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What horror will invade the mind,
The last loud trumpet's wondrous sound
Then shall, with universal dread,
O then, what interest shall I make
Forget not what my ransom cost,
Prostrate my contrite heart I rend,
Well may they curse their second breath,
To the Memory of Narcissa.
EDWARD YOUNG was born 1679 ; received the education of a Wykehamist, first at Winchester, and then at New College, Oxford. Originally destined for the law, he nevertheless adopted the clerical profession, and became king's chaplain. He died in 1763, leaving many works, amongst which his “Night Thoughts” (from which the following extract is made) stand pre-eminent. They are supposed to have been prompted by the death of his wife, in 1741.
“Sweet Harmonist! and beautiful as sweet!
Like birds, quite exquisite of note and plume,
Soon as the lustre languish'd in her eye,
The Advantages of a Classical Education.
ARNOLD. THE cherished name of Dr. Arnold, the best of schoolmasters in, perhaps, any age, is too fresh in the recollection of our readers to require much comment. Born at Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, in 1795, he died of spasm of the heart in 1842, after a life devoted to the instruction of youth, the publication of valuable historical works, and the advocacy of the noblest principles of civil and religious liberty.
A reader unacquainted with the real nature of a classical education, will be in danger of undervaluing it, when he sees that so large a portion of time at so important a period of human life. is devoted to the study of a few ancient writers, whose works seem to have no direct bearing on the studies and duties of our own generation. For instance, although some provision is undoubtedly made at Rugby for acquiring a knowledge of modern history, yet the History of Greece and Rome is more studied than that of France and England; and Homer and Virgil are certainly much more attended to than Shakspeare and Milton. This appears to many persons a great absurdity; while others, who are so far swayed by authority as to believe the system to be right, are yet unable to understand how it can be so. A Journal of Education may not be an unfit place for a few remarks on this subject.
It may be freely confessed that the first origin of classical education affords in itself no reasons for its being continued now. When Latin and Greek were almost the only written languages of civilized man, it is manifest that they must have furnished the subjects of all liberal education. The question therefore is wholly changed, since the growth of a complete literature in other languages; since France, and Italy, and Germany, and England have each produced their philosophers, their poets, and their historians, worthy to be placed on the same level with those of Greece and Rome.
But although there is not the same reason now which existed three or four centuries ago, for the study of Greek and Roman Literature, yet there is another no less substantial. Expel Greek and Latin from your schools, and you confine the views of the existing generation to themselves and their immediate predecessors; you will cut off so many centuries of the world's experience, and place us in the same state as if the human race had first come into existence in the year 1500. For it is nothing to say that a few learned individuals might still study classical literature; the effect produced on the public mind would be no greater than that which has resulted from the labours of our oriental scholars ; it would not spread beyond themselves, and men in general, after a few generations, would know as little of Greece and Rome, as they do actually of China and Hindostan. But such an ignorance would be incalculably more to be regretted. With the Asiatic mind we have no nearer connexion and sympathy than is derived from our common humanity. But the mind of the Greek and of the Roman is in all the essential points of its constitution our own; and not only so, but it is our mind developed to an extraordinary degree of perfection. Wide as is the difference between us with respect to those physical instruments which minister to our uses or our pleasures; although the Greeks and Romans had no steam-engines, no printing presses, no mariner's compass, no telescopes, no microscopes, no gunpowder; yet in our moral and political views, in those matters which most determine human Character, there is a perfect resemblance in these respects. Aristotle, and Plato, and Thucydides, and Cicero, and Tacitus, are most untruly called ancient writers ; they are virtually our own countrymen and contemporaries, but have the advantage which is enjoyed by intelligent travellers, that their observation has been exercised in a field out of the reach of common men; and that having thus seen in a manner with our eyes what we cannot see for ourselves, their conclusions are such as bear upon our own circumstances, while their information has all the charm of novelty, and all the value of a mass of new and pertinent facts, illustrative of the great science of the nature of civilized man.
Now when it is said, that men in manhood so often throw their Greek and Latin aside, and that this very fact shows the uselessness of their early studies, it is much more true to say that it shows how completely the literature of Greece and Rome would be forgotten, if our system of education did not keep up the knowledge of it. But it by no means shows that system to be useless, unless it followed that, when a man laid aside his Greek and Latin books, he forgot also that he had ever gained from them. This, however, is so far from 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.