Page images
PDF
EPUB

verb ever transitive? We do not mean by this question to imply that it is not, but the preposition ảvá justifies us in raising the question, and at least asking for the proof. On examining the passage referred to in Herodotus, the word is found four times, and in no one of them is it used with an accusative, expressed or understood. Now, this error could not have occurred, had the field of inquiry been properly narrowed in the lexicographer's mind, by a thorough understanding of the force of the preposition ává. Such a knowledge would have thrown the presumption on the negative side of the question, and would at least bave saved him from quoting this passage as proof of the affirmative.

But the evil of a defective method, beginning with the lexicographer, goes on annoying and hindering the learner through his whole course ; and the result is, that his knowledge at last is only formal knowledge, and not real. A Greek word in his mind is only a translation of an English word ; not a description of some action or thing which he can see about him. As the reading of history is comparatively useless, until, penetrating through all disguises, we find ourselves in the Romans, Greeks, or Persians of the story ; so the study of a language does but little good, if the student fails to find under its strange costume his own thoughts, feelings, and experience. Then the costume is no longer strange ; he has made it his own. It is in this way of learning a new language, that he becomes twice a man.

Art. V. The Miscellaneous Works and Remains of the

Rev. Robert Hall, with a Memoir of his Life, by OLINTHUS GREGORY, LL. D; and a Critical Estimate of his character and Writings, by John Foster, Author of Essays on Decision of Character, &c. London: Henry G. Bohn. 1846. 16mo. pp. 572.

There is no phenomenon, in which the usual law of cause and effect seems more utterly set aside, than in the large number of English dissenting divines, who have occupied the same intellectual level with their contemporaries of the national church. There has been, since the birth of Puritanism, no generation, which could not exhibit at least as many eminent thinkers, scholars, preachers, and authors, out of the Establishment, as within its pale ; and in numerous instances, the single great men of the age in their respective departments have been dissenters. We could afford the loss of no work appertaining to the evidences of Christianity so ill, as that of Lardner's Credibility. In the department of Christian ethics and casuistry, Barrow stands unrivalled among the clergy of the English Church, but seems jejune and puerile, when brought into comparison with Baxter. In devotional poetry, Watts and Doddridge have established a law of taste and a standard of excellence coextensive with the language in which they wrote. John Foster's Essays produced a deeper impression on the British public, and were read with more avidity, than any other book of their day. Robert Hall, in the zenith of his reputation, was generally regarded as the first preacher in Great Britain ; and of the loyal effusions in every part of the kingdom on the death of the Princess Charlotte, his sermon on that event was the only one that enjoyed more than an ephemeral fanie. Gilbert Wakefield, educated, indeed, for the established church, but forsaking the vantage-ground which it gave him at the early age of twenty-three, performed more valuable services for classical literature than we owe to any other scholar of his nation; while Priestley, the dissenter and heretic, in addition to high theological and professional eminence, attained the first rank among the experimental philosophers of his day. Yet the intellectual disabilities and privations attached to non-conformity would seem of themselves sufficient to preclude all competition on the part of dissenters with the adherents of the Church, and to confine them hopelessly within a subaltern rank of attainments and achievements. Shut out of the universities, excluded from the use of all the principal libraries in the kingdom, set aside from the opportunity of preferment and patronage, always obliged to win with slender aid and contracted sympathy a higher place than is readily accorded them, and, when educated in the Church, and renouncing conformity for conscience' sake, obliged to cast away props and helps to which they have grown accustomed, they are not unaptly typified by the Israelites, who elaborated their full tale of bricks without the accustomed Supply of straw.

The dissenting divines have been for the most part educated in provincial academies, immeasurably inferior in endowments and the apparatus of instruction to the great schools of Eton, Westminster, Harrow, and Rugby, superintended each by two or three hard-working and poorly paid instructers, often pastors as well as teachers, and carrying their pupils through a classical and a theological course in a period of time inadequate for either. But the dissenters have breathed an atmosphere of freedom. They have been nurtured in self-trust and self-dependence. They have not been trammelled by obsolete formalisms or arbitrary prescriptions. They have not bent beneath the crushing tyranny of the past. If they have failed of patronage, they have not paid its inevitable price. If they have lost the shelter of university halls and libraries, they have not been dwarfed under their shadow. On the other hand, the normal education of the English mind has borne a strong analogy to the antique style of horticulture. Its shoots have been clipped, trained into espaliers, twisted into quaint and fantastic forms, forced into lateral expansion instead of being left to seek the open sky, artificially stimulated into flowerless foliage and fruitless flowers. Cambridge and Oxford have produced more learning than wisdom, and nurtured more pedantry than genius ; and, while they have presented unparalleled opportunities for the highest and freest mental culture, their inAuences have been such as to cherish mere barren scholarship rather than reproductive energy of mind. Then, again, the very fact that the young churchman finds himself exempted, or rather prohibited, from all investigation on the highest subjects of thought, and held back from all aggressive movements in the direction where curiosity ought to be the most active, must account for the prevalence within the pale of the Establishment of a quiescent state of mind as to all departments of truth, for the resolute clinging to the past in matters of science, literature, and criticism, and for the step or two in the rear of Continental Europe at which England has loved to linger.

With the liberty, which has invigorated the leading minds among the English dissenters, it cannot be denied that they have incurred some strongly marked inconveniences and disadvantages, where their early creed has been such as to exclude them from the universities. One of the most annoying features in the intellectual life of the man who has not had a public education is the difficulty that he finds in determining his own relative position and comparative attaininents. He lacks the standard of self-judgment. He may have acquired on any given subjet all the erudition and the mental discipline which he would have gained on the beaten track ; but he must often feel a painful doubt whether this is the case. The question will constantly rise to his mind, — " Is there not, in this branch of learning, some process of training or some source of instruction open to others, which has been hidden from me ? Have I at my command all the resources that others have ?" This doubt often renders one diffident in the expression of opinion, where he has a right to speak with confidence and authority, and keeps a truly profound scholar or thinker back in the shadow of those greatly bis inferiors, who have passed mechanically through the prescribed forms of culture.

There is another unfortunate tendency, which may often be traced in those who have failed to enjoy the advantages of a public education. They are very apt to regard as exclusively their own, and thus to announce oracularly and dogmatically, thoughts, reasonings, and theories which they have wrought out suo Marte, but which are the common property of colleges and universities, are embodied in textbooks, and seem trite to those who have passed over the worn threshold of the temple of knowledge. An humble and modest man may thus often appear a pedant. He promulgates essential truths, which, if new, should be proclaimed with a flourish of trumpets far louder than his timid heralding, but which lie as axioms in the minds of his hearers or readers.

Both these tendencies are strikingly illustrated in the life and writings of John Foster, and present themselves prominently to our notice in his recently published correspondence. He, though not held back by false modesty, and endowed with an almost unprecedented power of regarding himself objectively and dispassionately, seems to have been constantly perplexed in the attempt to ascertain his true place and relations in the literary republic. Educated in the paltry Baptist Academy at Bristol, familiarly associating from his youth with people of a very narrow range of intellect, he lived in almost entire isolation and solitary self-consciousness,

until his unexpected success as an author disclosed to him a dim, and to the last a feebly credited, glimpse of his own acumen and ability, in which he never acquired a prospective confidence sufficient to give him alacrity for the labor of the pen.

We are constantly reminded, also, of the leanness of his early culture, in bis frequent enunciation of truisms, as if they had never suggested themselves to any other mind, and in his late solution of many questions, doubts, and difficulties, which under better auspices would have been 'settled in his very boy hood.

All this, we were going to say, and to express therewith our surprise at the entire freedom of Robert Hall from these marks of bis Bristol nurture ; when, on looking again at his biography, we were reminded that he completed his education by a full course at the University of Aberdeen, where he commenced his life-long intimacy with Sir James Mackintosh, and other young men of superior endowments and promise, with whom he entered at once into the most healthful and friendly communion and competition of intellect. This fact adds new point to our homily on university education, which we are the more solicitous to put on record, on account of the growing disposition of young men in our own community to enter the learned professions (so called), with imperfect preliminary training. A New England college education certainly furnishes a sufficiently small amount of classical and general learning, to serve, in the lowest utilitarian view, as a basis for a professional course, especially as few, after entering upon active life, find or make the time to supply early deficiencies. Young men of only ordinary abilities need all that a college can do for them to make them respectable divines, lawyers, and physicians, to keep them from the rustiness and coarseness that are apt to gather upon a life of mere routine, and to give them the refinement of manners and character necessary to maintain their true place in society. And those, whose native powers can raise them above mediocrity, by hastening prematurely into a professional career, will only work their slow, dim, and circuitous way to an eminence, which, by more thorough training, they might easily and promptly attain, and will always exhibit marks of an irregular and disproportioned intellectual growth. We wish that our colleges would take this matter in hand, would exclude from their professional schools all except

« PreviousContinue »