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tigation of a subject after it has been decided on, or of in any way discouraging the fullest possible study. For a second great fault in college critics is a indisposition to make such a study, to consider the subject iņ all its bearings, and everything bearing on it. The persistent, rigorous, laborious studying and thinking out of a subject is much neglected, partly from a mistaken idea that sympathetic criticism, which we all wish to be able to do, does not require work, partly from pure laziness. Like all amateurs we college men are apt to half do our work. It ought to be remembered that careful study and thought are the first essentials necessary for good matter and good manners. If men always did this careful work, there would be no danger of their taking, as they often do, subjects too far-reaching for thorough treatment by them.
Again in the writing of the essay, after it has been thought out in a way which promises a good piece of work, many men fail. They fail most often not by being grandiose and verbose, for college writing has of late years happily been less marked by these qualities, once proverbially characteristic of it, but by being somewhat dictatorial and cocksure, and again by being too solemn and
The omniscient way of some college writers is often, it is true, not at all an expression of the corresponding feeling, but is simply an accident or a carelessness of style. However, it is just as much to be avoided, whatever its cause. It is well for us very young men to remember that our opinions, though they may seem not half bad to us, are likely to be one-sided or totally incorrect, and will not be regarded as very important anyway, and that it is becoming that they should be expressed in a retiring manner.
But a greater and more common fault than this is the exceeding solemnity of much college criticism. If men would but write naturally, write more as they talk, about their authors, their writing would be immeasurably improved. It is well here also for us to remember that our deliverances upon literary subjects are not anxiously awaited or reverentially looked up to, and that we might
as well speak out our own opinions in our own fashion, without pretentiousness or affectation. But this manner of writing does not by any means imply superficiality or flimsiness of thought. It is quite possible to have a completely and sympathetically thought-out conception of an idea or a man, and yet to be natural in expression. Indeed a man who has a thorough and familiar acquaintance with his thought is more likely to be familiar and easy in its expression.
There is another fault of style which is seen in college criticism not so often as these other two, but which when it does occur, is almost as bad. This is a mildness, amounting often to dullness, resulting from excessive re-writing and refinement, which destroys the native vigor of the thought. Pieces which are rude but forcible are commonly more readable than those which are polished into tame perfection. This is indeed a fault not often seen. The tendency is generally the other way. But when it does occur, it is usually in the work of men of more than ordinary ability and ambition, and so is doubly harmful.
We have thus attempted to point out some of the principal and most obvious faults of college criticism, not for the sake of giving advice, but for the sake of thus proving that criticism has a place in college writing. For though these faults are indeed serious in their effect on the writing, they appear less serious when it is considered that in the case of the tasteful, thoughtful, persistent man they can be remedied. Proof of the fact that they can be remedied, as well as proof that there are men of good ability who have not remedied them in themselves, is often seen in college writing, spoken and published. If they can be and are remedied to a reasonable extent, so that criticism of some merit is produced, criticism certainly has a place in college writing, for in a place of training like a college, merit is a sufficient excuse for the existence of writing of any class.
But however good it may be, its place exists for the most part not because of any value it may have as literature. To be sure, it is not infrequently interesting and
sometimes suggestive and usesul to its readers. There is no reason why it should not be if the writer has reasonable ability, for the thought of young men, from the freshness with which impressions come into their minds, has sometimes an unusual and very pleasant life and newness of appreciation.
But the value of college criticism is not so much in this way. If it has merit enough to give it a reason for existence, its value will be more in the gifts which the writers receive from the labor necessary to produce writing of merit, in increase of literary knowledge and training of thought and expression, and in its helping through its effects on them and the influence which their example exerts for the growth of literary interest toward that end for which we all are or ought to be striving—the improvement of what is called in those familiar words of venerable antiquity “the average literary culture of the University.”
Robert H. Nichols.
Calmly, serenely gleam the stars to night
Over the swaying city's sin-tossed streets ;
Above, the eye enraptured gently greets
And here below man's heart, earth-settered, beats
Unsleeping through these star-lit hours, and meets
Yet, in those silent worlds may there not be
See not our world-worn hearts ? upon whose sight
Burton /. Hendrick.
Deforest Prize Oration :
JOSEPH ERNEST RENAN.
By WINTHROP EDWARDS Dwight, of New Haven.
teresting figure than that of Ernest Renan. It seems such an odd irony of fate by which a man born in an atmosphere of sentiment and devoutness, and trained in the quiet cloisters of religious houses, should be chosen for the part of skeptic on the modern stage. The estimate which the future will make of the man, and of the character and value of the part he played in modern thought, will be equally removed from the acrid criticisms of pious clergy thirty years ago, and from the eulogies of his personal friends at his death less than a year since. But whatever this estimate is, it can only be just, as it takes into account the story of his early life which he told himself, in his later years, with all the charm of complete sincerity.
Renan's birthplace, the quaint province of Brittany, is the last home of that unworldly, unpractical, Celtic race, which material progress has banished to this quiet out-ofthe-way corner of the earth. On that lonely coast is still kept much of the genuine spirit of the Arthurian stories and of the legends of St. Brandan and of the Holy Grail. The very breath of the spirit of the Celt is idealism. It is in his deepest nature, the yearning after and pursuit of some ideal, often wild and impossible, but always sought with enthusiasm and consecration. The quest of the Holy Grail is, in a way, the embodiment of the whole life of the people. Other races have had a far stronger hold upon the things of this world, and have attained its prizes of power and success. But no race has held so strongly, in its weakness, as in its strength, to the reality of an unworldly hope.
In such surroundings Renan absorbed sentiment and idealism, as a child, with the very atmosphere of the place,
with his love for the old mystical legends, and his reverence for the pure and saintly Breton priests. When he left these influences, it was only to seek the home of the deepest and truest Christian learning in the land. It is hard for us to appreciate the unworldly spirituality of this quiet scholar's life in these places. Yet it was in the midst of this that the great change came for him. These years, in fact, tell the story of how the devout and severe study of Christianity left Renan with not enough faith to be a sincere priest, yet inspired him with far too much reverence to play an odious comedy with this most noble of creeds. The time came, at last, when he withdrew his allegiance from the mother church, no longer to be numbered among her sons. For him, henceforth, Science is to be the only guide to life. Yet as he leaves the cloister gates we fancy him lingering a moment in uncertainty. Behind him rises the old church, with all the memories and the deepest feeling of his early life. He stands listening, as he said, to the faint chiming of the church bells, calling to holy offices a worshiper who refuses to hear them. Do what he would, those echoes of his early self kept ringing in his ears, till his skepticism seemed only half-hearted, at times a mere crust of affectation over the deeper nature of the
Renan remained, to the end, an incurable idealist. In all the varied work of his later life he strove to appear as an avowed disbeliever, a philosopher whose confidence is based on science alone. But his old religious nature was too strong for him. He attacked the very foundations of the Christain faith ; but he tried to persuade himself and the world, that he had not attacked the validity of the faith at all. “I believe to have served the cause of religion,” he said, “by carrying it into the region of the inattackable, far above partial dogmas and supernatural beliefs. All definition is limitation. The truths of the spirit are wider than any account of them in human speech.” These sentences contain the essence of Renan's belief. They tell us that what he meant by religion was merely an aspiration after the ideal. He had proved to his own satisfaction that religion was an illusion.