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is the more striking from the fact that it was, probably, one of the few points in regard to which these illustrious rivals ever concurred. Indeed, the difficulty of making a successful abridgment is recognized as far back in antiquity as the era of the Apocrypha, in which it is commented upon with considerable earnestness in one of the books of the Maccabees.
In modern times, the subject of studying history, as well as the different modes in which the study may be taught, has been discussed, with great learning and clearness of judgment, by Smyth in his “ Lectures on Modern History,” Dr. Thomas Arnold in his “Lectures on Modern History,” John Stuart Mill in his address before the University of St. Andrews, Latham in his treatise upon the “Action of Examinations,” Dr. Wiese in his great work
upon the government and regulation of the German schools, Quick in his “ Educational Reformers," Bishop Dupanloup in his valuable works on education, Fénelon in his letter to the French Academy, Bain in his “ Education as a Science,” to say nothing of numberless essays upon the subject contained in various educational journals. Names and authorities might be multiplied to an indefinite extent, but those cited will suffice to show the amount of interest the question has elicited from enlightened educationists in our own and preceding times.
The fatal defect in the compendium is that it obscures the processes by which historical results are attained; it deals in comprehensive generalizations, and yet fails to exhibit the data upon which the generalizations are based;
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it destroys the relation of cause and effect, and bewilders the mind with a complexity of details, whose significance we are unable to perceive or to apprehend. For a teacher to introduce his pupils fresh from the grammar-school course into a text-book of history, so arranged and constructed that it requires, for its proper appreciation, a previous or an independent knowledge of the very subject it professes to teach, is an anomaly that ought not to be tolerated in an age characterized by great advances in methods of instruction.
It is one of the defects of the compendium method that it not only prevents us from discovering the significance and relation of events, but encourages us to draw inferences and form impressions that are utterly erroneous and misleading. Its abuses are positive as well as negative. In all literary as well as historical study, precipitate generalization is the characteristic weakness. I wish that every teacher of history and literature would carefully study Matthew Arnold's Introduction to his edition of Johnson's “Lives of the Poets,” Carlyle's
Essay on Croker's Edition of Boswell's Johnson,” and Meiklejohn's “ Essay on the Teaching of English Literature,” in Kiddle and Schem's “Educational Cyclopædia.”
I am aware how easy all purely negative criticism is, and how difficult as well as delicate a task it is to discover adequate remedies for existing evils. So far as the question of history is concerned, I do not think that a solution is hopeless. I have long advocated the beginning of history teaching by the use of graphic and lively
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sketches of those illustrious characters around whom the historic interest of each age is concentrated. Such books as Abbott's Lives of “Hannibal,” “ Cæsar," " Richard III,” “Mary Stuart,” “ Elizabeth,” “Louis XIV,” “Napoleon,” etc., written in narrative style, and presenting history in concrete, biographical form, are vastly superior to the ordinary compendiums as an introduction to the study of history. For “history is the essence of innumerable biographies," and from the very constitution of the human mind, which, in language, in morals, and in philosophy, first apprehends truth in the concrete, it would seem unwise to introduce the study of history without exhibiting it in concrete forms.
The present work is an endeavor to test, by actual experiment, the correctness of the views set forth above. The work consists of a collection of extracts representing the purest historical literature that has been produced in the different stages of our literary development, from the time of Clarendon to the era of Macaulay and Prescott. There has been no attempt to preserve chronological order, the design of the work being to present typical illustrations of classic historical style, gathered mainly from English and American writers. Most of the extracts are descriptive, clear, and suggestive. To create and develop a fondness for historical study—a sentiment that the compendium can never infuse, but which, on the contrary, it tends to repress and extinguish -have been my constant aim and endeavor. Every era of historical development, from the rise of Athenian
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greatness to the accession of Victoria, has been carefully represented. Many of the selections have never appeared in any previous historical reader. A liberal share has been assigned to the delineation of historical characters. The greater number of those eminent personages around whom the interest, especially of modern history, concentrates, are drawn by some one of our historical portrait painters, as Burnet, Clarendon, Lecky, Froude, or Macaulay.
The editor assumes no responsibility for the varied delineations, and the differing estimates of character that may be discovered in the work. The book is totally devoid of sectarian or partisan tendencies, the aim being simply to instill a love for historical reading, and not to suggest opinions, or inculcate views, in regard to any of those great civil and religious revolutions whose effects and whose influence must remain open questions till the last act in the historical drama shall be completed. It is hoped that, if the book is used with intelligence and discrimination, it may stimulate its readers to seek an intimate acquaintance with the great masters of history represented in its pages. Prescott, Motley, Irving, Froude, and Macaulay can be read with appreciative pleasure by most people of ordinary intelligence, and if the “historic sense” is once developed, the student can gradually rise to the study of the great philosophical historians,Grote, Von Ranke, Freeman, Bryce, and Guizot.
This kind of historical reading is especially necessary for all teachers of history. It gives them that compre
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hensive grasp of the subject without which no good results are possible. Too often the teacher of history knows very little more than his pupils, of the subject he is trying to teach, and when some earnest, intelligent scholar asks questions, the answers to which are not to be found in the ordinary text-books, such a teacher finds himself completely at sea, and is obliged either to confess his ignorance or to give some evasive answer. Extensive reading of the kind suggested in this book will prevent such embarrassment on the part of the teacher; it will give him that general information which will enable him to enter the class-room fully equipped for all the emergencies which may arise; and it will stimulate him to encourage, rather than to evade, intelligent questions on the part of his pupils.
The intention of notes and comments is to suggest new lines of thought, and to develop a taste for more extended investigation. A more varied range of selections might easily have been made, but my experience as a teacher of history and literature has convinced me that in no department are moderation and concentration more necessary. The attempt to compass all history and all literature results in confusion, bewilderment, and premature discouragement. A discriminating selection from the masters of a language is greatly to be preferred to a heterogeneous collection, representing all diversities of style, and failing to impress upon the mind the essential distinction between the classic and the commonplace in literature.
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