By C. Hagerman

Britain's Imperial Muse explores the classics' contribution to British imperialism and to the adventure of empire in India during the lengthy nineteenth century. It unearths the classics position as a foundational resource for confident conceptions of empire and a rhetorical arsenal utilized by commentators to justify conquest and domination, in particular of India.

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E. Winton, who had selflessly insisted on being punished for his ‘transgressions’. Overhearing this most significant of associations, King was moved to say ‘It sticks. ’166 There is no missing the imperial moral that Kipling wanted to convey. Yet his success in conveying it depended on a portrayal of boys integrating lessons into their lives that felt plausible and authentic to his audience. 167 We will return to the imperial moral of the story in a later chapter; for now it is enough to note Kipling’s Classical Education and Britain’s Imperial Elite 35 apparent conviction that a not terribly distinguished or advanced classical education impressed even mediocre students with some specific knowledge of classical antiquity and a general – though sometimes subconscious – sense of its significance and relevance to their lives.

He claimed to loathe Horace and to have forgotten the Roman poet’s work entirely in the middle years of life as a result of excessive exposure during in his days at the United Services College. But, as Stephen Medcalf has admirably shown, Kipling’s later work was laden with Horatian and other classical allusions. 164 His hated classical education had made an impression on him. 165 The story begins with a fifth-form classics lesson conducted by the housemaster, King, in a manner that initially appears to conform to our worst images of the grammar-grind.

With this in mind I am more interested in illustrating dominant imperial tropes within classical discourse than in unravelling the connection between their precise origins and contemporary ideologies. ’175 There can be no question of providing a comprehensive account of these tropes. Instead I will outline a few prominent points in this expansive constellation: empire’s centrality to the world historical significance of classical antiquity, the civilizing mission, the imperial character of the Greeks and Romans, the dangers of imperial success, and the fundamental differences between Europe and Asia.

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