Those who live and move and have their being in the world of words and not of things, and employ language less as a vehicle than as a substitute for thought, are readily duped by the assertion that this stolid adherence to a favourite MS [manuscript], instead of being, as it is, a private and personal necessity imposed on certain editors by their congenital defects, is a principle; and that its name is "scientific criticism' or "critical method.' (A. E. Housman, M. Manilii Astronomicon, [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937], 1:xxxii.)Housman is one of the most readable authorities on textual criticism and actually knew how to write. It is a shame that the pretentious periodical had no memorable prose to match Housman's.
Monday, December 2, 2013
The Best Manuscript Fallacy
Recent perusing of a pretentious periodical reminded me of A. E. Housman's line about those who "employ language less as a vehicle than as a substitute for thought." The full quote, however is about textual criticism: