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table, into which other subjects cannot conveniently be thrust. I would, moreover, advise you, if you do not find yourselves altogether misplaced in the position of life which it is your lot to fill, and ill qualified to discharge its duties, seek not to change, but rather aspire to excellence in, the pursuit you have chosen. And, above all things, be thoroughly sure of this, that there is nothing in the decay of a wretched existence, which kindles a more lively remorse, or clouds more darkly the evening of a troubled life, than the retrospect of misused time, and the vivid recollection of hours unprofitably wasted :
“Oh, misspent youth, how prodigal of time !" May you not sometimes hear, and still more often know, of some old broken-down wretched creature lamenting how that great banker or merchant, Mr. So-and-So, was in the same office with me,we were clerks together. He was always poring over some book or other, whilst I used to go to the tavern or the theatre. I was wont to laugh at him and call him poorspirited. He now lives respected, with every blessing around him, while I am houseless and homeless. He walks erect before men, while I slink back to my lonely garret.
Again, to you who are not over-quick in learning, I would say, be not disheartened. Learning is very often like gain, “soon got, soon gone.” Some persons learn with surprising quickness, but soon forget what they thus soon learn; while others learn very slowly, but retain what they do learn with astonishing tenacity. Some men's brains would seem to be as soft as curds, while those of others are as hard as ivory. Therefore, aptitude is, in itself, without reference to other qualities, no criterion of the intrinsic power or value of any man’s intellect. Slowness frequently arises, not from stupidity, but from the resistance the mind exhibits to contemplate arguments or examine facts from new points of view. No one considers that the softness of lead is more to be prized than the hardness of silver. Besides, a man may have a fine intellect, but not possess the moral qualities which would enable him to use it to the best advantage, such as decision, promptitude, energy, and perseverance. Much in the same way as a woodman may have a very fine and keen axe, but of what use will it be to him, if his arms are paralysed ? Or as a man may be a capital cricket player, but of what avail is his skill, if he has got the gout in his feet? Do not any of you be led away by that most mischievous opinion, that a man learns in proportion to the clearness and depth of his understanding; it is very much more in proportion to his eagerness, energy, and determination. Again, do not be cast down because you cannot rate your progress from day to day. Do not be like quick-growing boys, every now and then putting their backs up to a door or wall, and scoring, to see how much they have grown since the last time. Be assured of this, that nothing you have once learned is ever wholly erased from the memory. It may be smirched and blotted, but there it remains. You may have forgotten it, that is, you may not be able to recall it by any voluntary act of the memory or power of the will, but how often does some violent emotion, or it may be the burning heat of a fever, bring out, in all their original vividness (like an obliterated inscription on some old coin), things that have lain, unnoticed and forgotten, in that queer old storehouse, the human mind. Therefore what you now learn will leave its track in the mind, though the thing learned may pass clean out of your memory. Like those old quarries we read of in Pentelicus or Paros, though the blocks of marble, the material of the breathing bust or godlike statue have gone, never more to return, yet the ruts of the wheels which bore them, the grooves in which the waggons ran, are as fresh and sharp as if they left off running only yesterday. Be sure then, whatever you learn, be it for good or evil, will tell some time or other, most likely not directly but indirectly. “ The bread that is cast upon the waters will be found by you after many days.” Mathematicians say, that if a stonė be dropped into the sea, the vibration thus produced will be transmitted to the profoundest depths of the furthest ocean. We all of us know, what would literally be incredible, if it were not actually a common fact in the mouths of common men, that a vibration, or force, or fluid, or something (whatever you please to call it does not much matter), is transmitted with inconceivable velocity along metallic wires, to, it may be, immeasurable distances. The proverbial and figurative speed of thought is here outstripped by an actually demonstrated physical motion. We know, moreover, that no single particle of matter has been lost or annihilated since the creation of the world. It may assume ten thousand different
shapes, like Proteus in the old Greek legend, but it continues, through every scene and change, identically the same:
“ The old order changeth, yielding place to new.” If, then, the Almighty be so conservative of matter that no single particle of it is permitted to be wasted or lost, is it a forced analogy to surmise that he is equally conservative of the emanations of the mind, especially as I have shown that thoughts, though forgotten, are not lost; though beyond the power of the memory to recal, yet there are states of mental excitement, when
" A thousand fantasies
And aery tongues that syllable men's names.” Hence, what you learn is no little matter; it tinges, as light transmitted through coloured glass, every act of yours and not yours only. If with our present finite capacities and limited means of knowledge we can clearly trace the action of mind upon mind, just as we can compute the attraction of matter upon matter; if we can legibly decipher the impress stamped on the hearts of successive generations by such men as Shakespeare, Newton, Bacon, Galileo, Columbus, Luther, and other great benefactors of mankind, who shall calculate the whole efficient force and living influence which any one generation actually brings to bear on those which follow. Even though “dead, it yet speaketh.” Think you not that the noble deeds of men live in those who come after them? Would England be the England it is if we had no history? Who shall compute the full force of the influence produced on the mind of the nation by the noble deeds of heroism therein recorded ? Who is there amongst us so cold as to read unmoved about Cressy or Agincourt, or the Invincible Armada, or the fires of Smithfield, or the burning of the bishops? The actions of men do indeed live after them. Do not imagine that the deeds of those whose bones lie buried on the stormy heights which frown over the iron-bound coast of the inhospitable Euxine, shall not tell upon the destinies of nations yet unborn. It is not so.
We are all parts of one vast system, and we have each of us our work in that vast system to perform. Well is it for him who does the work that is given him to do!' We
are each of us links of one great chain, and the iron link is quite as necessary as the link of gold.
Let me now address to those who are about to join the classes in this hall a few words of friendly advice and much needed caution, a caution which the liberality of the supporters of this institution renders the more necessary.
Some of you may have the notion—I hope they are but few—that as books and apparatus are here provided, and the assistance of able teachers secured, you have therefore nothing to do but saunter in at the proper time and listen patiently to what the lecturer has got to say about the subject you desire to learn. Now let me tell you, and I may save you both time and money by the information I am going to give you, namely, that all any one of you would be likely to learn by that mode of
procedure would hardly be worth the price of the shoe leather he should wear in walking to this hall. What you want is to work knowledge inch by inch into your own minds,—not to listen to a man who has got it already, dealing it out by the fathom. You can no more think with another man's knowledge than you can walk with another man's legs. Let no man deceive you. The acquirement of knowledge of any kind worth having is a work both of time and labour. It is heavy drudgery, at any rate at first. To learn a language especially, if you are at all advanced beyond youth, will try both your endurance of labour and your powers of persever
All the books and apparatus here provided, all the teachers employed, can do no more than direct and smooth your labours. You work with better tools, that is all. None of you would be so foolish as to imagine that a carpenter's apprentice could learn his trade by being furnished with a chest of new and sharp tools, instead of old and blunt ones. Good books, good maps, good teachers, are only the chest of sharp tools of the joiner's apprentice. He must, whether his tools be sharp or blunt, learn his trade in the sweat of his brow, just in the same way as you must learn a language or a science by the sweat of your brains.
You have, I dare say, most of you learned to dance. Now, you did not attend lectures upon the accomplishment of dancing. You learned to dance, by doing your steps and going through your figures first awkwardly and in a bungling manner; gradually you came to go through them more gracefully
·and more correctly. Your dancing-master, you will recollect, did little more than make you keep time, and when you went wrong, set you to do your steps over again, until you could go through them more correctly. Believe me, there are a great many things as well as dancing that you must learn in the same way. Trust me you can do but little in the way of learning either literature or science, unless you bring into the study of it a large capital of hard work. Why, if it were otherwise—if books, apparatus, teachers, and lectures, were all that was required, every rich man amongst us would be a Solomon, which I presume no one would assert even in the city of London. The millionaire might furnish himself with what languages he wanted, as he does with clothes from his tailor, or buy his sciences as he buys his horses. Why, if everything were to be done by books, apparatus, lectures, and teachers alone, how could the poor man ever rise at all? Now, I think it right to speak thus plainly to you, lest you should imagine that you will have nothing to do but to come here punctually, listen attentively, and go away, without giving further thought to the matter until the next evening lecture comes round. It is no wonder such absurd notions should prevail, when we see advertised, “ French taught in six lessons or German in ten.” Only think of learning in six or ten lectures what many spend their whole lives without being able perfectly to acquire. It is much better you should know at once the hard fact and stern truth, because, when after attending perhaps sixty lectures, you should find your knowledge at best but elementary and vague, instead of being profound and clear, you might naturally suspect yourselves of dulness or your teacher of incompetency, or both, and regret that you did not repair to the mill of the six-lesson conjuror, who puts in a raw Cockney at one end, and with six turns of the handle, delivers him out at the other, discoursing most eloquently in Parisian French.
There is another reason why I insist so much on this point. Many of you doubtless intend to come up to the Examination of the Society of Arts, which will be held at their house in the Adelphi during the first week in June next, to compete for a portion of the £500 we have to give away in prizes, and for our certificates as well. Now, our respected chairman (Colonel Sykes) will tell you, who, watchful as Janus in the old heathen mythology, keeps one face fixed on our vast Indian Em