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need not be explained; but it ought just to be noticed, that it immediately preceded the appearance of Luther.
Men still went on to chastise the theologians at Cologn for their attack on Reuchlin ; for the business was not yet fully decided, as Hochstraten himself had gone to Rome, to procure, through the pope, the overthrow of the decision of the bishop of Spire. The ferment thus excited therefore continued in its full strength, when the first movements of Luther attracted the attention of all Germany to him. This personage, at his first appearance, showed himself very opportunely the defender of the good cause of truth and light. It was, moreover, against a monk — it was even a Dominican, of the stamp of Hochstraten, against whom he defended this cause. Hence it was clear beforehand, that he would obtain one party, even if the justice of his cause were not to procure them for him : for nothing more was needful, in order to prepossess in his favor the better and more enlightened and cultivated men in all parts. But in the history itself of his first appearance, will best be shown, how much depended upon it and resulted from it; only it is first necessary to state the occasion which brought Luther upon the stage, briefly to adduce the early history of the man, and to inspect a little more closely the circumstances amid which he came forward.
REVIEW OF Fiske's EscHENBURG.
Manual of Classical Literature from the German of J. J. Eschenburg.
Professor in the Carolinum, at Brunswick. With Additions, by N. W. Fiske, Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy (lately of the Latin and Greek Languages) in Amherst College. Philadelphia : Edward C. Biddle, 1837, pp. 664.
By the Rev. Samuel M. Worcester, Salem, Massachusetts.
Our advanced position as a people is, perhaps, the most extraordinary which has ever been presented in the history of the world. We have reached an elevation of civil, intellectual, and
moral greatness, which can hardly be contemplated without emotions of wonder and amazement.
Whence now this greatness? The circumstances and motives which influence human action, are so diversified and intricate, that revolutions and other important changes in the affairs of men, can seldom be traced unerringly to their real or to their principal causes. The philosophy of history, as suggested by Dr. Lingard, might about as well be called the philosophy of romance. There is too much proof, that the imagination of the historian has often furnished him the key, with which he has opened to us the secret springs of memorable events. What is plausible may not be matter of fact; a cause, however adequate to a given effect, may not be the cause.
Yet so frequently has this truth been forgotten or disregarded, that we are almost ready to aver, that the plays of Shakspeare and the novels of Scott are quite as authentic and credible, as are many of those works which claim our confidence as veritable histories of nations and individuals.
Not a few among us have written and declaimed upon the rise and progress of our social system. Yet after all that has been said, it is very probable, that some of the most effective causes of our growth have been overlooked, or have not been exhibited with the prominence to which they are justly entitled. And if we do not seriously err, any enumeration of the causes of our greatness, as a people, is radically deficient, unless classical learning is specified, and specified as not the least in importance.
Among the colonists and the patrons of the colonists of New England, were men who highly appreciated the classics. Hence, although Harvard College was literally planted in the midst of log-cabins and wigwams, the course of study was fashioned by the standards of Oxford and Cambridge. The Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages were prescribed in large measure for the intellectual discipline of the promising youth of the pilgrims. Our fathers, it is well known, aimed to advance the cause of the Reformation. They desired to see among themselves and to secure for their descendants, a competent number of able champions to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.” And the sequel proved that it was not in vain, that they endeavored to furnish the colonial pulpits with a learned as well as pious ministry. “ There were giants in those days; the same became mighty men, which were of old, men of renown.”
The common-school system of New England has been a theme of frequent, and, perhaps, extravagant eulogy. It was designed to carry the elements of intellectual education into the poorest man's dwelling ; so that every child might be able to read for himself the volume of true wisdom. A community so instructed, could not fail to make important advances. But what would have become of our free schools, if there had been no college like Harvard? Where would men have been found to guide the people in their onward movements ? And how could the colonists have been prepared to organize and maintain such political institutions, as had never before had an existence among men ? - When we turn our eye to our ancient and venerable university, we there recognize one of the most powerful of all the instrumentalities, which, under the smiles of a gracious Providence, have contributed to our present greatness as an independent and triumphant nation.
An American citizen once urged the marquis of Wellesley to establish a college in India. “No, sir," was the reply. "India is, and ever ought to be, a colony of Great Britain. The seeds of independency must not be sown here. Establishing a seminary in New England, at so early a period, hastened your revolution half a century.” It could not be otherwise, than that a familiarity with the sentiments of such men, as crowned the ancient republics with their purest and brightest glory, and the enlightening and ennobling instructions of that TRUTH, which makes man “ free indeed," should nurture a magnanimous and indomitable spirit of liberty.
It must be confessed, however, that for a long period our professional men have not been much distinguished as classical scholars. The classics still occupy a leading place in our plans of collegiate study, notwithstanding the increased attention to mathematics, the natural sciences, modern languages, and other means of mental cultivation. Nearly half of the time of the four years' course, is appropriated to the works of authors in the dead languages. Why is it, then, that comparatively few of our alumni have acquired any celebrity, as linguists? We shall probably be referred to the peculiar circumstances of our country. It may be said, and not without good reason, that our educated men have little encouragement to pursue the study of classical literature. Our population at large has been in such a condition, ever since the organization of the federal government, that professional talent has found the surest patronage in modes
of active labor extremely unfavorable to classical pursuits. The graduates of our colleges are mostly dependent upon their own industry for their daily bread. As a natural consequence, they will do that kind of work which pays them the best wayes. But is it not true, that many of our alumni might, if they were so disposed, find time for improvement in classical knowledge. And how are we to account for the want of disposition ? The answer is not difficult. We are much inclined to impute the low state of classical learning among us, not any more to the inauspicious tendencies of professional avocations in this country, than to some other causes which are less frequently considered.
Our whole system of liberal education must be greatly elevated and enlarged, before we can secure a proper influence of the classics upon our literary character. Our seminaries of learning must take higher ground. The preparatory studies for admission to college should be much increased. But whether increased or not, there is a need of reform in respect to the actual terms of admission. Whatever reasons may be offered in justification or apology, it is incontrovertible that, a very few institutions excepted, there is no special strictness in the examination of candidates. We somewhat doubt whether four-fifths of the members of the present freshman classes in American colleges, could procure certificates from competent teachers, that they have faithfully studied the whole of the Latin and Greek books in which they were examined previous to their matriculation. Until examinations of candidates for admission to college are made more discriminating and more thorough, there will be, as there now is, a large number of students, who are most miserably deficient in those elementary principles of language, without which there can be no eminent proficiency in the study of the classics. The university of Cambridge has set an example, which is worthy of all praise. The influence has already been felt at other literary institutions. And we hope the time is not distant, when the youth in our academies shall be certified, that no college will receive them without a full compliance with its prescribed and published terms.
Classical instruction in most, if not all our colleges, is quite inadequate to the purpose. We deplore the circumstances, by which so much of the labor in the department of languages is imposed upon teachers, who have so recently received the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and who, for a year or two only, continue in office. In general, they accomplish all, and freVol. IX. No. 26.
quently much more than could be expected. No men work harder, and none are so poorly rewarded. But we cannot forbear the expression of our opinion, that there is great need of daily, familiar instruction by men, whose mature scholarship can furnish a prompt and lucid commentary upon the text-books, and inspire in their pupils a generous enthusiasm for classical attainments and distinctions.
Many of the students in our colleges have already passed the age of life, when languages are acquired with the greatest facility. Others are too young to be left with so much time at their own discretion. Miscellaneous literature is so fascinating, and the desire of general information so strong, that novels and dramas, magazines and reviews, and more than all, newspapers and holiday pamphlets consume many of those valuable hours, which the regulations of college have allotted to ancient languages and literature. Add to this, that the most important of the advantages of classical study are either not understood, or are seldom appreciated. To translate a Latin or Greek author with fluent elegance, is very often the consummation of the aims of the most emulous of our under-graduates. An oration at commencement is the brilliant prize which stimulates their diligence. It is no part, or but a small part, of their design to render the classics subservient to their usefulness and pleasure, when they shall have assumed professional responsibilities. Of the rest of the members of a class, what can be said ? What but absolute necessity compels most of them to study the classics ? Explain the fact as we may, a very large proportion of American students never find the classics to be any thing better than mere languages, mere words, and these so very “dead," that the funeral rites are delayed no longer than comports with a decent regard for public sentiment.
Such a state of things is much to be lamented. It certainly is of high importance, that the classical course in our colleges should be more interesting and useful. Of the measures which may be adopted by the guardians and officers, to secure so desirable a result, it is not our intention to say more. The subject merits the careful consideration of those who are competent to do it justice.
Upon one point, however, there can be no dissenting voice. Unless our young men can be led to study the classical authors with pleasure, and not as a drudgery or a penance, the labor is comparatively lost. And we can never expect to see among us