by the Rev. Sydney Smith




Classical education in the West has taken a different face in every century since the fall of Rome.  Sometimes these faces were astonishingly singular.  Who would believe that in Germany in 1810, after being a poet, the most romantic thing one could be was a comparative philologist?  (Or better, to be a poet and comparative philologist at once, like the Brothers Grimm.) 

Latin was a living language long after Rome ceased to matter.  It was the international language of the church, and of diplomacy, government, scholarship, science, and, to a greater or lesser extent, of literature and trade.  Education centered on teaching young people both to speak and write Latin fluently and correctly.   Greek literature held a fund of genuine knowledge and grace that Europe hungered for.

This approach held until the early 18th century.  Educators such as Erasmus, and countless others, such as the author of the Orbis Pictabilis, made strenuous humane efforts to ease the way for their young pupils.  In the 17th c. the first texts students read were the comedies of Plautus and Terence, with the aim of accustoming them to colloquial Latin, a Latin that could be spoken familiarly. 

As the usefulness of Latin and Greek waned to next to nothing by the end of the 18th c., so the snob-value of the classics was insanely inflated.  The study of Latin and Greek has never recovered from the damage inflicted on it by those who from then on made it into a badge of "worth" and a stick with which to beat the "un-learned," meaning anybody whose specialty was anything else.  The intellectual arrogance of the English classical scholars of the latter half of the 19th c. is hard to conceive, and if conceived, to stomach.  My advisor at Yale, John Herington (an Oxford man) recited to me a rhyme from that era which says much:

My name is Benjamin Jowett.
If it is Knowledge, then I know it.
I am the Master of this College;
What I don't know isn't knowledge.

Benjamin Jowett was Master of Bailliol College at Oxford during the last years of the 19th c., and translated Plato, making Socrates sound like a high-church Anglican.

(Another anecdote from John Herington.  Some tourists were being led around Oxford by a guide.  He said, "Would you like to see Mr. Jowett?"  and when they said yes he hurled a stone into Jowett's window.  The scholar appeared.  "That usually brings him out," said the guide.)

Candidates for the Indian Civil Service were examined in writing Greek hexameters.  Perhaps, as Rev. Smith suggests, the knowing among the products of the English public school regimen gave up writing verse in dead languages as soon as they passed that last exam, then turned their minds to other more productive things.  I, who retired to Borneo, can well understand that a public school product would embrace India with joy.  Nonetheless, I do enjoy writing verses in Latin and Greek.  That makes me an anomaly among my generation of classical scholars!

The foolish system that Rev. Smith attacked back in 1809 is gone forever.  In the past sixty years other evils have been eating at the classics.  Housman was a modest man who did not claim much for himself or his discipline except to vindicate the text of the poet.  His disciples have absorbed and practise his method, but have made far too free with Housman's freedom with invective.   I name no names.  The New Criticism found little to work with in the classics—the critics were ignorant of the languages and the context—and therefore whatever little it could touch it desiccated.   French philosophy dragooned into American academia as dogma wanted to destroy the ancient literature.  Again, these so-called critics knew nothing of the languages. 

I offer Rev. Smith's review on the Net as a corrective to fashions.  Smith simply wanted his contemporaries to read the classics, not make them into a fetish.  Reading the classics is the only good thing to do with them.

For the life of the remarkable Rev. Sydney Smith (1771-1845), I refer the reader to his entry in Wikipedia.  Smith was a wonderfully humane man, and through his polemical writings accomplished much good in early 19th c. Britain's push towards reform.  Smith was also very funny and gifted with words.  When we say, "a square peg in a round hole," we are all unconsciously quoting him.

My copy-text has been Selected Writings of Sydney Smith.  edited and with an introduction by W. H. Auden.  Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy;  New York, 1956.  pp. 258-271.  I am aware that I am probably violating copyright.  However, there is no monetary gain involved.

Otto Steinmayer

Otto Steinmayer's Home Page


Too Much Latin and Greek

THERE are two questions to be asked respecting every new publication—Is it worth buying? Is it worth borrowing? and we would advise our readers to weigh diligently the importance of these interrogations, before they take any decided step as to this work of Mr. Edgeworth;* the more especially as the name carries with it considerable authority, and seems, in the estimation of the unwary, almost to include the idea of purchase. For our own part, we would rather decline giving a direct answer to these questions; and shall content ourselves for the present with making a few such slight observations as may enable the sagacious to conjecture what our direct answer would be, were we compelled to be more explicit.

One great and signal praise we think to be the eminent due of Mr. Edgeworth: in a canting age he does not cant—at a period when hypocrisy and fanaticism will almost certainly insure the success of any publication, he has constantly disdained to have recourse to any such arts;—without ever having been accused of disloyalty or irreligion, he is not always harping upon Church and King, in order to catch at a little popularity, and sell his books;—he is manly, independent, liberal—and maintains enlightened opinions with discretion and honesty. There is also in this work of Mr. Edgeworth, an agreeable diffusion of anecdote and example, such as a man acquires who reads with a view to talking or writing. With these merits, we cannot say that Mr. Edgeworth is either very new, very profound, or very apt to be right in his opinion. He is active, enterprising, and unprejudiced; but we have not been very much instructed by what he has written, or always satisfied that he has got to the bottom of his subject.

On one subject, however, we cordially agree with this gentleman; and return him our thanks for the courage with which he has combated the excessive abuse of classical learning in England. It is a subject upon which we have long wished for an opportunity of saying something; and one which we consider to be of the very highest importance.

"The principal defect," says Mr. Edgeworth, "in the present system of our great schools, is, that they devote too large a portion of time to Latin and Greek.  It is true, that the attainment of classical literature is highly desirable; but it should not, or rather it need not, be the exclusive object of boys during eight or nine years.

"Much less time, judiciously managed, would give the them an acquaintance with the classics sufficient for all useful purposes, and would make them as good scholars as gentlemen or professional men need to be. It is not requisite that every man should make Latin or Greek verses; therefore a knowledge of prosody beyond the structure of hexameter and pentameter verses is as worthless an acquisition as any which folly or fashion has introduced amongst the higher classes of mankind. It must indeed be acknowledged that there are some rare exceptions; but even party prejudice would allow, that the persons alluded to must have risen to eminence though they had never written saphics [sic] or iambics. Though preceptors, parents, and the public in general, may be convinced of the absurdity of making boys spend so much of life in learning what can be of no use to them; such are the difficulties of making any change in the ancient rules of great establishments, that masters themselves, however reasonable, dare not, and cannot, make sudden alterations.

"The only remedies that can be suggested might be, perhaps, to take those boys, who are not intended for professions in which deep scholarship is necessary, away from school before they reach the highest classes, where prosody and Greek and Latin verses are required.

"In the college of Dublin, where an admirable course of instruction has been long established, where this course is superintended by men of acknowledged learning and abilities, and pursued by students of uncommon industry, such is the force of example, and such the fear of appearing inferior in trifles to English universities, that much pains have been lately taken to introduce the practice of writing Greek and Latin verses, and much solicitude has been shown about the prosody of the learned languages, without any attention being paid to the prosody of our own.

"Boarding houses for the scholars at Eton and Westminster, which are at present mere lodging houses, might be kept by private tutors, who might, during the hours when the boys were not in their public classes, assist them in acquiring general literature, or such knowledge as might be advantageous for their respective professions.

"New schools, that are not restricted to any established routine, should give a fair trial to experiments in education, which afford a rational prospect of success. If nothing can be altered in the old schools, leave them as they are. Destroy nothing—injure none—but let the public try whether they cannot have something better. If the experiment do not succeed, the public will be convinced that they ought to acquiesce in the established methods of instruction, and parents will send their children to the ancient seminaries with increased confidence."—(pp. 47-49.)

We are well aware that nothing very new can remain to be said upon a topic so often debated. The complaints we have to make are at least as old as the time of Locke and Dr. Samuel Clarke; and the evil which is the subject of these complaints has certainly rather increased than diminished since the period of those two great men. A hundred years, to be sure, is a very little time for the duration of a national error; and it is so far from being reasonable to look for its decay at so short a date, that it can hardly be expected, within such limits, to have displayed the full bloom of its imbecility.

There are several feelings to which attention must be paid, before the question of classical learning can be fairly and temperately discussed.

We are apt, in the first place, to remember the immense benefits which the study of the classics once conferred on mankind; and to feel for those models on which the taste of Europe has been formed, something like sentiments of gratitude and obligation. This is all well enough, so long as it continues to. be a mere feeling; but as soon as it interferes with action, it nourishes dangerous prejudices about education.  Nothing will do in the pursuit of knowledge but the blackest ingratitude;—the moment we have got up the ladder we must kick it down—as soon as we have passed over the bridge, we must let it rot;—when we have got upon the shoulders of the ancients, we must look over their heads.  The man who forgets the friends of his childhood in real life is base; but he who clings to the props of his childhood in literature, must be content to remain as ignorant as he was when a child.  His business is to forget, disown, and deny—to think himself above everything which has been of use to him in time past—and to cultivate that exclusively from which he expects future advantage: in short, to do everything for the advancement of his knowledge, which it would be infamous to do for the advancement of his fortune.  If mankind still derive advantage from classical literature proportionate to the labour they bestow upon it, let their labour and their study proceed: but the moment we cease to read Latin and Greek for the solid utility we derive from them, it would be a very romantic application of human talents to do so from any feeling of gratitude, and recollection of past service.

To almost every Englishman up to the age of three or four and twenty, classical learning has been the great object of existence; and no man is very apt to suspect, or very much pleased to hear, that what he has done for so long a time was not worth doing.  His classical literature, too, reminds every man of the scenes of his childhood, and brings to his fancy several of the most pleasing associations which we are capable of forming.  A certain sort of vanity, also, very naturally, grows among men occupied in a common pursuit.  Classical quotations are the watchwords of scholars, by which they distinguish each other from the ignorant and the illiterate; and Greek and Latin are insensibly become almost the only test of a cultivated mind.

Some men through indolence, others through ignorance, and most through necessity, submit to the established education of the times; and seek for their children that species of distinction which happens, at the period in which they live, to be stamped with the approbation of mankind. This mere question of convenience every parent must determine for himself. A poor man, who has his fortune to gain, must be a quibbling theologian, or a classical pedant, as fashion dictates; and he must vary his error with the error of the times. But it would be much more fortunate for mankind, if the public opinion, which regulates the pursuits of individuals, were more wise and enlightened than it at present is. ,

All these considerations make it extremely difficult to procure a candid hearing on this question; and to refer this branch of education to the only proper criterion of every branch of education—its utility in future life.

There are two questions which grow out of this subject: 1st, How far is any sort of classical education useful? 2d, How far is that particular classical education, adopted in this country, useful?

Latin and Greek are, in the first place, useful, as they inure children to intellectual difficulties, and make the life of a young student what it ought to be, a life of considerable labour.  We do not, of course, mean to confine this praise exclusively to the study of Latin and Greek; or to suppose that other difficulties might not be found which it would be useful to overcome: but though Latin and Greek have this merit in common with many arts and sciences, still they have it; and, if they do nothing else, they at least secure a solid and vigorous application at a period of life which materially influences all other periods.

To go through the grammar of one language thoroughly is of great use for the mastery of every other grammar; because there obtains, through all languages, a certain analogy to each other in their grammatical construction.  Latin and Greek have now mixed themselves etymologically with all the languages of modem Europe—and with none more than our own; so that it is necessary to read these two tongues for other objects than themselves.

The two ancient languages are as mere inventions—as pieces of mechanism incomparably more beautiful than any of the modem languages of Europe; their mode of signifying time and case, by terminations, instead of auxiliary verbs and particles, would of itself stamp their superiority. Add to this the copiousness of the Greek language, with the fancy, majesty, and harmony of its compounds; and there are quite sufficient reasons why the classics should be studied for the beauties of language. Compared to them, merely as vehicles of thought and passion, all modem languages are dull, ill contrived, and barbarous.

That a great part of the Scriptures have come down to us in the Greek language, is of itself a reason, if all others were wanting, why education should be planned so as to produce a supply of Greek scholars.

The cultivation of style is very justly made a part of education. Everything which is written is meant either to please or to instruct.  The second object it is difficult to effect, without attending to the first; and the cultivation of style is the acquisition of those rules and literary habits which sagacity anticipates, or experience shows to be the most effectual means of pleasing. Those works are the best which have longest stood the test of time, and pleased the greatest number of exercised minds. Whatever, therefore, our conjectures may be, we cannot be so sure that the best modem writers can afford us as good models as the ancients;—we cannot be certain that they will live through the revolutions of the world, and continue to please in every climate—under every species of government—through every state of civilisation.  The modems have been well taught by their masters; but the time is hardly yet come when the necessity for such instruction no longer exists.  We may still borrow descriptive power from Tacitus; dignified perspicuity from Livy; simplicity from Cæsar; and from Homer some portion of that light and heat which, dispersed into ten thousand channels, has filled the world with bright images and illustrious thoughts.  Let the cultivator of modem literature addict himself to the purest models of taste which France, Italy, and England could supply, he might still learn from Virgil to be majestic, and from Tibullus to be tender; he might not yet look upon the face of nature as Theocritus saw it; nor might he reach those springs of pathos with which Euripides softened the hearts of his audience.  In short, it appears to us, that there are so many excellent reasons why a certain number of scholars should be kept up in this and in every civilised country, that we should consider every system of education from which classical education was excluded, as radically erroneous, and completely absurd.

That vast advantages, then, may be derived from classical learning there can be no doubt. The advantages which are derived from classical learning by the English manner of teaching, involve another and a very different question; and we will venture to say, that there never was a more complete instance in any country of such extravagant and overacted attachment to any branch of knowledge, as that which obtains in this country with regard to classical knowledge. A young Englishman goes to school at six or seven years old; and he remains in a course of education till twenty-three or twenty-four years of age. In all that time, his sole and exclusive occupation is learning Latin and Greek;  he has scarcely a notion that there is any other kind of excellence; and the great system of facts with which he is the most perfectly acquainted, are the intrigues of the Heathen Gods: with whom Pan slept?—with whom Jupiter?—whom Apollo ravished?  These facts the English youth get by heart the moment they quit the nursery; and are most sedulously and industriously instructed in them till the best and most active part of life is passed away. Now, this long career of classical learning, we may, if we please, denominate a foundation; but it is a foundation so far above ground., that there is absolutely no room to put anything upon it. If you occupy a man with one thing till he is twenty-four years of age, you have exhausted all his leisure time: he is called into the world and compelled to act; or is surrounded with pleasures, and thinks and reads no more.  If you have neglected to put other things in him, they will never get in afterwards;—if you have fed him only with words, he will remain a narrow and limited being to the end of his existence.

The bias given to men's minds is so strong, that it is no uncommon thing to meet with Englishmen, whom, but for their grey hairs and wrinkles, we might easily mistake for school-boys.  Their talk is of Latin verses; and it is quite clear, if men's ages are to be dated from the state of their mental progress, that such men are eighteen years of age, and not a day older. Their minds have been so completely possessed by exaggerated notions of classical learning, that they have not been able in the great school of the world, to form any other notion of real greatness.  Attend, too, to the public feelings—look to all the terms of applause.  A learned man!—a scholar!—a man of erudition! Upon whom are these epithets of approbation bestowed? Are they given to men acquainted with the science of government? thoroughly masters of the geographical and commercial relations of Europe: to men who know the properties of bodies, and their action upon each other?  No: this is not learning; it is chemistry, or political economy—not learning.  The distinguishing abstract term, the epithet of Scholar, is reserved for him who writes on the Æolic reduplication, and is familiar with the Sylburgian method of arranging defectives in ω and μι.  The picture which a young Englishman, addicted to the pursuit of knowledge, draws—his beau idéal, of human nature—his top and consummation of man's powers—is a knowledge of the Greek language.  His object is not to reason, to imagine, or to invent; but to conjugate, decline, and derive.  The situations of imaginary glory which he draws for himself, are the detection of an anapæst in the wrong place, or the restoration of a dative case which Cranzius had passed over, and the never-dying Ernesti failed to observe.  If a young classic of this kind were to meet the greatest chemist or the greatest mechanician, or the most profound political economist of his time, in company with the greatest Greek scholar, would the slightest comparison between them ever come across his mind?—would he ever dream that such men as Adam Smith and Lavoisier were equal in dignity of understanding to, or of the same utility as, Bentley and Heyne?  We are inclined to think, that the feeling excited would be a good deal like that which was expressed by Dr. George about the praises of the great King of Prussia, who entertained considerable doubts whether the King, with all his victories, knew how to conjugate a Greek verb in μι.

Another misfortune of classical learning, as taught in England, is, that scholars have come, in process of time, and from the effects of association, to love the instrument better than the end;—not the luxury which the difficulty encloses, but the difficulty;—not the filbert but the shell;—not what may be read in Greek, but Greek itself.  It is not so much the man who has mastered the wisdom of the ancients, that is valued, as he who displays his knowledge of the vehicle in which that wisdom is conveyed.  The glory is to show I am a scholar.  The good sense and ingenuity I may gain by my I acquaintance with ancient authors is matter of opinion; but if I bestow an immensity of pains upon a point of accent or quantity, this is something positive; I establish my pretensions to the name of Scholar, and gain the credit of learning, while I sacrifice all its utility.

Another evil in the present system of classical education is the extraordinary perfection which is aimed at in teaching those languages; a needless perfection; an accuracy which is sought for in nothing else. There are few boys who remain to the age of eighteen or nineteen at a public school, without making above ten thousand Latin verses;—a greater number than is contained in the Æneid: and after he has made this quantity of verses in a dead language, unless the poet should happen to be a very weak man indeed, he never makes another as long as he lives.  It may be urged, and it is urged, that this is of use in teaching the delicacies of the language.  No doubt it is of use for this purpose, if we put out of view the immense time and trouble sacrificed in gaining these little delicacies.  It would be of use that we should go on till fifty years of age making Latin verses, if the price of a whole life were not too much to pay for it.  We effect our object; but we do it at the price of something greater than our object.  And whence comes it, that the expenditure of life and labour is totally put out of the calculation, when Latin and Greek are to be attained?  In every other occupation, the question is fairly stated between the attainment and the time employed in the pursuit:—but, in classical learning, it seems to be sufficient if the least possible good is gained by the greatest possible exertion; if the end is anything, and the means everything.  It is of some importance to speak and write French; and innumerable delicacies would be gained by writing ten thousand French verses: but it makes no part of our education to write French poetry. It is of some importance that there should be good botanists; but no botanist can repeat by heart the names of all the plants in the known world; nor is any astronomer acquainted with the appellation and magnitude of every star in the map of the heavens. The only department of human knowledge in which there can be no excess, no arithmetic, no balance of profit and loss, is classical learning.

The prodigious honour in which Latin verses are held at public schools is surely the most absurd of all absurd distinctions.  You rest all reputation upon doing that which is a natural gift, and which no labour can attain.  If a lad won't learn the words of a language, his degradation in the school is a very natural punishment for his disobedience, or his indolence; but it would be as reasonable to expect that all boys should be witty, or beautiful, as that they should be poets.  In either case, it would be to make an accidental, unattainable, and not a very important gift of nature, the only, or the principal test of merit.  This is the reason why boys, who make a considerable figure at school, so very often make no figure in the world;—and why other lads, who are passed over without notice, turn out to be valuable important men.  The test established in the world is widely different from that established in a place which is presumed to be a preparation for the world; and the head of a public school, who is a perfect miracle to his contemporaries, finds himself shrink into absolute insignificance, because he has nothing else to command respect or regard, but a talent for fugitive poetry in a dead language.

The present state of classical education cultivates the imagination a great deal too much, and other habits of mind a great deal too little; and trains up many young men in a style of elegant imbecility, utterly unworthy of the talents with which nature has endowed them.  It may be said, there are profound investigations, and subjects quite powerful enough for any understanding, to be met with in classical literature.  So there are;  but no man likes to add the difficulties of a language to the difficulties of a subject; and to study metaphysics, morals, and politics in Greek, when the Greek alone is study enough without them.  In all foreign languages, the most popular works are works of imagination.  Even in the French language, which we know so well, for one serious work which has any currency in this country, we have twenty which are mere works of imagination.  This is still more true in classical literature; because what their poets and orators have left us is of infinitely greater value than the remains of their philosophy; for, as society advances, men think more accurately and deeply, and imagine more tamely; works of reasoning advance, and works of fancy decay.  So that the matter of fact is, that a classical scholar of twenty-three or twenty-four years of age is a man principally conversant with works of imagination. His feelings are quick, his fancy lively, and his taste good.  Talents for speculation and original inquiry he has none; nor has he formed the invaluable habit of pushing things up to their first principles, or of collecting dry and unamusing facts as the materials of reasoning.  All the solid and masculine parts of his understanding are left wholly without cultivation; he hates the pain of thinking, and suspects every man whose boldness and originality call upon him to defend his opinions and prove his assertions.

A very curious argument is sometimes employed in justification of the learned minutiæ to which all young men are doomed, whatsover be their propensities in future life.  What are you to do with a young man up to the age of seventeen? Just as if there were such a want of difficulties to overcome, and of important tastes to inspire, that, from the mere necessity of doing something, and the impossibility of doing anything else, you were driven to the expedient of metre and poetry;--as if a young man within that period might not acquire the modern languages, modern history, experimental philosophy, geography, chronology, and a considerable share of mathematics;—as if the memory of things were not more agreeable, and more profitable, than the memory of words.

The great objection is, that we are not making the most of human life, when we constitute such an extensive, and such minute classical erudition, an indispensable article in education.  Up to a certain point we would educate every young man in Latin and Greek; but to a point far short of that to which this species of education is now carried. Afterwards, we would grant to classical erudition as high honours as to every other department of knowledge, but not higher.  We would place it upon a footing with many other objects of study; but allow to it no superiority.  Good scholars would be as certainly produced by these means, as good chemists, astronomers, and mathematicians are now produced, without any direct provision whatsoever for their production.  Why are we to trust to the diversity of human tastes, and the varieties of human ambition, in every thing else, and distrust it in classics alone?  The 'passion for languages is just as strong as any other literary passion.  There are very good Persian and Arabic scholars in this country.  Large heaps of trash have been dug up from Sanscrit ruins.  We have seen in our own times, a clergyman of the University of Oxford complimenting their Majesties in Coptic and Syro-phœnician verses; and yet we doubt whether there will be a sufficient avidity in literary men to get at the beauties of the finest writers which the world has yet seen; and though the Bagvat Gheeta has (as can be proved) met with human beings to translate, and other human beings to read it, we think that, in order to secure an attention to Homer and Virgil, we must catch up every man—whether he is to be a clergyman or a duke,—begin with him at six years of age, and never quit him till he is twenty; making him conjugate and decline for life and death; and so teaching him to estimate his progress in real wisdom as he can scan the verses of the Greek tragedians.

The English clergy, in whose hands education entirely rests, bring up the first young men of the country as if they were all to keep grammar schools in little country towns; and a nobleman, upon whose knowledge and liberality the honour and welfare of his country may depend, is diligently worried, for half his life, with the small pedantry of longs and shorts.  There is a timid and absurd apprehension, on the part of ecclesiastical tutors, of letting out the minds of youth upon difficult and important subjects.  They fancy that mental exertion must end in religious scepticism; and, to preserve the principles of their pupils, they confine them to the safe and elegant imbecility of classical learning.  A genuine Oxford tutor would shudder to hear his young men disputing upon moral and political truth, forming and pulling down theories, and indulging in all the boldness of youthful discussion.  He would augur nothing from it, but impiety to God, and treason to kings.  And yet, who vilifies both more than the holy poltroon who carefully averts from them the searching eye of reason, and who knows no better method of teaching the highest duties, than by extirpating the finest qualities and habits of the mind?  If our religion is a fable, the sooner it is exploded the better.  If our government is bad, it should be amended.  But we have no doubt of the truth of the one, or of the excellence of the other; and are convinced that both will be placed on a firmer basis, in proportion as the minds of men are more trained to the investigation of truth.  At present, we act with the minds of our young men, as the Dutch did with their exuberant spices.  An infinite quantity of talent is annually destroyed in the Universities of England by the miserable jealousy and littleness of ecclesiastical instructors.  It is in vain to say we have produced great men under this system. We have produced great men under all systems.  Every Englishman must pass half his life in learning Latin and Greek; and classical learning is supposed to have produced the talents which it has not been able to extinguish. It is scarcely possible to prevent great men from rising up under any system of education, however bad.  Teach men dæmonology or astrology, and you will still have a certain portion of original genius, in spite of these or any other branches of ignorance and folly.

There is a delusive sort of splendour in a vast body of men pursuing one object, and thoroughly obtaining it; and yet, though it be very splendid, it is far from being useful.  Classical literature is the great object at Oxford.  Many minds so employed have produced many works, and much fame in that department; but if all liberal arts and sciences useful to human life had been taught there,—if some had dedicated themselves to chemistry, some to mathematics, some to experimental philosophy,—and if every attainment had been honoured in the mixt ratio of its difficulty and utility,—the system of such an University would have been much more valuable, but the splendour of its name something less.

When an University has been doing useless things for a long time, it appears at first degrading to them to be useful.  A set of lectures upon political economy would be discouraged in Oxford,§ probably despised, probably not permitted.  To discuss the enclosure of commons, and to dwell upon imports and exports,—to come so near to common life, would seem to be undignified and contemptible.  In the same manner, the Parr, or the Bentley of his day, would be scandalised in an University to be put on a level with the discoverer of a neutral salt; and yet, what other measure is there of dignity in intellectual labour, but usefulness and difficulty?  And what ought the term University to mean, but a place where every science is taught which is liberal, and at the same time useful to mankind?  Nothing would so much tend to bring classical literature within proper bounds as a steady and invariable appeal to these tests in our appreciation of all human knowledge.  The puffed up pedant would collapse into his proper size, and the maker of verses and the rememberer of words, would soon assume that station, which is the lot of those who go up unbidden to the upper places of the feast.

We should be sorry, if what we have said should appear too contemptuous towards classical learning, which we most sincerely hope will always be held, in great honour in this country, though we certainly do not wish to it that exclusive honour which it at present enjoys.  A great classical scholar is an ornament and an important acquisition to his country; but, in a place of education, we would give to all knowledge an equal chance for distinction; and would trust to the varieties of human disposition, that every science worth cultivation would be cultivated. Looking always to real utility as our guide, we should see, with equal pleasure, a studious and inquisitive mind arranging the productions of nature, investigating the qualities of bodies, or mastering, the difficulties of the learned languages.  We should not care whether he were chemist, naturalist, or scholar, because we know it to be as necessary that matter should be studied, and subdued to the use of man, as that taste should be gratified, and imagination inflamed.

In those who were destined for the church, we would undoubtedly encourage classical learning, more than in any other body of men; but if we had to do with a young man going out into public life, we would exhort him to contemn, or at least not to affect the reputation of a great scholar, but to educate himself for the offices of civil life.  He should learn what the constitution of his country really was,—how it had grown into its present state,—the perils that had threatened it,—the malignity that had attacked it,—the courage that had fought for it, and the wisdom that had made it great.  We would bring strongly before his mind the characters of those Englishmen who have been the steady friends of the public happiness; and, by their examples, would breathe into him a pure public taste, which should keep him untainted in all the vicissitudes of political fortune.  We would teach him to burst through the well paid, and the pernicious cant of indiscriminate loyalty; and to know his Sovereign only as he discharged those duties, and dis-played those qualities, for which the blood and the treasure of his people are confided to his hands.  We should deem it of the utmost importance, that his attention was directed to the true principles of legislation,—what effect laws can produce upon opinions, and opinions upon laws,—what subjects are fit for legislative interference, and when men may be left to the management of their own interests.  The mischief occasioned by bad laws, and the perplexity which arises from numerous laws,—the causes of national wealth,—the relations of foreign trades,—the encouragement of manufactures and agriculture,—the fictitious wealth occasioned by paper credit,—the laws of population,—the management of poverty and mendicity,—the use and abuse of monopoly,—the theory of taxation,—the consequences of the public debt.  These are some of the subjects, and some of the branches of civil education, to which we would turn the minds of future judges, future senators, and future noblemen.  After the first period of life had been given up to the cultivation of the classics, and the reasoning powers were now beginning to evolve themselves, these are some of the propen- sities in study which we would endeavour to inspire. Great knowledge at such a period of life, we could not convey; but we might  fix a decided taste for its acquisition, and a strong disposition to respect it in others. The formation of some great scholars we should certainly prevent, and hinder many from learning what, in a few years, they would necessarily forget; but this loss would be well repaid,—if we could show the future rulers of the country that thought and labour which it requires to make a nation happy,—or if we could inspire them with that love of public virtue, which, after religion, we most solemnly believe to be the brightest ornament of the mind of man.

[*] Essays on Professional Education. By R. L. Edgeworth, Esq. F.R.S. &c. London, 1809.
[†] Unless he goes to the University of Cambridge; and then classics occupy him entirely for about ten years; and divide him with mathematics for four or five more.
[§] They have since been established.