Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

study;(a) and, if necessary, he sought retirement. (6)

Shrunk up my veins; and still my spaniel slept.
And still I held converse with Zabarell,
Aquinas, Scotus, and the musty saw
Of antick Donate: still my spaniel slept.
Still on went I; first, an sit anima ;
Then, an it were mortal. O hold, hold at that
They're at brain buffets, fell by the ears amain
Pell-mell together : still my spaniel slept.
Then, whether 'twere corporeal, local, fixt,
Ex traduce, but whether I had free will
Or no, hot philosophers
Stood banding factions, all so strongly propt:
I stagger’d, knew not which was firmer part,
But thought, quoted, read, observ'd and pryed,
Stuff't noting books; and still my spaniel slept.
At length he waked, and yawned; and by yon sky,

For aught I know he knew as much as I.”

Marston's “ What you Will," Charles Lamb's Selections, p. 84. See Wordsworth’s Expostulation and Reply.

(u) Johnson, in his life of Savage, says, “ Out of this story he formed the tragedy of Sir Thomas Overbury, which, if the circumstances in which he wrote it be considered, will afford at once an uncommon proof of strength of genius and evenness of mind; of a serenity not to be ruffled, and an imagination not to be suppressed. During a considerable part of the time in which he was employed upon this performance, he was without lodging and often without meat; nor had he any other conveniences for study than the fields or the streets allowed him: there he used to walk and form his speeches, and afterwards step into a shop, beg for a few moments the use of the pen and ink, and write down what he had composed, upon paper which he had picked up by accident.

Voltaire, when shut up in the Bastille, and for aught he knew for life, deprived of the means either of writing or reading, arranged and in part executed the project of his Henriade.—Vide de Voltaire, par M. ... à Genève, 1786, chap. iv. Godwin's Political Justice, p. 322.

Brutus when a soldier under Pompey, in the civil wars, employed all his leisure in study; and the very day before the battle of Pharsalia, though it was in the middle of summer, and the camp under many privations, spent all his time till the evening in writing an epitome of Polybius.

Plutarch in Brut. (6) Places of learning should be retired, tending to quietness and privateness of life, and discharge of cares and troubles : much like the stations which Virgil prescribeth for the hiving of bees.

studies.

Of inability to acquire particular sorts of knowledge he Particular was scarcely conscious. He was interested in all truths, and, by investigations in his youth upon subjects from which he was averse, he wore out the knots and stonds of his mind, and made it pliant to all inquiry.(a)—He contemplated

Principio sedes apibus statioque petenda

Quo neque sit ventis aditus, &c. Bacon. We are not to indulge ourselves in excuses from study; for if we think we never are to apply to it, but when we are vigorous, in high spirits, and free from all manner of other care, we shall always find pretexts to excuse us to ourselves. Let us always therefore find food for meditation, whether we are in a crowd, upon a journey, at table, or even amidst a tumult.

Silence, retirement, and a perfect tranquillity of mind, are indeed the greatest friends to study, but they do not always fall to a man's share. If therefore we should sometimes be interrupted, we are not immediately to throw away our papers, and give our time up for lost: no, we ought to get the better of difficulties, and to acquire such a habit as to surmount all impediments by resolution and application. For if you resolve and apply in earnest, and with the whole force of your mind to what you are about, that which may offend your eyes or ears never can disorder your understanding. Does it not often happen, that an accidental thought throws us into so profound a train of study, that we do not see the people we meet, and sometimes wander out of our way? May not this always be our case, especially when our study is not the effect of accident but of determination.

Quintillian. (a) Rule. Engage in studies opposite to the favourite pursuit. Histories make men wise; poetry, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep, moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend. Abeunt studia in mores. Nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit, but may be wrought out by fit studies. Like as diseases of the body may have appropriated exercises : bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head, and the like. So if a man's wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again : if his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the schoolmen; for they are Cymini sectores: if he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyer's cases : so every defect of the mind may have a special receipt.

Rule. Master your mind by continually investigating subjects from which you are averse.—Let the mind be daily employed upon some subject from

nature in detail and in mass: he contracted the sight of his mind and dilated it. (6)-He saw differences in

which it is averse, that, by wearing out the knots and stonds of the mind, it

may become pliant on other occasions.

Bear ever toward the contrary of that whereunto you are by nature inclined, that you may bring the mind straight from its warp. Like as when we row against the stream, or when we make a crooked wand straight, by bending it the contrary way.

Fixedness of mind, or mental attention to a particular subject, will not, of course, be mistaken for fixedness of studies, or ability to attend only to particular pursuits.

(6) To contemplate nature and bodies in their simplicity, breaks and grinds the understanding, and to consider them in their compositions and configurations, blunts and relaxes; as appears plainly from comparing the school of Leucippus and Democritus with the other philosophies. For the former is so taken up with the particles of things, as almost to neglect their structure, while the other views the fabrication of things with such astonishment as not to enter into the simplicity of nature. Both these contemplations, therefore, are to be taken up by turns, that the understanding may at once he rendered more piercing and capacious, and the inconveniences prevented.

He who cannot contract his sight should consider as an oracle the saying of the poor woman to the haughty prince, who rejected her petition, as a thing below his dignity to notice—“ then cease to reign:" for it is certain that whoever will not attend to matters because they are too minute or trifling shall never obtain command or rule over nature. The nature of every thing is best seen in its smallest portions. The philosopher, while he gazed upwards to the stars, fell into the water; but if he had looked down, he might have seen the stars in the water. The property of the loadstone was dicovered in needles of iron, and not in bars of iron.

He who cannot dilate the sight of his mind should consider whether it is not better for a man in a fair room to set up one great light or branching candlestick of lights, than to go about with a small watch-candle into every corner.

The true strong and sound mind is the mind that can embrace equally great things and small. I am told the King of Prussia will say to a servant, bring me a bottle of such a wine, which came in such a year, it lies in such a corner of the cellar. I would have a man great in great things, and elegant in little things.—Dr. Johnson.

“ That servant has committed twenty-one faults since we sat down to dinner,” said Swift to Lord Orrery.—Johnson's Life.

apparent resemblances, and resemblances in apparent differences. (a)—He had not any attachment either to antiquity or novelty. (6)-He prevented mental aberration by studies which produced fixedness, (c) and fixedness

This great man's attention to small things was very remarkable: as an instance of it, he one day said to me,“ Sir, when you get silver in change for a guinea, look carefully at it, you may find some curious piece of coin.”

Johnson, vol. i. 3. (a) The great and radical difference of capacities as to philosophy and the sciences lies here, that some are stronger and fitter to observe the differences of things, and others to observe their correspondences; for a steady and sharp genius can fix its contemplations, and dwell and fasten upon all the subtlety of differences, whilst a sublime and ready genius perceives and compares the smallest and most general agreements of things; but both kinds easily fall into excess, by grasping either at the dividing scale or shadow of things.

(b) Bacon says, that one of the distempers of learning is an extreme affection of two extremities, antiquity and novelty; wherein the daughters of time do take after the father; for as time devoureth his children, so these one of them seeketh to depress the other; while antiquity envieth there should be new additions, and novelty cannot be content to add things recent, but it must deface and rejec the old. Surely the advice of the prophet is the true direction in this case, state super vias antiquas et videte quænam sit via recta et bona et ambulate in ea. Antiquity deserveth that reverence, that men should make a stay awhile, and stand thereupon, and look about to discover which is the best way; but when the discovery is well taken, then not to rest there, but cheerfully to make progression. Indeed to speak truly, Antiquitas seculi, Juventus Mundi; certainly our times are the ancient times, when the world is now ancient, and not those which we count ancient, ordine retrogrado, by a computation backward from our own times.-His works abound with similar observations.

(c) Men do not sufficiently understand the excellent use of the pure mathematics, in that they do remedy and cure many defects in the wit and faculties intellectual. For if the wit be too dull, they sharpen it; if two wandering, they fix it; if too inherent in the sense, they abstract it. So that as tennis is a game of no use in itself, but of great use in respect it maketh a quick eye and a body ready to be put into all postures, so in the mathematics, that use which is collateral and intervenient is no less worthy than that which is principal and intended.

This is to be exactly observed, that not only exceeding great progression may be made in those studies, to which a man is swayed by a natural

by keeping his mind alive and open to perpetual improve

ment. (a) Memory. The theory of memory he understood and explained :6)

and in its practice he was perfect. He knew much, and

what he once knew he seldom forgot. Composi- In his compositions his first object was clearness: to tion.

reduce marvels to plain things, not to inflate plain things into marvels. (c) He was not attached either to method

proclivity; but also that there may be found, in studies properly selected for that purpose, cures and remedies to promote such kind of knowledge, to the impressions whereof a man may, by some imperfection of nature, be most unapt and insufficient. As for example, if a man be bird-witted, that is, quickly carried away, and hath not patient faculty of attention, the mathematics give a remedy thereunto; wherein, if the wit be caught away but for a moment, the demonstration is new to begin.

Burke always read a book, as if he were never to see it again.

Locke says, a proper and effectual remedy for this wandering of thoughts I should be glad to find.

Newton used to say, that if there were any difference between him and other men, it consisted in his fixing his eye steadily on the object which he had in view, and waiting patiently for every idea as it presented itself, without wandering or hurrying.

(a) Certainly custom is most perfect when it beginneth in young years, this we call education, which is in effect but an early custom. So we see in languages, the tongue is more pliant to all expressions and sounds; the joints are more supple to all feats of activity and motions in youth than afterwards; for it is true that late learners cannot so well take the ply, except it be in some minds that have not suffered themselves to fix, but have kept their minds open and prepared to receive continual amendment, which is exceeding rare.

Locke says, “There are men who converse but with one sort of men, they read but one sort of books, they will not come in the hearing but of one sort of notions; the truth is, they canton out to themselves a little Goshen in the intellectual world, where light shines, and as they conclude, day blesses; but the rest of that vast expansum they give up to night and darkness, and so avoid coming near it.-See the Conduct of the Understanding; where there are many valuable observations on this subject.

(b) See ante, p. 292.

(c) In the composing of his books he did rather drive at a masculine and clear expression, than at fineness or affectation of phrases, and would often ask if the meaning were expressed plainly enough, as being one that

« VorigeDoorgaan »