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Advantages of the Oxford Course.
From the above statements in regard to the course of instruction at Oxford, we may safely make the following inferences and remarks:
1. Within the narrow, circumscribed limits which are set up,, there must be much close and thorough study. Those who are willing to submit to the examinations are compelled to master the subjects in hand; the details must be lodged in the memory at least. Especially is this the case when the honors of the university are sought. The strongest, earthly motives are brought to bear. There are the rival feelings which are transferred to the university from the various preparatory schools. The competition of different colleges is not small. The disgrace of degradation by a failure, is a powerful stimulant. Then the honor of being published throughout the kingdom as successful on a fiercely contested arena is ever before the eyes. The prize, though often found to be ashes in the grasp, is splendid and alluring till gained. This conclusion, to which we should come à priori, is verified in the experience of Henry Kirk White, Henry Martyn, and many others, at the English universities.
2. The two great subjects of study at Oxford-the scholastic logic in the works of Aristotle and the poetry of the Greeks, especially the laws of accent, versification, etc. are not to be lightly depreciated. It has been too common in Scotland and in this country to adopt views somewhat one-sided and ill-considered, in relation to the great Stagirite. His logic is one of the best means in the whole circle of sciences for disciplining the mental faculties. The mind is trained by a close study of the scholastic system to a nicety of discrimination, to a perspicacity of insight, to a steadiness of aim, which no other pursuit, perhaps, can confer.
In the multifarious and distracting studies and recreations, with which the student of the present day is tempted to waste his talents, it would be eminently serviceable if a little time were devoted to the hard discipline imparted by such treatises as the Nicomachean Ethics. The ability to make clear distinctions, to separate truth from error, even with miscroscopic accuracy, none but the superficial will despise. The power, too, of writing Greek and Latin verses, in the true spirit of the classics, is not a mere idle accomplishment. Some of the compositions in the Oxford Anthologia are not soulless imitations of the model, or a verbal copying of the phrases of Ovid or Pindar. They are fresh and beautiful poems, where the spirit of the classics is seized and admirably preserved. This power, also, implies a nice training VOL. IV. No. 16.
of the ear, a mastery of the subtle laws of harmony, a perception of the beauty of thought as well as of diction. Well would it be for our American schools, if more time were devoted to those -methods and laws of speech in which the Greeks so much ex"celled, and which we, in our ignorance, so generally contemn. The discipline would not be without its use in the management and mastery of our mother tongue.
3. The most marked peculiarity in the Oxford studies is the want of a comprehensive view of the fields of knowledge and a scientific adjustment of their relative claims. There is little order or systematic arrangement about them. No master has fitted them to the various wants of the youthful mind, or to the chang ing states of society. They seem to have come down as a fixed inheritance, a kind of heir-loom from the long centuries past. Everything else has changed, but Oxford is fast moored. New and wonderful sciences have been created, but Oxford teaches as she did when Wolsey or Laud ruled the king's counsels. Dynasties have crumbled in pieces, but the iron rule of the Peripatetic remains. Of a wise conservatism, no one can rightfully complain. A reverential regard for antiquity is eminently in keeping at Oxford. Against all rash innovations, the very stones of her venerable piles would cry out. But is it not obvious, that by resisting every improvement, by rigidly adhering to a course of discipline which might have been the best in the 14th century, she is putting at hazard all which she now holds dear and running the risk of a radical and sudden change in her whole system? The true policy of a collegiate institution in any country is to retain what the wisdom of ages has proved to be beneficial, and also to adapt her discipline and instructions to the changing states of society.
4. The surprising neglect of mathematical studies. "To follow scientific study," says Prof. Powell, "is purely optional, and the average of those who evince any degree of acquaintance with it is about one in eleven or twelve." A voluntary mathematical examination takes place in Oxford twice in every year after the degree-examination. The average of the mathematical classmen for the six years ending in 1845, was twenty-six per annum. The number for 1846 and 1847 fell below that average. Formerly the public preparatory schools were said to be in fault. But Rugby, under the late Dr. Arnold, and Eton, so far as the influence of the head-master, Dr. Hawtrey, can assist, have adopted an improved system. An acquaintance with mathematics is not now positive
Neglect of Science and Theology.
ly required for graduation. Euclid is generally exchanged for logic. This neglect of mathematical study is the more reprehensible from the fact that a considerable number of the undergraduates of Oxford are the sons of wealthy landed proprietors and merchants, who may subsequently find themselves at the head of extensive estates, mines, rail-ways, canals, etc. where an acquaintance with some branches of mathematics would seem to be more useful than Aristotle's Logic!
5. The entire circle of natural sciences is excluded from the required course of discipline as Oxford. Astronomy even is classed with chemistry and geology, and is jealously excluded. The university possesses, indeed, an observatory, but its records, so far as we know, exhibit no discoveries. One of its colleges, Merton, numbers among its graduates, Dr. Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of blood; Queen's College has the name of Dr. Edmund Halley. A few other persons who have adorned the ranks of science, may have passed through the halls of the university; they cannot be said to have been nurtured there. Dr. Buckland, so eminent and enthusiastic in the natural sciences, lectures regularly at Oxford, but he has not been able to make his doctrines take root. No science or branch of literature can, indeed, find votaries, which is not required for the attainment of honors. A reform must first be effected in the system of examination. This cannot come, however, from a board, the large majority of whose members are strongly opposed to any innovation.
6. The position of biblical and theological studies at Oxford is very anomalous. Those, who are supposed to have mastered Thucydides and Aristotle, are examined in the Greek of the Four Gospels, and must commit to memory the Thirty Nine Articles, in the manner of a Sunday School scholar! Those, who are to fill the office of a country justice and those who are entering into holy orders, and who may become bishops, must possess the same amount of theological knowledge. Hence, we are not surprised to find it stated, that nearly one third of the candidates for the degree of B. A. are unsuccessful, especially on account of their ignorance of the subject of divinity. The statutes require too much or too little. For those who are about to enter the scenes of active life, the requisition is disproportionately large; for the candidate for the church it is very meagre. Small as it is, how
1 This circumstance gave rather a ludicrous aspect to the repeated meetings of the British Association at Oxford, unless that body acts on the principle of holding its convocations where there is the greatest need of light.
ever, it is all, we believe, which is required of him who is about to assume the work of the ministry. In a former age, when nearly all the learning which existed was in the possession of clergymen, the arrangement might be well enough. But now nothing could be more inefficient and inappropriate. The examination for degrees ought to take place at an earlier day-all the students being required to exhibit an acquaintance with the principles of Christianity. Those intended for the church might then be induced to spend two or three years in the proper professional studies. As it is, theology is not studied as a science; the Hebrew language does not make a part of the required course. The knowledge which is not demanded for obtaining a degree is picked up at hap-hazard. Some by personal energy and a sense of duty supply the deficiency. Many, it is to be feared, enter very ill-furnished upon their sacred work.
A portion of the hostility to salutary reform which is felt at Oxford is doubtless, to be ascribed, to the Tractarian or Papal tendencies which exist there. A Romanizing spirit is not friendly to the cultivation of a generous and comprehensive literature. It clings tenaciously to the past. It would build its altars as far as possible from the stir of modern society. It seeks not so much to do good to men, as to enjoy quiet meditation, and dream away its days in some of those old cloisters, which would need but little transformation to be again the abode of abbots and friars. It has much more sympathy with canon law, scholastic science, and even with portions of Greek literature, than with a manly theology, or with those sciences which it is fond of calling profane.
'Oxford possesses in her Bodleian Library stores of oriental Mss. inestimably rich. What is she doing, and what has she done, since Pocock died, for the general cause of biblical learning?
2 The list of Oxford seceders to Rome published in July, 1847, was fifty-seven, all but fifteen, clergymen. Two of these, Mr. Seager and Mr. Morris were assistant Hebrew lecturers to Dr. Pusey. One is the son of the late bishop Ryder; one was a curate of Rev. R. Wilberforce, another of Rev. H. Wilberforce. The famous Tract, No. 90, was openly defended by five hundred members of Convocation. The number of tutors, deans and lecturers who signed the address to the proctors in favor of Tract 90, was seventy-six. Near Nuneham, about four miles from Oxford, a mansion has been taken for an " Anglo-Catholic" brotherhood, first established in Ireland by Mr. Sewell of Exeter College. Here a Tractarian press is to be established, at which the Bible is to be printed, with notes by Messrs. Pusey, Marriott, Keble and Williams.
By William H. Wells, M. A., Andover.
A Universal and Critical Dictionary of the English Language. By Joseph E. Worcester, LL. D. Boston: Wilkins, Carter, & Co. 1847.
It is now more than twenty years since Dr. Worcester commenced his labors as a lexicographer. He first appeared before the public as editor of "Johnson's Dictionary, improved by Todd, and abridged by Chalmers, with Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary combined." His octavo abridgment of Webster's American Dictionary was issued in 1829.
In 1830, Dr. Worcester published his "Comprehensive Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary of the English Language." This work was received with very general favor, and fully estab lished the claims of the author to a place in the first rank of lexicographers.
The "Universal and Critical Dictionary" is based, in some degree, upon Todd's edition of Johnson's Dictionary, and Walker's Critical Pronouncing Dictionary; but the compiler has added about 27,000 words to the number found in Johnson and Todd, and most of the definitions derived from Johnson and others have been greatly modified and improved.
It is deserving of notice, that Dr. Worcester has been most successful in presenting those branches of the subject which have been handled less satisfactorily by Dr. Webster. Webster's definitions must still be regarded as standing unrivalled; but in treating of the orthography and pronunciation of words, the Universal and Critical Dictionary is far in advance of every other work that has hitherto appeared.
The best English standard of pronunciation, at the present time, is the Dictionary of B. H. Smart. In the pronunciation of words, Worcester agrees more nearly with Smart than with any other author; and we think his departures from Smart are almost invariably sustained by the usage of the best speakers.
With regard to words of doubtful or disputed pronunciation, the authorities for the different modes are given; so that the Diction