« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
nied by the habits of mind which their acquisition in a particular manner engenders. What, then, is the duty of the University ? It is, we think, rather that of an alma nutrix than of an alma mater. At best it can but assist nature. The most important part of the education which it professes to give is out of its reach, and is regulated by influences over which it has but an indirect control. We do not, however, agree with Mr. Carlyle's suggestion, that the best University would be an hotel, with a certain number of police regulations, a good library, and a competent quantity of stationery. There is, as we have been all taught by a familiar and venerable authority, a certain great capitalist who is always ready to relieve the labour-market by an unlimited demand for idle hands. The peculiar office of a University, in our opinion, is to supply to the students precisely that kind of employment which a profession supplies to grown-up
The University course of study ought to be a permanent solid occupation, the diligent prosecution of which should be attended by the ordinary rewards, and its neglect by the ordinary penalties of diligence or negligence in a profession—that is to say, the obtaining or not obtaining of the rewards which the University has to give. The comparison may appear fanciful, but it may be carried further; for as a man is not to be envied who makes himself a slave to his profession, so the University, which has it in its power to regulate the conditions under which the profession of study shall be carried on, ought to make such arrangements as should suggest to the minds, or rather to the instincts, of the undergraduates the truth that their studies are to be followed with a certain liberality of spirit, and with a full acknowledgment of the value of many influences collateral to them. It is an unwise thing to condemn a high-spirited young man to pass the three freshest years of his life in a continual bondage to examinations, so that, as soon as one ordeal is passed, he is to begin to prepare himself for another. He ought to have much leisure. If he is industrious, he will have no sort of difficulty in occupying it; and being thrown on his own resources whilst it lasts, it will probably be the most useful part of his University course. If he is idle, no amount of college regulations will diminish his idleness; and, after all, the University must assume a certain amount of industry on the part of its pupils in all its arrangements. It is on this principle that we strongly agree with Mr. Blakesley in advocating the maintenance of the present long vacation as a most valuable part of the University year. We must remember, that the students are growing, are forming their plans and opinions of life, and that they must have frequent opportunities of doing so unfettered by University restrictions. They have arrived at an age at which the natural sanctions of
industry begin to operate, and at which artificial stimulants ought as much as possible to be dispensed with. In medical and legal education there are some prizes to be won, and some emoluments; but there are, and obviously ought to be, no such things as classlists. The reason is, that the connection between future success in life and present industry are so obvious, that any other inducements would operate only as disturbing forces, diverting the mind from the endeavour to obtain knowledge to the endeavour to obtain from others a certificate of something which is taken as conclusive evidence of knowledge. In the profession followed at the Universities the connection is not so obvious, and it therefore becomes necessary to increase the artificial inducements to exertion; but every arrangement and every practice of the University ought to be made to testify to the fact, that a University education is meant to benefit the student and not to satisfy examiners, and that its object is the instruction gained and not the honours which attest its attainment.
We have pointed out what appear to us to be the defects of the University in this respect, and have attempted to suggest a remedy, consisting principally in a return to the ancient system, adapted to the present state of knowledge; but we cannot conclude without paying the very highest tribute that any words of ours can pay to the indirect influences of Cambridge life on those who are so happy as to share them. On such a subject we cannot feel, and do not care to affect, impartiality. We believe the English Universities, and especially Cambridge, to be the very noblest places of education that ever deserved the gratitude of mankind. We do not wish so much to point to the grandest list of great names that adorns the annals of any society, as to that common type of character which we all know and love so well. Where can we find such a seminary for all the simple manly virtues which have made England what it is ? Can the youth of any other country vie with the youth of England in that quiet strength, that noble modesty, that frank courage, without which wisdom is cunning and knowledge vanity ? Many lessons are taught at Cambridge which are not to be learnt from books. In the midst of all the heat of a system founded on competition, we never remember an unworthy word or an ungenerous feeling. The innate nobility of the subjects of the experiment prevents at least one of its most obvious bad consequences. Whatever we may think of competitive examinations, we cannot charge them with producing envy or ill-will. On the contrary, they are fair manly vigorous contests, conducted in perfect honour and with the noblest spirit. Who has not seen men, excluded by the success of others from the objects of their fondest ambition, perhaps from a prospect of early independence, congratulate their successful rivals, with a total unconsciousness that they are doing any thing more than a thing of course ? How many tales the University could tell of hopeful buoyant energy winning its way to a career of honour and usefulness against every impediment of fortune. How nobly does it nurse that utterly fearless social democracy in which are engendered the rough courtesy and gallant stoicism of demeanour which are the most essential elements in our conception of an English gentleman. What a noble society is that, of which the very idleness is more energetic than the studies of other nations, and in which the diligence of mere youths equals and often surpasses that of grown men..
Whatever faults our Universities have, we assert that their indirect influences are incomparably good. Cambridge may in some respeets be an arida nutrix, but she is at any rate a nutrix leonum. Whatever else men do or do not know on leaving Cambridge, they know their places. They know how to respect and obey their elders and betters; and therefore, respecting and commanding themselves, they go forth as the very flower of the race which has girdled the world with its empire, which rules those who submit, and strikes down those who resist, with more than Roman force and Roman justice.* Cambridge is at once a source and a representative of that imperial character which is not so much our most precious possession as the very soul of the nation itself. The eye would be taken from the body, the spring from the year, if those grand sources which nourished Bacon and Milton and Newton were dried-up or polluted. A noble blood circulates in the veins of our Universities; for they nourish, and in no small degree create, the wisdom of the wisest, the courage of the bravest, and the strength of the strongest of the nations. Peace be within their walls, and plenteousness within their palaces; for our brethren and companions' sake we have wished them prosperity.
Thinking thus of these great bodies, and especially of Cambridge, we would advocate no reforms which did not tend to stimulate to even greater efforts a spirit which perhaps needs but little stimulus. We would never degrade so noble an education as the Universities at present afford; we would only extend its direct influences beyond their present sphere. We would not bate one jot of the high demands which Cambridge makes on the intellect and on the heart. Let the teaching be as severe, as concentrated, as laborious as it is now; but let it be extended to all, and let it interest all. In these days, in which so many voices complain of the narrowness and inefficiency, sometimes even of the stupidity, of the only nation in the world which has the magnanimity to tolerate such language, we rejoice to be able to call upon one of our most venerable institutions to extend its power and to widen its influence, not in the language of despondency or of reproach, but in the words of one of the greatestthough even he was not the greatest-of Cambridge men: Consider," we would say to the Universities, as he said to the Lords and Commons of England,—"consider what a nation it is whereof
* “Ce peuple romain, dont l'Angleterre reproduit si fidèlement la grandeur, la dureté, la liberté traditionnelle, la personnalité superbe, et l'indomptable énergie.” Montalembert, l'Avenir politique de l'Angleterre, pp. 11, 12.
“ ye are, and whereof ye are the teachers, a nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious, piercing spirit; acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point the highest that human capacity can soar to. . Now once again, by all concurrence of signs, and by the general instinct of holy and devout men, as they daily and solemnly express their thoughts, God is decreeing to begin some new and great period in his Church, even to the reforming of reformation itself: what does he, then, but reveal himself to his servants, and, as his manner is, first to his Englishmen? I say, as his manner is, first to us, though we mark not the method of his counsels, and are unworthy. Behold now this vast city; a city of refuge, the mansion-house of liberty, encompassed and surrounded with his protection; the shop of war hath not more anvils and hammers, waking to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching reformation. Others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement. What could a man require more than a nation so pliant and so prone to seek after knowledge? What wants there to such a towardly and pregnant soil but wise and faithful labourers, to make a knowing people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies ?”
ART. IV.-MR. MACAULAY.
The History of England, from the Accession of James the Second.
By Thomas Babington Macaulay. Longman. This is a marvellous book. Every body has read it, and every one has read it with pleasure. It has little advantage of subject. When the volumes came out, an honest man said, “I suppose something happened between the years 1689 and 1697; but what happened I do not know.” Every one knows now. No period with so little obvious interest will henceforth be so familiarly known. Only a most felicitous and rather curious genius could shed such a light on such an age. If in the following pages we seem to cavil and find fault, let it be remembered, that the business of a critic is criticism ; that it is not his business to be thankful; that he must attempt an estimate rather than a eulogy.
Mr. Macaulay seems to have in a high degree the temperament most likely to be that of a historian. This may be summarily defined as the temperament which inclines men to take an interest in actions as contrasted with objects, and in past actions in preference to present actions. We should expand our meaning. Some people are unfortunately born scientific. This means that they take an interest in the objects of nature. They feel a curiosity about shells, snails, horses, butterflies. They are delighted at an ichthyosaurus, and excited at a polyp; they are learned in minerals, vegetables, animals; they have skill in fishes, and attain renown in pebbles: in the highest cases they know the great causes of grand phenomena, can indicate the courses of the stars or the current of the waves ; but in
every case it remains their characteristic, that their minds are directed not to the actions of man, but to the scenery amidst which he lives ; not to the inhabitants of this world, but to the world itself; not to what most resembles themselves, but to that which is most unlike themselves. What causes men to take an interest in that in which they do take an interest is commonly a difficult question—for the most part, indeed, it is an insoluble one; but in this case it would seem to have a negative cause-to result from the absence of an intense and vivid nature. The inclination of mind which abstracts the attention from that in which it can feel sympathy to that in which it cannot, seems to arise from a want of sympathy. A tendency to devote the mind to trees and stones as much as, or in preference to, men and women, seems