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Remarks on the Culex

From the Closet


Professor Wendell Clausen has inaugurated a new seminar this semester entitled Classical Philology 299b, The Culex: an Introduction to Latin Textual Criticism. Among the recondite aims of this course will be "practice in reading and collating MSS, making an apparatus criticus, and establishing a "text." It may be helpful to those ready to embark on so perilous a trek in the groves of Academe to halt a moment and take heed of A.E. Housman's published Remarks on the Culex (1902). THE EDITORS.

The authors of the Culex and Ciris and Aetna were mediocre poets, and worse, and the gods and men and booksellers whom they affronted by existing allotted them for transcription to worse than mediocre scribes. The Ciris was indited by a twaddler, and the Culex and Aetna by stutterers: but what they stuttered and twaddled was Latin, not double-Dutch; and great part of it is now double-Dutch and Latin no more ... Here then, between poets capable of much and copyists capable of anything, is a promising field for the exercise of tact and caution; a prudent editor will be slow to emend the text and slow to defend it, and his page will bristle with the obelus. But alas, it is not for specimens of tact and caution that one resorts to the editors of the Culex; it is rather to fill one's bosom with sheaves of improbable corrections and impossible explanations. In particular the editions of Baehrens in 1880 and of Leo in 1891 are patterns of insobriety...

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