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vocabulary of an ordinary English citizen, who reads his newspaper and books from Mudie's, does not extend beyond 3000 or 4000 words; that accurate thinkers and persons of wide knowledge probably use twice as many; that the Old Testament contains 5642 different words; that in all Milton's works you will find only about 8000; and that Shakespeare, who displayed a greater variety of expression than probably any writer in any language, produced all his plays with 15,000 words. And at the same time he tells us that an uneducated English peasant lives and dies with a vocabulary which scarcely extends beyond 300 words. You cannot reflect on a statement like this, and on all that it implies, without feeling convinced that all investigations into the growth of language, its structure, its history, and the philosophy and reason of its grammatical rules, must have an important bearing on the culture of the understanding, and be very fruitful both of useful knowledge and of mental exercise. It is a shallow thing to say that what the human being wants is a knowledge of things, and not words. Words are things; they embody facts. He who studies them is studying much more than sounds and letters. He is gaining an insight into the heart and reality of the things they represent. Let a battle-field or a storm at sea be viewed by a painter, by a poet, by a sailor, and by an ordinary observer ;-or say, by a Frenchman and an Englishman. It will be described differently by them all. But he who understands the language of them all, sees it, so to speak, with several pairs of eyes. And he is the richer, and his mind is the larger in consequence.
Some such reasons as these no doubt underlie the very general assumption that a sound and liberal education should pay special regard to the study of language. And we in England have to deal with this practical question in three distinct forms. We teach (1) the languages of Greece and Rome, which are familiarly called the classic languages; (2) some of the languages of modern Europe; and (3) our own vernacular speech. We shall do well to take this opportunity of noting the special reasons which justify each of these kinds of teaching. On examination we shall find that in each we have a very different object in view. There is, however, a sense in which all are alike valuable, and in which their study may be justified on the general grounds
already indicated. Latin and But as we all know, the linguistic and philological Greek.
culture to which ost value has been attached is that
The books best worth reading in the world were written in those languages. If one wanted to see the best models of history,
there were Thucydides and Livy; if he would know what dramatic art could be at its highest, he must read Sophocles and Euripides, or Plautus and Terence. If he would learn geometry, there was Euclid ; rhetoric, he must ad it in Quintilian or Aristotle ; moral philosophy, in Plato or Cicero. “I expect ye,” wrote Sir Matthew Hale to his grandchildren, “to be good proficients in the Latin tongue, that ye may be able to read, understand, and construe any Latin author, and to make true and handsome Latin ; and though I would have you learn something of Greek, yet the Latin tongue is that which I most value, because all learning is ever made in that language.” Modern literature was only just emerging into life, after the long darkness of the middle ages; and a certain flavour of barbarism and rudeness was held to belong to it. Chaucer and Dante had written, but it would not have occurred to any scholar of the sixteenth century to suppose that their books would repay critical analysis in the same sense as Homer or Ovid. Nearly all the literary wealth of the world, as it then was, was embodied in the language of Greece or that of ancient Rome.
Another reason for studying these languages was Their that they were the only languages whose grammar had grammar, been formulated and reduced to a system. Each of these languages was nearly homogeneous, with very few foreign ingredients. Each possessed an elaborate system of inflections and grammatical forms; and each had become a dead language—had ceased to be spoken popularly, and therefore to be subject to the sort of corruption which goes on in the case of a tongue freely used by an unlearned people. Both languages therefore presented examples of organized and philosophic grammar, and a fixed literature, in which the laws of
grammatical structure were well exemplified and could be easily studied. On the other hand the languages of modern Europe were heterogeneous, full of anomalies, subject to phonetic decay, and in a constant state of fluctuation. No attemp had been made to fix their forms, to find out what grammatical laws were still recognizable in them, and they therefore offered little
attraction or advantage to the student of language. Purposes And besides all this, Latin, though a dead language once by Latin. for ordinary colloquial purposes, was an eminently living
and vigorous language for many of the purposes recognized by a scholar. It had been accepted as the universal language of the Western Church. It was the common medium of communication among the ecclesiastics and among the scholars of Europe. Not only Bede and the earlier chroniclers, but Sir T. More, Buchanan, Bacon, Hobbes, Milton, and Newton found Latin the most appropriate channel for communicating their thoughts both to foreign scholars and to the educated of
their own countrymen. No longer
It is manifest that some of these reasons have either served.
ceased to exist altogether, or have receded very much as to their relative importance. It cannot now be said that all the wisest and fairest productions of the human intellect are to be found in the Greek and Latin languages. A rich modern literature has sprung up. Many entirely new studies have come into existence. There is the science of historic criticism; there are new developments of mathematical science; there is the whole of the wonderful field of physical investigation; the modern languages, including our own, have become the subjects of philological and critical enquiry; and meanwhile the duration of human life has not been materially extended. It is evident, when we compare the books which are worth Past and present uses of Latin.
reading, and the subjects which can be studied to-day, with the books and the knowledge which were accessible in the days of Elizabeth, that the place occupied by Greek and Latin literature, however honourable, is relatively far less important than it was. This is now recognized by the ancient Universities themselves. The institution of the Law and Modern History schools at Oxford, and of the Natural Science Tripos and the Moral Science Tripos at Cambridge, are practical admissions that the word learning' must be extended in its meaning; and that e.g an accomplished student of Natural Science, who knows little or no Greek, is as much entitled to rank as a scholar and to receive honourable recognition from the University, as a good Greek scholar who knows little or nothing of Natural Science.
And it is important also to remember that Latin has Latin no ceased to serve the purpose it once fulfilled of a common
means of medium of communication among scholars. A modern communiNewton would not write his Principia in Latin. Our
between Sovereigns have no longer, as Cromwell had, a Latin secre- learned tary. Nor would any contemporary of ours who wished to vindicate the political action of the English people in the eyes of foreign nations carry on a controversy in the language employed by Milton and Salmasius. The Or to any occasions on which any educated Englishman, who is great ex:
tent an innot a College tutor, or who does not take up learning strument of as a profession, is called on to write in Latin are ex
thought. ceedingly rare. Few even of the most scholarly men in England are accustomed to think in Latin, or to use it often as a vehicle for expression. They read Latin books with more or less ease; they catch the flavour of the Augustan literature and the spirit of the Roman world, but the language which Tully and Horace spoke is no longer to them an instrument of thought.