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    Famous Scottish Quotes About Books: Gilbert Highet

    “These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves.”

     Gilbert Highet, writer (1906-1978)



    Gilbert Highet at his East Hampton home – Source:

    “Most eloquent among the sons of Scotland, educated at Glasgow and Oxford, you have for the last forty years enriched the world of classical letters with the richness of your scholarship. You have been at once a support and an ornament to humane learning in this, your adopted country. Generations of Columbia students can testify to the scope of your erudition and the precision of your wit.

    In nearly a score of books—doctis, Iuppiter, et laboriosis [from Catullus 1, meaning “learned, Jupiter, and full of labor”]—you have charted the enduring forms and themes of literature, with a spirit as indefatigable as it is passionate. A Varro in learning, a Cicero in eloquence, you have not only defended the vitality and grace of the classical tradition, you have also embodied it.”

    So spoke President William McGill ’70HON at the spring 1977 commencement in awarding Gilbert Highet the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters for his stellar achievements as a world-class educator.

    Source:  Gilbert Highet and Classics at Columbia by Robert J. Ball


    Gilbert Highet was a legendary teacher at Columbia University, admired both for his scholarship and his charisma as a lecturer.

    Poets in a Landscape is his delightful exploration of Latin literature and the Italian landscape.  As Highet writes in his introduction, “I have endeavored to recall some of the greatest Roman poets by describing the places were they lived, recreating their characters and evoking the essence of their work.” The poets are Catullus, Virgil, Propertius, Horace, Tibullus, Ovid, and Juvenal.

    Highet brings them life, setting them in their historical context and locating them in the physical world, while also offering crisp modern translations of the poets’ finest work.The result is an entirely sui generis amalgam of travel writing, biography, criticism, and pure poetry—altogether an unexcelled introduction to the world of the classics.  Click here for book review.

    Gilbert Highet Scottish Born American Writer and Teacher



    He attended university in Glasgow, his hometown, and only left in 1929 at the age of twenty-six, after receiving a scholarship to study at Balliol College, Oxford. He rapidly rose in the esteem of the dons, and received a tutorial fellowship after completing his degree. Highet left the United Kingdom to become an associate professor of classics at Columbia University in 1937, and was elevated to its senior faculty in the following year.

    In addition, as the host of a radio program and a reviewer for the Book of the Month Club, he established a reputation as a skilled popularizer of intellectual topics.


    What a great quote and a great man!

    Talk soon,


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