Meet Hugh Miller, the Scottish stonemason and geologist (1802-1856), who loved reading classical authors, especially Ovid and Homer. Even as a boy he saw the Iliad as incomparable, and wrote in My Schools and Schoolmasters (1854) that he had learned early ‘that no other writer could cast a javelin with half the force of Homer. The missiles went whizzing athwart his pages; and I could see the momentary gleam of the steel, ere it buried itself deep in brass and bull-hide.’
But Miller gave much thought to the purpose of education, and was convinced that classical literature could as well—if not better—be read in translation into the reader’s mother tongue. When the middle-class boys he knew went to college and insisted ‘on the great superiority of the old Greek and Roman writers over the writers of our own country’ he saw that they spent so much time figuring out the syntax and grammar that they scarcely thought about the meaning of the text at all.