« AnteriorContinua »
cusers stood forth; he had a liberty of pleading in his own defense, and one or two more had a liberty of pleading against him; when found guilty by the panel, he was consigned to the footman who attended in the house, who had previous orders to punish, but with lenity. By this means the master took off the odium of punishment from himself; and the footman, between whom and the boys there could not be even the slightest intimacy, was placed in such a light as to be shunned by every boy in the school.
And now I have gone thus far, perhaps you will think me some pedagogue, willing, by a well-timed puff, to increase the reputation of his own school; but such is not the case. The regard I have for society, for those tender minds who are the objects of the preseut essay, is the only motive I have for offering those thoughts, calculated not to surprise by their novelty, or the elegance of composition, but merely to remedy sone defects which have crept into the present system of school education.
[To the foregoing “ Essay on Education" we add a few detached thoughts selected from other publications and letters by the same author.]
HOME EDUCATION. ROMANCE READING. FRUGALITY. The reasons you have given me for breeding up your son a scholar are judicious and convincing; I should, however, be glad to know for what particular profession he is designed. If he be assiduous, and divested of strong passions, (for passions in youth always lead to pleasure,) he may do very well in your college; for, it must be owned, that the industrious poor have good encouragement there, perhaps better than in any other in Europe. But, if he has ambition, strong passions, and an exquisite sensibility of contempt, do not send him there, unless you have no other trade for him except your own. It is impossible to conceive how much may be done by a proper education at home. A boy, for instance, who understands perfectly well Latin, French, Arithmetic, and the principles of the civil law, and can write a fine hand, has an education that may qualify him for any undertaking. And these parts of learning should be carefully inculcated, let him be designed for whatever calling he will. Above all things, let him never touch a romance or novel; those paint beauty in colors more charming than nature, and describe happiness that man never tastes. How delusive, how destructive, are those pictures of consummate bliss! They teach the youthful mind to sigh after beauty and happiness which never existed; to despise the little good which fortune has mixed in our cup, by expecting more than she ever gave; and in general, take the word of a man who has sen the world, and has studied human nature more by experience than precept-take my word for it, I say, that books teach us very little of the world. The greatest merit in a state of poverty would only serve to make the possessor ridiculous; may distress, but can not relieve him. Frugality, and even avarice, in the lower orders of mankind, are true ambition. These afford the only ladder for the poor to rise to preferment. Teach, then, my dear Sir, to your son thrift and economy. Let his poor wandering uncle's example be placed before his eyes. I had learned from books to be disinterested and generous, before I was taught from experience the necessity of being prudent. I had contracted the habits and notions of a philosopher, while I was exposing myself to the insidious approaches of cunning; and often by being, even with my narrow finances, charitable to excess, I forgot the rules of justice, and placed myself in the very
situation of the wretch who thanked me for my bounty. When I am in the remotest part of the world, tell him this, and perhaps he may improve from my example.--Letter to Rev. Henry Goldsmith 1759.
SELF-KNOWLEDGE AND SELF-GOVERNMENT.
In the various objects of knowledge, which I have had the pleasure of seeing you study under my care, as well as those which you have acquired under the various teachers who have hitherto instructed you, the most material branch of information which it imports a human being to know, has been entirely overlooked, -I mean the knowledge of yourself. There are, indeed, very few persons who possess at once the capability and the disposition to give you this instruction. Your parents, who alone are perhaps sufficiently acquainted with you for the purpose, are usually disqualified for the task, by the very affection and partiality which would prompt them to undertake it. Your masters, who probably labor under no such prejudices, have seldom either sufficient opportunities of knowing your character, or are so much interested in your welfare, as to undertake an employment so unpleasant and laborious. You are, as yet, too young and inexperienced to perform this important office for yourself, or, indeed, to be sensible of its very great consequence to your happiness. The ardent hopes and the extreme vanity natural to early youth, blind you at once to every thing within and every thing without, and make you see both yourself and the world in false colors. This illusion, it is true, will gradually wear away as your reason matures, and your experience increases; but the question is, what is to be done in the meantime? Evidently there is no plan for you to adopt but to make use of the reason and experience of those who are qualified to direct you.
of this, however, I can assure you, both from my own experience, and from the opinions of all those whose opinions deserve to be valued, that if you aim at any sort of eminence or respectability in the eyes of the world, or in those of your friends; if you have any ambition to be distinguished in your future career for your virtues, or talents, or accomplishments, this self-knowledge of which I am speaking is above all things requisite. For how is your moral character to be improved, unless you know what are the virtues and vices which your natural disposition is calculated to foster, and what are the passions which are most apt to govern you? How are you to attain eminence in any talent or pursuit, unless you know in what particular way your powers of mind best capacitate you for excelling? It is therefore my intention, in this letter, to offer you a few hints on this most important subject.
When you come to look abroad into the world, and to study the different characters of men, you will find that the happiness of any individual depends not, as you would suppose, on the advantages of fortune or situation, but principally on the regulation of his own mind. If you are able to secure tranquillity within, you will not be much annoyed by any disturbance without. The great art of doing this consists in a proper government of the passions—in taking care that no propensity is suffered to acquire so much power over your mind as to be the cause of immoderate uneasiness, either to yourself or others. I insist particularly on this point, my dear young friend, because, if I am not greatly deceived, you are yourself very much disposed by nature to two passions, the most tormenting to the possessor, and the most offensive to others, of any which afflict the human race, -I mean pride and anger. Indeed, those two dispositions seem to be naturally connected with each other; for you have probably remarked, that most proud men are addicted to anger, and that most passionate men are also proud. Be this as it may, I can confidently assure you, that if an attempt is not made to subdue those uneasy propensities now when your temper is flexible, and your mind easy of impression, they will most infallibly prove the bane and torment of your whole life. They will not only destroy all possibility of your enjoying any happiness yourself, but they will produce the same effect on those about you, and by that means you will deprive yourself both of the respect of others, and the approbation of your own heart,--the only two sources from which can be derived any substantial comfort, or real enjoyment.
It is, moreover, a certain principle in morals, that all the bad passions, but especially those of which we are speaking, defeat, in all cases, their own purposes,-a position which appears quite evident, on the slightest examination. For what is the object which the proud man has constantly in view? Is it not 10 gain distinction, and respect, and consideration among mankind ? Now, it is unfortunately the nature of pride to aim at this distinction, not by striving to acquire such virtues and talents as would really entitle him to it, but by laboring to exalt himself above his equals by little and degrading methods; by endeavoring, for example, to outvie them in dress, or show, or expense, or by affecting to look down, with haughty superciliousness, on such as are inferior to himself only by some accidental advantages for which he is no way indebted to his own merit. The consequence of this is, that all mankind declare war against him; his inferiors, whom he affects to despise, will hate him, and consequently will exert themselves to injure and depress him; and his superiors, whom he attempts to imitate, will ridicule his absurd and unavailing efforts to invade what they consider as their own peculiar province.
If it may with truth be said, that a proud man defeats his own purposes, the same may, with equal certainty, be affirmed of a man who gives way to violence of temper. His angry invectives, his illiberal abuse, and his insulting language, produce very little effect on those who hear him, and who, perhaps, only smile at his infirmities; but who can describe the intolerable pangs of vexation, rage, and remorse, by which the heart of a passionate man is successively ravaged? Alas! it is himself alone for whom the storm is pent up, who is torn by its violence, and not those against whom its fury is meant to be directed.—Letter to a Pupil.
FOREIGN TRAVEL AND RESIDENCE AT A UNIVERSITY. We seem divided, whether an education formed by traveling or by a sedentary life be preferable. We see more of the world by travel, but more of human nature by remaining at home; as in an infirmary, the student, who only attends to the disorders of a few patients, is more likely to understand his profession, than he who indiscriminately examines them all.
A youth just landed at the Brille resembles a clown at a puppet show; carries his amazement from one miracle to another; from this cabinet of curiosities to that collection of pictures: but wondering is not the way to grow wise.
Whatever resolutions we set ourselves not to keep company with our countrymen abroad, we shall find them broken when once we leave home. Among strangers we consider ourselves as in a solitude, and it is but natural to desire society
There is more knowledge to be acquired from one page of the volume of mankind, if the scholar only knows how to read, than in volumes of antiquity. We grow learned, not wise, by too long continuance at college.
This points out the time in which we should leave the university. Perhaps the age of twenty-one, when at our universities the first degree is generally taken, is the proper period.
The universities of Europe may be divided into three classes. Those upon the old scholastic establishment, where the pupils are immured, talk nothing * put Latin, and support every day syllogistical disputations in school philosophy. Would not one be apt to imagine this was the proper education to make a man a fool? Such are the universities of Prague, Louvain, and Padua The second is, where the pupils are under few restrictions, where all scholastic jargon is banished, where they take a degree when they think proper, and live not in the college, but the city. Such are Edinburgh, Leyden, Gottingen, Geneva. The third is a mixture of the two former, where the pupils are restrained, but not confined; where many, though not all, the absurdities of scholastic philosophy are suppressed, and where the first degree is taken after four years' matriculation. Such are Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin.
As for the first class, their absurdities are too apparent to admit of a parallel. It is disputed which of the two last are more conducive to national improvement.
Skill in the professions is acquired more by practice than study; two or three years may be sufficient for learning their rudiments. The universities of Edinburgh, &c., grant a license for practicing them when the student thinks proper, which our universities refuse till after a residence of several years.
The dignity of the professions may be supported by this dilatory proceeding; but many men of learning are thus too long excluded from the lucrative advantages, which superior skill has a right to expect.
Those universities must certainly be most frequented, which promise to give in two years, the advantages which others will not under twelve.
The man who has studied a profession for three years, and practiced it for nine more, will certainly know more of his business than he who has only studied it for twelve.
The universities of Edinburgh, &c., must certainly be most proper for the study of those professions in which men choose to turn their learning to profit as soon as possible.
The universities of Oxford, &c., are improper for this, since they keep the student from the world, which, after a certain time, is the only true school of "improvement.
When a degree in the professions can be taken only by men of independent fortunes, the number of candidates in learning is lessened, and, consequently, the advancement of learning retarded.
This slowness of conferring degrees is a remnant of scholastic barbarity. Paris, Louvain, and those universities which still retain their ancient institutions, confer the doctor's degree slower even than we.
The statutes of every university should be considered as adapted to the laws of its respective government. Those should alter as these happen to fluctuate.
Four years spent in the arts, (as they are called in colleges,) is perhaps laying too laborious a foundation. Entering a profession without any previous acquisitions of this kind, is building too bold a superstructure.
Countries wear very different appearances to travelers of different circumstances. A man who is whirled through Europe in a post-chaise, and the pilgrim who walks the grand tour on foot, will form. very different conclusions.*
To see Europe with advantage, a man should appear in various circumstances of fortune; but the experiment would be too dangerous for young men.
There are many things relative to other countries which can be learned to more advantage at home; their laws and policies are among the number.
The greatest advantages which result to youth from travel, are an easy address, the shaking off national prejudices, and the finding nothing ridiculous in national peculiarities.
The time spent in these acquisitions could have been more usefully employed at home. An education in a college seems therefore preferable.- Present state of Polite Learning. 1759.
CHARACTERISTICS OF DIFFERENT UNIVERSITIES. We attribute to universities either too much or too little. Some assert that they are the only proper places to advance learning; while others deny even their utility in forming an education. Both are erroneous.
Learning is most advanced in populous cities, where chance often conspires with industry to promote it; where the members of this large university, if I may so call it, catch manners as they rise; study life, not logic, and have the world for correspondents.
The greatest number of universities have ever been founded in times of the greatest ignorance.
New improvements in learning are seldom adopted in colleges until admitted everywhere else. And this is right: we should always be cautious of teaching the rising generation uncertainties for truth. Thus, though the professors in universities have been too frequently found to oppose the advancement of learning, yet, when once established, they are the properest persons to diffuse it.
* In the first edition our author added, Haud inespertus loquor ; for he traveled through France, &c., on foot. In his sketch of Baron Holberg, he gives an example of the advantages which may be derived by even a poor student from foreign travel..
* This was. perhaps, one of the most extraordinary personages that has done honor to the present century. His being the son of a private sentinel did not abate the ardor of his ambition, for he learned to read, though without a master. Upon the death of his father, being left entirely destitute, he was involved in all that distress which is common among the poor and of which the great have scarcely any idea. However, though only a boy of nine years old, he still persisted in pursuing bis studies, traveled about from school to school, and beg. ged his learning and his bread. When at the age of seventeen, instead of applying himself to any of the lower occupations, which seem best adapted to such circumstances, he was resolved to travel for improvement from Norway, the place of his birth, to Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark. He lived there by teaching French, at the same time avoiding no opportunity of improvement that his scanty funds could permit. But his ambition was not to be restrained, or his thirst of knowledge satisfied, until he had seen the world. Without money, recommendations, or friends, he undertook to set out upon his travels, and make the tour of Europe on foot. A good voice, and a trifting skill in music, were the only finances he had to support an nndertaking so extensive; so he traveled by day, and at night sung at the doors or peasants' houses to get himself a lodging. In this manner, while yet very young, Holberg passed through France, Germany, and Holland ; and coming over to England, took up his residence for two years in the university of Oxford. Here he subsisted by teaching French and musie, and wrote his universal history, his earliest, but worst performance. Furnished with all the learning of Europe, he at last thought proper to return to Copenhagen, where his ingenious productions quickly gained him that favor he deserved."