Imágenes de páginas

lyghte, and a sparkling countenance, so as yee may not be able lightly to resist her.” Now we humbly maintain, that Truth is not only a Goddesse, but a Doctoresse : that she may be looked for in universities, halls, and colleges; and we further venture to hope, in those public schools which prepare the student for his probation in the higher stages of academical discipline.

The first charge against us is, that we devote too large a portion of irrevocable time to the attainment of one object, namely classical learning. Here a question arises, whether classical learning be really one object, or whether it do not rather embrace a circle of important objects. It seems to me to furnish a supply of various and gradually accumulating knowledge, suggested to the scholar incidentally, through the medium of languages to be learned, with more interest and effect than would be produced by the formality of systematic lectures, and at a more early period than any at which the mind would be strong enough to encounter the severity of strict philosophical discussion. Did my limits admit of examining the subject in all its bearings, I might enlarge on the consideration, that he who knows only modern languages, knows no language at all. But the prejudice of the moment seems all for science. Certain philosophers would teach the young idea how to shoot with the cross-bow of geology: but we can herein convict them of belying their own pretensions to method, and jumping in medias res, when they would start their little geologues in the

career of knowledge from hic lapis, a stone. We on the contrary adhere to the principle, so often and so learnedly inculcated by the first Lord Kenyon, whose legal knowledge was unbounded, and whose fondly displayed power of quotation, now and then overleaped the enclosures of the Latin syntax, stare super antiquas vias. On this sound constitutional principle, so fit to be adopted by the professors of learning, we set out from hæc musa, a song. But then this singing propensity of ours is alleged as one of our principal crimes. We are accused of making poets, whereas they ought to be born. Now assuredly we are not so absurd as to suppose, either that we can, or that the gods will, make our pupils poetical. It is supposed that we confine our efforts to fostering an annual poet or two, for the purpose of supporting our own reputation in the universities. But we are not so ambitious as to aim at usurping the prerogative of royalty: nay, the king himself, who can do no evil, can do no more good than to make a laureate : in which capacity Cibber and Pye chaunted, and Southey is silent. It is said that we teach an art, which not one in five hundred of our pupils will ever practise in after life. That is highly probable, and by no means to be regretted, if there be any truth in a Spanish proverb, that “ He who cannot make one verse is a blockhead; he who makes more is a fool.” I have relieved you from the first of these imputations, and I warn you against incurring the second. But should the muse be so spiteful as to inspire you, send not the effusions to

me, since I can assure you, that to a schoolmaster, sufficient unto the day is the authorship thereof. Teaching composition, like other great crimes, carries its punishment along with it. Why then do we teach composition in Latin and Greek, and particularly verse ? It is to make critics, not poets. It is to ensnare our pupils into a more extensive, and a more curious examination of the great writers, than the public tuition of a mixed body would allow. The practice of classical composition in verse and prose compels a composer of any talent or ambition to pull to pieces the whole phraseology of the principal authors for his own use, and carefully to examine their thoughts for the purposes of adaptation. Thus an acquaintance is formed with their contents, and an insight gained into their spirit, not to be acquired by mere mechanical construction in a lesson, or by yawning over the notes of Delphin or Variorum commentators.

We are further accused, not only of making an annual poet, but of making an annual scholar; of cultivating highly soils of abundant promise, and suffering the light lands to lie fallow. This vain or mercenary conduct I indignantly disclaim for myself. A long experience of the public school system, and an extensive acquaintance among its conductors, enable me to disclaim it in behalf of my brethren. I feel convinced that there is no set of gentlemen at the head of any public school in the kingdom, so mean, so unworthy of the name, as to betray their vice

parental trust, and to consign those pupils to ignorance, who are not blessed with brilliant talents. The frequently recurring failure of laborious and painful efforts is sufficiently mortifying, without being imputed as a fault; but who can escape censure, if the apathy of sluggish minds, or the impracticability of dull parts, is to be fixed on the instructors as arising from a dereliction of their duty ? There will always be a grenadier company in academical as well as in military bodies. It is to be feared there will also be an awkward squad : we find that we can drill those prevailing numbers, who just come up to the regimental standard, into useful fighting men.

That our course of instruction is so completely unprofessional, is with me a merit, rather than a defect. We teach the general principles of religion; but we leave it to the universities to form the divine : we leave it to the bar to form its own lawyers : but we endeavour to lay that solid foundation, on which a superstructure of any order may be raised. A strong objection against educating with professional views too early, is, that all professional education, not to speak invidiously, has an eye to pecuniary interest, and the politic arts of pushing forward in life. There is no fear that these objects will not occupy the mind soon enough; and it is highly desirable that it should previously be furnished with sentiments of independence, with a taste for the liberal arts, with that common stock for the intercourse of polite society, which distinguish the gentleman from the

recluse, the pedant, or the plodder. But the truth is, that besides this advantage, classical education does make preparation for the peculiar duties and pursuits of after life, though not exclusively or engrossingly: in addition to which, it furnishes at the time, and continues to furnish through life, * something valuable in itself to all those who possess it, independently of its subserviency to their more necessary pursuits, and independently of the mental discipline incident to its acquirement.

My station in life may be supposed to give a bias to my opinions and reasonings on this subject. I will therefore appeal to the testimony of the great Lord Chatham, as simply and beautifully delivered in those letters to his nephew, Lord Camelford, for the possession of which we are indebted to Lord Grenville : - “ I rejoice to hear that you have begun Homer's Iliad, and have made so great a progress in Virgil. I hope you taste and love those authors particularly. You cannot read them too much ; they are not only the two greatest poets, but they contain the finest lessons for your age to imbibe ; lessons of honour, courage, disinterestedness, love of truth, command of temper, gentleness of behaviour, humanity, and in one word, virtue in its true signification. Go on, my dear nephew, and drink as deep as you can of those divine springs : the pleasure of the draught is equal at least to the prodigious advantage of it to the heart and morals. I hope you will drink them as somebody does in Virgil,

« AnteriorContinuar »