The New Latin

Phebe Gibbes include a myriad references to older English works. It is entirely possible that these references, allusions and quotations are hinting towards English’s status as the “new Greek,” or “new Latin.” That is to say, it is well within the scope of reason to assert that older English works are taking the place of Greek and Classical works in terms of importance and scale. While older individuals such as Dryden and Milton constantly used references to Greek and other classical non-English literature as a ways to almost, assert themselves as superior, better educated or otherwise smarter, more well read, or otherwise better than, so too would someone like Phebe Gibbes use older English texts to assert their dominance and authorial superiority.

This concept is a continuation of a prior concept mentioned earlier, the idea that English itself is a method to assert cultural or otherwise dominance over a non-English group, such as the indigenous Indian people or “Hindoos” as some would call them. So while English is becoming weaponized as a means of control and power, English is simultaneously being elevated to a new level, a level on par with the “greater” or “superior” languages of Latin and Greek. A reference to Shakespeare, Milton or Dryden is the new reference to Homer and Socrates.

In Letter IX, there is an interesting passage. “I shall be asked, by way of answer to my wild question, ‘Can wealth give happiness? – Look round and see, what gay distress, what splendid misery!’ which is so truly English, there is no standing; I therefore hasten to conclude myself” (68). What is most interesting about this passage is not the actual quotation “can wealth give happiness…” by Edward Young, but her commentary on the subject. This profundity that we are given is “so truly English.” This seems as though it should be a universal question asked throughout the world! A fundamental philosophical question, “can wealth give happiness?” And yet no, because an Englishman said it, because it was asked in the “new Latin,” the sentiment, the thought, the profundity, is a truly English thought, and not a universal question.

Ross Koppel


2 thoughts on “The New Latin

  1. The main point is, “It is entirely possible that these references, allusions and quotations are hinting towards English’s status as the “new Greek,” or “new Latin.”” You could possibly improve it by adding more on explaining the “Hindoos” and other terms

    Extra Credit 7/25/2


  2. I think the most original part of this post was its focus on language. I think it was very interesting looking at how English was regarded as superior originally. I think as an improvement I would add in more specific instances of English being used in another language as the gold standard just as Latin now is.


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