« Milton | ‘Lost Articles’ | Anecdotes from Manuscripts »


THE ancients understood by the title of Grammarian, a scholar very different from those whom the moderns distinguish by this name. By Grammarian (observe the learned authors of the Literary History of France) they described a man versed in literature, who knew to write or speak, not only with correctness of language, but with skill and elegance. A Grammarian, and a scholar who taught polite literature, were synonimously expressed: it is for this reason Ausonius gives indifferently the titles of Grammarian and Philologist, or lovers of erudition. In the IVth century, the College of Bourdeaux bore so splendid a reputation for the number of its Grammarians, that the learned of foreign countries crouded there to seek for employment; insomuch that the other towns of Gaul, and even those of Rome and Constantinople, were desirous of having its professors, or at least some of its scholars, to teach amongst them. By what appears in Ausonius, the college was common to Christians and Pagans; the fair sex also frequently took public lessons there.

No Grammarian or professor of polite literature was ever known, however, to accumulate a fortune; so much did their fate resemble that of the literary men of the present age!—The following anecdote will serve as an instance.

Ursulus, a celebrated Grammarian, taught grammar at Treves, under the reign of Valentinian the First. The schools were then in a flourishing state. The court was generally held there; which circumstance attracted the most able professors, and great numbers of scholars. Ausonius followed it in the character of preceptor to the young Gratian (afterwards emperor). He was long united in friendship with Ursulus, and by what appears in the epistles of the latter, was always desirous of rendering him service. It had long been a custom with the emperors, at the commencement of the year, to bestow money, or other presents, on those whom they honoured with their notice. The professors who had the care of instructing youth generally partook of this liberality; more particularly those who were near the court. It happened, one year, that Ursulus was forgotten in the distribution that was made of the largesses of the emperor; on which occasion he had recourse to his good friend Ausonius. The perplexed manner in which Ausonius explains himself on the number of crowns which he obtained for Ursulus, has embarrassed very much the learned. Yet, upon the whole, all his studied expressions do not signify any thing more than the number of twelve! Yet this man devoted six hours of every day to the instruction of youth in literature.