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OBSERVATIONS ON THE STUDY OF THE
LATIN AND GREEK LANGUAGES.
BY GEORGE LONG, A.M. Late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge-Professor of Greek in the
University of London
(An Introductory Lecture delivered in the University of London,
November 1, 1830.) The object of the following address is to explain the mode of instruction in the Latin and Greek classes in this University; and also to lay down some principles of elementary education which may be useful to those pupils who intend to complete their studies here. The observations which I am going to make must be considered as the common opinions of myself and the Professor of Latin f, though I ought to remark, that, when one person writes, it is not reasonable to hold another responsible for every opinion that may be expressed, or for every fault that a curious critic may discover. I say this merely to avoid committing my colleague by anything that may inadvertently drop from me. On the general principles of our instruction we wish it to be understood that we are entirely agreed.
If I did not suppose that a large part of my hearers were either persons engaged in the instruction of youth, or parents solicitous for their children's welfare, or pupils
* Resigned July, 1831.
+ Mr. T. H. Key, then and now Professor of Latin in the London University.
themselves animated with a desire of knowledge, I should not venture to make a public address on a subject which it is difficult to invest with the attractions of novelty, and which admits not the soft and well-turned phrase that is so pleasing to the ear. It is a subject of great importance, requiring much experience and deep reflection before opinions can be formed; and its ex• pounders must labour rather to convince the understanding, and furnish material for thought, than to gratify their audience by a display of words.
Before I explain our plan of instruction, it will be useful to make a few remarks on the reasons for giving to Latin and Greek so prominent a place in public education. Some of the best reasons will be found, I trust, in a judicious mode of teaching these languages; but there are general considerations wbich ought not to be passed over.
We might urge in defence of what is commonly termed a classical education, long-established usage, the authority of the most distinguished seats of learning, and the opinions or the prejudices of a large and wealthy class of our people. On the other hand, we must not overlook the fact, that, both in this country and elsewhere, the study of Latin and Greek is by some condemned as useless, or at least regarded as much less useful than other pursuits. To treat with contempt the arguments of the objectors is not the best way to con. vince them; por are we likely to remedy the striking defects of English education by displaying its merits, without pointing out its faults.
I hardly know if any answer is due to those who condemn ancient learning in terms of abuse, calling it useless lumber, and qualifying it with other uncourteous
names ; at least it is not my intention to attempt to answer them. Such persons are ignorant of that which they decry: they neither know what kind of knowledge it contains, nor have they considered the kind of mental training which is requisite to acquire it. Many defects in classical education are so obvious, that it requires no superior acuteness to detect them; and the opponents of the established system might perhaps get credit for some share of good sense and good intention, if, while they declaim against its errors, they would only be more tolerant towards its virtues. Differing from these persons altogether in our view of intellectual acquirements, we consider all knowledge to have its uses, and to be capable of giving pleasure: we admit some kinds of knowledge to be universally useful, and therefore necessary; other kinds have less direct or more remote uses. But in the social systems of the present age, where labour is so much divided and art so highly perfected, it is presumptuous to say that any knowledge is useless.
The question, . What is the use of Latin and Greek ?" cannot be answered till it is more limited ; it is a problem which in this form cannot admit of an exact solution. It is the same thing as to ask, what is the use of measuring the earth, or the quantity of rain that falls on it?
A knowledge of these languages would be of no use to persons employed in laborious bodily occupations and in many mechanical arts; nor would a knowledge of the higher branches of pure mathematics, or the more difficult departments of any of the sciences, be useful to such persons. Besides, if such knowledge were useful to them, they could not afford the time and money necessary for its acquisition. But though the largest part of the community are driven to early labour to procure the means of subsistence, there are still many who caa defer the time at which they commence professional occupations, or the business by which they must maintain themselves.
It is for such that the higher kinds of schools that colleges and universities are intended, in which they may receive that general education which will enable them to fill with credit and advantage the numerous situations that exist in all rich and commercial countries. The business of such places is not to teach immediately professional knowledge, though various branches of professional pursuit may be, and often are, profitably taught in such establishments: the main object is to give the kind of preparation which is necessary in all. It is usual to limit the professions to three, those of Theology, Law, and Medicine. Though certainly three of the most important, there are yet others which may be styled professions as distinguished from purely commercial employments: the business of a teacher, public or private, is a profession : so is that of a legis. lator, of an architect, of a sculptor and painter, and many more. The strictly professional part of these professions is often better learned, and sometimes niecessarily learned, either in schools founded for the special object, or under private teachers. Now, shall the youths designed for such employments enter upon them at a very early age, and make their profession their sole study, or shall they first have a common kind of education and mental discipline?
Custom has determined that this previous education shall be given to youth, and people generally follow custom, without troubling themselves about the reasons for it. But still there are some who argue in favour of making a professional education the only, or almost the only, object of attention; for whose consideration we offer the following remarks.
In a civilized country there ought to be an education provided suitable to the wants of every member of the community, of every member viewed as a part of the whole society. For people to know their real interests, and their obligations, is profit to themselves and security to the state; and according to the station which we are likely to occupy in social life, we should all be so trained as to discharge its duties, whatever they may be, with integrity and ability. Much of this useful training is acquired by mingling with students of the same age in public places of learning, where habits of industry and perseverance may be formed by a judicious course of study, and where the love of sound knowledge, and (what is only the same thing otherwise expressed) the love of truth and an earnest desire to discover it in all branches of inquiry, may be excited and strengthened, It is in such places that all that stock of useful information should be acquired which will furnish topics of common interest and inquiry to all men, and will often prove, in the midst of arduous engagements, or in the intervals of professional labour, a source of the purest and most unmixed delight. The pleasures of social life would be sadly diminished if each man knew no. thing, and could talk of nothing but his own business : a system of castes, in some degree unavoidable where labour is much divided, would be rigidly maintained ; and progress in improvement, which is the vital prin. ciple of society, would be completely arrested.
One additional remark may be made. The more