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My father, though a layman, was a very sincere member and stout upholder of the established Church. He rightly conceived religion to be the great safeguard of a nation; and having a just abhorrence of the atrocities of the French revolution, which he considered to be the natural result of the nation's infidelity, he threw all his influence to the side of order and Christianity.
It was his wish that I should receive such an education as would qualify me for the bar; deeming that I had a competent share of ability, and that with industry and upright conduct a man is sure to make his way in that profession. Accordingly I was sent to a public school, and thence to the University of Oxford; at both of which places, though not pre-eminently distinguished, I obtained the credit of being a fair scholar. I read diligently the principal authors, both Latin and Greek. I studied divinity, logic, rhetoric, and ethics;
and did not neglect the various opportunities afforded of attending lectures in chemistry, botany, anatomy, geology, and other branches of information which are too commonly neglected by students at the university. My father's maxim was, that a lawyer ought to know the principles of everything, and then, when occasion required, the details might easily be mastered. He related an anecdote of Mr. Pitt, who on a certain occasion showed himself so intimately acquainted with the cotton-trade, that old Sir R. Peel declared he knew more about it than he (Sir Robert) did himself. It was, therefore, partly in obedience to the wishes of my father, and partly in accordance with my own inclinations, that I availed myself of the opportunity afforded at the university of making myself acquainted, as far as I was able, with the whole range of arts and sciences, literature and philosophy.
After taking my degree, I made a tour on the continent, and obtained such information as a hasty journey of six or eight months is calculated to give. Nor must this be looked on as inconsiderable. To a young mind gathering ideas, perhaps no time can be more profitably spent, for that purpose, than a few months devoted to travelling. The most cursory glance at foreign cities and places, a week at Paris, a fortnight in Switzerland, three weeks at Rome; nay, a mere hasty visit of a day to the various cities which have been the theatre of great events;-is sufficient to give an interest and reality to all we read and hear of such places in the course of after-life, which one who has not visited them can never experience. And even the travelling with foreigners in a diligence,
or bargaining with them in their shops, and the other casual opportunities of associating with them which present themselves in passing through their country, afford more insight into their character and feelings than one would at first imagine. Of course, he who wishes to have a thorough intimacy with foreigners must associate with them for months and even years. But then, in associating with foreigners there is a danger of impairing one's English feelings and habits. Few things can be more ill-advised than for parents to send their children to be educated in a foreign country, for any considerable portion of their youth. If they wish them to become Frenchmen or Germans in their feelings and habits, they cannot take a better course to secure their object; but if they desire them to maintain the manliness and modesty of English character, they must educate their sons and daughters in their native land. There is also this peculiar disadvantage in a lengthened residence abroad in afterlife; namely, that a man living as a mere visitor or sojourner is apt to forget the ties which bind him. to other classes of society. He ceases to feel his responsibility as a member of a national family. If a revolution occurs, he has only to order post-horses, and take himself off; leaving the friends with whom he has been associated to settle their affairs amongst themselves as best they may. Thus he is tempted to luxuriate in selfish indulgence or elegant pursuits, regardless of the condition of the classes below him, and of the requirements of the social position in which he moves; and too often becomes selfish, frivolous, and useless. This has always appeared a great objec
tion to a long residence in a foreign land. But a continental journey of six months, or a year, is of infinite advantage to a young Englishman, by filling his mind with a variety of ideas which will be corrected and matured as life advances; and disabusing him of foolish prejudices, without impairing the genuineness of the English character. Having in view the profession for which I had been designed by my father, I directed my attention more to the social and political state of the countries which I visited, than to their religion. And all the knowledge on the latter head which I brought home with me was a strong, though undefined, impression of the impostures and mummeries of popery, which could not but strike the eye of the most unobservant traveller.
Such was the course of my education. Often have I regretted that I did not make a better and holier use of the precious days of youth; and that in my pursuit after knowledge and information, I suffered my mind and heart to be too much drawn aside from communion with heavenly things; still I have great reason to thank God, and be grateful to a kind parent, for the many opportunities afforded me. For though I felt that I might have profited more in many ways, still I had gathered a good store of knowledge. I was trained up in many valuable habits; I was well educated as a man and an Englishman, and well qualified to embark in the real business of life.
This is in truth the great value of an English university education. It keeps a young man back, “under tutors and governors," inured to obedience and persevering exertion, during those years when from inexpe
rience he would be incapacitated for the active business of life; and then sends him forth elsewhere to acquire the requisite knowledge of the profession in which he decides to embark, with a mind imbued with much valuable and fundamental knowledge, and, if he has not abused his opportunities, with solid attainments and sound habits. Hence it is that in England we do not hear of revolution and riot, caused by Polytechnic Scholars. Boys of fifteen, if they rebel against authority, are well punished and disgraced; and so far from this temporary checking of youthful impulses and talents having any tendency to impair the character in after-life, it is certain that there is not in this world a more able, vigorous, and energetic character than that of an English gentleman.
Owing to circumstances which need not be detailed, the plan originally laid out for me by my father was not carried into execution; and with his consent I abandoned the law, and resolved to prepare myself for holy orders. Little, alas! did I know of the responsibilities which I was taking upon myself when I made this decision. But in truth none can fully estimate the arduous and fearful nature of the ministerial office until they have engaged in it.
Though my views and motives were lamentably faulty, it must not be supposed that I presented myself as a candidate for ordination without a good deal of serious thought and preparation; or without a conscientious intention of performing my duties to the best of my ability. I carefully read the ordinationservice, and weighed all the engagements which I was required to make. I had no hesitation in taking the oath of the king's sovereignty :