Basil Gildersleeve

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Mon Jan 18 21:04:00 EST 1999

At 7:37 PM -0600 1/18/99, Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:
>Paul S. Dixon wrote:
>> Dear b-Greekers:
>> Is Capt. Basil Gildersleeve the same Gildersleeve
>> of world-famous reknown?  I came across this recently
>> while reading, "A Soldier's Recollections - Leaves from
>> the Diary of a young Confederate" (Randolph McKim, D.D.):
>> "On September 27th [1864] ... I find a record of another fight,
>> and among the wounded was Capt. Basil L. Gildersleeve,
>> serving on the staff of General Gordon.  This accomplished
>> and great scholar, the greatest "Grecian" of his day in
>> America, had been my professor of Greek at the University
>> of Virginia in 1859-60.  On the closing of the University he had
>> entered the service, and had shown that he could emulate the
>> courage of the heroes of Hellas as successfully as he could
>> expound the intricacies of their beautiful language.  He carries
>> to this day, in his limping gait, the witness of his gallantry in
>> that fight forty-five years ago, but, though long past seventy
>> years of age, his intellect marches as erect and vigorous as
>> ever.  His career may remind us that the cause of the South
>> rallied to its support men of every rank and condition in life,
>> the student and the scholar, not less than the man of affairs"
>> (p. 233).
>If by the Gildersleeve of renown" you mean the Great Gildersleeve of
>radio and TV the answer is no. His name was Throckmorton P.
>Gildersleeve, immortalized by Harold Perry.

Edward will have to help us out on this one; I'm not sure but what Paul
Dixon isn't, in fact, reading about the truly great Basil Gildersleeve. He
must have been a pretty young man during the Civil War if he's the same man
who took his advanced work in Classics in Germany and then for years taught
at Johns Hopkins and was editor for years of the granddaddy of American
Classical journals, American Journal of Philology. His editions with
commentary on the Olympian and Pythian Odes of Pindar are still the
standard work for those few students who get as far in Greek as reading
Pindar (hardest poetry--along with Aeschylus--that there is in Greek), and
I think he was also the original author of one of the standard Latin
grammars, still in print (recently re-printed in yet another edition) as
"Gildersleeve and Lodge." Can one man have spanned that term? I don't know;
a pastor of renown at my church (Second Presbyterian in St. Louis) who came
to us in 1864 from Princeton Seminary was Dr. John Nicholls, and he served
until about 1916 in a very remarkable career that must have paralleled
Gildersleeve's in some respects, certainly in longevity and length of
career. Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, at any rate, was a giant in American
Classical scholarship.

Here's a citation from a draft work on Thucydides by Greg Crane (of Perseus):

'Warfare, especially its unpredictable course and unexpected consequences,
has often attracted classicists to Thucydides. Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve,
the first great American classicist, had as a young professor at the
University of Virginia spent his summer vacations campaigning with Robert
E. Lee's army, and he took from this experience a wound that troubled him
the rest of his life. When, more than thirty years later, he wrote about
his experiences, he playfully titled the piece "A Southerner in the
Peloponnesian War."'
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at OR cconrad at
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