World War I he was a major figure innthe theatrical cult of “Ibsenity.” Thenfigure of Adolphus Cusins in Shaw’snMajor Barbara is modeled on Murray.n(His wife and mother-in-law appear asnBarbara and her mother. Shaw jokinglyncalled the play “Murray’s Mother-in-nLaw.”) His scholarly writing before thenGreat War was of international significance.nAfter the war he headed thenLeague of Nations Union, and hisnbooks and talks on the BBC continuednto appear until his death. Both Frazernand Murray were awarded the Order ofnMerit. Housman turned it down.nThe contemporary reader may wellnask why three such creative figuresnchose to become what Ackerman callsn”professional students of that least practicalnof subjects, classics.” As Ackerman’snown survey of the Cambridgenexamination system shows, knowledgenof Greek and Latin was essential fornanyone interested in an academic ornreligious career in 19th-century England.nGreek was a prerequisite fornstudy at Oxford until 1920. (GilbertnMurray sold out the pass to the modernists.)nApart from that historical reality,nserious research in the humanities isnimpossible without a good knowledge ofnGreek and Latin (as I once heard RenenGirard tell a group of horror-strucknstudents of comparative literature). Thencontemporary collapse of humanisticnresearch is due not only to drivingncreative people out of the field, but alsonto denying them the essential education.nLacking not only Milton’s education,nbut even Shakespeare’s, a Frazer orna Housman, supposing that he did slipnthrough the dragnet and land a positionnsomewhere, could never accomplishnwhat those men did.nBiographers of classical scholars rarelynbother to develop a professionalnknowledge of “that least practical ofnsubjects.” Ackerman thinks that Frazer’sncommentary on Ovid’s Fasti is morenimportant than The Golden Bough,nwhile Sir Duncan wants us to believenthat Murray’s small volume on Fourn(later Five) Stages of Greek Religionnwas more significant than his threevolumencritical edition of Euripides ornhis book on Homer. There are alsonerrors in details. There were two greatnGerman scholars who are importantnfor Murray’s life, Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorffnand Eduard Fraen-nkel. Sir Duncan dates Wilamowitz’sndeath to 1929 instead of 1931, andntells us that Fraenkel was elected CorpusnProfessor of Latin Literature inn1934 when he fled Hitler’s Germany,nalthough he was “a young man whonhad not yet established an internationalnreputation.” By 1934 Fraenkel hadnwritten the most important book in thisncentury on Plautus and Greek NewnComedy, as well as the most intelligentnreview that Housman’s work ever received.nInstead of hating Fraenkel fornthe frank criticism mixed with thenpraise in the review, Housman wrote anletter to the Sunday Times on Fraenkel’snappointment that should havensilenced forever his jealous Englishndetractors.nAll three suffered from a commonnVictorian malady. They lost their faithnin orthodox Christianity. Housman,nthe conservative, did not try to force hisnview on others. He even wrote a hymnnto be sung at his own funeral. Frazer,non the contrary, early saw a mission tondisabuse the worid of superstition. ThenGolden Bough, in all three editions andnabridgment, is a barely disguised polemicnagainst Christianity. Frazer firstnexplained his view of the study ofncomparative religions in his obituary ofnhis best friend, the great SemiticistnRobertson Smith. The comparativenmethod, Frazer explains, “proves thatnmany religious doctrines and practicesnare based on primitive conceptionsnwhich most civilized and educatednmen have long agreed in abandoningnas mistaken. From this it is a naturalnand often a probable inference thatndoctrines so based are false, and thatnpractices so based are foolish.” Ackermannexpresses amazement that Frazernwould use the death of his bestnfriend as an excuse for religious polemic,nespecially since this view of thencomparative method was not that ofnSmith himself. Frazer, however, was anman obsessed. The world of The GoldennBough is full of mythical heroes whondied for their people and rose again tonkingship and divinity. Frazer’s attemptnin the second edition to prove that thenpassion of Jesus was a misinterpretationnby eariy Christians of a Passover ritualnwas one of his most catastrophic scholarlynhypotheses. After it was thoroughlynrefuted even to his satisfaction, henreprinted it in the third edition as annexample of the kind of thing that mightnnnhave happened. His revolt against hisnScottish evangelical background wouldnnot let go of him. He could not helpnhimself.nThe same motif plays through thenpopular and scholarly writings of GilbertnMurray. Even his major scholarlynwork, The Rise of the Greek Epic, hasnas minor chord an attack on Christiannscriptures. His appointment to the Regiusnchair kept him from delivering thenGifford Lectures on religion, but wenknow that he intended to explain hisn”profound belief in ethics and disbeliefnin all revelational religions.” As late asn1940 he was reprinting his World WarnI attacks on Christianity and defense ofnpaganism, especially Stoicism.nFrazer and Murray were importantnforces for convincing educated peoplenthat ethics and progress could survivenwithout the accidental historical garb ofnChristianity. Then came the GreatnWar and its aftermath. They had anchance to see how long-lasting andninfluential ethics were now that theirnreligious foundations had been undermined.nThe effects of enlightenmentnwere clear on all sides: England andnFrance’s cynical alliance with the brutalnRussian state against Germany,nGermany’s reckless invasion of Belgium,nthe use of poisonous gas by bothnsides. Murray wrote British war propagandanfor what he called the “MendacitynBureau” until his hero Grey fellnbefore Lloyd George. The collapse ofnprewar liberal dreams hit home, slowlynbut surely. Housman had never beennfooled. As early as 1900 he had writtennto Murray, “I rather doubt if mannreally has much to gain by substitutingnpeace for strife, as you and Jesus Christnrecommend.” He foresaw a decadencenin which the burdens of peace wouldnweigh as heavy as the travails of war.nWhile predicting accurately the decadencenof the 20’s, even Housman didnnot foretell the atrocities that came inn1914.nBy 1933 Frazer had finally realizednwhat was happening, and he spoke outnin an essay on his youthful hero Condorcet:nThe words of fiery eloquence innwhich Edmund Burke, thenwisest of political thinkers,nbranded the Jacobins of his daynare applicable, with hardly anchange but that of names, tonSEPTEMBER 1989/27n