« PreviousContinue »
being the case, that even where the results of a classical education are least tangible and least appreciated even by the individual himself, still the mind often retains much of the effect of its early studies in the general liberality of its tastes and comparative comprehensiveness of its views and notions.
All this supposes, indeed, that classical instruction should be sensibly conducted; it requires that a classical teacher should be fully acquainted with modern history and modern literature, no less than with those of Greece and Rome. What is, or perhaps what used to be, called a mere scholar, cannot possibly communicate to his pupils the main advantages of a classical education. The knowledge of the past is valuable, because without it our knowledge of the present and of the future must be scanty, but if the knowledge of the past be confined wholly to itself, if, instead of being made to bear upon things around us, it be totally isolated from them, and so disguised by vagueness and misapprehension as to appear incapable of illustrating them, then indeed it becomes little better than laborious trifling, and they who declaim against it may be fully forgiven.
HERBERT. [GEORGE HERBERT, the fifth brother of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, was born in 1593; died in 1632. His character as a minister was full of Christian graces. He belonged to the same class of clergymen as Hooker;—devoted to pastoral duties, -enthusiastic in his reverence for the offices of the Church. His religious poetry used to be neglected for its quaintness ;-but the present age has restored it to its proper rank amongst the writers who have left us gems which antiquity cannot rust. The poem which we give has a peculiar interest in being his death-bed song, as we learn from the following narrative of Isaac Walton :
“In this time of his decay, he was often visited and prayed for by all the clergy that lived near to him, especially by his friends the Bishop and Prebends of the Cathedral Church in Salisbury; but by none more devoutly than his wife, his three nieces (then a part of his family), and Mr. Woodnot, who were the sad witnesses of his daily decay ; to whom he would often speak to this purpose: I now look back upon the pleasures of my life past, and see the content I have taken in beauty, in wit, in music, and pleasant conversation, are now all past by me, like a dream, or as a shadow that returns not, and are now all become dead to me, or I to them; and I see that as my father and generation hath done before me, so I also shall now suddenly (with Job) make my bed also in the dark; and I praise God I am prepared for it; and I praise him, that I am not to learn patience, now I stand in such need of it; and that I have practised mortification, and endeavoured to die daily, that I might not die eternally; and my hope is, that I shall shortly leave this Valley of Tears, and be free from all fevers and pain ; and, which will be a more happy condition, I shall be free from sin, and all the temptations and anxieties that attend it; and this being past, I shall dwell in the new Jerusalem, dwell there with men made perfect, dwell where these eyes shall see my Master and Saviour Jesus; and with him see my dear mother, and all my
relations and friends. But I must die, or not come to that happy place: and this is my content, that I am going daily towards it, and that every day which I have lived hath taken a part of my appointed time from me; and that I shall live the less time for having lived this, and the day past.” These, and the like expressions, which he uttered often, may be said to be his enjoyment of heaven, before he enjoyed it. The Sunday before his death, he rose suddenly from his bed or couch, called for one of his instruments, took it into hand, and said, “ My God, my God,
My music shall find thee,
And every string
Shall have his attribute to sing :"
“ The Sundays of Man's life,
More plentiful than hope."]
O day most calm, most bright,
Thy torch doth show the way.
The other days and thou
Till thy release appear.
Man had straight forward gone
The which he doth not fill.
Sundays the pillars are,
Which parts their ranks and orders;
The Sundays of Man's life,
More plentiful than hope.
30.– SIR ALEXANDER BALL.
COLERIDGE. The following most interesting account of an eminent naval commander is from Mr. Coleridge's Collection of Essays, “The Friend.' There are few better specimens of genuine English prose, employed to do honour to a genuine English character.]
Sir Alexander Ball was a gentleman by birth: a younger brother of an old and respectable family in Gloucestershire. He went into the navy at an early age from his choice, and, as he himself told me, in consequence of the deep impression and vivid images left on his mind by the perusal of Robinson Crusoe. It is not my intention to detail the steps of his promotion, or the services in which he was engaged as a subaltern. I recollect many particulars indeed, but not the dates with such distinctness as would enable me to state them (as it would be necessary to do if I stated them at all) in the order of time. These dates might perhaps have been procured from other sources; but incidents that are neither characteristic nor instructive, even such as would be expected with reason in a regular life, are no part of my plan; while those which are both interesting and illustrative I have been precluded from mentioning, some from motives which have been already explained, and others from still higher considerations. The most important of these may be deduced from a reflection with which he himself once concluded a long and affecting narration; namely, that no body of men can for any length of time be safely treated otherwise than as rational beings; and that, therefore, the education of the lower classes was of the utmost consequence to the permanent security of the empire, even for the sake of our navy.
The dangers, apprehended from the education of the lower classes, arose (he said) entirely from its not being universal, and from the unusualness in the lowest classes of those accomplishments, which he, like Dr. Bell, regarded as one of the means of education, and not as education itself. If, he observed, the lower classes in general possessed but one eye or one arm, the few who were so fortunate as to possess two would naturally become vain and restless, and consider themselves as entitled to a higher situation. He illustrated this by the faults attributed to learned women, and that the same objections were formerly made to educating women at all; namely, that their knowledge made them vain, affected, and neglectful of their proper duties. Now that all women of condition are well educated, we hear no more of these apprehensions, or observe any instances to justify them.
Yet if a lady understood the Greek one-tenth part as well as the whole circle of her acquaintances understood the French language, it would not surprise us to find her less pleasing from the consciousness of her superiority in the possession of an unusual advantage. Sir Alexander Ball quoted the speech of an old admiral, one of whose two great wishes was to have a ship's crew composed altogether of serious Scotchmen. He spoke with great reprobation of the vulgar notion, the worse man, the better sailor. Courage, he said, was the natural product of familiarity with danger, which thoughtlessness would oftentimes turn into fool-hardiness; and that he had always found the most usefully brave sailors the gravest and most rational of his crew. The best sailor he had ever had, first attracted his notice by the anxiety which he expressed concerning the means of remitting some money which he had received in the West Indies to his sister in England; and this man, without any tinge of Methodism, was never heard to swear an oath, and was remarkable for the firmness with which he devoted a part of every Sunday to the reading of his Bible. I record this with satisfaction as a testimony of great weight, and in all respects unexceptionable; for Sir Alexander Ball's opinions throughout life remained unwarped by zealotry, and were those of a mind seeking after truth in calmness and complete self-possession. He was much pleased with an unsuspicious testimony furnished by Dampier. “I have particularly observed,” writes this famous old navigator, “there and in other places, that such as had been well-bred, were generally most careful to improve their time, and would be very industrious and frugal where there was any probability of considerable gain; but on the contrary, such as had been bred up in ignorance and hard labour, when they came to have plenty would extravagantly squander away their time and money in drinking and making a bluster.” Indeed it is a melancholy proof how strangely power warps the minds of ordinary men, that there can be a doubt on this subject among persons who have been themselves educated. It tempts a suspicion, that unknown to themselves they find a comfort in the thought that their inferiors are something less than men; or that they have an uneasy half-consciousness that, if this were not the case, they would themselves have no claim to be their superiors. For a sober education naturally inspires self-respect. But he who respects himself will respect others; and he who respects himself and others, must of necessity be a brave man. The great importance of this subject, and the increasing interest which good men of all denominations feel in the bringing about of a national education, must be my excuse for having entered so minutely into Sir Alexander Ball's opinions on this