[ocr errors]

of view echoed the sentiment expressed by the Duke of Norfolk in 1540. I never read the Scripture,said that adherent of the departing age,

nor never will read it. It was merry in England before the new learning came up; yea, I would all things were as hath been in times pust.Who could laugh at these words of a strangely troubled spirit ? Rather one might weep over them; there is a certain pathos in the helpless embarrassment and despair they reflect : but one can see they were not wise, provident words ; one cannot regret that the “new learning came up." But not altogether unlike is the sentiment that may sometimes be heard in these days of like unsettlement and transition.

Ημείς του πατέρων μέγ' αμείμονες ευχόμεθ' είναι.

But is this boast so well founded? Do we derive all the benefit that is possible from their experience ? Are we so much more catholicminded ?

Surely the wise course now is not to set our faces against the incoming studies, but to do our best to regulate and order their admission. Let us give these strangers a judicious welcome. Let us frankly and generously examine what recommendations they have to advance for themselves. Let us banish utterly and for ever from our minds the notion of finality in education. Let us recognize that all our efforts are but tentative, and that we are yet an immeasurable distance, not only from absolute perfection, but from that degree of perfection which is attainable. May it not be indeed that we are at present in an extremely rudimentary stage of advancement in this momentous respect ?—that the question of education is yet in its veriest infancy? Perhaps we are yet at the very foot of the mountain, and have not really commenced the ascent. Not odder, it may be, in our eyes is the educational system of the Middle Ages than our present system will be according to the decisions of posterity. These possibilities should surely make us, not reckless revolutionists, but thoughtful, considerate reformers. The changes that are now making will in their turn perhaps be modified or superseded. There is no such thing as an educational canon which closes and is complete.

The subjects which especially concern us in this paper are English Language and Literature. These subjects may be said to be now finding places in our school curricula. That they will eventually be

[ocr errors]

admitted everywhere, there seems no reason to doubt. During the last ten years this important movement has advanced with hastening steps. The reign of Victoria will be as conspicuous in the history of our language in its connection with Education as is now the reign of Richard the Second. Between these two epochs--more than five hundred years apart-there is perhaps no other one of any comparable moment. In Richard the Second's time English was admitted into schools as the teaching medium ; it is now being admitted as a teaching subject. “John Cornwall,” says an old chronicler in a wellknown passage,

a master of grammar, changed the lore in grammar school and construction of French into English, and Richard Pencrich learned that manner teaching of him, and other men of Pencrich. So that the year of our Lord a thousand three hundred fourscore and five, of the Second King Richard, after the Conquest nine, in all the grammar schools of England children leave French and construe and learn in English."* To that innovation no doubt resistance was offered ; that same chronicler goes on to balance the advantage and the disadvantage : but it was effected. Some future historian will record of this present age that it witnessed the introduction into our schools—at least into some of them-of a careful study of our native tongue and the great works written in it. He will record that English boys and girls were for the first time instructed in the great classics of their country, that Shakspere and Milton and Scott were read and re-read along with Horner and Sophocles and Virgil, that a pernicious monopoly was for ever abolished. Why should we not know our Shakspere as the Greeks knew their Homer ? In Xenophon's Symposium one of the guests says of himself : ο πατήρ επιμελούμενος όπως ανήρ αγαθος γενοίμην, ήνάγκασέ με πάντα τα Ομήρου έπη μαθείν και νύν δυναίμην αν Ιλιάδα όλην και 'Οδύσσειαν από στόματος ειπείν. My father, earnestly wishing that I should become a good man, made me learn all Homer's poetry ; and at this day I could say off by heart the whole Iliad and Odyssey.” Not that we should servilely follow that method, and commit all Shakspere's poems and plays to memory; but why should our poet not have his proper place in our schools? There is room for him and for Homer too. There is no fatal incompatibility between these two supreme spirits. We do not love Homer less, but Shakspere

It is a great loss to our national life that we do not more * See Morris' Specimens of Early English (Clarendon Press Series), p. 339.


thoroughly study our great national poet. Do not let us flatter ourselves that at one time or another in our lives we do, as a nation, study him. There is much talk of Shakspere ; is there much real knowledge ? There is much pride in him ; is it intelligent pride ? To the great majority of persons are his plays much more than names, or at best but fine stories ? It is no slight cause for rejoicing that the time of this ignorance is no longer to be winked at; that our Shakspere is, to some extent at least, to be known, and receive a better informed, a more discriminate, a more practical admiration.


[ocr errors]

But it is not proposed here to enter into any general advocacy of the teaching of English. This subject is rapidly becoming independent of any such support ; its admission into schools is, as has been already said, almost secured. What I propose in some sort to deal with is rather the details of English teaching, not in the hope of suggesting anything new or fresh to the many able teachers who have of late turned their attention to this matter, but rather of showing those who may still regard English as a subject somewhat barren of such material as the teacher requires, how abundant and rich it is in fact. Something of what follows has already been said in a paper which appeared in the London Student magazine in July 1868, where an attempt was made to treat one of Milton's sonnets mainly after the same manner in which Scott's Rosabelle is to be treated here.

Before we proceed to our special work, let me make two general observations :

(i.) Nothing should be told a pupil which he can think out or find out for himself. The great function of education is not so much to give information as to put the pupil in the way of getting it and recognizing and using it justly when he has it. A man's knowledge is not to be estimated by the number of facts which he has appropriated, by the amount of books he has devoured, nor yet by the number of principles which have been impressed upon his memory. A principle mastered in such a way is, in an educational, a thought-developing point of view, of no more worth than a fact. But knowledge is to be gauged by the manner in which facts are arranged and combined, in which principles have been arrived at. To teach how to arrange facts,

and to combine and to interpret—to impart real knowledge—is the schoolmaster's highest work. Of course the facts must be collected ; but this the memory, properly directed, easily accomplishes. Now with respect to English teaching, every pupil, however young, has already amassed a considerable store of facts : for instance, he can talk the language easily, he has a certain standard by which he talks it ; he has a vocabulary of no mean extent. The teacher should avail himself of this store; he should aim at making the pupil the conscious master of it; he should assist him to order and methodize it. It is not so much necessary at first to add to it. To create Kosmos out of Chaos no fresh material is wanted. Therefore let the pupil be led to observe and to order the stock information he already possesses ; let him be made to turn that to good account; let him be told nothing that he in fact knows though he is not sensible that he knows it. It may be questioned whether we always avoid the frightful example of the great Dunce Schoolmaster :

“ To ask, to guess, to know as they commence,

As Fancy opens the quick springs of Sense,
We ply the memory, we load the brain,
Bind rebel Wit, and double chain on chain;
Confine the thought to exercise the breath,
And keep them in the pale of words till death.”

By all means let the pupil“ ask ;” but let him first ask himself.

As for matters which he certainly does not know, or on which mere observation and reflection will not inform him, it is often good not directly to inform him, but to put him in the way of informing himself. Some personal exertion will endear to him the knowledge he acquires, and will impress it more deeply on his mind. The habit of independent search, conducted in however humble a way, is highly valuable.

(ii.) With regard to the following paragraphs, it would not be advisable to give in every case equal importance to the various methods of study they indicate. With a less advanced“ form,” certain of these methods might be omitted altogether ; with a more advanced one, certain others might be omitted. How many of them are made use of, Ind to what degree any one that is made use of should be carried, tlust depend upon circumstances ; for instance, with a very low form minight be well to dwell simply on the story of what is read, to see

that is thoroughly understood and realized.


To avoid vagueness, it may be well to take a particular piece of English writing, and apply what has to be said to it. Let us take a piece of English poetry, of no extraordinary difficulty, on which to make our experiment.


O listen, listen, ladies gay!

No haughty feat of arms I tell ;
Soft is the note, and sad the lay

That mourns the lovely Rosabelle.
“ Moor, moor the barge, ye gallant crew!

And, gentle lady, deign to stay !
Rest thee in Castle Ravensheuch,

Nor tempt the stormy frith to-day.
“The blackening wave is edged with white;

To inch and rock the sea-mews fly :
The fishers have heard the Water-sprite,

Whose screams forebode that wreck is nigh.
“ Last night the gifted Seer did view

A wet shroud swathed round lady gay ;
Then stay thee, Fair, in Ravensheuch ;

Why cross the gloomy firth to-day?"
“ 'Tis not because Lord Lindesay's heir

To-night at Roslin leads the ball,
But that my lady mother there

Sits lonely in her castle hall.
“ 'Tis not because the ring they ride,

And Lindesay at the ring rides well,
But that my sire the wine will chide

If 'tis not fill'd by Rosabelle."
O'er Roslin on that dreary night

A wondrous blaze was seen to gleam;
'Twas broader than the watchfire's light,

And redder than the bright moonbeam.
It glared on Roslin's castled rock,

It ruddied all the copse-wood glen:
'Twas seen from Dryden's groves of oak,

And seen from cavern's Hawthornden.

Seem'd all on fire that chapel proud

Where Roslin's chiefs uncoffin'd lie,
Each Baron, for a sable shroud,
Sheath'd in his iron panoply.

« ElőzőTovább »