Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

These immediate and direct advantages may however be considered as adventitious and unimportant when compared with the benefits which society enjoys from the cultivation of literature. Other branches of study have their peculiar objects of inquiry; but hers are unlimited and universal, and she may be considered as the support, the nurse, and the guardian of all the rest. Whether the discoveries of science are to be explained and recorded, whether the principles and connections of the fine arts are to be illustrated, whether the rules and institutions of society itself are to be demonstrated and defined-it is she who is intrusted with the important office. It is her peculiar task to express, and as it were to embody and cloath our ideas in clear, appropriate and unequivocal language,—to preserve and improve the purity and accuracy of expression, so as to render the communication and interchange of mind still more definite, clear and perfect. It is indeed easy to throw an air of ridicule or contempt on the multifarious labors of lexicographers and grammarians, as it is when we walk through a well-ordered garden to turn a glance of pity or indifference on the humble laborers who are binding up the flowers, or eradicating the weeds; but it must be remembered that without these labors, the garden would soon become an inextricable wilderness, or an useless waste. Let us call to mind the darkness of the middle ages--that long and feverish sleep of the human intellect, and ask to what circumstances we are to attribute our restoration to daylight and to exertion. A few mouldering manuscripts, long hidden in the recesses of monastic superstition, and discovered by these early students of words and syllables, served in a short time, to excite throughout Europe the most ardent desire of improvement, The immense gulph that had separated the human race was no longer a barrier. The strong influence of kindred genius was felt through the interval of two thousand years; and the scholars of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were better acquainted with the sentiments and views, the talents and acquirements, of the ancient Greeks and Romans, than with those of their own countrymen in the century immediately preceding them. If indeed the gift of speech and the communion of ideas be essential to the human race, how must we honor those studies, that not only perpetuate the voice of former ages, but open an intercourse between nation and nation, and convert the world into one country? Or how can even the political and commercial concerns of a people be conducted with safety and advantage, except by an acquaintance with the language, the customs, and the manners of those with whom our transactions are to take place?

} J2

1 1589

Nor is it merely on preserving the purity or extending the utility of language and composition that literature founds her pretensions, göringati „að 9

She has also departments of her own, the variety and importance of which need only to be stated to be universally acknowledged, It is to her that we are indebted for the records of the institutions and transactions of past ages-those lights and land-marks which enable us to steer with greater confidence through the difficulties that may yet surround us. It is she who has embodied and preserved, in immortal language, those splendid productions of fancy and imagination, which for so many centuries have been the delight and glory of the human race, and it is still her peculiar province

"to catch the manners living as they rise,"

and to hand down to future ages the true form, and features, and characteristic traits of the present day. If the discovery of the art of printing be in fact, as it is usually considered, one of the most fortunate events in the history of mankind, it is only by the exertions of literature that its promised advantages can be obtained. Will it then be said, that these studies and occupations, which extend to the most important objects of human inquiry and pursuit, and yet intermix themselves in the daily and hourly concerns of life, which improve the understanding, charm the imagination, influence the moral feelings, and purify the taste, are adverse to the interests and injurious to the character of a great community?—If such had been the case, is it likely that states and kingdoms would have contended for the honor of having given birth to those illustrious persons whose names adorn the annals of past ages? or is there any cir cumstance that throws over a country a brighter lustre, than that which is derived from the number and celebrity of those men of genius to whom she has given rise?

1

In thus attempting to vindicate the studies of literature and the cultivation of the fine arts chiefly on the principle of utility, I am not insensible that I may be supposed to be indifferent or adverse to the opinions of those who have defended them on other grounds, There are many persons who contend, that their object is to please; and who attribute the enjoyment we derive from them to the bounty of the Creator, who throughout the whole of his works has shown that an attention to order, to elegance, and to beauty, correspond, ing to certain fixed principles in our constitution, forms a part of his great and beneficent plan. But whilst I admit the full force of this argument, I conceive that, in this instance, there exists no necessity for our separating the ideas of utility and of pleasure, and of relying for our justification on one of them only. The gifts of the Creator are full handed; nor has he always placed it in our power to accept of that which is indispensably necessary without at the same time compelling us to accept of the pleasure that accompanies it. We may morosely suppose that fine prospects, beautiful flowers, or sweet sounds, are below the dignity or

8

unworthy the attention of an improved and rational mind; but we cannot close our ears to the morning song of the lark, nor avoid the sight of the landscape; unless we refuse to breathe the breath of heaven, and relinquish the cheerful beam of day; and if we resolve that our palate shall not be gratified, we must deprive ourselves of that nutriment which is necessary to our very existence.— Apply this to all the conveniencies and even the elegancies of life; and then let us ask, what is the result of this system of intellectual and physical enjoyment, to which the cynical and short-sighted observer has applied the equivocal and injurious term of luxury?1 That great classes of the industrious part of the community are employed-ingenuity excited-talents rewarded-wealth circulated through an infinite variety of channels, and a general bond of union, arising from an interchange of services and rewards, is formed amongst the vast family of the human race.—“ A man of benevolence," says Mr. Dugald Stewart, "whose mind is tinctured with philosophy, will view all the different improvements in arts, in commerce, and in the sciences, as co-operating to promote the union, the happiness, and the virtue of mankind.” Utility and pleasure are thus bound together in an indissoluble chain, and what the author of nature has joined, let no man put asunder.

From the preceding observations may we not then be allowed to conclude, as the result of our present inquiry, that with regard to taste and science, as well as in other respects, mankind are the architects of their own fortunes; (and that the degree of their success will, in general, be in proportion to the energy and wisdom of their exertions. To suppose that the human race is subjected to a certain and invariable law, by which they continue either to degenerate or to improve; to presume that the progress of civilization, science, and taste, is limited to certain climates and tracts of country; or to adopt the idea that when they have arisen to a certain degree of excellence, they must, in the common course of affairs, necessarily decline, is to deaden all exertion and to subject the powers of the mind to the operations of inert matter, or the fluctuations of accident and chance. Experience, however, demonstrates that it is to the influence of moral causes, to those dispositions and arrangements in the affairs of mankind that are peculiarly within our own power, that we are to seek for the reasons of the progress or

"In nations depending for their wealth and greatness upon arts and manufactures, it is the grossest mistake to imagine that matters of this kind are indifferent. They are on the contrary of high importance.-Folly only declaims against the luxuries of the wealthy, because it is too shortsighted to see that they relieve the necessities of the poor. Nothing impoverishes a people but what is taken without measure by governments from the common stock-all other expenses-wise or unwise in the individuals, soon return to it, and are sources of universal wealth." ARMATA, vol. ii. . ́

[ocr errors]

decline of liberal studies. It is to the establishment of rational liberty-to the continuance of public tranquillity--to successful industry and national prosperity, and to the wish to pay due honor to genius and talents, that we are certainly to refer the improvements that take place. The true friends of literature will there fore perceive, that nothing which relates to the condition and wellbeing of mankind can be to them a matter of indifference; and that it is not by a confined and immediate attention to one single object that we are to hope for success. The result of these studies may be compared to the delicious fruit of a large and florishing tree; but if we wish to obtain it in perfection, our attention must be paid to the nurture of its roots and the protection of its branches. Whatever therefore tends to debilitate the minds of youth; to alienate them from graver pursuits; and to call them away from those more serious and indispensable obligations which ought to form the column, on which the capital may at length be erected, is not only injurious to the concerns of real life, but actually defeats its own object. It is to the union of the pursuits of literature with the affairs of the world, that we are to look forwards towards the im provement of both; towards the stability and foundation of the one, and the grace and ornament of the other; and this union is most likely to be effected by establishments in the nature of the present Institution, founded in the midst of a great commercial community, and holding out opportunities of instruction, not only to those intended for the higher and more independent ranks of life, but for those who, amidst the duties of an active profession, or the engagements of mercantile concerns, wish to cultivate their intellectual powers and acquirements.

Nor is it to the period of youth alone that the purposes of this Institution are intended to be confined. Education is the proper employment, not only of our early years, but of our whole lives and they who, satisfied with their attainments, neglect to avail themselves of the improvements which are daily taking place in every department of human knowledge, will in a few years have the mortification to find themselves surpassed by much younger rivals. In order to afford the best possible opportunity of preventing such a result, it is the avowed object of this Institution, not only to establish a system of academical education, but to draw from every part of the united kingdoms the best instructors that can be obtained, on those subjects which are of the first importance and the highest interest to mankind. By these means an establishment will be formed, original in its plan, and efficient in its operation; affording to the inhabitants of this great town an opportunity of domestic instruction for their children, equal, it is hoped, to any that can elsewhere be obtained; and preventing the necessity of NO. XXII. VOL. XI. 2 M

Pam.

resorting to those distant seminaries, where, amidst the promiscuous society of youthful associates, the character is left to be formed as chance and circumstances may direct. Nor will the course of instruction cease with the period of manhood; but will be continued for the use of those who may choose to avail themselves of it in future life; thereby carrying the acquirements of youth into real use; applying them to the practical concerns of the world, and preventing, as far as possible, that absurd and intire relinquishment of the benefits and attainments of education, which generally takes place at the precise time when they should be converted to their most useful and important purposes.

On the present occasion I shall not trespass further on your indulgence, than to mention one other object, which appears to me to be perfectly within the scope of this Institution. The great end of all education is to form the character and regulate the conduct of life; and every department of it must be considered merely as auxiliary to this purpose. Experience however shows, that it is one thing to acquire the knowledge of rules and precepts, and another to apply them to practice; as a mechanic may possess the implements of his profession without having acquired the skill to use them. The same observation applies, perhaps yet more strongly, to all those precepts which are intended to influence the moral character and regulate the conduct of life. For this purpose various systems of ethics have been formed, by which the rules of moral duty are laid down in the most explicit and satisfactory manner; nor has there, perhaps, been any neglect in inculcating these systems on the minds of our young men, who, in many instances, study these works as an essential part of their education, and become no unskilful disputants on their most important topics. But between the impressing these systems on the memory, and the giving them an operative influence on the conduct and on the heart, there is still an essential difference. It is one thing to extend our knowledge, and another to improve our disposition and influence our will. It seems then essentially necessary to a complete system of education, that the principles of moral conduct, as laid down by our most distinguished writers, should be enforced and recommended to practice by every inducement that instruction and persuasion can supply. It is therefore my earnest wish, that in addition to the various scientific and literary

1

It is well observed by a celebrated foreign writer, that "a cultivated understanding without a good and virtuous heart, taste and information without integrity and piety, cannot produce happiness either to ourselves or others; and that so circumstanced, our souls can reap only everlasting shame, instead of honor from our acquirements." Gellert, Moral Lessons 1.262.

« EdellinenJatka »