North American Scholar

SMITH, Kirby Flower

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1862-12-06
  • Born City: Pawlet
  • Born State/Country: VT
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1918-12-06
  • Death City: Baltimore
  • Death State/Country: MD
  • Married: Charlotte Rogers, 8 June 1893.
  • Education:

    A.B. U. Vermont, 1884; LL.D., 1910; Ph.D. Johns Hopkins, 1889.

  • Professional Experience:

    Instr. to prof. Lat. Johns Hopkins, 1889-1918; pres. CAAS, 1907-8; actng. dir. Sch. Class. Stud., AAR, 1914-5.

  • Dissertation:

    "Archaisms of Terence mentioned in the Commentary Of Donatus" (Johns Hopkins, 1889).

  • Publications:

    "An Historical Study of the Werwolf in Literature," PMLA 9 (1894) 1-42; "On a Legend of the Alban Lake told by Dionysius of Halicarnassus," AJP 16 (1895) 203-10; "Some Irregular Forms of the Elegiac Distich," AJP 22 (1901) 165-94; "The Tale of Gyges and the King of Lydia," AJP 23 (1902) 261-82, 362-87; "Pupula Duplex: A Comment on Ovid, Amores, i, 8, 15," Studies Gildersleeve (Baltimore, 1902) 287-300; "The Influences of Art upon Certain Traditional Passages In the Epic Poetry of Statius," AJA 7 (1903) 93; "The Classics and Our Vernacular," Queen's Quarterly 12 (1905) 358-78; "The Sources of Ben Jonion's 'Still to be Neat'," AJP 29 (1908) 133-55; "The Ages of Man," "Greek and Roman Magic," "The Roman Drama," "Hecate's Suppers," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (Edinburgh, 1908 ff.); The Elegies of Albius Tibullus (New York, 1913; repr. Darmstadt, 1964); "Notes on Tibullus," AJP 37 (1916) 131-55; "Marston's Malcontent," AJP 37 (1916) 318-24, 487; "Propertius: A Modern Lover in the Augustan Age," Sewanee Review 25 (1917) 20-39; "Martial, the Epigrammatist," Sewanee Review 26 (1918) 1-27; "The Poet Ovid," StPhil 15 (1918) 307-32; "The Literary Tradition of Gyges and Candaules," AJP 41 (1920) 1-37. Kleine Schriften: Miscellanea Professoria 1890-1918 (Baltimore, 1918); Martial, the Epigrammatist and Other Essays (Baltimore, 1920).

  • Notes:

    After study with Gildersleeve, whom he called variously "teacher, friend, and foster-father," Smith was hired as instructor and remained to become the first professor of Latin in 1902 and anchor of the Latin program at Johns Hopkins. A mainstay of AJP, he contributed six articles and 27 reviews. In addition, he wrote a number of articles for popular literary journals on the Roman poets Propertius, Ovid, and Martial, as well as on the prevalence and value of classics in our culture. A selection of these articles, published posthumously as Martial, the Epigrammatist and Other Essays, shows a remarkable range of reading and knowledge extending to English, French, and Italian literature that was evident from his first article to his commentary on Tibullus. This breadth and wit was evident also in his teaching: G. J. Laing said he was the most popular teacher at Johns Hopkins. "He made [students] feel, as he himself sincerely felt, that only through Latin could one attain to a real appreciation of the literature of the world and see its successive stages in true perspective."Smith was one of the few great American Latinists in an era dominated by towering Hellenists like Goodwin, Gildersleeve, Shorey, and Smyth. His edition of Tibullus is one of the first and most extensive full-scale commentaries on a Latin author by an American. There had been no modern full-scale commentary in any language when Smith was commissioned to produce a school text. In a remarkably short time he produced a work comprising 343 pages of commentary on only 48 pages of poems. Editorial exigencies required that he prune his introduction mercilessly and cut entirely his account of the history of the text and the apparatus criticus. The lack of a treatment of MSS is made up for by the strength of his remarks on the Nachleben of his author. The notes elucidate the themes and techniques of the poems and place them in the context of contemporary Roman poetry, and betray no attachment to any narrow "school" of thought on elegy. The warm and friendly reception of the commentary in Europe was unusual for an American work of this typesat this time. It was reprinted in Germany, and will remain the standard commentary into the 21st century. On a national level, the Tibullus volume heralded a new level of sophistication and accomplishment in American Latin studies. On a personal level, its signal achievement promised further great contributions. Unfortunately, Smith's tragically sudden and early death removed from our Latin studies the prospect of even greater contributions from one of its most gifted champions.

  • Sources:

    Baltimore Sun (7 Dec. 1918) 14; G. J. Laing, CJ 14 (1918-9) 391, 567-8; B. L. Gildersleeve, AJP 40 (1919) 110-1; W. P. Mustard, CP 14 (1919) 95; K. F. Smith, "Some Boyhood Reminiscences of a Country Town," in Martial, the Epigrammatist, 155-66; WhAm 1:1146.

  • Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr.