Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Liddell and Scott Poetry and Rhymes

Over on Laudator Temporis Acti today, Michael Gilleland has a post on Liddell and Scott, a poem by Thomas Hardy "Liddell and Scott On the Completion of their Lexicon". The post gave birth to a nice thread on b-greek in which James Spinti offered an unattributed:
Scott knew Liddell,
And Liddell knew less
I noodled around for a source, found none, but did find this:
Two men wrote a lexicon, Liddell and Scott;
Some parts were clever, but some parts were not.
Hear, all ye learned, and read me this riddle,
How the wrong parts wrote Scott and the right parts wrote Liddell
The latter is cited in Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr., "How the Wrong Parts Wrote Scott and the Right Parts Wrote Liddell", The Classical Journal 84/1 (Oct. - Nov., 1988): 47-52 (51-2). In a follow up to Kitchell's article, William Calder III notes that Kitchell's ultimate source is Henry L. Thompson, Henry George Liddell, D.D. Dean of Christ Church Oxford (New York, 1899), and he goes on to explain that there is an alternative version preserved by Liddell's distant cousin, Augustus J. C. Hare, as follows:
Two men wrote a lexicon,
Liddell and Scott;
One half was clever,
And one half was not.
Give me the answer, boys,
Quick to this riddle,
Which was by Scott
And which was by Liddell?
This is from Augustus J. C. Hare, The Story of My Life II (London, 1896), 10, cited in William M. Calder III, "In Response to Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr., "'How the Wrong Parts Wrote Scott and the Right Parts Wrote Liddell,'" The Westminster Epigram on Dean Liddell (in Responses)", The Classical Journal 84/3 (Feb.-Mar., 1989): 265-266). Calder gives reasons for preferring Hare's version (the second one above). Kitchell then responds to Calder in the same journal, giving reasons for preferring the first version, Thompson's, Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr., "In Response to Kenneth F. Kitchell, Jr., "'How the Wrong Parts Wrote Scott and the Right Parts Wrote Liddell,'" The "Liddell Riddle": Some Further Thoughts (in Responses)", The Classical Journal, 84/3 (Feb.-Mar., 1989): 266-268.

This is still not the end of the story, though. Back on b-greek, Stephen Goranson notes the following source which gives the boy author's name:
Recollections of a Town Boy at Westminster, 1849-1855 by Francis Markham (London, 1903) p.57: the poem "was recited before Liddell by Edward Waterfield, a town boy (the man who fought with Old Slade)." After hearing it "Liddell took it well, gave his usual scornful sniff, and presented Waterfield with his silver penny...."
It's a fascinating little bit of trivia, all the more so as it relates, it seems, to differing oral traditions circulating about the same rhyme, and its circumstances, for over fifty years. Markham's text is particularly interesting since it comes from almost the same period as the Hare and Thompson versions above, and it provides a slightly different version again:
Two men wrote a lexicon--Liddell and Scott;
Some parts were right, some parts were not.
Now come, all ye wise men, and solve me this riddle:
Why the wrong parts wrote Scott, and the right parts wrote Liddell?
Markham also gives a little context that makes good sense of the rhyme,
The joke was, that often when at work with the Sixth, Liddell would object to the translation of, or use of, some word. The boy would reply, "Please, sir, I found it used that way in your lexicon," when Liddell would reply, "Scott wrote that part." (ibid.).

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