Portrait of Sir Frederick Smith

Verbose and tedious…yet pearls in profusion

When writing blogs about veterinary authors I usually turn to Frederick Smith’s four volume work  The early history of veterinary literature and its British development to see what he has to say.  It is unusual to find that Smith does not have an opinion on the author or book in question.

Portrait of Sir Frederick Smith

Portrait of Sir Frederick Smith

We are fortunate to have a large archive of Smith’s material and I know, both from  the sheer volume of material and  the  exhaustive nature of the enquiries (into the content of the book and the background of the author) that are revealed in the papers, that his opinions are based on extensive research though sometimes expressed in colourful language.

Of  Bracy Clark, featured in my last blog post, he has this to say:

“Clark’s style of writing is always verbose and tedious …He perpetually wanders from his subject, so that fragments bearing on the same question crop up in the most unlikely places.  All his works have to be read and annotated in order to collect his views on any subject, especially as he never provides an index.”

He balances this with the following:

“No writer in the profession before or since Clark’s day has brought to bear such a degree of scholarship.  He takes us step by step through a wealth of learning and establishes his point…He had spent years in the study of Latin and Greek, and his deep knowledge of these subjects is reflected in his communications.”

Smith ends his discussion of Clark’s writings by quoting William Percivall in The Veterinarian (1854 p218) who said “No man, perhaps, ever wrote so learnedly so much to so little purpose”.  He agrees that this is indeed the case yet insists within Clark’s works  “pearls there are in profusion.”

If you are doing research on veterinary authors or particular books why not visit us to look at Smith’s research notes and then take a look at the items themselves and see if you agree with his conclusions.

The section on Bracy Clark is in  The early history of veterinary literature and its British development Volume 3 p35-58, it includes a list of around 70 of Clark’s publications.

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