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On Self-Culture
Intellectual, Physical, and Moral by John Stuart Blackie, 6th Edition, 1875


THE CULTURE OF THE INTELLECT.

I. In modern times instruction is communicated chiefly by means of BOOKS. Books are no doubt very useful helps to knowledge, and in some measure also, to the practice of useful arts and accomplishments, but they are not, in any case, the primary and natural sources of culture, and, in my opinion, their virtue is not a little apt to be overrated, even in those branches of acquirement where they seem most indispensable. They are not creative powers in any sense; they are merely helps, instruments, tools; and even as tools they are only artificial tools, superadded to those with which the wise prevision of Nature has equipped us, like telescopes and microscopes, whose assistance in many researches reveals unimagined wonders, but the use of which should never tempt us to undervalue or to neglect the exercise of our own eyes.. The original arid proper sources of knowledge are not books, but life, experience, personal thinking, feeling, and acting. When a man starts with these, books can fill up many gaps, correct much that is in accurate, and extend much that is inadequate; but, without living experience to work on, books are like rain and sunshine fallen on unbroken soil.

"The parchment roll is that the holy river,
From which one draught shall slake the thirst for ever?
The quickening power of science only he
Can know, from whose own soul it gushes free."

This is expressed, no doubt, somewhat in a poetical fashion, but it contains a great general truth. As a treatise on mineralogy can convey no real scientific knowledge to a man who has never seen a mineral, so neither can works of literature and poetry instruct the mere scholar who is ignorant of life, nor discourses on music him who has no experience of sweet sounds, nor gospel sermons him who has no devotion in his soul or purity in his life. All knowledge which comes from books comes indirectly, by reflection, and by echo; true knowledge grows from a living root in the thinking soul; and whatever it may appropriate from without, it takes by living assimilation into a living organism, not by mere borrowing.

II. I therefore earnestly advise all young men to commence their studies, as much as possible, by direct OBSERVATION of FACTS, and not by the mere inculcation of statements from books. A useful book was written with the title,—How to Observe. These three words might serve as a motto to guide us in the most important part of our early education—a part, unfortunately, only too much neglected. All the natural sciences are particularly valuable, not only as supplying the mind with the most rich, various, and beautiful furniture, but as teaching people that most useful of all arts, how to use their eyes. It is astonishing how much we all go about with our eyes open, and yet seeing nothing. This is because the organ of vision, like other organs, requires training; and by lack of training and the slavish dependence on books, becomes dull and slow, and ultimately incapable of exercising its natural function. Let those studies, therefore, both in school and college, be regarded as primary, that teach young persons to know what they are seeing, and to see what they otherwise would fail to see. Among the most useful are, Botany, Zoology, Mineralogy, Geology, Chemistry, Architecture, Drawing, and the Fine Arts. How many a Highland excursion and continental tour have been rendered comparatively useless to young persons well drilled in their books, merely from the want of a little elementary knowledge in these sciences of observation.

III. Observation is good, and accurate observation is better; but, on account of the vast variety of objects in the universe, the observing faculty would be overwhelmed and confounded, did we not possess some sure method of submitting their multitude to a certain regulative principle placing them under the control of our minds. This regulative principle is what we call CLASSIFICATION, and is discoverable by human reason, because it clearly exists everywhere in a world which is the manifestation of Divine reason. This classification depends on the fundamental unity of type which the Divine reason has imposed on all things. This unity manifests itself in the creation of points of likeness in things apparently the most different; and it is these points of likeness which, when seized by a nicely observant eye, enable it to distribute the immense variety of things in the world into certain parcels of greater or less compass, called genera and species, which submit themselves naturally to the control of a comparing and discriminating mind. The first business of the student, therefore, is, in all that he sees, to observe carefully the points of likeness, and, along with these, also the most striking points of difference; for the points of difference go as necessarily along with the points of likeness, as shadow goes along with light; and though they do not of themselves constitute any actual thing, yet they separate one genus from another, and one species of the same genus from another. The classification or order to be sought for in all things is a natural order; artificial arrangements, such as that of words in an alphabetical dictionary, or of flowers in the Linnaean system of botany, may be useful helps to learners in an early stage, hut, if exclusively used, are rather hindrances to true knowledge. What a young man should aim at is to acquire a habit of binding things together according to their bonds of natural affinity; and this can be done only by a combination of a broad view of the general effect, with an accurate observation of the special properties. The names given by the common people to flowers are instances of superficial similarity, without any attempt at discrimination, as when a water-lily seems by its name to indicate that it is a species of lily, with which flower it has no real connection. A botanist, on the other hand, who has minutely observed the character and organs of plants, will class a water- lily rather with the papaverous or poppy family, and give you very good reasons for doing so. In order to assist in forming habits of observation in this age of locomotion, I should advise young men never to omit visiting the local museums of any district, as often as they may have an opportunity; and when there to confine their attention generally to that one thing which is most characteristic of the locality. Looking at everything generally ends in remembering nothing.

IV. Upon the foundation of carefully-observed and well-assorted facts the mind proceeds to build a more subtle structure by the process which we call REASONING. We would know not only that things are so and so, but how they are, and for what purpose they are. The essential unity of the Divine Mind causes a necessary unity in the processes by which things exist and grow, no less than a unity in the type of their manifold genera and species; and into both manifestations of Divine unity we are, by the essential unity of our divinely emanated human souls, compelled to enquire. Our human reason, as proceeding from the Divine reason, is constantly employed in working out a unity, or consistency of plan, to speak more popularly, in the processes of our own little lives ; and we are thus naturally determined to seek for such a unity, consistency, and necessary dependence, in all the operations of a world which exists only, as has been well said, "in reason, by reason, and for reason." [Stirling on Protoplasm—a masterly tract.] The quality of mind, which determines a man to seek out this unity in the chain of things, is what phrenologists call causality; for the cause of a thing, as popularly understood, is merely that point in the necessary succession of divinely-originated forces which immediately precedes it. There are few human beings so contentedly superficial as to feed habitually on the knowledge of mere unexplained facts; on the contrary, as we find every day, the ready assumption of any cause for a fact, rather than remain content with none, affords ample proof that the search for causes is characteristic of every normal human intellect. What young men have chiefly to look to in this matter is to avoid being imposed on by the easy habit of taking an accidental sequence or circumstance for a real cause. It may be easy to understand that the abundant rain on the west coast of Britain is caused by the vicinity of the Atlantic Ocean; and not very difficult to comprehend how the comparative mildness of the winter season at Oban, as compared with Edinburgh or Aberdeen, is caused by the impact of a broad current of warm water from the Gulf of Mexico. But in the region of morals and politics, where facts are often much more complex, and passions are generally strong, we constantly find examples of a species of reasoning which assumes without proving the causal dependency of the facts of which it is based. I once heard a political discourse by a noted demagogue, which consisted of the assertion, in various forms and with various illustrations, of the proposition that all the miseries of this country arise from its monarchico-aristocratic government, and that they could all be cured, as by the stroke of a magician's wand, by the introduction of a perfectly democratic government—a species of argumentation vitiated, as is obvious all through, by the assumption of one imaginary cause to all social evils, and an equally imaginary cure. In the cultivation of habits of correct reasoning, I would certainly, in the first place, earnestly advise young men to submit themselves for a season, after the old Platonic recipe, to a system of thorough mathematical training. This will strengthen the binding power of the mind, which is necessary for all sorts of reasoning, and teach the inexperienced really to know what necessary dependence, unavoidable sequence, or pure causality means. But they must not stop here; for the reasonings of mathematics being founded on theoretical assumptions and conditions which, when once given, are liable to no variation or disturbance, can never be an adequate discipline for the great and most important class of human conclusions, which are founded on a complexity of curiously acting and reacting facts and forces liable to various disturbing influences, which even the wisest sometimes fail to calculate correctly. On political, moral, and social questions, our reasonings are not less certain than in mathematics; they are only more difficult and more comprehensive; and the great dangers to be avoided here are one-sided observation, hasty conclusions, and the distortion of intellectual vision, caused by personal passions and party interests. The politician who fails in solving a political problem, fails not from the uncertainty of the science, but either from an imperfect knowledge of the facts, or from the action of passions and interests, which prevent him from making a just appreciation of the facts.

V. At this point I can imagine it not unlikely that some young man may be inclined to ask me whether I should advise him, with the view of strengthening his reasoning powers, to enter upon a formal study of logic and metaphysics. To this I answer, By all means, if you have first, in a natural way, as opposed to mere scholastic discipline, acquired the general habit of thinking and reasoning. A man has learned to walk first by having legs, and then by using them. After that he may go to a drill-sergeant and learn to march, and to perform various tactical evolutions, which no experience of mere untrained locomotion can produce. So exactly it is with the art of thinking. Have your thinking first, and plenty to think about, and then ask the logician to teach you to scrutinise with a nice eye the process by which you have arrived at your conclusions. In such fashion there is no doubt that the study of logic may be highly beneficial. But as this science, like mathematics, has no real contents, and merely sets forth in order the universal forms under which all thinking is exercised, it must always be a very barren affair to attempt obtaining from pure logic any rich growth of thought that will bear ripe fruit in the great garden of life. One may as well expect to make a great patriot —a Bruce or a Wallace—of a fencing master, as to make a great thinker out of a mere logician. So it is in truth with all formal studies. Grammar and rhetoric are equally barren, and bear fruit only when dealing with materials given by life and experience. A meagre soul can never be made fat, nor a narrow soul large, by studying rules of thinking. An intense vitality, a wide sympathy, a keen observation, a various experience, is worth all the logic of the schools; and yet the logic is not useless; it has a regulative, not a creative virtue; it is useful to thinking as the study of anatomy is useful to painting; it gives you a more firm hold of the jointing and articulation of your framework; but it can no more produce true knowledge than anatomy can produce beautiful painting. It performs excellent service in the exposure of error and the unveiling of sophistry; but to proceed far in the discovery of important truth, it must borrow its moving power from fountains of living water, which flow not in the schools, and its materials from the facts of the breathing universe, with which no museum is furnished. So it is likewise with metaphysics. This science is useful for two ends, first—to acquaint ourselves with the necessary limits of the human faculties; it tends to clip the wings of our conceit, and to make us feel, by a little floundering and flouncing in deep bottomless seas of speculation, that the, world is a much bigger place than we had imagined, and our thoughts about it of much less significance. A negative result this, you will say, but not the less important for that; the knowledge of limits is the first postulate of wisdom, and it is better to practise walking steadily on the solid earth to which we belong, than to usurp the function of birds, like Icarus, and achieve a sorry immortality by baptizing the deep sea with our name. The other use of metaphysics is positive ; it teaches us to be familiar with the great fundamental truths on which the fabric of all the sciences rests. Metaphysics is not, like logic, a purely formal science; it is, on the contrary, the science of fundamental and essential reality, of that which underlies all appearances, as the soul of a man underlies his features and his fleshly framework, and survives all changes as their permanent type. It is that which we come to when we get behind the special phenomena presented by individual sciences; it is neither botany, nor physiology, nor geology, nor astronomy, nor chemistry, nor anthropology, but those general, all-pervading, and all-controlling powers, forces, and essences, of which each special branch of knowledge is only a single aspect or manifestation; it is the common element of all existence; and as all existence is merely a grand evolution of self-determining reason (for, were it not for the indwelling reason the world would be a chaos and not a cosmos), it follows that metaphysics is the knowledge of the absolute or cosmic reason so far as it is knowable by our limited individualised reason, and is therefore, as Aristotle long ago remarked, identical with theology. Indeed, the idea of GOD as the absolute self-existent, self-energising, self-determining Reason, is the only idea which can make the world intelligible, and has justly been held fast by all the great thinkers of the world, from Pythagoras down to Hegel, as the alone keystone of all sane thinking. By all means, therefore, let metaphysics be studied, especially in this age and place, where the novelty of a succession of brilliant discoveries in physical science, coupled with a one-sided habit of mind, swerving with a strong bias towards what is outward and material, has led some men to imagine that in mere physics is wisdom to be found, and that the true magician's wand for striking out the most important results is induction. This is the very madness of externalism; for, on the one hand, the fundamental and most vital truths from which the possibility of all science hangs, assert themselves before all induction ; and, on the other, the physical sciences merely dÁscribe sequences, which the superficial may mistake for causes. Their so-called laws are merely methods of operation; and the operator, of whom, without transgressing their special sphere, they can take no account, is alway's and everywhere the absolute, omnipresent, all-plastic REASON, which we call GOD, whose offspring, as the pious old Greek poet sung, we all are, and in whom, as the great apostle preached, we live, and move, and have our being. An essentially reasonable theology, and an essentially reverent speculation, are the metaphysics which a young man may fitly commence to seek after in the schools, but which he can find only by the experience of a truthful and a manly life; and he will then know that he has found it, when, like King David and the noble army of Hebrew psalmists, he can repose upon the quiet faith of it, like a child upon the bosom of its mother.

VI. The next function of the mind which requires special culture is the IMAGINATION. I much fear neither teachers nor scholars are sufficiently impressed with the importance of a proper training of this faculty. Some there may be who despise it altogether, as having to do with fiction rather than with fact, and of no value to the severe student who wishes to acquire exact knowledge. But this is not the case. It is a well-known fact that the highest class of scientific men have been led to their most important discoveries by the quickening power of a suggestive imagination. Of this the poet Goethe's original observations in botany and osteology may servo as an apt witness. Imagination, therefore, is the enemy of science only when it acts without reason, that is, arbitrarily and whimsically ; with reason, it is often the best and the most indispensable of allies. Besides, in history, and in the whole region of concrete facts, imagination is as necessary as in poetry; the historian, indeed, cannot invent his facts, but he must mould them and dispose them with a graceful congruity; and to do this is the work of the imagination. Fairy tales and fictitious narratives of all kinds, of course, have their value, and may be wisely used in the culture of the imagination. But by far the most useful exercise of this faculty is when it buckles itself to realities; and this I advise the student chiefly to cultivate. There is no need of going to romances for pictures of human character and fortune calculated to please the fancy and to elevate the imagination. The life of Alexander the Great, of Martin Luther, of Gustavus Adolphus, or any of those notable characters on the great stage of the world, who incarnate the history which they create, is for this purpose of more educational value than the best novel that ever was written, or even the best poetry. Not all minds delight in poetry; but all minds are impressed and elevated by an imposing and a striking fact. To exercise the imagination on the lives of great and good men brings with it a double gain; for by this exercise we learn at a single stroke, and in the most effective way, both what was done and what ought to be done. But to train the imagination adequately, it is not enough that elevating pictures be made to float pleasantly before the fancy; from such mere passiveness of mental attitude no strength can grow. The student should formally call upon his imaginative faculty to take a firm grasp of the lovely shadows as they pass, and not be content till— closing the gray record—he can make the whole storied procession pass before him in due order, with appropriate badges, attitude, and expression. As there are persons who seem to walk through life with their eyes open, seeing nothing, so there are others who read through books, and perhaps even cram themselves with facts, without carrying away any living pictures of significant story which might arouse the fancy in an hour of leisure, or gird them with endurance in a moment of difficulty. Ask yourself, therefore, always when you have read a chapter of any notable book, not what you saw printed on a gray page, but what you see pictured in the glowing gallery of your imagination. Have your fancy always vivid, and full of body and colour. Count yourself not to know a fact when you know that it took place, but then only when you see it as it did take place.

VII. The word imagination, though denoting a faculty which in some degree may be regarded as belonging to every human being, seems more particularly connected with that class of Intellectual perceptions and emotions which, for want of a native term, we are accustomed to call aesthetical. A man may live, and live bravely, without much imagination, as a house may be well compacted to keep out wind and rain, and let in light, and yet be ugly. But no one would voluntarily prefer to live in an ugly house if he could get a beautiful one. So beauty, which is the natural food of a healthy imagination, should be sought after by every one who wishes to achieve the great end of existence—that is, to make the most of himself. If it is true, as we have just remarked, that man liveth not by books alone, it is equally true that he liveth not by knowledge alone. "It is always good to know something," was the wise utterance of one of the wisest men of modern times; but by this utterance he did not mean to assert that mere indiscriminate knowing is always good; what he meant to say was that it is wise for a man to pick up carefully, for possible uses, whatever may fall under his eye, even though it should not be the best. The best, of course, is not always at command; and the bad, on which we frequently stumble, is not without its good element, which one should not disdain to secure in passing; but what the young man ought to set before him, as a worthy object of systematic pursuit, is not knowledge in general, or of anything indifferently, but knowledge of what is great, and beautiful, and good; and this, so far as the imagination is concerned, can be attained only by some special attention paid to the aesthetical culture of the intellect. In other words, poetry, painting, music, and the fine arts generally, which delight to manifest the sublime and the beautiful in every various aspect and attitude, fall under the category, not of an accidental accomplishment, but of an essential and most noble blossom of a cultivated soul. A man who knows merely with a keen glance, and acts with a firm hand, may do very well for the rough work of the world, but he may be a very ungracious and unlovely creature withal; angular, square, dogmatical, persistent, pertinacious, pugnacious, blushless, and perhaps bumptious. To bevel down the corners of a character so constituted by a little aesthetical culture, were a work of no small benefit to society, and a source of considerable comfort to the creature himself. Let a young man, therefore, commence with supplying his imaginative faculty with its natural food in the shape of beautiful objects of every kind. If there is a fine building recently erected in the town, let him stand and look at it; if there are fine pictures exhibited, let him never be so preoccupied with the avocations of his own special business that he cannot afford even a passing glance to steal a taste of their beauty; if there are dexterous riders and expert tumblers in the circus, let him not imagine that their supple somersets are mere idle tricks to amuse children: they are cunning exhibitions of the wonderful strength and litheness of the human limbs, which every 'wise man ought to admire. In general, let the young man, ambitious of intellectual excellence, cultivate admiration; it is by admiration only of what is beautiful and sublime that we can mount up a few steps towards the likeness of what we admire; and he who wonders not largely and habitually, in the midst of this magnificent universe, does not prove that the world has nothing great in it worthy of wonder, but only that his own sympathies are narrow, and his capacities small. The worst thing a young man can do, who wishes to educate himself 2esthetically, according to the norm of nature, is to begin criticising, and cultivating the barren graces of the NIL ADMIRARL. This maxim may be excusable in a worn-out old cynic, but is intolerable in the mouth of a hopeful young man. There is no good to be looked for from a youth who, having done no substantial work of his own, sets up a business of finding faults in other people's work, and calls this practice of finding fault criticism. The first lesson that a young man has to learn, is not to find fault, but to perceive beauties. All criticism worthy of the name is the ripe fruit of combined intellectual insight and long experience. Only an old soldier can tell how battles ought to be fought. Young men of course may and ought to have opinions on many subjects, but there is no reason why they should print them. The published opinions of persons whose judgment has not been matured by experience can tend only to mislead the public, and to debauch the mind of the writer.

I have said that the sublime and the beautiful in nature and art are the natural and healthy food of the oestbetical faculties. The comical and humorous are useful only in a subsidiary way. It is a great loss to a man when he cannot laugh; but a smile is useful specially in enabling us lightly to shake off the incongruous, not in teaching us to cherish it. Life is an earnest business, and no man was ever made great or good by a diet of broad grins. The grandest humour, such as that of Aristophanes, is valuable only as the seasoning of the pudding or the spice of the pie. No one feeds on mere pepper or vanilla. Let a young man furnish his soul richly, like Thorwaldsen's Museum at Copenhagen, with all shapes and forms of excellence, from the mild dignity of our Lord and the Twelve Apostles to the playful grace of Grecian Cupids and Hippocampes; but let him not deal in mere laughter, or corrupt his mind's eye with the habitual contemplation of distortion and caricature. There is no more sure sign of a shallow mind than the habit of seeing always the ludicrous side of things; for the ludicrous, as Aristotle remarks, is always on the surface. If the humorous novels and sketches of character in which this country and this age are so fruitful, are taken only as an occasional recreation, like a good comedy, they are to be commended; but the practice and study of the Fine Arts offer a more healthy variety to severe students than the converse with ridiculous sketches of a trifling or contemptible humanity; and to play a pleasant tune on the piano, or turn a wise saying of some ancient sage into the terms of a terse English couplet, will always be a more profitable way of unbending from the stern work of pure science, than the reading of what are called amusing books -an occupation fitted specially for the most stagnant moments of life, and the most lazy-minded of the living.

VIII. The next faculty of the mind that demands special culture is MEMORY. It is of no use gathering treasures if we cannot store them ; it is equally useless to learn what we cannot retain in the memory. Happily, of all mental faculties this is that one which is most certainly improved by exercise; besides there are helps to a weak memory such as do not exist for a weak imagination or a weak reasoning power. The most important points to be attended to in securing the retention of facts once impressed on the imagination, are—(1) The distinctness, vividness, and intensity of the original impression. Let no man hope to remember what he only vaguely and indistinctly apprehends. A multitude of dim and weak impressions, flowing in upon the mind in a hurried way, soon vanish in a haze, which veils all things, and shows nothing. It is better for the memory to have a distinct idea of one fact of a great subject, than to have confused ideas of the whole. (2) Nothing helps the memory so much as order and classification. Classes are always few, individuals many; to know the class well is to know what is most essential in the character of the individual, and what least burdens the memory to retain. (3) The next important matter is repetition: if the nail will not go in at one stroke, let it have another and another. In this domain nothing is denied to a dogged pertinacity. A man who finds it difficult to remember that DEVA is the Sanscrit for a GOD, has only to repeat it seven times a day, or seven times a week, and he will not forget it. The less tenacious a man's memory naturally is, the more determined ought he to be to complement it by frequent inculcation. Our faculties, like a slow beast, require flogging occasionally, or they make no way. (4) Again, if memory be weak, causality is perhaps strong; and this point of strength, if wisely used, may readily be made to turn an apparent loss into a real gain. Persons of very quick memory may be apt to rest content with the faculty, and exhibit with much applause the dexterity only of an intellectual parrot ; but the man who is slow to remember without a reason, searches after the causal connection of the facts, and, when he has found it, binds together by the bond of rational sequences what the constitution of his mind disinclined him to receive as an arbitrary and unexplained succession. (5) Artificial bonds of association may also sometimes be found useful, as when a schoolboy remembers that Abydos is on the Asiatic coast of the Hellespont, because both Asia and Abydos commence with the letter A; but such tricks suit rather the necessities of an ill-trained governess than the uses of a manly mind. I have no faith in the systematic use of what are called artificial mnemonic systems; they fill the fancy with a set of arbitrary and ridiculous symbols which interfere with the natural play of the faculties. Dates in history, to which this sort of machinery has been generally applied, are better recollected by the causal dependence, or even the accidental contiguity of great names, as when I recollect that Plato was twenty-nine years old when Socrates drank the hemlock; and that Aristotle, the pupil of this Plato, was himself the tutor of that famous son of Philip of Macedon, who with his conquering hosts caused the language of Socrates and Plato to shake hands with the sacred dialect of the Brahmanic hymns on the banks of the Indus. (6) Lastly, whatever facilities of memory a man may possess, let him not despise the sure aids so amply supplied by written record. To speak from a paper certainly does not strengthen, but has rather a tendency to enfeeble the memory; but to retain stores of readily available matter, in the shape of written or printed record, enables a man to command a vast amount of accumulated materials, at whatever moment he may require them. In this view the young student cannot begin too early the practice of interleaving certain books, and making a good index to others, or in some such fashion tabulating his knowledge for apt and easy reference. Our preachers would certainly much increase the value of their weekly discourses if they would keep interleaved Bibles, and insert at apposite and striking texts such facts in life, or anecdotes from books, as might tend to their illustration. They might thus, even with a very weak natural memory, learn to bring forth from their treasury things new and old, with a wealth of practical application in those parts of their spiritual addresses which are at present generally the most meagre and the most vague. By political students Aristotle's Politics might be beneficially interleaved in the same way, and the mind thus preserved from that rigidity and one-sidedness which a familiarity with only the most modern and recent experience of public life is so apt to engender.

IX. A most important matter, not seldom neglected in the scholastic and academical training of young men, is the art of polished, pleasant, and effective expression. I shall therefore offer a few remarks here on the formation of STYLE, and on PUBLIC SPEAKING. Man is naturally a speaking animal; and a good style is merely that accomplishment in the art of verbal expression which arises from the improvement of the natural faculty by good training. The best training for the formation of style is of course familiar intercourse with good speakers and writers. A man's vocabulary depends very much always, and in the first stages perhaps altogether, on the company he keeps. Read, therefore, the best compositions of the most lofty-minded and eloquent men, and you will not fail to catch something of their nobility, only let there be no slavish imitation of any man's manner of expression. There is a certain individuality about every man's style, as about his features, which must be preserved. Also, be not over anxious about mere style, as if it were a thing that could be cultivated independently of ideas. Be more careful that you should have something weighty and pertinent to say, than that you should say things in the most polished and skilful way. There is good sense in what Socrates said to the clever young Greeks in this regard, that if they had something to say they would know how to say it; and to the same effect spoke St. Paul to the early Corinthian Christians, and in these last times the wise Goethe to the German students—

"Be thine to seek the honest gain,
No shallow-sounding fool;
Sound sense finds utterance for itself,
Without the critic's rule;
If to your heart your tongue be true,
Why hunt for words with much ado ?"

But with this reservation you cannot be too diligent in acquiring the habit of expressing your thoughts on paper with that combination of lucid order, graceful ease, pregnant significance, and rich variety, which marks a good style. But for well-educated men, in this country at least, and for normally-constituted men in all countries I should say, writing is only a step to speaking. Not only professional men, such as preachers, advocates, and politicians, but almost every man in a free country, may be called upon occasionally to express his sentiments in public; and unless the habit be acquired early, in later years there is apt to be felt a certain awkwardness and difficulty in the public utterance of thought, which is not the less real because it is in most cases artificial. The great thing here is to begin early, and to avoid that slavery of the paper, which, as Plato foresaw, makes so many cultivated men in these days less natural in their speech, and less eloquent, than the most untutored savages. Young men should train themselves to marshal their ideas in good order, and keep a firm grip of them without the help of paper. A card, with a few leading words to catch the eye, may help the memory in the first place; but it is better, as often as possible, to dispense with even this assistance. A speaker should always look his audience directly in the face, which he cannot do when he is obliged to cast a side glance into a paper. In order to acquire early this useful habit, I need scarcely say that there is no better training school than the debating societies which have long been a strong point of the Scottish universities. Practice will produce dexterity; dexterity will work confidence; and the bashfulness and timidity so natural to a young man when first called upon to address a public meeting, so far as it lames and palsies his utterance, will disappear; that it should disappear altogether is far from necessary. Forwardness and pertness are a much more serious fault in a young speaker than a little nervous bashfulness. A public speaker should never wish to shake himself free from that feeling of responsibility which belongs to his position as one whose words are meant to influence, and ought to influence, the sentiments of all ranks of his fellow beings ; but that this feeling of reverential respect for the virtue of the spoken word may not degenerate into a morbid anxiety, and a pale concern for tame propriety, I would advise him not to think of himself at all, but to go to the pulpit or platform with a thorough command of his subject, with an earnest desire to do some good by his talk, and to trust to God for the utterance. Of course this does not imply that in respect of distinct and effective utterance a man has nothing to learn from a professed master of elocution; it is only meant that mere intelligible speaking is a natural thing, about which no special anxiety is to be felt. Accomplished speaking, like marching or dancing, is an art, for the exercise of which, in many cases, a special training is necessary.

X. I said under the first head that the fountains of true wisdom are not books; nevertheless, in the present stage of society, books play, and must continue to play, a great part in the training of young minds; and therefore I shall here set down some points in detail with regard to the choice and the use of BOOKS. Keep in mind, in the first place, that though the library-shelves groan with books, whose name is legion, there are in each department only a few great books, in relation to which others are but auxiliary, or it may be sometimes parasitical, and, like the ivy, doing harm rather than good to the bole round which they cling. How many thousands, for instance, and tens of thousands, of books on Christian theology have been written and published in the world since the first preaching of the Gospel, which, of course contain nothing more and nothing better than the Gospel itself, and which, if they were all burnt to-morrow, would leave Christianity in the main, nothing the worse, and in some points essentially the better. There is fully as much nonsense as sense in many learned books that have made a noise in their day; and in most books there is a great deal of superfluous and useless talk. Stick therefore to the great books, the original books, the fountain-heads of great ideas and noble passions, and you will learn joyfully to dispense with the volumes of accessory talk by which their virtue has been as frequently obscured as illuminated. For a young theologian it is of far greater importance that he should have the Greek New Testament by heart than that he should be able to talk glibly about the last volume of sermons by Dr. Kerr or Stopford Brooke. All these are very well, but they are not the one thing needful; for the highest Christian culture they may lightly be dispensed with. Not so the Bible. Fix therefore in your eye the great books on which the history of human thought and the changes of human fortunes have turned. In politics look to Aristotle; in mathematics to Newton; in philosophy to Leibnitz; in theology to Cudworth; in poetry to Shakspeare; in science to Faraday. Cast a firm glance also on those notable men, who, though not achieving any valuable positive results of speculation, were useful in their day, as protesting against wide spread popular error, and rousing people into trains of more consistent thinking and acting. To this class of men belonged Voltaire amongst the French, and David Hume in our country. But, of course, while you covet earnestly a familiar acquaintance with all such original thinkers and discoverers in the world of thought and action, you will feel only too painfully that you cannot always lay hold of them in the first stage of your studies; you will require steps to mount up to shake hands with these Celestials; and these steps are little books. Do not therefore despise little books; they are for you the necessary lines of approach to the great fortress of knowledge, and cannot safely be overleapt. On the contrary, take a little grammar, for instance, when learning a language, rather than a big one ; and learn the fundamental things, the anatomy, the bones and solid framework, with strict accuracy, before plunging into the complex tissue of the living physiology. This may appear harsh at first, but will save you trouble afterwards. But, while you learn your little book thoroughly, you must beware of reading it by the method of mere CRAI\r. Some things, no doubt, there are that must be appropriated by the process of cram; but these are not the best things, and they contain no culture. Cram is a mere mechanical operation, of which a reasoning animal should be ashamed. But cramming, however often practised, is seldom necessary; it is resorted to by those specially who cannot, or who will not, learn to think. I advise you, on the contrary, whenever possible, to think before you read, or at least while you are reading. If you can find out for yourself by a little puzzling why the three angles of a triangle not only are, but, in the very nature of the thing must be, equal to two right angles, you will have done more good to your reasoning powers than if you had got the demonstrations of the whole twelve books of Euclid by heart according to the method of cram. The next advice I give you with regard to books is that you should read as much as possible systematically and chronologically. Without order things will not hang together in the mind, and the most natural and instructive order is the order of genesis and growth. Read Plutarch's great Lives, for instance, from Theseus down to Cleomenes and Aratus,in chronological sequence, and you will have a much more vital sort of Greek history in your memory than either Thin- wall or Grote can supply. But of course neither this nor any other rule can be applied in all cases without exception. The exception to systematic reading is made by predilection. If you feel a strong natural tendency towards acquainting yourself with any particular period of history, by all means make that acquaintance; only do it accurately and thoroughly. One link in the chain firmly laid hold of, will by and by through natural connection lead to others. As you advance from favourite point to point, you will find the necessity of binding them together by some strict chronological sequence. For general information a sort of random reading may be allowed occasionally; but this sort of thing has to do only with the necessary recreation or the useful furnishing of the mind, and is utterly destitute of training virtue; and such reading, to which there is great temptation in these times, is rather prejudicial than advantageous to the mind. The great scholars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had not so many books as we have, but what they had they made a grand use of. Reading, in the case of mere miscellaneons readers, is like the racing of some little dog about the moor, snuffing everything and catching nothing; but a reader of the right sort finds his prototype in Jacob, who wrestled with an angel all night, and counted himself the better for the bout, though the sinew of his thigh shrank in consequence.

XI. A few remarks may be useful on strictly PROFESSIONAL READING, as opposed to reading with the view of general culture. There is a natural eagerness among young men to commence without delay their special professional work—what the Germans very significantly call Brodsiudjem; but there cannot be a doubt that in the unqualified way that young men take up this notion, it is a great mistake, as the experience of professional men and the history of professional eminence has largely proved. For, in the first place, a little reflection will teach a thoughtful youth, that what in his present stage he may be disposed to regard as useless ornaments, or even incumbrances, are often the most valuable aids and the most serviceable tools to his future professional activity. This is peculiarly the case with languages, which seem in the first place to stand in the way of a firm grasp of things, but which become more necessary to a man the more he extends the range and fastens the roots of his professional knowledge. If languages have been often overvalued, it is only when they have been looked on as an end in themselves. Their value as tools, in the hands of an intelligent thinker, can scarcely be overrated. Again, the merely professional man is always a narrow man; worse than that, he is in a sense an artificial man, a creature of technicalities and specialties, removed equally from the broad truth of nature and from the healthy influence of human converse. In society the most accomplished man of mere professional skill is often a nullity; he has sunk his humanity in his dexterity; he is a leather-dealer, and can talk only about leather; a student, and smells fustily of books, as an inveterate smoker does of tobacco. So far from rushing hastily into merely professional studies, a young man should rather be anxious to avoid the engrossing influence of what is popularly called SHOP. He will soon enough learn to know the cramping influence of purely professional occupation. Let him flap his wings lustily in an ampler region while he may;

But if a man will fix his mind on merely professional study, and can find no room for general culture in his soul, let him be told, that no professional studies, however complete, can teach a man the whole of his profession, that the most exact professional drill will omit to teach him the most interesting and the most important part of his own business—that part, namely, where the specialty of the profession comes directly into contact with the generality of human notions and human sympathies. Of this the profession of the law furnishes an excellent example; for, while there is no art more technical, more artificial, and more removed from a fellow-feeling of humanity, than law in many of its branches, in others it marches out into the grand arena of human rights and liberties, and deals with large questions, in the handling of which it is often of more consequence that a pleader should be a complete man than that he should be an expert lawyer. In the same way, medicine has as much to do with a knowledge of human nature and of the human soul as with the virtues of cunningly mingled drugs, and the revelations of a technical diagnosis; and theology is generally then least human and least evangelical when it is most stiffly orthodox and most nicely professional. Universal experience, accordingly, has proved that the general scholar, however apparently inferior at the first start, will, in the long run, beat the special man on his own favourite ground; for the special man, from the small field of his habitual survey, can neither know the principles on which his practice rests, nor the relation of his own particular art to general human interests and general human intelligence. The best preservatives against the cramping force of merely professional study are to be found in the healthy influencas of society, in travel, and in cultivating a familiarity with the great writers—specially poets and historians—whose purely human thoughts "make rich the blood of the world," and enlarge the niatform of sympathetic intelligence.

XII. I will conclude this chapter of intellectual culture with some remarks on a subject with regard to which, considering my professional position, people will naturally be inclined to expect, and willing to receive advice from me —I mean the study of LANGUAGES. The short rules which I will set down in what appears to me their order of natural succession, are the result of many years' experience, and may be relied on as being of a strictly practical character.

(1.) If possible always start with a good teacher. He will save you much time by clearing away difficulties that might otherwise discourage you, and preventing the formation of bad habits of enunciation, which must afterwards be unlearned.

(2.) The next step is to name aloud, in the language to be learned, every object which meets your eye, carefully excluding the intervention of the English: in other words, think and speak of the objects about you in the language you are learning from the very first hour of your teaching; and remember that the language belongs to the first place to your ear and to your tongue, not in your book merely and to your brain.

(3.) Commit to memory the simplest and most normal forms of the declension of nouns, such as the 'us and a declension in Latin, and the A declension in Sanscrit.

(4.) The moment you have learned the nominative and accusative cases of these nouns take the first person of the present indicative of any common verb, and pronounce aloud some short sentence according to the rules of syntax belonging to active verbs, as - I see the sun.

(5.) Enlarge this practice by adding some epithet to the substantive, declined according to the same noun, as - I see the bright sun.

(6.) Go on in this manner progressively, committing to memory the whole present indicative, past and future indicative, of simple verbs, always making short sentences with them, and some appropriate nouns, and always thinking directly in the foreign language, excluding the intrusion of the English. In this essential element of every rational system of linguistic training there is no real, but only an imaginary difficulty to contend with, and, in too many cases, the pertinacity of a perverse practice.

(7.) When the ear and tongue have acquired a fluent mastery of the simpler forms of nouns, verbs, and sentences, then, but not till then, should the scholar be led, by a graduated process, to the more difficult and complex forms.

(8.) Let nothing be learned from rules that is not immediately illustrated by practice; or rather, let the rules be educed from the practice of ear and tongue, and let them be as few and as comprehensive as possible.

(9.) Irregularities of various kinds are best learned by practice as they occur; but some anomalies, as in the conjugation of a few irregular verbs, are of such frequent occurrence, and are so necessary for progress, that they had better be learned specially by heart as soon as possible. Of this the verb to be, in almost all languages, is a familiar example.

(10.) Let some easy narrative be read, in the first place, or better, some familiar dialogue, as, in Greek, Xenophon's Anabasis and Memorabilia, Cebetis Tabula, and Lucian's Dialogues; but reading must never be allowed, as is so generally the case, to be practised as a substitute for thinking and speaking. To counteract this tendency, the best way is to take objects of natural history, or representations of interesting objects, and describe their parts aloud in simple sentences, without the intervention of the mother tongue.

(11.) Let all exercises of reading and describing be repeated again, and again, and again. No book fit to be read in the early stages of language-learning should be read only once.

(12.) Let your reading, if possible, be always in sympathy with your intellectual appetite. Let the matter of the work be interesting, and you will make double progress. To know some thing of the subject beforehand will be an immense help. For this reason, with Christians who know the Scriptures, as we do in Scotland, a translation of the Bible is always one of the best books to use in the acquisition of a foreign tongue.

(13.) As you read, note carefully the difference between the idioms of the strange language and those of the mother tongue; underscore these distinctly with pen or pencil, in some thoroughly idiomatic translation, and after a few days translate back into the original tongue what you have before you in the English form.

(14.) To methodise, and, if necessary, correct your observations, consult some systematic grammar so long as you may find it profitable. But the grammar should, as much as possible, follow the practice, not precede it.

(15.) Be not content with that mere methodical generalisation of the practice which you find in many grammars, but endeavour always to find the principle of the rule, whether belonging to universal or special grammar.

(16.) Study the theory of language, the organism of speech, and what is called comparative philology or Glossology. The principles there revealed will enable you to prosecute with a reasoning intelligence a study which would otherwise be in a great measure a laborious exercise of arbitrary memory.

(17.) Still, practice is the main thing; language must, in the first place, be familiar; and this familiarity can be attained only by constant reading and constant conversation. Where a man has no person to speak to he may declaim to himself; but the ear and the tongue must be trained, not the eye merely and the understanding. In reading, a man must not confine himself to standard works. He must devour everything greedily that he can lay his hands on. He must not merely get up a book with accurate precision; that is all very well as a special task; but he must learn to live largely in the general element of the language; and minute accuracy in details is not to be sought before a fluent practical command of the general currency of the language has been attained. Shakspeare, for instance, ought to be read twenty times before a man begins to occupy himself with the various readings of the Shaksperian text, or the ingenious conjectures of his critics.

(18.) Composition, properly so called, is the culmination of the exercises of speaking and 'reading, translation and re-translation, which we have sketched. In this exercise the essential thing is to write from a model, not from dictionaries or phrase-books. Choose an author who is a pattern of a particular style—say Plato in philosophical dialogue, or Lucian in playful colloquy—steal his phrases, and do something of the same kind yourself, directly, without the intervention of the English. After you have acquired fluency in this way you may venture to put more of yourself into the style, and learn to write the foreign tongue as gracefully as Latin was written by Erasmus, Wyttenbach, or Ruhnken. Translation from English classics may also be practised, but not in the first place; the ear must be tuned by direct imitation of the foreign tongue, before the more difficult art of transference from the mother tongue can be attempted with success.


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