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dramatist, but of Johnson the moralist, and the pompous and measured diction of Gibbon, is preferred to the more natural and flexible, but not less finished and musical, phrase of Hooker.
The critical study of the English language and literature, as a special discipline in the general system of modern education, is consequently a topic that needs to be frequently and earnestly discussed, in order that a proper enthusiasm may exist in reference to it. The readers of this journal will bear testimony, that, from time to time, attention has been directed to this department of inquiry; and it is in the line of these preceding efforts that we would labor, and move forward.
The English language is the language into which we are born, and the English literature is the literature in which we are brought up. From the beginning of our existence, onward, through all the several ages of life, and through all the multiplied experiences of head and heart, we are continually receiving and propagating that fine and volatile influence which emanates from the national language and literature, upon every individual of the nation.
A literature, therefore, in which we have an interest by virtue of our very birth and origin, and which penetrates so pervasively our daily life, has claims upon our best powers, in order that we may come to apprehend, with a distinct consciousness, its peculiar character and worth, and thereby experience more and more of its specific influences and impressions. For the objection that meets us, whenever we recommend the analytic study of a vernacular tongue, viz. that we are recommending a superfluity, inasmuch as the mother tongue is imbibed with the mother's milk, vanishes the moment we remember that the purpose of study, in nearly all instances, is to substitute a clear knowledge for an obscure one. There is meaning and truth in the Platonic dictum, that learning is reminding. One of the principal processes in mental cultivation consists in acquiring a distinct perception of that by which we are spontaneously, and therefore unreflectingly, influenced or actuated. What the common mind sees as in a
glass darkly, the educated mind sees face to face. The most of men are the creatures of the moulding and shaping ideas that are mercifully inlaid in their mental constitution, and of those institutions and permanent circumstances amidst which they live; and, inasmuch as these ideas are ideas of reason, and these institutions and permanent circumstances are arrangements of divine providence, no practical injury results to the individual, even when he surrenders himself to their influence and actuation, without philosophic reflection upon their nature and qualities. The citizen, for example, will suffer no injury, who yields himself up most implicitly and obediently, to the moral or the civil law, without analyzing the contents of this idea, or becoming metaphysically aware of its vast implication. Let him allow the principle and spirit of law to take possession of his whole being, and suffer all his faculties and energies to be absorbed in this august and beneficent power, and he will experience no detriment, intellectually or morally, even though he reflects but little upon the nature of the agencies by which he is moulded. In like manner, the individual may surrender himself to the influence of the literature and civilization of the nation to which he belongs, and, if these be truthful and sound, his comparative unacquaintance with what is constantly pressing upon him, and shaping and forming him, on all sides, will not prevent his being rightly shaped and formed. He is under and within a divine constitution, and whether consciously or unconsciously, must feel its power, and receive its influence. But while this is said, it must not be inferred that philosophic reflection, upon that which exerts an influence upon us whether we will or not, is of no worth; that analytical study into the nature and qualities of that which actuates us whether we think or not, is superfluous and unnecessary. Powerful as ideas, principles, and institutions are, even in relation to the unthinking man; and at times, for instance in political revolutions, they are as powerful as fire in gunpowder, and accompanied with nearly as little distinct knowledge; they yet receive a vast accession of power, when their operancy is accompanied with the
clear intuitions of reason, and the lucid perceptions of selfconsciousness.
These remarks upon the general relation of analytic study and philosophic reflection to that which is innate in our mental constitution, or intrinsic to those permanent circumstances which exert a constant and unperceived influence upon us, independent of our reflection, apply with full force to subjects so close to us, and influences so spontaneous and irresistible, as those of our own mother tongue and our own native literature. For although none can help speaking their vernacular, and feeling more or less of the influence of the literature embodied in it, yet only those few feel its selectest influence and drink in its most essential spirit, who pass beyond the every-day use of the language to the critical and philological study of it. It is indeed true, that, whether the Englishman or the Anglo-American has studied his national language and literature, or not, he has, nevertheless, been so moulded and affected by it, that, if those elements in his culture which have come in from this source, should be withdrawn, it would lose its most vital if not its finest constitu. ent; still he cannot feel, and he has not felt, the freshest, heartiest, healthiest, and most effective influence from this source, unless, by study and reflection, he has made himself unusually conscious of the intense power of the English language, and the vast wealth of the English literature. But in order to this intimate acquaintance, something more is needed than that easy and passive perusal of the current literature of the present period, which, in the case of one's native language and literature, so often passes for study. The full power of the English language cannot be adequately apprehended short of an acquaintance with it in all the periods of its history. The life of a language, like the soul of a body, is all in every part ; and its highest intensity must therefore be sought for by a laborious and patient study of the language, back, through all its change and growth, to the lowest root.
There is a special reason for this close and minute study of our vernacular, founded on the fact that, speaking it, and
writing it, and thinking in it, as we do continually, we unavoidably acquire a moderate knowledge of it, which we are too willing to regard as philological and thorough. In the case of a foreign tongue, we are compelled to the lexicon and the grammar, because we cannot understand it without such study; and hence we inevitably acquire, in a greater or less degree, a critical knowledge of it. But it is not so in the case of our own language. The majority of words we have some acquaintance with, without any study on our part. It is true that this acquaintance is not close and accurate, like that which springs from etymological and careful analysis ; but it is sufficient for all the purposes of practical life, and of an easy, passive perusal of books.
The only remedy for this superficial knowledge is to be found in the study of the language in all its periods, and especially in those elder forms which have passed out of use, and which, consequently, sustain something of the relation of a foreign tongue to the modern Englishman. Not that these earlier forms are really alien to us, like the French or the Latin tongues, for they still have an existence in the heart and pith of the English of the present day; but they require, in order to their being understood by the modern reader, a minute philological study, like that expended upon the Greek and Latin, which brings the mind into close and invigorating contact with them. For, to carefully trace a word, through its whole history, up to the root from which its true force and significance are, in the majority of instances, derived, is the only sure way of imbuing the mind with the spirit of a language. By this slow analysis, the power of the word is brought out and felt.
The same remarks hold true respecting the scope and riches of our national literature. He who is conversant with it in only one or two of its periods, can have but a meagre conception of its opulence. The national mind finds a full expression only in the totality of the national literature. Like the individual mind, it passes through great varieties of being; through a great multiplicity of moods; through various stages of development; and therefore its complete
expression and manifestation must be sought for in the whole literature to which it has given origin. It often happens that the earlier literature of a people contains elements not to be met with in any of the after periods of its history. The national mind often shows a phase in some one particular period, which centuries of existence would not bring round again. Should the English nation, for example, continue in existence, and the English mind continue to undergo change and development until the end of time, it is not probable that another period would occur in its history, in which the drama would reach such a height of life and power, and such a breadth and depth of passion, as characterize the Elizabethan drama. And can we ever expect the re-appearance of the fresh, hale, and lifesome spirit of " merrie England," as it appears in Chaucer? The beautiful vanishes and returns not again in the same form. Each age has its own excellences; and not until we have passed all the ages in review, can we know and feel the endless variety and opulence of a national mind.
With these general remarks upon the neglect and the importance of the philological study of the English -language and literature, we proceed to consider the quality of the influence which flows from this particular branch of discipline, and to indicate the best method of pursuing it.
I. The first effect of a thorough acquaintance with Eng. lish literature, is the vivification of the culture that flows into the modern mind from the classic world, and the prevention, thereby, of an ungenial and artificial classicism. This undoubtedly was the purpose aimed at, by those who constructed the modern system of education. A department of instruction in this language and literature, is established in all those institutions which propose to impart a symmetrical and complete discipline, in order that the youthful student, while in the flexile process of education, may be in communication with the modern mind and the modern world, as well as with the ancient mind and the classic world. Those who planned that system of liberal instruction,