Page images

pain of thinking, and suspects every man whose boldness and originality call upon him to defend his opinions and prove his assertions.

A very curious argument is sometimes employed in justification of the learned minutiæ to which all young men are doomed, whatever be their propensities in future life. What are you to do with a young man up to the age of seventeen -Just as if there was such a want of difficulties to overcome, and of important tastes to inspire, that from the mere necessity of doing something, and the impossibility of doing any thing else, you were driven to the expedient of metre and poetry; -as is a young man within that period might not acquire the modern languages, modern history, experimental philosophy, geography, chronology, and a considerable share of mathematics; --as if the memory of things was not more agreeable, and more profitable, than the memory of words.

The great objection is, that we are not making the most of human lise, when we constilute such an extensive and such minute classical erudition an indispensable article in education. Up to a certain point we would educate every young man in Latin and Greek; but to a point far short of that to which this species of education is now carried. Afterwards, we would grant 10 classical erudition as high honours as to every other department of knowledge, but not higher. We would place it upon a footing with many other objects of study; but allow lo it no superiority. Good scholars would be as certainly produced by these means, as good chemists, astronomers, and mathematicians are now produced, without any direct provision whatsoever for their production. Why are we to trust to the diversity of human tastes, and the varieties of human ambition, in every thing else, and distrust it in classics alone? The passion for langırages is just as strong as any other literary passion. There are very good Persian and Arabic scholars in this country. Large heaps of trash have been dug up from Sanscrit ruins. We have seen, in our own times, a clergyman of the University of Oxford complimenting their Majesties in Coptic and Syrophænician verses; and yet we doubl whether there will be a sufficient avidity in literary men to get at the beauties of the finest writers which the world has yet seen ; and though the Bagvat Gheeta has (as can be proved) met with human beings to translate, and other human beings to read it, we think that, in order 10 secure an attention to Homer and Virgil, we must catch up every manwhether he is to be a clergyman or a duke ;-begin with him at six years of age, and never quit him till he is twenty; making him conjugate and decline for life and death ; and so teaching him to estimate his progress in real wisdom, as he can scan the verses of the Greek tragedians.

The English clergy, in whose hands education entirely rests, bring up the first young men of the country as if they were all to keep grammar schools in little country towns; and a nobleman, upon whose knowledge and liberality the honour and welfare of his country may depend, is diligently worried, for half his life, with the small pedantry of longs and shorts. There is a timid and absurd apprehension, on the part of ecclesiastical tutors, of letting out the minds of youth upon difficult and important subjects. They fancy that mental exertion must end in religious scepticism; and, to preserve the principles of their pupils, they confine them to the safe and elegant imbecility of classical learning. A genuine Oxford tutor would shudder to hear his young men disputing upon moral and political truth,


forming and pulling down theories, and indulging in all the boldness of youthful discussion. He would augur nothing from it but impiety to God, and treason to kings. And yet, who vilifies both more than the holy poltroon, who carefully averts from them the searching eye of reason, and who knows no better method of teaching the highest duties than by extirpating the finest qualities and habits of the mind? If our religion is a fable, the sooner it is exploded the better. If our government it bad, it should be amended. But we have no doubt of the truth of the one, or of the excellence of the other; and are convinced that both will be placed on a firmer basis in proportion as the minds of men are more trained to the investigation of truth. At present, we act with the minds of our young men, as the Dutch did with their exuberant spices. An infinité quantity of talent is annually destroyed in the Universities of England, by the miserable jealousy and littleness of ecclesiastical instructors. It is in vain to say we have produced great men under this system. We have produced great men under all systems. Every Englishman must pass half his life in learning Latin and Greek; and classical learning is supposed to have produced the talents which it has not been able to extinguish. It is scarcely possible to prevent great men from rising up under any system of education, however bad. Teach men dæmonology or astrology, and you will still have a certain portion of original genius, in spite of these or any other branches of ignorance and folly.

There is a delusive sort of splendour in a vast body of men pursuing one object, and thoroughly obtaining it; and yet, though it is very splendid, it is far from being useful. Classical literature is the great objeci* at Oxford. Many minds, so employed, have produced many works, and much fame in that department; but if all liberal arts and sciences useful to human life had been taught there, -is some bad dedicated themselves to chemistry, some to mathematics, some to experimental philosophy, —and if every attainment had been honoured in the mixi ratio of its difficulty and utility,--the system of such an University would have been much more valuable, but the splendour of its name something less.

When an University has been doing useless things for a long time, it appears at first degrading to them to be useful. A set of lectures upon political economy would be discouraged in Oxford, probably despised, probably not permitted. To discuss the enclosure of commons, and to dwell upon imports and exports,—to come so near to common life, would seem to be undignified and contemptible. In the same manner, the Parr, or the Bentley of his day, would be scandalized in an University to be put on a level with the discoverer of a neutral salt; and yet, what other measure is there of dignity in intellectual labour but usefulness? And what ought the term University 10 mean, but a place where every science is laught which is liberal, and al the same time useful to mankind ? Nothing would so much tend to bring classical literature within proper bounds as a steady and invariable appeal to utility in our appreciation of all human knowledge. The puffed up pedant would collapse into his proper size; and the maker of verses, and the rememberer of words, would soon assume that station which is the lot of those who go up unbidden to the upper places of the feast.

* We speak inerely of reputation. Sad, indeed, is the fate of this University, if its object has been classical literature alone ; and it has failed even in thal.

We should be sorry, if what we have said should appear too contemptuous towards classical learning, which we most sincerely hope will always be held in great honour in this country, though we certainly do not wish to it that exclusive honour which it at present enjoys. A great classical scholar is an ornament, and an important acquisition to his country; but, in a place of education, we would give to all knowledge an equal chance for distinction; and would trust to the varieties of human disposition, that every science worth cultivation would be cultivated. Looking always to real utility as our guide, we should see, with equal pleasure, a studious and inquisitive mind arranging the productions of nature, investigating the qualities of bodies, or mastering the difficulties of the learned languages. We should not care whether he were chemist, naturalist, or scholar; because we know it to be as necessary that matter should be studied, and subdued to the use of man, as that taste should be gratified, and imagination inflamed.

In those who were destined for the church, we would undoubtedly encourage classical learning, more than in any other body of men ; but if we had to do with a young man going out into Public Life, we would exhort him to contemn, or at least not to affect, the reputation of a great scholar, but to educate himself for the offices of civil life. He should learn what the constitution of his country really was,-how it had grown into ils present stale,-the perils that had threatened it,—the malignity that had altacked it,--the courage that had fought for it, and the wisdom that had made it great. We would bring strongly before his mind the characters of those Englishmen who have been the steady friends of the public happiness; and, by their examples, would breathe into him a pure public taste, which should keep him untainted in all the vicissitudes of political fortune. We would teach him to burst through the well-paid and the pernicious cant of indiscriminate loyalty ; and to know his Sovereign only as he discharged those duties, and displayed those qualities, for which the blood and the treasure of his people are confided to his hands. We should deem it of the utmost importance, that his attention was directed to the true principles of legislation, what effect laws can produce upon opinions, and opinions upon Jaws,—what subjects are fit for legislative interference, and when men may be left to the management of their own interests ;-—the mischief occasioned by bad laws, and the perplexity which arises from numerous laws,—the causes of national wealth,--the relations of foreign trade,--the encouragement of manufactures and agriculture,—the fictitious wealth occasioned by paper credit, -the laws of population,—the management of poverty and mendicity,—the use and abuse of monopoly,—the theory of taxation,—the consequences of the public debt. These are some of the subjects, and some of the branches of civil education, to which we would turn the minds of future Judges, future Senators, and future Noblemen. After the first period of life had been given up to the cultivation of the classics, and the reasoning powers were now beginning to evolve themselves, these are some of the propensities in study which we would endeavour to inspire. Great knowledge, at such a period of life, we could not convey; but we might fix a decided taste for its acquisition, and a strong disposition to respect it in others. The formation of some great scholars we should certainly prevent, and hinder many from learning what, in a few years, they would necessarily forget ; but this loss would be well repaid,- if we could show the future rulers of the country that thought and labour which it requires to make a nation happy,--or if we could inspire them with that love of public virtue, which, after religion, we most solemnly believe to be the brighlest ornament of the mind of map.*



A great deal has been said of the original difference of capacity between men and women; as if women were more quick, and men more judicious

-as if women were more remarkable for delicacy of association, and men for stronger powers of attention. All this, we confess, appears to us very fanciful. That there is a difference in the understandings of the men and the women we every day meet with, every body, we suppose, must perceive; but there is none surely which may not be accounted for by the difference of circumstances in which they have been placed, without referring to any conjectural difference of original conformation of mind. As long as boys and girls run about in the dirt, and trundle hoops together, they are both precisely alike. If you catch up one half of these creatures, and train them to a particular set of actions and opinions, and the other half to a perfectly opposite set, of course their understandings will differ, as one or the other sort of occupations has called this or that talent into action. There is surely no occasion to go into any deeper or more abstruse reasoning in order to explain so very simple a phenomenon. Taking it, then, for granted, that nature has been as bountiful of understanding to one sex as the other, it is incumbent on us to consider what are the principal objections commonly made against the communication of a greater share of knowledge to women than commonly falls to their lot at present ; for though it may be doubted whether women should learn all that men learn, the immense disparity which now exists between their knowledge, we should hardly think could admit of any rational defence. It is not easy to imagine that there can be any just cause why a woman of forty should be more ignorant than a boy of twelve years of age. If there be any good at all in female ignorance, this (to use a very colloquial phrase) is surely too much of a good thing.

Something in this question must depend, no doubt, upon the leisure which either sex enjoys for the cultivation of their understandings ;-and we cannot help thinking, that women have fully as much, if not more, idle time upon their hands, than men. Women are excluded from all the serious business of the world: men are lawyers, physicians, clergymen, apothecaries, and justices of the peace-sources of exertion which consume a great deal more time than producing and suckling children; so that, if the thing is a thing that ought to be done-if the attainments of literature are objects really worthy the attention of females, they cannot plead the want of leisure as an excuse for indolence and neglect. The lawyer who passes his day in exasperating the bickerings of Roe and Doe, is certainly as much engaged as his lady who has the whole of the morning before her to correct the children and pay the bills. The apothecary, who rushes from an act of phlebotomy in the western parts of the town to insinuate a bolus in the east, is surely as

On the subject of this Essav, further remarks may be found in Vol. xiv. page 188. Vol. xvi. page 178. Vol. XXXV. page 302. Vol. xlvii. page 439.

† Broadhursi's Advice io Young Ladies on the improvement of the Mind. — Vol. xv. page 299. January, 1810.

completely absorbed as that fortunate female who is darning the garment, or preparing the repast of her Esculapius at home; and, in every degree and situation of life, it seems that men must necessarily be exposed to more serious demands upon their time and attention than can possibly be the case with respect to the other sex. We are speaking always of the fair demands which ought to be made upon the time and attention of women ; for, as the matter now stands, the time of women is considered as worth nothing at all. Daughters are kept to occupations in sewing, patching, mantua-making, and mending, by which it is impossible they can earn ten-pence a day. The intellectual improvement of women is considered to be of such subordinate importance, that twenty pounds paid for needle-work would give to a whole family leisure to acquire a fund of real knowledge. They are kept with nimble fingers and vacant understandings, till the season for improvement is ulterly passed away, and all chance of forming more important habits completely lost. We do not therefore say that women have more leisure than men, if it be necessary they should lead the life of artisans; but we make this assertion only upon the supposition, that it is of some importance women should be instructed; and that inany ordinary occupations, for which a little money will find a better substitule, should be sacrificed to this consideration.

We bar, in this discussion, any objection which proceeds from the mere novelty of teaching women more than they are already taught. It may be useless that their education should be improved, or it may be pernicious ; and these are the fair grounds on which the question may be argued. But those who cannot bring their minds to consider such an unusual extension of knowledge, without connecting with it some sensation of the ludicrous, should remember, that, in the progress from absolute ignorance, there is a period when cultivation of mind is new to every rank and description of persons. A century ago, who would have believed that country gentlemen could be brought to read and spell with the ease and accuracy which we now so frequently remark,-or supposed that they could be carried up even to the elements of ancient and modern history,? Nothing is more common, or more stupid, than to take the actual for the possible to believe that all which is, is all which can be; first to laugh at every proposed deviation from practice as impossible—then, when it is carried into effect, to be astonished That it did not take place before.

It is said, that the effect of knowledge is to make women pedantic and affected; and that nothing can be more offensive than to see a woman stepping out of the natural modesty of her sex, to make an ostentatious display of her literary attainments. This may be true enough ; but the answer is so trite and obvious, that we are almost ashamed to make it. All affectation and display proceed from the supposition of possessing something better than the rest of the world possesses. Nobody is vain of possessing two legs and two arms ;-because that is the precise quantity of either sort of limb which every body possesses. Who ever heard a lady boast that she understood French ?-For no other reason, that we know of, but because every body in these days does understand French ; and though there may be some disgrace in being ignorant of that language, there is little or no merit in its acquisition. Diffuse knowledge generally among women, and you will at once cure the conceit which knowledge occasions while it is rare.

Vanity and conceit we shall of course witness in men and women as long as the world endures: but by multiplying the attainments upon which these feelings

« PreviousContinue »