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The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1954]



Quid enim est aetas hominis, nisi memoria rerum ueterum cum superiorum aetate contexitur?


University records of publications are often entitled "Scholarship and Research". Perhaps it would not be overbold to say that nearly all such publications in a very broad sense display the scholarly attitude, but at the same time there are probably also sufficient reasons for the dichotomy of the title. A discussion of this point may therefore be a reasonable way of prefacing an account, or rather a survey, of the records of scholarship at Victoria University College.

In the dialogue entitled "De Re Publica" Cicero purports to deal with political philosophy. He makes one of the characters, an eminent Roman statesman of a generation dead and gone, talk of fame and mention in this connexion the insignificance of even the greatest of mortal men when the vastness is considered of the terrestrial globe on which mankind lives. As an illustration of this popular commonplace the character surmises that the inhabitants of the province of Wellington in New Zealand will never hear of him for all his fame and statesmanship. Here, of course, Cicero makes the character speak in a geographical sense because his thoughts are governed by the spacial limitations of the civilisation in which he lived. But there does seem to be a sense of wistfulness, of a desire to find a link with others who may live differently but have much in common with the speaker. Again, the quotation which appears at the head of this survey, and which has been put there because I think it has some relationship to the accepted connotation of the word "scholarship", reveals that Cicero believed in the continuity of human thought and human affairs. "What pray does a man's day and generation amount to if it is not part of the texture of the generation of those before him because of the recollection of things past?" This at any rate he thought valid for Graeco-Roman civilisation, and indeed of the utmost value, and the gist of the part of the dialogue which I have just described makes plain that he had considered at least the possibility of continuity in a more extended sphere of page 23 time, perhaps, but certainly of space. It is this belief in continuity that makes the work of the scholar possible, if, as I hope to show, continuity is perhaps the ultimate motive of scholarship in the best sense of the word.

But this conclusion is perhaps too general to be very helpful. Scholarship has been defined in many ways, through most of which runs this feeling of continuity, and with it a notion of the meticulous observance of method. It can be the accurate use of dot and comma, the accurate knowledge of a traditional spelling of a word, a strictly methodical investigation of something that is "old", or in a negative sense, the loading of the mind with a more than usual amount of information on some subject, and for choice, a subject usually described as "humane"—the more restricted the subject, the more scholarly the attainment. But this definition is not usually applied to the sciences, apart from works on the history of science and kindred aspects, and if it is so applied, the reason given is that the researcher and writer show a "scholarly attitude of mind."

In the early stages of what is known as the Renaissance in Europe there are the beginnings of what may be called modern scholarship in the strict sense of the term. The field of the scholar was then the greater part of knowledge, and for his sources he went to the Greek and Latin authors who supplied the information which was needed but had to a large extent to be re-discovered. The scholar was knitting together the threads that linked his time with the spirit of the Graeco-Roman past: he is trying to repair the broken unity, and his field is the writings of Greece and Rome; hence the narrow definition of "scholarship," which was then the fountain of knowledge. But the position was too simple and homogeneous to last. The eager search for continuity, all too often spoiled, but pardonably so, perhaps, by reading too much of the present into the past uncritically tended to branch out into "specialisms". Thus Poggio Bracciolini was concerned with the discovery and usability of sauces for the most part, finding manuscripts and emending them, for which a closer and more critical study of language was later to become an aid. Politian devoted himself mainly to the aesthetic side of scholarship; in him Ciceronian oratory almost lived again; he strove to restore a continuity of style and expression in accordance with the criticism and standards of the ancients. Lorenzo Valla pursued a more thorny path in search of truth. He showed respect neither for persons or parties, and applied a remarkably powerful intellect to the criticism of the subject-matter of the re-discovered texts. This stage of modern scholarship and of the new learning has been fascinatingly described by H. W. Garrod in his Gray Lectures for 1946 entitled "Scholarship, Its Meaning and Value." Mainly because of the nature of these beginnings in the modern world scholarship is an intellectual activity which has been traditionally linked with the field of letters, although the techniques often used are not exclusive to the scholar.

If, then, the chief aim of the scholar be granted to be the establishment of continuity in some appropriate field of study, the scholar needs learning as a means to his end; he is attempting to "perpetuate the past for the benefit of the present and the future"; he is trying also to make clear what has been dimmed by the passage of time. But the acquisition of learning is not so exacting a task as the application of it. And so the best scholars have page 24 approached the task of applying the tools of learning with an acute sense of responsibility. One extreme form of this is seen in the work Eduard Meyer whose desire for objectivity affected his style. It has been stated that his style is sober and impersonal, a language fit for exact research into particular and narrow problems, but inadequate for the creative writing of universal history. His style has been attributed to his age and its positivist naturalistic character. Scholarship cannot last without something that is beyond scholarship. Another extreme is that of reticence. There is something awe-inspiring about immense learning in a special field—the fact that it has been acquired in evidence of an attitude of mind which prompts extreme caution in the examination of facts and ideas, and a most exactingly high standard and vast extent of preliminary work to deal with them. The austerity of the scholarly attitude in this respect is well illustrated by the anecdote told of the late A. E. Housman, former Regius Professor of Latin in the University of Cambridge, who disappointed his tutors by his performance in his final schools: he attempted to answer only those questions for which he felt he had a really competent fund of learning, and the others he left alone. In any case the difference between true scholarship, the critical examination of learning with the ultimate aim of continuity in mind is not the same thing as mere learning or mere erudition, despite the definitions given in some dictionaries of repute. Learning for its own sake may often be just a manifestation of the acquisitive instinct, or be the result of vanity for the purpose of display. "I maintain that not all learned men are accomplished scholars, though any accomplished scholar may, if he chooses to devote the time to the necessary studies, become a learned man," wrote Professor Donaldson of Cambridge ("Classical Scholarship and Classical Learning," 1856); and the same thought is tersely expressed in Mark Pattison's "Essays": "It is not a knowledge but a discipline, that is required; not science, but the scientific habit; not erudition but scholarship." The greatest scholars from the time of the Scaligers onwards have, however, usually been men of great erudition. No doubt they have an inexhaustible desire for finality and completeness in the field of erudition which provides base and framework for their scholarship. This attitude of mind is suitably illustrated by a paragraph from R. W. Chapman's essay on Ingram Bywater, entitled "The Portrait of a Scholar." "The loftiness of his own standard was more surely betrayed by the alarm he evinced at the rare discovery of a gap in his knowledge. At a meeting of a learned Society over which he presided, a member, while reading a commentator's note, boggled at a word, and applied to the president for its meaning. 'Sicilicus—sicilicus!' There was a silence as he made his way to the dictionary. 'Sicilicus: It means the forty-eighth part of an as, and, by metonymy, it means a comma'. Then, replacing the book, and turning to his audience, in accents of unfeigned dismay—"I didn't know that!" But one may fairly concede that Bywater knew how to forget about details after use or until they were needed. At the least the scholar and the student, if worthy of the name, would readily know how to find most expeditiously the information he requires.

In taking stock at this point, before turning to a survey of scholarship at Victoria University College, I think it could fairly be said that scholarship page 25 studies the thoughts of men in different ages and different countries, as a means of surveying the social, moral, intellectual, religious and related trends of mankind, of finding their place in the scheme of things and assessing their value for the present and of examining the possibilities of their future. The main keys for the scholar are the writings and the monuments of men, and in the highest sense the great thoughts of great men. But in doing all this, and need I add, informing his work with life and spirit so far as his powers will permit, in his observations and enquiries and his use of scientific techniques, the scholar has a sense of remoteness betwen himself and the object of his study, which essentially involves him in a consideration of the past or something distant in space and different. He must reveal the gap and attempt to bridge it by an effort of imagination. To summarise the point I should like to quote from Garrod some sentences in which the situation has been vividly described: "The end . . . may be said, perhaps, in language not too grandiloquent, to be a restoration of the broken unity of the human spirit. To learning it presents itself as an intellectual trouble. There are gaps and fissures in the culture of nations; accidents of time, language, place and race hinder sympathy and understanding; after all effort, there remains a pitiful discontinuity in the movement of the human mind. We hear the cry of the past; but we reach out hands in vain to our spiritual kindred. They cannot come to us, nor our weak faculties flly to them. . . . The slow and cautious movement of the learning has little in it to fascinate eye or heart, and will rarely command from the crowd more than the cool approval which salutes mediocrity. We pit imagination against knowledge, Letters against Science, the Poet against the Scholar; and in the very act of doing so we are fighting against the cause for which these contrasted causes exist—the unity of the human spirit."

In view of the terms of reference laid down for me, however, I propose to take scholarship in its widest sense, to include grammatical, literary and antiquarian study and such works as illustrate and discuss social, moral, intellectual, religious and moral trends of mankind with some sense for the past. Creative art, the poetry composed and the music published and performed must pass by here with grateful acknowledgement.

The survey of published works of scholarship which follows must naturally be brief. It has been based on the records printed in the Calendars of Victoria University College, and those who wish for a complete and detailed record of titles, dates, publishers and periodicals will find it in these volumes.

The first impression produced by a study of these records in comparison with those of former years is one of contrast. There is a greater bulk of work done, more books, very many more articles short and long, discursive and learned, and the number of fields in which work is being done seems also to be increasing. To some extent this increase may be the result of settling down after the years of war, but the increase does coincide to a marked extent with the increase of staff which has brought with it more varied interests and better conditions for pursuing independent investigations. Then, too, there has been the creation of special schools with fruitful fields for investigation in New Zealand conditions. There has also been the stimulus of closer contact with similar work being done overseas, of travel, and of authorities who visit as lecturers.

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As I have said, the range of subjects is wide. Using the definition of scholarship in the wide sense that I have indicated, the following fields of investigation are represented: Political Science and Public Administration, aspects of the Law, Psychology, Economics and Accountancy, and the welfare of the citizen, in all of which the development of peoples, government, the economy of nations and political thought are traced and often relate the conditions in New Zealand of the present day to those prevailing elsewhere in time and space. History, International Relations and Letters in the strictest sense of the term are also represented. The total is some one hundred and twenty published works, no inconsiderable figure in a grand total of twenty-three pages of lists of publications. Ten of the works are books, two of which a-new editions, three are published texts of lectures, and the rest are articles published in periodicals in New Zealand and overseas.

The actual number of publications in the various fields is also of interest. New Zealand has sometimes been called a laboratory for social experiment This is perhaps reflected in the strength and importance of the Social Sciences in a University College situated in the capital city of the country. It is not therefore surprising to find that the most numerous list of works comes from the Social Sciences, and among them the majority is work on Political Science, Public Administration and International Affairs, the emphasis being on New Zealand conditions and New Zealand problems of government. The work includes constitutional development in New Zealand and Australia, the development of the Public Service, various aspects of the detailed work of government, and the impact of the electorate upon parties and policies.

In the other Social Sciences the published work covers mainly race relationships, discussions and surveys of post-war conditions and trends in various countries, international attitudes, education for professions, the significance of methods of public economy, the growth of the Welfare State, and Immigration. Once again the greatest part of the work deals with New Zealand conditions and New Zealand problems.

In History the work done shows a slight preponderance in favour of New Zealand topics. There have been three books of considerable importance, and the third edition of a well-known book on New Zealand has now been printed. The field ranges from the discussion of the use of History to a brief study of kingship and includes an essay on the history of Victoria University College, a study of an English historian at work in the Australian scene, New Zealand's way of life, and Mediterranean history. Some of the work is not only scholar it might well be ranked high as literature.

There is one important book on a period in the history of thought, and work ranging from Proust to dialectic.

In the field of pure letters the work done has all been scholarly in the strictest sense. Books on prose technique—one of which is a second edition—show the new approach to the subject inspired by new requirements and changing tastes in a modern world. The rest of the work is either specifically for New Zealand, or has a New Zealand origin or setting. There is a discussion of certain literary types for younger students, a short historical introduction to an early piece of New Zealand literature and work based on the resources of page 27 the Turnbull Library—bibliography and the editing of a unique manuscript of English poems with a concise history of its origin and changes of ownership.

Unpublished work in the form of theses tends to follow the same pattern as the published work. The number of works appears to be on the increase. Although the range of subjects is wider than that of the published work, the bulk of it deals with New Zealand problems, and is predominantly sociological, the favourite choice being a concise history of some New Zealand institution or organisation or trend. But art, letters, scholarly literary criticism and philosophy, ancient and modern, have not been neglected.

Thus summarized, scholarly work pursued in Victoria University College is not unimpressive in its range or quantity, all the more so when it is considered that much of it is done in conditions that can hardly be described as ideal. It seems very likely that the good progress which has been made will be maintained, and that the next quinquennium will be better than this one if improvement of conditions of teaching and research is continued.

It may be said, "To what end?" Our way of life and values have been examined and compared with others. Obviously the college is in close and observant touch with the multifarious aspects of the life of the community in which it has been placed. The community has the right to present certain questions and problems on its life to the University, and the University is obviously discussing and examining constructively those questions and problems and frequently very cautiously suggesting answers.

H. A. Murray