‘SECOND-HAND SUPERIORITY’: BASIL LANNEAU GILDERSLEEVE AND THE ENGLISH

Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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  • 1 UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA

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The attitude of the American classical scholar Basil L. Gildersleeve toward the English may be taken as typical of Americans over the period of his long life. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, a city with deep economic and cultural ties to England, he found his youthful admiration for British scholarship off set by the sufferings of his ancestors in the Revolution and the War of 1812. At mid-century the allegiance of many American intellectuals had switched from England to Germany, viewed idealistically as a place of pure intellectual discovery and artistic creativity. British amateurism held little interest for those who were building the first American research institutions in the 1880s, but as the First World War approached, the deficiencies of the German system and the exciting work being done by those around Jane Harrison and Gilbert Murray brought Gildersleeve back to the respect for humane British scholarship that he had learned in his youth in Charleston.

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