« VorigeDoorgaan »
cluding the whole organized creation. If has been written the greatest part is of litno other science existed but this, there tle general value. If all that has actually would be labor enough and more than been committed to papyrus, parchment or enough to employ for life the students and paper had by chance been preserved from observers of the world. Each kingdom of the effects of time and barbanism, the ag, organic nature already offers to our acquaint- gregate would be so vast and the interest ance its hundred thousand specific forms, so little, that the busy world could hardly and these are but the vanguard of a still turn aside for its examination from more greater multitude believed to cover the sur- absorbing and necessary pursuits. face of countries yet unexplored, and to fill But the world is not contented with histhe mysterious recesses not yet penetrated tory which states, or professes to state, the by the microscope. And as far as we know, progress, arts, dates, successes and failures every one of these organisms, great or small, of distinguished men and nations. It recarries with it its parasites, to which it quires further, the supplementary aid of affords habitation and food, and which may fiction which finds facts, not in testimony, be supposed not only to double but to mul- but in probability; not as they are recorded tiply in an unknown ratio its original num- to bave happened, but as they ought to have bers. Again, when we reflect that every happened under the circumstances and with one of these species has its own anatomy, the actors. Fiction, moreover, not being its physiology, its peculiar chemistry, ils restrained by the limits of circumstantial habits, its sensations, its modes of reproduc- truth, is at liberty to seek embellishment tion, its nutrition, its duration, its metamor- from exaggeration, from ornament, from phoses, its diseases and its final mode of de- poetry, from dramatic utterance and passionstruction, we may well despair of know- ate expression. Hence it has taken the ing much of the whole, when a single spe- lead in modern literature, and it is not probcies might furnish materials of study for a able that at this day the most accomplished human lifetime.
bibliographer or bookseller could point the The foregoing are examples of the claim way to one-half of its multiplied and perishon our attention and study advanced by a able productions. portion only of the progressive sciences. There is neither time nor inducement to
They serve to develop truths and laws ap- refer to the pseudo-sciences, which in all pertaining to the material earth, which ages have made serious dratts upon the limtruths and laws, must have existed had ited lifetime of man, nor to the ephemeral there never been minds to study them. and unprofitable issues which consume his The relations of number and figure, the time and labor and wear out his strength. laws of motion and rest, of gravity and affin- At the present day we have not much to ity, of animal and vegetable life, must have fear from alchemy, palmistry or astrology, been the same bad the dominant race of nor yet from spiritualism, homeopathy or man never appeared on earth. But there mormonism. But it is not easy to prevent is another extensive class of scientific pur- men from wasting their time in the pursuit suits, the subjects of which are drawn from of shadows, from substituting exceptions for his own nature. He has devised metaphys- general laws, from believing things, not beics to illustrate the operations of his own cause they are probable, but because they mind. He has introduced ethical and po- are wonderful and entertaining.. Still litical science to promote order and happi- less can we divert them from yielding to ness, and military science to assist for a time the guidance of an excited will, from folat least in destroying both. He has built lowing prejudices or creating them, from up history with “ her volumes vast,” which adopting one side of a controversy or party volumes are as yet a small thing compared strife for no better reason than that some with those that are to come. Under the other party has adopted the opposite. name of news the press daily inundates the It would be unnecessary to add to what world with a million sheets of cotempora- has already been said, even an inventory of neous history, for history and news, under other studies, which present seducing but small qualifications, are identical. The an- interminable claims on the life and labour nals of the last four years may deserve as of man. It would be vain to open the flood large a place in the attention of man- gates of philology, and to follow the thoukind as was due when the poet informed sand rills of language which have intersectthe Egyptian mummy that since his dis- ed and troubled each other ever since they ccase, * a Roman empire had begun and left their fountains at Babel. And we ended.” The greatest part of what should pause in humility before the very portals of have been history is unwritten, and of what | astronomy, which has revealed to us that we roll and revolve, and perhaps again re- What is now called a liberal education is a volve, around we know not what. And term which means something and nothing. helpless as animalcules on the surface of a Among us it generally implies an attendfloating globule, we are ever striving to see, ance for four years upon the curriculum to explore, and to mark our way through or course of studies prescribed and pursued the "starry dust” of infinite space. Strong in some incorporated college or university; and devoted minds have piled up unread. This attendance may be punctual and able tornes, the result of their life-long thorough, or it may be negligent and unstudies and observations, yet few, save ihe profitable, so that while one student makes professional and the initiated, attempt to in- a limited acquirement of multifarious vade the recondite sanctuary of their de- knowledge, another forgets a great part of posit.
what he knew on entering the college, and Thus the immense amount of knowledge, prepares to forget the rest as soon as he engeneral and special, true and fictitious, salu- ters upon active life. tary and detrimental, the record of which Subdivision and selection afford the prinis already in existence, has grown into an cipal avenues through which men arrive at insurmountable accumulation, a terra incog- success in the humbler as well as the more nita, which from its very magnitude is inac- conspicuous walks of life. The mechanical cessible to the inquiring world. Hence labour of artisans is best performed, and its the economy of the age has introduced the best results obtained, by distributing its dulabor-saving machinery of periodical litera- ties among a multitude of special agents, ture, which, by substituting compendiums and this is more or less successfully done in and reviews for the more bulky originals, proportion as a society, or a crit, is more has seemed to smooth the up-hill track of or less perfectly organized. Sy likewise in knowledge and lighten the Sisyphean load the higher or more intellectual pursuits of of its travellers
. But periodical literature, life, in which men procure bread by the lauseful or frivolous as it may be, and indis- bour of their heads instead of their hands, pensable as it undoubtedly is, has become the number of learned professions has been by its very success inflated to an enormous within a short time wonderfully increased. growth, and bids fair in its turn to tran- In the days of our fathers the learned proscend the overtaxed powers of attention of fessions were accounted three in number, those for whose use it is prepared. Like Law, Physic, and Divinity. But now more our street cars, while it helps forward to than three times that number afford means their destination a multitude of struggling of honorable subsistence to multitudes of perlestrians, it substitutes pressure for exer- duly educated persons. We have now a cise, and does not save the fatigue of those profession of authors, of editors, of lecturers, who are still obliged to stand that they may of teachers, of engineers, of chemists, of in
In looking forward to another century, ventors, of architects and other artists ; and it is curious to consider who will then re- to these may be added the better class of view the reviews, and condense, redact and soldiers and politicians. And all these prodigest the compenils of compendiums from fessions are again subdivided in proportion which the life. has already been pressed out as society advances in its requirements. by previous condensation.
For precisely the same reason that it Since these things are so,
- since in the would not be profitable for experts in a dying words of Laplace, “ The known is mechanical vocation to di-tract and dissipate little, but the unknown is immense,” and their attention among pursuits alien to their
tastes and qualifications, it can hardly be “Since life can little more supply
advantageous for pupils and neophytes in Than just to look about us and to die,” learning, to undertake to make themselves
competent representatives of the various it is a question of paramount importance, sciences, the literary studies, the languages, how in this short period education can be dead and living, which are now professed y made to conduce most to the progress, the taught in our colleges and seminaries. Evefficiency, the virtue, and the welfare of ery individual is by nature comparatively
qualified to succeed in one path of life, and It is not presumptuous to say that educa- comparatively disqualified to shine in anothtion to be useful must, as far as possible, be er. The first step in education should be made simple, limited, practicable, accepta- for the parties most interested, to study, ble to the learner, adapted to his character and as far as possible to ascertain, the pecuand wants, and brought home to his partic- liar bent and capacity of a boy's mind. ular case by subilivision and selection. This being done, he should be put upon a course of intellectual and physical training programme of instruction a separate path is corresponding, as far as possible, to that for provided for all who require to accomplish which nature seems to have designed himn. themselves in any one or more of the especial But in all cast's a preparatory general ele- branches of useful knowledge. It would not mentary education, such as iš furnished by be just to ignore the fact that the same thing our common schools, must be made a pre- has long been doing in several of our larger requisite even to qualify him to inquire. universities, where the practical sciences and The more thorough this preparatory train- the modern languages are extensively taught. ing is made, the better it is for the student. But these time-honored institutions exceed But after this is completed a special or de- some of their younger associates in this repartmental course of studies should be se- spect, that under the name of classical literlected, such as appears most likely to con- ature they premise and afterwards carry on duct him to his appropriate sphere of use. a cumbrous burden of dead languages, kept fulness. Collateral studies of different alive through the dark ages and now stereokinds may always be allowed, but they typed in England by the persistent conservshould be subordinate and subsidiary, and atism of a privileged order. I cannot here need not interfere with the great objects of say much to add io the lucid, scholarly and his especial education.
convincing exposition of the state of educaA common college education now culmi- tion as it now is in the great schools of Engnates in the student becoming what is called land, given in a recent lecture before this a master of arts. But this in a majority of Instirute, by one of its professors, on the subinstances means simply a master of nothing: ject of classical and scientific studies.* . No It means that he has spent much time and one who examines this discourse can fail to some labor in besieging the many doors of the be impressed with the injudicious exactions temple of knowledge, without effecting an made in favor of the dead languages in the entrance at any of them. In the practical English schoo's and universities, their superlife which he is about to follow he will often fuity as means of intellectual training, and have occasion to lament, be he ever so ex- their limited applicability to the wants of emplary and diligent, that he has wasted on the present advanced generation. subjects irrelevant to his vocation, both time I would not underrate the value or interand labor, which, had they been otherwise est of classical studies. They give pleasure, devoted, would have prepared and assisted refinement to taste, breadth to thought, and him in the particular work he is called on to power and copiousness to expression. Any do.
one who in this busy world has not much Young men, as well as their parents in else to do, may well turn over by night and their behalf, are justly ambitious of a col- by day the “ exemplaria Græca.” But if, legiate education. Older men often regret in a practical age and country, he is exthat they have not had the opportunity to pected to get a useful education, a comreceive it when young. And this is because petent living, an enlarged power of serving of the generally acknowledged fact, that four others, or even of saving them from being years, spent under the tuition of faithful, ac- burdened with his support, he can hardly complished and gentlemanly teachers, can afford to surrender four or five years of hardly fail to improve their character, lan- the most susceptible part of life to acquiring guage and bearing, as well as their store of a minute familiarity with tongues which useful knowledge. It is the habitual contact are daily becoming more obsolete, and each and guidance of superior minds, as well as of which is obtained at the sacrifice of some the progressive attrition with each other, more important science or some more dewhich make young men profiients in recti- sirable language. It may not be doubted tude, in honor, in science, in polite litera- that a few years devoted to the study of ture, in tact, and in manners. And this re- Greek will make a
more elegant sult will appear, whether they have been scholar, a more accomplished philologist, taught French at West Point, or Greek in a more accurate and affluent writer, and, Harvard or Yale.
if all other things conspire, a more finished It is the province of the Institute of Tech- orator. But of themselves they will not nology, so largely an'l liberally sustained by make him what the world now demands, a the Legislature, by the mun ficence of indi. better citizen, a more sagacious statesman, viduals, and by the untirin · labors of its dis- a more far-sighted economist, a more able tinguished president, to endeavor within its financier, more skilful engineer, manufacsphere to assist in providing for the educa- turer, merchant, or military commander. tional wants of the most practical and progressive people that the world has seen. By its
* Professor W. Atkinson.
They will not make him a better mathema-ling he loads his “sclopetum ” with “pulvis tician, physicist, agriculturist, chemist, navi- nitralis.” If modern Greece should ever gator, physician. lawyer, architect, painter, become a first-class power among the naor musician. The ancient Greeks knew tions, it will have to complete, as it is now but little, though they knew how to ex- trying to do, a vocabulary of new terms to press that little well. The moderns know express the arts and commerce, the facts a great deal more, and know how to ex- and fancies, the business and belles lettres press it intelligibly. Antiquity has produced of the existing time. In other words, it many great men. Modern times bave pro- must reënforce its language with a new duced equally great men, and more of half, not found in the ancient classics. them.
The admiration of the old Romans for It is common at the present day to say the Greek language and literature had its that the Greek language disciplines the origin in the fact that in that age of limited mind, extends the compass and application civilization they found not much else of the of thought, and that, by its copiousness, and kind to admire. They looked to Greece as by its versatility of inflection and arrange the fountain of what had been achieved in ment it trains the mind to a better compre- art, philosophy, poetry and eloquence. Of hension of words, thoughts, and things. consequence it was chosen as the great All this is no doubt true, and might have place of resort for educational objects, and great weight as a governing motive in edu- Athens became the emporium ot literary cation, were it not that the same ends can and philosophic instruction. But the Ró be more cheaply obtained by the agency of man youth would never have been sent to other means. Unfortunately for the supre- Athens, had there been, as now, a railroad macy of classical literature, all civilized to take them to Paris, or a steamship to countries are at this moment full of dis- bring them to America. They would not tinguished men and women who write well have consumed their time in tỏe groves of and speak well, and who have never ac- Academus, if they could bave gained adquired the learned languages. It is easy to mittance to the Ecole Polytechnique, or to say that such persons would have been more the Royal Institution. distinguished if they had known the classics. At the present day we relish the Greek It is easy to say that Laplace would have language, from the mingled impression not been a better matheinatician, and Faraday only of its own superiority, but of the pleasa better chemist, if by chance they had ure it gives us and the pains it has cost us. been duly instructed in Greek. But this We relish it as the musician enjoys his muis gratuitous assumption. The contrary sic, the mathematician his geometry, and result is more probable, inasmuch as the the antiquarian his diggings. We are pleaspursuit of classical literature would have ed that it bas been preserved with its euabstracted just so much time from more phonious intonations, its copious expressivepertinent and profitable investigations. At ness, and its noble literature. We know this day nobody believes that Watt would that the spirit of Homer cannot be translathave made a better steam engine, or Ste- ed into English, any more than the soul of phenson a better loomotive, if they had been Shakspeare can be done into Greek. All taught philosophy by Plato himself. languages have their idiomatic expressions
The ancient languages, if applied to use, of thought, and in all of them translation are not adequate to supply the wants of has a killing effect on the strong points of modern cultivation. Truth and things have literature. In the opera of Macbetto the grown faster than words. Modern customs, term “hell broth” in the witch scene, is arts and sciences can be expressed in rendered in Italian as “polto inferno.” French or German, but not in Greek and And on the opposite page of the libretto, it Latin. A French writer, Professor Goffaux, is served up afresh in English as “ infernal bas undertaken to translate Robinson Crusoe soup.” It is highly probable that the half into Lain. The translation is successful as savage accomplishments of Homer's heroes far as easy diction and pure latinity are and gods cannot be made duly appreciable concerned. But the language of the Ro- in the English tongue. Nevertheless, the maps is at fault in the islands of the modern world can get on without them, and Pacific, and new words must be coined to we may be excused for believing that if the express even imperfectly things which are study of Greek should be abandoned as a not coeval with the language employed. requisite in our universities, although it The world-renowned “man Friday” is in- would still be cultivated, like other exceptroduced to us under the vicarious name of tional studies, with success and delight by a * Vendredi," and when Friday goes a shoot-few devotees, yet our practical, bustling and overcrowded generation would never | the field of wholesome competition beagain postpone more useful occupations to tween the well taught and the self-taught, adopt it as an indispensable academical between advantage on the one side and study.
energy on the other, between early develIn regard to success in the world at the opment under assistance and slow maturity present day, it is not an academic educa- under difficulties. The success of either tion, however desirable in any shape it may condition awakens and stimulates the zeal be, that gives a man access to the confi- of the other. dence and general favor of his fellow-men, There are many persons who even in this or to the influential posts of society. It is age speak in terms of derogation of what native talent, reliability, perseverance and are called utilitarian studies, in contrast with indomitable will, that conduct him to the classical and "ideal literature, as if pursuits high places of the world. In all countries, which tend directly to the preservation and and most of all in our own country, a con- bappiness of man were less worthy of his attest continually goes on between academic tention than those which may be founded education and self-education, the education in fancy, exaggeration and passion. Poetry, that comes from without and the education art and fiction have sought for the beautiful that comes from within. The much culti- and sublime in creations which are imagi-' vated boy, who under favor of advantages, nary and often untrue, which “o'er inform performs faithfully his allotted tasks, who the pencil and the pen,” and attract because fulfils the requirements of his teachers, who they are mysterious and inaccessible. But is accustomed to subordinate his own judg- in the present age, fact has overtaken fancy ment to the dictation of others; although and passed beyond it. We have no need to he may hold a high rank in the scale of create new miracles, nor imagine them, proficiency and the amount of acquisition, when the appetite for wonder is more than is liable on arriving at manhood, to contin- satiated with reality, and objects of delight ue to lean rather than to lead, and thence and amazement confront us in the walks of to occupy a secondary place in the struggle daily life. I know nothing in nature or art for worldly distinction. On the other hand, more beautiful than a railroad train, when the neglected but independent youth, who it shoots by us with a swiftness that renders is brought up in the suggestive school of ne- its inmates invisible, and winds off its sincessity, who becomes original and inventive ous way among mountains and forests, because his life is a continued contest with spanning abysses, cleaving hills asunder, and difficulties, who balances character against travelling onward to its destination, steadiopportunity, and individual vigor and pa- ly, smoothly, unerringly, as a migratory tience against external guidance ; such an bird advances to the polar regions. And I one, from the habit of directing himself, be- know of nothing more sublime than in the comes more competent to direct others, and hold of an ocean steamship, to look on the to wear more easily offices of trust and re- mightiest emergency that has been raised by sponsibility: It is remarkable how many man, as it wields its enormous limbs like a of our distinguished men have been self- living thing, and heaves and pants and rolls educated, or at least without academic edu- and plunges, — urged onward by the strugcation. Franklin was a philosopher, Wash- gling of the imprisoned elements
. ington a statesman, Patrick Henry an ora- The traveller passes daily by the nevertor, but not by the grace of classical edu- ending rows of posts and wires which mark cation. Henry Clay knew nothing of the the pathway of the electric telegraph, until Greek language, nor did probably Thomas at length by their very frequency they are Benton. Andrew Jackson and Andrew blended in the inert features of the landJohnson had rougher nursing than that of scape and cease to attract attention. Yet, an alma mater. Rumford, Bowditch and all the while, invisible thought is riding on Fulton did not develop their intellects un- those wires, and mind is answering to mind der the shades of academic seclusion. And over a thousand miles of distance. if we were to go abroad for examples, we The half fabulous siege of Troy has been should find that Napoleon was no classical made immortal in the epics of Homer and scholar, and that Peter the Great, when he Virgil, and we are led by their poetry to issued from his lair at Moscow to study the admire the achievements of heathen gods civilization of Western Europe, did not re- and of heroes descended from them. We pair to the universities of Cambridge and stand in awe at the exploits of primitive Oxford, but entered as a working mechanic warriors with the same emotions with which in the shipyards of Saardam and Deptford. we afterwards mark in history the real
We need not regret that our country is deeds and eras of great military command