Saturday, August 29, 2020


In English writing we seldom speak of tradition, though we occasionally apply its name in deploring its absence. We cannot refer to “the tradition” or to “a tradition”; at most, we employ the adjective in saying that the poetry of So-and-so is “traditional” or even “too traditional.” Seldom, perhaps, does the word appear except in a phrase of censure. If otherwise, it is vaguely approbative, with the implication, as to the work approved, of some pleasing archaeological reconstruction. You can hardly make the word agreeable to English ears without this comfortable reference to the reassuring science of archaeology.

Certainly the word is not likely to appear in our appreciations of living or dead writers. Every nation, every race, has not only its own creative, but its own critical turn of mind; and is even more oblivious of the shortcomings and limitations of its critical habits than of those of its creative genius. We know, or think we know, from the enormous mass of critical writing that has appeared in the French language the critical method or habit of the French; we only conclude (we are such unconscious people) that the French are “more critical” than we, and sometimes even plume ourselves a little with the fact, as if the French were the less spontaneous. Perhaps they are; but we might remind ourselves that criticism is as inevitable as breathing, and that we should be none the worse for articulating what passes in our minds when we read a book and feel an emotion about it, for criticizing our own minds in their work of criticism. One of the facts that might come to light in this process is our tendency to insist, when we praise a poet, upon those aspects of his work in which he least resembles any one else. In these aspects or parts of his work we pretend to find what is individual, what is the peculiar essence of the man. We dwell with satisfaction upon the poet’s difference from his predecessors, especially his immediate predecessors; we endeavour to find something that can be isolated in order to be enjoyed. Whereas if we approach a poet without this prejudice we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously. And I do not mean the impressionable period of adolescence, but the period of full maturity.

Yet if the only form of tradition, of handing down, consisted in following the ways of the immediate generation before us in a blind or timid adherence to its successes, “tradition” should positively be discouraged. We have seen many such simple currents soon lost in the sand; and novelty is better than repetition. Tradition is a matter of much wider significance. It cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to any one who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his own contemporaneity.

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not onesided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the form of European, of English literature will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past. And the poet who is aware of this will be aware of great difficulties and responsibilities.

In a peculiar sense he will be aware also that he must inevitably be judged by the standards of the past. I say judged, not amputated, by them; not judged to be as good as, or worse or better than, the dead; and certainly not judged by the canons of dead critics. It is a judgment, a comparison, in which two things are measured by each other. To conform merely would be for the new work not really to conform at all; it would not be new, and would therefore not be a work of art. And we do not quite say that the new is more valuable because it fits in; but its fitting in is a test of its value—a test, it is true, which can only be slowly and cautiously applied, for we are none of us infallible judges of conformity. We say: it appears to conform, and is perhaps individual, or it appears individual, and many conform; but we are hardly likely to find that it is one and not the other.

To proceed to a more intelligible exposition of the relation of the poet to the past: he can neither take the past as a lump, an indiscriminate bolus, nor can he form himself wholly on one or two private admirations, nor can he form himself wholly upon one preferred period. The first course is inadmissible, the second is an important experience of youth, and the third is a pleasant and highly desirable supplement. The poet must be very conscious of the main current, which does not at all flow invariably through the most distinguished reputations. He must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same. He must be aware that the mind of Europe—the mind of his own country—a mind which he learns in time to be much more important than his own private mind—is a mind which changes, and that this change is a development which abandons nothing en route, which does not superannuate either Shakespeare, or Homer, or the rock drawing of the Magdalenian draughtsmen. That this development, refinement perhaps, complication certainly, is not, from the point of view of the artist, any improvement. Perhaps not even an improvement from the point of view of the psychologist or not to the extent which we imagine; perhaps only in the end based upon a complication in economics and machinery. But the difference between the present and the past is that the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past’s awareness of itself cannot show.

Some one said: “The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.” Precisely, and they are that which we know.

I am alive to a usual objection to what is clearly part of my programme for the métier of poetry. The objection is that the doctrine requires a ridiculous amount of erudition (pedantry), a claim which can be rejected by appeal to the lives of poets in any pantheon. It will even be affirmed that much learning deadens or perverts poetic sensibility. While, however, we persist in believing that a poet ought to know as much as will not encroach upon his necessary receptivity and necessary laziness, it is not desirable to confine knowledge to whatever can be put into a useful shape for examinations, drawing-rooms, or the still more pretentious modes of publicity. Some can absorb knowledge, the more tardy must sweat for it. Shakespeare acquired more essential history from Plutarch than most men could from the whole British Museum. What is to be insisted upon is that the poet must develop or procure the consciousness of the past and that he should continue to develop this consciousness throughout his career.

What happens is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.

There remains to define this process of depersonalization and its relation to the sense of tradition. It is in this depersonalization that art may be said to approach the condition of science. I, therefore, invite you to consider, as a suggestive analogy, the action which takes place when a bit of finely filiated platinum is introduced into a chamber containing oxygen and sulphur dioxide.


Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation are directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry. If we attend to the confused cries of the newspaper critics and the susurrus of popular repetition that follows, we shall hear the names of poets in great numbers; if we seek not Blue-book knowledge but the enjoyment of poetry, and ask for a poem, we shall seldom find it. I have tried to point out the importance of the relation of the poem to other poems by other authors, and suggested the conception of poetry as a living whole of all the poetry that has ever been written. The other aspect of this Impersonal theory of poetry is the relation of the poem to its author. And I hinted, by an analogy, that the mind of the mature poet differs from that of the immature one not precisely in any valuation of “personality,” not being necessarily more interesting, or having “more to say,” but rather by being a more finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations.

The analogy was that of the catalyst. When the two gases previously mentioned are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. This combination takes place only if the platinum is present; nevertheless the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum itself is apparently unaffected; has remained inert, neutral, and unchanged. The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum. It may partly or exclusively operate upon the experience of the man himself; but, the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates; the more perfectly will the mind digest and transmute the passions which are its material.

The experience, you will notice, the elements which enter the presence of the transforming catalyst, are of two kinds: emotions and feelings. The effect of a work of art upon the person who enjoys it is an experience different in kind from any experience not of art. It may be formed out of one emotion, or may be a combination of several; and various feelings, inhering for the writer in particular words or phrases or images, may be added to compose the final result. Or great poetry may be made without the direct use of any emotion whatever: composed out of feelings solely. Canto XV of the Inferno (Brunetto Latini) is a working up of the emotion evident in the situation; but the effect, though single as that of any work of art, is obtained by considerable complexity of detail. The last quatrain gives an image, a feeling attaching to an image, which “came,” which did not develop simply out of what precedes, but which was probably in suspension in the poet’s mind until the proper combination arrived for it to add itself to. The poet’s mind is in fact a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together.

If you compare several representative passages of the greatest poetry you see how great is the variety of types of combination, and also how completely any semi-ethical criterion of “sublimity” misses the mark. For it is not the “greatness,” the intensity, of the emotions, the components, but the intensity of the artistic process, the pressure, so to speak, under which the fusion takes place, that counts. The episode of Paolo and Francesca employs a definite emotion, but the intensity of the poetry is something quite different from whatever intensity in the supposed experience it may give the impression of. It is no more intense, furthermore, than Canto XXVI, the voyage of Ulysses, which has not the direct dependence upon an emotion. Great variety is possible in the process of transmutation of emotion: the murder of Agamemnon, or the agony of Othello, gives an artistic effect apparently closer to a possible original than the scenes from Dante. In the Agamemnon, the artistic emotion approximates to the emotion of an actual spectator; in Othello to the emotion of the protagonist himself. But the difference between art and the event is always absolute; the combination which is the murder of Agamemnon is probably as complex as that which is the voyage of Ulysses. In either case there has been a fusion of elements. The ode of Keats contains a number of feelings which have nothing particular to do with the nightingale, but which the nightingale, partly, perhaps, because of its attractive name, and partly because of its reputation, served to bring together.

The point of view which I am struggling to attack is perhaps related to the metaphysical theory of the substantial unity of the soul: for my meaning is, that the poet has, not a “personality” to express, but a particular medium, which is only a medium and not a personality, in which impressions and experiences combine in peculiar and unexpected ways. Impressions and experiences which are important for the man may take no place in the poetry, and those which become important in the poetry may play quite a negligible part in the man, the personality.

I will quote a passage which is unfamiliar enough to be regarded with fresh attention in the light—or darkness—of these observations:

And now methinks I could e’en chide myself
For doating on her beauty, though her death
Shall be revenged after no common action.
Does the silkworm expend her yellow labours
For thee? For thee does she undo herself?
Are lordships sold to maintain ladyships
For the poor benefit of a bewildering minute?
Why does yon fellow falsify highways,
And put his life between the judge’s lips,
To refine such a thing—keeps horse and men
To beat their valours for her? . . .

In this passage (as is evident if it is taken in its context) there is a combination of positive and negative emotions: an intensely strong attraction toward beauty and an equally intense fascination by the ugliness which is contrasted with it and which destroys it. This balance of contrasted emotion is in the dramatic situation to which the speech is pertinent, but that situation alone is inadequate to it. This is, so to speak, the structural emotion, provided by the drama. But the whole effect, the dominant tone, is due to the fact that a number of floating feelings, having an affinity to this emotion by no means superficially evident, have combined with it to give us a new art emotion.

It is not in his personal emotions, the emotions provoked by particular events in his life, that the poet is in any way remarkable or interesting. His particular emotions may be simple, or crude, or flat. The emotion in his poetry will be a very complex thing, but not with the complexity of the emotions of people who have very complex or unusual emotions in life. One error, in fact, of eccentricity in poetry is to seek for new human emotions to express; and in this search for novelty in the wrong place it discovers the perverse. The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all. And emotions which he has never experienced will serve his turn as well as those familiar to him. Consequently, we must believe that “emotion recollected in tranquillity” is an inexact formula. For it is neither emotion, nor recollection, nor, without distortion of meaning, tranquillity. It is a concentration, and a new thing resulting from the concentration, of a very great number of experiences which to the practical and active person would not seem to be experiences at all; it is a concentration which does not happen consciously or of deliberation. These experiences are not “recollected,” and they finally unite in an atmosphere which is “tranquil” only in that it is a passive attending upon the event. Of course this is not quite the whole story. There is a great deal, in the writing of poetry, which must be conscious and deliberate. In fact, the bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious. Both errors tend to make him “personal.” Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.



δ δε νους ισως Θειοτερον τι και απαθες εστιν

This essay proposes to halt at the frontier of metaphysics or mysticism, and confine itself to such practical conclusions as can be applied by the responsible person interested in poetry. To divert interest from the poet to the poetry is a laudable aim: for it would conduce to a juster estimation of actual poetry, good and bad. There are many people who appreciate the expression of sincere emotion in verse, and there is a smaller number of people who can appreciate technical excellence. But very few know when there is an expression of significant emotion, emotion which has its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet. The emotion of art is impersonal. And the poet cannot reach this impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done. And he is not likely to know what is to be done unless he lives in what is not merely the present, but the present moment of the past, unless he is conscious, not of what is dead, but of what is already 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Anne Finch. The Introduction

The Introduction

Did I, my lines intend for public view,
How many censures, would their faults pursue,
Some would, because such words they do affect,
Cry they’re insipid, empty, and uncorrect.
And many have attained, dull and untaught,
The name of wit only by finding fault.
True judges might condemn their want of wit,
And all might say, they’re by a woman writ.
Alas! a woman that attempts the pen,
Such an intruder on the rights of men,
Such a presumptuous creature, is esteemed,
The fault can by no virtue be redeemed.
They tell us we mistake our sex and way;
Good breeding, fashion, dancing, dressing, play
Are the accomplishments we should desire;
To write, or read, or think, or to inquire
Would cloud our beauty, and exhaust our time,
And interrupt the conquests of our prime;
Whilst the dull manage of a servile house
Is held by some our outmost art, and use.
Sure ’twas not ever thus, nor are we told
Fables, of women that excelled of old;
To whom, by the diffusive hand of Heaven
Some share of wit, and poetry was given.
On that glad day, on which the Ark returned,
The holy pledge, for which the land had mourned,
The joyful tribes, attend it on the way,
The Levites do the sacred charge convey,
Whilst various instruments, before it play;
Here, holy virgins in the concert join
The louder notes, to soften, and refine,
And with alternate verse complete the hymn divine.
Lo! the young Poet, after God’s own heart,
By Him inspired, and taught the Muses’ art,
Returned from conquest, a bright chorus meets,
That sing his slain ten thousand in the streets.
In such loud numbers they his acts declare,
Proclaim the wonders of his early war,
That Saul upon the vast applause does frown,
And feels its mighty thunder shake the crown.
What, can the threatened judgment now prolong?
Half of the kingdom is already gone;
The fairest half, whose influence guides the rest,
Have David’s empire o’er their hearts confessed.
A woman here, leads fainting Israel on,
She fights, she wins, she triumphs with a song,
Devout, majestic, for the subject fit,
And far above her arms, exalts her wit;
Then, to the peaceful, shady palm withdraws,
And rules the rescued nation, with her laws.
How are we fall’n, fall’n by mistaken rules?
And education’s, more than nature’s fools,
Debarred from all improvements of the mind,
And to be dull, expected and designed;
And if some one would soar above the rest,
With warmer fancy, and ambition pressed,
So strong th’ opposing faction still appears,
The hopes to thrive can ne’er outweigh the fears,
Be cautioned then my Muse, and still retired;
Nor be despised, aiming to be admired;
Conscious of wants, still with contracted wing,
To some few friends, and to thy sorrows sing;
For groves of laurel thou wert never meant;
Be dark enough thy shades, and be thou there content.

Washing Day by Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Washing Day

The Muses are turned gossips; they have lost
The buskined step, and clear high-sounding phrase,
Language of gods. Come, then, domestic Muse,
In slip-shod measure loosely prattling on,
Of farm or orchard, pleasant curds and cream,
Or droning flies, or shoes lost in the mire
By little whimpering boy, with rueful face —
Come, Muse, and sing the dreaded washing day.
Ye who beneath the yoke of wedlock bend,
With bowed soul, full well ye ken the day
Which week, smooth sliding after week, brings on
Too soon; for to that day nor peace belongs,
Nor comfort; ere the first grey streak of dawn,
The red-armed washers come and chase repose.
Nor pleasant smile, nor quaint device of mirth,
Ere visited that day; the very cat,
From the wet kitchen scared, and reeking hearth,
Visits the parlour, an unwonted guest.
The silent breakfast meal is soon despatched,
Uninterrupted, save by anxious looks
Cast at the louring, if sky should lour.
From that last evil, oh preserve us, heavens!
For should the skies pour down, adieu to all
Remains of quiet; then expect to hear
Of sad disasters — dirt and gravel stains
Hard to efface, and loaded lines at once
Snapped short, and linen-horse by dog thrown down,
And all the petty miseries of life.
Saints have been calm while stretched upon the rack,
And Montezuma smiled on burning coals;
But never yet did housewife notable
Greet with a smile a rainy washing day.
But grant the welkin fair, require not thou
Who callest thyself, perchance, the master there,
Or study swept, or nicely dusted coat,
Or usual ’tendence; ask not, indiscreet,
Thy stockings mended, though the yawning rents
Gape wide as Erebus; nor hope to find
Some snug recess impervious. Shouldst thou try
The ’customed garden walks, thine eye shall rue
The budding fragrance of thy tender shrubs,
Myrtle or rose, all crushed beneath the weight
Of coarse-checked apron, with impatient hand
Twitched off when showers impend; or crossing lines
Shall mar thy musings, as the wet cold sheet
Flaps in thy face abrupt. Woe to the friend
Whose evil stars have urged him forth to claim
On such a dav the hospitable rites;
Looks blank at best, and stinted courtesy
Shall he receive; vainly he feeds his hopes
With dinner of roast chicken, savoury pie,
Or tart or pudding; pudding he nor tart
That day shall eat; nor, though the husband try —
Mending what can’t be helped — to kindle mirth
From cheer deficient, shall his consort’s brow
Clear up propitious; the unlucky guest
In silence dines, and early slinks away.
I well remember, when a child, the awe
This day struck into me; for then the maids,
I scarce knew why, looked cross, and drove me from them;
Nor soft caress could I obtain, nor hope
Usual indulgencies; jelly or creams,
Relic of costly suppers, and set by
For me their petted one; or buttered toast,
When butter was forbid; or thrilling tale
Of ghost, or witch, or murder. So I went
And sheltered me beside the parlour fire;
There my dear grandmother, eldest of forms,
Tended the little ones, and watched from harm;
Anxiously fond, though oft her spectacles
With elfin cunning hid, and oft the pins
Drawn from her ravelled stocking, might have soured
One less indulgent.
At intervals my mother’s voice was heard,
Urging dispatch; briskly the work went on,
All hands employed to wash, to rinse, to wring,
Or fold, and starch, and clap, and iron, and plait.
Then would I sit me down, and ponder much
Why washings were; sometimes through hollow hole
Of pipe amused we blew, and sent aloft
The floating bubbles; little dreaming then
To see, Montgolfier, thy silken ball
Ride buoyant through the clouds, so near approach
The sports of children and the toils of men.
Earth, air, and sky, and ocean hath its bubbles,
And verse is one of them — this most of all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Chartism for Fb live class on 25 August

The People's Charter called for six reforms to make the political system more democratic:

  1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.
  2. The secret ballot to protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
  3. No property qualification for Members of Parliament to allow the constituencies to return the man of their choice.
  4. Payment of Members, enabling tradesmen, working men, or other persons of modest means to leave or interrupt their livelihood to attend to the interests of the nation.
  5. Equal constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing less populous constituencies to have as much or more weight than larger ones.
  6. Annual Parliamentary elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since no purse could buy a constituency under a system of universal manhood suffrage in every twelve months.

Chartists saw themselves fighting against political corruption and for democracy in an industrial society, but attracted support beyond the radical political groups for economic reasons, such as opposing wage cuts and unemployment.


Say not the Struggle nought Availeth

Say not the struggle nought availeth,
     The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
     And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
     It may be, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
     And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking
     Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back through creeks and inlets making,
     Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
     When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
     But westward, look, the land is bright.


The Latest Decalogue

Original Text: 
Arthur Hugh Clough, Poems, with a Memoir (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1862). PR 4455 A2 1862 ROBA TRIN. The standard recent edition of Clough's poetry is The Poems of Arthur Hugh Clough, edited by H. F. Lowry, A. L. P. Norrington and F. L. Mulhauser (Oxford, 1951).
2Would be at the expense of two?
3No graven images may be
4Worshipp'd, except the currency:
5Swear not at all; for, for thy curse
6Thine enemy is none the worse:
7At church on Sunday to attend
8Will serve to keep the world thy friend:
9Honour thy parents; that is, all
10From whom advancement may befall:
11Thou shalt not kill; but need'st not strive
12Officiously to keep alive:
13Do not adultery commit;
14Advantage rarely comes of it:
15Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat,
16When it's so lucrative to cheat:
17Bear not false witness; let the lie
18Have time on its own wings to fly:
19Thou shalt not covet; but tradition
20Approves all forms of competition.


Friday, August 21, 2020

21 Aug fb class



Derrida highlights Lévi-Strauss's use of the term bricolage, the activity of a bricoleur. "The bricoleur, says Lévi-Strauss, is someone who uses 'the means at hand,' that is, the instruments he finds at his disposition around him, those which are already there, which had not been especially conceived with an eye to the operation for which they are to be used and to which one tries by trial and error to adapt them, not hesitating to change them whenever it appears necessary." Bricolage becomes a metaphor for philosophical and literary critiques, exemplifying Derrida's previous argument about the necessity of using the language available. The bricoleur's foil is the engineer, who creates out of whole cloth without the need for bricolage—however, the engineer is merely a myth since all physical and intellectual production is really bricolage.

Thursday, August 20, 2020



Sir Charles Wood, the President of the Board of Control, had an important effect on spreading English learning and female education in India. When in 1854 he sent a dispatch to Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor-General of India, Wood suggested that primary schools must adopt vernacular languages, high schools must adopt Anglo-vernacular language and at college-level English should be the medium of education. This is known as Wood's despatch. Vocational and women's education were also stressed upon.

One of the most favourable steps taken was to create an English class among Indian people to be used as workforce in the company's administration.

The British had initiated the best developmental activities during this phase as it was the final phase where the British brought social reforms. After this period their policies tended to become reactionary.

  • Wood's Dispatch is called Magna Carta of English Education in India.
  • It came in July 1854, when Sir Charles Wood was the President of the Board of Control


He recommended there in that:

  1. English education will enhance the moral character of Indians and thus supply EIC with civil servants who can be trusted.
  2. An education department was to be set up in every province.
  3. Universities on the model of the London university be established in big cities such as Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.
  4. At least one government school be opened in every district.
  5. Affiliated private schools should be given grant in aid.
  6. The Indian natives should be given training in their mother tongue also.
  7. Provision was made for a systematic method of education from primary level to the university level.
  8. The government should support education for women.
  9. The medium of instruction at the primary level was to be vernacular while at the higher levels it would be English.
  10. Promotion and stress on teachers’ training at all levels.

Measures taken after the despatch

After Wood's despatch, several measures were taken by East India Company

  1. Setting up new institutions like the University of Calcutta, the University of Bombay and the University of Madras in 1857 as well as the University of the Punjab in 1882 and the University of Allahabad in 1887
  2. In all provinces, education departments were set up.
  3. Promotion of English education

20 August the Newbolt Report

The Newbolt Report (1921)
The Teaching of English in England

Notes on the text


In May 1919 the President of the Board of Education, HAL Fisher, appointed a Departmental Committee:

To inquire into the position occupied by English (Language and Literature) in the educational system of England, and to advise how its study may best be promoted in schools of all types, including Continuation Schools, and in Universities, and other Institutions of Higher Education, regard being had to
(1) the requirements of a liberal education;
(2) the needs of business, the professions, and public services; and
(3) the relation of English to other studies.
The Chair of the Committee, Sir Henry Newbolt (1862-1938) was a barrister with a complicated family life: he and his wife, Margaret Duckworth, were both lovers of another woman, Ella Coltman. But he is best known for his poetry, mostly patriotic nautical ballads. His most famous poem, Vitai Lampada (The torch of life), describes how a young soldier learned his sense of duty during school cricket matches. It begins: 'There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night'.

In June 2013, retired English lecturer Peter Higginson launched a campaign to have a statue of Sir Henry erected at his birthplace in Bilston.

The thirteen members of the Committee, who also included the prolific writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944), sat on 42 days, and a sub-committee met on 18 days. They presented their report to Fisher in 1921.

Other reports on the teaching of English include:

Bullock (1975) A language for life;
Kingman (1988) The Teaching of English Language;
Cox (1989) English for ages 5 to 16;
Warwick (1994) Implementation of English in the National Curriculum; and
Ofsted (2012) Moving English forward.

The report online

The full text of the report (including the Appendices), scanned from the 1926 reprint, is presented in a single web page.

The page headers (chapter titles on the left hand pages, section headings on the right) have been omitted.

I have corrected a handful of printing errors and removed the hyphens from time-table, to-day and class-room. Otherwise, I have left spelling and capitalisation as printed - including various inconsistencies (recognise and recognize, connection and connexion, university and University etc).

I have modernised (and corrected) some of the punctuation. Extraordinarily for a report on English, there is confusion between direct and reported speech, with examples of the latter sometimes incorrectly enclosed in speech marks. I have left these as printed.

I have added explanations to a few archaic words. Anything added by way of explanation is shown [in square brackets].

Summary of the report's main recommendations

The report listed 105 recommendations including:

  • every teacher is a teacher of English;
  • elementary schools should teach all their pupils to speak standard English using phonetics;
  • oral work is the foundation on which proficiency in the writing of English must be based;
  • children should be practised, not only in the art of speaking and reading, but also in the art of listening;
  • up to the age of 12 at least one period a day should be devoted to English and pupils should be made familiar with a body of fine poetry;
  • between ages 14 and 16 the study of English should not be subordinate to that of science or foreign languages;
  • from 16 to 18 some study of the growth and development of the English language would be preferable to a course in Old English;
  • pupils specialising in maths or science should be taught to use English accurately;
  • advanced courses should offer more opportunities for studying English;
  • senior English teachers should have the same powers as senior teachers of maths, science, or modern languages;
  • the needs of business are best met by a liberal education - 'commercial English' is objectionable and unnecessary;
  • in junior evening courses the study of English should be broadly interpreted;
  • day continuation schools should have lending libraries and the teaching of literature should include reading aloud, recitation, and dramatic performances;
  • in commercial and technical schools there should be greater emphasis on the teaching English;
  • local education authorities should provide courses on the teaching of English for supplementary teachers;
  • the standard of English required for admission to training colleges should be raised and selected students should be encouraged to make a special study of English in a third year course;
  • more elementary school teachers should have a full university training;
  • local education authorities should promote English courses and establish central libraries for teachers;
  • in university examinations the status of English should be raised;
  • English should be a qualifying subject in all matriculation examinations;
  • a Standing Committee should be appointed to co-ordinate the various stages of research in English and the degrees awarded, and to promote the use of the great libraries;
  • if the exportation of early printed books and manuscripts cannot be prevented, photographic facsimiles of them should be kept in the principal libraries of the United Kingdom;
  • more readerships, fellowships, and lectureships in English are needed;
  • local education authorities and universities should cooperate to promote adult education in English;
  • the grammar taught in schools should be pure grammar closely allied with phonetics, the terminology used should be that recommended in the Report of the Joint Committee on Grammatical Terminology, and no attempt should be made to teach 'English' grammar as distinct from 'pure' grammar;
  • the examination system should focus on English as a means of communication rather than on tests in grammar, analysis and spelling;
  • in the First School Examination a comprehension test should be compulsory, candidates for the Second School Examination should be tested in the understanding and use of English, and University Scholarship Examinations candidates should not be allowed to sacrifice competency in the use of English to the attainment of a high standard of achievement in other subjects;
  • literature teachers should be free to draw up their own syllabuses and adopt their own methods;
  • the reading and acting of plays should be encouraged in schools of all types and in training colleges;
  • universities should consider offering a Diploma in Dramatic Art and establishing Chairs in Dramatic Literature;
  • public library committees and local education committees should cooperate to ensure the availability of good literature;
  • every elementary school should have its own library;
  • in secondary schools the provision of a good library is at least as important as the provision of a good laboratory;
  • in all schools the reading of the Bible should not be confined to the time set apart for religious instruction.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020


How to express agreement

In this section you have a series of expressions to show you how you can agree in English in many different ways. My advice is that you read through them, choose 5 or 6 that you particularly like and that you learn them by heart. Also, I recommend stop using simply «I agree with you», as this is terribly simple and, , it will definitely not be enough. So let’s take a look.

  • I (completely / really / totally / absolutely / honestly / truly) agree with you (on that)
  • I really think / believe so, too.
  • I couldn’t agree more.
  • I have come to the same conclusion.
  • I hold the same opinion.
  • I have no objection whatsoever.
  • I see what you mean and I (must) agree with you.
  • I see it that way, too.
  • I share your opinion / view.
  • I was just going to say that.
  • You’re (completely / totally / absolutely) right.
  • You have a point there.
  • You’ve made a good point.
  • We are of one mind (on…)
  • We are of the same mind (on…)
  • That’s (so / completely / absolutely / undeniably) true.
  • That’s a really good point.
  • Yeah, that’s just it.
  • Fair enough.
  • Yes, of course.
  • No doubt about it. 

How to express partial agreement

Sometimes, when discussing something in speaking or writing form, we may agree with some aspects of what is being discussed, but not necessarily 100%. In those cases we can use some expressions to say that we agree, but not completely, that is, we partially agree. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

  • I agree with you up to a point.
  • I see what you mean, but…
  • That idea is OK, but…
  • I understand that, but…

How to express disagreement

Now, we will take a look at some disagreement expressions. In this case, I ought to tell you that whenever we disagree with someone, it migh sound quite rude if we simply say «I don’t agree». For this reason, I have added 4 opening expressions that make disagreement sound more polite. So when you take a look at the list that follows, try to combine one of the 4 expressions in the first level which one of the various expressions in the second level. For example: (1)I’m afraid (2)I don’t share your view.

Here’s a good list of expressions to disagree in English:

  • I’m afraid…
  • I’m sorry but…
  • You may be right, but…
  • That might be true, but…
    • I beg to differ.
    • I don’t agree with you on that / what you say.
    • I don’t think you’re right.
    • I don’t share your view.
    • I think otherwise.
    • I take a different view.
    • I believe your argument doesn’t hold water.
    • I´m not sure I agree with you.
    • that doesn’t make much sense to me.
    • that’s not always the case
    • that’s not always / necessarily true. 

How to express opinions in English

Finally, I believe it is important to be able to reason why you’re agreeing or disagreeing with someone. Therefore, being able to express your opinion properly is just as essential. So here’s a list of expressions that will help you agree and disagree properly in English, and I’ve divided them into three different categories depending on how these expressions are constructed:

  • I/It + verb…
    • I think / consider / find / feel / believe / suppose / presume / assume that…
    • I would say that…
    • I have the feeling that…
    • I have no doubt that…
    • I hold the opinion / view that…
    • I take the view that…
    • I guess that…
    • I bet that…
    • I gather that
    • I am under the impression…
    • I am of the opinion that…
    • I am sure / certain that…
    • It goes without saying that…
    • It seems to me that…
    • It is my impression that…
  • In/From/To my…
    • In my opinion,…
    • In my view,…
    • In my eyes,…
    • From my point of view,…
    • From my viewpoint,…
    • To my mind,…
    • To be honest,…
    • My opinion / view / belief / impression is that…
    • My own feeling on the subject is that…
    • My personal view is that…
  • Other
    • As far as I’m concerned,…
    • As for  me / As to me…
    • As I see it…
    • The way I see it…
    • Personally speaking,…

I hope all of these expressions to agree and disagree come in handy. Remember, that communication is all about interacting with others, so you should really make an effort to communicate accurately and appropriately with others. Finally, I also recommend using some of these expressions in your Writing tasks .


Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
      — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
      Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; 
      Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
      And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
      Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
      The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.


Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Doctor Faustus Epilogue



[Enter Wagner.]


Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,
And burned is Apollo's laurel-bough,
That sometime grew within this learned man.
Faustus is gone:  regard his hellish fall,
Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise,
Only to wonder at unlawful things,
Whose deepness doth enticesuch forward wits
To practice more than heavenly power permits.

[Exit Wagner.]

Terminat hora diem; terminat auctor opus.


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    In Greek mythology, Apollo the god of light carries a laurel bough or wears a laurel crown. The laurel is a symbol of learning and wisdom. If the laurel crown is "burned" it metaphorically means that learning and wisdom have been burned. 

    —Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff 
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    Tags:  Metaphor

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      In this context, "exhort" means to admonish or warn. The Chorus uses this word to communicate that Faustus' story is meant to be a warning to others who seek to pursue knowledge and doubt God. 

      —Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff 
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      Tags:  Vocabulary

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        To "wonder at unlawful things" could be read as a condemnation of the pursuit of knowledge. In this way, the Chorus blames Faustus' fall on his pursuit of dangerous knowledge, knowledge that man was not meant to have. 

        —Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff 
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        Tags:  Themes

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          In using the word "entice," tempting or deviously attracting, the Chorus also blames the knowledge itself for Faustus' fall. In other words, Faustus was just as much tricked into selling his soul to the Devil as he is at fault for selling his soul to the Devil. While one might think that this play offers a straight forward moral about having faith in God, these final lines suggest the play holds more empathy for the damned. 

          —Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff 
          Cite this
          Tags:  Themes

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            In Latin, this means "The hour ends the day, the author ends his work." This signature comes from the bottom of the final page in the 1604 print edition of this text. It was probably added by the printer to mark the text as coming from a certain print shop, much like a modern day logo. 

            —Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff 
            Cite this
            Tags:  Historical Context,  Facts

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            In Greek mythology, Apollo the god of light carries a laurel bough or wears a laurel crown. The laurel is a symbol of learning and wisdom. If the laurel crown is "burned" it metaphorically means that learning and wisdom have been burned.

            — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff

            In this context, "exhort" means to admonish or warn. The Chorus uses this word to communicate that Faustus' story is meant to be a warning to others who seek to pursue knowledge and doubt God.

            — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff

            To "wonder at unlawful things" could be read as a condemnation of the pursuit of knowledge. In this way, the Chorus blames Faustus' fall on his pursuit of dangerous knowledge, knowledge that man was not meant to have.

            — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff

            In using the word "entice," tempting or deviously attracting, the Chorus also blames the knowledge itself for Faustus' fall. In other words, Faustus was just as much tricked into selling his soul to the Devil as he is at fault for selling his soul to the Devil. While one might think that this play offers a straight forward moral about having faith in God, these final lines suggest the play holds more empathy for the damned.

            — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff

            In Latin, this means "The hour ends the day, the author ends his work." This signature comes from the bottom of the final page in the 1604 print edition of this text. It was probably added by the printer to mark the text as coming from a certain print shop, much like a modern day logo.

            — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff

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