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The Societies' Section.
REPORTS OF MUTUAL IMPROVEMENT SOCIETIES.
DEBATING SOCIETIES. ON 9th November, the Lord Advocate of Scotland (the Right Hon. James Moncreiff, D.P. for Edinburgh, born 1811) opened the Session, 1861-2, of the Dialectic Society-instituted in 1787-by an address to the members in the Humanity class-room of the Edinburgh University. The Society meets in the University each Saturday evening, during winter, at seven o'clock, for the prosecution of Literary and Philosophical Composition, Criticism, and Debate. The following extract from his lordship’s able, many-topiced, and important address, we lay before our readers as a good ex position of—
The Pleasures and Advantages of l that it is large; how grave the responDebating Societies. “I have been sibility assumed and professed by the favoured with a copy of the order of speakers; how nervous the tyro who first business for the coming session. I have tries the sound of his own voice before looked, and—I pity the man-he must twelve or fifteen companions to whom be a cold, poor, unhappy cynic, who he has probably been holloing at the can look over the programme for your top of bis langs during the whole day! session with a sneer on his lip, or con And as the night wears on, and banter, tempt in his heart. The world, no doubt, and argument, and repartee fly fast and may not alter its course very much keen, how the roof echoes to the cheers, according to your grave deliverances. and the division is announced amid a Neither do I think it would be saying state of excitement that might only not much in disparagement of your debates be too great for the fate of a kingdom! were our supposed cynic to allege that So far from looking back with anything they may not lead to more immediate of misgiving or contempt to such scenes results than a great deal of debating, as these, I never think of them without probably far inferior, both in zeal and something of the feeling that Professor quality, to that which prevails in much Wilson has well described in one of his more pretentious assemblies. But who most characteristic and vigorous essays. that ever put the heart and brains of I refer to his celebrated description of one-and-twenty into the campaigns of the snowball bicker of Pedmount, which a debating society, but does not scorn bears a considerable likeness to the such prosaic pedantry? The rapture debates of such a society as this. The and the fame of life's duller contests earnestness and reality of the mimic never sent the blood circulating with fight contrasts so much with the apathy such a throb as those first initiations and coldness with which many real into intellectual strife. How the days issues are contested in life; the intensity are counted until the great debate comes of the past is so different from the inround; how pleasant the toil of prepara difference of the present, that one cannot tion, so fresh after the restraint of help looking back with a feeling almost formal and allotted tasks; how fluttering of respect to the unfeigned keenness and the spirits on the night of meeting; single. hearted zeal which animated how excited the appointed champions, 1 these resultless discussions. I have half afraid that their audience may be known some philosophers of mature scanty, and half terrified when they find wisdom, although still in their student years, who used to hold the language of cluding power, which youth so easily contempt for all such avocations, and to exercises, is one of the gifts of genius, act on it; hard, logical heads, which and one of the principal weapons in the could not see wherein the advantage lay | armoury of intellectual warfare in after of talking for a few hours on matters years. What would have become of which they did not understand, and the labours of Scaliger or Bentley had pretending, from a short and superficial they, before beginning, sat down coldly course of reading, to discuss the most to calculate the importance of their disdifficult problems in politics, and the coveries or their controversies to the most abstruse questions in science. Il world in general ? They took this for never could answer these friends, al- ! granted, which, had they tried, they though I never agreed with them. I certainly never could have proved, even could not deny the truth of what they to themselves. To my mind, it is resaid; when we came to speak soberly | freshing in the highest degree to find of it, it was plain enough that the such men, of far more than years of opinions which, week after week, we discretion, advanced in life, and respectwere accustomed to enunciate so con able in station, sitting down to abuse fidently, and to maintain with so much each other in a great deal of expensive pertinacity, were worth very little print, with an intensity which argues a were founded on very slight materials, thorough sincerity of hatred, the battleand, save in our little senate, were little field being no wider than a dispute about likely to carry with them the slightest a text in Horace, or the value of a authority. All this was too clear to be Greek accent, which probably never will denied, although it was painful to be be settled while the world lasts, and reminded of it; but yet instinct told us which, if settled, would not make the that they were wrong. We were sure that world one whit the happier. It is out however difficult it might be to justify of such earnest intensity that the sparks our views by the cold forms of logical and fire of genius are struck. Earnestdemonstration, still our essays and our ness is the true specific for securing debates were opening before us a field the fruits of intellectual labour, and it of thought, and furnishing an incentive is wonderful from what barren and unto study, to which we were strangers likely fields, when earnestness is rightly before. Let me advise you to beware directed, a harvest may be reaped. But of these premature sages. Depend this earnest zeal perishes, if at every upon it, those who are so wise at twenty, step we are to count the cost, and try, will never grow any wiser, and have a by a cold, worldly standard, how much fair chance of not being Solons at our crop will yield, what are the dangers forty. The power of abstracting the of its blight, and for how much it is occupation immediately in hand from likely to sell. It is the man who sees the future as well as the past, peopling nothing but his immediate task who the present with forms and images of bids fair for eminence, and who shuts our own creation, to give to the dusty, out the suggestions of despondency, and and it may be in result the unfruitful, the sneers of the bystanders, by mainwalks of study, a fictitious glory, drawn taining a fixed and steady gaze on what from within, is one of the great secrets he has in progress. This done, how of success. It is the solace of intellectual does light spring out of the darkness! toil; it keeps the energies intent, the How fancy gilds the weariest paths of functions lively, maintains the spring occupation, beguiles the tedium of the and play of the intellect, and pours over way, and invests each turn of it with all the glow and light of enthusiasm. fascination which no one else can see! This is the great privilege, the heritage It is, for instance, not a lively thing, at and the strength of your period of life. first sight, to stand for hours up to the In truth, this concentrating and ex- | knees in salt water, in a drifting easterly fog, with back bent, and the earthen conflicts of the world at the head generally on a level with the heels, doorway of which you stand. exploring one watery cranny after But there remains one great end of another under the dripping and tangle your Association, of which I have said laden rocks, and now and then sub nothing, but one which is the most mitting to a horrible slip on the slimy immediate and most practical—the art shingle, or a fair capsize into a salt of speaking in public. Your session bath. It does not look lively. It sug cannot be barren of fruits if it enable gests nothing but rheumatism; but the you to acquire, even in its elements, the chief actor in the scene is at the height power of expressing yourself with of enjoyment, and comes home, as light accuracy and propriety, and clothing fails, shivering and triumphant, with clear thought in language equally clear. the results of bis day's campaign in the Oratory is to be studied as an art as envied possession of a marine monster well as logic; and for those who are equally rare and invisible. Thus does likely to have occasion for its active intellectual toil, particularly when exercise, none of its powers are to be nobody compels us to it, bring along despised. Some, indeed, have by nature with it its rich rewards, which come so great a facility of speech, that the trooping up on all sides as our labours mere power of expression is already advance. Do not, then, be ashamed of possessed. But these, for the most part, the enthusiasm natural to your years, rarely turn out great speakers, as the nor abate any portion of your earnest temptation is almost irresistible to dilute ness, because it may fall short of a their ideas through a fluent stream of merely utilitarian test. The conscious words. It is better to think faster than ness of progress is all you need to vin you can speak, than to speak faster than dicate your course. The time during you can think; and those who are which these dreams can be indulged is gifted naturally with such facility should short enough-cherish them while they impose on themselves the sternest of last, your fairy temple will vanish soon shackles, and endeavour to compress enough in the mists of reality. You the greatest amount of matter into the will find on life's chequered stage much smallest quantity of words, if they are which will seem as if it had been re ambitious of excelling in the art. It is hearsed before, and had found you not indeed wonderful what a mesmeric altogether unfamiliar with its aspect, effect is produced by a dozen men staring and had its foreshadow and counterpart at you, until you become hardened by on the benches of the Dialectic. The experience. Nowhere is this more utilitarian view, therefore, which would strikingly evinced than in a debating condemn such associations and their society. There they sit, fifteen or favourite pursuits as too puerile and too twenty of your own companions—men useless to be pursued by men having whom you meet every day, who know their way to make in the world, and you as well as though you had made a intended to form its rank and file in its | hundred speeches to them, and to whose sternest conflicts and hardest fields, | opinion, out of doors, you do not bow commends itself in no respect to my with implicit confidence, but, on the judgment or zeason. What it has of | contrary, hardly consider as good, on delusion is only what it shares with most subjects, as your own. There is many far less attractive but equally not one of them you are afraid of singly, empty sbadows and phantoms for which and if you met them at supper, you men fight and conquer, or are conquered. could talk and tell your story with any What it has of reality is more real, of them. Why, then, that tremor of more pure, more ingenuous, more im. the knees and uncontrollable beatiog of pressed with what is noble and true in | the heart, because you are going to tell the spirit of man than many of the more | them why you think that coal ought not to be treated as contraband of war? i Holland. The following have been Is it that they are acknowledged lumi- announced at a meeting of the “Teyer's naries on the coal question ? Not at Godgeleerd Genootschap" as the suball. You know, that if you know little jects for a prize essay to be competed about it, they probably know less; and for in two years, viz.:-1. Can the peryet you tremble, and stammer, and fect sinlessness of Jesus be maintained falter before them, as if your audience against the historical and philosophical were Vattel and Grotius. Yet so it views of the latest time? 2. Is the always is at starting with the stuff of acknowledgment of that sinlessness which good orators are made; and I consistent with the hypothesis that the should augur ill of the tyro who could person of Jesus Christ came from humake his maiden speech without dis manity in the natural manner ? 3. corc posure. Herein, therefore, lies one What is the importance of the result of great benefit of your gymnasium. You this examination to our age? These have, in some degree at least, not to queries have reference mainly to a work fear your audience, and to trust yourself. | by F. Pecaut, entitled “Le Christ et la But let no one be discouraged because Conscience," published at Paris in his nerves give way on the first two or 1859; but glance also at the state of tbree attempts. The results are gene feeling resulting from Strauss' “ Life rally the greatest, when there are diffi of Jesus," the “Essays and Reviews,” culties of this kind to conquer.
the Popish doctrine of “The ImmacaHis lordship concluded his able late Conception," &c. The Dutch oration by adverting to the pleasant Church is now feeling in itself the friendships, never to be dissolved in life, growth of differences analogous to that formed by the members of such societies of High, Low, Broad, &c., among us.
Our Collegiate Course ;
OR, AIDS TO SELF-CULTURE. " OUR Collegiate Course" appears to , and honestly exert every effort to "quit” have conciliated to itself the favourable ourselves well in and by the accomsuffrages of many of our readers. This plishment of our task. We have not, is, indeed, as we hoped; but the enthu- | of course, "the vision and the faculty siasm and earnestness,—the impatience, divine," to see and to foresee all that is we might almost say, to begin, which or may be advisable or accomplishable; have been shown by our correspondents, but we are quite aware that an honest are greater even than we, in the san- | aim, honestly and energetically carried guineness of our conception, anticipated. out into effectiveness, is seldom left From almost every quarter hopeful unblessed in its results; and our hopes "good speed” has reached us, and has are that the indispensable blessing will not failed to gratify us. For the encou attend our labours, and crown the ragement and advice received so readily, efforts of our students. so kindly, so faithfully, our best thanks We must, to ensure even moderate are due; and we do hope that the reliance success, however, avoid attempting too so unreservedly placed in us will not be much at once, or of encouraging or disappointed. Nor will it, if power stimulating undue expectations. It is and intellect be imparted to equal our easy to dream dreams of unspeakable labours with our wishes. We fully reforms, improvements, and ameliorarecognize the great responsibility we tions, but they are at best a “baseless have assumed, and we shall earnestly | fabric.” It is even easy to shadow out
and draw the ground-plans of extensive the supposition that mere acquirement schemes of human betterment, but it is - mere knowing — is enough. The not easy to bring together, in a right mind may be informed, and yet the state, the materials and the builders, nature may be unreformed. We must not the means and the opportunity, and to only have, but use knowledge; must not set all the elements of success into an only kuow, but do; must not only posunanimous conspiracy to favour these sess the arts of intellectuality, but be designs. The splendid castle-buildings intellectual. We may gain, attain, conof theory, created in an hour, in unim tain, and retain knowledge, and yet we peachable form, grandeur, and pomp, may miss all its higher benefits, which require the continued and persistent are to make us wise, in life, aim, effort, toil of practice to raise their walls and act, and transaction, in time and for fix their battlements in existent dura eternity. bility, and in subserviency to useful We have no wish, and, we should purposes. The price, in short, of all think, little need, to recapitulate the success, is labour; and neither we nor matters noticed in our inaugural adothers can expect the former unless dress upon this subject. We are preprepared to pay toll and tithe of the pared to recognize mixed motives in our latter in our progress. Sudden acquire. students, and to accept them on their ments in useful knowledge are impos own terms, so far as motives are consible; unlaboured advancement cannot cerned, and without encumbering them here be had. There are no sinecures with our theories of the essential humanon the way to wisdom, though there ization which all study, rightly pursued, are some after it has been reached, if | imparts; but our opinions on the need one then chooses to have them. To of labour, though not in their grounds, this one duty each must set his heart, yet in their effects, must be imperative. who is connected with “our Collegiate To resolve on unrelaxing labour during Course," whether as conductor of the term, must be the conscientious classes, or members of the guild and duty of each entrant into any class in fraternity of students,-persistent and “ our Collegiate Course." The forhonest labour.
mation of such a resolution should form It would be sheer folly in us to for each student, in the calm reflecattempt to disguise from ourselves or tiveness of his own being, a preliminary our intending students this indubitable entrance-test, solemn and sacred as an need for labour-labour which, to be oath, binding as a vow, unbreakable as useful, must be unintermitted, aim the hondage we are in to death; ingoverned, and willingly performed. violable as a life-secret, and distinctly Grudged work is worthless. In fact, remembered as the prayer of childhood knowledge owes its true worth to the in a word, it must be possessed of labour it necessitates. Labour, in this vital earnestness-it must not be so case, is the measure of value, and the much a liking for, or a loving of, as a cui bono? query is altogether an im living for knowledge. Only by such pertinent importation; yet, let us grant, a seriously-formed purpose can the one not entirely without its justification, monthly visitations of a tutor be effecinasmuch as the utility of a thing tive in the true culture and elevation of may be an exciting and an encouraging the capacities of a student's nature. motive to its acquirement. But the And now we may fittingly allude to true argument, we think, for the abso desires for an extension of our scheme lute duty of acquiring knowledge is, into other departments. We shall that it is the means of perfecting our assuredly hold these suggestions in human nature; for humanity, if any. remembrance, and give them a proper thing, is intellectuality. Here again, consideration. We are, however, tramhowever, let a caveat be entered against melled by space, time, agencies, and