« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
IGNORANCE OF THE LEARNED.
BY WILLIAM HAZLITT.
"For the more languages a man can speak,
learned reader to lay down his book and think for himself. He clings to it for his intellectual support; and his dread of being left to himself is like the horror of a vacuum. He can only breathe a learned atmosphere, as other men breathe common air. He is a borrower of sense. He has no ideas of his own, and must live on those of other people. The habit of supplying our ideas from foreign sources "enfeebles all internal strength of thought," as a course of dram-drinking destroys the tone of the stomach.
(Like those that write the characters) left handed. The faculties of the mind, when not exerted, or
Yet he that is but able to express
No sense at all in several languages,
Will pass for learneder than he that's known
The description of persons who have the fewest ideas of all others are mere authors and readers. It is better to be able neither to read nor write than to be able to do nothing else. A lounger who is ordinarily seen with a book in his hand, is (we may be almost sure) equally without the power or inclination to attend either to what passes around him, or in his own mind. Such a one may be said to carry his understanding about with him in his pocket, or to leave it at home on his library shelves. He is afraid of venturing on any train of reasoning, or of striking out any observation that is not mechanically suggested to him by passing his eyes over certain legible characters; shrinks from the fatigue of thought, which, for want of practice, becomes insupportable to him; and sits down contented with an endless wearisome succession of words and half-formed images, which fill the void of the mind, and continually efface one another. Learning is, in too many cases, but a foil to common sense; a substitute for true knowledge. Books are less often made use of as "spectacles" to look at nature with, than as blinds to keep out its strong light and shifting scenery from weak eyes and indolent dispositions. The book-worm wraps himself up in his web of verbal generalities, and sees only the glimmering shadows of things reflected from the minds of others. Nature puts him out. The impressions of real objects, stripped of the disguises of words and voluminous round-about descriptions, are blows that stagger him; their variety distracts, their rapidity exhausts him; and he turns from the bustle, the noise and glare and whirling motion of the world about him (which he has not an eye to follow in its fantastic changes, nor an understanding to reduce to fixed principles) to the quiet monotony of the dead languages, and the less startling and more intelligible | combinations of the letters of the alphabet. It is well, it is perfectly well. Leave me to my repose" is the motto of the sleeping and the dead. You might as well ask the paralytic to leap from his chair and throw away his crutch, or, without a miracle, to take up his bed and walk," as expect the
when cramped by custom and authority, become listless, torpid, and unfit for the purposes of thought or action. Can we wonder at the languor and lassitude which is thus produced by a life of learned sloth and ignorance; by poring over lines and syllables that excite little more idea or interest than if they were the characters of an unknown tongue, till the eye closes on vacancy, and the book drops from the feeble hand! I would rather be a a wood-cutter, or the meanest hind, that all day "sweats in the eye of Phoebus, and at night sleeps in Elysium," than wear out my life so, 'twixt dreaming and awake. The learned author differs from the learned student in this, that the one transcribes what the other reads. The learned are mere literary drudges. If you set them upon original composition, their heads turn, they know not where they are. The indefatigable readers of books are like the everlasting copiers of pictures, who, when they attempt to do any thing of their own, find they want an eye quick enough, a hand steady enough, and colours bright enough, to trace the living forms of nature.
Any one who has passed through the regular gradations of a classical education, and is not made a fool by it, may consider himself as having had a very narrow escape. It is an old remark, that boys who shine at school do not make the greatest figure when they grow up and come out into the world. The things, in fact, which a boy is set to learn at school, and on which his success depends, are things which do not require the exercise either of the highest or the most useful faculties of the mind. Memory (and that of the lowest kind) is the chief faculty called into play, in conning over and repeating lessons by rote in grammar, in languages, in geography, arithmetic, &c., so that he who has the most of this technical memory, with the least turn for other things, which have a stronger and more natural claim upon his childish attention, will make the most forward school-boy. The jargon containing the definitions of the parts of speech, the rules for casting up an account, or the inflections of a Greek verb, can have no attraction to the tyro of ten years old, except as they are imposed as a task upon him by others, or from his feeling the want of sufficient relish or amusement in other things. A lad with a sickly constitution, and no very active mind, who can just retain what is pointed out to him, and has
not of men or things. He thinks and cares nothing about his next-door neighbours, but he is deeply read in the tribes and castes of the Hindoos and Calmuc Tartars. Hecan hardly find his way into the next street, though he is acquainted with the exact dimensions of Constantinople and Pekin. He does not know whether his oldest acquaintance is a knave or a fool, but he can pronounce a pompous lecture on all the principal characters in history. He cannot tell whether an object is black or white, round or square, and yet he is a professed master of the laws of optics and the rules of perspective. He knows as much of what he talks about, as a blind man does of colours. He cannot give a satisfactory answer to the plainest question, nor is he ever in the
neither sagacity to distinguish nor spirit to enjoy for himself, will generally be at the head of his form. An idler at school, on the other hand, is one who has high health and spirits, who has the free use of his limbs, with all his wits about him, who feels the circulation of his blood and the motion of his heart, who is ready to laugh and cry in a breath, and who had rather chase a ball or a butterfly, feel the open air in his face, look at the fields or the sky, follow a winding path, or enter with eagerness into all the little conflicts and interests of his acquaintances and friends, than doze over a musty spelling-book, repeat barbarous distichs after his master, sit so many hours pinioned to a writing-desk, and receive his reward for the loss of time and pleasure in paltry prize-medals at Christmas and Mid-right in any one of his opinions, upon any one matsummer. There is indeed a degree of stupidity which prevents children from learning the usual lessons, or ever arriving at these puny academic honours. But what passes for stupidity is much oftener a want of interest, of a sufficient motive to fix the attention, and force a reluctant application to the dry and unmeaning pursuits of school-learning. The best capacities are as much above this drudgery, as the dullest are beneath it. Our men of the greatest genius have not been most distinguished for their acquirements at school or at the university.
ter of fact that really comes before him, and yet he
Such was not Porson. He was an exception that confirmed the general rule,—a man that, by uniting talents and knowledge with learning, made the distinction between them more strik
"Th' enthusiast Fancy was a truant ever." Gray and Collins were among the instances of this wayward disposition. Such persons do not think so highly of the advantages, nor can they submit their imaginations so servilely to the trammels of stricting and palpable. scholastic discipline. There is a certain kind and A mere scholar, who knows nothing but books, degree of intellect in which words take root, but into must be ignorant even of them. "Books do not which things have not power to penetrate. A me-teach the use of books." How should he know any. diocrity of talent, with a certain slenderness of moral constitution, is the soil that produces the most brilliant specimens of successful prize-essayists and Greek epigrammatists. It should not be forgotten, that the most equivocal character among modern politicians was the eleverest boy at Eton.
Learning is the knowledge of that which is not generally known to others, and which we can only derive at second-hand from books, or other artificial sources. The knowledge of that which is before us or about us, which appeals to our experience, passions and pursuits, to the bosoms and businesses of men, is not learning. Learning is the knowledge of that which none but the learned know. He is the most learned man who knows the most of what is farthest removed from common life and actual observation, that is of the least practical utility, and least liable to be brought to the test of experience, and that, having been handed down through the greatest number of intermediate stages, is the most full of uncertainty, difficulties, and contradictions. It is seeing with the eyes of others, hearing with their ears, and pinning our faith on their understandings. The learned man prides himself in the knowledge of names and dates,
thing of a work, who knows nothing of the subject of it? The learned pedant is conversant with books only as they are made of other books, and those again of others, without end. He parrots those who have parroted others. He can translate the same word into ten different languages, but he knows nothing of the thing which it means in any one of them. He stuffs his head with authorities built on authorities, with quotations quoted from quotations, while he locks up his senses, his understanding, and his heart. He is unacquainted with the maxims and manners of the world; he is to seek in the characters of individuals. He sees no beauty in the face of nature or of art. To him "the mighty world of eye and ear" is hid; and knowledge," except at one entrance, "quite shut out." His pride takes part with his ignorance; and his self-importance rises with the number of things of which he does not know the value, and which he therefore despises as unworthy of his notice. He knows nothing of pictures;—" of the colouring of Titian, the grace of Raphael, the purity of Domenichino, the corregiescity of Correggio, the learning of Poussin, the airs of Guido, the taste of the Caracci, or the grand contour of Michael
stand, is confined to a very small compass; to their daily affairs and experience; to what they have an opportunity to know, and motives to study or practise. The rest is affectation and imposture. The common people have the use of their limbs; for they live by their labour or skill. They understand their own business, and the characters of those they have to deal with; for it is necessary that they should. They have eloquence to express their passions, and wit at will to express their contempt and provoke laughter. Their natural use of speech is not hung up in monumental mockery, in an obsolete language; nor is their sense of what is ludicrous, or readiness at finding out allusions to express it, buried in collections of Anas. You will hear more good things on the outside of a stage-coach from London to Oxford, than if you were to pass a twelvemonth with the Undergraduates or Heads of Colleges of that famous university; and more home truths are to be learnt from listening to a noisy debate in an ale-house, than from attending to a formal one in the House of Commons. An elderly country gentlewoman will often know more of character, and be able to illustrate it by more amusing anecdotes taken from the history of what has been said, done, and gossiped in a country town for the last fifty years, than the best
Angelo," of all those glories of the Italian and miracles of the Flemish school, which have filled the eyes of mankind with delight, and to the study and imitation of which thousands have in vain devoted their lives. These are to him as if they had never been, a mere dead letter, a by-word; and no wonder: for he neither sees nor understands their prototypes in nature. A print of Ruben's Watering-place, or Claude's Enchanted Castle, may be hanging on the walls of his room for months without his once perceiving them; and if you point them out to him, he will turn away from them. The language of nature or of art (which is another nature) is one that he does not understand. He repeats indeed the names of Apelles and Phidias, because they are to be found in classic authors, and boasts of their works as prodigies, because they no longer exist; or when he sees the finest remains of Grecian art actually before him in the Elgin marbles, takes no other interest in them than as they lead to a learned dispute, and (which is the same thing) a quarrel about the meaning of a Greek particle. He is equally ignorant of music; he knows no touch of it," from the strains of the all-accomplished Mozart to the shepherd's pipe upon the mountain. His ears are nailed to his books; and deadened with the sound of the Greek and Latin tongues, and the din and smithery of school-blue-stocking of the age will be able to glean from learning. Does he know anything more of poetry? He knows the number of feet in a verse, and of acts in a play: but of the soul or spirit he knows nothing, He can turn a Greek ode into English, or a Latin epigram into Greek verse, but whether either is worth the trouble, he leaves to the critics. Does he understand the act and practique part of life" better than the theorique?" No. He knows no liberal or mechanic art; no trade or occupation; no game of skill or chance. Learning has no skill in surgery," in agriculture, in building, in working in wood or in iron; it cannot make any instrument of labour, or use it when made; it cannot handle the plough or the spade, or the chisel or the hammer; it knows nothing of hunting or hawking, fishing or shooting, of horses or dogs, of fencing or dancing, or cudgel-playing, or bowls, or cards, or tennis, or anything else. The learned professor of all arts and sciences cannot reduce any one of them to practice, though he may contribute an account of them to an Encyclopædia. He has not the use of his hands or of his feet; he can neither run, nor walk, nor swim; and he considers all those who actually understand and can exercise any of those arts of body or mind, as vulgar and mechanical men;-though to know almost any one of them in perfection requires long time and practice, with powers originally fitted, and a turn of mind particularly devoted to them. It does not require more than this to enable the learned candidate to arrive, by painful study, at a Doctor's degree and a fellowship, and to eat, drink, and sleep the rest of his life!
that sort of learning which consists in an acquaintance with all the novels and satirical poems published in the same period. People in towns, indeed, are woefully deficient in a knowledge of character, which they see only in the bust, not as a whole-length. People in the country not only know all that has happened to a man, but trace his virtues or vices, as as they do his features, in their descent through several generations, and solve some contradiction in his behaviour by a cross in the breed, half a century ago. The learned know nothing of the matter, either in town or country. Above all, the mass of society have common sense, which the learned in all ages want. The vulgar are in the right when they judge for themselves; they are wrong when they trust to their blind guides. The celebrated nonconformist divine, Baxter, was almost stoned to death by the good women of Kidderminster, for asserting from the pulpit that "hell was paved with infants' skulls;" but by the force of argument, and of learned quotations from the Fathers, the reverend preacher at length prevailed over the scruples of his congregation, and over reason and humanity.
Such is the use which has been made of human learning. The labourers in this vineyard seem as if it was their object to confound all common sense, and the distinctions of good and evil, by means of traditional maxims and preconceived notions, taken upon trust, and increasing in absurdity with increase of age. They pile hypothesis on hypothesis, mountain-high, till it is impossible to come at the plain truth on any question. They see things not as they The thing is plain. All that men really under-are, but as they find them in books; and ↔ wink and
GO FORTH INTO THE FIELDS.
BY WILLIAM J. PABODIE.
Go forth into the fields,
Go forth and know the influence nature yields,
Leave ye the feverish strife,
Hark! from each fresh clad bough,
shut their apprehensions up," in order that they may
To conclude this subject. The most sensible peo-
The silvery-gleaming rills
With breath all odorous from her blossomy chase,
Go-breathe the air of heaven,
Seek ye the solemn wood,
Thrills the young leaves with fear!
Stand by the tranquil lake,
And if within your breast
A strange delight shall thrill,
O, in the calm, still hours,
Lie hushed in breathless prayer;
the proud fane by,
Go forth and worship God!
AN INCIDENT IN A RAILROAD CAR.
BY JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.
He spoke of Burns: men rude and rough Pressed round to hear the praise of one Whose heart was made of manly simple stuff, As homespun as their own.
And, when he read, they forward leaned, Drinking with thirsty hearts and ears, His brook-like songs whom glory never weaned From humble smiles and tears.
Slowly there grew a tender awe,
As if in him who read they felt and saw
It was a sight for sin and wrong,
A sight to make our faith more pure and strong
I thought, these men will carry hence
God scatters love on every side,
And always hearts are lying open wide
There is no wind but soweth seeds
We find within these souls of ours
Whose fragrance fills the earth.
Within the hearts of all men lie
Which blossom into hopes that cannot die,
All that hath been majestical
In life or death, since time began, Is native in the simple heart of all, The angel heart of man..
And thus, among the untaught poor, Great deeds and feelings find a home, That cast in shadow all the golden lore Of classic Greece or Rome.
O, mighty brother-soul of man, Where'er thou art, in low or high, Thy skyey arches with exulting span O'er-roof infinity!
The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun. The brightness of our life is gone. Shadows of evening fall around us, and the world seems but We a dim reflection,-itself a broader shadow. look forward into the coming, lonely night. The soul withdraws into itself. The stars arise, and the HYPERION. night is holy.