« PreviousContinue »
. time, that any boy desirous of studying the elements of mathe- · • matical science, may do so at Eton as elsewhere.'
We cannot say that, taking this picture in its most favourable light, the prospect of mathematical studies at Eton is very promising. But this account is calculated to deceive a reader not acquainted with the affairs of Eton. From the statement that the teacher of German is not incorporated into the school, it would be natural to infer that the teachers of mathematics and the other modern languages are incorporated into the school. Now we do not wish to quarrel about words : but it seems to us that this champion of Eton must entertain a very singular notion of the process of incorporation. The fact is, that these teachers are in no way connected with the regular business of the school : they have no authority over the boys; nor are they considered as belonging to the institution. They merely receive permission from the head-master to give lessons to the boys in the hours of play. Their powers of instruction are, therefore, very limited, as their pupils learn not in classes, but singly. This necessary limitation of their efforts may be easily illustrated. We will suppose that the teacher of French, for example, contrives to arrange his hours, and procure the attendance of his pupils, so as to give regularly six lessons of an hour each on every week day. Reckoning, therefore, that 600 boys pass forty weeks of the year at Eton, and that they all learn French of the French teacher, each boy will receive between two and three lessons in the year. A boy who remains at Eton five years, would, according to this calculation, receive about twelve lessons, divided from one another by intervals of several months. The same reasoning applies to all the other extra teachers. This, however, is to put the matter in the light most favourable for Eton. The truth is, that a very inconsiderable portion of the boys are pupils of the extra masters, that those few who learn French and mathematics, being neither compelled by the fear of punishment, nor incited by the hope of reward, are very irregular in their attendance; and we are greatly deceived if, although the lessons are given to single boys, the time of the extra masters is fully occupied. The quantity of mathematics and the modern languages taught at Eton is so small, that it may be safely neglected in a general estimate of the amount of knowledge communicated at that school.
We are, moreover, charged with having made, through ignorance or malice, another important omission, to the disparagement of Eton, in our account of the result of the instruction afforded there. It is allowed that our statements are correct as far as relates to the instruction given publicly in school ; but it is stated that we overlooked the private instruction given by the tutors.
• Private instruction is not given to all boys equally; those that have the greatest quantity being called “ private pupils," on paying an extra price. The boys in the lower parts of the school have their time so much occupied, that they are not commonly private pupils ; but of the fifth form I should think the greater proportion, and all boys boarding in tutors' houses, are private pupils, which alone accounts for more than 200 : and so far is it from being true, that no Eton boy reads a Greek play, that there are very few boys advanced in the fifth form who have not read several ; and many of them have read a considerable number.'
Now, to this accusation we have two answers. In the first place, we stated distinctly and positively that in our account of the fruits of an Eton education, we confined ourselves to the instruction given in school. It can, therefore, avail nothing to accuse us of exaggeration, when it is admitted that our statements are true so far as we professed that they were meant to go. In the next place, being well aware of the system of private instruction in use at Eton, we omitted all mention of it, not because we thought it creditable, but because we thought it discreditable to the masters and the system of that school. As, however, we have been put upon our defence, we shall (which we should not otherwise have done) give our opinion on this subject. It is quite true that all the boys who board in a tutor's house, and all his other pupils who pay an extra price, receive the benefit of private instruction from him at extra bours. We believe that some of the most valuable and useful knowledge communicated at Eton, is communicated in this manner.* But we cannot reconcile with our notions of strict propriety the taking of an extra fee for teaching out of school, what, under a better system, might be taught in school, when the improvement of the system, by the badness of which the masters profit, mainly depends upon the masters themselves. It must be evident to every one, what abuses such a system, if carried to a wide extent, might lead to. When a man has accepted the office of tutor at a public school, and agreed to a price at which he will receive pupils, he is (in our opinion) bound to devote the whole of his time and energies to their instruction, both intellectual and
* It will be observed that the King's Scholars, from whom, in their chrysalis state of Fellows of King's College, the masters of Eton are almost universally selected, cannot, according to the rules of the school, be private pupils, and consequently are debarred from some of the most valuable instruction to be obtained at Eton,
moral, as well in as out of school. We cannot admit that a distinction ought to be made between profitable and unprofitable pupils. But considered in another light, this method of private instruction conveys the strongest censure on the general system of the school. If the public instruction is so conducted, as not only to leave ample time for private instruction by the public tutors, but to allow that instruction to be the most valuable of the two, how cannot the former be capable of amendment? The merits of a school are to be judged by the amount of advancement, intellectual and moral, which its system has a tendency to produce in the majority of boys educated at it. It is no defence of Eton or Westminster to say, that out of school, a boy, desirous of learning history and mathematics, may learn history and mathematics : the question is, will he be taught this knowledge in school, according to the school system, and by the regular masters ? The goodness of a school is not a mere matter of locality: whether a boy teaches himself in his tutor's or in his father's house, is, as far as the merits of the school are concerned, absolutely indifferent. It is not a physical impossibility that a man, shipwrecked on an uninhabited island, might, by his unassisted genius, make important discoveries in mathematical science. But no one would say, that to expose a man without books on a bare rock would have that tendency. It is quite conceivable that a boy, educated at Eton or Westminster, might, on leaving school, bave an accurate and extensive knowledge of the mathematical, physical, and moral sciences, of ancient and modern history, and of modern languages. We can only say, that such a person would have great reason to rejoice at the happy issue of his voluntary and unassisted researches,' and that he would deserve an honourable place in a future number of the work on the Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties.
There is only one more point which we shall mention before we close this article. It is not indeed of much importance : but as our honesty and veracity have been impugned, it is necessary that we should rebut the charge.
• In speaking of the books used at Eton, the Reviewer touches more especially upon the annotations which have been lately added by one Dr Niblock, to the Scriptores Græci. These notes are, without doubt, as utterly worthless as any that have been produced in this most noteloving age; but when the government of the school is made responsible for them, it is right that their real history should be known. The bookseller appointed by the head-master to print the school books, took upon himself to engage, or permit, this Dr Niblock to write these notes ; and not only was this done without the knowledge of the headmaster, but as soon as it came to his ears, met with his severest reprobation.
From the fact of the Review calling Mr Niblock " the new editor," one would imagine that his name must actually appear in the titlepage of the Scriptores Græci. If such a titlepage dues exist anywhere, and I suppose it must, as one to this effect is given in the catalogue of Eton books at the head of the review, at all events it has never been seen at Eton. And we cannot help thinking that the observations of the Reviewer, reflecting, as they do, so much discredit on Eton College, should not have been made without a more careful examination of the circumstances.'
Now, as this anonymous defender of Eton is pleased to insinuate, that for the sake of maligning an English public school, we have been guilty of fabricating a titlepage, we think it right to say that the charge is false : we assert that the titlepage exists—that the book exists—and that both book and titlepage are in our corporal possession. We procured the new edition of the Scriptores Græci, by Mr Niblock, from the regular Eton bookseller, as the latest at the time when our article was written. It bears the name of Mr Niblock on the titlepage, and contains a short advertisement, written in bad Latin, signed by Mr Niblock, in which he informs the reader what he has done in * this new edition, and states that in editing this book, he has done his best to make it accurate.'
** We maintain that this was ample authority for our considering this new edition of the Eton Scriptores Græci, by Mr Niblock, as published with the sanction of the masters of Eton, and used at that school. The prima facie evidence was strong enough to justify us : indeed we are not aware that the most suspicious person would have perceived any ground for doubt. Neither, therefore, were we bound to make
a more careful examination of the circumstances,' before the appearance of our article, nor have we made
since. Tbe management of the Eton school books must indeed be lax, if the Eton bookseller could even conceive himself authorized to engage a person to make a new edition of one of the most important of them, without any previous communication with the head-master. We are, however, perfectly willing that the Eton masters should disown Mr Niblock's edition of the Scriptores Græci; only they must bear in mind that their disavowal should be as public as the book, and properly authenticated : the declaration of an
* As it is not long, we subjoin this monitum. • Quæ hac in nova editione præstitimus, te, lector candide, nos oportet præmonere. Errata, mendaque typographica, quotquot deprehendere contigit, correximus : Scriptorum locos citatos plerumque scrutati sumus : Notulasque multas, ab litera N distinctas, passim adjecimus. In libro hoc edendo, fecimus quod in nobis fuit, ut in lucem accuratissimus prodeat. Vale, L. B. et fruere. J. W. Niblock.' VOL. LIII. NO. CV.
anonymous pamphleteer is of no weight against the authority of the published titlepage with the regular marks of the Eton school books. As the case stands, judgment must go against them. But their defender is much mistaken if he thinks that the detraction of Mr Niblock's notes will leave the Eton Scriptores Græci in a state creditable to the managers of any public school. We will take this collection in any form in which the masters of Eton will present it to us, and will undertake to prove, that the extracts are ill chosen, and inaccurately printed from antiquated editions; and that the notes of Mr Niblock were selected by us, not because they were the most worthless, but because they were the most recent. There is but one remedy for the Latin and Greek grammars of Eton and Westminster, and for the Eton collections of extracts. They are only una litura corrigendi.
Art. IV.-Briefwechsel zwischen Schiller und Goethe, in den
Jahren, 1794 bis 1805. (Correspondence between Schiller and Goethe, from 1794 to 1805.) 6 vols. 8vo. Stuttgart und Tubingen. 1829.
regard to literary men, and particularly those who have long occupied a prominent position in the eyes of the public, that any authentic contributions to the history of their minds must be received with satisfaction, though mingled with much that is but of trilling or doubtful interest. Biographies written by third parties, must always be but unsatisfactory. The outward actions may be described; though, even as to these, the picture must often be distorted by erroneous or defective information, or discoloured by the peculiar feelings, opinions, and prejudices of the biographer ; but the inward man himself, his moral and intellectual organization, can be but feebly, if at all, indicated to our view. Autobiographies, again, though not liable to these objections, are, in general, but apologies for the particular views or conduct of the writer. They may be undertaken in the spirit of sincerity; Truth may at first hold the pen; but, somehow or other, Vanity soon contrives to wrest it out of her hand, and to write down whatever Self-love, sitting concealed behind, is pleased to dictate. But this objection does not apply to familiar letters, written with no eye to publication, in which, though the writer is truly painting his own character, he does it unconsciously; and where the scattered strokes which he has traced first assume significance and meaning, when they are all