Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

HAVING completed his different works on Divorce, which led him deeply to investigate the subject of marriage, love, and whatever relates to the happiness of domestic life, Milton, in 1644, produced his brief treatise on Education. In addition to those high intellectual endowments, which raised him above all the men of his age, he had here the advantage of experience, having been himself engaged in the instruction of youth. His opinions, therefore, are entitled to the greatest respect; for he had put in practice what he recommends. Johnson, and many others, who have treated his vast plan as visionary, scarcely comprehended its drift, which was not to impart scanty learning to vulgar or needy students, whom their necessities call away into the world before their minds are half furnished; but to create, from among the youth of ampler leisure and fortune, able and accomplished senators, judges, and generals. How much may be effected when the teacher's skill and knowledge are seconded by the industry and emulative ardour of ingenuous pupils, they are best able to judge

ho, having children of their own, have themselves undertaken the sacred duty of spreading before them the vast map of science. Most commonly they have to check or moderate the passion for labour, which, by exciting the mind to a preternatural activity, might undermine the health, or wholly destroy the body. Milton himself, while a boy, fell into this error. During several years he sat up reading until midnight; which, as he relates in his works, debilitated the organs of sight, and thus laid the foundation of that calamity which constituted the chief source of bitterness in his old age.

ON EDUCATION.

TO MASTER SAMUEL HARTLIB.

1. I am long since persuaded, Master Hartlib,(') that to say or do aught worth memory and imitation, no purpose or respect should sooner move us than simply the love of God, and of mankind. Nevertheless to write now the reforming of education, though it be one of the greatest and noblest designs that can be thought on, and for the want whereof this nation perishes; I had not yet at this time been induced, but by your earnest entreaties and serious conjurements; as having my mind for the present half diverted in the pursuance of some other assertions, the knowledge and the use of which cannot but be a great furtherance both to the enlargement of truth, and honest living with much more peace. Nor should the laws of

(1) Of Hartlib little more is known than that he was a friend of Milton, who had studied with peculiar diligence the science of education, and to whom Sir William Petty subsequently dedicated one of his earliest works. From several expressions in this and the following paragraphs, he would appear to have been a foreigner ; for he is spoken of as one sent hither from a far country, and allusion is made to his labours beyond the seas.

any private friendship bave prevailed with me to divide thus, or transpose my former thoughts, but that I see those aims, those actions, which have won you with me the esteem of a person sent hither by some good providence from a far country to be the occasion and incitement of great good to this island.

2. And, as I hear, you have obtained the same repute with men of most approved wisdom, and some of the highest authority among us; not to mention the learned correspondence which you hold in foreign parts, and the extraordinary pains and diligence which you have used in this matter, both here and beyond the seas; either by the definite will of God so ruling, or the peculiar sway of nature, which also is God's working. Neither can I think that so reputed and so valued as you are, you would, to the forfeit of your own discerning ability, impose upon me an unfit and overponderous argument; but that the satisfaction which you profess to have received, from those incidental discourses which we have wandered into, hath pressed and almost constrained you into a persuasion, that what you require from me in this point, I neither ought nor can in conscience defer beyond this time both of so much need at once, and so much opportunity to try what God hath determined.

3. I will not resist therefore whatever it is, either of divine or human obligement, that you lay upon me; but will forth with set down in writing, as you request me, that voluntary idea,

which hath long, in silence, presented itself to me, of a better education, in extent and comprehension far more large, and yet of time far shorter, and of attainment far more certain, than hath been yet in practice. Brief I shall endeavour to be ; (*) for that which I have to say, assuredly this nation hath extreme need should be done sooner than spoken. To tell you therefore what I have benefited herein among old renowned authors, I shall spare; and to search what many modern Januas and Didactics, more than ever I shall read, have projected, my inclination leads me not. But if you can accept of these few observations which have flowered off, and are as it were the burnish

(3) It is this brevity, however, that has probably laid open his system to so many objections. Dr. Symmons, usually the apologist of Milton, deserts him here; remarking that, although his plan of education was magnificent, it appeared to be cal. culated only to amuse the fancy, while it would be found by experience to disappoint the expectation." -Life, &c. p. 257. Sir Egerton Bridges, as was to be expected, passes over the tractate without a single observation ; but Mr. Mitford, with that modesty and good sense for which his memoir is generally distinguished, questions the justice of Dr. Symmons's decision, without, however, expressly referring to it. “The system of education which he adopted was deep and comprehensive; it promised to teach science with language, or rather to make the study of languages subservient to the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Dr. Johnson has severely censured this method of instruction, but with arguments that might not unsuccessfully be met. The plan recommended by the authority of Milton seems to be chiefly liable to objection from being too extensive.”Life, &c. p. 28. The remark immediately following is perhaps erroneous; but he has doubtless entered properly into the views of Milton, and ably defends that portion of his plan which refers more particularly to the teaching of science.

« AnteriorContinuar »