self-study books at the library. If the library doesn’t have them, get them on Interlibrary Loan and scan them. If a self-study book is a piece of incompetent junk, look at the next and the next and the next until you find one that’s decent. They’re out there, for almost all subjects. This is something new. We never had this advantage before. I certainly didn’t have it thirty-seven years ago. There are also splendid learning sources online. Download them before they get pulled offline.

The same goes for almost any other course, but please avoid history courses, because they’re all packs of lies. You think that only a conspiracy theorist would say such a thing? Okay: How many native American Indians did the Spanish, British, and US military forces murder in what is now the continental USA? Best estimate: 19,000,000. What US schoolbooks even mention this? Answer: None. If a US schoolbook even mentions the American Indians (highly unlikely), it severely rounds down the total original population to maybe 1,000,000 or less and attributes the mass deaths to European diseases to which the natives had no immunities. Yeah right. The phony excuses they make in order further to demonstrate “American exceptionalism” and its “anti-imperialism”.... That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Did the First Amendment to the US Constitution apply to American Indians prior to the 1976? Answer: No. Actually, it still doesn’t apply to those who choose to maintain tradition. What US schoolbooks even mention this? Answer: None. US schoolbooks call Medieval Europe “The Dark Ages.” That’s a cleverly condescending (and unjustified!) term that makes us feel superior, even though our modern society is hardly any better and in some ways even worse. They nowhere mention that the American Indians call these past 500 years “The Time of Darkness.” Real history is written, and written beautifully, sometimes even by professors (Pekka Hämäläinen, Anthony F.C. Wallace, the list goes on), but real history never seeps into board-approved texts.

On my university registration I selected history as my major, though I had no intention of following through. I planned to pass calculus and then switch majors. I failed calculus after a string of 0% grades and so I reluctantly pressed on through history. After graduating I continued to read history, for fun, and the more I learn, the more resentful I become of the lessons we learned in class. Medieval studies, US diplomacy, American Indian studies, the whole lot, was just half-truth followed by fractional truth followed by misinformation followed by disinformation.... There was no room for a Noam Chomsky, for instance. He wasn’t even mentioned, nor was Gore Vidal. No “controversial” viewpoints were mentioned, unless they were being mocked. We concentrated instead on “real” history written by “real” historians who had “real” Ph.D.’s in “real” history, and not the laughably untrained amateurs. Oh, the games they would play: “Okay, you’ve just heard my 45-minute lecture on the diplomatic relations between the US and the Philippines. Your homework tonight is to read this five-page essay by a different professor who has a different point of view. Read this essay, synthesize it with my lecture, and come up with your own interpretation.” Huh??? What interpretation can a student possibly provide when confronted by what are essentially two newspaper editorials? It would take me years with primary sources, interviews, travel, language learning, learning the cultures, learning the multitudinous backgrounds, before I could even begin sufficiently to unravel what really happened to develop my own interpretation. So, okay, I’d do what I was told. I would just make it all up. For no reason at all, I would say that I agreed with points 1, 7, and 9 that my professor made and points 2, 4, and 10 that the author of the paper had made, give spurious reasons, and submit my paper, flinching at the prospect of a tongue-lashing. Yet, no, I got passing marks! Why????? This isn’t history. This is game-play. Really dumb game-play. Students get good marks and good GPA’s and graduate because they do well in this really dumb game-play. Because they graduate with high marks and get BA’s in history, they probably think they know history. What can I say? If they go on to get MA’s they can help such professors as Charles Hapgood do preposterous “research.” What can I say? Classes, of course, invariably made the US the hero in any confrontation. The brilliant students do not dispute this official conclusion. As for what passes for brilliance at school, well, as you all know, liberal left-wing torture advocate Alan Dershowitz now proclaims that as a law student Ted Cruz was “off-the-charts brilliant” (apparently because he recalled page numbers of legal briefs). My cat is smarter than Ted Cruz. What can I say?

Oh, really big warning, and this applies especially to university students: If your professor insists on written answers to oral questions, get a pocket-size audio recorder and record all those tests. If you don’t, your professor will lie about what he asked, and that’s such an easy way to flunk dark-complected students while giving the highest marks to light-complected students. No, I’m not making this up. It was professors such as these who surely did Justice Scalia and Vince Sarich proud. (Of course, Sarich insisted that he preached against racism, because, after all, though whites, Chinese, and Southeast Asians are smarter, on average blacks are better at basketball, so he said. And he was a professor. What can I say?) Without that audio recording, you’ll have no defense. How I wish I had had a good pocked-size recorder thirty-seven years ago! Oh how that would have changed things!!! A lot of professors regard some students (read: lower-class students) as adversaries and will cheat in every way possible to flunk them out. Do your research and avoid those professors! If a professor uses graduate students to grade papers and tests, switch to a different class immediately. There is no way to win when grad students grade your papers and tests.

I never set foot in a dorm and I strongly suggest that you never set foot in a dorm either. Never be without witnesses, not even for a nanosecond. While all the rich kids are getting falling-down drunk at the local pub and are ingesting-injecting-inhaling-snorting-sniffing all manner of controlled substances, partying, gang-raping, smashing car windows, and looting, knowing full well that they’ll get high marks no matter what, your goal is to outshine them so brightly that you’ll humiliate them. It will make you feel good. It will make me feel good. Word of warning, and this is something I did not experience, because, despite what the police claim, I do not drink alcohol or take any drugs: If somebody offers you a drink, go away. The drink is spiked. If you accept the drink, your naked picture will be all over the Internet if you’re lucky. If you’re not lucky your corpse will be tossed into a ditch.

Another thing, and this I did learn from experience: Even though you made straight A’s on all your papers and exams, you can still get an F on your report card. Your professor is just trusting that you’re too defeated to put up a fight. Put up a fight. Most stuff at the university you cannot fight, but when this happens, you can fight it. It might take a few weeks, but it’s a fight you’ll win. So don’t just chalk it up to experience. Show your papers and tests to the dean, and you’ll get a revised report card, automatically. No confrontation. No conflict. Your professor will keep miles away from you forever. One final word: Nearly every philosophy professor I have ever met — and that’s been lots! — has been a scum-of-the-earth con artist and back-stabber and congenital liar, a holier-than-thou élitist; whereas nearly every physics professor I have ever met has been a perfect delight, compassionate, and unconditionally honest.

That’s it. That’s how the game is rigged. The rich kids know the rules. The poor kids don’t. I just gave the game away. So shoot me.

After school gets you down and turns you into a mean-spirited cynic, after it makes you suspicious of everybody and everything, BE CAREFUL!!!! If you’re not careful, you’ll alienate the finest and most loving and most caring and most selfless people you’ll ever meet, which is exactly what I did (early autumn 1977, and it still weighs heavily on me). There’s no second chance. Remember: Just one undeserved snub, just one undeserved insult, can put a person’s whole life into a tailspin. Careful.

Really, though, why would you want to go to school at all? Even if you manage to miss class on the days of the mass shootings, even if you manage to escape the charging grizzly bears, even if you manage to avoid Detention Home and the resultant suspension or expulsion, you need to understand that students pass math class with memorized formulæ but no understanding, students pass English class unable to speak coherently (“well, me and him went, uh, you know, like, I mean, down to, uh, um uh, and, like, well, he’s just so, you know, like, generic and stuff, and he was like, you know, don’t you guys get it? And then they seen me and him, and uh, and I was like, hey, cool it, you know, when, the, uhhhhh, well, and then this guy, he come up and he was like, hey, get outta my face, uh, that, um, well, you know, he’s supposably real smart and stuff, but then he was like, what’s up with that? I mean, like, totally. It’s, uh, so, what’s it called, fruitile and stuff to, uh, like, go um, you know, down to like, uh, well, it’s like, and then, well, uh, you know, he was sorta like marginably better, you know, but, uh, well, it was sorta simyular to uh, um uh, and, like, uh, well, you know”), students pass science class still believing that astrology and psychic powers are real and that fish are plants and that humans are not animals and that water can’t flow north, students pass language class unable to speak the language, students pass history class while still susceptible to Webster Tarpley, students pass engineering class still thinking that slip-ring motors are DC because they have brushes, and for that they are given caps and gowns, upon which they are encouraged to party in celebration of the oppression finally being over. “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.” (I could be wrong, but it seems to me that many students who fail and/or drop out are far more realistic about life.) Nearly every student emerges a defeatist who refuses on principle ever to study anything again, preferring to drink beer and zone out in front of a TV and stare at Smartphones to share pictures of costumed cats. This is a social milieu designed to create problems, not to solve them. Designed? Yes, intentionally designed. Even though I realize this, I am nonetheless stunned that an unhinged egomaniacal psychotic numbskull such as Alex Jones can have a reported 2,000,000 dedicated listeners, enough to help swing the US to fascism. I’m also stunned that a lunatic such as Bill Still can be taken seriously by people who have an “education.” If schools were any good, we would all regard men such as these as the village idiots. Instead, almost all of us are the village idiots. Almost no adult I have ever met reads books, at all, ever. Almost no adult I have ever met creates anything, at all, ever. People jabber all day and never speak a sentence that’s meaningful or from the heart, preferring to echo TV pundits and waste syllables about ball games and celebrity gossip and call the cops about that suspicious foreign-looking person who just moved in down the street. When asked how their lives are going, the almost-inevitable response is “Same old same-old.” Such people live out the remainder of their lives just waiting to die. If schools were any good at all, such a result would never be possible — such a result would never be thinkable. US schools proudly spew forth over 3,000,000 such results each spring, dumping them into the marketplace without a second thought. Where’s the good in that? Why should we respect this institution? Don’t give up on life. Please. For the sake of your sanity, don’t give up. Giving up is too easy. Don’t let school win. Don’t let school eat your soul away. Do everything you can to make a difference, despite your schooling. It’s not hard.

If you need to major in physics, which is a good major, test out of everything else. If you’re six years old, prove to your parents that you can test out. Keep on testing out. Classes are all three years or so behind childhood brain development (at least that’s the way it was for me beginning in junior high), so you can always be ahead. (I hear tell that this wretched new “No Child Left Behind” is far beyond a child’s capacities. Probably true. That’s even further incentive not to go to school.) Your parents are worried that you won’t have friends if you don’t socialize in school? Well, you won’t have friends even if you do socialize in school. If you want to socialize with others your age, there are plenty of other places to do that, plenty of places that are surely much nicer and less traumatic than school. Friends are so rare, and they have shared interests. You won’t make friends until you’re a grownup. As for university, enrollment fees are so bloody high now that four years of school will have you die still deeply in debt, and a degree does not guarantee good employment, and does not even make good employment more likely. Not worth it — unless you’re super-rich and just unable to live with yourself unless you get that Ph.D. in physics. If that’s what’s driving you, don’t let anybody stop you. If that’s not the case, don’t bother.

Solution: Tear all the schools down. Oh, okay, that’s not so green. Convert them into lodgings/rehab centers for the homeless. Alternative Solution: If we can prevent guns from getting anywhere near schools (good luck!) and if schools aren’t going to go away, at least make an effort to discover how kids think. Every newborn baby wants to make friends with everybody and everything, and is innately curious enough to want to learn everything. Those are the two basic givens. The average family, the average neighborhood, the average religious institution, the average school fights tooth and nail against those two basic human instincts. Kids are taught who their enemies are. They are punished and disciplined for acting like kids. They are told off and mocked for asking too many questions, especially questions to which the grownups don’t know the answers. Result: By the time kids are five or six years old, they are hardened cynics. By law teachers are not permitted to fraternize with the students. I can understand the reasons for such a law, yes, but the law should be overturned. Teachers need to understand that most homes are war zones and that most families consist only of inquisitors, sadistic prison guards, and violent POW’s. They need also to understand that their students are too embarrassed and terrified to reveal any details, and that most kids, not ever having known anything else, don’t see their situations as out of the ordinary. If any teachers are under the misapprehension that such a home situation is rare, well, it’s time either to educate or replace those teachers. Always run on the assumption that every child lives in a horrifying household. That’s the safest assumption to run. Teachers need to shine a ray of hope and offer ways out. If teachers could get to know their students, with monthly one-on-ones, discover what excites them (baseball, gourmet cooking, mathematics, mechanics, electronics, optics, biology, literature, music, Comanche culture, medicine, whatever), then the teachers could custom-tailor instruction to meet each student’s needs. If students don’t think they have any interests, they are wrong. They do have interests, and it should be the teacher’s job to discover what those interests are. Every student should be provided texts and activities to nurture innate interests. An hour or two every day should be set aside for individualized study, always under close supervision and individualized guidance. Probably every kid finds one particular topic mortifying — and suffers knots in the stomach and nausea in anticipation. For some kids the trigger is math. For others it’s composition. In my case it was PE. Oh how I dreaded it. When students react that badly, alternatives should be offered, so that everybody can get to the root of the problem, go back to beginnings, guide the kids gently, and slowly get them up to speed. What bothered me from Day One is that school rewards outgoing, competitive students, and regards as defective those students who (like me) prefer quiet and are repelled by competition of any sort. Until that attitude changes, school will continue to do far more harm than good. Homework should be abolished. Learning should never consist of taking notes on the teacher’s lectures. Learning should all be hands-on and instruction should all be “direct method.” If schools could be run like that, they would serve as safe havens from home-family-church-neighbors, and the results would be electrifying. (So long as con artist DeVos is in charge, though, keep your kids away. Schools are now officially killing fields. Suggestion for all teachers and all school employees: Shut ’em all down, now, and never go back. DeVos=Amway=Blackwater.)

If this video doesn’t display, then click here to go to the page from whence I stole this. Of course, as we can guess, the success of the program led to its abandonment, and we are now right back where we started: nowhere. By the way, if you know the whereabouts of a better copy of this film, or if you know where its master elements are stored, please drop me a line. Thanks!

As you can see, my academic experiences ended in 1982. Sort of. In 1989 or thereabouts I somehow ended up working as personal secretary to a boss whose day job was professor at the local university. One semester he had no graduate assistants, which is why he came to my desk and handed me a packet of mid-term examinations, instructing me to grade them. Now, of course, this was against the rules and as far as I am aware it was totally illegal. He was the boss, though, and even though I had never taken his course and had no training, and was not even enrolled in the university, I dared not disobey. (There were no other jobs in town.) I read those mid-term tests and not even one student wrote even a single coherent sentence. Forty or so tests I suffered, all of them meaningless babble by illiterates. I told my employer that I would fail the whole lot of them. Oh no! he exclaimed. Everyone must pass, and most must get A’s. What? Okay. I gave most of them A’s with a few B’s and C’s randomly mixed in. If memory serves, he later handed me a pack of term papers and then a stack of final exams. Same story each time. When I was a student, I could never understand why many (not all!) of the other kids thought I was smart. Now, at last, I knew. They were just comparing me to themselves. I had never before had any clue as to how illiterate most of the rest were. I had somewhat more respect for the ones who realized I was nothing special. I could relate to them better.

How times had changed! Of course, all my boss’s students were white and well-to-do, which would explain the requisite high grades. There was more to the story, though, as I have just discovered. This is the new rule: All students must pass with high marks, regardless of skill. See this recent article by Liz Dwyer, “A’s for Everyone: How Grade Inflation Is Wrecking Higher Education — Students Who May Not Deserve High Marks Are Getting Them.” What on earth is the point? Illiterate students are burdened with a lifetime of inescapable debt for this??? Does the word “scam” come to mind? Better yet, how about the word I suggested several times above: “racket”? Some well-placed parasitic maniacs (university presidents, boards of regents, textbook publishers, bank CEO’s) are making tons of money by leeching onto this system. The educational system is beyond reform. It must be abolished and started afresh, with new ideas, minus classrooms and blackboards and board-approved texts and desks and homework. That’s a failed method. It failed in ancient Rome (see Simon Goodenough, Citizens of Rome [NY: Crown Publishers, 1979], pp. 127–142) and it’s been failing these past few centuries — failing miserably.

Now that I’m griping so, shall we take a look at a few examples of unschooled people versus graduates? For purposes of this Caligula web site, the most useful example is Gore Vidal, who had been a terrible public-school student who never went to college or university. How many people in your experience are a tenth as well-read, intelligent, or thoughtful as Gore Vidal? Let us move on. You are familiar with at least a few works by George Bernard Shaw, yes? You’ve heard of Florence Nightingale, correct? What about Mark Twain? William Faulkner? Ever heard of the discoverer of genetics, Gregor Mendel? F. Scott Fitzgerald? No degrees for any of them. As for those in entertainment: Laurel & Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Mae West, Buster Keaton (no formal schooling at all), Charlie Chaplin. The list could fill a phone book. As for the idiots who graduated from university: Well, how about most of our politicians? Here’s a cute article: Catie Warren, “College Students Are Morons.” This one is really good too: “College Graduates Don’t Know Basic Facts about the Constitution.” That really builds your confidence, doesn’t it? I was hoping to find a list on the Internet of well-known illiterate idiots who are graduates. Can’t find any such thing. I suppose libel laws prevent such.

After I finish 200 Degrees I’ll immerse myself in Italian. Why? Because of this bloody 200 Degrees of Failure: Caligula book, that’s why. I didn’t approach it because of any innate or induced love for the language, not at all. It was sheerest practicality, though I do admit that I’m beginning to see and hear the beauty in it, and I’m slowly falling in love with it. Currently I can struggle through it (thank you, Pimsleur). Hundreds of hours, countless hundreds, over these past ten years have I devoted to struggling through Italian texts for the sake of researching 200 Degrees. Again, it’s like Latin: painstakingly looking up half the words in a dictionary, and then trying to puzzle it all together. In an hour I can get through a page. This process is simply too much to digest. The problem is that there is nobody — nobody — with whom I can converse, and that makes learning monumentally difficult. The only Italian speakers I know are either in Italy or are professionals who are busy day and night with work and with their own lives. Socializing is out of the question. A course, you suggest? Are you kidding? I’ve taken courses. Courses are just fill-in-the-blank exercises and written translations. Ugh. Ick. Yech. I want everyday regular down-home conversation, without a syllable of English, and you don’t get that in any course anywhere. How I wish Father Most had also written Italian by the Natural Method, but alas, he didn’t. So there. Even had he written such a book, though, I don’t want to see anything written down!!!!!! I want a course that’s entirely oral. Writing trains my eyes, and it gets in the way of educating my ears and my speech. Late in 2015 I picked up an ancient copy of Kathleen Speight’s Teach Yourself Italian (London: The English Universities Press, 1943, reprinted 1959), which is not such a good book, except maybe as review after completing a superior course. Despite not being such a good book, in my eyes it is a gem, simply for the “Conclusion” that begins at the bottom of page 165, for it is that “Conclusion” that made me aware of a secret kept from students in public schools and universities: Emilio Goggio’s A New Italian Reader for Beginners (Boston: D.C. Heath and Company, 1941). This little reader is tons of fun, relatively easy for those who have patience, and it presents just a few new words and phrases each page, just enough to digest, no more, no less. Speight also lets another cat out of the bag: “Harrap’s Bilingual Series.” Once she turned that much evidence, she felt no compunction about keeping other secrets either: Kany and Speroni’s Elementary Italian Conversation, Intermediate Italian Conversation, and Advanced Italian Conversation. What a world of difference they make! In addition, by accident I discovered that there’s currently a self-published series called “Italian Easy Reader,” which isn’t half bad, and it presents Italian as it’s spoken today rather than in 1840.

Better yet, Emilio Goggio’s A New Italian Reader for Beginners introduced me to the most life-changing passage I have ever encountered. (If I were still in Buffalo, possession of this book would probably land me in jail for 15 years, which is why I’m no longer in Buffalo.) I began reading this volume in January 2016, but I got only as far as page 47 before I shunted it aside. You see, on page 46, towards the end of the simplified version of L.D. Ventura’s lovely story, “Peppino il lustrascarpe,” is the passage that altered my life:

   Aiutato da me e da cocchiere Peppino salì le scale: non appena giunto in camera si svincolò da noi; sgambettando si precipitò verso il mio tavolino, frugò fra tutti i miei libri, s’impossessò d’un vecchio Ollendorf abbandonato, l’aprì, e estrattane una busta, l’agitò in aria:
   — Ecco il denaro, — disse con gli occhi pieni di gioia: — spero, signore, che non avrete dubitato di me...

At the bottom of the page is a footnote as explanation: “i.e., book by Ollendorf for learning a foreign language.” Anybody who knows me even a little bit would instantly guess that I would not let that footnote go by and just move on to the next story. Oh no no no no no. I retain my life-long compulsion to check on everything that comes my way. We now have a tool that we never had before: online search engines! I dashed to my computer, went to Google Books, and plugged in “Ollendorf,” which I instantly discovered was a misspelling. What popped up on my screen was a treasure. Behold: Ollendorff’s New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak the Italian Language, Adapted for the Use of Schools and Private Teachers, wrongly credited to Felix Foresti, who wrote only the “Preface to the American Edition.” This is the best Italian course I have ever seen. The BEST. A thousand times better than anything else I’ve ever encountered. I’m head-over-heels in love with this book. Why are we not all familiar with Ollendorff? Why is he such a secret? He and his series of books, as well as the book of his predecessor, Jean Manesca, are pretty much forgotten. Remember back in school when your teachers made fun of the old style of language learning, when students were required to put such sentences as “The pencil of my aunt is under the table” and “My postillion has been struck by lightning” into another tongue? Well, it was the Ollendorff series to which they likely referred. Despite that jibing, and despite the ludicrous sentences in the Ollendorff courses, there is no denying that the Ollendorff books are powerful learning tools. How I wish had known about them forty-five years ago. Alas. Okay, yeah, it teaches Italian as spoken by the nobility two hundred years ago, but hey, you know, I like it that way! Seldom have I laughed so much. Others mock Ollendorff for the ridiculous sentences that students were to render into a new language. These sentences should not be mocked. They should be praised! “I do not wish to buy anything, but my father wishes to buy an ox. Do you wish to break my glasses? Does that man wish to cut your foot? He does not wish to cut mine, but his own. Which looking-glasses have the enemies a desire to break? They have a desire to break those which you have, those which I have, and those which our children and our friends have. Have you the courage to cut your arm? Who burns my hat? I do not know whether he is my enemy; but I fear all those who do not love me, for if they do me no harm they will do me no good. Are you willing to mend my handkerchief?” Language instructors make fun of this. Don’t they get it? This is hilarious. Besides, the drilling is intensive and comprehensive — every form is covered repeatedly in every context. What’s wrong with that? When we learned English as babies and in our first few years of school, we learned sentences and stories that have no real-life applications: “Say bye-bye. Say bye-bye doggie. Bye-bye doggie.” “See Spot run. Run, Spot, run!” Nobody says these things. Ever. Despite being entirely unreal, these sentences and stories are tremendous learning tools. When chipping one’s way through Ollendorff, one sees that after a few lessons the sentences get considerably less ridiculous. Take the briefest glance at each English sentence, close your eyes, and say it in Italian a dozen times. It’s a workout. Don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise. It takes several hours to get through a five-page lesson, and when you’re done, you’re done in more ways than one. You won’t be able to keep your eyes open and you’ll collapse into bed where you’ll remain passed out for four hours minimum. When you awake, do the lesson again and again. Then do it yet again the next morning. It gets easier after you sleep on it for a night. There’s something about sleeping a full eight hours after a lesson that allows it to sink into the mind. School officials don’t understand that at all. All the other courses I went through — Vellaccio/Elston, Cioffari (upon whom I gave up after a few lessons), Michel Thomas, Pimsleur, college class, private tutoring — all of them, all of them, left me totally baffled. After steeping myself in them, I came out with a limited knowledge about translating with difficulty. After Pimsleur, which was by far the best of the bunch, I would struggle painfully to speak like a four-year-old, which helped when I was trying to navigate my way to Tinto’s house. Not one of the courses drilled me on the essentials. With Ollendorff, though, I don’t need to settle for a two-minute explanation of the -ne enclitic and then just magically expect to know how to use it. Oh no. Ollendorff drills not for a page or two, or three, or four, no. Try four hundred. The -ne is one of the most fiendishly difficult concepts in Italian, and Ollendorff understood this perfectly. He also understood how fiendishly difficult the related concepts were, for instance -gliene. There is no end to the drilling. There is no easy way out either. There is no follow-along-and-see-if-you-can-understand nonsense. Nope. These are all exercises in make-your-own-Italian. Glance at an English sentence, close your eyes, and make Italian out of it. (That’s a lot of fun when the translation becomes “Il di Lei tintore ha già tinto il di Lei panno?”) Yes, you can make a mistake, and you will, but you’ll make that particular mistake only once. No fill-in-the-blanks. No written translation exercises. Those are all space fillers and time killers that other instructors utilize to give the illusion that they’re teaching. Ollendorff and his unlicensed copy-cats would have none of that. There are other baffling concepts in Italian as well, and this book handles them with aplomb. For instance, questo means this and quello means that if asked in a question. Their definitions often flip-flop in the answer to that question, when questo comes to mean the latter while quello comes to mean the former. No other course prepared me for that, and I would have gone out of my mind without that explanation. No other course helped me through such sentences as “Non mi è d’ uopo niente.” After the other courses I would never in a hundred years have understood “Le son d’ uopo questi coltelli?” or “Me li sono levati” or any similar sentence, no matter how much I would scramble through a dictionary. Ollendorff is the only course that answers my ancient question about when the infinitive takes a and when it takes da and when it takes di and when it takes per and when it doesn’t take anything. Ollendorff is the only course that doesn’t let you get away with anything, and it takes no shortcuts. Brilliant. Puts all the other courses to shame. Of course, there’s the time involved. It can take hours and hours and hours to get through a five-page lesson. As the lessons proceed, it can take me a week to get through a five-page lesson. That’s not because the lesson is difficult. We see an English sentence, close our eyes and say it in Italian. Of course, there can be nine different ways to say it in Italian, and we can never psychically guess which way Ollendorff chose for his Key. So the best thing to do is practice all nine different ways. Remember also not to get worried about verbatim translations. Oftentimes Ollendorff prefers free paraphrases! That’ll sure throw you off-balance the first couple dozen times! Say each sentence, aloud, a dozen or more times, and by the time you’ve gotten to the end of the page you’ll notice that three hours have gone by. Well, if it takes three hours to get through a page, then it takes three hours to get through a page. Don’t rush it. That’s so contrary to my nature, because I’m always eager to get to the end. Eagerness to get to the end, though, in a course like this, is counterproductive. Just let the page take three hours — or more. Resign yourself to it. You’ll be happy that you did. Yes, there are charts, but they mostly appear after you’ve already used the constructions for several lessons. In this case the charts are helpful, because they allow you to review and to arrange your thoughts. The advantage of learning an obsolete version of the language, too, is that I can finally understand so many words and phrases and constructions that left me bewildered when I encountered them in the literature. Now I know what they mean, and why, and I truly think the two-hundred-year-old way of speaking was far more elegant and eloquent and expressive than the modern language of the streets. For instance, in English “she” and “he” are nearly extinct. That is why, in everyday discourse, we hear such phrases as “Me and him went to de shop.” That makes my skin crawl. It makes me lose my temper. Yet even some of the best-educated writers use such constructions in everyday speech. Why? I want to kick them. I see, though, that what is currently happening in English has already happened in Italian. “Ella” and “egli” are extinct, replaced by “Lei” and “lui.” “Eglino” and “elleno” are now both replaced by “loro.” How confusing is that? Sheesh! I am quite sure I am the last surviving English speaker to use the subjunctive mood. Well, to my dismay, the subjunctive is extinct in current-day spoken Italian as well. How do people manage to express thoughts nowadays? The answer is simple: They don’t. Will I be able to speak after completing this Ollendorff course? No. I predict I’ll be able to read with confidence, though. As for speaking, well, for speaking I’d need to be plopped in the midst of a crowd of Italians who know not a single word of English. Pretty soon I’d be speaking.

Now that I bring up my beloved Ollendorff, whose books are currently out of favor, I should make mention of a truly bad language book. Yes, you’re right, you guessed it, this one. Don’t just glance at the first few pages. Go down to page 57 and then keep scrolling, slowly, page by page, all the way to the end, and pay attention. You won’t regret it.

Also, as for the postillion struck by lightning, that was likely not from a language or phrase book, but may have been instead a misremembering of the opening lines of Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Vol. V (London: T. Becket and P.A. Dehont, 1762). It may also be a misremembering of an oft-told story printed in several collections, notably The Percy Anecdotes. Original and Select. By Sholto and Reuben Perry, Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery. Mont Benger. Twenty Volumes. Vol. XIII. Hospitality : — Conviviality (London: T. Boys, 1823), and George Colman’s The Circle of Anecdote and Wit: A Choice Collection of Pieces of Humour; Including Many before Never Printed (London: J. Williams, 1826). In truth, though, the apocryphal phrase bears an even stronger resemblance to a passage in Catherine Cuthbertson’s Santo Sebastiano: or, the Young Protector. In Three Volumes. Volume II (Boston: Carter and Hendee, 1832). Hey, you’re reading this Caligula site because you want to know these things, right?

Enough of that. Back to Italian. A book just came out by an author I had never heard of: Jhumpa Lahiri, In Other Words (NY: Knopf, 2016). Should I be amazed that some other readers are less than amazed? Amazing book. Precisely what I needed lo those many years ago. I read each sentence aloud several times over, then each page aloud, several times over, and by the time I read a chapter for the fifth time, it’s about as easy as reading English. I’ll need to read this maybe fifty or sixty times straight through, aloud, so that I can begin to get comfortable and adjust my mind. This is a confidence-builder, the first one I’ve ever had. Amazing. She even uses the subjunctive!

After 200 Degrees I’ll take a four- or six-week vacation and soak things in, day and night, and then follow up with all the crates of magazines I’ve collected over this past decade or so. Six weeks is probably how much time it would take for me to be able to read Moravia easily and maybe even carry on elementary conversations. Fortunately for me, the Italian club recently reopened its doors after many years of darkness. I’ll pay a visit soon, when I can afford to take time off from work. (Look what I recently found: Online Italian Club, with the actors speaking only a twentieth as fast as people speak in real life! Ooooooooooooooo. This is what I need. Yay! This never happened in class. Guided conversation was unheard of in the classroom. Guided conversation is the only effective teaching tool. Why don’t teachers know how to do this? Why doesn’t anybody care? When I had a little bit of spare money I would have paid dearly for it. If I ever get money again, I’d be willing to pay dearly for it. No such teaching is offered anywhere, as far as I can figure out. I took a brief glance at a prohibitively expensive “direct-method” course as excerpted on YouTube. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. I couldn’t take more than a few seconds. That’s Q&A. That’s not “direct method.” Here’s an instruction book for language teachers who wish to learn to use the “direct method.” I know of nobody on earth who teaches like this anymore.) Okay. Six weeks of vacation, maybe eight weeks, and then I’ll get back to my first two loves: Father Most’s course, which I just unwrapped from a parcel box from my last move, and then Greek. Oh the decades I’ve been waiting for this opportunity. Now for Greek:

Funny about this: Now that Father Most’s ultra-rare course is back in print, my dormant adolescent enthusiasms are suddenly rekindled for the first time in over three decades. My nearly forgotten interest in Classical Greek is now at the forefront of my mind. I could never pursue this before. Not only was there no time, there was no possibility known to me. I refused even to consider going through any of the available grammar books, which were all identical with their endless tables and charts and technical terms but devoid of practice or conversation. (Here’s a typical one: Thomas Dwight Goodell, A School Grammar of Attic Greek. Where’s the practice? Where’s the learning? It doesn’t even teach you how to say “Hi.” You can study this book attentively for 20 hours a day for 40 years and never figure out how to read a sentence, much less how to speak one. This is written by an instructor who just wanted to show off his superior knowledge, intimidate all students, and keep out all potential rivals. Useless. Absolutely useless, but oh so typical.) Again, the world is different now. We now have something called Google, and I plugged in many variations on “Classical Greek Direct Method” and “Classical Greek Natural Method” and “Attic Greek Conversational” and “Ancient Greek Spoken” and so forth, and I see that there’s been much activity over these past three decades. Most interesting. So I just now began to collect potential sources for the study of Greek. Unfortunately (and predictably) nobody in the world teaches Classical Greek by the direct method. With only the rarest exceptions, the school courses are reading/writing/translation, without conversation. The few that employ conversation use various pronunciations that no ancient Greek person would have recognized as Greek. Non-Greeks employ something they claim is derived from Erasmus’s attempted restoration, and they make a monstrous mess of it. Go to YouTube, type in “Erasmian Pronunciation,” turn up the volume, and your skin will crawl. It would be difficult to perform a worse massacre upon a language, but not impossible. You see, Greeks take grave offense at the Erasmian pronunciation and insist instead upon speaking Classical Greek with the Modern Greek pronunciation, which is even worse! It’s rather like pronouncing French as though it were English, or pronouncing Norwegian as though it were Portuguese. It makes no sense to use a pronunciation that no native speaker would have recognized, especially since that renders far too many words and phrases too ambiguous to understand, besides which it entirely kills the rhythms and melodies of the poetry. What a disaster! We know essentially how Classical Greek was pronounced; so let’s just use what we know. Why does nobody agree to do so? Worse, no course that I have yet found is in any way comparable with Father Most’s Latin course with all its baby steps. It is clear to me that professors are far too embarrassed to take their adult students through baby steps. That is a shame. Baby steps are good. They build confidence and enthusiasm, and in a week or less we finish all the baby steps and quickly move towards our late teens all over again. I like that. I wish others liked it too.

First things first. If there’s an Italian Ollendorff, then is there also a Greek Ollendorff? Yes!!! Sort of. Greek Ollendorff by Asahel Clark Kendrick (NY: D. Appleton & Co., 1851). Back in 1841 Kendrick had published An Introduction to the Greek Language; Containing an Outline of the Grammar, with Appropriate Exercises, for the Use of Schools and Private Learners (Utica, NY: Bennett, Backus, & Hawley). Five years later he issued a revised edition. Just afterwards he saw an Ollendorff or two, which led him immediately and radically to reform his entire teaching method, replacing charts and rules with real practice. Despite the title, the Greek Ollendorff is not an Ollendorff. It did not use Ollendorff’s text at all, and it used Ollendorff’s name without authorization. It was a much shortened, much simplified attempt at something along Ollendorffian lines. As with the real Ollendorff books, there are no stories, just random sentences, preposterous sentences, none of which could conceivably be spoken in real life, some of which don’t even make sense. “Our mother is not in the village, but in the house. She is either in the porch, or on the seat. The ball lies either on the gate, or in the spring. My staff does not lie on the cloak, nor on the rocks. The roots of the thorns are in the rocks. The cows lie in the gate. Who runs? I and you run. I and the boy run. Both we and the cows run. Either you run, or the cows. You do not run, but we. I do not run, but the boy and the girl. How much money have you in the chest? Much. There is much blood in the body. Much blood flows through all the body. The mouth has one tongue and many teeth. We eat and drink with our mouth. Just as we see with our eyes and hear with our ears, so we eat with our mouth. Nobody eats without teeth. The orator has not spoken without a tongue. I have caught all these squirrels. This young man’s ears have run together into his tongue.” Completely nutty. Nonetheless, I bet this would work. Self-learners who wish to go through this book, after bracing themselves for several hundred pages of such staccato nonsense, would probably gain a great deal and enjoy lots of laughs at the unintentional humor.

I just now discovered this fascinating Res Græcæ page, which lists sources for those wishing to learn the language. An item that interests me greatly is a book by Eduard Johnson, who went by the name of E. Joannides: Sprechen Sie Attisch? with an added English column by Carl Conrad and Louis Sorenson. This is a phrasebook, much like phrasebooks used by tourists, but in Attic Greek! Leave it to the Germans to publish something this clever! Maddeningly, the English version was removed from the Internet after only pages 20 through 66 of the 80-page booklet had been completed. The WayBackMachine graciously captured pages 20 through 66. There’s also a PDF edition minus the German column. I’m looking through it and, oh, it’s worth its weight in gold! Would some kindly soul be good enough to complete this English edition for the rest of the world? This is exactly what’s needed to bring a “dead” language back to life. This is exactly what a teacher would need to help with class conversation. These are the little everyday things we need in order to pick up the language, and these are the little everyday things that other texts completely avoid, intentionally, so that we’ll never feel comfortable in the language.

Who knew that in 1587 Johannes Posselius did sort of the same for Latin speakers? Yes, he did. Well, it wasn’t actually a phrasebook; it was a series of bizarre dialogues: Οἰκείων διαλόγων βιβλίον ἑλληνιστὶ καὶ ῥωμαιστί. Familiarivm colloqviorvm libellvs graece et latine. auctus & recognitus. Acceſsit & vtilis Dialogus de ratione ſtudiorum recte inſtituenda, Item Oratorio de ratione diſcendæ ac docendæ linguæ Latinæ & Græcæ (Wittenberg: Zacharias Lehman, 1587 – the illegible font is called Grecs du Roi, based on the calligraphy of a Cretan named Ange Vergèce). This was reprinted in 1590, 1601, 1614, and 1623. Fortunately, someone named Professor Diane Johnson, who should win a medal of honor, transcribed a 1656 reprint of Posselius’s book and added an English column! Here it is! Some students caught some typos, and so one of them posted an amended version of Johnson’s text here. By the way, Posselius’s book remained in print at least through 1681. There was a market for these critters back in them thar days. And oh gee oh wow, golly gee wilikers, I just found a 1710 reprint on Abe Books. Couldn’t help myself. A shrink would call this a personality disorder or something. To heck with shrinks. I can’t live without this thing. Only a century note, so hey.

Professor Diane Johnson.
Oh how I wish I could live in Bellingham, Washington.

Another unexpected find is John Stuart Blackie’s Greek and English Dialogues for Use in Schools and Colleges. Amazing! Why did I never know about this before? While certainly not everything I wanted, I could have worked with this and had the time of my life! It would not have been easy, because it would have required me to use one of those horrid “traditional” grammars as a reference, but I would have done it just to revel in these simple readings. Again, if teachers would only use this as a basis for classroom conversation, oh how my heart would flutter! In my teens I had searched around for graded readers, and I found a few, and they were horrible. Again, they were designed only to intimidate, not to teach. Now I discover that there was once upon a time a superb graded reader!!! Francis David Morice’s Stories in Attic Greek. Aaaaaarrrgggghhhhh. Missed out five times over. Five books were available when I was a teen. As a teen I was fantasizing that if only such books had existed.... Such books would have changed my life for the better. If I had spotted them on a library shelf I would have devoured them. I never knew about them! Most and Pine, and now Kendrick and Blackie and Morice. They were all there. I never knew. Should I feel elated that I have finally discovered them, or should I feel deflated that my entire life has gone down the drain because I didn’t know about them in time? Shall I make myself feel even worse? Yes, I shall:

The above advert is at the back of Raphael Kühner’s An Elementary Grammar of the Greek Language: Containing a Series of Greek and English Exercises for Translation, with the Requisite Vocabularies, and an Appendix on the Homeric Verse and Dialect 13th edition, translated by Samuel H. Taylor (New York: Ivison & Phinney, 1857).

The Literary World: A Gazette of Authors, Readers, and Publishers
no. 37, Saturday, 16 October 1847, pp. 259–260.

Got it! The University of Rochester lends out a bound photocopy via Interlibrary Loan. Hoorah. I have liberated it! It needed liberating! Asahel Clark Kendrick, The Child’s Book in Greek, Being a Series of Elementary Exercises in the Greek Language (Hamilton, NY: S. C. Griggs; and New York: Mark H. Newman & Co., 1847). Tiniest little thing, about 5 ¾" tall by about 3 15/16" wide. Exactly what I needed when I was a kid, but who knew it even existed? It’s the most beautiful book I’ve ever seen in my life. As I read it aloud I found myself bursting out with laughter in relief from a lifetime of stress. This is what I wanted. This is what I needed. This would have changed my whole life. When my sixth-grade teacher saw that he had sparked my interest, why didn’t he tell me about this booklet? Why didn’t he know about this booklet? Why didn’t anybody know about this booklet? It’s only a few pages long, but don’t expect to get to the end for at least several months. You really need to dwell on each page for a week or more, repeating it aloud ceaselessly. Every mommy in the world should use this booklet to teach her children. So there.

Here we can do a bit of detective work. Kendrick published his Introduction to the Greek Language in 1841 and again in 1846. In that book he still used the “traditional” charts-and-rules method. It was immediately after submitting his 1846 edition that he discovered Ollendorff. We can be certain of that, because his Child’s Book of 1847 was entirely Ollendorffian, and he was openly hesitant about taking this new direction. Wrote he in his Preface: “Should these introductory lessons be favorably received, the author will soon follow them with another book, constructed on the same plan, and designed to lead on pupils from the point where the present leaves them.” His book was indeed favorably received, which is why he soon after published his Greek Ollendorff. The evidence for the favorable reception, though, can be only conjectural. I have found a mere single review, reproduced above. There are only four copies listed in the OCLC, one of which has missing pages, and I have never been able to find one on the used market. If this work of first-rate scholarship was favorably received, there is a surprising dearth of originals floating about — or, perhaps, that is not so surprising after all, since Uncle Asahel’s tome was small and was handed out to children. What happens when you give small children small objects? There you have it: The obliteration of history.

Since I had access only to a sad photocopy, which rendered some of the print barely legible, I decided to do the right thing. I retyped the entire book. The Greek lead font that S.C. Griggs of Hamilton, NY, and Mark H. Newman & Co. of NYC employed (Monotype Greek 91 Lipsías/Lipsiakos, or Teubner if you will) has been digitized but I can’t spare the money at the moment. Soon. Finding the English font, on the other hand, was a greater challenge. After a diligent search (read: scanning a sample page into Fontspring Matcherator) I discover that it is nearly identical to Adobe Caslon, though I would need to adjust the leading quite drastically to force a match, and I don’t know if that can be done with Unicode Greek and Adobe sharing the same lines. I’ll try it. Not now. Soon. (Closer still is a font scanned from an 1865 reprint of Oliver Twist, which was set in Clarendon, which is different from the Clarendon TrueType font. In honor of the book, the scanned font has been dubbed “Artful Dodger.” I can’t use it, since it hasn’t been tweaked and retains the imperfections of the old printing processes.) Anyway, I gave up and resorted to modern fonts. The photocopy I received from the University of Rochester Library did not include the covers or end papers. Fortunately, I have a fair collection of antiquarian books, and so I pulled Year’s Work in Classical Studies 1910 from my shelf and scanned its cover and end papers instead, simply to provide my forgery with at least some little feel of an original. Retyping allowed me to correct the several typographical errors too. I proofed it a few times and, after correcting dozens upon dozens of really dumb goofs, I think the result is error-free. If you find any typos, just give me a holler. Thanks!

Alex Lee has a helpful page, which points out to us yet one more invaluable text, of which I had been in total ignorance: Francis Henry Colson’s Stories and Legends: A First Greek Reader. My heavens! All language classes should be primarily (or exclusively!) spoken, and if texts are used, they should be texts like Colson’s and Blackie’s and Morice’s, for it is texts such as these that allow students to lose themselves. Why doesn’t anybody teach this way? Why do all language courses have to be grammatical drills and fill-in-the-blanks and flash cards and written translations? That is so dreadful, especially since better methods are now freely available at the click of a mouse.

As I’ve been learning these past few weeks, the resemblance between Classical Greek and Modern Greek is nearly nonexistent. Knowledge of one will not help with learning the other in any way at all. If anything, as I’m discovering to my dismay, knowledge of one would probably impede the learning of the other — seriously impede. Classical Greek is not quite as distant from Modern Greek as Beowulf is from Vonnegut, and that is a pity, because if it were that distant it would be easier to learn. As to how the language sounded, except for Rouse’s 78’s, all recordings of ancient Greek pronunciation and pitch accent that I have found range from meh to dead wrong. I’ve never heard one that was in the least bit convincing. They are all forced, they sound inhuman, and most get the vowels and even the consonants wrong. When I find my cassette tape of Rouse’s 78rpm shellacs I’ll upload them. It’s somewhere among my hundreds and hundreds of boxes in storage 800 miles away. When I first got it over 30 years ago it made my jaw drop. To my naïve 22-year-old ears Rouse’s delivery made the pitch and quantity sound perfectly natural. I felt as though the millennia-dead had been reborn in this humble chubby five-foot white-bearded school teacher. Now, though, after learning more, I disagree in toto with Rouse’s reconstruction of the pitch. I’ll explain why a little below. Of course, as I stated above, immediately upon acquiring that cassette I found myself working 100+hrs/wk as a wage slave. Oy vey. Oh, if you ever find a Greek textbook that deletes the accents and keeps vowel lengths a secret from you, throw it away. Worthless.

Oh. Never mind. Someone else uploaded Bill Rouse’s recordings. “The Sounds of Ancient Greek” and “Passages from the Greek Classics” (London: The Linguaphone Institute, 1932). In anticipation of the inevitable when this gets taken down, I made backups:

The Sounds of Ancient Greek, side 1:
I would embed it in this web page, but in some browsers it will begin playing the moment you open the page. The same codes that prevent “autoplay” or “autostart” in one browser will force all the audio recordings to autoplay or autostart in another browser. Sheesh.
So click here instead.

The Sounds of Ancient Greek, side 2:
Click here.

Passages from the Greek Classics, side 1:
Click here.

Passages from the Greek Classics, side 2:
Click here.

As I listen to these again after all these decades, I’m much less impressed than I was at age 22. I’m catching countless howlers, the exaggerations are ludicrous, and the delivery is anything but natural, but yet the way Bill Rouse spoke the language was such a vast improvement over previous reconstructions that it paves my way. It should pave your way too. Rouse’s pronunciation was infinitely superior to any other pronunciation I have ever heard in any context from anybody. Further, as I discover from The Teaching of Greek at the Perse School, Cambridge (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1914), the absurdly exaggerated pitches and lengths and chanting and rhythms on display in these recordings were used only in the early weeks of Rouse’s course. Once the students had latched on to the concepts, the pronunciation became more normal. It is too bad that Rouse chose to utilize the exaggerated rather than the normal pronunciation for his Linguaphone records. (Or did he?)

When I go on to YouTube and various blogs and whatnot to listen to ancient Greek, I invariably shut each recording off after just a few seconds, because it is too painful for me to listen to. Why does nobody else even try to approach Rouse’s level. It’s not hard to do. It’s not hard to do considerably better. We know what a fifth is (the difference between the two instances of twinkle in “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”), we know the difference between an acute and a circumflex, and we know the difference between long and short. Three little ingredients. That’s it. Just three. Better yet, we’ve all heard Swedish, which has a similar pitch with longs and shorts. ¿A cinch, que no? Why does nobody bother? Rouse insisted that Classical Greek did not have stress. Rubbish. Your teachers insist that English is devoid of pitch and longs and shorts. Your teachers are wrong. Yes, English does have pitch, just as it has longs and shorts. Unless you are talking through a speech synthesizer or through an electrolarynx, you will find it impossible to speak without pitch, just as you will find it impossible to speak without stress or without longs and shorts. (Immediately after discovering this online edition of Rouse’s Greek recordings, I saw that an original set was on Hong Kong eBay for an astonishingly low price. I did a “Buy It Now” so quickly. The package arrived just a few days later, in its original antique shipping box, no less!)

Nõw, lét’s exámine sõmething. When “Erãsmians” attémpt to speãk Greẽk, they eĩther sĩng or chãnt, quĩte ãwkwardly. Éven when oũr belóved Dóctor Bĩll spoke Greẽk, he chãnted. Nõ lãnguage is náturally chãnted. Cértainly nõ lãnguage is éver náturally sũng. Lãnguages are spõken. Ãll lãnguages háve a pítch accent. Ãll of them. Nõ excéption. Ín Énglish, of coũrse, the hĩgh and círcumflex pítches úsually correspõnd with lõng, stréssed sýllables. Ín Clássical Greẽk, on the óther hãnd, ás in Swẽdish and Norwẽgian, the hĩgh pítch júst as õften lánds on shõrt, únstressed sýllables, which lénds the lãnguage a delĩghtful sýncopated rhýthm. Thát is the áspect of the lãnguage that was neãrly lõst as eãrly as twénty-threẽ hundred yeãrs agõ. Pãy atténtion, toõ, to ãll the Énglish pítches betweẽn the hĩghs and the lõws. Wé háve neãrly an entĩre mũsical scãle embédded into oũr lãnguage, and yét we don’t sĩng when we tãlk, nõr do we chãnt. We speãk, and we dõn’t even nõtice that we are speãking with a pítch áccent.

Thẽre you gõ. Peóple háve been wóndering sĩnce 1486. Ãrguments galõre. Fĩghts. Screáming mátches. Boõk áfter boõk áfter boõk, loũsy recõrding áfter loũsy recõrding áfter loũsy recõrding. Proféssors and óther Ph.D.’s cãlling it quíts and concéding defeãt, decíding to pronoũnce Áncient Greẽk as Módern Greẽk õr as Énglish õr as Látin õr as sõmething ẽlse. Ãll for whãt? Ĩ’m cértainly nót a histõrian, but fróm whát líttle Ĩ knõw, Ĩ can fígure oũt whát háppened. Õnce Greẽk spĩlled oũt fãr pást the bõrders, and õnce a goódly númber of speãkers leãrned Greẽk as a sécond lãnguage, the pítch shífted to dífferent sýllables. Thát’s ãll. Thát’s ĩt. Nóthing mõre. Aristóphanes of Byzántium óffered the diacrítics as a hẽlp to thõse who neẽded to gĩve públic recitãtions of the eãrlier téxts. Mỹ õh mỹ hõw thát’s beẽn õverintẽrpreted.


Desiderius Erasmus, De recta Latini Graecique sermonis pronuntiatione, eiusdem Dialogus cui titulus, Ciceronianus, ſiue, De optimo genere dicendi. Cum aliis nonnullis, quorum nihil non eſt nouum (Lyon: Sebastianus Gryphius Germanus, 1528). Wikipedia summarizes that the first known disagreement with the contemporary pronunciation of Greek occurred in about 1486. Three scholars are named in this entry: Antonio of Lebrixa, Girolamo Aleandro, and Aldus Manutius, names until now unknown to me. Hooray for them. They could not help but notice that the descriptions of the language provided in the ancient literature ofttimes contradicted the pronunciation given them by the scholarly refugees who had fled Constantinople after the Ottoman invasion. It was Desiderius Erasmus who organized these discoveries into a lengthy dialogue that I never thought I would see. I mean, did you ever think you would see it? I didn’t think so. Well, here it is on Google Books. Like I say, we live in a different world now. This has never been translated into English, as far as I know, not even in the University of Toronto’s “Collected Works of Erasmus.” So I guess that I really do need to learn Latin. So much to do, so little time. Now, Wikipedia also reveals that a gnawing suspicion I have harbored since my teens is actually true: Erasmus never adopted his own system! Indeed, it would have been too difficult for him to have done so. To be understood, he needed to use the pronunciation that his Greek friends used. So his huge dialogue was published to set the record straight, but not to set the practice straight, at least not immediately. It is unfortunate for us that Erasmus never thought to dictate his reconstructed pronunciation into his pocket tape recorder. I am certain that his reconstruction was reasonable, unlike what we hear from modern-day “Erasmians,” whose antihuman howlings are more irritating even than fingernails against a chalkboard, more irritating than a modern-day “humanist” sermon, more irritating than the sound of G.W. Bush’s voice.

Sir John Cheke, Pronuntatione Graecae potiſsimum linguae diſputationes cum Stephano Vuintonienſi Epiſcopo, ſeptem contrarijs epiſtolis comprehenſae, magna quadam & elegantia & eruditionerefertae (Basel: Nicol, Epiſcopium iuniorem, 1555).

John Foster, An Essay on the Different Nature of Accent and Quantity with Their Use and Application in the Pronunciation of the English, Latin and Greek Languages: Containing Remarks on the Metre of the English; on the Origin and Aeolism of the Roman; on the General History of the Greek; with an Account of Its Ancient Tones, and a Defense of Their Present Accentual Marks. With Some Additions from the Papers of Dr. Taylor and Mr. Markland. To Which Is Subjoined, the Greek Elegiac Poem of M. Musurus, Addressed to Leo X, with a Latin Version and Notes (Eton: J. Pote, 1762; reprinted London: J.F. Dove for Richard Priestley, 1820).

John Walker, A Key to the Classical Pronunciation of Greek and Latin Proper Names; in Which the Words Are Accented and Divided into Syllables Exactly as They Ought to Be Pronounced, According to Rules Drawn from Analogy and the Best Usage. To Which Are Added Terminational Vocabularies of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin Proper Names, in Which the Words Are Arranged According to Their Final Syllables, and Classed According to Their Accents; by Which the General Analogy of Pronunciation May Be Seen at One View, and the Accentuation of Each Word More Easily Remembered. Concluding with Observations on the Greek and Latin Accent and Quantity; with Some Probable Conjectures on the Method of Freeing Them from Obscurity and Confusion in Which They Are Involved, Both by the Ancients and Moderns, 1st ed. of the 3rd London ed. (Philadelphia: Hopkins and Earle, 1808). An early attempt. Not very good, but worth a look.

John Pickering, An Essay on the Pronunciation of the Greek Language, as Published in the Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Hilliard and Metcalf, 1818). Interesting musings from a former Erasmian who had recently been convinced by the modern Greeks of the error of his ways.

Nathaniel Fish Moore, Remarks on the Pronunciation of the Greek Language: Occasioned by a Late Essay on the Same Subject by John Pickering (NY: James Eastburn and Literary Rooms, 1819). A refutation of the above.

Sir Uvedale Price, An Essay on the Modern Pronunciation of the Greek and Latin Languages (Oxford: Baxter, 1827).

John Stuart Blackie, The Pronunciation of Greek; Accent and Quantity. A Philological Inquiry (Edinburgh: Sutherland and Knox; London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., 1852). Problematic, but a nice try.

James Arthur Davies, Pronunciation of Greek and Latin, Intended as Prolegomena to the Greek and Latin Grammars (London: Bell & Daldy, 1855), 36pp. — not online probably because it’s too hard to find a copy. I think I’ll take a whack at it.

Nathan Perkins Seymour, “The Pronunciation of Greek,” The Congregational Review 11 no. 59, May 1871, pp. 215–232.

Friedrich Blass, The Pronunciation of Ancient Greek, tr. by Walter John Purton (Cambridge: University Press, 1890). This one’s good. I mean, this one is really good. Blass settles lots of issues once and for all. For instance, spelling conventions were not formalized until much later times. Despite that, there are traditions, traditions which reveal that, at a time lost to us, there were reasons for the later spellings, reasons that must have been more or less phonetic. No two cities, no two villages, and no two generations pronounced Greek the same way, and some dialects even dropped the rough breathing, though the local dialects were all pretty much mutually intelligible. So I am left to conclude from this that recovering the original pronunciation of The Iliad and The Odyssey is a futile task. (Even more extreme: The written versions of these two works made little attempt to be faithful to the infinitude of variants sung by the wandering bards. After all, wandering singers were entertainers, each fitting the material to his own style and persona, each adapting the material to fit the mood of each audience. Writing a text down requires modification. Writing also encourages bending the original to fit preconceived notions. Here is evidence that certain lines were tweaked for numerological purposes: J.L. Hilton, “On Isopsephic Lines in Homer and Apollonius of Rhodes,” The Classical Journal 106 no. 4, April/May 2011, pp. 385–394. Furthermore, the received texts upon which our current editions are based are a mere millennium old, if that, and they made little attempt to be faithful to older texts. See Casey Dué, “Homeric Papyri and the Homer Multitext,” The Homer Multitext, 12 July 2010. So the originals of these two epic poems are tantalizingly just out of reach.) What are we left to do? We can choose, with Blackie, to adopt what we can recover of the pronunciation of Periclean Athens, which was far from phonetic. We can contrarily choose a new pronunciation of our own making, one more faithful to the spelling, which does have a semi-legitimate claim to a semi-historical basis. This is my preference — an indefensible preference, admittedly, but it is my preference. This, precisely, is what our next author team attempted to do.

Edward Vernon Arnold and Robert Seymour Conway, The Restored Pronunciation of Greek and Latin: With Tables and Practical Explanations, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: University Press, 1896). Good. Sensible. Not quite realistic, but justifiable. One problem here is that Arnold and Conway wrongly equate the Greek ο with the English o of “cannot,” “consist”, “monologue”. English does not have the pure o sound in isolation. When the o occurs in English as a vowel, we either crunch it down to a schwa, or we change it into an ah sound as in “not.” Elsewhere, we weld it together with a long u (long u as in flute); hence our pronunciation of “boat,” “goat,” “float,” “mote,” “tote,” “note,” which come out as a diphthong, a diphthong that the Greeks once upon a time, somewhere in the lost past, would have spelled ου. If you were brought up speaking English, you probably can’t hear the diphthong. Fine. Have you ever visited Canada? Remember how Canadians pronounce “There’s a mouse running about my house”? There you go. The Canadian ou in “mouse/about/house” is the same as the English/American oa in “goat/boat/float.” Try it a few times. Now can you hear it? Italian still has the pure o. So next time you’re around some Italians who are chattering away, listen closely. Similarly, despite what Arnold and Conway assert, ω could not possibly have been the o sound in the English “ore,” “oar,” “encore.” The English o in those instances is also a diphthong, or actually a triphthong. In Greek ω was surely somewhere halfway between an Italian o and the sound in “all,” “awl,” “awe,” “caught.” Must have been. There’s no other possibility — except, of course, in those dialects that did not differentiate between the ο and the ω (the two vowels were probably interchangeable in those dialects). So there. As for the longstanding controversy about whether the ζ was originally zd or dz, well, the answer is contained in the question: They were interchangeable sounds; so don’t worry too much about it. For more detail on this, see the Sturtevant book below.

Ingram Bywater, The Erasmian Pronunciation of Greek and Its Precursors: Jerome Alexander, Aldus Manutius, Antonio of Lebrixa (London: Henry Frowde, 1908).

Edgar Howard Sturtevant, The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin: The Sounds and Accents (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1920).

Charles William Emil Miller, “The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin Prose, or Ictus, Accent, and Quantity in Greek and Latin Prose and Poetry,” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 53, 1922.

Antonín Bartoněk, Development of the Long-Vowel System in Ancient Greek Dialects (Prague: Státní pedagogické nakladatelství, 1966). Not online.

William Bedell Stanford, The Sound of Greek: Studies in the Greek Theory and Practice of Euphony (University of California Press, July 1967). A ha!!!!!!! This was it! This was my very first introduction to the reconstructed sounds of Classical Greek! I couldn’t remember the title or the author, and so I never thought I’d be able to find this again, but months of diligent web browsing revealed this treasure, which I just ordered from Abe. The book is quite good, if memory serves, and there’s a tiny vinyl record tucked into the back cover. I checked the book out from Zimmerman Library way back around 1981, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth and when we still cranked our cars, plopped the record onto my pitiful portable picnic player, and what I heard was bloody awful! This was not speech; it was a sort of sing-song, which could never be spoken spontaneously. The reconstruction was absurd on the face of it. Preposterous. Ridiculous. Despite its awfulness, though, it gave me my first hint about the meaning of pitch and length. I listened to it countless times, following along in the printed text, and by the end I could do better than Stanford. Nonetheless, my better, despite being better, was still bloody awful. It was not until I heard Bill Rouse’s Linguaphone records that I began to get the hang of it.

William Sidney Allen, “The Oral Accentuation of Greek,” Didaskalos 2 no. 2 (1967), pp. 90–99.

William Sidney Allen, Vox Graeca: A Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical Greek (Cambridge: University Press, 1968) — not online, at least not legally. Received the 1981 reprint of the 1974 second edition just now. Excellent text. Now that I see it, I can remember reading this way back when. Allen postulates that in some non-Attic dialects, short υ was similar to the French u in “lune,” and that the long υ was similar to the u in the French “ruse” (p. 65). Yay. Yes, that must be right. That’s my personal preference. It is. Yes. Yay. Allen also posits that Erasmus misunderstood “pitch” as meaning “stress” (p. 134). Oh well. Now, as admirable as the text is, I am given to understand that this book is used in the UK as the basis for the reformed pronunciation as performed in Speaking Greek, which I have not heard and refuse to hear because I’m certain it would raise my blood pressure. I have heard a few Brits recite something they call Classical Greek, and, uh, no. No. No. No. No. This book is better than the samples I heard, even though the author does ultimately conclude that it is not worth the effort to attempt the pitch accent (pp. 142–143). I could not disagree more.

Francis T. Gignac, “The Pronunciation of Greek Stops in the Papyri,” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 101, 1970, pp. 185–202.

Alan H. Sommerstein, The Sound Pattern of Ancient Greek (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1973). Not online.

Sven-Tage Teodorsson, The Phonemic System of the Attic Dialect 400–340 B.C. (Göteborg: Acta Universitatis gothoburgensis, impr. 1974). Thesis/dissertation. Not online. Purchase here.

Sven-Tage Teodorsson, The Phonology of Ptolemaic Koine, vol. 36 of “Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia” (Göteborg: Acta Universitatis gothoburgensis, impr. 1977). Not online.

Ivars Avotins, “Artemidorus of Daldis on the Pronunciation of Greek,” Glotta 55 nos. 3/4, 1977, pp. 222–225.

A MYSTERY BOOK. Sometime in the early 1980’s, at UNM’s Zimmerman Library, I found a book on the history of Greek pronunciation, from the earliest times to the present. It was a maroon book, cloth-bound with silver lettering, I think it was 8½"×11", and if memory serves it was reproduced from a typescript, maybe 100 pages. I have a vague memory that it was accompanied by cassette tapes, which Zimmerman did not have. I would so much love to get a copy of that book. My (faulty?) memory is that it was published maybe as early as 1968 but more likely in the late 1970’s or maybe 1980. What was that book? I see no reference to it anywhere. Hope Zimmerman still has it. I’ll take a look next time I mosey on over to Albuhkyooerkyoo.

Stephen G. Daitz, The Pronunciation of Ancient Greek: A Practical Guide: Demonstration Texts and Practice Exercises to Accompany the Recording (NY: Jeffrey Norton, Department of Classics, City University, 1981). Not online. As I search through the OCLC and various book vendors, I come to the conclusion that this is a 14-page pamphlet with two audiocassettes, nothing more. You can hear an excerpt from one of these cassettes here. I listened to the first few seconds, which was all I could bear before I began screaming and hurling pots and pans against the wall. Yet there’s something here that warms my heart. You see, the Greeks I have encountered insist that Greek has never changed since God established it at the beginning of the universe a few thousand years ago as the original and only true human language. To these Greeks, any attempt at reconstructing an earlier pronunciation is offensive, for they are convinced that the current pronunciation is the original pronunciation. It is anathema, apostasy, heresy, blasphemy to say otherwise. Somewhere in storage in Albuquerque, though, I have a little pamphlet, published in Greece and written in Modern Greek, as an introduction to Classical Greek, and it opens by teaching the reconstructed pronunciation! It does so matter-of-factly, without a hint of defense. It always makes me so happy to discover Greeks who are open to such scholarship. Well, when we go to Daitz’s Legacy page, we find a tribute by Evangelos Alexiou: “I am a Greek Professor of Classics at the University of Thessaloniki. Prof. Daitz taught me his pronunciation of ancient Greek poetry at his home, when I was in New York 1996 with my wife and my daughter. I will never forget him.” Doesn’t that bring a warm smile to your face? (Admittedly, Professor Alexiou declines to state whether he agreed or disagreed with Professor Daitz’s pronunciation, or whether he liked it or hated it. On the other hand, I don’t think Professor Alexiou would even have mentioned the pronunciation lesson if he had hated it. So I think he was mostly okay with it.)

So much for the attempts at reconstructing the pronunciation(s). Now for the language.

Nobody seemed to know about Asahel Kendrick’s counterfeit Ollendorff. Nobody seemed to know about Blackie, Colson, and Morice. Without those keys to paradise, “learning” Classical Greek meant memorizing several hundred pages filled with charts and tables and rules, and never under any circumstances speaking. Now that I’ve been Googling, though, I see that there are small changes for the better, a beautiful retrograde motion that has yet to go far enough. We now have Maurice Balme and Gilbert Lawall, Athenaze: An Introduction to Ancient Greek Book I, second edition and Athenaze: An Introduction to Ancient Greek, Book II, second edition (2003) — (Ἀθήναζε = to Athens). This originally came with audio recordings. Forget about them. The first one is on YouTube and I quit listening after three seconds because the narrator horribly mispronounced Ἀθήναζε. That’s not the restored pronunciation, despite the claim of being such. It is an atrocious mangling that no ancient Greek would have recognized as Greek. Laughably bad, but I have no energy to laugh anymore.

More than that, we also have Paula Saffire and Catherine Freis, Ancient Greek Alive (1999). As with Athenaze, this is strictly for classroom use, not self-study. The authors mention in their introduction that the students are all invariably deeply disappointed when, after the first two weeks, conversation is dropped in favor of written exercises. The students all say that what they learned by conversation is what they remember best, not what they learned by written exercise. If that’s the case (and how could it not be the case?), then why do the teachers drop conversation? Why don’t they drop the written exercises instead? The rest of the introduction answers that question: The teachers find it too trying to lead the conversations. Hey, that’s how students learn. Teachers are supposed to push themselves to enable students to learn as best they can. That’s a teacher’s job, yes?

Ya know, forget about this new stuff. The old stuff available for free at the click of a mouse is superior. Stick with that — Kendrick, Blackie, Colson, Morice, supplemented with graded readers and composition books, which you can find on Google Books.

There is a new course, though, that may hold some promise: Reading Greek: Text and Vocabulary (2007), Reading Greek: Grammar and Exercises (2007), and An Independent Study Guide to Reading Greek (2008), — I hear tell that this three-volume course is pretty good, though inappropriate for students who have no background. Fingers crossed. There’s a fourth volume as well, Speaking Greek, with poor actors substituting stress for pitch and speaking with strong British accents. I don’t want that anywhere near me. If I ever hear it I’ll throw it out the window. The mere existence of that fourth volume makes me gravely suspicious of the first three volumes. Nonetheless, I decided that I would eventually give the first three volumes a try. Shortly after I made that decision, I went to my favorite used-book shop and two of the volumes were right there, staring at me, whistling and pointing to their dirt-cheap price tags. I got the third on Amazon. They look okay, though terribly cumbersome. I think a determined student of iron will could make it through profitably. There are further volumes in the series, consisting of selected readings from the Classics. Of all the courses currently on the market, this is probably the best — or least bad. I’ll give it a try when I get through the Italian course.

The below books were designed for classroom use only. They cannot be used for self-instruction. The first-level courses, such as A First Greek Course, were designed for beginners. “Beginners,” as you probably don’t know, were students who had already mastered French and Latin, and often German and Sanskrit as well. Back then to “master” meant to speak fluently, write eloquently, and compose verse easily. Not until students had mastered those languages were they were considered “beginners.” When you open a dictionary and look up the word “beginner,” it does not say “beginner [bih-gin-er] noun : a person who has thoroughly mastered spoken fluency and verse-composition skills in French and Latin, and, often, German and Sanskrit as well.” No, that’s not what it says. See how definitions change? Teachers were expected to use the below books as guides to help them organize their lectures, which were all given in ancient Greek, of course.

As you can see, most of these books are available for free download. Again, that’s not an advantage we had years ago. If we wanted these books, we had to search forever via the NUC and OCLC to find libraries that had them and were willing to ship them out for a short time. Then we had to put in requests through Interlibrary Loan. If we were lucky, a few months later we would receive a postcard saying that the book had arrived and that we had seven days to look at it before it was returned. By the time we got the postcard two or three days had passed already, which left us only four or five days. We’d fill a jar with nickels and dash down to the library and Photostat the book (the double-sided option was always disenabled), and then traipse on over to Kinko’s to have the Photostats cut, trimmed, and comb bound. If we were lucky, we could find a mom-and-pop binding shop that still had century-old equipment, which would do a job hundreds of times better than Kinko’s possibly could. Nowadays the whole process is different. Most of the books are available at the click of a mouse. See how the world has changed?


Edmund Squire, Exercises for Greek Verse, Second Edition.
London: Whittaker, Treacher, & Arnot, 1833.

The Reverend Benjamin Wrigglesworth Beatson,
Progressive Exercises of the Composition of Greek Iambic Verse, with a Treatise on the Dramatic, Tragic, Metrical Systems, the Iambic Metre, and an Outline of Attic Prosody, for the Use of the Kings School, Canterbury (5th ed.).

Cambridge: W.P. Grant; and London: Whittaker & Co. and Simpkin & Co., 1847.

Frederick Jacobs,
The Greek Reader.

London: Rivingtons, 1877.

Arthur Sidgwick,
Key to Greek Prose Composition with Exercises.

London: Rivingtons, 1877.

Herbert Kynaston,
Exercises in the Composition of Greek Iambic Verse.

London: Macmillan & Co., 1879.

Herbert Kynaston,
Key to Exercises in the Composition of Greek Iambic Verse.

London: Macmillan & Co., 1880.

Arthur Sidgwick,
Introduction to Greek Prose Composition with Exercises.

Third Edition, Revised.

London: Rivingtons, 1880.

Arthur Sidgwick and F.D. Morice,
Key to Greek Verse Composition.

London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1883.

Arthur Sidgwick and F.D. Morice,
An Introduction to Greek Verse Composition with Exercises.

Sixth Edition.

London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1895.

Arthur Sidgwick,
Introduction to Greek Prose Composition with Exercises.

Thirteenth Edition.

Boston: Ginn & Co., 1908.



William Henry Denham Rouse, Litt.D., instructor in Classics at the Perse School, also designed his language-learning books for classroom use only. There is no way on earth that they can be used for self-instruction, though I suspect they might be helpful for students who have already mastered the basics. That applies especially to his Greek Boy and Vocabulary and Chanties. For the sake of semi-completeness, I include much more than only his language-instruction books. He seems to have had a pretty darned interesting career. You know, a feller named Christopher Stray recently wrote a pamphlet about Rouse. Well, 1992 is recent as far as I’m concerned. He called it The Living Word: W.H.D. Rouse and the Crisis of Classics in Edwardian England. Fun stuff. Rouse taught his introductory classes in living and “dead” languages strictly by the “direct method”: no English, no translation. Writes Stray of Rouse’s Latin and Greek courses:

The elementary paradigms of language were learnt through involvement in dialogue, accompanied by activity. As a pupil got up from a seat, walked away from it, returned to it and sat down again, he uttered, and pragmatically learnt, the words surgo, ambulo, revenio, sedeo. Second and third persons were learnt in similar fashion:

A.   Surgo
Chorus (to A, pointing) Surgis.
Chorus (to Master, pointing at A) Surgit.

B and C.   Surgimus
Chorus (to B and C) Surgitis.
Chorus (to Master) Surgunt.

In a memorandum submitted to the Curricula Committee of the Classical Association in January 1906, Rouse spelled out his reasons for basing the teaching of Greek on the spoken word:

1. It is natural. Language is the means of communicating between tongue and ear, and written letters are only a means of storing up the material of language.... They bear the same relation to speech as a musical score to the performance.

2. It is living. The written word has no means of compelling attention; the spoken word, if well spoken, and if intelligible, commands attention, and creates a lasting impression in proportion to the force of the speaker’s character....

3. It is speedy. It allows of many times as much practice in a given time.

4. It is intelligent. The difference of person, number etc. between a master and pupil cause[s] the response to be, not a parrot echo, but something new made on the spur of the moment.

Disbelievers from all over England and Europe visited his classroom to witness the astonishing spectacle of teens conversing fluently and easily and even casually joking around in Classical Greek. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the class. In no time at all they were reading Thucydides and other Classical writers with ease. Now ain’t Rouse exactly the sort of teacher you’d just dream of having? Wouldn’t such a teacher have made school tons of fun rather than a dreaded chore? Wouldn’t such a teacher have made class an exciting and fulfilling adventure rather than a meaningless bore? Isn’t that the sort of teacher who no longer exists? Rouse retired in 1928, but, constitutionally incapable of devoting the remainder of his days to fishing, he opened several summer schools and kept active with new supplies of students. I don’t know how long that went on, but I do know that he died in 1950. That was the end of that. His innovative and effective methods have never been revived anywhere in the world as far as I know. If a modern-day Rouse existed, I would save all my pennies to enroll in class. No modern-day Rouse exists. ’Twas but a brief shining moment, lost to the mists of time. (Apologies to Lerner & Loewe.)

Now, at long last, I have discovered the official explanation for why Rouse’s sort of “direct method” is no longer used. Take a look at M.J. Russell’s “The Direct Method in Teaching Latin  — Some Objections,” from The Classical Journal vol. 12 no. 3, December 1916. When Rouse was a visiting instructor at Columbia, Russell sat in on his class for six weeks and agreed that the “direct method” gave splendid results. That is why he advocated that the “direct method” be abandoned. You see, he argued that since no Latin instructor could speak the language, it was too difficult to follow Rouse’s example. Of course, Russell did not think to argue that Latin instructors should be able to speak Latin. Heaven forbid! Why should a teacher know his subject? Oh perish the thought! That would be so hard! I mean, we have to be fair, right? Those poor teachers! We need to think about them. It would be soooooooooooooo difficult for them to learn the topics that they teach their students. We should have some mercy, after all. You know, that explains all of my schooling, from kindergarten through the senior year of college. All of it. Explained. Perfectly. I do credit Russell, though, for making me aware of Mr Dooley’s aphorism: “It doesn’t make much difference what ye teach children, so long as it is disagreeable to them.” (Mr Dooley — real name Finley Peter Dunne — wrote a humorous column in the Chicago papers in the 1890s.)

Funny thing about Latin teachers not being able to speak Latin: Do you know that there are clubs devoted to speaking Latin? Here’s the most extreme: Nova Roma. Here’s one that might be a little more fun: Circulus Latinus Seattlensis. There’s even one in anti-intellectual Los Ángeles of all places: SALVI: Latin for the Living. I can’t find a correlative club for Classical Greek.

Once I finally master this elusive language, in both its ancient and modern manifestations, I shall have my revenge upon my family who so tried to keep me from it. The revenge will be delicious. My only regret is that because they’re no longer around I’ll never witness them squirm.

A Partial W.H.D. Rouse Bibliography

John Herbert Williams,
Damon, a Manual of Greek Iambic Composition.
Second edition, revised by W.H.D. Rouse.
Rivington & Percival: London, 1894.

OCLC 753227600 (not 504477035, which vanished). Neither OCLC listing makes mention of a library holding.

Finally located a copy of the 1894 edition! Yay.
The British Library, St. Pancras
General Reference Collection

96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

Located a second copy of the 1894 edition!! Whoopee.
Harry Ransom Center Book Collection, PA 3092 W493 1894
University of Texas at Austin
300 W 21st St
PO Drawer 7219
Austin TX 78713-7219

Located a third copy!!!
Bodleian Library, 29381 e.8,8* (closed stacks)
University of Oxford
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG
Circulates only together with the Key.

And a fourth copy!!!! Rare Books Room, 1894.7.1099 (noncirculating)
University of Cambridge
St Andrew’s St
Cambridge CB2 3BU

Original 1881 edition by J. Herbert Williams can be found here.

J. Herbert Williams, Key to Damon: Containing the Greek Version of the Exercises.
Second edition, revised by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: Rivington, Percival & Co., 1895.

OCLC 310464132 :

The British Library, St. Pancras
General Reference Collection

96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB.

National Library of Scotland, Shelfmark: K.83.d
General Reading Room
(stored in George IV Bridge)
Edinburgh EH1 1EW

Located a third copy!!!
Bodleian Library, 29381 e.8,8* (closed stacks)
University of Oxford
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG
Circulates only together with the main text.

Fourth copy!!!!
Rare Books Room, 1896.6.373 (noncirculating)
University of Cambridge
St Andrew’s St
Cambridge CB2 3BU

OCLC 504477062 .— this listing is empty, and so I presume the book was lost

Karl Brugmann,
A Comparative Grammar of the Indo-Germanic Languages.
A Concise Exposition of the History of Sanskrit, Old Iranian (Avestic and Old Persian), Old Armenian, Greek, Latin, Umbro-Samnitic, Old Irish, Gothic, Old High German, Lithuanian and Old Church Slavonic.
Translated from the German by R. Seymour Conway and W.H.D. Rouse.
Volume IV.

London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1895.

PDF Second copy PDF

The full five volumes, including the volumes not translated by Rouse, can be found here

Karl Brugmann,
A Comparative Grammar of the Indo-Germanic Languages.
A Concise Exposition of the History of Sanskrit, Old Iranian (Avestic and Old Persian), Old Armenian, Greek, Latin, Umbro-Samnitic, Old Irish, Gothic, Old High German, Lithuanian and Old Church Slavonic.
Translated from the German by R. Seymour Conway and W.H.D. Rouse.
Indices of Volumes I–IV.

London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1895.

PDF Second copy PDF

E. B. Cowell,
The Jataka; or, Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births.
Volume II, translated by W.H.D. Rouse.
Cambridge University Press, 1895.

PDF Second copy PDF

Vol. I is not translated by Rouse.
Vol. III is not translated by Rouse.

The Giant Crab and Other Tales from Old India.
Retold by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: David Nutt, 1897.

PDF Second copy PDF

Argyris Ephtaliotis [pseud. for Kleanthes Michaelides],
Tales from the Isles of Greece
Being Sketches of Modern Greek Peasant Life.

Translated from the Greek by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: J. M. Dent & Co., 1897.


Peculiarly, the original Greek book is nowhere credited in the translation. I have identified it: Νησιώτικες ἱστορίες (Athens: Estias [Ἑστίας], 1894). At Ἀνέμη – Ψηφιακὴ Βιβλιοθήκη Νεοελληνικῶν Σπουδῶν we can also download a horrible photocopy of Ἐκλεχτές Σελίδες· Φυλλάδες τοῦ Γεροδήμου, Νησιώτικες ἱστορίες, Ἀπὸ τὴν Ἐθνικὴ μας ἱστορία, Παλιοὶ Σκοποί (Athens: Yannaris, 1921), which contains several of the same stories, recycled from the earlier collection.

W.H.D. Rouse, A History of Rugby School.
London: Duckworth & Co., 1898.


The Moral Discourses of Epictetus,
Translated by Elizabeth Carter.

Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: J. M. Dent & Co., n.d. [1898].


W.H.D. Rouse, Peasant Life in Modern Greece:
A Lecture Delivered before the Ruskin Society of Birmingham, 1st February 1899.
[Birmingham?] [1899].

1 known copy at a library,
OCLC 81091229 :

Widener Depository Q 269,
Harvard College Library, Cambridge, MA 02139

W.H.D. Rouse, “Folklore from the Southern Sporades,”
Folk-Lore, a Quarterly Review of Myth, Tradition, Institution, & Custom, Being the Transactions of the Folk-Lore Society, and Incorporating The Archæological Review and The Folk-Lore Journal vol. X, June 1899, pp. 150—185.

W.H.D. Rouse, “Christmas Mummers at Rugby,”
Folk-Lore, a Quarterly Review of Myth, Tradition, Institution, & Custom, Being the Transactions of the Folk-Lore Society, and Incorporating The Archæological Review and The Folk-Lore Journal vol. X, June 1899, pp. 186—194.

An Echo of Greek Song, Englished by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: J.M. Dent and Co., 1899.

W.H.D. Rouse, Demonstrations in Greek Iambic Verse.
University Press: Cambridge, 1899.

PDF Second Listing PDF Third PDF Fourth PDF

W.H.D. Rouse, Demonstrations in Latin Elegiac Verse.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899.

PDF Second copy PDF

Thomas B. Macaulay, Essay on Clive.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1900.

Blackie’s English Texts.

The Essays of Francis Bacon.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1900.

Blackie’s English Texts.

W.H.D. Rouse,
The Double Axe and the Labyrinth,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies vol. XXI (1901), pp. 268–274.

E. B. Cowell,
The Jataka; or, Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births.

Volume IV, translated by W.H.D. Rouse.

Cambridge University Press, 1901.


Vol. V is not translated by Rouse.

W.H.D. Rouse and John Millington Sing,
Key to Exercises in the Syntax and Idioms of Attic Greek.

London : Rivingtons, 1902.


The Talking Thrush and Other Tales from India.
Collected by W. Crooke and Retold by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: J. M. Dent & Co., 1902.

PDF Second copy PDF
Third copy PDF Fourth copy PDF

Dickens’ Christmas Carol.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1904.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1905.

Blackie’s English Texts.

The Retreat to Corunna.
By Robert Blakeney, edited by W.H.D. Rouse.
London, Glasgow and Dublin: Blackie & Limited, 1905.


Charles Lamb, Lamb’s School-Days and Other Essays.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1905.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: Henry Frowde, 1905.


Matthew Arnold, On Translating Homer.
with an Introduction and Notes by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: John Murray, 1905.


Original (pre-Rouse) edition, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1896. PDF Original (pre-Rouse) edition, second copy PDF

Desiderius Erasmus, Praise of Folly.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1905.

Blackie’s English School Texts.

Raleigh, Discovery of Guiana. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1905.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

Swift, Gulliver’s Travels. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1905.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

Child Life vol. VIII, no. 29, 15 January 1906, p. 43.
Rouse was general editor of the Blackie’s Latin Texts series.

Edmund Burke, Burke’s Speeches on America. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

De Quincey, The English Mail Coach. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

The Adventures of Seigneur de Montluc. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

De la Motte-Fouqué, Sintram. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

Josephus, The Seige of Jerusalem. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

The Voyage of Captain James of Bristol. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

An Embassy to the Great Mogul. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

Travels in Thibet. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

A Sojourn in Lha-sa. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

William Hickling Prescott, The Conquest of Peru (abbreviated). Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

William Hickling Prescott, The Travels of Captain John Smith, 1606. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1906.

Blackie’s English Texts.

W.H.D. Rouse, Words of the Ancient Wise
from Epictetus to Marcus Aurelius.

London: Methuen & Co., 1906.


W.H.D. Rouse, A First Greek Course.
London: Blackie & Son, [1st ed., 1906], [2nd ed. 1908], [3rd ed. 1916].

PDF Second copy PDF
Third copy PDF Fourth copy PDF

The online copies are scans of bad photocopies, minus the covers. Only a handful of libraries hold this title. By the dumbest luck, though, I just managed to purchase an original, via Abe Books, from Decades and decades of searching, and then, lo and behold, there it is. Okay. Arrived on Monday, 27 February 2017. A library discard that’s still in pretty darned good shape. I just did a raw, rough scan. When/if I ever find the time, I’ll rotate and clean up the pages. I doubt I’ll ever find the time. So right-click and download. As is often the case with Blackie books, there is no date anywhere — no copyright or publication or printing date — nor is there any indication of which edition it is. With A First Greek Course, though, I’m pretty sure the three editions were identical apart from the opening advertisement for other books in the series. My guess is that what I have in my collection is a 1940’s reissue of the third edition. There’s no way to be sure, but that’s a reasonable guess. Oh, and right after I sent in a payment for the book, a second one was listed! I found it when I was searching for something else. I was clicking through pages and then I froze when my slow mind finally caught up: “Did I see what I think I just saw?” I hit the Back button, and yup, there it was! So I bought that one too, via Abe, from D2D Books. It arrived the day after the first one arrived. Identical in every way except that it’s not a library copy and it’s never even been read, but the paper is slightly cheaper. Also, the library copy was printed by letterpress (you can feel the impressions of the type), whereas the unused copy was printed by offset (the pages are completely smooth). There’s one other difference as well, on page vi: “BOOK PRODUCTION WAR ECONOMY STANDARD. THE PAPER AND BINDING OF THE BOOK CONFORM TO THE AUTHORIZED ECONOMY STANDARDS”. Yeah, but I still think even the library copy was a WWII-ration-era printing.

Interestingly, a few years ago Anne Mahoney augmented the 1916 third edition of this book for Focus Publishing, an outfit that has since been purchased by Hackett Publishing. You can click here to order a copy. The updating was necessary, since it is no longer a given that students approaching Classical Greek for the first time are already fluent in French and Latin and intimately familiar with the technical grammar and all its complicated terms. Rouse’s original book was filled top to bottom with charts and rules and technical names, and as such it served basically as emergency review and memory jogs, as well as a rough outline for an instructor. Rouse’s book merely hovered in the background during the teaching of his course, which was almost entirely oral, though with written homework, unfortunately. Mahoney saw the drawbacks and so, while keeping nearly all of Rouse’s text, she sought to make it more of a “Direct Method” approach. Wrote she in her preface:

Students at the Perse started Greek at age 14 or 15, after three years of Latin and five of French. They were thus already familiar with ideas like noun cases, verb moods, and agreement. Rouse exploited this background in his original textbook; for example, in chapter 8 we find “The Absolute Case in Greek is the genitive, as ἐμοῦ λέγοντος, ‘as I was speaking.’” This is the entire discussion of the genitive absolute, and the Greek readings in the chapter contain no examples. For contemporary students, who may begin Greek before Latin, or relatively early in their study of Latin, this is inadequate, so I have replaced this one sentence with half a dozen paragraphs and two focused exercises.

Despite this expansion and updating, it would still be a steep uphill battle for a self-learner to struggle through to the end of this course. I’m sure it could be done, but I would not envy anybody who were to make the effort. (I’ll give it a try in the foreseeable future, but only after I’m a few chapters in to Asahel Kendrick’s course. I’m not a masochist, after all.) As with the original editions, this book is still merely an outline for a course taught orally and spontaneously. A reviewer, “Ashtree,” at Amazon, warns of Mahoney’s revision: “Emphatically NOT for beginners!!!” and provides a few samples to defend that assertion:

For example, if you’re a newcomer to language-learning, and hoping to teach yourself some classical Greek from this book, how are you going to feel when (on page 15) you’re informed (with almost no further explanation) that: “The nominative is used for the predicate nominative in copular sentences.” What are you going to do when you turn to the exercises at the end of the chapter and hit the exercise where it gives you a list of Greek verbs and the instruction to compare the verb endings with their Latin and Sanskrit equivalents (which aren’t provided!)? I’m not kidding!!!

Ashtree was being a bit harsh, but I can see the point. This book is overly demanding — not enough to intimidate me, but yes, it will certainly be a hard mountain to climb. You can also get Mahoney’s new edition of A Greek Boy at Home while you’re at it. As I browse through the catalogue, I see that there are some other titles at Hackett that seem quite promising, indeed.

J. Herbert Williams,
Damon, a Manual of Greek Iambic Composition.
Third edition, revised by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: Blackie & Son, 1906.

9 known copies at libraries,
OCLC 10463422 (not 504477047, which vanished):

Meem Library, PA404.W45 D3
Saint Johns College
1160 Camino Cruz Blanca
Santa Fé NM 87505

The Joseph Regenstein Library Bookstacks PA416.I2W7
University of Chicago
1100 E 57th St
Chicago IL 60637

Langsam Library, CLASS Stacks PA416.I2 W5 1906 (noncirculating)
University of Cincinnati
2911 Woodside Dr
Cincinnati OH 45221

National Library of Scotland, Shelfmark T.93.g
General Reading Room (stored offsite)

George IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 1EW

Brotherton Library, Classmark: Thompson Collection 7/WIL
University of Leeds
Woodhouse Ln
Leeds LS2 9JT

Bodleian Library, 29381 e.14 (closed stacks)
University of Oxford
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG

Christ’s College Annex, PA404.I36 1906 (noncirculating, ask library staff)
University of Cambridge
St Andrew’s St
Cambridge CB2 3BU

Christ’s College Floor 2, PA186.W5 1906 (noncirculating)
University of Cambridge
St Andrew’s St
Cambridge CB2 3BU

West Room, 1906.7.2671 (noncirculating)
University of Cambridge
St Andrew’s St
Cambridge CB2 3BU

John Herbert Williams, Key to Damon. (3rd ed.)
London, Glasgow: Blackie & Son, 1906.

2 known copies at libraries:

Langsam Library, CLASS Stacks PA416.I2 W5 1906 Key
University of Cincinnati
2911 Woodside Dr
Cincinnati OH 45221

Bodleian Library, 29381 e.14 (closed stacks)
University of Oxford
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG

Charles Kingsley, The Heroes.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1907.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Thomas Carlyle, The Hero as Poet, the Hero as King, from On Heroes and Hero Worship.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1907.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Froissart’s Chronicles: The Reign of Richard II.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1907.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Froissart’s Chronicles: Crecy and Poitiers.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1907.

Blackie’s English Texts.

The Capture of Mexico.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1907.

Blackie’s English Texts.

E. B. Cowell,
The Jataka; or, Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births.

Volume VI, translated by W.H.D. Rouse.

Cambridge University Press, 1907.


The Arabian Nights.
Edited with an Introduction by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: Ernest Nister, 1907(?).


W.H.D. Rouse, The Hellenic Traveller’s Club.
London: Hellenic Travellers’ Club, 1907.

1 or maybe 2 known copies at libraries,
OCLC 696111928 :

The Worcester College Library
Stack, XH.5.37(21) (apply staff)

University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 2HB

This is probably a different volume:
Princeton University Library
Rare Books (Ex), Oversize 2008-0453Q

1 Washington Rd
Princeton NJ 08544

W.H.D. Rouse, A Greek Reader.
London: Glasgow Blackie & Son, 1907.


Cæsar, Gallic War, VIII.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1907.

Blackie’s Latin Texts.

The Educational Times and Journal of College Preceptors
vol. LXI, New Series, No. 562, 1 February 1908, p. 52.

The Educational Times and Journal of College Preceptors
vol. LXI, New Series, No. 561, 1 January 1908, p. 35.

The Educational Times and Journal of College Preceptors
vol. LXI, New Series, No. 564, 1 April 1908, p. 169.

John Ruskin, Sesame and Lillies.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1908.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Britain and Germany in Roman Times.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1908.

Blackie’s English Texts (three sections taken from earlier translations of Cæsar and Tacitus).

Charles Lamb, Lamb’s Adventures of Ulysses, adapted from George Chapman’s translation of The Odyssey.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1908.

Blackie’s English School Texts.

Sir Thomas Mallory, Knights of the Round Table.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1908.

Blackie’s English Texts.

W.H.D. Rouse, “Latin and Greek,” in John William Adamson, The Practice of Instruction, a Manual of Method General and Special. London: National Society’s Depository, 1907.

The Educational Times and Journal of College Preceptors
vol. LXI, New Series, No. 572, 1 December 1908, pp. 529–530.

W.H.D. Rouse, A Greek Boy at Home:
A Story Written in Greek.

London: Blackie and Son, 1909.


W.H.D. Rouse, Vocabulary to A Greek Boy at Home.
London, Blackie & Son, 1909.

This was inserted into the inside back cover of A Greek Boy at Home, but libraries tend to separate the Vocabulary.


W.H.D. Rouse, A Greek Reader.
New York: C.E. Merril, [191-?].

Reprint of the Blackie edition from 1907.

1 known copy at a library,
OCLC 29977178 :

William Robertson Coe Library
Stacks Level 3, PA260 .R687 1910z

University of Wyoming
Laramie WY

W.H.D. Rouse, “Prince Deva Datta and His Wives,” in Alfred C. Playne, ed., Nister’s Holiday Annual, 22nd Year
London and New York: Ernest Nister and E.P. Dutton, 1910.

John Milton, Areopagitica and Other Prose Writings.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1910.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Essays from The Spectator.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1910.

Blackie’s English Texts.

James Boswell, Boswell’s Life of Johnson, 1763–1767.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1910.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Gatty’s Parables from Nature.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1910.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Sir Walter Scott, Wallace and Bruce with the Story of Macbeth.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1911.

Blackie’s English Texts.

W.H.D. Rouse, “The New Renaissance,
an Answer to Sir E. Ray Lankester,
XIX Century, March 1911.


P.H. Gosse, The Romance Of Natural History.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1912.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Lord Nelson, Battle of the Nile: Dispatches and Letters of Lord Nelson.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1912.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1912.

Blackie’s English Texts.

A Posy of Pleasant Delights for Children.
Gathered from the Golden Garden by A.E. Rouse and W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1912.

John Milton, Poetical Works.
Introduction by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1912.


W.H.D. Rouse and John Millington Sing,
Exercises in the Syntax and Idioms of Attic Greek. (3rd ed.)

London: Rivingtons, 1913.

2 known copies at libraries:
OCLC 47973767 :

Vanier Library 2nd Floor, PA 407 R6X 1913
Concordia University
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd W
Montréal QC H3G 1M8

David Wilson Library, External store HIGSON RN 016929, University of Leicester

Joseph Pennell’s Pictures in the Land of Temples.
Student’s Edition with an Introduction by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: William Heinemann, 1915.


Thomas B. Macaulay, History of England, Third Chapter.
Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1920.

Blackie’s English Texts.

Karl Petraris, A Handbook of the Modern Greek Spoken Language with Exercises.
Translated from the German by W.H.D. Rouse.
Heidelberg: Julius Groos, 1921.


Śikshā-Samuccaya: A Compendium of Buddhist Doctrine,
compiled by Śāntideva, tr. by Cecil Bendall and W.H.D. Rouse.
London: John Murray, 1922.


Lingua Latina.
Scenes of School and College Life in Latin Dialogues.

General editors: Dr. W.H.D. Rouse, S.O. Andrew
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924.
(The first of the two catalogue listings inexplicably provides the title as Lingua Latina: (Edited by W. H. D. Rouse and S. O. Andrew.) / 0. Besitzerspezifische Fußnote. There were 14 volumes in total, spanning from 1912 through 1931, but Rouse seems only to have worked on the 1924 and 1931 editions.)

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
B3Kat-ID: BV020763435

Ludwigstraße 16
80539 München

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
B3Kat-ID: BV020577084

Ludwigstraße 16
80539 München

[Illustrative wall-sheets.]
by W.H.D. Rouse; Samuel Ogden Andrew.

I suppose this was originally originally folded in to the above Lingua Latina volume but catalogued separately by a librarian.

1 known copy at a library,
OCLC 503797924 :

The British Library, St. Pancras,
General Reference Collection L.R.27.a.10

Samuel Pepys, Passages From Pepys’s Diary 1665—1666. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1926.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

W.H.D. Rouse, Chanties in Greek and Latin.
Written for Ancient Traditional Airs.

Second edition, revised and augmented.
Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1930.


A Book of Characters, from Theophrastus, Hall, Overbury, Earle, Butler, and Others. Chosen and arranged by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1930.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

Richard Steele and Joseph Addison, The Story of Sir Roger De Coverley. Edited by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1930.

Blackie’s English Text Series.

Juan Luis Vives [Joannes Ludovicus Vives] (1492–1540), Lingua Latina: Scenes of School and College Life in Latin Dialogues, edited by W.H.D. Rouse.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931.

The text is reprinted from the 1539 Basle edition of Linguae latinæ exercitatio.

Folger Shakespeare Library
Deck B-Open Stacks, PA8588 .A7 1931

201 E Capitol St SE
Washington DC 20003

US Library of Congress
Request in Jefferson or Adams Building Reading Rooms
PA8588 .A7 1931

101 Independence Ave SE
Washington DC 20540

Rare Book & Manuscript Library, X 478.3 V83L1931
The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
1408 E Gregory Dr
Urbana IL 61801

Main Library Annex (Main Materials) (PA8588 .A7 1931)
The University of Iowa
125 W Washington St
Iowa City IA 52242

Natchitoches Campus Library, PA8588 .A7 1931
Northwestern State University
913 University Pkwy
Natchitoches LA 71497

Sheridan Libraries and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library
Johns Hopkins University
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218

University of Minnesota Library — Twin Cities
TC Offsite Storage 879V837 OS

499 Wilson Library
309 19th Ave S
Minneapolis MN 55455

Rose Hill – William D. Walsh Family Library, PA8588 .A7 1931
Fordham University
441 E Fordham Rd
Bronx NY 10458

New York Public Library
(offsite — TSD — Request in Advance)
Call Number NVZI (Vives, J. L.
Scenes of school and college life)

476 5th Ave
New York NY 10018

Langsam Library, CLASS Stacks, PA8588 .A7 1931
University of Cincinnati
2911 Woodside Dr
Cincinnati OH 45221

Ralph Pickard Bell Library, PA 8588 .A7
Mount Allison University Libraries and Archives
49 York St
Sackville NB
E4L 1C6

Pontifical Institute for Mediæval Studies, B785 .V61 1931 IMS (noncirculating)
University of Toronto
113 St Joseph Street, 4th Floor
Toronto ON
M5S 1J4

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
Ludwigstraße 16
80539 München

Trinity College Library Dublin
Santry Stacks (EPB only) 57.p.135

College Green
Dublin 2

Biblioteca Interdipartimentale Tito Livio (CIPE)
BID: PUV0988911

Università di Padova
Piazza Capitaniato 7
35139 Padova

General Reading Room, Shelfmark: T.94.g
National Library of Scotland
(stored in George IV Bridge)
Edinburgh EH1 1EW

Brotherton Library
Classmark Thompson Collection 26/VIV/1/R

University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT

The British Library, St. Pancras
General Reference Collection 012935.aa.17/14

96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

ICLASS Main Library, Classmark 206A
Institute of Classical Studies

University of London Research Library Services
Senate House
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU

Warburg Institute, Classmark NLH 110
University of London Research Library Services
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Bodleian Library, 296944 e.10 (closed stacks)
University of Oxford
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG

W.H.D. Rouse, The Beer Tax under the Ptolemies.
Oxford: Christ’s College, [1932?].

Reprinted from: Christ’s College Magazine vol. XL, no. 126 (Lent Term, 1932), pp. 63–65.

1 known library holding:
OCLC 369132645 :

University of Leeds, Brotherton Library, Shelfmark: In envelope with 2 letters from Rouse to A.C. Jardine (23, 31 May 1932); MS, notes, and a newspaper cutting (stored offsite)

W.H.D. Rouse, The Sounds of Ancient Greek
and Passages from the Greek Classics.

Linguaphone Institute: London, [1932].
See above. Also:

W.H.D. Rouse, Latin Course.
New York: Linguaphone Institute, [1932].

The teacher’s manual is embedded below. If it is not visible on your screen, just look at it here: Vivarium novum.

Ready? Here we go. Linguaphone Latin Records by W.H.D. Rouse, M.A., D.Litt. Here are the ten lessons, between two and a half and three minutes each. Press the “play” button below, and follow along in the above teacher’s manual.

If you are unable to play the audio directly from this site, download the file here. If you’re on a Mac, control+click and save-as. If you’re on Windows, right-click and save-as.

Since these are now in the public domain, I paid an audio-engineer friend to run these through his magical billion-dollar machinery to clean them up and make a dupe that sounds better than the original. (Where else except on this Caligula site will you find this material so easily available?) There is much of interest here. First of all, Bill Rouse doesn’t pronounce Latin correctly. He pronounces the v as an English v, which is correct for ecclesiastical Latin, but not for Classical Latin, when it was pronounced like a w (yes, I know I’m oversimplifying). He often pronounces the long o as an Italian o but simply holds it three times as long. Wrong. In Classical Latin, the long o sounded like awe, awful, caught, bought, fought. In an effort to drill home the idea of long and short syllables, he makes the short ones super-short and the long ones super-long. That sounds grotesque, but it does get the point across. He had retired in 1928, but the three students were not students from four years earlier. Their voices are awfully young, and so it is clear to me that they were current students. Indeed, Rouse had opened some summer schools to pass his time away. These three boys were probably already up to lesson 50 or more when they agreed to be recorded doing lessons one through ten. That was a good decision, because they didn’t waste time struggling through their responses. They were as quick as could be and got everything perfectly right. We can hear that Bill Rouse was never in the least bit threatening, but was instead completely comforting and reassuring. His simple sentences entirely removed the element of intimidation. Most Latin teachers never speak Latin in class, or anywhere else, because they don’t know the language. Rouse devotes his class time to speaking Latin, and he periodically hands teaching duties over to his students, one by one. Other Latin teachers almost immediately plunge their hapless students straight away into Cicero and Vergil and Ovid. That’s enough to scare any student to death. Those readings are far too difficult for any beginning student to master. Rouse, on the other hand, starts with simple sentences about frogs and mice and maids, and by the end of the first week he introduces his students to “The House That Jack Built.” Remember that story? When we were little, that was one of the amusing exercises that helped us learn to speak English. It serves the same purpose in Latin. This is how languages should be taught. This is how languages are never taught.

Note something else as well. Here we have students who are required to participate constantly. There is no opportunity to sit in the back and doze off or scroll through Facebook messages. There is no lecturing, and thus there is no need to scribble down illegible notes at a mad pace of 300 words/minute. Since the students are all active participants, there is no way they can make more than a few mistakes, and there is no way they can make those few mistakes more than a few times. There is no way that a star student can outshine the others, and there is no way that a dull student can lag behind. The students must all keep pace, which is never difficult for them to do. Since the students are, for all intents and purposes, performing perfectly, what good would a midterm exam or a final do? What would a written test demonstrate? Nothing. This is the finest example of teaching that I have ever witnessed. Probably no teacher on the planet teaches like this anymore. I certainly know of no one anywhere in the world who follows this example. Why is this teaching method extinct?

Now, for 34 years I was certain I would never lay eyes on these shellac discs. Then, just recently, I discovered that this set has popped up on various auction sites. Amazing. At last I was able to acquire a set.

I’m amused by the way this listing was echoed on eBay Spain and on eBay Hong Kong. Note that this one, like one of the earlier listings, is in a generic Linguaphone album rather than in the custom-made Rouse album. I guess demand exceeded supply and that when it came time to press new 78s, the board of directors decided not to print more custom-made albums.

Since this last item had no bidders, I was able to purchase it. Yay! Linguaphone assured me by email that this is now public domain in the UK, and as far as they’re concerned it’s public domain everywhere. Since copyright laws vary from one country to another, Linguaphone went further and gave me explicit permission to make and distribute copies of the recordings as well as of the teacher’s manual. Now, this eBay item no longer included the teacher’s manual, but by the most astonishing coincidence, a different eBay seller had that manual on offer minus the records. I did a Buy-It-Now and both the manual and the 78’s arrived on the same day. Reunited after heaven only knows how many decades.

As we all know, when it pours it rains. Another copy, with the original cover but minus the instruction manual, popped up on Kijiji Canada, and I grabbed it so fast....

Heinrich Hoffmann, The Latin Struwwelpeter.
Translated by W.H.D. Rouse.
London and Glasgow: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1934.

Gods, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece.
By W.H.D. Rouse, illustrated by Norman Hall.
London: John Murray, 1934.

W.H.D. Rouse, Latin Stories for Reading or Telling: To Wit, Beasts, Fools and Wise Men, with an Appendix of Greek & Latin Proverbs.
Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1935.

I assume sales were poor, which would explain why Blackwell sold its overstock to Thomas Nelson, which pasted in its own logo on the title page.

PDF Echoed here Echoed here

OCLC 11374574 OCLC 610345629 OCLC 752802251

The Story of Odysseus.
Translated by W.H.D. Rouse, decorations by Lynd Ward.
London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1938.


The Story of Achilles.
Told in English by W.H.D. Rouse.
London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1937.

Richard Hakluyt,
The Spanish Armada.

Edited by W.H.D. Rouse.

London: Blackie & Son, Ltd., 1937.

Blackie’s English Texts.

The Golden Ass of Lucius Apuleius.
Retold by W.H.D. Rouse, with illustrations by Kupfer-Sachs.
London: John Murray, 1940.

Nonnos Dionysiaca.
With an English Translation by W.H.D. Rouse. Vol. I.
London: William Heinemann, Ltd., 1940.


Nonnos Dionysiaca.
With an English Translation by W.H.D. Rouse. Vol. II.
London: William Heinemann, Ltd., 1940.


Nonnos Dionysiaca.
With an English Translation by W.H.D. Rouse. Vol. III.
London: William Heinemann, Ltd., 1940.


W.H.D. Rouse, Adventures of the Argonauts.
London: John Murray, 1940.


Argyris Eftaliotis [pseud. for Kleanthes Michaelides],
Modern Tales of the Greek Islands.

Translated by W.H.D. Rouse.
London, 1942.

(Reissue of 1897 edition.)
Still very easy to find.

OCLC 7057473 OCLC 877470634

The March Up Country. Translated by W.H.D. Rouse
London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1947.

Plato, Great Dialogues of Plato.
Translated by W.H.D. Rouse, posthumously edited by Eric H. Warmington and Philip G. Rouse.

New York: Mentor Books, 1956.

So, in reviewing the above, we can see the predictable: For the first few years he was dashing about attempting to establish himself, writing or editing anything he could get away with, then he hit his stride and became prolific, and finally he was a has-been taking any translation job he could get. This is very much like that old joke about the five stages of an actor:
1. Who’s Humphrey Bogart?
2. Get me Humphrey Bogart.
3. Get me a Humphrey Bogart-type.
4. Get me a young Humphrey Bogart.
5. Who’s Humphrey Bogart?

JEAN MANESCA (ca. 1778–1838)

Oh there are wonderful stories to tell here, but I don’t know most of them and even if I were to learn them I wouldn’t have the time to share them. Jean Manesca, or John Manesca as he called himself in New York, used something resembling the “direct method” in his classes. It was more of a Q&A, with students taking copious notes. He was a path breaker. For instructors only, Manesca published his French course for English speakers so that others could adopt his method. His book was most definitely not for self-learners (though, in thumbing through my ancient copy, I see that determined self-learners would have a whale of a time with it): An Oral System of Teaching Living Languages; Illustrated by a Practical Course of Lessons, in the French, through the Medium of the English (originally published 1834). Looks like a great book. I mean, come on, look at Lesson 2: “Avez-vous le rat? Avez-vous mon rat? Avez-vous votre rat? Quel rat avez-vous? Avez-vous le gros rat? Avez-vous mon gros rat? Avez-vous votre gros rat?” Can life get any better than this?

A friend noted that this is like learning music. When you take your first lesson on the piano, you don’t begin with Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsodies.” You learn one note. Then you learn a second. Then you play them both. Then you learn a third. Then you play them in every possible configuration and variation. Then you learn a chord. Then you learn a second. Little by little you build up your skills. Music teachers still teach this way. Language teachers still don’t.

Twelve years after its first publication, Manesca’s French course was reconfigured into a Spanish course: Don Cárlos Rabadan, Manesca’s Oral System of Teaching Living Languages; Illustrated by a Practical Course of Lessons in the Spanish Language, through the Medium of the English (NY: Spanish Printing Office, 1846). Looks dreamy. Wish I could find an original.

This is when we meet Heinrich Gottfried Ollendorff, a Prussian/Polish immigrant whose family had settled in Rawicz in 1806. After having spent years teaching the traditional rules/charts method, Ollendorff found Manesca’s work a revelation. It changed his life and prompted him to go even further. This led to the widespread claim that Ollendorff simply plagiarized Manesca. (See also “Ollendorff’s German Method” in The New-York Quarterly, January 1854.) This is not quite true. Yes, Ollendorff unquestionably plagiarized Manesca, but not so simply. He simplified Manesca’s method, following more or less the same progression of vocabulary and the gradual introduction of grammar, but then he elaborated upon it. Instead of having students lose themselves in the new language, he would force them to convert their native language into the new language. Despite the blatant copying, anyone can compare Manesca’s book with Ollendorff’s books to determine that Ollendorff was in many ways original. Still, though, Ollendorff haughtily denied that he had taken anything at all from Manesca. It’s a strange business, yes? (Humans, sigh, I’ve never understood humans.) I am not aware that Manesca ever took legal action in this matter.

From “Reuben Jamieson’s Family History Home-page” at

It’s also interesting to take a look at Rev. Isidore Harris, M.A., The Jewish Year Book. An Annual Record of Matters Jewish. 5668-9. (9th September 1907 – 31st December, 1908.) (12th Year of Issue. London: Greenberg & Co., Ltd., 1907), p. 285 :

Whereas Manesca wrote his course only for teachers, Ollendorff wrote primarily for self-learners. He thus abandoned the “direct method” and tried the next-best thing. For French speakers who wished to learn Latin, he would provide a few rules, a handful of words, a few pages of sample sentences, and then several pages of French sentences which students were to render, aloud, into Latin. Each lesson repeated that pattern. Nouvelle méthode pour apprendre a lire, a écrire et a parler une langue en six mois appliquée au latin. Ouvrage entièrement neuf, a l’sage de tous les Établissements d’instruction, publics et particuliers. He self-published and sold from his house at 28 bis, rue de Richelieu, Paris. It was a hit.

He wrote another in 1835 for French speakers who wished to learn German: Nouvelle méthode pour apprendre a lire, a écrire et a parler une langue en six mois appliquée a l’allemand. Ouvrage entièrement neuf, adopté par le Conseil Royal de l’Université, a l’usage des colléges et de tous les Établissements d’instruction, publics et particuliers de l’un et de l’autre sexe. Here is Volume 1 and here is Volume 2. Three hits in a row. He was a sensation.

He continued to write more. I see that there was a Nouvelle méthode pour apprendre a lire, a écrire et a parler une langue en six mois appliquée a l’espagnol (Paris: privately printed for the author, 1857; OCLC 563937591) as well as a Key, which we find here in a posthumous edition from 1870, also privately printed and available at the author’s residence — or, rather, at his widow’s residence. That is why it does not surprise me to find a reference to a Latin Ollendorff for Spanish speakers, Nuevo método para aprender á leer, escribir y hablar una lengua en seis meses, aplicado al latin (referenced here), of which a grand total of one copy is held at a library, namely, the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris: OCLC 458985193. This is apparently a genuine Ollendorff: “Paris: en casa del autor, (1878).” We also find that he wrote an Italian course for French speakers: Nouvelle méthode pour apprendre a lire, a écrire et a parler une langue en six mois appliquée a l’italien. Ouvrage entièrement neuf, a l’sage de tous les Établissements d’instruction, publics et particuliers, de l’un et de l’autre sexe.

Ollendorff also wrote for German students. In my collection, in nearly new condition, is the gorgeous Neue Methode eine Sprache in sechs Monaten lesen, schreiben und sprechen zu lernen, Für das Englische zum Gebrauche der Deutschen bearbeitet (Altenberg: Verlagshandlung H. A. Pierer, 1908). This was originally published in 1856. This is not online, sadly. I shan’t scan it, because I wish it to remain in nearly new condition. We can only suppose that Herr Ollendorff wrote further language-learning books for German speakers.

He found a part-time residence in England (23 Portsdown Road, Maida Hill West, London) and found a publisher in Whittaker & Co. of London, which issued A New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak a Language in Six Months Adapted to the German: For the Use of Schools and Private Teachers (1838). In 1841 he reissued the book, this time in two volumes, and in 1843 he issued those two volumes again. The book must have continued to have healthy sales, since he issued it yet again in 1846: Volume One (5th ed.), in 1850–1851: Volume Two (3rd ed.), in 1855 (8th ed.), and in 1857: Volume Two (4th ed.). He and Whittaker also published a Key to the Exercises in Mr. Ollendorff’s Method of Learning German by the Author Himself (1840). As he continued to reissue the course, often with revisions, he reissued the key in 1844, 1850, 1852, 1854, 1857, 1859 (not online), and probably other years as well.

There was no reason to stop with German. Ollendorff and Whittaker proceeded to publish A New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak a Language in Six Months Adapted to the French: For the Use of Schools and Private Teachers which was issued numerous times, certainly in 1846 (2nd ed.), 1851 (4th ed.), 1857, 1861 (9th ed.), and surely other years as well.

There was also his A New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak a Language in Six Months Adapted to the Italian: For the Use of Schools and Private Teachers which came out in 1846 and was reissued several times, certainly in 1851 (2nd ed.) and in 1865 (5th ed., my collection, with uncut signatures that I don’t have the heart to slice open). Ollendorff/Whittaker’s A Key to the Exercises in the New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak a Language in Six Months, Adapted to the Italian was issued several times, certainly in 1853 (3rd ed.).

Ollendorff also authored a few other items of lesser import:

This last leads me to suspect that Herr Ollendorff planned to publish a Latin course in England. Of course, he never did, unfortunately. He may also have penned a few other works as well.

The Evening Post (New York, NY), Tuesday, 5 August 1851, p. 2. Manesca was the discoverer? Hardly! The “direct method” is as old as humanity. Ollendorff’s method ruins the system? Yes! Ollendorff skewed the “direct method” into something a self-learner could study from a book, without a teacher or tutor.

As Ollendorff saw no need to ask Jean Manesca for permission to adapt his book, others saw no need to ask Ollendorff to reprint his own books. The result was that Ollendorff’s books were published hither, thither, and yon, often with other authors’ names credited, often rewritten, and often incomplete and riddled with errors. Copyright, then as now, was simply too much of a bother for those who were in the business of making money.


For English speakers, there were several Ollendorffs, and this can get confusing, as different editions were in print at the same time. These counterfeit editions for English speakers took some gentle liberties with Ollendorff’s canonical text, rearranging sentences, rewording them, splitting lessons in two, and so forth, in their attempts to adjust both for English and for the languages under study. From what I can discern so far, their changes seem to be intelligent and helpful — at least in some cases. Unfortunately, the US editions were all published without permission, and there was little or nothing Ollendorff could do about that. I suppose that, then as now, copyright enforcement, especially across international borders, was a privilege reserved only for the rich.

The Times, London, no. 23,403, Monday, 5 September 1859, p. 11, col. 4.

The Counterfeit German Ollendorffs

First there was the counterfeit translation of Ollendorff’s fifth edition of the French original credited to G.H. Bertinchamp: A New Method of Learning to Read, Write and Speak the German Language in Six Months. By H. G. Ollendorff, Translated from the Fifth Edition by G. H. Bertinchamp, A. B. (Frankfort am Main: Charles Jugel, 1839). A second edition of the fifth edition, “revised and considerably improved by James D. Haas,” made its appearance courtesy of Hippolyte Bailliere of London in 1844. The Key was published in 1840, 1842, 1850. Any Ollendorff from Jugel was pirated, and Ollendorff successfully sued.

The Times, London, number 20,668, Tuesday, 10 December 1850, p. 7.

1845 saw the appearance of a version revised by George J. Adler: Ollendorff’s New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak the German Language; to Which Is Added a Systematic Outline of the Different Parts of Speech, Their Inflection and Use, with Full Paradigms and a Complete Table of the Irregular Verbs (NY: D. Appleton & Co.). From all I am led to understand, and from what I can see with my own two eyes, this revision appears to be brilliant beyond description. Adler’s version reappeared in 1846, then again in 1846 (3rd edition, revised and corrected). This appeared again in 1847 (5th edition). Then there was 1849 (8th ed.), reprinted in 1850, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854, 1855, 1856 (here’s a different scan), 1857, 1859, 1860, 1861, 1864 (my collection), 1866, 1872, 1884, and maybe other years too. The Key was published in 1846, 1847, 1850, 1852, 1853, 1854, 1857, 1859, 1862, 1867, 1887. The chrestomathy was published numerous times. Here’s the edition from 1866.

Yet another edition was by Henry W. Dulcken in 1858 (referenced here): Ollendorff’s New and Easy Method of Learning the German Language, Translated, Unabridged, from the Original French Edition, by Henry W. Dulcken. This was reprinted in a second revised edition in 1866 (David Nutt & Co., London). Dulcken had something interesting to say in the Preface: “The English students of Ollendorff’s ‘Method’ have hitherto always had to contend with one of two disadvantages — the price has been too high, or the book incomplete.... In the present instance both these disadvantages have been overcome....”

Why am I surprised to find yet another? This was needlessly translated by F.F. Moritz Foerster from Ollendorff’s original French edition: A New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak the German Language. New Edition, Translated from the Original French Edition, and Adapted for the Use of English Scholars (London: T.J. Allman, 1860).

The Counterfeit French Ollendorffs

Charles Jugel, Publisher, issued a pirated French Ollendorff in or before 1843. Jugel, of course, did not bother with such irritating formalities as contracts, permissions, or license fees, or even complete or accurate texts. The Key was published in 1843, 1852, 1853, 1863.

Then came the unlicensed edition by J.L. Jewett: Ollendorff’s New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak the French Language: with an Appendix, Containing the Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers, and Full Paradigms of the Regular and Irregular, Auxiliary, Reflective, and Impersonal Verbs (NY: D. Appleton & Company). This was first issued in 1846, then reprinted in 1847, 1848, 1850, 1851, 1853, 1856, 1857, 1870, 1873, and maybe other years too. The Key was published in 1847, 1848, 1849, 1850, 1851, 1853, 1855, 1859, 1861, 1864, 1870.

The rival unlicensed French Ollendorff was issued by the same publisher, and this time it was slightly revised by Victor Value: Ollendorff’s New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak the French Language: with the Lessons Divided into Sections of a Proper Length for Daily Tasks, and Numerous Corrections, Additions, and Improvements, Suitable for This Country. To Which Are Added Value’s System of French Pronunciation, His Grammatical Synopsis, a New Index, and Short Models of Commercial Correspondence (NY: D. Appleton & Company, 1850). Judging from Mr. Value’s introduction, in which he wrote that Ollendorff did little but copy Manesca’s method, I would hazard a guess that Herr Ollendorff was hot under the collar. This edition first appeared in 1850 and was reprinted in 1851, 1853, 1856, 1857, 1860, 1864, 1871, 1873 (my collection — no idea what the previous owner did to it, but it smells marvelous), and maybe other years too. The Key was published in 1850, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1856, 1860, 1868, 1872, 1881.

I cannot find chrestomathies for any of the above.

The Counterfeit Italian Ollendorff

There was only one US version of Felix Foresti’s Italian Ollendorff: Ollendorff’s New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak the Italian Language: Adapted for the Use of Schools and Private Teachers. With Additions and Corrections (NY: D. Appleton & Co., 1846). This is in my collection, and it’s a breathtaking thing to behold. I’d love to know what that font is. It’s similar to Whittingham, but it is not the same. That question mark is the most lovely question mark I have ever seen, and I can find nothing similar in any computer font. I assume this was a custom-made Appleton font, and no two occurrences of a character seem to be exactly the same. I’d love to scan this for all of you, but the book would never survive such rough treatment.

Enlarged and enhanced:

Originals, unmodified:

Do you operate a digital foundry? If so, here’s your answer key! Appleton’s Dictionary of Machines, Mechanics, Engine-Work, and Engineering. Illustrated with Four Thousand Engravings on Wood. In Two Volumes. Volume II (NY: D. Appleton and Company, 1858), p. 787:

Now here’s what confuses me. Compare this unlicensed Foresti first edition from 1846 with Ollendorff’s authorized and signed second edition from 1851. I haven’t checked these against one another word by word, but a quick glance reveals no differences. So what was Foresti’s contribution apart from the introduction? What were these “Additions and Corrections”?

By the time The American Book Company republished Foresti’s edition, supposedly that same year, 1846, the type was broken and the lead plates were filling in with gummy ink and paper fibers, especially in the letters e, h, i, m, and s. This inferior, broken, dirty edition reappeared from Appleton(!) in 1847, 1849, 1870, 1877 (my collection), 1878, and possibly other years too. The Key was published in 1846, 1848, 1850, 1852, 1853 (3rd ed.), 1856 (my collection), 1871, 1884. Here’s the chrestomathy.

The Counterfeit Castilian Ollendorff

D. Appleton & Co. of NYC issued the unlicensed Castilian Ollendorff by Mariano Velázquez and Teodoro Simonné (1848): Ollendorff’s New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak: The Spanish Language: With an Appendix, Containing a Brief, but Comprehensive Recapitulation of the Rules, as Well as of All the Verbs, both Regular and Irregular; so as to Render Their Use Easy and Familiar to the Most Ordinary Capacity. Together with Practical Rules for the Spanish Pronunciation, and Models of Social and Commercial Correspondence. The Whole Designed for Young Learners, and Persons Who Are Their Own Instructors. This was reprinted in 1849, 1850 (my collection), 1851, 1852, 1854, 1861, 1863, 1868, 1875 (my collection), 1876, 1882, 1883, 1898, and probably other years too. The Key was published in 1848, 1852, 1853, 1860, 1864, 1880, 1884. This was offered in a revised edition in 1901 and stayed in print until at least 1916. The chrestomathy was published numerous times. Here’s the edition from 1849. There was also an accompanying conversation guide, published in 1851 and probably other years too.

The Counterfeit Latin-American Spanish Ollendorffs

The rival unlicensed Spanish-American Ollendorff was by Francisco Javier Vingut: Spanish Grammar: Being a New Method of Learning to Read, Write, and Speak the Spanish Language: Advanced According to Ollendorff’s Method of Teaching Languages. Giving at First a Figured Pronunciation of the Spanish Words, an Illustration of the Rules for the Same, and in Order to Render This Work Serviceable for Self-Instruction, for Which Purpose a Key to the Exercises Is Published in a Separate Volume. With an Addition to Each Lesson, and an Appendix Containing the Former, the Usual Forms of Salutation and Other Idiomatic Expressions, and the Latter, a Treatise on the Spanish Verbs: The Explanations of Some Rules Given in the Lessons; and Other Important Remarks, Which, for the Sake of Perspicuity, Have Not Been Introduced in Them; Including a Collection of the Most Popular Spanish Proverbs, Etc. It did not use Ollendorff’s text, but something quite similar. It made its appearance from Clark & Austin, then later from D. Fanshaw, and later still from Roe Lockwood & Son of NYC in 1848. It was reprinted in a “Second Improved Edition” in 1850 (referenced here), then later in 1853, 1855, and 1856, and was revised and enlarged by Luis F. Mantilla in 1871. The Key was published in 1851 and surely in other years too. It would seem that there was never an accompanying chrestomathy.

The Counterfeit Latin Ollendorff

The unauthorized Latin Ollendorff was by George J. Adler. (No idea what the J stands for.) His revamp of Ollendorff’s German course was a success, and so he decided to take it one further by revising it yet again to create a Latin course, a process that took him several years and probably took several years off of his life. This is regarded as the finest Latin course for English speakers — ever. A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language; with Perpetual Exercises in Speaking and Writing. For the Use of Schools, Colleges and Private Learners (Boston: Sanborn, Carter, Bazin & Co., 1857). Here’s the Key. There was no chrestomathy. This is a rare Ollendorff that did not do well as it was never adopted by schools and had only two printings. Incredibly difficult to find an original copy. Too bad, because it’s one of the few Latin courses that’s any good. Adler later went mad and was committed to an asylum, where he wrote Letters of a Lunatic.

Recently Adler’s Latin course was recorded onto MP3 and for $150 you can purchase the 197 hours’ worth of recordings! How’s that for progress? Not a bad price when you think about it. I mean, a 48-hour Pimsleur course costs about $1,000. Here you’re getting 197 hours for $150. I like this sort of economics. I would never begrudge the guy his $150 a pop. He did the work. He deserves it. I guess I need to start saving my pennies.

The above courses have more similarities than differences. The English sentences for translation into the other languages are pretty much the same from volume to volume. Powerful. Oh so powerful. Brilliant. Speak each sentence a dozen times with your eyes closed and see what happens!


As Ernie Kovacs said, when you find a formula that succeeds, beat it to death. As Bob Guccione would later learn, there’s no need to bother about permissions or license fees. Chances are, first, that nobody will have the funds or the leisure time to file suit, and, second, if perchance somebody does, a powerful publisher has powerful lawyers who always prevail by banging on the table more loudly. This works wonders, especially when the opposing parties are on opposing sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Publishers around the world stole the Ollendorff brand name and slapped it onto whatever they pleased. Why am I surprised to discover YIDDISH speakers had their own volumes? Yes, the Hebrew Publishing Company of New York City issued an English Ollendorff for speakers of Yiddish. (Here’s the Key.) This is Ollendorff’s style, but it’s not his text. Why am I further surprised to find that Poland published a Russian Ollendorff for Yiddish speakers? It’s referenced here.

FRANCE/BELGIUM had more Ollendorffs, including a Russian Ollendorff and a Portuguese Ollendorff.

ITALY joined in the fun too — an English Ollendorff and a German Ollendorff.

So did SWEDEN — an English Ollendorff, a French Ollendorff (referenced here), and a German Ollendorff (referenced here).

DENMARK had a German Ollendorff.

There are indications that POLAND had an English Ollendorff (referenced here), an Italian Ollendorff (referenced here), and a German Ollendorff (referenced here); and that HUNGARY had a German Ollendorff (referenced here).

SERBIA published a French Ollendorff and a German Ollendorff, referenced here.

BULGARIA published a French Ollendorff.

TURKEY published a French Ollendorff, and there was a proposal there for a Persian Ollendorff and for an Arabic Ollendorff as well, though whether these happened or not I don’t know. (See “Education in Turkey,” The [London] Morning Post, Friday, 16 March 1866, p. 7, col. 3.)

There was even an English Ollendorff for CHEROKEE speakers, which was begun (but maybe not finished?) in serial form, but most issues of that periodical may be lost. It was prepared by two preachers who were probably brothers or father/son: Reverends John B. Jones and Evan Jones.

GREECE published a French Ollendorff (OCLC 317746567 and OCLC 37367077), an Italian Ollendorff (OCLC 880481895), and a Russian Ollendorff (OCLC 30959588). Also published there was an English Ollendorff by a certain Nikolaos Kontopoulos, whom we shall meet again: Μέθοδος Ὀλλενδόρφου πλήρης, ἐφηρμοσμένη εἰς τὴν Ἀγγλική. The 1869 third edition is online here, the 1879 fourth edition is at the Cutter Collection, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin–Madison, call number X34J OL4 (OCLC 671600033), which I uploaded (right-click and save-as), and the 1893 sixth edition is available for download here. The 1895 reprint of the 1893 edition is held at Johns Hopkins University (OCLC 50947645), and at Harvard College Library, HCL Technical Services (OCLC 81066762). There was also a Key; a copy of the 1870 edition is held at the British Library (OCLC 560402573) and a copy of the 1876 edition is held at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Memorial Library (OCLC 60502697). A freelance researcher from Madison, for a bargain price, scanned the Key for me. Here it is! Κλείς τῆς Ἀγγλικῆς Ὀλλενδορφεῖου μεθόδου (Smyrna: V. Tatikianos, 1876). Oh. Little did I realize this was already posted online at Here’s the listing, and here’s precisely where the book is buried at the Ἀνέμη – Ψηφιακὴ Βιβιοθήκη Νεοελληνικῶν Σπουδῶν page (digitization date, 5 June 2007; each page of the book is filed as a separate PDF document). So if you want to learn Greek the way it was spoken 140 years ago, you can now do so. Just use the Key as the Exercises and the Exercises as the Key. Problem solved!

Not to be outdone, RUSSIA published an English Ollendorff, referenced here and here, and a German Ollendorff, referenced here and here.

The list goes on. We’ll never find them all.


The counterfeits got out of hand, which is why Ollendorff quickly took to autographing each authorized copy as it came off the press (or at least in having his signature mechanically reproduced), and placed a warning on the inside: “Copies not bearing the signature of the Author will be considered counterfeits; and all vendors of such will be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law.”

Publishers and authors around the globe called his bluff. They issued unauthorized editions anyway. Some publishers utilized a loophole: They published books that did not follow Ollendorff’s text at all, but just blithely used his name on the cover or in the ads anyway. Other publishers hired translators to put Ollendorff’s canonical works into different languages.

The German market was infiltrated by a counterfeit Ollendorff volume for nine languages all rolled into one: Joh. Nep. v. Szöllösy, Sprachlehre, um Nach Ollendorff’s Methode mittelst Selbstunterricht in der kürzest möglichen Zeit französich, deutsch, englisch, italienisch, russisch, spanisch, ungarisch, walachisch und turkisch geläusich sprechen und verstehen zu lernen mit Gesprächen des gesellschaftlichen Umganges, Redensarten und Vocabulären in allen neun Sprachen (Barra, 1850). Charts and rules and charts and rules and charts and rules and charts and rules and charts and rules....

I see an ad for a Danish Ollendorff by Elise C. Otté and a Portuguese Ollendorff by the Reverend Alexandre J. D. D’Orsey, assisted by Marcelliano R. De Mendonça. Otté’s Danish Grammar isn’t an Ollendorff in any way at all, nor does it pretend to be. That was false advertising. Its actual title is A Simplified Grammar of the Danish Language (London: Trübner & Co., 1883) and the name Ollendorff appears nowhere. It is just charts and rules, nothing more. The D’Orsey volume isn’t really an Ollendorff either, but, as it says in the preface: “The work is somewhat on the plan of Arnold’s and Ollendorff’s books.” The actual title is A Practical Grammar of Portuguese and English in the Form of Progressive Exercises, So Planned as to Exhibit a Complete Comparison of the Idiomatic Peculiarities of Both Languages (London: Rolandi; Lisbon: Bertrand, 1859).

The Sinhalese Ollendorff was certainly inspired by Ollendorff as well, but it was a new work, despite the title: An English and Singhalese Lesson Book on Ollendorff’s System by The Rev. Charles Carter Designed to Teach Singhalese through the Medium of the English Language (Colombo, Ceylon: William Skeen, 1860).

The Hebrew Ollendorff, on the other hand, bore no resemblance whatsoever to an Ollendorff, being, again, just technical jargon and rules, without any meaningful practice: The Rev. G. M. Cohen, The Hebrew Language, Demonstrated on Ollendorff’s Method (NY: J. M. Jackson, 1850). Charts and rules and charts and rules and charts and rules and charts and rules and charts and rules....

Québec published a counterfeit English Ollendorff, Nouveau course de langue anglaise selon la méthode Ollendorff by an Abbé A. Nantel (Montr#233;al: Librarie Beauchemin, 1868), which remained in print until at least 1909: OCLC 19481560. There’s also a key: OCLC 456378405. This course is a little bit like Ollendorff, but much shorter. I shall soon scan and upload these short volumes.

On the other hand, Robert Young’s Gujarati Exercises; or a New Mode of Learning to Read, Write, or Speak the Gujarati Language on the Ollendorffian System (London: Trübner & Co., 1860) follows Ollendorff’s text rather closely. It seems to be pretty good, though it’s too bad that it is essentially pirated.

Surely you knew that there was also an unlicensed Lessons in the Shanghai Dialect, from Ollendorff’s Systems, which receives a brief mention here. It was by Benjamin Jenkins, in six volumes, published circa 1850, and of which a grand total of one copy is listed in the OCLC.

It would be wise to exercise caution with the counterfeit Ollendorff books. While some appear to be okay as instructional texts, some of them are downright useless, notably William Henry Pinnock’s First Latin Grammar and Exercises on Ollendorff’s Method (London: Whittaker & Co., 1844), which is nothing more than the “traditional” technical-jargon/rules/charts sort of tedious grammar, devoid of practice, the very antithesis of everything Ollendorff stood for. Herr Ollendorff was incensed, as we can see from his letter to The Times, reproduced above. My guess is that his lawyers threatened to take Herr Ollendorff’s business elsewhere unless Whittaker ceased publication immediately and destroyed all traceable copies. If my guess is correct, then good riddance.

My guess is that Appleton in New York was desperate for a Latin Ollendorff and, not wanting to pay a translator to work from Ollendorff’s French original, and certainly not wishing to go to the expense of hiring Ollendorff himself, chose to take a more economical route by creating a look-alike. The Appleton board of directors had already in 1846 published the US edition of Thomas Kerchever Arnold’s Henry’s First Latin Book (1839) and the sequel, A Second Latin Book (1841, not online). Prior to the publication of the American edition, Appleton hired the Reverend J.A. Spencer, A.M., to reconfigure it along Ollendorffian lines. The result was two volumes, shortly thereafter combined into a single volume: A First and Second Latin Book and Practical Grammar. Not feeling this went far enough, Appleton went the next step and hired Albert Harkness to add even more exercises. The first volume of Harkness’s work was called Arnold’s First Latin Book: Remodelled and Rewritten, and Adapted to the Ollendorff Method (NY: D. Appleton & Co., 1851), and surprisingly it looks pretty good — not great, not nearly enough practice, but it looks okay. It would be better put to use as a basis for classroom conversation; it’s pretty useless for self-study. This first volume nowhere claimed to have been an authorized Ollendorff; it claimed rather to be a popular book now “adapted” to the Ollendorff Method, a claim that was hardly reasonable, as the result did not resemble an Ollendorff at all. I should hazard a guess that this matter was brought to Herr Ollendorff’s attention, and that his lawyers saw to it that the second volume would never reach the presses. Yet the second volume did reach the presses in 1853, though it nowhere made mention of Ollendorff. The two-volume set stayed in print through many editions.

I presume that it was these two Harkness volumes that Trübner & Co. in 1858 republished in a single volume as Latin Ollendorff: Being a Progressive Exhibition of the Principles of the Latin Grammar. Designed for Beginners in Latin and as a Book of Exercises for Academies and Colleges — a title format we shall encounter again shortly. I see only a single copy listed in the OCLC, and it is held at the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds.

As we learned above, something closer to Ollendorff’s original was painstakingly created by George J. Adler, but it was not the usual Appleton that took it to press, surely because Appleton already-had-a-satisfactory-Latin-course-thank-you-very-much. It was instead Sanborn, Carter, Bazin & Co. that issued the book. This firm had published no other Ollendorffs and never would. Unlike any other Ollendorffs, Adler’s Latin volume did not do well at all. It was never adopted for classroom use, and only seventeen libraries hold a copy. My guess (only a guess) is that Sanborn, Carter, Bazin & Co. simply didn’t have clout with school boards, and that the school boards already had contracts with Appleton, which had for six years been flooding the market with its own Latin course. That’s likely what caused the Adler edition to fail. Nonetheless, the Adler edition was reprinted in a second edition two years later, in 1859, and this edition is currently held by but two libraries, both in England. Then it just fizzled out.

Already mentioned above is Kendrick’s counterfeit Greek Ollendorff; Being a Progressive Exhibition of the Principles of the Greek Grammar: Designed for Beginners in Greek and as a Book of Exercises for Academies and Colleges (Appleton, 1851). The title was remarkably similar to the title of Harkness’s Latin book as later published by Trübner & Co. The Greek Ollendorff reached book shops at the same time as Harkness’s First Latin Book Adapted to the Ollendorff Method (Appleton, 1851). Kendrick opened his introduction by remarking, “The present work is what its title indicates, strictly an Ollendorff....” One can only imagine Herr Ollendorff’s feelings about this misappropriation of his name and trademark, especially for a book that did not even use his text. We see here a printing from 1859, one from 1869, and another from 1883. Kendrick’s book also saw print in 1857 in London through Trübner & Co., as we can see here. The listing in that link may well be that of the only surviving copy. Interestingly, Kendrick’s counterfeit Classical Greek course was translated into Modern Greek by our old friend Nikolaos Kontopoulos so that Greeks themselves could learn the ancient form of their language.

For what it’s worth, in 1879 México also had a counterfeit Ollendorff course in Classical Greek, Rafael Romero, León Malpica Soler; Francisco Rivas, Método para estudiar la lengua griega por el Sistema Ollendorff: obra de texto en la Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (México: Ignácio Escalante, 1879), though it’s not online. It could hardly have covered much material at a mere 144 pages.

There is one particular pseudepigraphal Ollendorff with which I feel comfortable, for the simple reason that it honestly admits, even on its title page, that it is pseudepigraphal, that it is merely “based upon the Ollendorffian System of Teaching Languages,” a perfectly true statement. This book is by Henry Riola, How to Learn Russian: A Manual for Students of Russian (Trübner & Co., 1878). This was reissued in 1883 (OCLC 504129175 and 56707580), 1890 (4th ed.), 1901 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench Trübner, 6th ed., completely revised), 1913 (OCLC 499153532), 1915 (new ed., London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.), and 1917 (8th ed.) (OCLC 499153544). A brief glance reveals what appears to be a superb book. I looked through a number of Russian-instruction books in younger years, and they were all bloody awful, designed only to instill mortal fear and induce cardiac arrest. Once upon a time, yes, it would really have been a boon for me to have known Russian. As a matter of fact, it may still help. For the sake of my sanity, I think I just may want to hide out in a tiny cabin in the Russian Far East for a few years, away from all communications with the outside world, away from all roads, away from all machines, away from all civilization. This Riola book is the one that would have grabbed my youthful attention, but I never knew about it. Again, nobody knew about it. “Have you my ram or that of my cook?” “I have neither your ram nor your cook’s.” “Whose ram have you?” “I have the captain’s ram.” “Has he enough cheese?” “He has not enough cheese, but he has plenty of good wax.” Oh heavens be praised! The Key was published in 1878, 1886, 1903 (OCLC 5638543), and 1917 (new ed., completely revised). There was a chrestomathy, A Graduated Russian Reader with a Vocabulary of All the Russian Words Contained in It (Trübner & Co., 1879), reissued in 1891 (2nd ed.), and 1915 (new ed., London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.; NY: E.P. Dutton & Co.).

México had yet another counterfeit, one that should have been something amazing: an Aztec Ollendorff!!!!!!!! Dario Julio Caballero, Gramática del idioma Méxicano, segun el sistema de “Ollendorff” por el Presbítero (México: Filomeno Mata, 1880). Too bad it’s not a real Ollendorff, though. It’s basically a long tourist’s phrase book. It uses none of Ollendorff’s techniques. This isn’t the Nahuatl spoken during the days of empire, but modern Nahuatl. (Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec empire, is related to Ute, Shoshone, Comanche, Tübatulabal, and Kizh, among others. These are endangered languages all, and need to be rescued. I hear tell that a new book, Michel Launey’s An Introduction to Classical Nahuatl, is superb. It looks quite good, though methinks it could use some Ollendorffianization. We shouldn’t have a mere half a page of sentences to Nahuatlize per lesson, but five full pages, at least.)

Another interesting, though regrettably inferior, counterfeit was from Italy, namely, the Illyrian Ollendorff!!!!! Andrea Stazich, Grammatica illirica: pratica secondo il metodo di Ahn e di Ollendorff spiegata dal maestro della III. classe nella Scuola Normale (Spalato: M.V. Piperata E. F., 1855). How could that be? Illyrian is truly a dead language, as effectively no literature survives. Well, this is how. “Illyrian” was used as another name for Croato-Serbian. I never knew about that. Did you?


Finally, about two years after Ollendorff’s death, his widow Margaret granted permission to Charles Rudy to create a Mandarin course. Rudy spent some six years laboring over the text, translating Ollendorff’s distinctively European sentences into a language that would normally have no concern with such matters as sous and crowns and exchanges among Spaniards and Belgians. While Rudy’s course of action may seem silly, he had a reason for his choice of baseline. Ollendorff’s text was mostly identical from language to language. Thus it was only reasonable that Professor Rudy would utilize this canonical text to create an English-to-Mandarin grammar, in the hopes that even French-speaking, German-speaking, Italian-speaking, and Latin-speaking people would be encouraged to learn Mandarin by the simple expedient of following along in the Ollendorff texts related to their local languages. It is difficult to avoid the impression that Professor Rudy was on a mission to teach the entire world fluent Mandarin. Rudy sought help from a native scholar, Mr. Teh-Ming, to perfect his text, and at long last, in 1874, his masterwork was ready. The first 40 lessons (121 exercises) of his A New Method of Learning to Read, Write and Speak a Language by H.-G. Ollendorff, Ph. Dr., Adapted to the Chinese Mandarin Language made their appearance in the first two issues of a publication by François Auguste Turrettini called Ban Zaï Sau: pour servir à la connaissance de l’extrême orient (here combined into the 1874 annual). Subscribers to this periodical waited in vain for the appearance of the promised lessons 41 through 61 (exercises 122 through 195), though they did get the chance to purchase the first 40 lessons rebound as a two-volume book. The book version was published by a certain Paul Ollendorff — click here and click your page counter down to 358. Here is the book version of Volume One, lessons 1 through 20 and here is the book version of Volume Two, lessons 21 through 40. As we can see, the book consists simply of the signatures from Ban Zaï Sau pulled from the magazine and stitched into hard covers. (See also WorthPoint). The Ban Zaï Sau second year (1875) and third year (1876) had no Rudy or Ollendorff material. It would be four years until the next issue came out. In despair, or maybe just as a space-filler, the June and December 1877 issues of L’extrême orient receuil de linguistique d’ethnographie et d’histoire repeated lesson 21 through the middle of lesson 24. Ban Zaï Sau fourth issue (1880), predictably, filled empty space yet again by reprinting lesson 21 through the beginning of lesson 31. Finally, we get a hint of what may have been going wrong, since we discover that there was a hiatus before Ban Zaï Sau’s fifth and final issue made its way into print in 1889. This fifth issue reprinted the middle of Rudy/Ollendorff’s lesson 31 all the way through 40. That was the end of that. Something awfully wacky was going on, and we’ll never know what. Thanks to the wackiness, Charles Rudy’s remaining lessons, 41 through 61, were never published, though they were surely written. Does anybody maintain an archive of Rudy’s papers? It is vitally important to recover and publish his remaining lessons. If this work is lost, then it is imperative that someone take on the duty of translating lessons 41 through 61 of Nouvelle méthode pour apprendre a lire, a écrire et a parler une langue en six mois, appliquée a l’anglais into Mandarin!

As for tracing Charles Rudy’s heirs, sheesh, my messages go unanswered. Charles Rudy is still quite well known in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, and people have researched his life. We have several amusing pieces:

Frank Whelan, “Schnecksville Native Made a Name for Himself in 19th-Century France,” The [Allentown, Pennsylvania] Morning Call, Sunday, 27 February 2000.

Fascinating, isn’t it? I mean, really, could you invent a story like this? Charles Rudy must have descendants. He must have heirs. Nobody in the know wants to talk with me, though. Dead silence. No responses. Stonewalled. Unless I can personally dig through the libraries and historical societies in the Schnecksville/Lehigh areas, I’ll never be able to trace anybody down. The money.... The time.... Oy vey.

By the way, I listened to some instructions on YouTube about the Mandarin tones, and they put me in mind of the Classical Greek pitches. Not the same. No, no, not the same at all. Tone is not in any way the same as pitch, and English, too, like all languages, has tones. In Mandarin, though, tones follow a different set of rules. Yangyang Cheng explains this: Learn Mandarin Chinese Tones the Fun Way! — Beginner Conversational — Yoyo Chinese. Funny, isn’t it? Now, here we have four tones, all of which surely exist in all languages. Greek had high, a low, and a falling pitch, distinguished by diacritics. Of course, all languages have a high, a low, and a falling pitch. Here in Mandarin we have four or five diacritics (depending on geographical location and publisher’s house style). Oddly, the Greek accents have been consistently written incorrectly for nearly two millennia. Long after Greek changed (almost overnight!) from a polytonic accent to a stress accent, many Greek acute accents ´ began to be written as grave accents ` for reasons not understood and probably not understandable. This new practice was formulated into dogma by scribes who had never once in their lives heard the polytonic accent. In truth, only unmarked syllables were grave. That was an incoherent paragraph, wasn’t it?


Hints, hints, hints. Let us examine the family tree. Heinrich Gottfried Ollendorff, or Henri Godefroy Ollendorff as he frequently signed himself, was the son of Gerschen Ollendorff (born ca. 1760). Heinrich’s siblings were Jacob, Nathan, Marcus, and Joseph Gerschel. (By the way: Gerschen = Gottfried = Godefroy.) The first appearance of the German name Ollendorff in Rawicz was in 1806. So in all likelihood the Ollendorff kids grew up speaking German, Yiddish, Polish, and Hebrew. Remember, kids who grow up speaking multiple languages can learn further languages almost without effort.

Heinrich’s first wife was Dorothéa Pincus, born in 1820 in Rawicz. They married surely right around 1848. Their children were Minna Ollendorff, about whom I can learn nothing except for what’s on Geni; Gustav Ollendorff (born 4 March 1850, France; died 19 September 1891, France); and Paul Ollendorff (born 24 February 1851, Paris; died 15 December 1920, Paris).

Before Paul even learned to walk, Dorothéa dumped Heinrich. It is not difficult to figure out that Heinrich was two-timing her. Right after the divorce, Heinrich married a Scottish gal named Margaret Ramsay, born 12 April 1816 in Edinburgh. They were married at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on 10 August 1851. As far as I know, Heinrich and Margaret had only one child, Herrmann Ollendorff, born 22 August 1853 in Midlothian.

Now let us return to Paul. When we turn to Wikipedia we discover that in 1882 he founded La Librarie Ollendorff, likely a successor to his father’s self-publishing outfit. In 1889 his brother Gustave nominated him to be named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, a title that was indeed bestowed upon him. In 1898 Paul cofounded La Société d’Éditions Litéraires et Artistiques. La Librarie Ollendorff gave up the ghost by 1904, but not before the 1903 establishment of Paul Ollendorff, Éditeur. Paul also took on a position at a newspaper called Gil Blas, a post he kept from 10 January 1903 through 1911. His personal publishing house faded into silence by the time of his death in 1920. Another publisher, Les Éditions Albin Michel, raised funds to revive La Société d’Éditions Litéraires et Artistiques in 1924, but this second incarnation filed for bankruptcy in January 1940. Wikipedia also informs us that Paul’s daughter, Jeanne Ollendorff Hirsch, was the mother of Gilbert Grandval (12 February 1904 – 29 November 1981), the Minister of Labor under de Gaul. That brings us up almost to the present. Someone, someone, someone in that family just might still have a copy of Rudy’s volume three in a trunk in the attic — without even realizing it.

It was probably in 1861 that Heinrich decided that he had tired of watching Margaret’s paint chip off, and so he traded her in for a newer model, fresh off the assembly line. His third wife was Maria Elise Mathilde Strauch, born circa 1828 in Frankfurt am Maine (see also Geni). Heinrich and Mathilde had two children, Frederick Parrot Ollendorff, born 22 August 1862 in Devonshire; and Bertha Victoria Parrot Ollendorff, born 8 June 1864 in Exeter (see also Geni). Those two kids never got to know their dad, who died in Paris on 8 April 1865.

Paul Ollendorff kept at least some of his dad’s books in print for several decades. Since Charles Rudy obtained copyright permission from Heinrich’s second wife Margaret, we can assume that she owned the rights to her ex’s other books as well.

Margaret died in 1891, and by then almost nobody was interested in maintaining Ollendorff’s publications, which by the early 1900s all vanished from print and rapidly faded from memory. From being a household name from the mid-1830s through the mid-1860s, Ollendorff was pretty much forgotten by the 1880s. His courses came to be ridiculed by those who preferred to teach the rules/charts/tables method with endless lists of vocabulary to be memorized. See, for instance, The China Review, or, Notes and Queries on the Far East, vol. 7, July 1878 – June 1879, p. 404, which lambasts the Ollendorff method as “very monotonous and stupid.”

Many of the works of Ollendorff and his counterfeiters are now available via print-on-demand. I have not seen these and probably don’t want to. The publishers warn that pages may be blurry or missing, that any fold-outs are deleted (as they are in the online versions), that only the first volumes of multivolume sets are available, and that imperfections are not corrected. Pathetic. I presume these are taken from the online scans, but I can’t be sure.

For a fairly comprehensive list of Ollendorff titles, both real and counterfeit, click here.

There’s more than enough Ollendorffian material here for a book. Maybe I’ll write it, or maybe you’ll beat me to the punch.

If you’ve read this far, then you’re pretty darned interested in old things. So take a look at this:

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