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priety be devoted to their production. Had the work aspired to the dignity of a regular treatise on any given subject, Horace's term of gestation would not have been too long for its final developement: but in detached essays, of more humble pretension, where the mind of the writer shifts rapidly from theme to theme, there seems to be little gained by the anxieties of minute revision, or the hesitation necessary to more important lucubrations. In the papers now submitted to you, light and serious topics are alternately treated; such as they are, with all their imperfections, they are the result of that miscellaneous reading, which forms the occupation and amusement of my privacy, in furtherance of my public teaching.
But you will expect me to address you in the language of apology, not only for the deficiencies of the present attempt, but for the undue execution of an important trust, if you believe what you have of late been frequently told. It seems to be the fashionable doctrine among the philosophers, that the system of our public schools does not keep pace with the advancement of the age; and that its victims are thrown upon the world, without any preparation for its serious business, without any clue to those paths in which they are individually to walk.
Before I attempt to repel this charge, I must observe generally, that in these days of free discussion, the lust of innovation keeps pace with the spirit of improvement. Ancient systems and established practice are convenient foils to the novel
conceptions and bold theories of speculative men. Projects of education run a race with steam-engines and rail-roads. Schools and universities are voted to be slow coaches: and then comes forward a prospectus, undertaking to teach all the professor knows of Latin and Greek in a month; to give a bird's-eye view of the whole circle of sciences in a year; and to fortify the youthful mind against allthe temptations of the world in a course of twelve lectures.
The sentiments of Locke and Milton, on the subject of education, are before the world, and have been examined in every point of view. But old Burton, "Democritus Junior," the Anatomist of Melancholy, has the following passage in his quaint style: "But and if Very Truth be extant indeede on earth, as some hold she it is which actuates men's deeds, purposes, ye may in vaine look for her in the learned universities, halls, colleges. Truth is no Doctoresse, she taketh no degrees at Paris or Oxford, amongst great clerks, disputants, subtile Aristotles, men nodosi ingenii, able to take Lully by the chin, but oftentimes to such an one as myself, an Idiota, or common person, no great things, melancholizing in woods where waters are, quiet places by rivers, fountains, whereas the silly man expecting no such matter, thinketh only how best to delectate and refresh his mynde continually with Natura her pleasaunt scenes, woods, water-falls, or Art her statelie gardens, parks, terraces, Belvideres, on a sudden the goddesse herself Truth has appeared, with a shyning
lyghte, and a sparkling countenance, so as yee may not be able lightly to resist her." Now we humbly maintain, that Truth is not only a Goddesse, but a Doctoresse: that she may be looked for in universities, halls, and colleges; and we further venture to hope, in those public schools which prepare the student for his probation in the higher stages of academical discipline.
The first charge against us is, that we devote too large a portion of irrevocable time to the attainment of one object, namely classical learning. Here a question arises, whether classical learning be really one object, or whether it do not rather embrace a circle of important objects. It seems to me to furnish a supply of various and gradually accumulating knowledge, suggested to the scholar incidentally, through the medium of languages to be learned, with more interest and effect than would be produced by the formality of systematic lectures, and at a more early period than any at which the mind would be strong enough to encounter the severity of strict philosophical discussion. Did my limits admit of examining the subject in all its bearings, I might enlarge on the consideration, that he who knows only modern languages, knows no language at all. But the prejudice of the moment seems all for science. Certain philosophers would teach the young idea how to shoot with the cross-bow of geology: but we can herein convict them of belying their own pretensions to method, and jumping in medias res, when they would start their little geologues in the
career of knowledge from hic lapis, a stone. We on the contrary adhere to the principle, so often and so learnedly inculcated by the first Lord Kenyon, whose legal knowledge was unbounded, and whose fondly displayed power of quotation, now and then overleaped the enclosures of the Latin syntax, stare super antiquas vias. On this sound constitutional principle, so fit to be adopted by the professors of learning, we set out from hæc musa, a song. But then this singing propensity of ours is alleged as one of our principal crimes. We are accused of making poets, whereas they ought to be born. Now assuredly we are not so absurd as to suppose, either that we can, or that the gods will, make our pupils poetical. It is supposed that we confine our efforts to fostering an annual poet or two, for the purpose of supporting our own reputation in the universities. But we are not so ambitious as to aim at usurping the prerogative of royalty: nay, the king himself, who can do no evil, can do no more good than to make a laureate in which capacity Cibber and Pye chaunted, and Southey is silent. It is said that we teach an art, which not one in five hundred of our pupils will ever practise in after life. That is highly probable, and by no means to be regretted, if there be any truth in a Spanish proverb, that "He who cannot make one verse is a blockhead; he who makes more is a fool." I have relieved you from the first of these imputations, and I warn you against incurring the second. But should the muse be so spiteful as to inspire you, send not the effusions to
me, since I can assure you, that to a schoolmaster, sufficient unto the day is the authorship thereof. Teaching composition, like other great crimes, carries its punishment along with it. Why then do we teach composition in Latin and Greek, and particularly verse? It is to make critics, not poets. It is to ensnare our pupils into a more extensive, and a more curious examination of the great writers, than the public tuition of a mixed body would allow. The practice of classical composition in verse and prose compels a composer of any talent or ambition to pull to pieces the whole phraseology of the principal authors for his own use, and carefully to examine their thoughts for the purposes of adaptation. Thus an acquaintance is formed with their contents, and an insight gained into their spirit, not to be acquired by mere mechanical construction in a lesson, or by yawning over the notes of Delphin or Variorum
We are further accused, not only of making an annual poet, but of making an annual scholar; of cultivating highly soils of abundant promise, and suffering the light lands to lie fallow. This vain or mercenary conduct I indignantly disclaim for myself. A long experience of the public school system, and an extensive acquaintance among its conductors, enable me to disclaim it in behalf of my brethren. I feel convinced that there is no set of gentlemen at the head of any public school in the kingdom, so mean, so unworthy of the name, as to betray their vice