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by a considerable commerce with the world. The head of a public school is generally a very conceited young man, utterly ignorant of his own dimensions, and losing all that habit of conciliation towards others, and that anxiety for self-improvement, which result from the natural modesty of youth. Nor is this conceit very easily and speedily gotten rid of;—we have seen (if we mistake not) public-school importance lasting through the half of after-life, strutting in lawn, swelling in ermine, and displaying itself, both ridiculously and offensively, in the haunts and business of bearded men.
There is a manliness in the athletic exercises of public schools, which is as seductive to the imagination as it is utterly unimportant in itself. Of what importance is it in after-life, whether a boy can play well or ill at cricket; or row a boat with the skill and precision of a waterman'? If our young lords and esquires were hereafter to wrestle together in public, or the gentlemen of the Bar to exhibit Olympic games in Hilary Term, the glory attached to these exercises at public schools would be rational and important. But of what use is the body of an athlete, when we have good laws over our heads-or when a pistol, a postchaise, or a porter can be hired for a few shillings? A gentleman does nothing but ride or walk; and yet such a ridiculous stress is laid upon the manliness of the exercises customary at public schools, exercises in which the greatest blockheads commonly excel the most-which often render habits of idleness inveterate-and often lead to foolish expense and dissipation at a more advanced period of life.
One of the supposed advantages of a public school is the greater knowledge of the world which a boy is considered to derive from those situations; but if, by a knowledge of the world, is meant a knowledge of the forms and manners which are found to be the most pleasing and useful in the world, a boy from a public school is almost always extremely deficient in these particulars; and his sister, who has remained at home at the apron-strings of her mother, is very much his superior in the science of manners. It is probably true that a boy at a public school has made more observations on human character, because he has had more opportunities of observing, than have been enjoyed by young persons educated either at home or at private schools; but this little advance gained at a public school, is so soon overtaken at college or in the world, that, to have made it is of the least possible consequence, and utterly undeserving of any risk incurred in the acquisition. Is it any injury to a man of thirty or thirty-five years of age—to a learned sergeant or venerable dean-that at eighteen they did not know so much of the world as some other boys of the same standing? They have probably escaped the arrogant character so often attendant upon this trifling superiority; nor is there much chance that they have ever fallen into the common and youthful error of mistaking a premature initiation into vice for a knowledge of the ways of mankind: and, in addition to these salutary exemptions, a winter in London brings it all to a level; and offers to every novice the advantages which are supposed to be derived from this precocity of confidence and polish.
According to the general prejudice in favour of public schools, it would be thought quite as absurd and superfluous to enumerate the illustrious characters who have been bred at our three great seminaries of this description, as it would be to descant upon the illustrious characters who have passed in and out of London over our three great bridges. Almost every conspicuous person is supposed to have been educated at public schools; and there are scarcely any means (as it is imagined) of making an actual comparison; and yet, great as the rage is, and long has been, for public schools, it is very remarkable that the most eminent men in every art and science have not been educated in public schools; and this is true, even if we include, in the term of public schools, not only Eton, Winchester, and Westminster, but the Charterhouse, St. Paul's School, Merchant Taylors', Rugby, and every school in England at all conducted upon the plan of the three first. The great schools of Scotland we do not call public schools; because, in these, the mixture of domestic life gives to them a widely different character. Spenser, Pope, Shakespeare, Butler, Rochester, Spratt, Parnell, Garth, Congreve, Gay, Swift, Thomson, Shenstone, Akenside, Goldsmith, Samuel Johnson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Ben Jonson, Sir Philip Sidney, Savage, Arbuthnot, and Burns, among the poets, were not educated in the system of English schools. Sir Isaac Newton, Maclaurin, Wallis, Flamsteed, Saunderson, Simpson, and Napier, among men of science, were not educated in public schools. The three best historians that the English language has produced, Clarendon, Hume, and Robertson, were not educated at public schools. Public schools have done little in England for the fine arts-as in the examples of Inigo Jones, Vanbrugh, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Garrick, &c. The great medical writers and discoverers in Great Britain, Harvey, Cheselden, Hunter, Jenner, Meade, Brown and Cullen, were not educated at public schools. Of the great writers on morals and metaphysics, it was not the system of public schools which produced Bacon, Shaftesbury, Hobbes, Berkeley, Butler, Hume, Hartley, or Dugald Stewart. The greatest discoverers in chemistry have not been brought up at public schools: we mean Dr. Priestley, Dr. Black, and Mr. Davy. The only Englishmen who have evinced a remarkable genius in modern times, for the art of war-the Duke of Marlborough, Lord Peterborough, General Wolfe, and Lord Clive-were all trained in private schools. So were Lord Coke, Sir Matthew Hale, and Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, and Chief Justice Holt, among the lawyers. So also, among statesmen, were Lord Burleigh, Walsingham, the Earl of Strafford, Thurloe, Cromwell, Hampden, Lord Clarendon, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sydney, Russell, Sir W. Temple, Lord Somers, Burke, Sheridan, Pitt. In addition to this list we must not forget the names of such eminent scholars and men of letters as Cudworth, Chillingworth, Tillotson, Archbishop King, Selden, Conyers Middleton, Bentley, Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey, Bishops Sherlock and Wilkins, Jeremy Taylor, Isaac Hooker, Bishops Usher, Stillingfleet, and Spelman, Dr. Samuel Clarke, Bishop Hoadley, and Dr. Lardner. Nor must it be forgotten,
in this examination, that none of the conspicuous writers upon political economy which this country has as yet produced, have been brought up in public schools. If it be urged that public schools have only assumed their present character within this last century, or half century, and that what are now called public schools partook, before this period, of the nature of private schools, there must then be added to our lists the names of Milton, Dryden, Addison, &c., &c. and it will follow, that the English have done almost all that they have done in the arts and sciences without the aid of that system of education to which they are now so much attached. Ample as this catalogue of celebrated names already is, it would be easy to double it; yet, as it stands, it is obviously sufficient to show that great eminence may be attained in any line of fame, without the aid of public schools. Some more striking inferences might perhaps be drawn from it; but we content ourselves with the simple fact.
The most important peculiarity in the constitution of a public school is its numbers, which are so great, that a close inspection of the master into the studies and conduct of each individual is quite impossible. We must be allowed to doubt whether such an arrangement is favourable either to literature or morals.
Upon this system, a boy is left almost entirely to himself, to impress upon his own mind, as well as he can, the distant advantages of knowledge, and to withstand, from his own innate resolution, the examples and the seductions of idleness. A firm character survives this brave neglect; and very exalted talents may sometimes remedy it by subsequent diligence: but schools are not made for a few youths of preeminent talents and strong characters; such prizes can, of course, be drawn but by a very few parents. The best school is that which is best accommodated to the greatest variety of characters, and which embraces the greatest number of cases. It cannot be the main object of education to render the splendid more splendid; and to lavish care upon those who would almost thrive without any care at all. A public school does this effectually; but it commonly leaves the idle almost as idle, and the dull almost as dull, as it found them. It disdains the tedious cultivation of those middling talents, of which only the great mass of human beings are possessed. When a strong desire of improvement exists, it is encouraged, but no pains are taken to inspire it. A boy is cast in among five or six hundred other boys, and is left to form his own character-if his love of knowledge survive this severe trial it, in general, carries him very far : and, upon the same principle, a savage, who grows up to manhood, is, in general, well made, and free from all bodily defects; not because the severities of such a state are favourable to animal life, but because they are so much the reverse that none but the strongest can survive them. A few boys are incorrigibly idle, and a few incorrigibly eager for knowledge; but the great mass are in a state of doubt and fluctuation; and they come to school for the express purpose, not of being left to themselves-for that could be done anywhere-but that their wavering tastes and propensities should be decided by the intervention of a master. In a forest, or public
school for oaks and elms, the trees are left to themselves; the strong plants live, and the weak ones die; the towering oak that remains is admired; the saplings that perish around it are cast into the flames and forgotten. But it is not, surely, to the vegetable struggle of a forest, or the hasty glance of a forester, that a botanist would commit a favourite plant; he would naturally seek for it a situation of less hazard, and a cultivator whose limited occupations would enable him to give to it a reasonable share of his time and attention. The very meaning of education seems to us to be that the old should teach the young, and the wise direct the weak; that a man who professes to instruct should get among his pupils, study their characters, gain their affections, and form their inclinations and aversions. In a public school the numbers render this impossible; it is impossible that sufficient time should be found for this useful and affectionate interference. Boys, therefore, are left to their own crude conceptions and ill-formed propensities, and this neglect is called a spirited and manly education.
In by far the greatest number of cases we cannot think public schools favourable to the cultivation of knowledge; and we have equally strong doubts if they be so to the cultivation of morals—though we admit that, upon this point, the most striking arguments have been produced in their favour.
It is contended by the friends to public schools that every person, before he comes to man's estate, must run through a certain career of dissipation; and that if that career is, by the means of a private education, deferred to a more advanced period of life, it will only be begun with greater eagerness, and pursued into more blamable excess. The time must, of course, come when every man must be his own master; when his conduct can be no longer regulated by the watchful superintendence of another, but must be guided by his own discretion. Emancipation must come at last; and we admit that the object to be aimed at is that such emancipation should be gradual, and not premature. Upon this very invidious point of the discussion we rather wish to avoid offering any opinion. The manners of great schools vary considerably from time to time, and what may have been true many years ago is very possibly not true at the present period. In this instance, every parent must be governed by his own observations and means of information. If the license which prevails at public schools is only a fair increase of liberty, proportionate to advancing age, and calculated to prevent the bad effects of a sudden transition from tutelary thraldom to perfect self-government, it is certainly a good rather than an evil. If, on the contrary, there exists in these places of education a system of premature debauchery, and if they only prevent men from being corrupted by the world, by corrupting them before their entry into the world, they can then only be looked upon as evils of the greatest magnitude, however they may be sanctioned by opinion, or rendered familiar to us by habit.
The vital and essential part of a school is the master; but, at a public school, no boy, or, at the best, only a very few, can see enough of him to derive any considerable benefit from his character, manners, and information. It is certainly of eminent use, particularly to a young
man of rank, that he should have lived among boys; but it is only so when they are all moderately watched by some superior understanding. The morality of boys is generally very imperfect; their notions of honour extremely mistaken; and their objects of ambition frequently very absurd. The probability then is that the kind of discipline they exercise over each other will produce (when left to itself) a great deal of mischief, and yet this is the discipline to which every child at a public school is not only necessarily exposed, but principally confined. Our objection (we again repeat) is not to the interference of boys in the formation of the character of boys; their character, we are persuaded, will be very imperfectly formed without their assistance; but our objection is to that almost exclusive agency which they exercise in public schools.
After having said so much in opposition to the general prejudice in favour of public schools, we may be expected to state what species of school we think preferable to them; for if public schools, with all their disadvantages, are the best that can actually be found, or easily attained, the objections to them are certainly made to very little purpose.
We have no hesitation, however, in saying, that that education seems to us to be the best which mingles a domestic with a school life, and which gives to a youth the advantage which is to be derived from the learning of a master, and the emulation which results from the society of other boys, together with the affectionate vigilance which he must experience in the house of his parents. But where this species of education, from peculiarity of circumstances or situation, is not attainable, we are disposed to think a society of twenty or thirty boys, under the guidance of a learned man, and, above all, of a man of good sense, to be a seminary the best adapted for the education of youth. The numbers are sufficient to excite a considerable degree of emulation, to give to a boy some insight into the diversities of the human character, and to subject him to the observation and control of his superiors. It by no means follows, that a judicious man should always interfere with his authority and advice, because he has always the means; he may connive at many things which he cannot approve, and suffer some little failures to proceed to a certain extent, which, if indulged in wider limits, would be attended with irretrievable mischief: he will be aware that his object is to fit his pupil for the world; that constant control is a very bad preparation for complete emancipation from all control; that it is not bad policy to expose a young man, under the eye of superior wisdom, to some of those dangers which will assail him hereafter in greater number, and in greater strength-when he has only his own resources to depend upon. A private education, conducted upon these principles, is not calculated to gratify quickly the vanity of a parent who is blest with a child of strong character and pre-eminent abilities: to be the first scholar of an obscure master, at an obscure place, is no very splendid distinction; nor does it afford that opportunity, of which so many parents are desirous, of forming great connections for their children: but if the object be to induce the