A little bit more about Professor Eric Laughton. We still think fondly about him in our household. He gave my wife and me our final examination results. We'd got married in the second year-a matter that confused some of our lecturers no end, though not, I think, him, so he called us in together on results day and congratulated us both-we'd done pretty well-with, as I remember, though dimly, a combination of Edwardian charm and genuine affection for his pupils. He had a genuine warmth that we didn't see very often. We were very young and he was very eminent! What is left of the administrative files of the department (letters to colleagues etc) give the impression that he was well-liked among staff of the university and a man of some influence. His published work is very austere. Look at this. It's the preface to his book on the participle in Cicero, written in the days before databases and computers. I imagine a card index, painstakingly compiled over many years.
'The task of reading all that Cicero wrote'-that gives the measure of the man! Respect!-as they say.
There were lighter moments. We both remember reading (possibly in our second year) Seneca's Phaedra with him. The edition we were using was dreadful and the play isn't exactly one of the high points of Latin literature, especially when you think of the Euripides' version (Hippolytus)! He took us through the text in a series of lectures and we were getting near the end. When we reached line 1267, our lecturer started chuckling and said something like: 'I wish to draw your attention to the following line which I find particularly amusing'. In spite of the fact that Seneca doesn't have a conspicuous sense of humour, our lecturer had our undivided attention for the rest of the hour. You never know-he might crack another joke! This is the line in question (Theseus is sorting through the remains of the body of his son, Hippolytus who has been mangled, when his chariot has run out of control!?):
quae pars tui sit dubito; sed pars tui
'I'm not sure what part of you this is, but it's certainly a part of you.
The last Firth Professor of Latin didn't always take things absolutely seriously.
Sheffield branch of the Classical Association, founded in 1920