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be selected from different parts of Europe, are entitled to respectful distinction. Indeed, the connection is so close between the philosophy of mind and moral science, that every systematic writer on the latter subject has, in a greater or less degree, treated of the former. This will more fully appear, when we come, in a future division of the present work, to take a view of the various moral systems which have obtained currency, or excited atten, tion in the last age.
AT the revival of learning in the fifteenth cen- . tury, Classic Literature, or the study of the best ancient writers of Greece and Rome, was an object of primary and enthusiastic attention among the literati of Europe. The remains of those writers were sought with avidity, and studied with persevering diligence. Criticisms and commentaries upon them abounded. To gain possession of a classic manuscript; to remove an obscurity in an ancient text; or to propose a new reading, was then considered among the most honourable and useful of all literary atchievements, At that time he who could lay claim to the character of an adept in the Greek and Latin tongues was, of course, a great and learned man; while,
of With the writings of the greater part of the metaphysicians above mentioned, which belong to the continent of Europe, especially those of Germany, the author knows little but by report; it will not, therefore, be expected that he should deliver any formal statements or opinions concern. ing their doctrines.
without this, however solid, extensive and valuable his knowledge of other subjects, no one could be rescued from the charge of barbarous and contemptible ignorance. In a word, instead of considering classic literature as a means of obtaining more important knowledge, the directors of public taste, at that period, unwisely erected it into an ultimate end, and taught their followers to consider it as the most worthy object of pursuit, to all who were ambitious of becoming learned. This was an iinproper extreme. The more judicious had just cause to lament that such a disproportionate share of regard was bestowed on language, to the neglect of studies more important and immediately practical.
This error began to be corrected about the beginning of the seventeenth century. At this period, brilliant discoveries in natural philosophy began to arrest the attention of the learned world, and the physical sciences in general became more objects of regard. But this decline of classic literature was gradual. One error was not immediately exchanged for its opposite. The Latin language was now generally employed as a medium of publication in science; and although it had come to be generally considered in its proper light, as a means rather than an end; yet both this and the Greek were generally and deeply studied by all who had a taste
for letters, or aspired to distinction in knowledge.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century the study of the ancient languages was still esteemed an essential part of liberal education. It was then the habit of the learned not only to write and speak the Latin tongue with the greatest facility; but they also still employed it as a medium for con: veying the result of their philosophical labours throughout the literary world; and most of those who laid claim to the character of scholars, had an extensive and accurate acquaintance with Grecian literature. In both these respects the eighteenth century produced a singular revolution. The Latin language has in a great measure ceased to be that familiar medium of conversation and of writing, among the learned, that it once was; and the Greek, though nominally retained, as a branch of study in modern seminaries of learning, has become almost unknown even to the liberally educated. A belief is daily becoming more prevalent and popular that the time bestowed on the acquisition of these languages, if not entirely wasted, might at least be more usefully employed. This belief, of course, has had considerable influencé on modern plans of education. And although in a few of the ancient European seats of learning, some portion of the former zeal for classic literature still remains; yet even in these a considerable decline from their wonted eminence is plainly visible; and in by far the larger number the decline is great, humiliating, and evidently on the in
The vernacular tongue, it is believed, first began to be employed in works of science, to the rejection of the Latin, in Italy. From that country the practice made its way into France, and soon became general. Great Britain was the next, in order, to adopt this innovation, which was admitted last of all into Germany and Holland. At the
present day the number of books published in any other than the living languages is extremely small.
In America the decline of classic literature is especially remarkable and prevalent. Many of our colleges require in their students but a superficial acquaintance with the Latin language; and with respect to the Greek, are contented with a smat
tering which scarcely deserves the name of knowledge. And although in others, laudable exertions have been, and continue to be made, for retaining to some profitable extent this part of education, yet the popular prejudice against it is strong and growing; and there is too much reason to fear that this prejudice will, at no great distance of time, completely triumph.
The causes of this revolution are various. Since the commencement of the eighteenth century, the physical sciences have been gradually extending their bounds, demanding more attention, and acquiring greater ascendency. As the objects of study multiplied, a less degree of leisure was left for any particular pursuit. The splendour of several new branches of philosophy, as they successively rose into view, attracted the studious, and gave a new turn to fashion. Hence those who employed themselves in the illustration of the classics, in the settlement of various readings, or in making themselves masters of those venerable remains of antiquity, soon sunk in popular esteem. It became fashionable to represent them as persons void of taste; as “ word catchers, that lived on syllables;” as far below the votaries of science in dignity. This ridicule sensibly diminished the public respect for classic literature, and still continues to operate with undiminished force.
g While a great fondness prevails in the United States for giving young men a College education, and obtaining for them the usual academic honour of a diploma, there is also a prevailing disposition, not only among the youth themselves, but also among parents and guardians, to give them as small a portion of classic, and especially of Greek literature, as possible. Against this latter language, it seems, particular hostility is denounced. And in some of our colleges it requires the exertion of all the authority vested in the immediate instructors, and the governors, to prevent popular ignorance and prejudice from expelling the study of Greek from their plans of education. This is a circumstance which threatens much evil to the interests of literature in our country; and unless the trustees and other of ficers, to whom the direction of our seminaries of learning is entrusted, combine to oppose the plausible but delusive literary heresy, another genee ration will witness the most unhappy effects arising from its prevalence.
Another cause which has doubtless contributed to produce the effect in question is, the inconceivable enlargement of the sphere of enterprise and activity which the past age exhibited. New objects of profit and pleasure have arisen, and engaged the public mind; new fields of labour and adventure have been thrown open; and, of course, in calculating an education for active life, the refinements of ancient literature began to receive a smaller share of regard. To which may be added, that the increased intercourse of mankind, on the one hand, by bringing several living languages more into use, necessarily diverted a share of attention from the ancient; and, on the other, by rendering the study of various modern tongues more easy and useful, took away one important argument in favour of a learned language as a medium of general intercourse.
It must be admitted, that this manifest decline of classic literature has been attended with some advantages. In consequence of discarding dead languages, as the ordinary medium of philosophical publications, such writings have become more accessible and popular; the student has more time left for becoming acquainted with his vernacular tongue; the attention of the learned is more directed to moral and physical sciences; the youth destined for active life is no longer condemned to waste his days by devoting them to objects which are, to him at least, of subordinate importance. In a word, the gradual disuse of what are called learned languages, may be regarded as an important branch of the system of those who consider the general diffusion of knowledge as a desirable object; and who wish to make every part of it as popular as possible. There are few things more directly calculated to break down the wall of partition” between the literary and the other