Imágenes de página

Here he will see a gradual advance upwards, from the lowest to the highest type of existence. First, invertebrate animals, such as the gelatinous polyp, make their appearance. These are followed by fish, reptiles, birds, and mammiferous quadrupeds. In the lowest class, fish, the brain bears to the spinal cord only the average of two to one ; in reptiles, of two and a half to one ; in birds, of three to one; in the mammals, of four to one ; while in man, it is twenty-three to one. Here are facts marking an evident progression, which has been accounted for by two distinct theories.

One class of geologists, supported by Oken and others, maintain that all things have arisen by a long series of development, from certain simple and primitive causes ; that the greater has grown out of the lesser. That the creative impulse, if we may so speak, once given, required no subsequent act to support it. That the law of development was implanted in nature, and was in itself sufficient, without any subsequent laws to modify or counteract its agency. While they hold that the superintendence of the Deity is witnessed rather in support and maintenance of that one Almighty first, than in continued acts of successive creation.

Others, amongst whom we may class Hugh Miller as one of their ablest advocates, argue that all difference of species are final ; that there is no such thing as development, and that the higher types were gradually introduced upon the earth by successive acts of separate creation, as the world became fitted to receive them. As a proof of this they point to the fact that, running parallel with the law of progression, there is another equally important, that of degradation. Thus, there was a time in which the ichthyic (fish) form, constituted the highest example of life ; but the seas during that period did not swarm with fish of the degraded type that we now see. The higher fish races appeared first, and, subsequently, became degraded in character or reduced in size. The same thing may be noticed in the study of reptiles ; and, indeed, there is not one of the great divisions of animal life in which we do not perceive that, in one prominent feature at least, the present is inferior to the past.

Here is a question that requires years of patient study and investigation before we can presume to say, “I am now entitled to judge on which side the truth appears to preponderate to my mind, and to that side do I give in my adhesion, not however as a blind partisan, but as a rational inquirer after truth. I may be mistaken in my judgment, but I have sought to make it dispassionate; and, therefore, while I do not blame others who may differ from me, I am at least entitled to the same amount of consideration from them also in return."

Heat and bitterness of controversy belong not to those who seek rather to teach themselves, than to conquer others; and to this class the earnest inquirer after the means of self-education must necessarily attach himself in pursuance of his one grand object.

IGNORANCE.-So long as thou art ignorant, be not ashamed to learn : he that is so foully modest as not to acknowledge his own defects of knowledge, shall in time be so foully impudent as to justify his own ignorance. Ignorance is the greatest of all infirmities, and justified the chiefest of all follies.—Quarles.

ON READING-BOOKS. TO THE EDITOR OF THE ENGLISH JOURNAL OF EDUCATION. SIR,— Will you allow me again to avail myself of your valuable Journal, to express to J. S. G. my sense of the extremely courteous manner in which he has noticed the remarks I ventured to make upon “ Disciplina Rediviva, No. 7 ;" and to say how cordially I agree with him in the hope, that this correspondence may indeed tend rather to the elucidation of truth than to " polemical discussion.”

In his letter, J. S. G. remarks, “I do not presume to address myself to any other case than that of young men ;' and he proposes to this class that they should limit their course of study to one subject only; but he does not seem to have reflected that in suggesting such a scheme, though he is addressing himself only to young men, yet he is, virtually, influencing the character of those of riper years also. Habit has such an inveterate power over the human mind, that if a young man pursues for several years one particular manner of study, the probability is, that when he becomes an old man, if he studies at all, he will continue to do so in the same way. . We would therefore ask, could not the natural tendency in youth to desultory habits be corrected in some other manner than that proposed by your correspondent ?

J. S. G. takes up a youth at seventeen ; let us first go back to an earlier period, that of childhood, when the mind is just opening, and is at least as vagrant and as difficult to fix upon one point as it can subsequently become. What is our mode of action, and how do we help to develop that child's faculties ? by endeavouring, surely, to give him a good groundwork of general information. We do not tie one child down to classics, another to arithmetic ; for we should at once see the absurdity of such a course. By proper variety we avoid wearying our pupil, while we plant in his mind a wish for further knowledge. Why should this plan be entirely discontinued, when we come to consider the education of children of older growth ?

Because, says J. S. G., we wish to correct their desultory habits. Perhaps, however, this might be accomplished in a manner more advantageous to the young man's general tone of mind. Desultory habits are the fault of youth, but there is another equally dangerous, and equally to be guarded against-exaggeration,—the imagination being triumphant over the reason. Now, by continually directing the attention of a youth to one objèct, we foster this danger. What our minds are ever intent upon assumes an undue importance in our eyes : we have so long looked at “one planet,” that we scarcely recognize the existence of the myriad suns beyond,—the one subject we have chosen assuming, to our imagination, an undue importance over all others.

Is there no other mode, then, in which we may correct these desultory habits ? May it not be done by instilling, in early youth, the habit of real attention in whatever occupation we are engaged ?

I would again repeat the phrase, that varied reading is by no means synonymous with careless reading. J. S. G. remarks on this sentence, “ I think that this point in the question, being the point at issue, should not have been dismissed by M. E. C. in a single clause of an affirmative

sentence. It looks to me like an undoubted petitio principii.” To avoid this, I will endeavour to explain what I understand by the words careless and varied. By careless reading, I mean reading without care and attention ; and it is the exact contrary to attentive reading, when the whole energies of the mind are absorbed in the work which we are studying ; our whole attention is fixed upon it, and we are endeavouring, as fact after fact is brought before us, to lay them side by side in the storehouse of our memory. By varied reading, of course I mean reading not confined to one particular subject. Now, I think it will be evident, that the term careless thus employed refers to the way, and not to the subject of reading, and that it is quite as possible to read carelessly on one topic as on many.

J. S. G. speaks of the astonishment and confusion produced in a youth's mind by an invitation to a correlative and simultaneous study of Chemistry, Political Economy, History, Moral Philosophy, Algebra, Arithmetic, and what not. Perhaps this is scarcely a fair view of the case : it is quite as possible to carry the theory of education which I have attempted to advocate too far in one direction, as, I venture to suggest, has been done on the other side. I would not attempt all these subjects at once, and yet they might each eventually have their fair share of our attention. Or, if our intellect, our time, or our opportunities, do not allow us to embrace all, we may at least hope to gain a rational acquaintance with a considerable number of them, if we really try, and set our heart upon success.

A certain amount of simultaneous study, too, may probably be admitted with advantage. . Suppose the student to take up the history of his own country, why should be not, as a relaxation to his mind, interest himself also in the study of chemistry? One subject will relieve the other, and yet facts so collected in his mind from the two studies will not be of a character to interfere with each other. This would not have been the case if, while he studied the History of England one portion of the day, he had turned his attention a few hours later to the History of France, Germany, or Italy. The facts here would be of so similar a nature that they would clash in his mind, and confusion would be the result. So with chemistry: he can take up conjointly with it the study of language, mathematics, or metaphysics, better than he could the laws of another science, strictly so called, because confusion would again ensue. But it does not follow from this, that when he has made himself master of English history, he should not then commence that of France ; or that when he has learned the grand laws on which the science of chemistry is founded; he should not then turn his attention to other sciences.

It is asked whether the stocking-weaver is “a less or more intelligent man for his dogged pursuit of one of the out-door sciences, Botany, Entomology, or the like ?" Certainly he is far more intelligent than the being whose whole thoughts and energies are devoted to his trade ; but would he have been a less intelligent man if he had added to the study of botany that of any other subject to which his necessarily limited means gave him access ? Of course it will often happen, that a man in such a position has so little time at his disposal that he cannot pursue a varied course of study. This is his misfortune, but no reason why others, who are more favourably situated, should narrow their studies in the manner which he is compelled, by circumstances, to do himself.

Shallowness and superficiality cannot, of course, be combated too strongly ; but I would do so rather by inculcating habits of attention and comparison than by exclusiveness. Perhaps, however, the points at which we aim are somewhat different, and therefore the paths we pursue will be different also. The author of “ Disciplina Rediviva” treating mainly on “ the strengthening and culture of the faculties ;” whilst our own thoughts are turned rather to such a " laying out of life studies” as will most promote the general enlargement of the mind.

But one other point appears to demand our attention in your correspondent's letter; namely, where he remarks that the concluding paragraphs of my preceding one go far towards conceding the point for which he contends; those paragraphs referring to the danger of overtasking the youthful brain. The idea there intended to be conveyed was a warning against extremes, and mistaking confusion for information ; but as I have already touched upon this point in an earlier portion of my letter, perhaps it is unnecessary to enlarge upon it here.--I remain, Sir, yours truly,

M. E. C.


TO THE EDITOR OF THE ENGLISH JOURNAL OF EDUCATION. SIR,—On the principle of securing “the right men in the right places”, and not having "the square men in round holes, and the round men in the square holes”, I would say a few words on an important point.

Many clergymen are obliged to “take pupils” in order to support their families; this is a serious hindrance to the proper discharge of the duties of a large parish. In our union workhouses, there is an important and interesting class of persons—especially in the schools—which is commonly placed under the care of a chaplain who is also the curate of the parish, or of some adjacent parish, and who (of course) makes the union duty a secondary thing.

Now I venture to suggest that for a clergyman who takes pupils, the duties of chaplain of a union workhouse (as his sole ministerial charge) would often be found far more convenient than parochial duty ?

The “union ” is generally situated in a large market-town--accessible to people from different parts of the country. And the chaplain can usually fix his own times for attending at the union, and is not so liable to interruption as a parish pastor is. And if the union be his sole ministerial charge, he will carry a freshness and vigour into his work there, (being a kind of relaxation from his educational duties at home,) which can scarcely be expected from the hard-worked curate of a large parish, who devotes the á fag-end of his time” to the union. There are constant advertisements for union chaplains ; the stipend being £50, £60, or £70, when there is only one Sunday service. As the chaplain can arrange his own time for service (within certain limits), so he might by “ occasional Sunday duty” for other clergymen often obtain £30 or £50 more. And thus we might find “right places” for the educational clergy, and also bring an efficient class of chaplains to influence the rising generation of our pauper population. Yours truly

A CHAPLAIN. December 4., 1855.

LITERARY STYLE AND COMPOSITION. THE giant activity of the present day is one of its most characteristic

features. In science, arts, and manufactures, the progress is ever onward, onward still ; one discovery gives birth to another, one improvement leads the way for its successor. We proceed not on our course with the slow and faltering steps of our ancestors, but with the speed, though unfortunately not always the certainty, of our own railway travelling.

The same remarks apply to literature generally. There never was a period when a greater amount of works on all subjects issued yearly from the press ; in all forms, of all characters, from the deepest scientific researches to the most puerile and infantine productions. We are almost overwhelmed with their multiplicity, and yet they continue to pour upon us like an ever-increasing flood. I cannot read even a quarter of the works of the present day, says the despairing student, gazing fearfully on the hopeless catalogue before him. But it is not necessary that he should ; a large proportion of these works are useless, many are injudicious, and, we fear we must add, not a few positively objectionable.

We do not, however, wish that the impulse now given to the literary world should be in any way checked. The minds of all classes call loudly for information ; they will not and they cannot remain in the state of stolid indifference prevalent in former ages. It is to meet this increasing demand for knowledge that the abundant literature of the present day above referred to has been produced. We are very far from objecting to its amount, but we will venture to say a few words as to its character; and in this we shall be greatly assisted by the able work of M. Antonin Roche, “ Du Style et de la Composition Littéraire,”* a work greatly needed in the present day, and a counterpart to which we should gladly see in our own language.

If it is asked, How should we write? we would reply by inquiring first, What is the object of the writer? Is it to convey an amount of knowledge he has himself acquired to the mind of his reader ? Is it merely to show off his own possession of such knowledge ? Or, finally, is it in the view of making a pecuniary profit by such a labour ? We ask these questions because the character of the book will necessarily depend upon their answer.

If the object is profit, the work will of course be made as agreeable as possible ; every aid that illustration and adventitious ornament can give will be eagerly sought for ; but the production will be, in its nature, ephemeral, and will probably pass out of sight and memory in a few years. Of the style and composition of such works we have, therefore, nothing to say ; they belong strictly to the craft of book-making, and must be left to the paid book-maker.

Of the second class of authors—those who write for the display of their own knowledge—we have also little to say. Their works may be clever ; but you meet the writer himself at every turn, and his style becomes nearly as offensive, from its conceit, as the manner of these individuals usually is in private society. Let us, therefore, here turn

* Du Style et de la Composition Littéraire, par Antonin Roche. Pp. 243. Paris : Jules Delalain, Rue de Sorbonne. London: Longman & Co.

« AnteriorContinuar »