criticism, quotes, wordage

I do not intend to define the term “thought”

In beginning to speak about the application of thought to textual criticism, I do not intend to define the term thought, because I hope that the sense which I attach to the word will emerge from what I say.

– A.E. Housman, “The Application of Thought to Textual Criticism,” Art & Error: Modern Textual Editing (ed. Ronald Gottesman and Scott Bennett)

How awesome is that? Awesome, right? If I went around like that, I wouldn’t ever have to define anything. “I do not intend to define the term “assonance,” because I hope that the sense which I attach to the word will emerge from what I say…”

I am being kind of facetious. Actually, I like it. And I think he gets away with it. And more:

In beginning to speak about the application of thought to textual criticism, I do not intend to define the term thought, because I hope that the sense which I attach to the word will emerge from what I say. But it is necessary at the outset to define textual criticism, because many people, and even some people who profess to teach it to others, do not know what it is. One sees books calling themselves introductions to textual criticism which contain nothing about textual criticism from beginning to end; which are all about paleography and manuscripts and collation, and have no more to do with textual criticism than if they were all about accidence and syntax. Palaeography is one of the things with which a textual critic needs to acquaint himself, but grammar is another, and equally indispensable; and no amount either of grammar or of palaeography will teach a man one scrap of textual criticism.”

His semicolons are so dashing. Oh, and how about that “no amount either of X or of Y”? Yes. You know you like it.

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