M.A. (Logan Memorial Medal & Prize) Glasgow, 1928; D. Litt., 1951; B.A. (Craven Scholar & Chancellor's Prizeman) Oxford, 1932; M.A., 1936; D.Litt., 1956; Syracuse, 1960; Columbia, 1977; L.H.D. Case Inst. Tech., 1952; Adelphi, 1964; U. Mass., 1973.
Fell. & tutor St. John's Coll., Oxford, 1932-7; vis. asso. class. Columbia, 1937-8; prof. Gk. & Lat. 1938-50; Anthon prof. Lat. lang. & lit., 1950-72; Guggenheim fell., 1951; chief literary critic, Harper's Magazine, 1952-4; mem. Board of Judges, Book-of-the-Month Club, 1954-77; chair edit. adv. bd. Horizon, 1958-77; fell. Royal Soc. Lit., 1959; Goodwin Award, 1963.
Books: An Outline of Homer (London, 1935); Beginning Latin (Oxford, 1938); The Classical Tradition (New York, 1949); The Art of Teaching (New York, 1950); People, Places, and Books (New York, 1953); Juvenal the Satirist (New York, 1954); Man's Unconquerable Mind (New York, 1954); The Migration of Ideas (New York, 1954), also published with the preceding as The Mind of Man (London & New York, 1954); A Clerk of Oxenford (New York, 1954); Poets in a Landscape (New York, 1957); Talents and Geniuses (New York, 1957); The Powers of Poetry (New York, 1960); The Anatomy of Satire (Princeton, 1962); Explorations (New York, 1971); The Speeches in Vergil's Aeneid (Princeton, 1972); The Immortal Profession (New York, 1976).Translations: O. Kiefer, Sexual Life in Ancient Rome, trans, with Helen Highet (London, 1934); G. Mayer, Friedrich Engels: A Biography, trans, with Helen Highet (New York, 1936); W. Jaeger, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture (trans.), 3 vols. (New York, 1939-45). Articles (Selected): “The Life of Juvenal,” TAPA 68 (1937) 480-506; “Petronius the Moralist,” TAPA 72 (1941) 176-94; “Rostagni's La let-teratura di Roma repubblicana ed Augustea,” (review) AJP 63 (1942) 92-104; “The Shipwrecked Slaver,” AJP 63 (1942) 462-6; “The Philosophy of Juvenal,” TAPA 80 (1949) 254-70; “Juvenal's Bookcase,” AJP 12 (1951) 369-94; “Sound-Effects in Juvenal's Poetry,” SPh 48 (1951) 697-706; “Libertino Patre Natus,” AJP 94 (1973) 268-81; “The Huntsman and the Castaway,” GRBS 14 (1973) 35-40; “Consonant Clashes in Latin Poetry,” CP 69 (1974) 178-85; “Lexical Notes on Dio Chrysotom,” GRBS 15 (1974) 247-53; “Speech and Narrative in the Aeneid,” HSCP 78 (1974) 189-229; “Masks and Faces in Satire,” Hermes 102 (1974) 321-37; “Lexical and Critical Notes on Dio Chrysostom,” GRBS 17 (1976) 153-6; “Mutilations in the Text of Dio Chrysostom,” in Ball (see below), 74-99.Kleine Schriften: R. J. Ball, The Classical Papers of Gilbert Highet (New York, 1983).Bibliography: The Classical Papers . . . , 349-78.
Gilbert Highet was one of the 20th century's most distinguished classicists. Consummate teacher, scholar, and literary critic, he used the classroom, his publications, and the media in general to make Greek and Latin literature comprehensible to the educated public. During his 35 years of teaching at Columbia, he did much to revitalize the study of classics and, in doing so, became America's most famous popularizer (in the best sense of the word) of the classical tradition.In appearance Highet reminded his students of a stereotypical British army officer—tall, erect, handsome, clean-shaven, and always impeccably dressed. Whenever he entered the classroom, one felt as though the curtain were going up on a performer in a Broadway play, on someone who had the presence of a Sir Laurence Olivier or a John Houseman. With his Scottish-English burr and his riveting, rapid-fire delivery, he gave the most dazzling and most brilliant lectures imaginable, yet at the same time extremely well-organized and well-balanced. Whether he laughed like Homer's Zeus or hissed like Vergil's Dido, he gave his students an overwhelming intellectual experience, through a showmanship unparalleled in the American classroom. To his students he offered continuous personal attention, whatever the time and whatever their needs, and went out of his way (in person or by letter) to help those who worked hard and with integrity. During the student protests against the Vietnam War, he maintained the highest standards of teaching, setting an example for others who were wavering in their commitment to education. Of the more violent protesters, whom he described as dirty and dizzy with drugs, he allegedly uttered his famous paraphrase of Matthew 7.6: “I shall not cast false pearls before real swine.”Highet wrote a phenomenal number of books, articles, and reviews; his complete bibliography, spanning a 50-year period, consists of nearly 1,000 items. His books fell into five categories: textbooks, translations, teaching methodology, scholarly literary criticism, and essays of a more general nature—most of them directed to a non-specialist audience. Poets in a Landscape received the Premio ENIT (Ente Nazionale Italiano per il Turismo) from the Italian government; The Anatomy of Satire, the Award of Merit of the American Philological Association. During the 1950s he charmed the public with his weekly radio program, “People, Places, and Books,” carried by over 300 stations in the United States and Canada, and by the BBC and Voice of America. His elegant talks—many of them preserved on audio cassettes—focused on classical and contemporary books and covered a very broad spectrum—prose and poetry, language and literature, music and art. In awarding him the D. Litt. in the year before his death, Columbia president William J. McGill described him not only as the defender of the classical tradition but also as the very embodiment of it. At his memorial service, Alan Cameron (his successor as Anthon Professor) declared that probably never again would the entire field of classics be surveyed through the perspective of one man's vision
The Classical Papers . . . , 1-11; S. P. Bovie, “Highet and the Classical Tradition,” Arion 6 (1967) 98-115; W. M. Calder III, “Gilbert Highet, Anthon Professor of Latin, Emeritus,” CW 66 (1972-73) 385-7; idem, “Gilbert Highet,” Gnomon 50 (1978) 430-2; B. Campbell, “Gilbert Highet, Scholar and Poet, Dies of Cancer at the Age of 71,” NYTimes (21 January 1978) 24; M. Crosby, “Gilbert Highet: A Remembrance,” College Board Review 108 (Summer 1978) 28-30; M. A. Farber, “Columbia's Highet Is Retiring Today,” NYTimes (30 June 1972) 12; C. McCarthy, “Gilbert Highet: A Teaching Career of Lifelong Delights,” Washington Post (31 Jan. 1978) A, 19; “Professor Gilbert Highet: Teacher and Popularizer of the Classics,” Times (London) (26 Jan. 1978) 16; T. A. Suits, “Gilbert Highet,” in Classical Scholarship: A Biographical Encyclopedia, ed. W. W. Briggs & W. M. Calder III (New York, 1990) 183-91; R. W. Winks, Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War 1939-1961 (New York, 1987), 169. For additional items, see Ball, 13-4. Papers: Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University.
AUTHORRobert J. Ball