WILLIAM HENRY DENHAM ROUSE
Late Headmaster of the Perse School
Founder of the Association
for the Reform of Latin Teaching
Died 10th February 1950
I remember Dr. W.H.D. Rouse as a very fine scholar (I could never fault him), a brilliant original teacher, and one who got through an enormous amount of work in publications and reading (he was University Reader in Sanscrit).
His discovery that classical languages could be taught by the Direct Method caused a sensation, and, reinforced by S.O. Andrew and the Whitgift School, he seemed about to carry all before him when the A.R.L.T. was founded after the great Summer School at Cambridge in 1913.
That brilliant prospect was clouded by the loss of Paine and Mainwaring in the First
World War; but Rouse carried on in Summer Schools from 1919, and he continued to
prove that the Direct Method made the dead languages come alive -
He was not good at public relations -
I first saw Dr. Rouse in March 1910, when I had to read to him at the exam where, with Arthur Heffer, I was elected Foundation Scholar. We next met in his study, when I gave him my details, and he was delighted to learn that he and my father crossed every morning on their way to work. Two years later I was in his Greek beginners’ class, where the Greek Boy made us at once at home in Athens, though all else has faded out except immediate acceptance of accents. For any mistake he corrected orally, the culprit repeated him twice and the class once, after which it was almost impossible to get it wrong. Next year he took us in his study for advanced Latin syntax, telling us tales of Noctuinus (Eulenspiegel), each instalment stressing, say, Quin and Quominus, or Concessive Clauses, and homework was always to write the story without using any of his sentences,but introducing as often as possible the grammar in question.
In my fifth year I was admitted to the Lower Sixth, which for the first two periods
every morning joined the Upper Sixth for rapid reading of Greek on Monday, Wednesday
and Friday, Latin Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. We happened to start with Olynthiacs
and, I believe Odes, and Demosthenes and Horace taxed newcomers taken at the pace
of boys about to win Open Scholarships in December, and without a word of English
unless demanded of someone suspected of letting go a line not understood. He like
one to be prose and the other poetry, though when he or we had enough of an author,
he changed to another he or the class felt requisite for the twenty unseens then
set in Cambridge Scholarships. Sufficient copies of plain texts of all the usual
and many less read authors were on the shelves behind us, but we were encouraged
to buy second-
Every week we had to learn a score of line, verse or prose, and as with Compendia,
no one knew he would be called on publicly, but I got away with learning only “O
fons Bandusiae” in all my four years in the Sixth. I confessed this to him when
he came to Oxford to address the Ascham Society, and at once had to repeat it, and
for the rest of his life in whatever company we met I had to say it again. Each
week we had a Greek or Latin prose with Verses in the other language, and two unseens
the other way round, and third period in the morning we sat in Hall at private work,
and were individually called up to his desk for work returned with criticism and
his printed fair copy. I can still hear his stentorian Will-
τὸn d’ ἠnide, nomine G,
dum condit in urbe epigramma,
heu! forte covinus
secat. ille supinus
καὶ nun, ait, eἰmὶ F.
On Quicherat verifying covinus as a British chariot, “Insere!” Was the royal command to copy in the Album, now in Mr Peckett’s possession.
During the war howlers were fined a penny a time in the Smokes for Soldiers and Sailors box, and one or two of his coppers went in despite his plea “Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi”. (Sed tu es Bos!” answered Heffer. “Et tu bos minimus!” said Orbilius. “Minima!” said I. “Hef a care!” was final.) Heffer once had a surreptitious Iliad Pro Bohno Publico under his desk, and betraying it by a snigger, was commanded to read out what amused him. “They sacrificed unto Zeus twain dun beeves. Scin, Orbili, quid Iovi displicuerit? They were underdone”.
Rouse would proudly show us his offprints from the Christ’s magazine like the Oxodrinkers’ Papyri, or more serious papers, but his university work was mostly in Sanscrit and Zend, the bases of of his reformed pronunciations, though he spent holidays in a Turkish hajji’s fishing boat in the Aegean carefully noting dialects in forgotten pockets of islands and headlands. He assumed static standards, so that Cicero spoke like Plautus two centuries earlier or Tacitus one later, and that Greek consonants were untouched by mutation, despite the Parian Marble. Later he agreed some of my researches but without changing his practice.
Before our world where wrong religion is a root of evil, Rouse in Glebe House boarded Indian princes and French or Brazilian rich men’s sons to work and play together, and next door at Hillel House, Jews and Moslems lived in peaceful understanding. He took a wartime commission in the Corps, and one morning the boarders cycled ahead of him ventre a terre with the news that he was coming in uniform but wearing his habitual bowler, and the whole school turned out to cheer him puzzled into the playground. While he put away his bike, we sneaked into the study, where duly entering he disappeared behind a map, demanding the porter. Naturally, the Pelican cricket critique made much of our unbeatable change bowler. One morning he did not come, and next day we elicited he had dined and dined at Rugby, where he had been Sixth Form Master, and in the Bletchley train he fell asleep and woke at Euston. Sympathetic porters showed him the Bletchley train connecting with the last for Cambridge, and he woke at Rugby!
Once he asked me what I was doing at the weekend, and sent me to stay with Miall,
emeritus professor of Science at Leeds, who at 98, with his wife at 97, wished to
brush up their Latin, and very lively they were. Like many Edwardian headmasters
he had a classical bias, but our scientists ran to J.J. Thompson and others of that
stature, with at one time four heads of houses. A Open Scholar had to ask a half-
Perhaps my finest experience was reading Virgil to Robert Bridges, with Goronwy Jones
doing Homer, but I fear the Laureate’s imitations were spurious. Caldwell Cook,
with the help of Poel and Forbes-
His school was inspected but once, when he so resented Livingstone’s criticism that he never allowed it again, and recommended failed schoolmasters to become inspectors or, failing that, Directors of Education. When I went to Priory I had a meal with Livingstone every other year and saw him at other times. He gave me his offivcial report, and I attempted to implement his constructive suggestions. Sedeo for “I sit down” made him suspect to scholars, and my surviving notebooks are not always sound, for example, Greek double negatives, and he wholly rejected textual criticism, once going through Jebb’s Sophocles with us to show each emendation due to misconstruction of the text. But dons joined his staff to practise Direct Method, though W.H.S. Jones realised his limitations and went back to St. Catharine’s, and Louis de Glehn did not survive inspection after Rouse restired. Appleton tried to introduce Set Books with Sixth, and this failed, but his Latin tea parties at the batchelor masters’ quarters in Lyndewode House, my old dame school, were uproarious.
Rouse roamed the countryside on horseback, and came thus to camp at Hedingham Castle, entertaining us to Little Billee and the like in a thin pipe. He wrote me a charming letter on my marriage, and was always ready to criticise one’s work, conservatively maybe, for classical scholars tend to regard a thing as right only if it has been done before and accepted.
I tried hard to get him to stop doing Loeb Translations and Homer, and turn to original work, but it wasa too late, and the nearest he came was his fragmentary autobiography in Scenes of Sixth Form Life. Cecil Sharp was his friend, and Saturday mornings ended with Folk Songs in Hall for the whole school. Folk dance, morris and sword, were regular, and May Day the troop performed in Letchworth. Dr Peck of Christ’s still perpetuates this activity. Miss Dudley Ward the artist taught Sixth Form original art long before it became fashionable and frivolous.
An old man’s memory errs, so was it he or my father who used to repeat Terence? -
Grocourt, 26th June 1967.
All those who have derived refreshment from the annual Summer Schools of the Association
for the Reform of Latin Teaching whether as teachers of Latin or merely at human
As a schoolboy I was once discussing P.H. Pearse and his Modh Direach at Scoil Eanna
There are curious contrasts there: “the greatest headmaster of his time” -
Then there are his books. What a welcome and useful contribution to Latin Teaching
would be a rough bibliography of Rouse, with special notes on present or recent availability.
A casual visit to a “paper-
The influence then is still felt even outside the A.R.L.T. For instance the steadily
rising standards of accuracy in reading competitions is in some sense attributable
to Rouse. Rouse has still one contribution to make. Though accents are -
Bernard Wilmott -
John Richards -
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