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UNIVERSAL INFORMATION AND “ THE ENGLISH CYCLOPÆDIA."
BY THE EDITOR.
The time was when every man whose them, it does not appear that, in any business lay in intellectual matters was article of erudition, they could be taxed bound to be his own encyclopædia. with ignorance, or with knowledge under Having picked up, one way or another, the highest contemporary mark. Later the amount of knowledge which he re still, the alleged necessity of something quired, he walked about, carrying this like universal learning, each one for stock with him, increasing it as means himself, among those whom nations offered, and serving as a source of infor would recognise as their intellectual mation to which others could refer that chiefs, was not palpably opposed to the chanced to be in his neighbourhood. fact. When Plato philosophized, it was Nor, in those days, did the knowledge not the mere flight of a splendid specuof a man so situated necessarily fall far lative faculty in empty space, but the short of all the knowledge that was to action of a mind that had grasped and be obtained. The world was yet young; digested all accessible knowledge respectand, as all that we call learning or eru ing the whole world of matter and men dition really resolves itself into history round which it flew and whose sublimer -into a recollection of what has hap- relations it sought to establish. In pened among men, or men have thought Aristotle, even more conspicuously, we and found out—the burden of legends behold, with wonder unabated to this that had been rolled down from the begin- day, universality and minuteness of ning of things in any one land was not acquisition, combined, as a matter of too great for one man's memory. Homer, course, with the spirit of philosophic if there was such a person, was not only system. the poet of the Greek world, but also a Nor did the tradition which required walking compendium, from one Greek universality of knowledge in those who "storefarm” to another, of all the history would tower highest in a community, as and science then existing on both sides its men of intellect, die out with the of the Ægean. Herodotus carried in his Greeks. Different ages and countries single head a recollection, most diligently have had different notions as to the kind got together, of all that it seemed worth of intellectual functionary most to be while for a Greek to know respecting the held in honour. Over large tracts of present and the past of mankind as time, as with us perhaps now, the poet ranged round and away from the vast has had the undisputed pre-eminence, margin of the Mediterranean. What and been voted, nem. con., the tip-top of with the strong memories of those old created beings; but there have been worthies, what with the small helps of times when—possibly because a poet of tablets, note-books, and scrolls, which the right order seemed a blessing past the later of them may have had about praying for-men have been content to
No. 29,-VOL. V.
offer their highest worship to the philo- perfection, and act on the nerves of a sopher, or even, at a pinch, to such a crowd like an electric battery. A generatortoise or toad of earth as the scholar or tion or two later, as we see from the Diahistorian. The Romans, in this respect, logue of Tacitus concerning Eloquence, it made a rather characteristic choice. For had begun to be a question among the cula time, at least, it was neither poet, phi- tivated Romans whether after all oratory losopher, nor historian that the imperial was the grandest of human occupations, people honoured the most and hoisted and whether it might not be more judion their shoulders with the loudest cious for a man of intellect to retire into shouts, but that nondescript compound the country, and there, if he would work of the practical parts of all three to whom with his brains, work in quiet, and merely they gave the name of orator. But then “sing to the praise and glory of God," what a prodigy their orator had to be, to like the parish-clerk in Lincolnshire, "a satisfy them! According to Cicero, for little 'ymn of his own composin’.” But, one real orator that was produced, Nature wheresoever and in whatsoever one were produced poets, philosophers, and his to work, it was required of every man torians, nay generals and statesmen also, who would be an intellectual chief among by the bushel; and what he meant by his fellows, that he should be master of making this assertion, over and above the universal learning of his time. the sly reference he may have had to The same tradition, with the same No. 1, we see better when we read his evidence of facts at first sight to make inventory of the things necessary for the it plausible, has descended even into outfit of a first-class orator. We flatter the modern world. In the early ourselves that we have orators among centuries of our era there were men in us; but how our House-of-Commons the monasteries or about the Courts of men would stare if this enumeration of Europe—take our own Bede, or the Cicero's were made imperative ! First of
Alcuin whom we lent to Charlemagne, all, universal knowledge—not the smat for example—who, according to the tering on many subjects which pleaders rude standard of the age, were prodigies must acquire in handling their successive of universal lore and made it subserve briefs, but real well-grounded knowledge theology. Then, on the first establishin every possible department of science, ment of the great European Universities, art, and practice. The orator must know their luminaries—the Abelards, the as much of philosophy as the philoso- Aquinases, and others of those princes pher, as much of history as the historian, of the schools who lectured to their as much of war as the general, as much thousands of pupils—were men who, of law as the jurist, as much of business though their business was logic and as the merchant, and so on! Then, in speculation, would not have stood their addition to this, and to vitalize all this ground in the midst of such packs of heap of acquisitions, there must be hungry students clamant for knowledge the whole set of the orator's special unless they had been living reservoirs qualifications besides—the voice, the of the totum scibile. And what of the presence, the energy, the training in first great poet in any of the European rhetoric, the action, action, action. In vernaculars ? Is it not part of the other words, it was upon the orator greatness of Dante that, even in a poem rather than upon any other man that the which is unique among the productions Romans of this age laid that awful ne of genius as the expression of one excessity of being his own encyclopædia traordinary personality, he presents to us which the Greeks had laid rather upon in summary the entire system of thought thefr poets and philosophers—with this and knowledge of medieval Italy ? A farther demand, that the orator had to while after Dante it was when, in conbe an encyclopædia beautifully bound, sequence of the so-called Revival of that could stand on its legs at a mo Letters, Scholarship or Learning in a ment's notice, gesticulate and speak to special sense of the word—more particu
larly as including Greek, Latin, and of favour still follows them, the public gaze Oriental Philology, and the necessary is distracted by hosts marching hither accompaniments--became, for a and thither under many varied banners, siderable period, the most honoured and yet all equally in the service of form of intellectual activity everywhere Intellect. We have our men of science, in Europe. The sixteenth and seven our artists, our engineers, and so on, in teenth centuries were peculiarly the age such crowds as were never seen before ; of scholars—not in the sense that there our subdivisions of each class are becomhave not been individual scholars since ing more numerous, and the distances comparable, with the advantage too of between classes and subdivisions are new lights on their side, to the scholars widening ; and in each, apart from the of those centuries, but in the sense that others, such excellence is attainable as scholarship was then the kind of in shall be dignified with the name of tellectual occupation most in requisition, greatness. Fortunately, however, there that it was the scholars who were then still lingers among us, amid all this pensioned and laurelled, and that an complexity of intellectual occupation, unusual amount of the mind that might something of the old conception that no have been available for intellectual man can do much without a large basis purposes generally then ran towards of acquired knowledge, and something erudition and was locked up in the of the old respect for knowledge that exercise of memory.
Looking back seems universal. Remembering in a now, it is the eagles and lynxes of those vague way the old division of Intellect centuries, their great poets and their (still the most useful we have for popular great men of science, that we descry with purposes) into its chief modes or faculadmiration ; but decidedly the largest ties-Memory, Reason, and Imagination amount of contemporary notice was given —we are aware of three main kinds of to the tortoises. Or, if a mind of the eminence that there
be and are poeticalor the speculative order—a Bacon, among intellectual men, each by itself a Galileo, or a Spenser—did, by reason deserving the name of greatness. There of the magnitude of its display, arrest is the greatness of a mind in which the due degree of attention, it was memory is the paramount mode—i.e. the always supposed, and justly supposed, greatness of vast information or erudithat that mind was a full and not an tion; there is the greatness of a mind empty one-that, whatever might be its in which the speculative faculty has constitutional mode of action, it was been paramount-.e. the greatness of provided with a vast fund of material the Thinker; and there is the greatness in the shape of universal acquisition. of a mind in which Imagination has There were men, on the other hand, determined the form of the resultswho perhaps would have been called i.e. the greatness of the Poet. Object more expressly men of erudition, but as you like to metaphysical distinctions who, because they were not mere plod of this sort, you cannot, for the life of ders, but combined with their erudition you, avoid some recognition of this a competent share of wit, poetic vigour, classification if you talk about men ; or active faculty, rivalled the very and you cannot safely blot out such greatest, and were heard of over larger distinctions till you have first made tracts of space.
Such were Erasmus, them very strongly. Now, whatever Buchanan, and Grotius.
preferences we may have for greatness But this age of the supreme reputa- of the two last kinds, we do welcome tion of scholarship passed away ; and among us anything approaching to there came in that era of more multifa- greatness of the first. A man of unirious activity, extending down to the versal information, a
man with the present day, in which Learning and its whole history of the world in the back votaries have been packed away in of his head, like Niebuhr, or Bunsen, corners, and in which, though the glance or Hallam, has the mass and force of an
elephant in the society in which he is. with in any way can only consist in that You are discussing a matter beautifully, mind's recollections. By extension it not knowing anything about it, but may be said that, as regards individuals, simply out of the ready resources of there can be no massive and powerful your own mind! Tramp, crash, goes construction of intellect, of any kind the elephant, if he can be stirred to it; whatever, where there is not solid and and your little fabric is
varied learning, whether accumulated vrong in your dates and precedents; through reading and tradition or by exthere was some confounded Egyptian perience, and that, as regards communior Lower Greek, of whom you had never ties, no great national literature can heard, who had settled all that ages found itself, be it in poetry or in philobefore you were born; if you would sophy, where the soil of acquired knowtake the trouble to refer to such and ledge is not broad and rich. such a work, page so and so, you would artists can't do without a little 'istory, find a complete account of it, and be ma'am," said a painter of some note to a highly interested ! Or, if the elephant lady of our acquaintance; and the maxim is good-humoured and communicative, which delighted Usher, though more and you are docile, and can be happy general, is to the same effect : “ Nescire without the incessant clack-clack of “quid antea quam natus sis acciderit, id est your own tongue, what riches of lore and
semper esse puerum:
:""Not to know what anecdote you might get out of him. “happened before you were born is to be Talk of a night with Burns ! All very always a child.” But as good a stategood in its way ; but what a night one ment of the matter as is to be found might have had also with Niebuhr or anywhere is that given by a man who Porson ! This, we say, is felt whenever made some disturbance in his day, but the opportunity is furnished by a man is not now much heard of the historian of the right order; and, whatever amount and geographer Pinkerton. “In all of premium we may put on the Poet and ages, since the invention of letters," the Philosopher, we have not ceased to he says in the preface to his Inquiry into reverence the man of erudition.
the History of Scotland, “two opposite But this is not all. Even while mak paths have conducted to the temple of ing the distinction of minds according “fame-the path of GENIUS and that of to the mood or faculty which is con “ ERUDITION. These qualities, in a lesser stitutionally, or by habit, paramount in “ degree, bear the names of Ingenuity them, we have not lost sight of the fact " and Learning. Every one who has that the moods or faculties
may alternate “ looked into literary history must know or co-exist in the same mind, and that “ that Erudition or even Learning is perin any case it is a certain total force or haps a surer path to fame than Genius capacity of mind that is thrown into “or Ingenuity; inasmuch as innumerable this or that faculty. And so, while, on “ ancient works of mere learning have the one hand, we cannot allow the title “ reached our time, whereas not one of of greatness, on account of memory, to a mere genius has had that fortune. For mind which we recognise as deficient Homer, Pindar, and the other famous in judgment or invention—while we poets, were all men as remarkable for tacitly assume that an ass or a clod will learning as for genius; which qualities remember only as an ass or a clod re conjoined alone stamp perfection on a members, and will have, at the end of the “ work. Homer's learning arose from chapter, only a farrago of recollections “ travelling and conversation, as Shakecorresponding to its nature—in the same speare's from books in his own lanmanner we are chary in supposing that guage. Of all the ancient poets—that there can be truly great speculation, a “is, of those whose essential form is truly noble poetry, where there is a poor genius—it is impossible to point out cargo in the memory. Ex nihilo nil fit; one who was not profoundly learned ; and the material that any mind can work " if we only except Anacreon, whose
* remains are so few that we cannot was, in reality, a man who had gone “ judge of his learning from them. It through the whole round of the physical " is indeed as impossible to be a great sciences, knew all geography and all “ writer without learning as to be wealthy history, read the archives of all societies, “ without property, or to unite any and could entertain his guests with " other contradiction in terms. Nay, in abundance of biographic anecdote from “ modern times, men of vast erudition every land, and the last morsels of poli“ and men of vast genius have generally tical gossip. Nay, in Scotland itself, “ been contemporary in the same country whether or not Pinkerton was strictly
-as Shakespeare and Saville, Milton just as to the past, there was to be con" and Selden, in England ; Corneille and firmation of his main remark in the near “ Salmasius in France ; Tasso and Sigo- future. James Watt, to whose kind of “nius in Italy ; Cervantes and Aldrete life-labour, as little as to Kant's, lore “ in Spain."
or history in excess might have seemed Though expressed in language a little necessary—who needed only, one might out of fashion now, these remarks are have thought, mathematics of double sound; and the use of the word In- strength, a knack of construction, and genuity to denote a lesser form of what plenty of iron—is remembered yet as is called Genius might be happily re a man of the most universal information, vived. The special application which and the most omnivorous appetite for Pinkerton meant to make of his remarks reading, within as wide a circle of friends was that, up to the time at which he as any one then commanded. Scott found wrote (1789), Scotland, owing to the in him as much of even his own peculiar want of means, had been a less learned lore of history, antiquities, and legend as country than England, and had conse would have furnished forth another set quently, though prolific in ingenious of Waverley Novels. As regards Scott spirits and not without men of genius, himself, according to no definition of been unable to generate or to support a learning save that of a pedant, could literature so rich, firm, and varied as that
it be denied that he was a very learned of the sister nation. Had Pinkerton man. Only the other day, too, in that looked about him, he might have cited Sir William Hamilton, a dilution of contemporary instances in farther illus whose speculations, thirty years after tration of his remark that the most the gist of them was published, has powerful minds of a country are apt to been trickling with strange effect over be those who join learning to their other the field of English Theology, there was excellencies, and that great movements lost to Scotland a mind, not only of the in speculation and strong bursts of crea hardest grasp, but of erudition that tive genius in a nation, where such things seemed boundless. England, the while, occur, will be found to derive their nu had amply within herself kept up her triment, more or less visibly, from a sur more ancient fame. In Coleridge, the rounding loam and subsoil of unusual English philosophic mind of richest and erudition. In England, Johnson, then subtlest influence on those whose youth just dead, and Burke, then still living, dates from between 1810 and 1830, the were both men who were regarded as value of abundant and varied nutrition prodigies of information. In Germany, for the thinking faculty is strikingly as if to shatter by one absolute instance
The fulness and retentiveness of the notion that at least greatness of phi Lord Macaulay's memory were proverlosophic intellect might consist with a bial ; and he was also one of those men small stock of learning, or even be fa of prodigious information who pour it voured by it, Kant—the man whose out in talk. Nor let poor De Quincey main work was a new analysis of the be forgotten-De Quincey, who, in his human mind itself, and who might be later days, flitted about like a small supposed therefore to require but a small superannuated wizard in the lanes and load of external stuff for his purpose highways of an obscure country neigh