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Meeting, therefore, these objectors on tion of this school into the university their own ground of mcre commercial system. utility, I think we may decide that it is You will observe that the subject of desirable that the study of English lan- my lecture is not the study of the guage and literature should form part English language alone, or of the Enof a liberal education.
glish literature alone, but of the EnBut there are others who object to glish language and literature together. the establishment of a school of En- And yet the tendency of things is such glish language and literature from what that, wherever this study is at all systeΙ
may call the academic point of view. matically cultivated, each branch of the While they allow that the study of the subject is pursued separately, as if one subject is useful in the highest sense of necessarily excluded the other. Thus the word, - that is, as providing food the study of the English language for the mind and the imagination, comes in practice to mean the study they contend that English literature, at of English philology ; and, from Proleast, cannot be scientifically taught. fessor Freeman's point of view, this is Thus, when, some few years ago, the quite just, because the subject thus establishment of a school of English viewed is at least capable of scientific literature was advocated in the Times treatment. There are some lovers of by a writer signing himself “Lectur- English literature who altogether deper,” this reply was made by the late recate the study of philology. I do not Professor Freeman : “ There are many share their opinion. I think, on the things fit for a man's personal study contrary, that those who study our litwhich are not fit for university exam- erature scientifically can no more disinations. One of these is "literature' pense with the study of the language in the “ Lecturer's' sense. The corre- in its early stages, than the scholar spondent tells us that it'cultivates the who seeks to master the thought and taste, educates the sympathies, and en- style of the great writers of Greece and larges the mind.' Excellent results, Rome can dispense with the study of against which no one has a word to say. Latin and Greek grammar. Mr. ChurOnly we cannot examine in tastes ton Collins, who has done such exceland sympathies. The examiner in any lent service in the discussion of this branch of knowledge must stick to the question, thinks that philology is to duller range of technical and positive literature merely what the key is to information." Now, if it were seri- the jewel-casket. But it is something ously proposed that a school of English more. Philology is the science of lanlanguage and literature sliould mainly guage, and language is the instrument concern itself with questions of taste for the expression of thought; nay : and sympathy, I should admit Pro- language is as much the abode of fessor Freeman's argument to be con- thought as the body is the seat and clusive. For such a purpose at any habitation of the soul. Many of the rate it would be true that de gustibus grammatical forms employed by our non est disputandum. Nay; I myself greatest writers are of high antiquity. am strongly of opinion that the less The structure of sentences, and the criticism occupies itself with the analy- harmony of verse, in writers like Shakesis of taste and feeling, the better will speare and Milton can often only be it be for criticism and taste. But I can- explained by reference to the work of not conceive that any sensible advocate those early writers, who were lisping in of a school of English literature ever pumbers at the time when our language entertained such notions as the pro- began to emerge from Anglo-Saxon into fessor imagined. Hence I should pre- what is called middle English. fer to put forward in a different, and, Philology, therefore, in my opinion, as it seems to me, a much more for- is an essential factor in the study of midable, shape the academic objection English ; but it has a certain danger in that may be urged against the introduc-lit; it has a tendency to become too
VOL. LXXXIII. 4291
absorbing. That sometimes happens into the study of particular authors and to the philologist which befalls explor- specified books. The student would at ers of another kind. Perhaps some of one time be directed to the plays of you have been acquainted with a man Shakespeare, at another time to - Parawho has been possessed with the pas- dise Lost," and again to the satires of sion of wandering among the tribes of Dryden and Pope, and so on. He would the desert, and you know how rare it is get up all that is to be known about the for one who has accustomed himself to lives of these poets ; he would make this kind of life to return to the ways himself acquainted with the dates of of civilized society. A like fascination their different works; he would be able often seizes on the student who finds to furnish analyses of what he had been himself in the solitudes occupied by the directed to read. But does anyone writers of early English. Sick of the pretend that such a course would profrivolities of modern thought and lan- vide materials for a school equivalent guage, he seems to regain a sense of in intellectual value to the great schools freshness and freedom in the company now existing in our universities ? And of these primitive pioneers in the arts yet if you attempt at present to go of expression. Questions of dialect, of beyond the study of the text of particgrammar, of rhythm, of pronunciation ular authors, and to make English lit
- all interesting, all deserving of in-erature, like Greek and Latin literature, vestigation – crowd upon him. He a school for the systematic training of gives himself up to the study of these taste, you are at once exposed to a antediluvian authors. Their modes of check. We are not agreed among ourthought and diction become a second selves on the principles upon which nature to him ; and not seldom the man even our great poets should be julged. who has mastered the peculiarities of There are, I believe, still critics who Ormin and Layamon, of Robert of are unable to admit that Pope was a Brunne and Robert of Gloucester, pre- poet. We are not agreed on the quesfers them to the perfections of Shake- tion which among our great authors are speare and Milton.
entitled to the highest rank. Now, if English philology be pursueil ample, I open the calendar of one of with such passion as this, the plea our university colleges, and I find a that the literature of England is as distinguished professor announcing the worthy as that of Greece or Rome to be following course of lectures : “ The Six the subject of liberal study must fall to Great Poets of England: Their Lives the ground. A school of English lan- and Works.” Now, who are the six guage and literature, in which philology great poets of England ? The proshould be the predominating feature, fessor answers : * Chaucer, Spenser, would be a school — not for the encour- Shakespeare, Milton ;" so far, no doubt, agement of culture, but — for the en- there has always been something like a dowment of specialists.
conventional agreement ; but then as If, on the other hand, you put philol- to the other two ? They are Dryden ogy into a subordinate place, and give and Wordsworth. But, as every reader your main attention to the great mas- of Johnson's “Lives of the Poets" ters of expression in English, you are knows, Johnson had much difficulty in met by a difficulty of another kind. deciding the question of superiority beWhat is it exactly that you propose to tween Pope and Dryden ; while Joseph teach? You may teach something pos- Warton, a very accomplished critic, itive, definite, and intellectually valu- gave the preference to Pope. It is cerable, about the growth of our language ; tain also that there are a very larve but what kind of scientific instruction number of readers who could maintain. about our literature would be given in with a good show of argument, that such a school as it has been proposed Byron was, at least, as great a poet as to establish? I imagine that, practi- Wordsworth. Yet the professor ancally, the curriculum would resolve itself. nounces his classification as confidently
as if it represented a fact no less cer-plied to the language of all of them, tain than the date of the Battle of which has been so admirably applied Waterloo. Nothing, indeed, can be to the language of Shakespeare by Dr. plainer than that in matters of literary Abbott in his “Shakespearian Gramtaste, as distinct from matters of literary mar” ? fact, we are in the hands of individual In the second place, assuming that teachers; and there would be this great we are agreed upon the texts of the danger in establishing a school of En- great authors of our literature which glish language and literature, in which ought to form the basis of instruction, literature should predominate, that it I would have these studied historwould increase the Babel of critical ically. I think I shall have with me opinion.
your distinguished president, who has And now that I have laid before you done so much for the illustration of what I conceive to be the difficulties in Latin scholarship, when I say that, bethe way of the systematic study of En- fore a teacher can impart scientific glish, difficulties arising partly out of instruction in any literature, he must the excessive claims advanced on behalf have a thoroughi comprehension of that of the science of philology, and partly literature as a whole — in other words, out of the unscientific character of our he must understand its history. It is literary criticism, - let me make a few not enough to study the thought and suggestions to you in conclusion as to language of individual authors in themthe way in which these difficulties may selves ; you must kuow in what way be overcome. In the first place, I see each author is related to his own epoclı no reason whatever why the English and to his predecessors, and what were language and literature should not be the general causes which operated upon studied in the same liberal and scien- his imagination. Now, I speak with tific manner as we study the language absolute confidence when I say, that at and literature of Greece or Rome present there is no work on English that is to say, by studying the lan- literature in the English language givguage in the literature ; in other words, ing information of this kind. There in the great classical authors of our are excellent histories of Greek literalanguage. Practically speaking, and ture, of Latin literature, even of French putting aside party prejudices, of which and Italian literatures ; but the Englislı
; there are too many in the literary world, mind is so averse from generalization, we are all agreed who our classical that the solitary attempt to trace the authors are. And if we wish to give course of our own literature by an really liberal instruction in Englislı, we English land is Thomas Warton's ought to take the student to the En- fragment of the “ History of English glish language — not as if it were a Poetry.” The first step towards the corpus mortuum for the scalpel of the establishment of such a school as we philologist, but — as a living stream, to have been considering to-night ought be followed through the metrical writ- to be the completion of Warton's noble ings of Chaucer and Spenser, of Shake- undertaking upon more scientific prinspeare and Milton, of Dryden and Pope, ciples and in a simpler form. of Byron and Tennyson ; and through But here, I have no doubt, some one the prose writings of Bacon and Cow- will say, “ What is the meaning of the ley, of Dryden and Addison, of. John- course of English literature, and how son and Macaulay. Why may not the can it be scientifically studied ?" And principles of our grammar and prosody this is a question wliich is deserving of be as clearly taught from the works of the very fullest consideration, both in authors like these as the rules of Greek itsell, and also because it illustrates and Latin composition from Homer and what I have alreally said on the diffiSophocles and Thucydides, or from culty of studying scientifically a subject Virgil and Cicero ? And why should on the first principles of which we are not the principle of criticism be ap- I not all agreed. For there is an influens
tial school of criticism in England - I duced by the blending of his own will call it the Teutonic school — which stream of fancy and feeling with the teaches that, before you can understand tide of this remote source of inspirathe history of English literature, you tion, whatever it may be. Now I am must understand the history of Anglo- going to ask you to consider two or Saxon literature. This opinion has three examples of these composite been recently expressed in a very in- ideas in Chaucer, because nothing will teresting and valuable work, which serve better to show the kind of sciendoubtless many of you have read, by tific problems with which a school of Mr. Stopford Brooke, on “ The History English literature would have to deal, of Early English Literature.” Mr. and the manner in which the historic Brooke says in his preface : “This method ought to be applied to them. book is the history of the beginnings One of the most remarkable pheof Englislı poetry. Here in the nomena which the student of Chaucer two hundred years between 670 and has to face is the mixture in him of 870 the roots of English poetry, the Teutonic ideas with ideas derived from roots of that vast overshadowing tree Greek and Roman sources. This is are set; and here its first brauches very well exemplified in the “Knight's clothed themselves with leaves.” Now, Tale,” told, as you will remember, durI venture, with great respect, to trav- ing the pilgrimage to Canterbury. Here erse this opinion in the directest possi- is a story, adapted, of course, from ble manner. I hold that it is untrue, Boccaccio, but originally taken and that it can be shown to be untrue. or less from Greek mythology, menBecause all the evidence which the tioning the Roman gods and goddesses, Teutonic school of criticism furnishes, and full of details borrowed from the shows that in all Auglo-Saxon poetry Latin writers Statius and Boethius. of a high order, such as the poetry of On the other hand, the whole treatCadmon and Cynwulf, between the ment of the story is Teutonic. The years 670 and $70, the prevailing spirit Greek hero, Theseus, becomes a Frankis that of oral minstrelsy. Now, the ish duke; he has his “ spirit of oral minstrelsy had utterly his “Parliament;" his knights fight decayed before the Norman Conquest; in the lists after the most approved and in the English literature, properly fashion of medieval chivalry; and so called, which arose after the Nor- Chaucer's style is absolutely opposed man Conquest the fountains of inspira- in spirit and character to that of the tion are different in kind. I hold that Latin authors whom he nevertheless English literature begins with the imitates. Now, why is all this? It reigns of Edward III. and Richard II., is no sufficient answer to say vaguely because our first great writers in verse that Chaucer was writing on a Greek anı prose, Chaucer and Wycliffe, then subject in a German spirit, because nrake their appearance, writing in a what you have to explain is the comlanguage which is fairly intelligible to plete fusion in him of opposite ideas. the Englishmen of our own day.
you look for an explanation in WarNevertheless, I fully admit that, to ton, you find only two long and very arrive at the beginning of the history interesting " Dissertations of English literature, you must ascend the origin of chivalrous romance; and considerably higher up the stream of the other on the revival of learning in time. You cannot read — and I hope Europe — but neither of these dissermany of my audience have read - tations throws any light on the history Chaucer, without perceiving what a of Chaucer's thought. The true solularge amount of his thought has been tion of the problem is to be found in derived from sources of literature and the mediæval system of education to learning which were in existence long
1 This peculiarity is even more marked in Bocbefore his own age; and also what caccio's "Teseide” than in the “Knight's Tale," Strange anomalies of thought are pro- I because the details in the former are much fuller.
which I have before alluded, a system we are still left to wonder whence these which, while utterly opposed to the works derived their historical authorspirit of classic poetry, retained many ity. Students of modern literature are of the great Latin authors as school- apt to think of the Dark Ages as a books, whereby the conceptions of region of impenetrable night, lying bethe barbarous races, whom the Latin tween ourselves and the thoughts of Church instructed, were blended with antiquity, in which it is vain to look the conceptions of the books that they for the rise of medieval legend. It is read by a kind of spiritual alchemy. If not so. Dimly but certainly the course we would understand the spirit of in- of the stream of learning can be disfaut European literature in any coun- cerned. The historical ignorance of try, whether Italy, Spain, France, or the Middle Ages has a long pedigree. England, we must first appreciate the You can trace it to the decline of his influence of the Latin Church, as the tory, as a philosophical study, in the link between Greek culture and Gothic decay of Latin literature. You can barbarism.
watch the histories of Thucydides and Another extremely remarkable fea- Xenophon, of Livy and Tacitus, giving ture in the poetry of Chaucer is its way, through the infuence of Christian mixture of romance and history. For writers, who desired to discredit the example, the “ Man of Law's Tale,” records of pagan culture, before the another of those told during the pil- meagre chronicles of the chief events grimage to Canterbury, relates the ad- of the world, written by Eusebius and ventures of an unfortunate lady named Jerome and Orosius. On the other Custance, or Constance, who, it ap- hand, you can observe, in succeeding pears, was the daughter of a certain centuries, the rise of a race of literary emperor reigning in Rome — though forgers, who sought to please the taste we know that no emperor reigned in for the marvellous by narratives of anRome at the apparent date of the story cient and legendary events, supposed
- and, strange to say, was married to to be written by eye-witnesses. From a sultan of Syria ; who, for her love, a union of these forged narratives with went the unprecedented length of aban- the ecclesiastical abstracts of the world's doning the religion of Mahomet! As history arose the quasi-historic chronif this audacious treatment of history icles of the Middle Ages : “ The Story was not enough, we are told that Con- of Troy,” by Guido de Colonna; “The stance, after the sultan, her husband, History of the Britons,” by Geoffrey of had been murdered by his mother, a Monmouth ; “The History of Charlefanatical Malommedan, was sent adrift magne,” “ The Romance of Alexander on the sea, and was married a second the Great ;” to which may be added time to Alla, king of Northumberland, the collection of short tales (many of to whom she bore a son, called Mau-them derived from Oriental sources) rice, who afterwards succeeded his for the purposes of moral instruction, grandfather as emperor of Rome! The which has been already alluded to uncurious thing is, that Chaucer evidently der the title of “Gesta Romanorum. supposes himself to be recording his. There was no sudden break between torical facts ; and it is surely a most the life of the ancient and the life of necessary and interesting question how the modern world, as seems to be imhe, who was so thoroughly versed in plied in the phrase “Dark Ages ;” but all the learning of his age, should have a long period of decay, and an equally been so completely ignorant of the long period of reconstruction, from course of history. Yet the only light whichi rose a kind of dim, intellectual which Warton vouchsafes us is, that atmosphere, confounding fact and ficChaucer got his story from the collection, and vaguely discovering to the tion of tales called “ Gesta Roma- barbarous imagination the outlines of norum, and from the “ Historical objects in the past, without proportion Mirror" of Vincent of Beauvais ; and I and without perspective.