Random Friday memory 18 – Latin at Sydney 1960


Professor and Dean

ARTHUR JOHN DUNSTON, M.A. (Cambridge), B.A. (Reading). Appointed 1953.

Senior Lecturers

J. DUHIGG, M.A. (Cambridge), B.A.

J. J. NICHOLLS, M.A. (Cambridge), B.A.



H. D. JOCELYN, B.A. (Cambridge and Sydney).

I. M. LONIE, B.A. (Cambridge and New Zealand).

That’s from the Sydney University Calendar for 1960. I was 16 and enrolled in Arts 1: English, Ancient History, Psychology – and Latin. This is Professor Dunston:


He was there forever! We had him for Cicero, I think. Latin happened in this picturesque corner:


I had studied Latin at school, mainly under the legendary Edgar Bembrick – his last class in fact. He died in 1960. See also my post 1957 or MCMLVII. So Latin as my fourth subject, just for one year, looked an easy choice. Except it turned out there was so much of it! Not just Cicero, but Livy and Horace – the Epistles, with Mr Duhigg, whose Cambridge accent charmed me. His translations were so elegant, better probably than this one:

An invitation to dinner

If you can bear to recline at dinner on a couch

By Archias, and dine off a modest dish of greens,

Torquatus, I’ll expect to see you here at sunset.

You’ll drink wine bottled in Taurus’ second term,

Between marshy Minturnae, and Mount Petrinum

Near Sinuessa. If you’ve better, have it brought,

Or obey orders! The hearth’s bright, the furniture’s

Already been straightened. Forget airy hopes, the fight

For wealth, and Moschus’ case: tomorrow, Caesar’s birthday

Gives us a reason for sleeping late: we’re free to spend

A summer’s night in pleasant talk with impunity.

What’s the use of my fortune if I can’t enjoy it?

The man who scrimps and saves on behalf of his heirs,

Too much, is next to mad. I’ll start the drinking, scatter

Flowers, and even allow you to think me indiscreet.

What can’t drunkenness do? It unlocks secrets, and makes

Secure our hopes, urges the coward on to battle,

Lifts the weight from anxious hearts, teaches new skills.

Whom has the flowing wine-bowl not made eloquent?

Whom constrained by poverty has it not set free?

Here’s what, willing and able, I commit myself

To provide: no dirty seat-covers, no soiled napkins

To offend your nose, no plate or tankard where you can’t

See yourself, no one to carry abroad what’s spoken

Between good friends, so like may meet and be joined

To like. I’ll have Butra and Septicius for you,

And Sabinus unless he’s detained by a prior

Engagement, and a prettier girl. There’s room too

For your ‘shadows’: but goatish smells spoil overcrowded

Feasts. You reply with how many you want, then drop

Your affairs: out the back, evade the client in the hall! 


Horace reads before Maecenas, by Fyodor Bronnikov

I was working through Horace at about five lines an hour, I think, and consequently never did translate it all. Unfortunately the parts I hadn’t quite got to turned up in the exam, though I did pass. Mr Duhigg memorably told then 17-year-old me: “Mr Whitfield, if the rest of the paper had been the same standard as your Horace, you most certainly would not have passed.”

We struggled also through Bradley’s Arnold.


If I recall correctly the lovely Miss Begbie was our guide for that. Or was that Livy? Given this it seems likely.

  • Also in 1960, the infant Tony Abbott arrived in Australia. Oh dear!