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ANTOR LEN X AND
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MY FORMER PUPILS.
I INSCRIBE the following pages to you, in the hope that they will remind you of times, persons, and places, not devoid of interest in your estimation. Various are the topics, direct and collateral, which have been the subject of enquiry and discussion between us, arising out of our classical reading. I perhaps have not overrated the measure of your respect and favourable opinion, in supposing that an attempt on my part to continue our literary intercourse will not be unacceptable to you. On this presumption, I have devoted my intervals of leisure for the last six months, to the collection and examination of many passages, of more or less ordinary occurrence, with a view to illustrate the bearings of ancient upon modern taste, literature, and opinions, and to encourage you to a more varied and extensive acquaintance with Latin and Greek authors, than falls within the compass of school instruction or public lectures. That this collection consists of articles, neither connected in subject nor of consecutive arrangement, is at once explained, and I trust justified, by the consideration that none but leisure hours could with pro
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 serous business, without any clue to those paths, in which they are individually to walk.
Before I attempt to repel thús 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 all the 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