. . . read a paper on the study of the English
Classics:—It is imperative that those subjects
be studied, the pursuit of which will most efficiently
equip one for the battle of life with what is
at once both sword and shield, a clear, discriminating,
and comprehensive judgment. Science, in
the main, is occupied in the acquisition and imparting
of facts. It must be the effort of the Mathematician
to retire within the innermost recesses of his
mind, remote from all distractions, from all external
influences, there sleuth-hound-like to follow
up one trail to its one legitimate conclusion,
oblivious to all else. The student of literature,
on the other hand, while dealing with keenest
subtleties of language and thought, is introduced
to problems of life, whose threads may lead to
a thousand widely varying but equally legitimate
solutions, as they may chance to be deflected
hither or thither by internal or external forces
of ambition, passion, accident, or even a fit
of indigestion. The keenest judgment listening
to the burning utterance of Marc Antony—as standing
over the body of the slain Cæsar he kindled to
dreadful fury the grief of the people, till the
hot noon in the Forum grew suddenly loud with
inarticulate rage—could it, with any certainty
of demonstration, have prophesied of Actium?
And who will be so rash as to assert even now
that this was the only legitimate conclusion to
the life of the "plain, blunt man, that loved
mathematician cannot be expected to be tolerant of or susceptible to
such wayward and half-defined forces as the classical student must be
familiar with. The Binomial Theorem is quite unaffected by any
idols of camp or cave or mart; and neither by the most violent passion
nor by the effects of a lobster supper will the solution of a problem
from Wormel be swerved one hair's-breadth.
study of literature and language, unlike most other studies, is not only
a most potent means of development, it is in itself an end,
the most desirable of acquisitions, a never-failing delight. But
in no literature lies embedded more wealth than in our own; and these
veins are easily worked.
Those most important
hours, the reading hours, should not be wasted
upon fragments, however, excellently chosen, but
should be devoted to the mastering in their entirety
of the finest works of the finest minds.
Plays of Shakspeare, single books of Milton, and
other supreme creations are now being published
in cheap form, and the time of High School scholars
would be better occupied with them than with "Readers."
The unerring faculty of "Imitativeness"
affords the strongest of all arguments for the
continual impression upon pupils of the highest
manifestations of beauty and power. The
appreciative teacher will shun the desecration
of a sublime passage to the ugly and mechanical
uses of parsing, or the torture and dismemberment
of an exquisitely knit sentence upon the rack
of particular analysis. Above all, he will
be loth to apply the lofty science of "paraphrasing"
to thoughts already wedded by a master hand to
one immortal form, with which to tamper is profanity.
To labour with elaborate care to render into elegant
prose some lines from Shakspeare or Shelley, is—well,
a funny proceeding. The mind unable to grasp
the idea except through the medium of that process
will lose little by remaining unenlightened.