Abbildungen der Seite

lology, by the powerful impulse which they will give to the universal study and improvement of our language, cannot but greatly benefit the cause of true christianity,

In conclusion, we would observe that the difficulty of filling the chair proposed, will be obvious to all who consider the various branches of learning in which the incumbent must be well versed to fit him for his duties,

His professorship will bear the same relation to the other departments in the Faculty of Arts, that the chair of the Theory and Practice does to the other chairs in a Medical College. Anatomy, both healthy and morbid, Physiology, Chemistry, and every other branch of knowledge which is necessary to constitute the well educated physician, are all subservient to the Theory and Practice of Medicine. who would teach the latter with credit to himself and advantage to his pupils, must have mastered all the. other branches, as the knowledge of these is more or less involved in every step of his course. Hence his must ever be the crowning chair of the Institution.

So also is it with the Professor of English Philology. It will be necessary for him not only to have faithfully gone through the usual course of College studies, but to have much further extended his acquaintance with the ancient classics, and to have studied with great care the chief authors in our own. literature, both prose and poetical, from Geoffry Chaucer down to his own times, with the principal critical works upon them from Quintilian to the modern Quintilian, Dr. Campbell of Aberdeen.

Indeed there is no branch of learning which he may not render tributary to his instructions. Nothing would seem, at first sight, farther removed from the subject of Philology than Mathematics, and yet no intelligent reader of the works of that most accomplished writer, Dugald Stewart, can help but be struck with the fact that many of his most clear and admirable illustrations are drawn from the Mathematics. Had he not been quite familiar with the language of the latter, he would oftentimes have been at a loss for words to express himself in discussing the phenomena and laws of the mind. His extensive learning also in the whole field. of moral science, his acquaintance with the principal authors in the natural sciences, and especially his familiarity with our own great poets—have all furnished this able author with a rich treasury not only of appropriate facts, but beautiful imagery, and most impressive illustrations. None but a very ripe scholar can fully appreciate the style, of Dugald Stewart, and the instructer who would conduct others up to the same eminence must emulate his acquisitions. But it is the business of the Professor of English Philology to do this.

Let him, then, make every department of learning tributary to his chair. And, thus, while he is leading his pupils on to that

mastery of English, which alone can enable them most skilfully to communicate their knowledge to others, they cannot help but discover, in the ability of their instructer and in their own growing proficiency, what ought always to be one most important end of the study of the ancient classics, and indeed of' every branch embraced in a College course.

Let it only be generally seen how indispensable are the different parts of a liberal education, and especially the Latin and Greek classics, to thorough attainments in English, and to the further improvement of our noble language ; and all these studies would not only be more faithfully prosecuted, but they would be far more extensively sought after. Multitudes would then come up to our Colleges, who now. suppose that the greater part of the education there acquired, is of little or no practical yalue.






Mr. President and Gentlemen

of the College of Teachers : The subject upon which I am invited to address you, involves so many topics of interest and of importance, that I cannot here attempt more than to draw the attention of your enlightened body to some of the most prominent among them. Should I succeed in this, my object will be gained.

The rapid extension of our commerce and' of our diplomatic relations, the increase of communication between this country and Europe, the high value of foreign literature, and the necessity we are under of seeking in it materials for the pursuit of several useful branches of scientific knowledge, are some of the inducements offered to your consideration for the cultivation of the modern languages.

Reason, enlightened by experience, has decided upon the study of language as an effectual means of disciplining the youthful mind. It gradually calls into active play a number of important faculties. It is an invigorating and healthful mental exercise, promoting habits of close attention and investigation. It requires exertion without overtasking the intellect, and produces a practical knowledge of the general principles of philology. The translation of a phrase from a foreign tongue is required of a child : it is the solution of a problem at once mathematical and intellectual. The searching for and retention of the words exercises his memory, the conception of the phrase, his powers of analogy ;-he is, besides, forced into a critical analysis of the value of the expression he translates—and thus, grappling with the difficulties of two languages at the same time, he almost unconsciously developes the structure and signification of his own in a manner that no precept could possibly do. A facility of thinking too, and a certain quickness of the imagination, are excited by this study-for the activity of the mind is constantly aroused by the exertion of some one of its finest attributes. Thus far for the mere purposes of early education.

Once the grammatical principles of a foreign language acquired; the student is at the entrance of wide realms of learning. He has sown, let him

reap... The riches of other tongues are within his reach. Let him not sit contentedly down with what his own language alone affords him. There are extensive foreign stores of varied erudition and sentiment which it. would profit him not a little to contrast with what his vernacular possesses.

There is in the community a sort of negative declaration of the utility of these studies; judging from the space occupied by their announcement in school and college courses. I say, negative, for although their announcement is an admission of their importance, more time is devoted to the perfect acquisition of some branch of to say the least-doubtful benefit; than 'to a study which enables us to sympathise with the moral, political, and literary action of the European world.

How far any change in the present modes of teaching the modern languages is necessary and compatible with the courses already adopted, the proper method of imparting them, together with many other considerations bearing upon this subject; are matters that would, I respectfully submit, be best presented from a committee. of professional teachers appointed for the purpose.

I proceed to offer a few observations on the situation of our literature.

“The literature of other countries," says Sismondi, “has frequently been adopted by a young nation with a sort of fanatical admiration. The genius of those countries having been so often. placed before it as the perfect model of all greatness and of all beauty, every spontaneous movement has been repressed in order to make room for the most servile imitation, and every rational attempt to develope an original character has been sacrificed to the re-production of something conformable to the model that has always been before its eyes.". These remarks are pointedly applicable to the literature of the United States. It is not necessary here to indicate the model that has always been before our eyesto dwell on the imitation, or to say how far originality, has been sacrificed to the end that something acceptable to the acknowledged prototype might be produced,

[ocr errors]

It was most natural that, to a certain degree, we should fashion our style of composition, and adopt many ideas in arts and in literature, after the models in vogue in the country whence came our : language. But it was not essential—it is not expedient that we should sit exclusively at the feet of English literature, and, watching her changing countenance, smile when she smiles, weep when she weeps, and applaud or condemn all the world besides, as her caprice or interest dictates. And have we not done so ? And is it not true that, as a necessary consequence, we have become morbidly sensitive to all her opinions of us? It was said of Washington Irving that “he gasped for British popularity ;' and it may with justice be said of too many of his countrymen.' It has happened, and more than once, that a really meritorious American work has not succeeded in dragging its slow length through a consumptive first edition, until the sunshine of a London Quarterly imparted it sufficient vigor to reach the end of that, and to rush through five more. Books have fallen still-born from our press, and lay buried in the dust of the publisher's.garret until an English legatur revealed their merits to our astonished vision. Every one knows the extent of trash that, in the guise of notes of British tourists in the United States, has been devoured amongst us; while the very best work on the country, “Letters on North America, by Michel Chevalier,” still remains untranslated. - De Tocqueville, the Montesquieu of the age, has given us the ablest and most philosophic disquisition on our political organization we have: and yet nearly three years elapsed between its appearance in France and its re-production in this country. Even then, we waited until it had been translated and published in England.

To such a length is this feeling forced that, in the eyes of some, there is neither excellence nor even mediocrity in any work from abroad not exclusively English. There is a bigotry in literature as well as in religion, and it behooves us to avoid that blind, serf-like obedience to the exclusive canons of any given school that would shut out from us the light of excellence-come it whence it may. These persons insist that what is English is more congenial to us, and in introducing anything European into our literature, would, perhaps, feel what they take to be a patriotic scruple in thus admitting the stranger into the heart of our intellectual domain. Apart from the perfect.confidence. we should entertain of the native strength of our character, it should be remembered that in literature, as in philosophy, there is no native land but truth-and the question should not be, are such and such systems or sentiments Italian, or German, or French ? But, are they good ? Are they true ? Our literary liberality should resemble our political, and excellence from every-quarter of the globe be welcomed and nationalized. I am happy to be enabled to cité, in support of these sentiments, the valuable opinion of Dr. Channing. “We earnestly

« ZurückWeiter »