A DEFENCE OF EMULATION, AS A MEANS OF EXCITING DILIGENCE IN STUDY. Sir,—As it is chiefly by the collision of different opinions that truth is elicited, I was much pleased on opening your last number, to perceive that some former remarks of mine on emulation as a motive to diligent study, had attracted the notice of another of your correspondents ; nor was my satisfaction diminished on finding, as I proceeded, that our views on this and other important topics connected with education, were somewhat different; but when, towards the close, I found my opinions mis-stated, and my arguments distorted, I resolved to claim from you, Sir, who have, by the insertion of these strictures, given them, to a certain extent, the sanction of your editorial authority, the defendant's usual privilege to reply.

Let me, then, begin by endeavouring to rectify some erroneous im. pressions which your correspondent's letter is calculated to produce ; as, that our ancestors were unmindful of the influence of emulation in promoting education; that in the means of securing diligence in study which I have recommended, I am introducing a novel and untried scheme; or that, by referring to those motives which are found to operate most powerfully on the minds, of children, I am desirous to exclude others of a loftier and more unmixed character. Neither does it seem altogether reasonable to infer, as your correspondent appears to do, that I would dispense with punishment altogether, however circumstances might render it necessary, because I have attempted to show, that, in most cases, other and less degrading means may be successfully adopted; or that, while directing the attention of your readers to certain technical methods of forwarding the current business of a school, I am insensible of the importance—the high and paramount importance of “ Christian faith or English morality.”

Having thus hastily enumerated some of the mis-statements (unintentionak I am sure), into which your correspondent's zeal appears to have betrayed him, I would request your indulgence and that of your readers, while I endeavour to prove, that such are not my views, nor the legitimate consequence resulting from my remarks.

First, then, your correspondent assumes it as granted, that our ancestors (the objects of his peculiar admiration) never availed themselves of emulation, and the other motives specified, for promoting diligent study. What mean, then, the presentations to college given to our public schools, the scholarships, fellowships, and other endowments which our “ plain matter-of-fact" forefathers have so liberally provided for the encouragement of learning ? Were they intended to be distributed indiscriminately, or, if not, what was the criterion but superior merit? Would it not rather appear that they made a more constant and systematic use of this principle than we? But, according to your correspondent (this “ laudator temporis acti”), all these inducements could only tend to foster self-interest in the greatest degree.

To me and other practical men, they appear to have been remiss only
VOL. I, NO. 8. AUGUST, 1843.

[ocr errors]

where to us “moderns” it seems most important, namely, in the early education of youth. It is to extend the powerful influence of the motives in question, in due subordination, however, to the purer and higher aims of the Christian scheme, to boys as well as men; to show that the impulse which will enable the latter to surmount difficulties, may urge the former to overcome indolence; that what will cause a man to carry off the highest honours and distinctions at college may prompt a boy to exert himself at school; that my humble arguments were directed: in short, to show that we are justified in employing in the culture of youth, similar means to those which our forefathers so lavishly applied in the more advanced stages of a studious career.

Thus, too, the objection of your correspondent, founded on the novelty of the views which he supposes me to advocate, must surely vanish, when it appears that the principles which he so forcibly inveighs against, are as old as our most ancient institutions.

Again, as to the tendency of the motives which he ranks under the general censure of being adapted to the encouragement of selfishness. Here, it appears to me, that your correspondent's remarks are chiefly worthy of attentive consideration from the tone of sincerity and singleness of purpose by which they are characterised : “etiam in hoste virtutem admiror.” “Instead,” says he, “ of appealing to the boy's desire of obtaining approbation and avoiding disgrace, they (our ancestors) taught him to prize the approbation and dread the reproach of his own CONSCIENCE, because that was the voice of God pronouncing what his real worth was, and not merely what it seemed to men.” Let me here remind your correspondent, that all remedial measures presuppose something defective in that state which requires their employment; that “the whole need not a physician, but they that are sick ;' that man in his present imperfect state is not always under the immediate influence of conscience and a sense of duty; that where these motives are constantly in operation, the plans I suggest are of course superseded. All that I shall add on this head is, that if this very pleasant description of the utopian views of our ancestors be correct, they are strangely opposed to the means which they adopted for their realization. Why, the whole frame-work of our endowed schools, from the simple affair of the pupil's gaining a place in his class, to the successful competition which perhaps terminates in his presentation to college, rests almost exclusively on this much abused motive. Thus this admirer of the “wisdom of our ancestors” must surely find some difficulty in reconciling the disinterested, conscientious motives which they are represented as adopting in speculation, with the very opposite means which they resorted to in practice. But besides these general views of the principles on which our ancestors conducted the education of youth, your correspondent favours us with occasional glimpses of the habits of thought which were inculcated amongst our ancestorial school-boys ; whether gleaned from the facile sources of modern literature, or dug from the mine of black letter obscurity, your correspondent rather unkindly leaves us to conjecture. However, upon his authority we are to believe that all the motives which usually incite mankind to exertion, and which are employed by us moderns to stimulate indolence or coun

teract natural perverseness, were, by them, carefully excluded. The picture, indeed, which he presents of these good, old, Elizabethan times requires only the charm of verisimilitude to render it quite captivating. It appears, however, sufficiently certain, agreeably to the concurring testimony of your correspondent and Lord Byron, that

“Dunces were whipped, and children taught that day;"' although to us moderns, it appears passing strange that with a system so complete, and principles so perfect, it should come to pass that in “that day" not more than one person in a thousand could read, and a still less number - sign their names.”

In the next place, it is difficult to perceive how a person can be chargeable with advocating inferior motives in preference to more exalted ones, which is the ground of a separate objection, who proposes that boys should be taught to consider the approbation of parents and teachers as a more laudable object of desire than pecuniary reward ; and that the dread of shame is a somewhat nobler motive than the mere animal fear of a flogging. As to the charge, therefore, of acting on the inferior principles of our nature, I shall, with very little hesitation, leave it to the consideration of parents and experienced tutors.

With respect to the “ matters of detail,” which your correspondent expresses a wish to discuss, as his observations upon the meaning of the Greek word—the principal subject of this controversy“ do not appear to invalidate my previous conclusions, but only contain an expression of opinion; and as mine were put forth with no higher pretensions, they seem to leave the argument exactly “in statu quo;' and therefore all further discussion on this branch of the subject seems to be rendered unnecessary.

Your correspondent finally proceeds to deny-not in the most mea. sured terms—that emulation has produced any of those eminent men, whom the world with one consent are in the habit of calling “ great." Now here I must be permitted a question or two. Does he suppose that conscience alone, that “voice of God," as he justly terms it, prompted Kirke White to the self-sacrifice which deprived the world of his brilliant talents :—that caused “the martyr-poet” to flourish and expire ? And was his motive to study no higher than that which compels the attention of some reluctant dunce, i.e. the dread of punishment, or in other words, your correspondent's favourite remedial measure for all scholastic delinquencies-a good flogging ?

Was it conscience, or a rigid sense of duty, that caused " the admi. rable Crichton” to become the best linguist, the keenest disputant, and the most accomplished man in Europe ? Did conscience ever make a senior wrangler," or cause a man steadily to devote sixteen hours out of the twenty-four to intense study? I trow not: and why? Because every one knows that he may be quite as good a man, and as exemplary a Christian, though ignorant of these ;--though he may not be able to demonstrate the conchoid of Nicomedes, or even have passed the “pons asinorum,"

Was it an imperative sense of duty that led Milton to write his “Paradise Lost ?”-or Shakspeare his “ Merry Wives of Windsor ? ”

Was it the stern demand of conscience that led Watt to the invention of the steam-engine, Newton to the theory of light, or Harvey to the discovery of the circulation of the blood ?

Or taking the military profession, had a desire of personal distinction no influence in causing Sir John Moore, after a glorious and successful career of usefulness to his country, to lay down his life at Corunna ? Again, in the case of Lord Nelson, whom your correspondent so triumphantly refers to, was self totally forgotten when he insisted on being decorated with all his honours, as he paced the deck of the Victory, and evidently anticipated-one might almost say invited—the hostile shot that was to lay him low?

Did conscience alone lead a Porson or a Blomfield to the profound investigation of the Greek language? or was it merely an acquiescence with the dictates of duty that led Bacon, Eldon, and Brougham, to the Chancellorship?

Was no love of distinction, no regard for rank and pre-eminence, mingled with the zeal for discovery in a Cook, or the achievements of a Washington ? Or must these also, by your correspondent's stern decree be excluded from the list of those who “ are deservedly called great?” As to “ Napoleon le Grand” I must give him up, as we are gravely assured on the same authority, that “none but schoolboys and Frenchmen look upon such characters as great ;” though still with a lingering notion that the world will ignorantly persist in looking upon an individual as in some sort deserving of that title, who by intellectual power only (for with physical force in his own person he was not highly gifted) could exchange a poor lieutenant's sword for the imperial sceptre, and resist for so many years “a world in arms."

But then, on the other hand, the Duke of Wellington is kindly let off more easily, seeing that, as your correspondent supposes, all his great actions sprang from more pure and exalted motives ; that his long series of victories from Assaye to Waterloo, where he proved himself “Le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre,” was all in mere accordance with the rigid demands of duty; that the attainment of his sovereign's and his country's praise, additional honours, and titular distinctions, never, for a moment, entered his mind. Why, “the Duke,” with that high-minded, that straightforward candour, which constitutes so large and estimable a portion of his extraordinary character, would repudiate such praise.

What! shall the esteem of our contemporaries and the veneration of posterity have no influence on our actions? Is it forbidden us to aspire to the admiration of the wise and good ? Is the love of praise, however laudable the means pursued to obtain it, to be totally banished from the human breast?.

But according to your correspondent's flowery description of the “good old times,' every little fellow formerly thumbed his horu book, and committed to memory his modicum of learning, from a stern sense of duty, or the still more virtuous dread of “corporal punishment." Thus it came to pass that

“ The whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school,"

as Shakspeare describes him, was not to be accelerated on his way by the hope of his schoolmaster's approving smile, or his encouraging pat on the head, or the wish to be called “a good boy,”—no, the little student of monosyllables and amateur of half-holydays is supposed to have acted from more exalted motives ; no undefined visions of future gingerbread or ideal cherries floated before the pleased imagination, or mingled themselves with the pure and lofty aspirations of our infantile philosopher. They acquired their alphabet, and learnt to calculate that twice two made four, from a stern sense of duty! O tempora ! O mores ! how are we degenerated ! and, oh! to what lengths will a favourite theory, when coupled with a lively imagination, like your correspondent's, lead us.

Our informant further saith, that “there ever is, and must be vice in emulation,” and for reasons, which to my comprehension are not very obvious; but upon which each of your readers will doubtless form his own opinion. I can only affirm that, as far as my reading and experience go, I never yet knew, heard, or read of any man of transcendant talents, who had not been, at least in his early career, actuated by an emulous desire to excel. That after that excellence had been attained, and the eminence which he sought achieved, he then employed his matured powers from considerations of a “higher grade,” I will not attempt to deny ; but rather, fortified by various examples within the range of my own observation, cheerfully admit, and, if necessary, prove. The original impulse, however, will, in almost every case be found to have sprung from a different source.

After the preceding remarks were written, I was struck, in reading a short memoir of the Rev. Robert Anderson,* with the corroborative testimony it afforded to the truth of the preceding conclusions. With your permission, I will submit an extract, premising, for the information of those who might not have known him personally, that the life of the late Perpetual Curate of Trinity Chapel, Brighton, was not less distinguished for piety and usefulness than for learning. “I have since found a document,” says his brother, the Rev. J. M. Anderson, “which fully bears out what I have said, namely, the certificate given to him on leaving the college for India, and from which the following is an extract :- At the examination of 1807, he gained the third Bengalee prize, and the third Persian prize ; at the examination of 1808, the medal for Sanscrit, the first mathematical prize, the second classical prize, and the second Persian prize ; and was highly distinguished' in the other departments. At the examination of 1809, the Sanscrit certificate of superior merit, and the medal for history, and political economy, the mathematical medal, the classical medal, the first prize for theology, and the first prize for law; he was also second in the Persian, and third in Hindustani, the only remaining departments.'”

Whether such unintermitting study, such sacrifice of almost all that makes life desirable, as the preceding testimonials of proficiency would imply, could proceed exclusively from duty and conscience, without the slight

* Vide Church of England Magazine for the present month.

« ElőzőTovább »