Page images
PDF
EPUB

1851.]

Effects on the English Character.

21

discipline of her schools. She has a name among the nations for the love of liberty in union with law. This may proceed in a degree from the restraints of a prescribed course of abstract study, united with the generous influences of the classical page. England is eminent for wisdom in action-for practical good sense. May not this be ascribed in part to the effects of mathematical and classical study in imparting symmetry to the views, in preserving the mind from bias and one-sided tendencies, and in fitting it to meet the real exigencies of life?

But this point is so important that we may be allowed to specify some particulars. The English people of the upper and middle clas ses are characterized for sobriety of judgment, by a native common sense, by a steady and not unworthy opposition to change, by a reverential and loving reliance on the past, sometimes, indeed, excessive, but generally in beautiful contrast with the course of their restless continental neighbors. As a leading cause of this characteristic, we may refer to the influence of the universities. There stand those old seats of learning, the very embodiment of past generations. In the whirl of the present, how soothing to look on their time-worn pinnacles, to walk beneath their moss-covered arches, to wander along the aisles which were once trodden by Bacon and Newton! Amid the buoyancy of youth and the excitements of the times, nothing could be more wholesome than to live under these awful shadows of the past. Entirely coincident is the effect of the studies themselves. The scholar lives among the great minds of antiquity, shedding upon him a serene and never-setting light. His daily tasks conduct him to the profound reflections of Thucydides, and the unchanging truths which shine forth from many of the pages of Aristotle. Or he is contemplating the beautiful truths that lie couched in lines and numbers, those immutable "ordinances of heaven." He is refining his sensibilities and his taste among the wondrous creations of ancient literature, or disciplining his reason in the fields of absolute truth.

Again, the English upper class, taken as a body, and many in the middle, are distinguished for an admirable culture, for manners so simple and graceful, that they seem to be inherited, not acquired, attractive, because they are the expression of a native courtesy and real friendliness. It is not the growth of a day; it is not the patronizing courtesy or intolerable assumptions of a class that have just risen from obscurity. It is the product of ages of refinement. It is the growth of a civilization more perfect than the world has elsewhere seen. We cannot but attribute it in part to the university system, to the

proprieties and decencies of the life that is led there, to the intercourse of the young with their accomplished seniors, to the refining and tasteful local associations, and to the congenial influences which come from the studies of the historians and poets of Greece and Rome. These influences may be indirect and imperceptible; but thoughts so beautiful, clothed in forms of such exquisite grace, as are found for example in the Greek tragedians, must form no small element in the culture to which we refer. Through a thousand avenues they enter and pervade the susceptible hearts of the young.

Furthermore, the university system counteracts and neutralizes in a measure the great tendency of the English mind to that which is immediately practical and useful. Oxford and Cambridge have cast up mighty barriers against an intensely avaricious spirit. They are public, standing monuments of the worth of mind. They are constantly uttering their silent yet intelligible protest against that exclusive spirit which would test all things by their weight and measure. England is absorbingly commercial and manufacturing. The acquisition of riches, the eager pursuit of material advantages are her besetting sin. But a liberal education affords some counterweight. The truths of geometry have a close relationship with the loftiest conceptions which can fill the human soul. In the language of Playfair, "the reason of Newton and Galileo took a sublimer flight than the fancy of Milton and Ariosto." Classical studies, too, are eminently humane. Well were they styled the "humanities," from their enlarging, unselfish influences. They have no special affinities with what are called "the material interests." They lead to the cultivation of tastes, which throw a charm over the dealings of trade, lighten the heart of the banker, and lead the mechanic and the land-owner to cherish enlightened views and perform philanthropic deeds. "It is delightful," says Mr. Talfourd, "to see the influences of classical learning not fading upwards, but penetrating downwards, and masses of people rejoicing to recognize even from afar the skirts of its glory." In further illustration of the utility of the university system, it may be mentioned, that a large number of those who leave the universities, enter upon the study of the law, or into political life in Parliament. Now, what both these classes preeminently need, is mental discipline, not knowledge, not the facts of science, not the details of statistics, but the power of working with the mind, of fixing the attention often on the most arid subjects, of grasping the great points of a question, of disentangling a net-work of inconsistencies, of laying bare sophistical plausibilities, and of bringing at once the whole force of

1851.]

Particular Illustrations.

23

the intellect on the citadel that is to be carried. The late Mr. Buxton owed his usefulness, under God, to his exact and finished training at Trinity College, Dublin. He triumphed in parliament, not simply on account of the justice of his cause, or the strength of his feelings, or the accuracy and thoroughness of his information, but because he could grasp, and digest in a masterly manner, and luminously expound whatever he undertook. While gaining the prizes in college, he was fitting himself to be the champion of Africa.

The preceding considerations might be abundantly confirmed by the detail of particular cases. It has been constantly asserted and reiterated, that the most eminent public men in England, in every art and science, have not been educated at the public schools, and that the universities contribute but a little to the science and intellectual progress of England. Let us test this remark by a few decisive in

Francis Bacon entered the university of Cambridge in his thirteenth year, "where he made astonishing progress in all the sciences taught there." Isaac Barrow, whom the king called "the best scholar in England," spent nearly one half of his life in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Just after, "within the walls of Cambridge," in the language of Professor Huber, of Marburg, "were found the two men, Newton and Bentley, who, in the promotion of science and of classical criticism, became the leaders, not of England only, but, in the first instance at least, of all Europe." Newton would probably have lived and died as the overseer of his mother's farm, if his attention had not been accidentally, or rather providentially, directed to Cambridge. Locke's philosophy, pervading the college lectures at Cambridge, paved the way for Newton's agency, and prepared the academic soil and atmosphere for it. Locke himself was educated at Westminster School, whence he was elected, in 1751, to Christ Church College, Oxford. "Here he distinguished himself much by his application and proficiency." John Milton was removed from St. Paul's school, London, to Christ's College, Cambridge, where he "distinguished himself by the purity and elegance of his Latin versification." Joseph Addison spent six years in Oxford, and gained distinction by writing Latin verses. Lord Mansfield was educated at Westminster. Blackstone went from a public school to Oxford, and was fellow of a college when he wrote his Commen→ "William Pitt's stay at college was unusually long, nor did he leave it until his mind was as perfectly formed as it could be by theory." His knowledge was not confined to the classics, though with these he was conversant. The more severe pursuits of Cambridge

had imparted some acquaintance with the stricter sciences. Mr. Fox was highly distinguished at Eton by his Latin and Greek poetry. "Like Mr. Canning, Lord Carlisle and Lord Grenville," says Mr. Brougham, "Lord Holland laid both at school and college a broad foundation of classical learning, which through his after life he never ceased successfully to cultivate." The Marquis Wellesley was pronounced by the master of Eton to be superior as a classical scholar to Porson. He continued these studies with great success at Oxford. Mr. Wilberforce's "natural talents were cultivated and his taste refined by all the resources of a complete Cambridge education." At Eton, Mr. Canning became distinguished for the elegance of his English and Latin poetry, as well as for the easy flow and propriety of diction which distinguished his pure compositions. At Christ Church, Oxford, he increased his high literary reputation and gained several prizes.

It were easy greatly to enlarge this list from the most illustrious names in England, both from among the dead and the living. The bishop of London, who has been said to be the best living Greek scholar in England, was greatly distinguished at Cambridge, and obtained several prizes. The same is true of a large number of the most eminent mathematicians, natural philosophers, orators, statesmen, classical scholars, etc., now living in England, e. g. Mr. Airy, astronomer royal; Dr. Peacock, author of the algebra, etc.; Mr. Melvill, the eloquent preacher; Prof. Sedgwick and Dr. Buckland, the geologists; Judges Coleridge and Talfourd; Archbishop Whateley; Sir John F. W. Herschell, in the highest rank in college; Bishop Thirlwall, the historian; Mr. Macaulay, who carried off a number of prizes; Prof. Challis, the astronomer; Mr. Adams, who is fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, several members of which college have established an Adams prize "in testimony of their sense of the honor he had conferred on his college and the university, by having been the first among the mathematicians of Europe to determine from perturbations the unknown place of a disturbing planet exterior to Saturn." This list, however, we need not extend. A very large proportion of the ablest men in almost every department of public life, who honor the British name, were educated at the public schools and universities. But, as it has been well said, a chief advantage and excellence of the public schools and universities consists in form. ing the secondary men, who carry a cultivated taste, a liberal and manly understanding and a mild intelligence into all the retired walks of life. We will close these observations by referring to the testi

1851.]

Review of Woods's Theology.

25

mony of the late Dr. Arnold, which is particularly valuable from the fact of the independence of his character, and the favor with which he regarded reforms: "My own belief is, that our colleges of Oxford and Cambridge are, with all their faults, the best institutions of the kind in the world, at least for Englishmen."

We may recur, on a future occasion, to some other points connected with this subject.

ARTICLE II.

REVIEW OF DR. WOODS'S WORKS.

By Heman Humphrey, D. D., Pittsfield, Mass.

The Works of Leonard Woods, D. D., late Professor of Christian

Theology, Andover; in five volumes.
Flagg & W. H. Wardwell. 1850.

Andover: Printed by J. D.

DR. WOODS is a theologian of the old, or Edwardean school, owning but "one Master, even Christ;" and few if any of his contemporaries, on either side of the Atlantic, have contended more earnestly or ably "for the faith, once delivered to the saints." Amid the fluctuations of the age, he has never swerved from the primitive New England orthodoxy-the exponent of which, is the Assembly's Shorter Catechism.

The structure of Dr. Woods's mind is eminently conservative. It has no elective affinity for new and startling theories, of any kind. He chooses to walk in the beaten path "of the Apostles and Proph ets," heedless of beckonings, however plausible and captivating, on the right hand or the left. Some have thought him quite too slow and cautious, for an age of progress, which outstrips everything but the lightning. But, if he has not "kept fully up with the times," he has adhered closely to the Bible, and his manifest aim has been, to "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good." Old men should be allowed to abide by the old landmarks, and leave it to those, who with better critical and exegetical helps are coming after, to extend the boundaries of theological science, if they can, within the "charter." We are just now under such rapid head way, that it needs some strong VOL. VIII. No. 29.

3

« PreviousContinue »