Page images
PDF
EPUB

acquirement; there is scarcely any pursuit in life in which it may not be useful as well as ornamental. But the majority of youth are not permitted to remain at school sufficiently long to make the acquirement; and even though this were the case, their time, we submit, might be employed to greater advantage. The day is gone by in which it could be imagined that these languages contained the whole cyclopædia of knowledge. Valuable as are the compositions which they offer, considered as models of style, there are good writers in the modern languages who may serve both to form the taste and increase the judgment, perhaps as well as the classical authors; while they present information on almost all the topics which have a bearing on real life, immeasurably superior to any thing that can be found even in Aristotle or Cicero. If, indeed, a youth has time sufficient to become so familiar with the Latin and Greek languages as to find pleasure in reading works composed in them, and also to cultivate an acquaintance with one or more modern tongues, as well as with the elements of the sciences, the principles of moral, mental, and political philosophy, nor, least of all, with general history, and more particularly still, with that of his own country, then, by all means, let him study Greek and Latin; otherwise he will be infinitely more benefited by learning the French or German, and, together with these languages, those invaluable branches of knowledge to which we have just alluded. That is a good education which, while it disciplines the mind, fills it also with information immediately applicable in each case to the pursuits of life; and how can these two important objects be so effectually secured, in the case of a youth, the period of whose education is necessarily limited, as by introducing him to a knowledge of those subjects which have changed the whole face of society, which still exert a most material influence on all the relations of civil and domestic life, and which, while their practical importance is so great, are of a nature to give vigorous exercise and a wholesome stimulus to the moral and intellectual faculties. Teach, therefore, a youth, whose time is, as we have supposed, limited, who is led by no professional aim to the study of the languages, teach him not Greek and Latin, but mathematics, chemistry, mechanics, and history; the philosophy of mind, the evidences of religion, the principles of the British constitution, and the objects, the nature, and the duties of civil government.

But the extension which we recommend cannot take place except at the instance of parents. Let them resign the visionary idea of a classical for the invaluable attainment of a general education; let them seek masters, not skilled in analyzing a Greek chorus, or in constructing nonsense hexameters, but competent to teach their children the art of English composition, the elements of the sciences, the principles of mental, moral, and political philosophy, and competent instructors will not be long wanting; nor will they fail to reap in the love which their offspring will evince for their studies-in the progress which they will make, and in their consequent elevation of character, a reward of the most ample and satisfactory nature.

But that these things may be effectually taught, the number of boys committed to the care of one master must be materially diminished. He must be an active and skilful man who can thoroughly instruct twenty pupils in these departments of knowledge; how incompetent then would be his best efforts to teach one or two hundred, a number by no means uncommon in the schools of large towns? If, however, the number be diminished, the emolument for the instruction of each pupil must be increased. But even in a pecuniary point of view, parents would be no great losers, for in one year, under the system we recommend, their children would learn more than they

now acquire in five. We do an injustice to our argument, however, when we set forth the advantage gained as a matter of mere quantity; it is chiefly on the quality of the knowledge acquired, on its tendency to develop and strengthen the faculties, to create an interest in the pursuit of information; it is on its immediate applicability to the important concerns of business, the regulation of the affections, the direction of the conduct, the interests of the commonwealth; it is on this that we ground its claim to be regarded beyond all price.

These important studies, however, cannot become general except treatises on several of the topics mentioned be published with a specific view to the instruction of youth; treatises not manufactured, but composed,-not got up, as many of our school-books are, by needy dunces to fill the pockets of the mercenary bookseller; but works written by men of sound and extensive knowledge-by men possessed of a truly philosophical spirit, imbued with a love of the work, and writing in a simple, energetic style. These works should embrace all the important and leading truths of the particular department to which each was devoted, neglecting all refinements on established opinions, and disdaining the idle attempt to gain reputation by an affectation of originality. The place for bringing forward new and, it may be, dubious statements, is not in elementary treatises; there are other channels for conveying novelties to the public, and other and better means for ascertaining their soundness. By these remarks we do not intend to imply that the treatises in question should contain mere iterations of what had been said a hundred times before; for though the matter may be simply that which is familiar to every one well instructed on the subject, the manner in which it is conveyed may be greatly improved-in the arrangement of the work for instance, in the connexion and dependency of the several parts, and, above all, in the illustrations given so as to aid the comprehension, there is room for most material and most important improvements. We have laid particular stress on the illustrations of the several truths which are developed, because we are convinced that the best master is not he who is the most profoundly versed in a science, but he who possesses the greatest power of illustrating what he teaches. A happy illustration, before all things, arrests the attention, carries the truth home to the mind, and fixes it deep in the memory.

A series of treatises of this character, on the various sciences, on general history, on the literary history of Greece and Rome, on the literary history of modern times, on the history of England in particular, on the British constitution, on moral, on mental, and on political philosophy, &c., would be the most valuable gift that could be made to the youth of Great Britain.

In a few instances we are aware something of the kind we recommend has been done. Joyce's Scientific Dialogues, for example, is an admirable book, and far superior to other works published more recently; but too often the works we possess scarcely rank above nursery literature, and humble enough are they, regarded even in that character; whilst, universally, good and bad, they are so expensive, as to be inaccessible as books for general education. In many departments, however, and those by no means of the least consideration, we have nothing suitable; for instance, in mental philosophy, there is no elementary treatise, with the exception of Taylor's Elements of Thought, and that is merely the horn-book of the science. The existence of such a work as that of the late Professor Dugald Stewart, though termed the elements of mental philosophy, or that more recently published by Mr. Payne, makes in favour, not against this remark, by shewing, not sup

plying, what is required. In literary history, moreover, what teacher could put into the hands of an ordinary class of pupils so lengthy, expensive, and, nevertheless, unfinished a work as that of Dunlop on the Roman Literature? or, to instruct them in the constitutional history of their own country, the work of the late Professor Millar, valuable as it is as a general treatise, and for the perusal of adult readers? We repeat that a series of works on these and similar branches of study, written expressly as introductions for youth, is a great desideratum in English literature-a desideratum which, we fear, judging from the numbers already published, defective as many of them are in simplicity of detail, the avoidance of unnecessary technicalities, and in perspicuity of language-perspicuity, that is, considered relatively to the understanding of youth-the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge is not likely to supply. In the absence of original treatises, something, we believe, might be done by translations from German authors, whose literature, in regard to elementary works, is much richer than our own. The publication of such works would be highly favourable to the promotion of knowledge, not only in our schools, but in our academies also. The method of lecturing which prevails in the latter, we do not deem the best fitted to secure the objects at which the professors aim. A lecture delivered vivá voce may either be listened to by a student, or taken down as well as may be in short hand. If listened to, the impression made on the mind by a discourse lasting one hour (the usual length) on a subject with which the student is generally unacquainted, is too faint and indistinct to secure to him all the benefit that may be desired. And if the lecture forms one of a course, extending, perhaps, through several months, all that the student can retain is at the best a general outline of what has been delivered, and that, perhaps, with ideas not very definite. Should the student endeavour to write the lecture down in short hand, he will be so engaged with the mere mechanical exertion of listening and writing, as to derive no advantage in regard to memory from the instructions of the teacher: what has been said will be committed to his paper, not to his mind. But, it may be urged, he will have the instructions in his notes for subsequent perusal. Experience, however, proves that few young men can take from a professor's dictation the elements of any science so perfectly as to acquire a thorough comprehension of, and acquaintance with, the subject. In his notes, there will be many obscurities which he cannot clear up, many passages which, being hastily penned, he cannot even decipher, many lacuna which he will labour in vain to supply. Follow him from the lecture-room to his study: already jaded with the mechanical and unpleasant task of writing down; almost disgusted with the subject through the effects of an exercise in which he has been only a machine for the transmission of sounds from the professor's tongue to his own papers, he sets himself down, with these disagreeable associations, to pore over a blotted and blurred note-book, and at length, by dint of sturdy perseverance, and after failing in many passages, acquires the majority of the ideas intended to be conveyed; the majority we say, for this is the best that can be supposed. But many a connecting link is irrecoverably gone, and many an impenetrable obscurity remains. Week after week the heap of imperfect and unsightly matter accumulates, till the course of instruction is terminated, when he begins to retrace the ground over which he has passed, and by the lapse of time and the weakness of memory, finds not only old but new difficulties besetting him. What a waste of energy and of time-what an unnecessary tax of patience does all this imply! How much better to put in to the hand of each student a treatise on the branch of study intended in each

case to be taught! Upon this treatise let the professor lecture, amplifying and illustrating, and withal careful to examine, in order to ascertain that his pupils gave due attention, comprehended what was laid before them, and made each step certain before they proceeded to the next. How much time would by this means be saved, how much fruitless exertion spared, how many disagreeable feelings-feelings adverse to study-be superseded! The exercise of their mental faculties is to youth sufficiently laborious in itself; there is no need to create difficulties and discouragements; young men are not too eager in the pursuit of knowledge; there is no need to damp and repress the ardour by which they may be inspired. If it be said that after they have listened, the students may have recourse to published treatises on the subject, in order to refresh their memories and corroborate the impressions received, we answer, why not at first peruse these treatises, and so supersede, or at least diminish, the amount of what is dictated by the professor? But the great difficulty is, no treatise is there on any subject fitted to put into the hands of a class; that is, no treatise taking the same views, pursuing the same mode of argument, and the same method of arrangement, with that of the lecturer. The memory in consequence cannot be refreshed; new matter may be acquired, but of course that does not answer the professor's wishes, nor is probably what the pupil requires. While, therefore, the professor lectures independently of the books to which he may refer his class, these books cannot supply the lapses of the student's memory; and while each writer has a mode of treating a subject peculiar to himself, the student will only be embarrassed and wearied by searching in published treatises for that which he is required to give an account of at the lecturer's examination. Nothing can be more obvious than that the circumstances we have noticed throw great impediments in the way of acquiring knowledge, and we have known instances in which the prevailing mode of lecturing without a text-book has given occasion, in the case of young men who at first promised well, and had a desire to improve, to the most confirmed idleWe revert, therefore, to our former conclusion, that of all things to be desired for the promotion of knowledge in our schools and in our colleges, is the publication of a series of works on the higher and more important branches of education.

ness.

ECCLESIASTICUS.

NUMBER the sands of the sea, the drops of the rain, or the moments
Making eternity; measure the breadth of the carth, and of heaven :
Wisdom preceded all these-o'er the pathway of infinite ages

God travell'd forth, forming worlds, breathing life, from a fount everlasting
Pouring out glory and joy. In the ocean of goodness unbounded

Floated conceptions of power, and the embryos of mind found existence

Pregnant with greatness. Who counselled the Lord in his mighty conceptions?
Who? Thou inquirest in vain, poor child of distrust and unreason.
One awful word hath he uttered-his fear is the fulness of wisdom-
Wait on his mercy!

Curses there are dipp'd in bitterness, curses which enter unwonted
Into the palace of pride, and into the breast of oppressors:
They are the scourges which sorrow and suffering have braided
For the poor slave, or the needy.

A.

JOANNI BOWringio angLO EJUSQUE NATALI GENIO.*

Qui varias jungis Musarum fœdere gentes
Venisti ad Frisios, hospes amande, lacus.
Nec peregrina tuis, terra hæc tibi visitur Anglis:
Sed genus hic referunt plurima signa tuum..
Hic patrios audis Sonitus
quos Frisia constans,

Moribus antiquis vivere sueta, tenet.
Libertatis amor nos æquo fœdere jungit,
Juribus et Patriis invigilare jubet.
O! si nulla dies Gentilia concitet arma,
Sed teneat nostros semper amicitia!

Sic Amasum et Thamesin et plurima flumina jungas
Sic populis veniat Pax sine fine piis!

I. R. van EERDE,

In Univ. Gron. Hist. et Antiq. Prof.

Groninga Frisiorum, xvi Cal. Nov. MDCCCXXVIII.

DAYBREAK.

HUSHED are all sounds; the sons of toil and pain,
The poor and wealthy, all are one again;
Sleep closes o'er the high and lowly head,
And makes the living fellows with the dead.
Now, imperceptibly the orb of day
Pierces the darkness with a trembling ray,
And clouds of night roll sullenly away;
The fragrant flowers unfold their scented heads,
The birds, with gladness, leave their leafy beds;
The glowing east is streaked with waves of gold,
A thousand hues the parting clouds unfold;
At last he comes, majestically slow,
Pouring bright radiance on the worlds below;
Then springing upwards from the embrace of night,
He gilds the heav'ns with beams of orient light.
Oh! beauteous hour to minds of feeling giv'n,
Filling the heart with thoughts and hopes of heav'n !
Lofty and noble purposes arise,

Giving the soul communion with the skies;
To nature's God our highest hopes ascend,

The bounding heart paints joys which cannot end.
Oh! if to mortals it were ever giv'n

To choose the path the spirit takes to heav'n,
On such a morn as this the hour should be
To spurn the earth and set the spirit free.

The Cosmopolite acquirements, feelings, and labours, of (Mr. now) Dr. Bowring, have obtained for him many expressions of respect and regard from the best men of many countries. The above verses must have been amongst not the least pleasant of such expressions. They are inscribed to him by the President of the Senate of the University of Groningen, on whose proposal the degrees of A. M. aud LL.D. were unanimously and in the most complimentary manner conferred on Mr. Bowring.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »