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INTRODUCTION OF HISTORICAL STUDIES INTO THE
OXFORD COUNTY LYCEUM:
BY THOMAS T. STONE,
To render history useful to the extent of its powit is certainly important that a change be made in the composition of books by which the knowledge of it is conveyed to the community at large, or at least that a remedy for the imperfection of books be found in the increased intelligence and wisdom of instructers.
So far as the developement of mind, and the discovery of the habits, and of the vicissitudes of sentiments and of events, which characterize each age, is concerned, it is true without question, that in the original compositions of every period we have the best records and monuments. Thus of Grecian history, the most interesting of antiquity, and of English,the most valuable to Americans, of Modern Europe, the true sources of knowledge are, not compilations,—of these we have enough-but their best works in the various departments of literature and science. Thus Homer, Euripides, Demosthenes, with the other great men of Greece, and Shakespeare, Bacon, Milton, with the hosts of orators, civilians, poets and theologians of Britain, have left their writings as memorials not more of themselves than of their times; they stand forth as the representatives of their generations; they are the bodies, so to speak, still living and conversing, in which the characteristics of their country and age are concentrated. True, the details of Court intrigues, of battles and sieges, and the dates of chronology, may not be learned from them so readily as from compilations; but these are secondary matters; history has a higher end, the disclosure of human nature, as manifested and modified by diversities of circumstance. When we read the works of writers like those referred to, we seem to be led at once into the society of the powerful and controlling spirits of each age and country; we are informed from their own lips of their matured opinions
about passing events, and gather from their style of expression the peculiar emotions they excited. Nor is this all. They gave utterance to the views and feelings of those with whom they acted; nay, they show us the sentiments even of their opponents both by their allusions and their formal arguments.
This mode of coming to the knowledge of ancient history, is, I need not say, impossible in the present state of education, the languages of antiquity forming the completion and finish of high intellectual culture, not a portion of its earlier and ordinary elements. The same remark is applicable to all history but that of Great Britain and the United States. To the knowledge of English and American history obtained from its original and classical authors, I am aware of but two obstacles which will be seriously alleged to exist, want of money, and want of time. Who, it will be enquired, can purchase the works of a single writer of each age within the last four hundred years! or who could devote to them the quantity of time and thought without which they cannot be fixed in the nemory, and without which they cannot become, what is at once the most difficult and the most important object, the foundation of broad and philosophical conclusions? To the first enquiry we may reply; let a man of common property take from his income a portion of what he throws away; that is, spends without advantage; how easily might he collect writings like those of Shakespeare, of Milton, of Taylor, of Barrow, of Tillotson, of Addison, of Burke, with a few standard works of our own country and generation! If he cannot incur the expense alone, what is there to hinder the concurrence of others in the purchase, in other words,the establishment of well-regulated social libraries? As to the time and attention which the reading of them must employ, there is a great exaggeration in inen's views. The "ast amount is thought of as the tax upon an hour. It seems to be forgotten
that knowledge may be gathered by gradual accumulation, not by one mighty influx; that the revenue which at the end of the year will have made you rich, is the product of slight duties daily and almost unconsciously paid. We are reminded of the pendulum discontended with its vibrations, and stopping altogether, not because it was actually exhausted, but because it calculated with a feeling of despair the entire sum of its motions. It is to be regretted however, that men seldom exemplify the conclusiou of the fable, summoning themselves to exertion and industry; on the contrary, they persist in repose, so much is to be done, and yield to the suggestions of despair and the clasping charm of indolence. It is in fact neither time nor money that is wanting; it is that enterprize of mind which values knowledge the higher, because it exacts labour, and which seeks a victory not because it is easy, but because along with acquisition it involves energy, power, difficulty.
Suppose the books of English literature accessible and a taste for them formed, we yet discover, as we think, obstacles to the introduction of history into the course of common,especially if it be early, education. Without some approach to maturity of mind, it is impossible to understaud Pope, Milton, or Burke. The remark holds true with respect even to historians of the higher order. Not to name his political and religious principles, Hume is at once too voluminous and too profound for early youth. Marshall is neglected even by fullgrown men; he certainly presents no attraction to the mind of childhood. The hosts of compilations spread over the country, are mere skeletons of more valuable works: nor is their interest great, except to the man who would review at a glance, what he has learned from previous study. Minuteness, specification,the bringing of an object close to the mind, is the charm which holds the child. The child cannot take in at one view, the events of an age or nation; he wishes for the detail of a single event, repeated