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Pro Patria

From the Preface: THE idea on which my Ora Maritima and its sequel, the present volume, are based, is that an interesting narrative may be a better vehicle for teaching the elements of a language than a collection of isolated grammar sentences, provided that the interesting narrative is so constructed and graduated as to constitute in itself a basis for the systematic study of grammar. My object, then, has been to write a book which should not only appeal to the minds of pupils through the interest of its subject matter, but also form as complete a grammatical ladder as the driest of dry exercise books. Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci. In carrying out this programme for Pro Patria I have adhered to the ideal which I set up for myself in Ora Maritima, that the Latin text should be 'classical in form, but modern in setting.' The scene is laid in a country house on the coast of Kent, and afterwards at Winchester, and the time of the action is the period from September 1899 to June 1900. I have thus been enabled to give unity of action to the two parts into which the narrative falls. The first part is taken up with a study of Roman Britain in connexion with a visit to Richborough Castle; the second with the Boer War, the first news of which arrives soon after the conclusion of the summer holidays. It is my hope that my young readers may find in the first part a more vivid picture of the condition of Britain under the Romans than is contained in most school histories of England; and in the treatment of the Boer War I have endeavoured to bring out its dramatic interest and heroic incidents. Party politics are, of course, kept out of view. The amount of grammar covered by Pro Patria may seem to some teachers disproportionately small; and, no doubt, if it had been my object simply to teach grammar, I might have made the text shorter. But a long experience in teaching Latin to pupils of very various ages and stages has made me sceptical as to the value of a skin-deep knowledge of grammar. It is one thing to learn declensions and conjugations out of a grammar or from grammar sentences, and quite another thing to know them as they appear in actual life. How many boys and girls leave school without having acquired any real mastery even of the simplest kind of Latin or the power of making any practical use of the grammatical facts which they have so laboriously learned I That is the sort of educational result on which the present outcry against Latin in schools is largely based. The great mistake seems to be that the elementary stages of learning are turned into a purely grammatical discipline and that the grammar is hurried over before the study of the language proper and the literature are commenced. Declensions and conjugations learned in this fashion find no real lodgment in the mind; or, at best, the outcome of the tedious process is that the pupil 'holds the parts in his hand, ' but misses 'the spirit that binds them together.' It is against this abstract method of teaching that Ora Maritima and Pro Patria are a protest. It has been my object to write for the use of the beginner a ' real book, ' which shall have a literary as well as a linguistic interest of its own, and from which the pupil shall gain something more than a bowing acquaintance with Nouns and Verbs. I have, therefore, not shunned repetitions; and I have deliberately aimed at providing a certain mass of easy Latin from which he may acquire the habit oi reading, as distinct from construing, Latin. If, at the end of two 1 years' work, the pupil has acquired this, together with the fundamentals of Latin grammar, he will have spent his time to some purpose, and will be in a position to begin the study of a classical author and of the more difficult parts of the grammar with some hope of a happy issue....
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