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Edinburgh in November
From Tait's Edinburgh Magazine

Education. We like the phrase. No word can more adequately express the great circle of ideas which the transit of the mind from ignorance and imbecility to knowledge and power naturally suggests. It presents the picture of a fond and solicitous parent, guiding, with anxious eye and skilful hand, the first feeble essays of her infant offspring to achieve his physical independence. It exhibits her assiduously smoothing every wrinkle of the carpet, avoiding every angle of the table, and safely conducting him to the well-stuffed fauteuil, on whose soft arms complacently resting his tiny hands, as after the accomplishment of some marvellous exploit, he repairs his exhausted strength, and resolves on a more vigorous, sustained, and successful effort. It conducts us to the hour when the young aspirant, disdaining his maternal auxiliary, alone and unaided, boldly attempts, and triumphantly executes, his first perilous journey from the sofa to the sideboard. It anon reveals him revelling in all the luxurious sensations of uncontrolled muscular exertion, striding majestically away in the pomp and pride of unfettered power, with every function promptly obeying the active dictates of a sovereign volition. All this is a type of the intellectual process indicated by the term Education. The mind, invited from its original territory of gloom and sterility, is led by the hand of an enlightened guide, into the fair and fertile domains of literature and science. At first every ascent is levelled, every difficulty smoothed, and every obstacle carefully avoided, until sufficiently practised in these moral excursions, it is seen successfully clearing its own way; resolutely toiling along, either in paths familiar to others; or, more nobly still, forming a new and hitherto undiscovered avenue for itself, and by the light of its own sacred lamp, safely advancing in fearless strength, and pointing out that route to others, at whose extremity ascends the beautiful temple of absolute truth. Both tableaux, the material and the mental, are invested, to the student of humanity, with an interest which few other scenes can excite. The importance of the one, however, is immeasurably superior to the other, as time is greater than eternity. We witness the first faint struggles to exercise the animal functions crowned by ultimate success.

Adolescence and manhood exhibit the neplus ultra of muscular activity and vigour. But these powers have been summoned into play only to decline and finally to become extinct, amid the cold obstruction of senescence and the grave. The lithe limb must wither, the tense fibre must relax, the firm articulations must disunite, and the whole material structure crumble into dissolution. This is the end of those physical functions we have so carefully trained and so rapturously enjoyed. What a contrast in this respect to moral education! The first step of the soul in the path of truth is its first step into the infinite. Hence the solemnity of eternity hangs around every future movement. Progression eternal there must be. Termination there is none. We ascend where there is no canopy. We descend where there is no platform. We advance where there is no boundary. Our spiritual voyage upwards, downwards, and onwards, is limitless as the habitation of the omnipresent This it is that invests the village school and the city seminary, the provincial gymnasium and the metropolitan university, with a significance and a sacredness as deep as that which surrounds the church and the cathedral, the domestic altar and the house of prayer.

In no city of tho world has this been more practically acknowledged than in Edinburgh. Education, in its highest aspects and noblest ends, is associated with the name of the metropolis of Scotland. Here every institution, by its arrangements and provisions, proclaims the destinies of man. While ample opportunities are afforded for the equipment of pupils in all the accomplishments requisite to adorn life and benefit society, these are regarded but as means to a still higher end, the preparation of man for another sphere of moral and intellectual activity, where the Eternal himself shall be his immediate instructor. The number of learned men imbued with a thoroughly evangelical spirit, and duly impressed with the realities of faith, that have of recent years become connected with our national institutions, has tended more than any other cause to stamp this high character on the training now practised in our Edinburgh halls. To a man of large views we can imagine no greater treat than an occasional visit to one or other of these institutions. There he will find teachers distinguished not more for their critical skill and philosophical acumen, than their deep piety and child-like reverence for the scripture of truth; teachers who, in their enthusiasm for Sophocles and Tacitus, Plato and Cicero, forget not Isaiah and Moses, Job and Paul, teachers who, in revealing the discoveries of the higher mathematics, forget not the relative proportions of two magnitudes, the littleness of time and the greatness of eternity; teachers who, in conducting their pupils along the loftiest heights of science, and pointing out as they proceed the footprints of Bacon and Des Cartes, of Newton and Leibnitz, forget not the divine philosophy of the Son of God; teachers who, in expounding the pathological phenomena of the human frame, and the therapeutical prescriptions that effect their removal, forget not the moral disease under which the race universally groans, and the medicative principles of the remedial scheme; teachers who, in guiding the inquirer through the fields of botanical study and the parterres of horicultural beauty, forget not teachers who, in a word, acknowledge the God of the Bible, in literature, philosophy, and history; and who, while thoroughly conversant with the concatenations of cause and effect, never forget to solve in the ultimate every high problem by a direct and unhesitating reference to Him who is the origin and the end, the Alpha and tho Omega, the Causa causarum of the universe.

While we hold that thus the best quality of education can be secured iu Edinburgh, it is an education adapted not exclusively to the few, but also to the many. At the Academy, the High School, and the University, the business of instruction is conducted on such sound, philosophic and practical principles, that while the foundation is laid for the future acquisitions of the lawyer, the statesman, and the divine, one may pass from their halls into the counting-house or the exchange, the drawing-room or the bureau, with equal advantage. Eton and Rugby, Oxford aud Cambridge, are comparatively circumscribed in this respect. They build aud fit out vessels for particular seas. But Edinburgh has a dock-yard for every species of ship; rigging for every kind of intellectual craft; launches, as well barques that ride triumphantly on the multitudinous waters, as scallops that skim in quiet beauty along the bosom of the inland lake. The dull routine of uniform duties, the perpetual contemplation of the stagnant past, that characterises some seats of learning, are here unknown. There is all the quietude of study blended with the hum of busy existence; because the studies link the past with the present, and the present with the future, and thereby impart knowledge and experience, and create activity and prospection.

Just arrived, after a three months tour through the principal cities of England, we are delighted once more to breathe the air of study that circulates around, to hear again the quiet, subdued melodies of its refined society, and to witness, with unabated interest, the variously and delicately-coloured panorama of its daily life. We are as fond as ever of noting the care-worn student, as, with rusty aud threadbare habiliments, unconcealed by the red gown of Glasgow and St. Andrews, in company with an old Homer, with contractions, and a tattered Virgil, by John Hunter, with formidable Latin notes, he thoughtfully glidos along the bridges to his three-and-sixpenny-a-week lodging in Cumberland Street, the roystoring High School boy, with his black, brilliant eye, laughing and cracking his jokes about Carson’s qui, quae, quod, as he dances merrily along the Regent Bridge to his Alma Mater; the chubby-cheeked child, tastefully dressed, in the hand of a smart maid, tripping along Great King Street to the Circus, where he is sure to meet with an affectionate smile from the kind-hearted Musgrave, the fair, elegant girl, just swelling into womanhood, emerging from Coates Crescent or Abercromby Place, with Levisac and Wenderbom reposing in the apex of the brachial triangle quietly stealing along to Moray Place, or Miss Ponsonby’s, the brisk shopkeeper, or the respectable writer’s clerk hurrying along Queen Street, to spend his half hour over the- morning papers, and exchange his “Rienzi” for “Ten Thousand a Year.” Such sights as these, announcing as they do the immortal aspirations and destinies of man, chain us with exulting hope and solemn thought, and render Edinburgh, in November, the most attractive of cities.

Suppose our reader follow us into the University, we shall attempt to exhibit the system of education therein pursued.

Yonder is a somewhat uncombed but interesting-looking lad, evidently fresh from the country. He is going to the First Greek Class, over which Professor Dunbar presides. Assembled are about sixty or seventy students, all just commencing their literary curriculum. The majority are boys between 13 and 16, and a large minority consists of individuals pretty far advanced in life. We are surprised at this dissimilarity of years; but it is easily accounted for. The boys are principally from the provinces; and, owing either to narrow circumstances or incompetent parochial instructors, they have not been able to take the Second Greek Class along with pupils of the Edinburgh Academy and High School. The older students are either side school teachers, qualifying themselves for the Government endowment, or young men who, having been engaged in business for some time, have left their callings to toil their way to distinction. The professor, aware of the disadvantages under which the most of them labour, judiciously begins at the beginning. He assumes they know nothing of Greek, and devotes the entire session to initiating them in the fundamental principles of the language, and the simpler portions of the Collectanea Minora. We are sorry that tho state of our preliminary academies in the provinces should render such an arrangement necessary. The University is really not the place for teaching the grammar and Lucian’s Dialogues. But so long as no comparative examination has to be undergone as an indispensable requisite to admission to the first classes, the plan adopted is both necessary and proper. But, indeed, whatever may be the previous acquirements of the young man, he never will regret taking this First Greek Class. Every difficulty is here gradually removed; and the philosophic principles of the language being fully and luminously expounded, a solid basis is thereby laid for a stable superstructure. We have known many students, who, fancying themselves qualified to enter the Second Class, because they knew the conjugations and declensions, and could read with tolerable facility tho easier parts of the Greek Testament, have deeply regretted the step they unadvisedly took, and have found in their future studies perpetual obstacles arising, which they had then neither the time nor the inclination to remove satisfactorily, and which might easily have been avoided by a few months’ attendance at the Junior Greek Class.

It is a proposition requiring no demonstration, that if the rudiments and original facts of a language are not thoroughly mastered, all our future successive acquisitions will be destitute of a permanent and satisfactory foundation. It is incredible with what ease and pleasure we continue our acquaintance with a tongue with whoso laws we are intimately conversant. Instead of looking at the most difficult and obscure authors with horror, we regard them with satisfaction, conscious that, from our previous training, we have a key to unlock their deepest and most perplexing intricacies. Even the choruses of Aristophanes, and the most abstruse dialogues of Plato, present no difficulties of which we are not prepared to attempt the solution. In addition to this motive for attending the First Class, we have another, and perhaps a stronger, to urge. The scheme of Professor Dunbar, by which he accounts for the formation of the Greek verb, and the termination of nouns, is, in our opinion, the most comprehensive, philosophic, and satisfactory theory that has ever been propounded, and on this score is worthy the attention, not only of our youth, but even of the most accomplished scholar. In this class, the merits of Dunbar as a teacher are strikingly displayed. Born in humble life, endowed with no brilliant talents, and destitute of a glowing imagination, he has nevertheless successfully elevated himself to a position that does honour to his country, while it amply rewards his indefatigable industry. The same patient perseverance that achieved his triumphs in the study, he brings along with him to the class-room. He lays down a given quantity of work to be done, and done in a particular way, and during a specific period. No coruscations of wit, no irrelevant dissertations, divert him from his beaten track. He knows his route; he appreciates the prize at its termination; and, therefore, with unswerving constancy and religious fidelity, he gradually, but certainly and securely, moves along with his pupils at his side, and never fails to conduct them to a point from which they can look back with satisfaction upon the road they have travelled. Every winding and angle, every height and hollow it exhibits, is now perfectly familiar to them; and, all unaided and alone, they feel they could retrace every step they have taken, without the smallest fear of getting bewildered in the journey. This we conceive to be the perfection of teaching, the grand aim and end to which all the efforts of an instructor should be directed. In fine, we conceive Professor Dunbar to be one of the greatest ornaments of our University, and one of the most successful public teachers of which our city can boast.

Leaving his class, we enter that of Professor Pillans, where we find the same set of students we have just encountered in Dunbar’s. Mr. Pillans, with a more refined taste and a greater degree of imagination than the Professor of Greek, is, notwithstanding, destitute of his philosophical depth, and by no means so successful as a teacher. He has been long on the decline. His sun is rapidly westering; but he has struggled well, and played his part with considerable skill. His brightest days were at the High School. In the University he has never secured such a complete organisation of his schemes as he there triumphantly, and to the admiration of all educationists, effected. He wastes too much time in pointing out minute beauties and petty elegancies, to raw lads that can with difficulty translate Ceasar or Cornelius Nepos. He is too fond of displaying his acquaintance with English authors, and instructing his pupils in the rules of composition, during the time that should be spent in drilling them in the grammatical exercises. He doesn’t lay the same foundation as Dunbar. He expects higher attainments before entering his class, and hence the unprofitableness of his prelections. Let it not be supposed that we wish to discourage all such references to English literature and composition, far from it: we regret that the cross lights of our own language are not more frequently brought to hear on the obacarities and anomalies of other tongues. What we object to is this, that in the First Class, where so little is really known of the essential principles of Latin, any time should be otherwise spent than in conveying to the students a sound and comprehensive knowledge of its peculiar laws and fundamental idioms. Were the lectures on English compositions and the critical expositions of obscure passages reserved to a great extent for the Senior Class, we think the system adopted by Professor Pillans would be more prosperous in its development, and more complete and satisfactory in its results. There is much, however, to be learned in the Junior Humanity Class, and no one will regret a regular attendance.

Both Dunbar and Pillans deserve to be honourably mentioned in connection with the struggles of the numerous indigent but meritorious youths that annually repair to their classes. Animated by a generous ambition, and urged on by an irrepressible conscionsness of power, they leave their counters and workshops, to fit themselves, by a coarse of academical study, for the higher and more intellectual walks of life. To these Dunbar and Pillans pay the utmost attention, and omit no opportunity of forwarding their views. Personally, we are acquainted with several young men who, but for the kindness and encouragement they received from these professors, would have been obliged, by the fell force of straitened means, to return again to their professions, and who have subsequently distinguished themselves in parochial schools, in the pulpit, and the periodical press.

Moving along towards the north-western angle of the university, we come to the class-room of the professor of mathematics. It is twelve o'clock, and his first year students are assembled. He is found demonstrating the first proposition of Euclid. He will be occupied during the greater portion of the session with geometry, and towards the close he will examine the outlines of trigonometry, and the conic sections. This year an admirable basis is formed for the two succeeding years of his course; and with a very slight acquaintance with mathematical Mtaftoe, this class may be taken with great advantage. It merrily and succesfully taught. Mr. Holland is a most amiable man, and if we except John Wilson, more universally beloved than any ether member of the faculty of arts. This secures the attention of the students; and with his vast and varied mathematical knowledge, communicated in the most lucid, elegant, and graceful form, and this disposition on the part of his pupils, Professor Kellond may be regarded not only as one of the brightest ornaments, but as one of the most useful instructors, which the university can boast. Those three classes complete, in general, the circle of first year studies; and in all of them, on the whole, we may safely affirm, that no better introduction to literature and science can be desired than they afford.

Ascending the staircase from the Greek classroom, we find ourselves in the midst of a crowd of students, who, by their brisk chatter, neatly arranged neckcloth, span-new paletot, and affected look of penetration and discernment, as you pass, indicate pretty clearly that they have lived a session in Edinburgh, have cracked a great many college jokes, played a good many clever pranks, and are now in the second year of their course, with a capful of prosperous wind in theii sails, which bids fair to carry them in safety to their ultimate destination. We enter with them the class of Sir William Hamilton. Logic and metaphysics are here taught, and taught in a manner unrivalled in any university, either British or foreign. Possessed of extraordinary stores of erudition, supereminent metaphysical acumen, great originality of conception, boundless resources of perspicuous and forceful diction, the Professor of logic is universally admired and valued. We have no hesitation in pronouncing him the only philosopher that at the present moment adequately sustains the reputation of the Scottish school.

To the regret of every true friend of science, Sir William was attacked a few years ago with a violent paralytic seizure, which threatened to render him a wreck for life; but we are happy to say he is so far recovered as to be able to teach his class with nearly as much vigour as formerly. When he publishes his system of logic and metaphysics, we are confident that an heir-loom will be presented to the world, which will descend with the admiration of posterity to latest generations.

The other classes, generally attended by a second year student, are the second or third mathematics, according to his previous attainments, in the former of which are taught, with the same vigour and success as in the first, Algebra, and some departments of the higher mathematics; and in the latter, the differential and integral calculus; the second or third Greek, where the student is introduced in the one to Homer, Xenophon, Plato, and Sophocles; and in the other to Thucydides, Demosthenes, Aeschines, and Aristophanes. Sometimes the student desiderates in the Greek Professor, when teaching the oratorical and poetic compositions of the Athenians, that rapt enthusiasm and ardent fancy which are calculated to inspire a lasting admiration, and a bright classical reminiscence^ for which Sir Daniel Sandford, and others of his school, were so pre-eminently distinguished. This is, however, in a great degree counterbalanced by the patient assiduity, and the extensive erudition with which the authors are explained and illustrated. The second Latin is usually taken in this year by those students that attended the first classes in the preceding winter, and by almost all the youths from the High School and Academy. The "Eulogae Ciceronian a,” lately issued by Mr. Pillans, along with the higher classics, form the staple study of the session. This class is well taught. The students greatly relish the elegant lectures which the accomplished professor delivers on Wednesdays. They are replete with interest, and pregnant with improvement.

Following a current of youths, on whose countenances delighted expectation is apparent, towards the north-western extremity of the quadrangle, we are seated in the sacred class room of John Wilson: we say sacred, because hallowed by the lofty inspirations of genius. The students sit with as much eagerness and intensity of interest as the habitues of Covent Garden and Drury Lane, when some star is about to reveal the creations of Shakspeare; and they are not disappointed. They do not expect profound metaphysics or original speculations in ethical philosophy. They expect the passions to be depicted in their darkest sublimity, and the affections in their softest lustre; and their hopes are more than realised. Thousands of youths, we believe, have gone from that class-room into the busy marts of commerce, and the quieter spheres of the learned professions, imbued with those sentiments of generosity, and those tastes for literature, that have shed the brightest charms around the dull realities of life. Though Wilson does not profess to be an original thinker in morals, he yet presents a clear, judicious, and philosophical, exposition of all the great theories that have been promulgated to the world, accompanied with his own beautiful criticisms and illustrations. Along with this class, the metaphysics of Hamilton are studied, at once novel and profound. Guided by a large number of advanced students, we enter the class of Professor Forbes.

These are in their fourth year. Prepared by Mr. Kelland during the previous parts of their course, they can now fully appreciate the high mathematical disquisitions of Forbes on statics, dynamics, optics, hydraulics, &c. Mr. Forbes is signally successful in tuition. He seldom reads his lectures, except when any peculiarly knotty point is under discussion. His oral instructions are characterised by great perspicuity, depth, and force. Though frequently discoursing on the most abstruse topics, be never commits, even in the longest and most involved periods, the slightest grammatical or verbal error. His diction is singularly transparent and correct; so that even the humblest intellect, if properly trained before entering bis class, can easily understand him.

From Forbes we pass into the class of Professor Aytoun, where rhetoric and the belles lettres are taught. Mr. Aytoun has not been long in the chair, but the specimen we have already had of him gives good promise of his filling it with as much distinction as his accomplished predecessor, Mr, Spalding, His lectures, however, may be characterised generally as more brilliant than solid, more imaginative than speculative, more pretty than profound, more ingenious than philosophic. As an author, he is chiefly known by his “Lays of the Cavaliers", a book which, though distinguished by excessive cleverness, is by no means a secure basis on which to erect his claims to immortality. There is still another class in the faculty of arts to which we should like to direct the attention of students, conducted by Mr. Donaldson, the professor of music. It may be taken at any stage of the curriculum, and will amply reward their diligent attendance. Perhaps there is little philosophic depth in Donaldson, little Pythagorean acuteness in treating mathematically the theory of music, but there is an intimate acquaintance with the history of the science, and an elegance of mind that communicates its principles in a most pleasing and interesting form. His experimenting apparatus constitutes a very attractive feature in the business of this class.

Having completed this circle of studies, the young man is thoroughly prepared to enter on his professional pursuits of law, medicine, or divinity. The faculty of medicine, in particular, presents at this moment peculiar attractions. The names of Gregory, Balfour, Simpson, and Millar, are well known in medical science. In the divinity hall, Dr. John Lee and Dr. Robertson are the most distinguished professors. The worthy principal, whose form is wasted with age, still manages to lecture with considerable vigour. Erudition, perspicuity, and elegance, are the leading characteristics of his compositions. The professor of divinity and church history is somewhat harsh and heavy; but, withal, solid, sound, and instructive. In the faculty of law, the average talent is to be found.

In some future article we may give a history of the rise and progress of our educational institutes, subordinate to the university, with sketches of the literary and scientific character of the masters, and their respective claims to public support. In the meantime, we must close with a brief notice of the Free Church College and the Philosophical Institution. The system of theological training adopted in the Free Church Hall is admirably adapted to secure the ends of its institution. Deprived in its infancy of the illustrious Chalmers and the venerated Welch, it has had to struggle with considerable difficulties. No two men in Scotland could be found adequate to discharge, with similar ability and effect, the offices of these distinguished divines. The choice of the church, however, fell at last upon Drs. Buchanan and Cunningham, as the most likely individuals to give general satisfaction. In this she was not mistaken. The extensive learning, accurate scholarship, and crystalline transparency of intellect, which characterises James Buchanan, eminently fit him for the chair of systematic theology; and the scholastic learning, logical power, and metaphysical acumen, for which Dr. Cunningham is so remarkable, render him singularly successful in teaching polemical divinity. The chair of Hebrew is well filled. As an Orientalist, Dr. Duncan is not excelled by any British scholar. His prelections, though somewhat unsystematic and irregular, owing to his singular idiosyneracal, are extremely valuable, particularly to those who may have made some progress in the language before joining his class. The chair of exigetical theology is likewise well filled, Dr. Black, it is well known, being one of the most accomplished linguists of the present day. Moral philosophy and logic are also taught to literary students, as preliminaries to theological study. Mr. M‘DougaI ably discharges the duties of his chair; and Mr. Fraser, though young, has given unmistakeable evidence of superior power. But the man most to our taste is Dr. Fleming, the professor of natural science, one of the most distinguished fellows of the Royal Society, and the author of several standard works on zoology. He is well known to the scientific world. He is the best specimen we ever met of a real Scottish philosopher, of the Reid school. Thoroughly Baconian in his modes of reasoning, and intimately conversant with the phenomena of nature, he invariably exhibits first the facts of the case in all their length and breadth, and then the laws of the case, which bind them up into a compact, uniform, and synthetic whole. The caustic humour and genial common sense that run through all his lectures, render him the most pleasant of instructors, and the universal favourite of his students.

Mr. Bannerman, who has been recently appointed to the chair of junior divinity, is to be inaugurated early this month, and though little known to the public by any remarkable production, his abilities and acquirements are of such an order as to warrant the most sanguine anticipations of his future career. With such admirable machinery, the Free Church College is unquestionably one of the most efficient theological institutes in the country.

There is one man in connection with the Free Church of whose talents and learning we entertain the highest opinion, and who, more than any other individual, perhaps, in Scotland, is fitted to exercise the functions of a professor, we mean Dr. Hetherington. His work on Church History is distinguished alike for vigorous thought and refined fancy, and evinces a power capable of achieving much greater things. His earlier and smaller books are marked by singular originality of conception, fecundity of imagination, and beauty of diction. Full of information on all topics, and delighted to impart it to every inquirer, you cannot be in his society an hour without remarking his extraordinary quali6cations to be an academic instructor. Though the church might be deprived by such an appointment of one of her best preachers, yet we cannot help thinking that so long as Hetherington does not occupy a professor's chair, he is neither making the most of his talents, nor moving in that sphere for which he is so manifestly adapted. Before this reaches our readers, Professor Wilson, the president of the Philosophical Institution, will have delivered his introductory address. The bill of fare for the winter is uncommonly good, consisting of seven separate courses on subjects of universal interest, by some of the most distinguished lecturers of the day. Along with George H. Lewes and Dr. Samuel Brown, J. Q. Wetherbee, and Charles C. Clarke, A. J. Scott, and Dr. Gairdner, we find a name associated with which the public are as yet but partially acquainted, that of Mr. Thomas Grieve Clarke. This young man is little known beyond the sphere of student life. He has written a few articles in some of our periodicals, and published a few essays and introductory addresses composed for literary and religious societies, but as a public lecturer he has never hitherto appeared. From what we know of his intellectual calibre, acquisitions, and industry, we look forward to his course with much interest. With the subject, “Hungary, and Hungarian Struggles,” he must be intimately conversant, having resided on the Continent for the last two years, where he has had every facility for procuring correct information, and forming an unbiassed opinion respecting the real principles of the Hungarian and Austrian movements. Beforehand, therefore, we can assure the frequenters of Queen Street Hall that no exhibition will be more satisfactory and triumphant than that of Mr. Clarke.

In addition to this series of lectures, there are classes for German, French, &c., conducted by eminent masters, which we would recommend to all young men engaged in business, or in offices, who may have a few hours to devote twice or thrice every week to mental improvement. Of the merits of this institution there can be but one opinion. Its great design is to popularise science and literature, and thus to elevate and refine the middle classes of metropolitan society. Such an object is worthy of all praise, and must command the approbation of every enlightened friend of education.

Such is a slight sketch of the principal institutes which commence their session in Edinburgh in November.

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