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SKETCHES OF THE PROGRESS OF EDUCATION IN ENGLAND,
FROM THE REIGN OF KING ALFRED TO THAT OF
EARLY LIVES OF CELEBRATED BRITISH AUTHORS, PPIILO90-
TO THE READER.
To our admiration of true greatness naturally succeeds some curiosity as to the means by which such distinction has been attained. The subject of “ the School-days of Eminent Persons,” therefore, promises an abundance of striking incident, in the early buddings of genius, and formation of character, through which may be gained glimpses of many of the hidden thoughts and secret springs by which master-minds have moved the world.
The design of the present volume may be considered an ambitious one to be attempted within so limited a compass; but I felt the incontestible facility of producing a book brimful of noble examples of human action and well-directed energy, more especially as I proposed to gather my materials from among the records of a country whose cultivated people have advanced civilization far beyond the triumphs of any nation, ancient or modern. In other words, I resolved to restrict my design to BRITISH WORTHIES.
I had no sooner sketched the outline of my plan than the materials crowded upon me with an excess "whose very indices are not to be read over in an age." I then resolved to condense and select from the long line of Educated Worthies, rather than attempt to crowd the legion into a few hundred pages. Thus additional interest was gained; for the smaller the charmed circle of light, the more intensely will it point upon the reader.
The present volume is divided into two Sections. The first is historical as well as biographical: it sketches the PROGRESS OF EDUCATION, commencing with the dark age of our history, when knowledge was wrapt in the gloom and mysticism of the Druidical grove; and thence the narrative travels onward and upward to the universal teachings of the present time. In this section are portrayed the Education of each Sovereign, his early habits and tastes, which often exercised powerful influence upon the people. In each reign I have described the foundation of the great Schools, and sketched the Educational customs of the period. The teaching of its illustrious men is also incidentally recorded ; and wherever such men have proved benefactors by the proposition or establishment of special Schools or Systems of Education, their lives and plans are narrated with fuller detail. How fraught with pious memories and hallowed associations are those great institutions of this great country-her Public Schools! How consecrated are their localities—how illuminated by the bright lights of centuries—whether around an ancient college nestling at the hill-foot-fit home for the tender young--as at Winchester; whether amid picturesque spires and towers, as in “ the watery glade" of Eton; or in the kindred regal munificence of Christ's Hospital and Westminster-in the olden cloister and cell peopled with busy sons of learning, and earnest expounders of the Reformed Faith; or where citizenship and philanthropy have kept pace with kingly dispensation, raising within many a city, town, and hamlet, homes for the orphan and friendless--where the good seed might be sown, and the tiny child trained up in the way he should go.
Each of these foundations has its history, relics of its celebrated sons, and fond memorials of their worth. For centuries after the victory of Agincourt, were shown the rooms in which was reared Henry V. at Oxford; to this day, Dryden's autograph in wood is preserved at Westminster; and with each returning summer is renewed the leafy shade beneath which Addison loved to meditate at Magdalene.
Among the incidental varieties of this Section are the descriptions of the changes in manners and customs, the old usages and quaint forms, ceremonies and observances, of a more picturesque age than the present.
Nor, in journeying through these bye-ways of local history have I passeil by those ancient seats of learning where the solemn church, the stately hall, and the embellished depositories of the wisdom of past ages, have been reared with pious feeling, and endowed by the gratitude of those who became, walking in the paths of duty and honor, rich in this world's wealth. How much of England's greatness has been nurtured in these magnificent seats of academic glory, and matured amidst the congenial repose of their groves and gardens !
The Second Section of the work is devoted to ANECDOTE BIOGRAPHIES, or sketches of the early lives—the School and College Days-of Eminent Men who, by their genius, learning, and character, have shed luster upon their name and country. In these brief memoirs I have recorded the incidents of their birth, boyhood, and education, until they have entered upon the world-wide field of action.
That by narrating the circumstances under which these Eminent Men have severally reached their excellence that the number and variety of suggestive points in this volume may exercise a beneficial influence, and not only interest the reader, but induce him to emulate their examples -is the sincere wish of