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however among lawyers that we come tined to fame a certain number of school across the most brilliant school-reputa- successes, there confronts us an appalling tions. Grotius was so forward with his array of instances of unmistakable failure studies, that he was ripe for the university failure, that is to say, from the schoolby twelve. Yet even this feat of early master's and the respectable parent's point scholarship is perhaps more than matched of view. by Bentham, who went up to Oxford at To begin with, we bear that some of the age of thirteen, after winning a repu. the ablest writers were bad learners in tation at Westminster for Latin and Greek this sense that they would not apply their
Another precocity, Brougham, left minds to their school-tasks, but were desschool at the same early age at the head ultory and idle, given to reverie and to of the fifth form.
odd caprices in the matter of reading, Among men of letters in the narrower sometimes with the natural result of get. sense, we meet, too, with instances of first ting credit for being dunces. Newton and rate success at school. Dante was a hard Scott were both dilatory scholars, though student, and under his teacher, Brunetto on occasions they would make a spurt and Latini, of whom he speaks with gratitude, prove what they could do. Goldsmith he mastered the secret of classical lore. earned for himself among his schoolfelMilton, too, was, as everybody knows, a lows the reputation of a stupid, heavy diligent and successful classical scholar. blockhead.” Coleridge, too, when He was fortunate, like Dante, in having Christ's Hospital, was much given to des. good teachers, and in his Fourth Elegy, ultory reading. Balzac is a clear instance addressed to his tutor Young, he ex- of a school failure. Instead of setting presses his gratitude to him for having himself like a proper boy to master the infused into his mind a love of learning. prescribed subjects he buried himself Voltaire and Le Sage, both taught by the in mystic literature and indulged in day Jesuits, are said to have been good learn. dreaining. He went out of his way too to ers. Johnson learot "by intuition” and write a treatise on the human will, an easily rose to the top of his class. He irregularity which one of his masters natowns his obligations to the pedagogic au- urally enough punished by committing the thorities for having “whipped à suffi. Ms. to the fames. Perhaps, however, the ciency of Latin into him. Lessing was typical instance of the stupidity of genius an excellent learner, and soon outgrew his is Rousseau. He was a thorough dunce school. The rector's report of him says: and knew it, though he tries to account “ He is a horse that needs double ra. for it by a hypersensitive nature. tions.” Maucaulay was a diligent scholar, In addition to these laggards in learn. and read far beyond the requirements of ing a number of gifted men have been his school. Leopardi, taught by a private branded as school-rebels. A well-known tutor, showed himself a veritable prodigy instance is Pope, who when at school in learning. Alfred de Musset attained showed his taste for vituperation by lam. the rare distinction among poets of being pooning his master. Voltaire, too, disat the head of his school. E. A.' Poe, played a precocious rebelliousness against again, was both at school and college at the powers that be. Addison is said to the head of his class. In addition to such have run away from school after commitinstances of first-rate success at school, ting some breach of discipline. there are numerous cases of respectable also the leader of a “barring out” at the scholastic attainments, such as Smollett, grammar school, to which he afterwards Lamb, Leigh Hunt, and even the refrac- went. Southey as is well known was ex
pelled from school for penning a spirited It is to be added that more than one article on flogging in a school publication. eminent man have acknowledged their in- Byron was another rebel against the scho. debtedness to the schoolmaster. In addi-lastic powers. He hated Harrow, found tion to the names of Dante and Milton the drudgeries of accurate scholarship already cited, one may instance Burke, intolerable, and was “famous for rowing." who, speaking of the Quaker school where | Th defiance by young genius of scholastic he was instructed, says: " If I am anything powers is well illustrated by the incident it is the education I had there has made that Sterne relates out of his school life. me so.” More than one distinguished The master, he tells us, “ had had the ceilpupil of Dr. Arnold at Rugby, including ing of the schoolroom new white-washed, the poet Clough, have expressed a warm and the ladder remained there. I, one appreciation of his excellent training. unlucky day, mounted it, and wrote with
While we thus find among those des- a brush in large capital letters, "LAU. LIVING AGE. VOL. LXXIII. 3775
STERNE,'" an act for which the usher shown his feeling of piety towards the naturally flogged him, though the master Charterhouse School, where he was edu. (according to Sterne) administered balm cated, by calling it Slaughterhouse. to his wounds in the shape of a flattering Altogether, it cannot be said that the prophecy.
boys who afterwards proved themselves In addition to the dunces and the reb. to have been the most highly gifted, shone els, we have as a third class of school with much lustre at school, or found them. failures, the unhappy victims. A boy who selves in happy harmony with their school is delicate, reserved, and awkward in bis environment. manners, is apt to have a rough time of it The record of the doings of genius at at school, and a number of highly gifted college is not greatly different. No doubt boys have unfortunately answered to this a number of the ablest men have won description. Cowper's miserable experi. university distinctions. In a few cases, ences at his first school in Hertfordshire indeed, a thoroughly original man has car: are well known, as also his bitter invective ried everything before him. Thus, among against school education in his poem, the senior wranglers we find the name “ Tirocinium.” Goldsmith, too, was a of Paley, the eminent theologian. The small, awkwardly shaped boy, and had the mathematician, Sir W. Rowan Hamilton, unenviable distinction of being the buttrof is said to have “completely mastered the school. De Quincey, who had shown the mathematics of his college at the age himself a brilliant pupil at Bath, went of fifteen. The metaphysician, Sir Wilthrough such a doleful time of it at Man- liam Hamilton, won high distinctions both chester Grammar School that, after three at Glasgow and Oxford. Among famous years, he ran off. Quite recently, Mr. names that distinguished themselves by Anthony Trollope has given us his miser- winning honors in classics (including En. able recollections of Rugby. Nor have glish verse) may be mentioned Cowley, these unhappy school experiences been Coleridge, and Macaulay. confined to eminent Englishmen. Schiller At the same time it may safely be said found the mechanical drudgery of the that a very small proportion of the men of Duke of Wurtemberg's School irritating genius who have visited our universities and galling, and says that the six years he have presaged their after fame by high passed there were the most harassing and academic distinction. Thus it has been comfortless of his wiole life. Lamartine computed that, though Cambridge has was so unhappy at school that he had to been rich in poets, only four appear in her be removed and entrusted to a private honors lists.* Not only so, we know that tutor.
some of the ablest men have proved signal Finally, in this record of ill-schooled failures at college. Goldsmith was quite genius we have a number of testimonies as famous at college as at school for incorin the writings of eminent men to the low rigible stupidity, and only just managed to opinion they entertained of the scholastic scrape through his degree, the lowest institution. Besides the poem of Cowper, down in the list. Swift disputes with there are the amusing satires of Heine in Goldsmith the distinction of greatest the “ Reisebilder.” It is possible that we dunce, seeing that he could not even obhave a reminiscence of his own experi- tain his degree, breaking down in the ences in the following: “In the dark clois- definition of a syllogism. A third distin. ters of the Franciscan convent, which were guished member of the same college, close to our schoolroom, there used to Edmund Burke, was a very irregular stuhang a big crucifix of grey wood, a grim dent. He had spurts of study, or, as he carving which even now at times haunts calls them, “sallies of passion," but, unmy dreams, and stares at me mournfully fortunately, the direction of these crazes with bleeding eyes. Before this image I did not coincide with that of the preoften stood and prayed. “O thou poor scribed curriculum, so that he would be Deity, once tortured like myself, if it be diving deep into natural philosophy when possible, grant that I may remember the he ought to have been giving his mind to verba irregularia.'” Shelley is supposed logic. Among other desultory learners at to be referring to his experiences at Eton college, we may include Gibbon. The in the lines :
fourteen months he spent at Oxford, he Most wretched men writes, “proved the most idle and unprofit. Are cradled into poetry by wrong;
able of my whole life.” Southey's is a They learn in suffering what they teach in song.
* On this point some intesesting particulars are
given in an article on “Senior Wranglers," in the Thackeray, in his earlier writings, has | Cornhill Magazine, vol. 45, P. 225
very similar case. He was so dead to the
The university tale then seems to be advantages of college lectures that his but a prolongation of the school story. tutor advised him to discontinue attend- | The men whose names should have shed ance on his course,
most lustre on their university appear to In many cases we have, too, clear signs have profited but little by its characterisof a disposition to rebel against the dis- tic educational system, and in not a few cipline and routine of college life. Milton cases they have declared themselves its was a most indocile undergraduate, and, decided antagonists. according to rumor, kicked so vigorously While we thus learn that the net result against either the discipline or the exer- of our accepted pedagogic system when cises of his college, that he brought on applied to the biggest brains is decidedly himself a flogging. Dryden must have small, we have further to note that many been a bit of a rebel at Cambridge, for we a distinguished man has done fairly well read of his being discommoned and gated without the aid of this system. This apfor a fortnight for disobedience and con- plies not only to the later and more luxutumacy, and he afterwards wrote of his rious education of the university, but even alma mater in the lines :
to what we are in the habit of thinking Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
the necessary schooling of early years. Than his own mother university.
In many cases this elementary tuition was
from poverty or other causes so irregular Wordsworth, like Milton, was intracta- and scanty that the process of learning ble and headstrong at college. Shelley, became in an excepiional sense self-tuias everybody knows, was an unruly sub- tion. This applies to Franklin, Livingject at Oxford. He objected fiercely to stone, Pope, Burns, Dickens, and many the prescribed studies, scouted Aristotle, another. and ended by getting himself expelled for The conclusion that seems to be forced holding atheistic opinions. Others who on us by the study of the lives of men of keenly disliked the fixed routine of tutors letters is that they owe a remarkably small and college exercises were Johnson, whose portion of their learning to the established love for Oxford was qualified by a fervid machinery of instruction. A good numhatred of her tutors, and Gray, who com- ber have only very imperfectly come under plained bitterly of having to endure lec- the influence of the educational system, tures daily and hourly, and having to while a large fraction of those who have waste his time over mathematics. Among been more fully subjected to it have been foreign writers Heine is certainly the uni- too little in barmony with its spirit and versity black sheep.' He was unabashed methods to derive from it any large and in his contempt for professors. At Bonn, substantial profit. where he went ostensibly to study law, he A part of this failure to benefit from the disdained hearing any lectures but those prescribed appliances of tuition must no on history and literature by A. W. von doubt be set down to their own imperfecSchlegel; and at Göttingen and Berlin he tions. For it must be remembered that a showed a like royal determination to have lad gifted with exceptional mental powers his own way. At the former seat of learn- is much more likely to feel any such deing he was rusticated for challenging an. fect than a boy of mediocre parts. The other student to a duel, a fact which may scholastic trifling that excited the indignaperhaps help us to understand the satire tion of Bacon and of Milton was probably hurled against the pedantic little place in considered by the bulk of their contempothe “ Harzsreise." At Berlin he succeeded raries as a highly edifying pursuit, and at last in fighting a duel, an occurrence “the trade in classic niceties that of. which happily cut short not his life but fended the soul of Cowley, very likely only his university career.
seemed a quite proper occupation to the We find further that more than one dis- average undergraduate of his time. tinguished man have expressed in later There is no doubt, too, that the establife their low estimate of university train- lished system has up to quite recent years ing. In addition to the names of Milton, at least, been far too inelastic in forcing Dryden, and the others already mentioned, the same subjects of study on all alike there are those of three of our profound without reference to individual tastes and est philosophers, Bacon, Hobbes, and aptitudes. Gray, whose residence at CamLocke, each of whom inveighed against bridge coincided with a low state of scholthe scholastic trifling with which the years arship, complained with some reason of passed at the university are mostly con- the time he had to " waste over mathesumed.
But there is, one suspects, deeper rea- | However keen and strong the impulse son for the ill adaptation of the original towards knowledge in a boy, his attainment youth to the accepted systems of tuition. of it obviously depends on the presence of The schoolmaster armed with the last humanly appointed sources, if only a wellargument of the pedagogue implies, as bis stocked library over which he can wander proper correlative, the laggard learner with at will. More than this, it is indisputable a rooted prejudice in favor of play. And that the greatest of men will be the the whole elaborate machinery of the stronger for a wise intellectual and moral school, and even of the college, too, has guidance in their early years. Would sprung mainly out of this dire necessity of Goethe have been Goethe if, instead of driving stubborn youth to the waters of his early home-surroundings, with their learning. Now boys and girls possessed comparative opulence, their refinement, of real genius are, as we have seen, com. their various striking personalities, and monly characterized by a furious appetite their carefully thought-out plan of educa. for knowledge of various kinds. “Om- tion, he had lighted say on the environnivorous reader" is a recurring descrip-ment of a Chatterton ? tion of such exceptionally endowed youths. It is nothing less than a profound error Hence they feel from the outset that the to suppose that the plant of genius grows pedagogic system is not for them.
into fruitful maturity, whether or no there But this is not all or the worst. The are the kindly influences of sun and rain prescribed system, however elastic, must, to play upon it. One would rather say it is obvious, enforce the methodical study that, in a sense a boy or girl possessing of some particular branches of learning the divine flame is more subject to the It is indispensable that the average boy human forces of his surroundings than should be kept pegging away at certain the ordinary child. The biography of subjects, and the average boy offers no George Eliot may remind us how deliserious objection just because he feels no cately sensitive to the impress of other particular desire to rove into other fields minds the great mind often is. The differof study. But the eager mind of a Gib-ence in susceptibility to others' influence bon or of a Cowley, reaching out with its in the case of the ordinary and the highly omnivorous cravings, feels itself" cabined, gifted youth may perhaps be roughly cribbed, confined” by these restrictions. defined by saying that while the former It is the habit of genius to pasture over ais assimilated the latter assimilates. For wide area of ideas, scenting out just what the original boy vital contact with another pleases its palate best, and what as a rule mind means in a special manner the awakproves most nourishing to its own special ening of new forms of individual activity. capacity, and anything in the shape of a And this being so, it follows that the protether is galling to it. When to these in- founder kind of influence will only be tellectual peculiarities of genius we add exerted by a comparative few, viz., those the common moral accompaniments, a marked personalities whose peculiar io. highly sensitive temperament, a pride apt tellectual or moral traits have the perfect to wax arrogant, and a passionate love of adaptation and the force needed for fertilliberty, one can easily understand how it ization. has come to pass that so large a fraction A survey of the page of biography fully of the ablest men have in their youth illustrates this truth. Even the splentaken up an attitude of hostility to scholas. didly gifted boy. who has chafed under the tic rule.
small restraints and irksome impositions But does it follow that because the pos- of the schoolmaster, has shown himself sessor of genius is not well fitted to reap most apt to learn when the right teacher the particular benefits of our pedagogic has presented himself. Lamb and Colesystem, he is really independent of educa. ridge were thus fortunate when at Christ's tional forces and influences altogether? | Hospital in having in Mr. Boyer a master This is not an uncommon view, and it has who made his boys study Milton and much to support it. When, for example, Shakespeare, along with the Greek tragic we read of the little foundling, D'Alem- poets. Byron's general dissatisfaction bert, urging his way to knowledge, through with Harrow was tempered by sincere rethe ridicule of his foster-mother, and the gard for one of its masters, the Rev. Jos. discouragements of his schoolmaster, we Drury. are apt to think that the true intellectual It is not however in the regularly ap. giant stands from the first in self-sufficing pointed educational authority that the isolation from his kind. But such an idea original youth commonly finds this fertilis clearly an exaggeration of the fact. | izing influence. Sometimes it is a mem. ber of the family, for example, a sister or | Then it came to pass that his memory a brother. The grandmother appears to became the reflection of a “fleering, shalhave played quite a considerable part in low scoffer," some sort of human monkey calling out new activities, possibly owing grimacing at all things virtuous and good, to the profound influence on an imagina- whom our forefathers learned to detest. tive child of the far-off antiquity of her But when the right sense of historic pronarrated experiences. In other instances portion is developed in men's minds, says it is the school or college friend who thus Mr. Morley, the name of Voltai will ministers to the exalted individual's de- stand forth with the names. of other great velopment. Nor is it merely by such decisive movements of European progress, close and permanent attachments that such, for instance, as the Reformation, the genius has nourished itself. The quickly great revival of northern Europe, or the responsive mind of the gifted boy or girl Renaissance, the earlier revival of the has known how to draw intellectual and south. Voltairism, whatever opinions are moral sustenance from many a temporary held respecting it, may be said to have human contact. Madame de Staël, Ma- owed its birth to the flight of its founder dame D'Arblay, and Mrs. Barbauld owed from Paris to London, an event which was much to the intellectual talk of their the turning point of his life, serving as it fathers' guests. Heine found something did to extend his views, complete his edumore profitable than the schoolmaster in cation, and make a man of him. He left the
drummers of Napoleon's army. France, as it has been expressed, a poet, George Sand acquired a lore more valua- he returned to it as a sage. It was about ble than that of books from the village the middle of May, 1726, when he was in peasants with whom she mingled. Balzac the thirty-third year of his age, that Volfound even the dreary offices of the so- taire first set foot on English soil, and licitor and the notary full of instruction. even then he could look back upon a
Our study of the way in which genius troubled past and years filled with “Strife, is affected by its surroundings has not, it contention, impatience, and restless prowill be said, led to anything very definite. duction.” The retrospect need not be a It will not do exactly for the educator to lengthy one. leave it alone ; and yet his attempts to When Prussia was get a dukedom, while further its growth he is very likely to William and Mary reigned in England bungle. For every true son of genius is and Louis XIV. had still twenty-one years a new individuality needing its own pe- of life before him, as Newton was about culiar forms of sustenance. Who then to become master of the mint, and Dry. shall be bold enough to suggest a general den was translating Virgil, François Marie pedagogic rule where all is so uncertain ? Arouet was born, November, 1694, the
second son of M. François Arouet, a notary of some repute. As with Homer and the great Duke of Wellington, his birth
place is unknown or in dispute, as though From Temple Bar.
his life had been beset by the spirit of
scepticism from its very commencement. The eighteenth century will ever form Like Fontenelle, he came into the world a one of the most remarkable epochs in the puny infant, with but a flickering breath literature of France, and the most extraor- of life him, and like him also, not only dinary character to be met with in the enjoyed unusual length of days but reannals of that age, as poet, philosopher, tained extraordinary faculties unimpaired dramatist, or historian, is unquestionably to the very last. In the autumn of 1704, Voltaire. The contemporary idea of him a few weeks after the battle of Blenheim, which possessed the English mind was young Arouet, aged ten, was sent to the very much formed from the attacks which Eton of eighteenth-century France - the he directed against religion, and was in Jesuit college of Louis-le-Grand, Rue S. all probability represented fairly enough Jacques in the very heart of old Paris, by the saying of Dr. Johnson, that he at the time attended by two thousand boys would sooner sign a sentence for Rous- of the most distinguished families of the seau's transportation than that of any kingdom. Here he remained as a boarder felon who had gone from the Old Bailey seven years, and learned, as he says, for many years, and that the difference - Latin and nonsense.” Yet even before between him and Voltaire was so slight he had been a year at school he gave proof that it “would be difficult to settle the of the unsurpassed faculty for facile verse. proportion of iniquity between them.” | making which always distinguished him,
VOLTAIRE AND HIS FIRST EXILE.