Literature: An Instrument of Inquiry



As early as the eighteenth century — and probably much earlier than that — the custom was established that on taking up his chair, the professor would declare in an inaugural lecture what his policies would be and what he intended to do. In those days professorships were for life; a man could afford to be leisurely. Thomas Gray, on being appointed to the chair of History and Modern Languages at Cambridge began to prepare his inaugural address — in an elegant style of Latin — but lost the thread and never got round to delivering it. The important thing was that he had the chair; he had desired it for a long time, and when it was providentially offered to him (through the good offices of a friend) he accepted the offer with as much alacrity as he had declined the poet laureateship a little earlier. He died three years later, leaving no inaugural, and no record that he had ever given a lecture on history, or tutored a single undergraduate. Yet he is still a man of renown, well remembered for his elegy on the death by drowning of Horace Walpole’s cat.


Good Reader Literary Text Paradise Lost Educational Function Inaugural Lecture 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1985

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