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Now this is precisely the student's occupation who is translating a foreign language. He is incessantly employed in determining the meaning of words from the connection in which they stand, constantly weighing evidence and drawing conclusions, if he does not use a translation; for, in that case, he is only exercising his memory. Each word has various significations. He must carefully examine the sentence, and then fix upon the appropriate definition. In this way he is for years training the mind to the most accurate discrimination in comparing words, and adjusting nice shades of meaning. Thus he learns to practise the most delicate and difficult part of the art of reasoning. In what other way could one become so intimately acquainted with the right use of language, which is the great instrument of all ratiocination ? Without a minute knowledge of definitions, and of the nice shades of meaning which result from the subject discussed, and the connection of the argument, no person can speak with precision, or reason with force and perspicuity. Many eminent teachers have been so fully convinced of the utility of classical studies, in invigorating and maturing the mental powers, that they give it as their opinion, that, if two students of equal capacity be put upon a course of study, for six years—the one pursuing English studies wholly, and the other devoting one-third of the time to the languages—at the end of the course the classical student, by his superior discipline, will have acquired a better English education, aside from his knowledge of the languages, than the other. An eminent French philosopher supposes if two boys were put to studythe one upon the classics and the other upon the sciences and,“ on leaving the first class,” the classical scholar should, by some accident, lose every word he had learned, but retain his intellectual powers in the same state of maturity as before the loss, that this scholar, beginning his acquisitions anew, would, at the close of his course, be better educated and better prepared for the business of life than the other, who had devoted the whole time to other pursuits. This may be an extravagant opinion, yet by no means so extravagant as many would suppose. It is undoubtedly true that the time which many students think absolutely wasted upon the classics, is the very seed-time of life. It is the apprenticeship of mind; the time when they are acquiring strength and skill for greater effort; the time when they are preparing their weapons for future intellectual warfare,
A distinguished philosopher remarks: “ The real way to gain time in education is to lose it; that is, to give it up to the natural development of the faculties: not to be in haste to construct the edifice of knowledge, but first to prepare the materials and lay deep the foundations. The time that is yielded to the mind for unfolding itself though slowly is not lost; but to derange its natural progress, by forcing on it premature instruction, is to lose not only the time spent, but much of the time to come. Give your pupil memory, attention, judgment, taste; and believe, whatever his vocation in life may be, he will make more rapid and certain proficiency, than if you had loaded him with knowledge, which you cannot answer for his bringing to any result, and which his organs, weak and variable, and his unconfirmed faculties, are as yet little able to bear.”
In this connection it may not be improper to notice some of the current objections against the classics. The common objection against their practical utility has already, I trust, been answered by showing that the study of them develops and matures the young mind. Whatever expands the soul, induces reflection, furnishes food for thought, subdues sense and exalts reason, is eminently practical.
Aside from their influence in forming the mind, their utility might be advocated as the medium of communicating valuable information that cannot be conveniently learned from other sources. In learning the language of a nation, the student becomes acquainted with their mental habits, their progress in philosophy and morals, their history, chronology, private character and public institutions. A mere vocabulary of the words used by a people will show their progress in science, philosophy and the arts, and a careful analysis of their peculiar modes of expression, thestructure of their language and the characteristics of their style, will prove a very valuable help to the study of intellectual philosophy. Words and thoughts are so intimately associated, that the study of language is, in one sense, the study of mind; and comparative philology may justly be styled the comparative anatomy of mind. It is a common remark of students: “I wish to study what I can use in the business of life.” Now what can be more useful, especially to one whose business it is to persuade and to convince, than to be thoroughly versed in the philosophy of mind and its operations; to be well acquainted with all the springs of human action ? If a scholar will study only what will be available as an intellectual fund in
after life, f an English if he would entertexte
after life, he must confine himself chiefly to the elementary branches of an English education, particularly to arithmetic and book-keeping. But if he would entertain large and liberal views, his course of study must be equally extended and liberal.
From young men who contemplate the legal profession, we frequently hear such sentiments as this: 'I wish to give my attention to such authors as will furnish me with practical knowledge, polish my style, give me a command of language and prepare me for a public speaker. I reply, that there is no exercise that will so effectually prepare you for your contemplated duties, as the study you object to. Do you expect to spend your life in the use of language, to gain your subsistence by its use, and yet object to the study of it? But, says the objector, I do not intend to speak Latin or Greek. Very well: but if you can acquire a better knowledge of your own tongue, a more polished style and a more ready command of words, by the discipline of interpretation, is not this the very end you aim at ? What, think you, gave birth to the clear, precise and logical reasonings of Cudworth, the profound thoughts and copious diction of Barrow and Howe, the transcendent, matchless eloquence of Taylor and Milton ? Did they acquire their unrivalled distinction as scholars by studying English literature? Most certainly not; for they had none or almost none to study. These were the men who made English literature. Their minds were trained almost wholly by classical study.
But, says the objector, did not Shakspeare contribute as largely to the formation of English literature as any you have named? “He," as Ben Johnson said, “ had small Latin and less Greek.” True, Shakspeare possessed superior native endowments, and could accomplish without a thorough education more than others can with it. He was an exception to all general rules. Besides, if his case shows that classical studies are useless, it shows that all systematic education is useless. If all that is requisite to make a great man be to turn him loose upon the world, in his youth, and leave him dependent on his own exertions, it is a wonder the world is not full of Shakspeares and Franklins; for certainly a multitude of young men are thus left to their own efforts, and under circumstances far more favorable to improvement than those of Shakspeare or Franklin. Six thousand years have produced but one Shakspeare, while they have produced thousands of good rea
soners and deep thinkers; and this is quite as much as most young men may aspire to. Indeed, if all our youth were left to their own resources, it is probable that multitudes would imitate Prince Hal or Falstaff, where one would conceive the idea of such a character, and write down the conception for the instruction and amusement of others.
“ Many men,' says Mr. Cheever, “ think no employments practical, but those that are immediately mechanical ; or those that minister to our bo:!ily necessities; or those that afford knowledge whose application is immediate and evident. To such men, God himself cannot appear, as the Creator of the universe, as an architect of practical wisdom; for he has corered the earth with objects, and the sky and the clouds with tints, whose surpassing beauty is their only utility ; but whose beauty is eminently useful, because man who beholds it, is immortal ; because it wakes the soul to moral contemplation, excites the imagination, softens the sensibilities of the heart, and throws round every thing in man's temporal habitation the sweet light of poetry reflected from the habitations of angels, telling him both of his mortality and immortality, giving him symbols of both, and holding with him a perpetual conversation of the glory, wisdom and goodness of God.
"To me the meanest flower that blows can give i Thoughts, that do often lie too deep for tears.'
“ To such men the employment of Milton, while writing Paradise Lost, would have seemed less practical than that of the shoemaker at his next door ; nor would it alter their views to represent that all the shoes the man could possibly make in a whole life time, would be worn out in a very few years, while the divine poem would be a glorious banquet and a powerful discipline to all good men and great minds for ages. Whatever in any degree disciplines the mind for effort, is praetical, though for every thing else it be utterly useless.”
No man can appreciate the value of mental discipline till he. has felt its influence; and if he is unacquainted with any science or department of study, this very fact precludes the possibility of his forming a correct estimate of its utility. The only way to judge of what is practical is to be practical; and the only way to arrive at a just estimate of the real utility of any branch of science, is to study it and master it. The true standard, by which we ought to estimate the benefit of intel
SECOND SERIES, VOL. VI. NO. I.
lectual training, is the capacity it creates for doing good. Some students, whose love of ease creates in them an aversion to all laborious exercise either of mind or body, seek a substitute for the prescribed course of collegiate study in extended reading. They admire the ready and flippant student, who, having a smattering of all knowledge, astonishes the uninitiated. They diligently inquire the cause of his marvellous fluency and ready wit, and find that he is a general scholar, a lover of miscellany. Hence they resolve to be readers, and scout the languages and mathematics, which so cramp the intellect, stifle the buddings of genius, and make a man a mere prosing pedant. They plunge at once into an ocean of miscellany, and seize upon this novel, that new poem, and the other review or pamphlet, studiously avoiding the good old standard works of English literature, because, forsooth, they require study, and are almost as difficult to be understood as Latin. After carefully pursuing this labor-saving process of education four years, the student graduates, a mere superficial sciolist, with a small capital of fancy articles, to please the sentimental and romantic, and without the means of increasing it. It would be better to spend four years in the catacombs of Egypt, deciphering hieroglyphics, than devote the same time exclusively to miscellaneous reading. The student would come out of his den better prepared for the business of life, with more strength of intellect for grappling with difficult subjects, than if he had spent his time in the mere dissipation of unthinking superficial reading. I do not object to such reading, in its proper place; but it should be resorted to as a relief from severer studies. All intellectual eminence is the result of patient thought. Mere reading without study or reflection will no more expand the young mind, than listening to sweet music. Either occupation would beguile the tedious hours of an unemployed mind. Hard study, patient, protracted study, discriminating study is absolutely essential to success in literary and scientific pursuits. Miscellaneous reading does not furnish the necessary discipline. The young man, who vainly imagines that such pursuits will qualify him for “ the stern realities of life," and resolves to devote no more time to those studies, whose practical utility is not apparent to his feeble mind, than barely to escape public disgrace, by that very resolve dooms himself to eternal mediocrity, if not to inferiority. Before such a person reads polite literature to polish his mind, it may be well for him to get some mind to