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REPLICATION OF A REVIEWER.
classics, and the reasoning powers were now beginning to evolve themselves, these are some of the propensities in study which we would endeavour to inspire. Great knowledge, at such a period of life, we could not convey; but we might fix a decided taste for its acquisition, and a strong disposition to respect it in others. The formation of some great scholars we should certainly prevent, and hinder many from learning what, in a few years, they would necessarily forget; but this loss would be well repaid-if we could show the future rulers of the country that thought and labour which it requires to make a nation happy—or if we could inspire them with that love of public virtue, which, after religion, we most solemnly believe to be the brightest ornament of the mind of man.
[The discussion which grew out of the preceding and other articles in the Edinburgh Review, has been already noticed (Memoir ante p. 45). The reader may be interested in a few passages of Smith's reply to the strictures of Copleston. They are taken from the article, "Calumnies Against Oxford." Ed. Rev., April, 1810.]
REPLY TO COPLESTON.
COME we next to the third mould or crucible into which this Oxford gentleman has poured his melted lead,-viz. his reply to our more general observations on the use and abuse of classical learning, and on the undue importance assigned to it in English education; and as this part of his work is more remarkable than the rest for its ostentatious dullness, and its gross departure from the language and manners of a gentleman, we must be excused for bestowing on it a little more of our time than we are in the habit of wasting on such men and such things. . . . . . .
Admitting that a young man, though occupied in overcoming verbal difficulties, has acquired the same real knowledge as if his path had been completely without obstruction-what is all this to the purpose? Our objection is not, that classical knowledge is not a good, but that it is not the only good. We contend that all young men need not be made great classical scholars; that some may be allowed to deviate into mathematical knowledgesome into chemistry, some into natural philosophy-some into political economy-some into modern languages; that all these occupations, though not, perhaps, superior in importance to classical
CRANZIUS AND ERNESTI.
erudition, are not inferior to it; that we are making only one article, when we ought to be making many; that the sole occupation of all young Englishmen, educated at Oxford, is to become Latin and Greek scholars. Of the verses so much admired, and
so indiscreetly quoted by this gentleman, we shall only say,
Tale tuum nobis carmen, divine poeta,
The encomiast should remember, that his great model was remarkably careful of committing himself in print: and again and again we warn our author to beware of opportunities; they will, one day or another, prove his ruin.
We did not say that poetry only is read in classical education; but that the most valuable works which the ancients have left us, are their works of fancy; that these are, beyond all comparison, more read than their works either of history or philosophy; and that this, joined to the horrible absurdity of verse-making, does (where classical education does not end in downright pedantry) often make it a mere cultivation of the imagination at the expense of every other faculty. Sometimes, indeed, as in the melancholy instance before us, this price is paid for imagination, and the article never delivered.
Shocked and alarmed as this monk, or rather let us say, this nun, is with the mention of the amours of Pan and Jupiter-we must still maintain, that the loves of the heathen gods and goddesses are the principal subjects by which the attention of young men is engaged in the first years of education. We are sorry to call up a blush into the face of this sly tutor; but the fact is as we state it.
The observations of this writer are, like children's cradles-familiar to old women-sometimes empty-sometimes full of noisy imbecility and often lulling to sleep. There never, perhaps, was a more striking instance of silly and contemptible pedantry, than the long, dull and serious answer which he has taken the trouble to make to our joke about Cranzius, and the Ernesti. What can it possibly signify, whether we used the name of one great fool, or of another great fool? Let this writer put his own name to his productions, and it shall take the place of Cranzius in our next edition. . . . .
One who passes for a great man in a little place, generally
makes himself very ridiculous when he ventures out of it. Nothing can exceed the pomp and trash of this gentleman's observations; they can only proceed from the habit of living with third-rate persons; from possessing the right of compelling boys to listen to him; and from making a very cruel use of this privilege. More equal company could never have made him an able man; but they would soon have persuaded him to hold his tongue. That there is something in this gentleman, we do not deny; but he does not appear to us to have the slightest conception how very little that something is, nor in what his moderate talents consist. He is evidently intended for a plain, plodding, everyday personage-to do no foolish things-and to say no wise ones-to walk in the cart-harness that is prepared for him—and to step into every commonplace notion that prevails in the times in which he happens to exist. If he would hold his tongue, and carefully avoid all opportunities of making a display, he is just the description of person to enjoy a very great reputation among those whose good opinion is not worth having. Unfortunately, he must pretend to liberality -to wit-to eloquence-and to fine writing. He must show his brother-tutors that he is not afraid of Edinburgh Reviewers. If he returns rolled in the mud, broken-headed, and bellowing with pain, who has he but himself to blame?
He who has seen a barn-door fowl flying-and only he-can form some conception of this tutor's eloquence. With his neck and hinder parts brought into a line-with loud screams, and all the agony of feathered fatness. the ponderous little glutton flaps himself up into the air, and, soaring four feet above the level of our earth, falls dull and breathless on his native dunghill. Of these sublime excursions, let the following suffice as specimens:
"There are emotions which eloquence can raise, and which lead to loftier thoughts, and nobler aspirings, than commonly spring up in the private intercourse of men when the latent flame of genius has been kindled by some transient ray, shot perhaps at random, and aimed least where it took the greatest effect, but which has set all the kindred sparks that lay there, in such a heat and stir as that no torpid indolence, or low, carthy-rooted cares, shall ever again smother or keep them down. From this high lineage may spring a never-failing race; few, indeed, but more illustrious because they are few, through whom the royal blood of philosophy shall descend," &c. &c. pp. 148, 149.
"We want not men who are clipped and espaliered into any form which the
UTILITY OF KNOWLEDGE.
whim of the gardener may dictate, or the narrow limits of his parterre require. Let our saplings take their full spread, and send forth their vigorous shoots in all the boldness and variety of nature. Their luxuriance must be pruned; their distortions rectified; the rust and canker and caterpillar of vice carefully kept from them; we must dig round them, and water them, and replenish the exhaustion of the soil by continual dressing." p. 157.
One more, and we have done for ever.
"That finished offspring of genius starts not, like Minerva, from the head of Jupiter, perfect at once in stature, and clad in complete armour; but is the produce of slow birth, and often of a hard delivery; the tender nursling of many an infant year- the pupil of a severe school, formed and chastened by a persevering discipline." p. 129.
We question if mere natural dullness, unaided by punch, ever before produced such writing as this. . . . . .
We have already shown, how very imperfectly this gentleman understands his own silly art of verbal criticism; but when he comes upon subjects of real importance, nothing can well exceed the awkwardness of his movements;- he is like a coach-horse on the trottoir-his feet don't seem made to stand on such places. The objections which he makes to the science of chemistry, are really curious-that it raises and multiplies the means of subsistence, and terminates merely in the bodily wants of man: in other words—donum rationis divinitus datum in usus humani generis impendit. And what, we should be glad to know, is the main object of most branches of human knowledge, if it be not to minister to the bodily wants of man? What is the utility of mathematics, but as they are brought to bear upon navigation, astronomy, mechanics, and so upon bodily wants? What is the object of medicine?-what of anatomy?-what greater purposes have law and politics in view, but to consult our bodily wants-to protect those who minister to them-and to arrange the conflicting interests and pretensions which these wants occasion? Here is an exact instance of the mischief of verbal studies. This man has been so long engaged in trifles which have the most remote and faint connection with human affairs, that a science appears to him absolutely undignified and degrading, because it ministers to the bodily wants of mankind. as if one of the greatest objects of human wisdom had not at all times been to turn the properties of matter to the use of man: and then he asks, if ministration to bodily wants is the test of merit in any science, and a reason for its reception in
135 places of education, why the mechanical arts are excluded? But, need this man-need any man-need any boy who has been baptized and breeched, be told, that any single mechanical art is less honoured than chemistry, only because it is less useful, and at the same time less difficult?—or, in other words, that every branch of human knowledge is estimated, not by its utility alone, but in the mixed ratio of its utility and its difficulty; and that it is this very method of deciding upon merit, that renders the publication before us so utterly contemptible as it is?
It is impossible to follow this gentleman into all the ditches into which he tumbles, or through all the sloughs in which he wades. The critic must go on noticing only those effusions of dullness which are the most prominent-Summa papavera carpens.
We are quite convinced this instructor confounds together the chemist of the shops and the philosophical chemist: he may be assured, however (whatever he may hear to the contrary), that they are two distinct classes of persons; and that there are actually many ingenious persons engaged in investigating the properties of bodies, who never sold a mercurial powder or an ounce of glauber salts in their lives. By way of exercise, we would wish this writer to reflect, fasting, upon the alteration produced in human affairs by glass and by gunpowder—and then to consider whether chemistry is solely occupied with the bodily wants of mankind, and with the improvement of manufactures; and though we are aware that his first guess will be, that the invention of these two substances has made it more easy to drink port wine, and to kill partridges, yet we can assure him, they have produced effects of still greater importance to mankind. We are not indulging in any pleasantry for the mere sake of misleading him, but honestly stating the plain truth.
The moment an envious pedant sees anything written with pleasantry, he comforts himself that it must be superficial. Whether the Reviewer is or is not considered as a superficial person by competent judges, he neither knows nor cares; but says what he has to say after his own manner-always confident, that, whatever he may be, he shall be found out, and classed as he deserves. The Oxford tutor may very possibly have given a just account of him; but his reasons for that judgment are certainly wrong: for "it is by no means impossible to be entertaining and instructive at the same time; and the readers of this pamphlet (if any) can