« PreviousContinue »
Casimire, who is not in danger now and then of such extravagancies : but still they should not be admired or defended, if we pretend to pass a just judgment on the writings of the greatest men.
Milton is a noble genius, and the world agrees to confess it ; his poem of Paradise Lost is a glorious performance, and rivals the most famous pieces of antiquity ; but that reader must be deeply prejudiced in favour of the poet, who can imagine him equal to bimself through all that work. Neither the sublime sentiments, nor dignity of numbers, nor force or beauty of expression are equally maintained, even in all those parts which require grandeur or beauty, force or harmony. I cannot but conseot to Mr. Dryden's opinion, though I will not use bis words, that for some scores of lines together, there is a coldness and flatuess, and almost a perfect absence of that spirit of poesy which breathes, and lives, and flames in other pages.
XI. When you hear any person pretending to give his judgment of a book, consider with yourself whether he be a capable judge, or whether he may not lie under some unhappy bias or prejudice, for or against it, or whether he has made a sufficient enquiry to form his justest sentiments upon it. Though he be a man of good sense, yet he is incapable of passing a true judgment of a particular book, if he be not well acquainted with the subjeot of which it treats, and the manner in wbich it is written, be it verse or prose; or if he bath not had opportunity or leisure to look sufliciently into the writing itself.
Again, though he be never so capable of judging on all other accounts, by the knowledge of the subject, and of the book itsell, yet you are to consider also, whether there be any thing in the author, in his manner, in his language, in bis opinions, and his particular party, which may warp the sentiments of him that judgeth, to think well or ill of the treatise, and to pass too favour, able or too severe a sentence concerning it.
If you find that he is either an unfit judge because of his ignorance, or because of his prejudices, his judgment of that book should go for nothing. Philographo is a good divine, an useful preacher, and an approved expositor of scripture, but he never had a taste for any of the polite learning of the age : le was fond of every thing that appeared in a devout dress, but all verse was alike to him : he told me last week there was a very fine book of poems published on the thrce christian graces, Faith, Hope, and Charity ; and a most elegant piece of oratory on the four last things, Death, Judgment, lleuren and Hell. Do you think I shall buy either of those books werely on Philographo's recommendation.
book ance, or becthat he is eithcerning it
CHAP. VI.-Of living Instructions and Lectures of Teachers
and Learners. I. THERE are few persons of so penetrating a genius, and so just a judgment, as to be capable of learning the arts and sciences without the assistance of Teachers. There is scarce any science so safely and so speedily learned, even by the noblest genius and the best books, without a tutor. His assistance is absolutely necessary for most persons, and it is very useful for all beginners. Books are a sort of dumb teachers, they point out the way to learning; but if we labour under any doubt or mistake, they cannot answer sudden questions, or explain present doubts and difficulties : this is properly the work of a living instructor.
II. There are very few tutors who are sufficiently furnished with such universal learning, as to sustain all the parts and provinces of instruction. The sciences are numerous, and many of them lie far wide of each other ; and it is best to enjoy the instruction of two or three tutors at least, in order to run through the whole Encyclopedia or Circle of Sciences, where it may be obtained ; then we may expect that each will teach the few parts of learniog which are comunitted to his care in greater perfection. But where this advantage cannot be had with convenience, one great man must supply the place of two or three common instructors.
III. It is not sufficient that instructors be competently skilled in those sciences which they profess and teach ; but they should have skill also in the art or method of teaching, and patience in the practice of it.
It is a great unhappiness indeed, when persons by a spirit of party or faction, or interest, or by purchase, are set up for tutors, who have neither due knowledge of science, nor skill in the way of communication. And alas, there are others, who with all their ignorance and insufficiency, have self-admiration and effiontery enough to set up themselves : and the poor pupils fare accordingly, and grow lean in their understandings. And let it be observed also, there are some very learned men who know much themselves, but have not the talent of communicating their own knowledge ; or else they are lazy, and will take no pains at it. Either they have an obscure and perplexed way of talking, or they shew their learning uselessly, and make a long peripbrasis on every word of the book they explain, or they cannot condescend to young beginvers, or they run presently into the elevated parts of the science, because it gives theinselves greater pleasure, of they are soon angry and impatient, and cannot bcar with a few impertinent questions of young, inquisitive, and sprightly genius;
or else they skiin over a science in a very slight and superficial survey, and never lead their disciples into the depths of it.
IV: A good tutor should have characters and qualifications very ditfirent from all these. He is such a one as both can aod will apply himself with diligence and concern, and indefatigable patience to effect what he undertakes ; to teach his disciples, and see that they learn to adapt his way and method as near as may be to the various dispositions, as well as to the capacities of those whom he instructs, and to enquire olten into their progress and improvement. .' And he should take particular care of his own temper and conduct, that there be nothing in him or about him which may be of ill example; nothing that may savour of a haughty teinper, a mean and sordid spirit; notling that may expose him to the aversion or to the contempt of his scholars, or create a prejudice in their minds against him and his instructions : but, if possible, be should have so much of a natural candour and sweetness mixt with all the improvements of learning, as might convey knowledge into the minds of his disciples with a sort of genteel insinuation and sovereign delight, and may tempt them into the highest improvements of their reason by a resistless and insensible force. But I shall have occasion to say more on this subject, when I come to speak more directly of the methods of the communication of knowledge.
V. The learner should attend with constancy and care on all the instructions of his tutor ; and if he happens to be at any time unavoidably hindered, he must endeavour to retrieve the loss by double industry for time to come. He should always recollect and review his lectures, read over some other author or authors upon the same subject, confer upon it with his instructor or with his associates, and write down the clearest result of bis present thoughts, reasonings, aud enquiries, which he may have recourse to hereafter, either to re-examine them, and to apply them to proper use, or to improve thein further to his own advantage.
VI. A student should never satisfy bimself with bare attend. ance on the lectures of his tutor, unless be clearly takes up his sense and meaning, and understands the tbings which he teaches. A young disciple should behave himself so well as to gain the affection and the ear of his instructor, that upon every occasion be may with the utmost freedom ask questions, and talk over his own sentiments, his doubts and difficulties with him, and in an Jumble and modest inaoner desire the solution of them. .
VII. Let the learner endeavour to maintain an bonourable opinion of bis instructor, and heed fully listen to his instructions, as one willing to be led by a more experienced guide : and though he is not bound to fall in with every sentiment of his tutor, yet he
should so far comply with him, as to resolve upon a just consideration of the matier, and try and examine it thoroughly with an honest heart, before he presuine to determine against him. And then it should be done with great modesty, with an humble jealousy of himself, and apparent unwillingness to differ from his tutor, if the force of arguinent and truth did not constrain bim.
VIII. It is a frequent and growing folly in our age, that pert young disciples soon funcy themselves wiser than those who teach them: at the first view, or upon a very little thought, they can discerý the iosignificancy, weakness, and mistake of what their teacher asserts. The youth of our day, by an early petulency, aed pretended liberty of thinking for themselves, dare reject at once, and that with a sort of scorn, all those sentiments and doctrines wbich their teachers have determined, perhaps after long and repeated consideration, after years of mature study, careful observation, and much prudent experience.
IX. It is true, teachers and masters are not infallible, nor are they always in the right; and it must be acknowledged, it is 2 patter of some difficulty for younger minds to maintain a just and solemo veneration for the authority and advice of their parents, and the instructions of their tutors, and yet at the same time to secure to themselves a just freedom in their own thoughts. We are sometimes too ready to imbibe all their sentiments without examinatino, if we reverence and love them ; or, on the oiber hand, if we take all freedom to contest their opinions, we are sometimes tempted to cast off that love and reverence to their persons which God and nature dictate. Youth is ever in danger of these two extremes.
X. But I think I may safely conclude thus : though the aathority of a teacher must not absolutely determine the judg. ment of his pupil, yet young and raw and unexperienced learners abould pay all proper deference that can be, to the instructions of their parents and teachers, short of absolute submission to their dictates. Yet still we must maintain this, that they should never receive any opinion into their assent, whether it be conformable or contrary to the tutor's mind, without sufficient evidence of it first given to their own reasoning powers.
CHAP. VII.-Of learning a Language. THE first thing required in reading an author, or in hear. ing lectures of a tutor is, that you well understand the language in which they write or speak. Living languages, or such as are the native tongue of any pation in the present age, are more easily learnt and taught by a few rules, and much familiar converre, joined to the reading some proper authors. The dead languages are such as cease to be spoken in any pation ; and. even these are more easy to be taught (as far as may be) in that method wherein living languages are best learnt, that is, partly by rule, and partly by rote or custom. And it may not be improper in this place to mantion a few directions for that purpose.
I. Begin with the most necessary and most general obserontions and rules which belong to that language, compiled in the form of a grammar ; and these are but few in most languages. The regular declensions and variations of nouns aod verbs, should be early and thoroughly learnt by heart, together with twenty or thirty of the plainest and most necessary rules of syntax. .
But let it be observed, that in almost all languages, some of the very commonest nouns and verbs have many irregularities in them ; such are the common auxiliary verbs to be, and to have, to do, and to be done, &c. The comparatives and superlatives of the words good, bad, great, much, small, little, &c. and these should be learnt among the first rules and variations, because they continually occur. But as to other words which are less frequent, let but few of the anomalies or irregularities of the tongue be taught among the general rules to young beginners. These will better come in afterwards to be learnt by advanced scholars in a way of notes on the rules, as in the Latin Grammar. called the Oxford Grammar, or in Ruddiman's Notes on his Rudiments, &c. Or they may be learnt by examples alone, when they do occur; or by a larger and more complete system of grainwar, which descends to the more particular forms of speech; so the heteroclite nouns of the Latin tongue, which are taught in the school-book called Qua Genus, should not be touch-, ed in the first learning of the rudiments of that tongue.
II. As the graminar by which you learn any tongue should be very short at first, so it must be written in a tongue with which you are well acquainted, and which is very familiar to you. Therefore I much prefer even the common Eoglish Accidence (as it is called) to any grammar whatsoever written in Latin for this end. The English accidence has doubtless many faults; but those editions of it which were printed since the year 1728, under the correction of a learned professor, are the best; or the English Rudiments of the Latin Tongue, by the learned North Briton Mr. Ruddiman, which are perlaps the most useful books of this kind which I am acquainted with ; especially because I would not depart too far from the ancient and common forms of teaching, which several good grammarians have done, to the great detriment of such lads as have been removed to other schools.
The tiresome aud unreasonable method of learning the