Harvard and the money men
Harvard University does not have too much to celebrate right now - unless you are one of the faculty members who have been fighting to oust President Larry Summers and have finally this week succeeded.
This putsch by liberal arts professors against a modernising business-like boss has parallels in higher education around the world - not least in Britain where many Oxford and Cambridge dons would like to be free from what they see as alien money-men masters.
Harvard folk can proudly, however, raise a glass today to one the greatest contributions to scholarship from their past - a reminder of a time when arts and money enjoyed a happier marriage.
This is publication time for the 500th volume in the Loeb Classical Library, pride of the Harvard University Press.
My first thought on hearing this was "only 500?".
It has always seemed more.
From the red and green spatterings around my book-shelves, I thought I had at least a 1000 of them myself, with their uniform gold lettering, their ancient Greek and Latin texts and English translations on facing pages.
But no. That, it seems, is the number.
And the honour of being the 500th falls to Quintilian (Lesser Declamations, 1), a milestone in this series which, as Virginia Woolf wrote in the TLS in 1917, has so long been "a gift of freedom" to those whose love of the classics is greater than their linguistic facility.
It is a temptation to think of James Loeb, the founder of the Library, in a Greco-Roman heaven somewhere, flicking through the latest volumes.
Those were the days when Wall Streeters and humanities professors understood each other rather better than they do now.
Loeb was far from the only New York banker to dream of perpetuating his name through educational philanthropy. But he was one of the most welcomed, the most inventive and successful.
If he were back for the 500 party, would easily recognise his latest books as siblings of the old.
The new works of Quintilian, being in Latin, are red, slightly brighter than my old copies - but that may just be the burnish of youth.
Green is still reserved for Greek. The size remains compact.
And Quintilian is a writer of whom the founder might have particularly approved.
Loeb, the German-Jewish dreamer who followed his father into high finance, could have found many parallels between himself and Quintilian, the Spanish orator, who followed his own father in to the newly profitable business of teaching people to speak.
Both men were wealthy classicists. Both were exiles. Both were protesters against the barbarian prejudices of their age and each proposed copious study as the remedy.
Every early edition of the Loeb Classical Library carried the sponsor's message, "A word about its purpose and its scope", which attacked the turn-of-the-century rush for mechanical and social achievement and what was then the neglect of the humanities.
The banker's son admired the way in which any Parisian could buy cheap copies of Latin and Greek texts, with a simple parallel translation into their language. He wanted English readers to have the same.
Loeb was primarily the paymaster - which is always what academics want money-men to be.
Quintilian was one of many ancient authors who were never going to make any money for a publisher. So he badly needed a business sponsor.
A few American educationalists in the inter-war years might study his sections on the primary syllabus of the first century AD.
A few literary critics needed the section in which he gives the contemporary verdict on classic writers.
But the publication of the full 12 books of the Institutio Oratoria, now in five volumes, was always going to be a labour of love.
Loeb's money made sure that Quintilian got into print and, despite the vicissitudes of war and bookselling, stayed in print.
His contribution was more, however, than just money. Although his mental health was poor, his political loyalties painfully stretched during the great war and his business stamina permanently under strain, he organised his scholars, designers and editors with keen attention.
Loeb objected to the materialist education of his age, felt the familiar guilt of liberal capitalists at that time and since, and wondered what to do about it.
Quintilian's own objection to the educational rules of Rome was less to do with the excess of materialism than the lack of morality. After making his fortune by schooling the children of the rich to pursue each other in court, he decided to write a lengthy protest against those who dressed up their verse and prose to conceal bad intentions.
Spin-meisters, as we might call them.
Quintilian lived in an age of sudden concentration of power, wealth and terror. He knew that his oratorical arts, officially recognised as Roman for the first time by the emperors, could kill.
He wanted to promote the better and prohibit the worse.
Loeb idealised almost the whole of classical civilisation. It was his means of escape.
Quintilian idealised specifically the century before his own, the age of Cicero when the good man and the good orator could be seen as synonymous. It was his means of self-defence.
The beginning of the Institutio Oratoria is an account of how teachers can ensure that pupils absorb virtue as well as verbal facility. Quintilian later examines how the great classical writers, from Homer to Propertius, could be mined by seekers after truth, goodness and a good line of argument.
Homer stands high. Propertius, the salon love poet, is subject, by contrast, to one of the neater put-downs in Latin criticism, "sunt qui malint Propertium" -"some prefer Propertius", as Donald Russell's new translation crisply puts it.
Loeb sought refuge in the classics from a life of severe depression that was scarred at an early age by American anti-semitism and in the years before his death by the rise of Hitler in his German home.
He died in 1933 before it could be shown how false was the hope that the greatest culture could prevent the greatest evils.
Quintilian had the advantage of living close in time to some of the greatest writers that have ever lived and the disadvantage of living under tyrants almost as bad as Hitler.
The shared lasting virtue of both Loeb and Quintilian was to make it possible for others to read and understand better.
It is fitting this year that the older man should be deployed to salute the younger - and to give the malcontents of the Massachusetts campuses something genuinely worth celebrating.