4. Elementary Studies

§ 1. Grammar
§ 2. Composition
§ 3. Latin Writing
§ 4. General Religious Knowledge



{331} IT has often been observed that, when the eyes of the infant first open upon the world, the reflected rays of light which strike them from the myriad of surrounding objects present to him no image, but a medley of colours and shadows. They do not form into a whole; they do not rise into foregrounds and melt into distances; they do not divide into groups; they do not coalesce into unities; they do not combine into persons; but each particular hue and tint stands by itself, wedged in amid a thousand others upon the vast and flat mosaic, having no intelligence, and conveying no story, any more than the wrong side of some rich tapestry. The little babe stretches out his arms and fingers, as if to grasp or to fathom the many-coloured vision; and thus he gradually learns the connexion of part with part, separates what moves from what is stationary, watches the coming and going of figures, masters the idea of shape and of perspective, calls in the information conveyed through the other senses to assist him in his mental process, and thus gradually converts a calidoscope into a picture. The first view was the more splendid, the second the more real; the former more poetical, the latter more philosophical. Alas! what are we doing all through life, both as a necessity and as a duty, but unlearning the world's {332} poetry, and attaining to its prose! This is our education, as boys and as men, in the action of life, and in the closet or library; in our affections, in our aims, in our hopes, and in our memories. And in like manner it is the education of our intellect; I say, that one main portion of intellectual education, of the labours of both school and university, is to remove the original dimness of the mind's eye; to strengthen and perfect its vision; to enable it to look out into the world right forward, steadily and truly; to give the mind clearness, accuracy, precision; to enable it to use words aright, to understand what it says, to conceive justly what it thinks about, to abstract, compare, analyze, divide, define, and reason, correctly. There is a particular science which takes these matters in hand, and it is called logic; but it is not by logic, certainly not by logic alone, that the faculty I speak of is acquired. The infant does not learn to spell and read the hues upon his retina by any scientific rule; nor does the student learn accuracy of thought by any manual or treatise. The instruction given him, of whatever kind, if it be really instruction, is mainly, or at least pre-eminently, this,—a discipline in accuracy of mind.

Boys are always more or less inaccurate, and too many, or rather the majority, remain boys all their lives. When, for instance, I hear speakers at public meetings declaiming about "large and enlightened views," or about "freedom of conscience," or about "the Gospel," or any other popular subject of the day, I am far from denying that some among them know what they are talking about; but it would be satisfactory, in a particular case, to be sure of the fact; for it seems to me that those household words may stand in a man's mind for a something or other, very glorious indeed, but very misty, pretty much like the idea of "civilization" which floats before the {333} mental vision of a Turk,—that is, if, when he interrupts his smoking to utter the word, he condescends to reflect whether it has any meaning at all. Again, a critic in a periodical dashes off, perhaps, his praises of a new work, as "talented, original, replete with intense interest, irresistible in argument, and, in the best sense of the word, a very readable book;"—can we really believe that he cares to attach any definite sense to the words of which he is so lavish? nay, that, if he had a habit of attaching sense to them, he could ever bring himself to so prodigal and wholesale an expenditure of them?

To a short-sighted person, colours run together and intermix, outlines disappear, blues and reds and yellows become russets or browns, the lamps or candles of an illumination spread into an unmeaning glare, or dissolve into a milky way. He takes up an eye-glass, and the mist clears up; every image stands out distinct, and the rays of light fall back upon their centres. It is this haziness of intellectual vision which is the malady of all classes of men by nature, of those who read and write and compose, quite as well as of those who cannot,—of all who have not had a really good education. Those who cannot either read or write may, nevertheless, be in the number of those who have remedied and got rid of it; those who can, are too often still under its power. It is an acquisition quite separate from miscellaneous information, or knowledge of books. This is a large subject, which might be pursued at great length, and of which here I shall but attempt one or two illustrations. {334}

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§ 1. Grammar


ONE of the subjects especially interesting to all persons who, from any point of view, as officials or as students, are regarding a University course, is that of the Entrance Examination. Now a principal subject introduced into this examination will be "the elements of Latin and Greek Grammar." "Grammar" in the middle ages was often used as almost synonymous with "literature," and a Grammarian was a "Professor literarum." This is the sense of the word in which a youth of an inaccurate mind delights. He rejoices to profess all the classics, and to learn none of them. On the other hand, by "Grammar" is now more commonly meant, as Johnson defines it, "the art of using words properly," and it "comprises four parts—Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody." Grammar, in this sense, is the scientific analysis of language, and to be conversant with it, as regards a particular language, is to be able to understand the meaning and force of that language when thrown into sentences and paragraphs.

Thus the word is used when the "elements of Latin and Greek Grammar" are spoken of as subjects of our Entrance Examination; not, that is, the elements of Latin and Greek literature, as if a youth were intended to have a smattering of the classical writers in general, and were to be able to give an opinion about the eloquence of Demosthenes and Cicero, the value of Livy, {335} or the existence of Homer; or need have read half a dozen Greek and Latin authors, and portions of a dozen others:—though of course it would be much to his credit if he had done so; only, such proficiency is not to be expected, and cannot be required, of him:—but we mean the structure and characteristics of the Latin and Greek languages, or an examination of his scholarship. That is, an examination in order to ascertain whether he knows Etymology and Syntax, the two principal departments of the science of language,—whether he understands how the separate portions of a sentence hang together, how they form a whole, how each has its own place in the government of it, what are the peculiarities of construction or the idiomatic expressions in it proper to the language in which it is written, what is the precise meaning of its terms, and what the history of their formation.

All this will be best arrived at by trying how far he can frame a possible, or analyze a given sentence. To translate an English sentence into Latin is to frame a sentence, and is the best test whether or not a student knows the difference of Latin from English construction; to construe and parse is to analyze a sentence, and is an evidence of the easier attainment of knowing what Latin construction is in itself. And this is the sense of the word "Grammar" which our inaccurate student detests, and this is the sense of the word which every sensible tutor will maintain. His maxim is, "a little, but well;" that is, really know what you say you know: know what you know and what you do not know; get one thing well before you go on to a second; try to ascertain what your words mean; when you read a sentence, picture it before your mind as a whole, take in the truth or information contained in it, express it in your own words, and, if it be important, commit it to the {336} faithful memory. Again, compare one idea with another; adjust truths and facts; form them into one whole, or notice the obstacles which occur in doing so. This is the way to make progress; this is the way to arrive at results; not to swallow knowledge, but (according to the figure sometimes used) to masticate and digest it.


To illustrate what I mean, I proceed to take an instance. I will draw the sketch of a candidate for entrance, deficient to a great extent. I shall put him below par, and not such as it is likely that a respectable school would turn out, with a view of clearly bringing before the reader, by the contrast, what a student ought not to be, or what is meant by inaccuracy. And, in order to simplify the case to the utmost, I shall take, as he will perceive as I proceed, one single word as a sort of text, and show how that one word, even by itself, affords matter for a sufficient examination of a youth in grammar, history, and geography. I set off thus:—

Tutor. Mr. Brown, I believe? sit down. Candidate. Yes.

T. What are the Latin and Greek books you propose to be examined in? C. Homer, Lucian, Demosthenes, Xenophon, Virgil, Horace, Statius, Juvenal, Cicero, Analecta, and Matthię.

T. No; I mean what are the books I am to examine you in? C. is silent.

T. The two books, one Latin and one Greek: don't flurry yourself. C. Oh, ... Xenophon and Virgil.

T. Xenophon and Virgil. Very well; what part of Xenophon? C. is silent.

T. What work of Xenophon? C. Xenophon.

T. Xenophon wrote many works. Do you know the {337} names of any of them? C. I … Xenophon … Xenophon.

T. Is it the Anabasis you take up? C. (with surprise) O yes; the Anabasis.

T. Well, Xenophon's Anabasis; now what is the meaning of the word anabasis? C. is silent.

T. You know very well; take your time, and don't be alarmed. Anabasis means ... C. An ascent.

T. Very right; it means an ascent. Now how comes it to mean an ascent? What is it derived from? C. It comes from ... (a pause).  Anabasis ... it is the nominative.

T. Quite right: but what part of speech is it? C. A noun,—a noun substantive.

T. Very well; a noun substantive, now what is the verb that anabasis is derived from? C. is silent.

T. From the verb [anabaino] isn't it? from [anabaino].. C. Yes.

T. Just so. Now, what does [anabaino] mean? C. To go up, to ascend.

T. Very well; and which part of the word means to go, and which part up? C. [ana] is up, and [baino] is go.

T. [Baino] to go, yes; now [basis]? What does [basis] mean? C. A going.

T. That is right; and [ana-basis]? C. A going up.

T. Now what is a going down? C. is silent.

T. What is down? ... [Kata] ... don't you recollect? [kata.] C. [Kata.]

T. Well, then, what is a going down? Cat ... cat … C. Cat ...

T. Cata ... C. Cata ...

T. Catabasis. C. Oh, of course, catabasis.

T. Now tell me what is the future of [baino]? C. (thinks) [Bano]. {338}

T. No, no; think again; you know better than that. C. (objects) [phaino, phano]?

T. Certainly, [phano] is the future of [phaino]; but [baino] is, you know, an irregular verb. C. Oh, I recollect, [beso].

T. Well, that is much better; but you are not quite right yet; [besomai]. C. Oh, of course, [besomai].

T. [Besomai]. Now do you mean to say that [besomai] comes from [baino]? C. is silent.

T. For instance: [tupso] comes from [tupto] by a change of letters; does [besomai] in any similar way come from [baino]? C. It is an irregular verb.

T. What do you mean by an irregular verb? does it form tenses anyhow and by caprice? C. It does not go according to the paradigm.

T. Yes, but how do you account for this? C. is silent.

T. Are its tenses formed from several roots? C. is silent. T. is silent; then he changes the subject.

T. Well, now you say Anabasis means an ascent. Who ascended? C. The Greeks, Xenophon.

T. Very well: Xenophon and the Greeks; the Greeks ascended. To what did they ascend? C. Against the Persian king: they ascended to fight the Persian king.

T. That is right ... an ascent; but I thought we called it a descent when a foreign army carried war into a country? C. is silent.

T. Don't we talk of a descent of barbarians? C. Yes.

T. Why then are the Greeks said to go up? C. They went up to fight the Persian king.

T. Yes; but why up ... why not down? C. They came down afterwards, when they retreated back to Greece.

T. Perfectly right; they did ... but could you give no reason why they are said to go up to Persia, not down? C. They went up to Persia. {339}

T. Why do you not say they went down? C. pauses, then, ... They went down to Persia.

T. You have misunderstood me.

A silence.

T. Why do you not say down? C. I do ... down.

T. You have got confused; you know very well. C. I understood you to ask why I did not say "they went down".

A silence on both sides.

T. Have you come up to Dublin or down? C. I came up.

T. Why do you call it coming up? C. thinks, then smiles, then ... We always call it coming up to Dublin.

T. Well, but you always have a reason for what you do ... what is your reason here? C. is silent.

T. Come, come, Mr. Brown, I won't believe you don't know; I am sure you have a very good reason for saying you go up to Dublin, not down. C. thinks, then ... It is the capital.

T. Very well; now was Persia the capital? C. Yes.

T. Well ... no ... not exactly ... explain yourself; was Persia a city? C. A country.

T. That is right; well, but did you ever hear of Susa? Now, why did they speak of going up to Persia? C. is silent.

T. Because it was the seat of government; that was one reason. Persia was the seat of government; they went up because it was the seat of government. C. Because it was the seat of government.

T. Now where did they go up from? C. From Greece.

T. But where did this army assemble? whence did it set out? C. is silent.

T. It is mentioned in the first book; where did the troops rendezvous? C. is silent. {340}

T. Open your book; now turn to Book I., chapter ii.; now tell me. C. Oh, at Sardis.

T. Very right: at Sardis; now where was Sardis? C. In Asia Minor? ... no ... it's an island ... a pause, then ... Sardinia.

T. In Asia Minor; the army set out from Asia Minor, and went on towards Persia; and therefore it is said to go up—because ... C. is silent.

T. Because ... Persia ... C. Because Persia.

T. Of course; because Persia held a sovereignty over Asia Minor. C. Yes.

T. Now do you know how and when Persia came to conquer and gain possession of Asia Minor? C. is silent.

T. Was Persia in possession of many countries? C. is silent.

T. Was Persia at the head of an empire? C. is silent.

T. Who was Xerxes? C. Oh, Xerxes ... yes … Xerxes; he invaded Greece; he flogged the sea.

T. Right; he flogged the sea: what sea? C. is silent.

T. Have you read any history of Persia? ... what history? C. Grote, and Mitford.

T. Well, now, Mr. Brown, you can name some other reason why the Greeks spoke of going up to Persia? Do we talk of going up or down from the sea-coast? C. Up.

T. That is right; well, going from Asia Minor, would you go from the sea, or towards it? C. From.

T. What countries would you pass, going from the coast of Asia Minor to Persia? ... mention any of them. C. is silent.

T. What do you mean by Asia Minor? ... why called Minor? ... how does it lie? C. is silent.

Etc., etc. {341}


I have drawn out this specimen at the risk of wearying the reader; but I have wished to bring out clearly what it really is which an Entrance Examination should aim at and require in its students. This young man had read the Anabasis, and had some general idea what the word meant; but he had no accurate knowledge how the word came to have its meaning, or of the history and geography implied in it. This being the case, it was useless, or rather hurtful, for a boy like him to amuse himself with running through Grote's many volumes, or to cast his eye over Matthię's minute criticisms. Indeed, this seems to have been Mr. Brown's stumbling-block; he began by saying that he had read Demosthenes, Virgil, Juvenal, and I do not know how many other authors. Nothing is more common in an age like this, when books abound, than to fancy that the gratification of a love of reading is real study. Of course there are youths who shrink even from story books, and cannot be coaxed into getting through a tale of romance. Such Mr. Brown was not; but there are others, and I suppose he was in their number, who certainly have a taste for reading, but in whom it is little more than the result of mental restlessness and curiosity. Such minds cannot fix their gaze on one object for two seconds together; the very impulse which leads them to read at all, leads them to read on, and never to stay or hang over any one idea. The pleasurable excitement of reading what is new is their motive principle; and the imagination that they are doing something, and the boyish vanity which accompanies it, are their reward. Such youths often profess to like poetry, or to like history or biography; they are fond of lectures on certain of the physical sciences; or they may possibly have a real and true taste for natural {342} history or other cognate subjects;—and so far they may be regarded with satisfaction; but on the other hand they profess that they do not like logic, they do not like algebra, they have no taste for mathematics; which only means that they do not like application, they do not like attention, they shrink from the effort and labour of thinking, and the process of true intellectual gymnastics. The consequence will be that, when they grow up, they may, if it so happen, be agreeable in conversation, they may be well informed in this or that department of knowledge, they may be what is called literary; but they will have no consistency, steadiness, or perseverance; they will not be able to make a telling speech, or to write a good letter, or to fling in debate a smart antagonist, unless so far as, now and then, mother-wit supplies a sudden capacity, which cannot be ordinarily counted on. They cannot state an argument or a question, or take a clear survey of a whole transaction, or give sensible and appropriate advice under difficulties, or do any of those things which inspire confidence and gain influence, which raise a man in life, and make him useful to his religion or his country.

And now, having instanced what I mean by the want of accuracy, and stated the results in which I think it issues, I proceed to sketch, by way of contrast, an examination which displays a student, who, whatever may be his proficiency, at least knows what he is about, and has tried to master what he has read. I am far from saying that every candidate for admission must come up to its standard:—

T. I think you have named Cicero's Letters ad Familiares, Mr. Black? Open, if you please, at Book xi., Epistle 29, and begin reading. {343}

C. reads. Cicero Appio salutem. Dubitanti mihi (quod scit Atticus noster), de hoc toto consilio profectionis, quod in utramque partem in mentem multa veniebant, magnum pondus accessit ad tollendam dubitationem, judicium et consilium tuum. Nam et scripsisti aperte, quid tibi videretur; et Atticus ad me sermonem tuum pertulit. Semper judicavi, in te, et in capiendo consilio prudentiam summam esse, et in dando fidem; maximeque sum expertus, cum, initio civilis belli, per literas te consuluissem quid mihi faciendum esse censeres; eundumne ad Pompeium an manendum in Italiā.

T. Very well, stop there; Now construe. C. Cicero Appio salutem ... Cicero greets Appius.

T. "Greets Appius." True; but it sounds stiff in English, doesn't it? What is the real English of it? C. "My dear Appius?" …

T. That will do; go on. C. Dubitanti mihi, quod scit Atticus noster, While I was hesitating, as our friend Atticus knows

T. That is right. C. De hoc toto consilio profectionis, about the whole plan ... entire project ... de hoc toto consilio profectionis ... on the subject of my proposed journeyon my proposed journey altogether.

T. Never mind; go on; any of them will do. C. Quod in utramque partem in mentem multa veniebant, inasmuch as many considerations both for and against it came into my mind, magnum pondus accessit ad tollendam dubitationem, it came with great force to remove my hesitation.

T. What do you mean by "accessit"? C. It means it contributed to turn the scale; accessit, it was an addition to one side.

T. Well, it may mean so, but the words run, ad tollendam dubitationem. C. It was a great ... it was {344} a powerful help toward removing my hesitation … no ... this was a powerful help, viz., your judgment and advice.

T. Well, what is the construction of "pondus" and "judicium"? C. Your advice came as a great weight.

T. Very well, go on. C. Nam et scripsisti aperte quid tibi videretur; for you distinctly wrote your opinion.

T. Now, what is the force of "nam"? C. pauses; then, It refers to "accessit" ... it is an explanation of the fact, that Appius's opinion was a help.

T. "Et"; you omitted "et" ... "et scripsisti." C. It is one of two "ets"; et scripsisti, et Atticus.

T. Well, but why don't you construe it? C. Et scripsisti, you both distinctly

T. No; tell me, why did you leave it out? had you a reason? C. I thought it was only the Latin style, to dress the sentence, to make it antithetical; and was not English.

T. Very good, still, you can express it; try. C. Also, with the second clause?

T. That is right, go on. C. Nam et, for you distinctly stated in writing your opinion, et Atticus ad me sermonem tuum pertulit, and Atticus too sent me word of what you said ... of what you said to him in conversation.

T. "Pertulit." C. It means that Atticus conveyed on to Cicero the conversation he had with Appius.

T. Who was Atticus? C. is silent.

T. Who was Atticus? C. I didn't think it came into the examination ...

T. Well, I didn't say it did: but still you can tell me who Atticus was. C. A great friend of Cicero's.

T. Did he take much part in politics? C. No.

T. What were his opinions? C. He was an Epicurean. {345}

T. What was an Epicurean? C. is silent, then, Epicureans lived for themselves.

T. You are answering very well, sir; proceed. C. Semper judicavi, I have ever considered; in te, et in capiendo consilio prudentiam summam esse, et in dando fidem; that your wisdom was of the highest order … that you had the greatest wisdom ... that nothing could exceed the wisdom of your resolves, or the honesty of your advice.

T. "Fidem." C. It means faithfulness to the person asking ... maximeque sum expertus, and I had a great proof of it

T. Great; why don't you say greatest? "maxime" is superlative. C. The Latins use the superlative, when they only mean the positive.

T. You mean, when English uses the positive; can you give me an instance of what you mean? C. Cicero always speaks of others as amplissimi, optimi, doctissimi, clarissimi.

T. Do they ever use the comparative for the positive? C. thinks, then, Certior factus sum.

T. Well, perhaps; however, here, "maxime" may mean special, may it not? C. And I had a special proof of it, cum, initio civilis belli, per literas te consuluissem, when, on the commencement of the civil war, I had written to ask your advice, quid mihi faciendum esse censeres, what you thought I ought to do, eundumne ad Pompeium, an manendum in Italiā, to go to Pompey, or to remain in Italy.

T. Very well, now stop. Dubitanti mihi, quod scit Atticus noster. You construed quod, as. C. I meant the relative as.

T. Is as a relative? C. As is used in English for the relative, as when we say such as for those who.

T. Well, but why do you use it here? What is the {346} antecedent to "quod"? C. The sentence Dubitanti mihi, etc.

T. Still, construe "quod" literally. C. A thing which.

T. Where is a thing? C. It is understood.

T. Well, but put it in. C. Illud quod.

T. Is that right? what is the common phrase? C. is silent.

T. Did you ever see "illud quod" in that position? is it the phrase? C. is silent.

T. It is commonly "id quod," isn't it? id quod. C. Oh, I recollect, id quod.

T. Well, which is more common, "quod," or "id quod," when the sentence is the antecedent? C. I think "id quod."

T. At least it is far more distinct; yes, I think it is more common. What could you put instead of it? C. Quod quidem.

T. Now, dubitanti mihi; what is "mihi" governed by? C. Accessit.

T. No; hardly. C. is silent.

T. Does "accessit" govern the dative? C. I thought it did.

T. Well, it may; but would Cicero use the dative after it? what is the more common practice with words of motion? Do you say, Venit mihi, he came to me? C. No, Venit ad me;—I recollect.

T. That is right; venit ad me. Now, for instance, "incumbo:" what case does "incumbo" govern? C. Incumbite remis?

T. Where is that? in Cicero? C. No, in Virgil. Cicero uses "in"; I recollect, incumbere in opus ... ad opus.

T. Well, then, is this "mihi" governed by "accessit"? what comes after accessit? C. I see; it is, accessit ad tollendam dubitationem. {347}

T. That is right; but then, what after all do you do with "mihi"? how is it governed? C. is silent.

T. How is "mihi" governed, if it does not come after "accessit"? C. pauses, then, "Mihi" ... "mihi" is often used so; and "tibi" and "sibi": I mean "suo sibi gladio hunc jugulo"; ... "venit mihi in mentem"; that is, it came into my mind; and so, "accessit mihi ad tollendam," etc.

T. That is very right. C. I recollect somewhere in Horace, vellunt tibi barbam.

Etc., etc.


And now, my patient reader, I suspect you have had enough of me on this subject; and the best I can expect from you is, that you will say: "His first pages had some amusement in them, but he is dullish towards the end." Perhaps so; but then you must kindly bear in mind that the latter part is about a steady careful youth, and the earlier part is not; and that goodness, exactness, and diligence, and the correct and the unexceptionable, though vastly more desirable than their contraries in fact, are not near so entertaining in fiction. {348}

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§ 2. Composition


I AM able to present the reader by anticipation with the correspondence which will pass between Mr. Brown's father and Mr. White, the tutor, on the subject of Mr. Brown's examination for entrance at the University. And, in doing so, let me state the reason why I dwell on what many will think an extreme case, or even a caricature. I do so, because what may be called exaggeration is often the best means of bringing out certain faults of the mind which do indeed exist commonly, if not in that degree. If a master in carriage and deportment wishes to carry home to one of his boys that he slouches, he will caricature the boy himself by way of impressing on the boy's intellect a sort of abstract and typical representation of the ungraceful habit which he wishes corrected. When we once have the simple and perfect ideas of things in our minds, we refer the particular and partial manifestations of them to these types; we recognize what they are, good or bad, as we never did before, and we have a guide set up within us to direct our course by. So it is with principles of taste, good breeding, or of conventional fashion; so it is in the fine arts, in painting, or in music. We cannot even understand the criticism passed on these subjects until we have set up for ourselves the ideal standard of what is admirable and what is absurd.

So is it with the cultivation and discipline of the mind, {349} as it should be conducted at College and University, and as it manifests itself afterwards in life. Clearness of head, accuracy, scholarlike precision, method, and the like, are ideas obvious to point out, and easy to grasp; yet they do not suggest themselves to youths at once, and have to be urged and inflicted upon them. And this is done best by a caricature of their opposites.

And, as I am now going to continue the caricature by bringing in Mr. Brown's father as well as himself, I have to make a fresh explanation, lest I should seem to imply there are fathers altogether such as he will prove to be. I do not mean to say there are; yet it may easily happen that many excellent fathers, many even able and thoughtful men, may be found, who in a certain measure are under the bias of that error of which Mr. Brown senior is the typical instance, and who may be led possibly to reconsider some of their views, and in a measure to modify them, if they are confronted with an exhibition of them in their full dimensions;—and that, in consequence of their being forced to master the typical representation, though the error is never found thus pure and complete in fact, but only in degrees and portions, so that, when represented pure, it is called, and may fairly be called, a caricature. With this explanation of my meaning, and this apology in anticipation, I hope to be able without misconstruction to put before the reader the correspondence of which I have spoken.


Mr. Brown, jun., to his father.

"It seems odd I never was in Dublin before, though we have been now some time in Ireland. Well, I find {350} it a handsomer place than I thought for—really a respectable town. But it is sadly behind the world in many things. Think of its having no Social Science, not even a National Gallery or British Museum! nor have they any high art here: some good public buildings, but very pagan. The bay is a fine thing.

"I called with your letter on Mr. Black, who introduced me to the professors, some of whom, judging by their skulls, are clever men.

"There is a lot here for examination, and an Exhibition is to be given to the best. I should like to get it. Young Black,—you saw him once,—is one of them; I knew him at school; he is a large fellow now, though younger than I am. If he be the best of them, I shall not be much afraid.

"Well—in I went yesterday, and was examined. It was such a queer concern. One of the junior Tutors had me up, and he must be a new hand, he was so uneasy. He gave me the slowest examination! I don't know to this minute what he was at. He first said a word or two, and then was silent. He then asked me why we came up to Dublin, and did not go down; and put some absurd little questions about [Baino]. I was tolerably satisfied with myself, but he gave me no opportunity to show off. He asked me literally nothing; he did not even give me a passage to construe for a long time, and then gave me nothing more than two or three easy sentences. And he kept playing with his paper knife, and saying: 'How are you now, Mr. Brown? don't be alarmed, Mr. Brown; take your time, Mr. Brown; you know very well, Mr. Brown;' so that I could hardly help laughing. I never was less afraid in my life. It would be wonderful if such an examination could put me out of countenance. {351}

"There's a lot of things which I know very well, which the Examiner said not a word about. Indeed, I think I have been getting up a great many things for nothing;—provoking enough. I had read a good deal of Grote; but though I told him so, he did not ask me one question in it; and there's Whewell, Macaulay, and Schlegel, all thrown away.

"He has not said a word yet where I am to be lodged. He looked quite confused when I asked him. He is, I suspect, a character.
"Your dutiful son, etc.,

Mr. White to Mr. Brown, sen.

"I have to acknowledge the kind letter you sent me by your son, and I am much pleased to find the confidence you express in us. Your son seems an amiable young man, of studious habits, and there is every hope, when he joins us, of his passing his academical career with respectability, and his examination with credit. This is what I should have expected from his telling me that he had been educated at home under your own paternal eye; indeed, if I do not mistake, you have undertaken the interesting office of instructor yourself.

"I hardly know what best to recommend to him at the moment: his reading has been desultory; he knows something about a great many things, of which youths of his age commonly know nothing. Of course we could take him into residence now, if you urge it; but my advice is that he should first direct his efforts to distinct preparation for our examination, and to study its particular {352} character. Our rule is to recommend youths to do a little well, instead of throwing themselves upon a large field of study. I conceive it to be your son's fault of mind not to see exactly the point of things, nor to be so well grounded as he might be. Young men are indeed always wanting in accuracy; this kind of deficiency is not peculiar to him, and he will doubtless soon overcome it when he sets about it.

"On the whole, then, if you will kindly send him up six months hence he will be more able to profit by our lectures. I will tell him what to read in the meanwhile. Did it depend on me, I should send him for that time to a good school or college, or I could find you a private Tutor for him.
"I am, etc."

Mr. Brown, sen., to Mr. White.

"Your letter, which I have received by this morning's post, is gratifying to a parent's feelings, so far as it bears witness to the impression which my son's amiableness and steadiness have made on you. He is indeed a most exemplary lad: fathers are partial, and their word about their children is commonly not to be taken; but I flatter myself that the present case is an exception to the rule; for, if ever there was a well-conducted youth, it is my dear son. He is certainly very clever; and a closer student, and, for his age, of more extensive reading and sounder judgment, does not exist.

"With this conviction, you will excuse me if I say that there were portions of your letter which I could not reconcile with that part of it to which I have been alluding. You say he is 'a young man of studious habits,' having 'every hope of passing his academical career with {353} respectability, and his examination with credit;' you allow that 'he knows something about a great many things, of which youths of his age commonly know nothing:' no common commendation, I consider; yet, in spite of this, you recommend, though you do not exact, as a complete disarrangement of my plans (for I do not know how long my duties will keep me in Ireland), a postponement of his coming into residence for six months.

"Will you allow me to suggest an explanation of this inconsistency? It is found in your confession that the examination is of a 'particular character.' Of course it is very right in the governors of a great Institution to be 'particular,' and it is not for me to argue with them. Nevertheless, I cannot help saying, that at this day nothing is so much wanted in education as general knowledge. This alone will fit a youth for the world. In a less stirring time, it may be well enough to delay in particularities, and to trifle over minutię; but the world will not stand still for us, and, unless we are up to its requisitions, we shall find ourselves thrown out of the contest. A man must have something in him now, to make his way; and the sooner we understand this, the better.

"It mortified me, I confess, to hear from my son, that you did not try him in a greater number of subjects, in handling which he would probably have changed your opinion of him. He has a good memory, and a great talent for history, ancient and modern, especially constitutional and parliamentary; another favourite study with him is the philosophy of history. He has read Pritchard's Physical History, Cardinal Wiseman's Lectures on Science, Bacon's Advancement of Learning, Macaulay, and Hallam: I never met with a faster reader. {354} I have let him attend, in England, some of the most talented lecturers in chemistry, geology, and comparative anatomy, and he sees the Quarterly Reviews and the best Magazines, as a matter of course. Yet on these matters not a word of examination!

"I have forgotten to mention, he has a very pretty idea of poetical composition: I enclose a fragment which I have found on his table, as well as one of his prose Essays.

"Allow me, as a warm friend of your undertaking, to suggest, that the substance of knowledge is far more valuable than its technicalities; and that the vigour of the youthful mind is but wasted on barren learning, and its ardour is quenched in dry disquisition.
"I have the honour to be, etc."

On the receipt of this letter, Mr. White will find, to his dissatisfaction, that he has not advanced one hair's breadth in bringing home to Mr. Brown's father the real state of the case, and has done no more than present himself as a mark for certain commonplaces, very true, but very inappropriate to the matter in hand. Filled with this disappointing thought, for a while he will not inspect the enclosures of Mr. Brown's letter, being his son's attempts at composition. At length he opens them, and reads as follows:

Mr. Brown's poetry.


Oh, might I flee to Araby the blest,
The world forgetting, but its gifts possessed,
Where fair-eyed peace holds sway from shore to shore,
And war's shrill clarion frights the air no more.

Heard ye the cloud-compelling blast * awake (* Bombarding)
The slumbers of the inhospitable lake? +
(+ The Black Sea)
Saw ye the banner in its pride unfold
The blush of crimson and the blaze of gold?

Raglan and St. Arnaud, in high command,
Have steamed from old Byzantium's hoary strand;
The famed Cyanean rocks presaged their fight,
Twin giants, with the astonished Muscovite.

So the loved maid, in Syria's balmy noon,
Forebodes the coming of the hot simoon,
And sighs ……
And longs ……
And dimly traces …...

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Mr. Brown's prose.


"Of all the uncertain and capricious powers which rule our earthly destiny, fortune is the chief. Who has not heard of the poor being raised up, and the rich being laid low? Alexander the Great said he envied Diogenes in his tub, because Diogenes could have nothing less. We need not go far for an instance of fortune. Who was so great as Nicholas, the Czar of all the Russias, a year ago, and now he is "fallen, fallen from his high estate, without a friend to grace his obsequies." [Note 2] The Turks are the finest specimen of the human race, yet they, too, have experienced the vicissitudes of fortune. Horace says that we should wrap ourselves in our virtue, when fortune changes. Napoleon, too, shows us how little we can rely on fortune; but his faults, great as they were, are being redeemed by his nephew, Louis Napoleon, who has shown himself very different from what we expected, {356} though he has never explained how he came to swear to the Constitution, and then mounted the imperial throne.

"From all this it appears, that we should rely on fortune only while it remains,—recollecting the words of the thesis, 'Fortes fortuna adjuvat;' and that, above all, we should ever cultivate those virtues which will never fail us, and which are a sure basis of respectability, and will profit us here and hereafter."

On reading these compositions over, Mr. White will take to musing; then he will reflect that he may as well spare himself the trouble of arguing with a correspondent, whose principle and standard of judgment is so different from his own; and so he will write a civil letter back to Mr. Brown, enclosing the two papers.


Mr. Brown, however, has not the resignation of Mr. White; and, on his Dublin friend, Mr. Black, paying him a visit, he will open his mind to him; and I am going to tell the reader all that will pass between the two.

Mr. Black is a man of education and of judgment. He knows the difference between show and substance; he is penetrated with the conviction that Rome was not built in a day, that buildings will not stand without foundations, and that, if boys are to be taught well, they must be taught slowly, and step by step. Moreover, he thinks in his secret heart that his own son Harry, whose acquaintance we have already formed, is worth a dozen young Browns. To him, then, not quite an impartial judge, Mr. Brown unbosoms his dissatisfaction, presenting to him his son's Theme as an experimentum crucis between him and Mr. White. Mr. Black reads it {357} through once, and then a second time; and then he observes—

"Well, it is only the sort of thing which any boy would write, neither better nor worse. I speak candidly."

On Mr. Brown expressing disappointment, inasmuch as the said Theme is not the sort of thing which any boy could write, Mr. Black continues—

"There's not one word of it upon the thesis; but all boys write in this way."

Mr. Brown directs his friend's attention to the knowledge of ancient history which the composition displays, of Alexander and Diogenes; of the history of Napoleon; to the evident interest which the young author takes in contemporary history, and his prompt application of passing events to his purpose; moreover, to the apposite quotation from Dryden, and the reference to Horace;—all proofs of a sharp wit and a literary mind.

But Mr. Black is more relentlessly critical than the occasion needs, and more pertinacious than any father can comfortably bear. He proceeds to break the butterfly on the wheel in the following oration:—

"Now look here," he says, "the subject is 'Fortes fortuna adjuvat'; now this is a proposition; it states a certain general principle, and this is just what an ordinary boy would be sure to miss, and Robert does miss it. He goes off at once on the word 'fortuna.' 'Fortuna' was not his subject; the thesis was intended to guide him, for his own good; he refuses to be put into leading-strings; he breaks loose, and runs off in his own fashion on the broad field and in wild chase of 'fortune,' instead of closing with a subject, which, as being definite, would have supported him.

"It would have been very cruel to have told a boy to write on 'fortune'; it would have been like asking him {358} his opinion 'of things in general.' Fortune is 'good,' 'bad,' 'capricious,' 'unexpected,' ten thousand things all at once (you see them all in the Gradus), and one of them as much as the other. Ten thousand things may be said of it: give me one of them, and I will write upon it; I cannot write on more than one; Robert prefers to write upon all.

"'Fortune favours the bold;' here is a very definite subject: take hold of it, and it will steady and lead you on: you will know in what direction to look. Not one boy in a hundred does avail himself of this assistance; your boy is not solitary in his inaccuracy; all boys are more or less inaccurate, because they are boys; boyishness of mind means inaccuracy. Boys cannot deliver a message, or execute an order, or relate an occurrence, without a blunder. They do not rouse up their attention and reflect: they do not like the trouble of it: they cannot look at anything steadily; and, when they attempt to write, off they go in a rigmarole of words, which does them no good, and never would, though they scribbled themes till they wrote their fingers off.

"A really clever youth, especially as his mind opens, is impatient of this defect of mind, even though, as being a youth, he be partially under its influence. He shrinks from a vague subject, as spontaneously as a slovenly mind takes to it; and he will often show at disadvantage, and seem ignorant and stupid, from seeing more and knowing more, and having a clearer perception of things than another has. I recollect once hearing such a young man, in the course of an examination, asked very absurdly what 'his opinion' was of Lord Chatham. Well, this was like asking him his view of 'things in general.' The poor youth stuck, and looked like a fool, though it was not he. The examiner, blind to his own {359} absurdity, went on to ask him 'what were the characteristics of English history.' Another silence, and the poor fellow seemed to lookers-on to be done for, when his only fault was that he had better sense than his interrogator.

"When I hear such questions put, I admire the tact of the worthy Milnwood in Old Mortality, when in a similar predicament. Sergeant Bothwell broke into his house and dining-room in the king's name, and asked him what he thought of the murder of the Archbishop of St. Andrew's; the old man was far too prudent to hazard any opinion of his own, even on a precept of the Decalogue, when a trooper called for it; so he glanced his eye down the Royal Proclamation in the Sergeant's hand, and appropriated its sentiments as an answer to the question before him. Thereby he was enabled to pronounce the said assassination to be 'savage,' 'treacherous,' 'diabolical,' and 'contrary to the king's peace and the security of the subject;' to the edification of all present, and the satisfaction of the military inquisitor. It was in some such way my young friend got off. His guardian angel reminded him in a whisper that Mr. Grey, his examiner, had himself written a book on Lord Chatham and his times. This set him up at once; he drew boldly on his knowledge of his man for the political views advanced in it; was at no loss for definite propositions to suit his purpose; recovered his ground, and came off triumphantly."

Here Mr. Black stops; and Mr. Brown takes advantage of the pause to insinuate that Mr. Black is not himself a disciple of his own philosophy, having travelled some way from his subject;—his friend stands corrected, and retraces his steps.

"The thesis," he begins again, "is 'Fortune favours the brave;' Robert has gone off with the nominative {360} without waiting for verb and accusative. He might as easily have gone off upon 'brave,' or upon 'favour,' except that 'fortune' comes first. He does not merely ramble from his subject, but he starts from a false point. Nothing could go right after this beginning, for having never gone off his subject (as I did off mine), he never could come back to it. However, at least he might have kept to some subject or other; he might have shown some exactness or consecutiveness in detail; but just the contrary;—observe. He begins by calling fortune 'a power'; let that pass. Next, it is one of the powers 'which rule our earthly destiny,' that is, fortune rules destiny. Why, where there is fortune, there is no destiny; where there is destiny, there is no fortune. Next, after stating generally that fortune raises or depresses, he proceeds to exemplify: there's Alexander, for instance, and Diogenes,—instances, that is, of what fortune did not do, for they died, as they lived, in their respective states of life. Then comes the Emperor Nicholas hic et nunc; with the Turks on the other hand, place and time and case not stated. Then examples are dropped, and we are turned over to poetry, and what we ought to do, according to Horace, when fortune changes. Next, we are brought back to our examples, in order to commence a series of rambles, beginning with Napoleon the First. Apropos of Napoleon the First comes in Napoleon the Third; this leads us to observe that the latter has acted 'very differently from what we expected;' and this again to the further remark, that no explanation has yet been given of his getting rid of the Constitution. He then ends by boldly quoting the thesis, in proof that we may rely on fortune, when we cannot help it; and by giving us advice, sound, but unexpected, to cultivate virtue."

"O! Black, it is quite ludicrous" ... breaks in Mr. {361} Brown;—this Mr. Brown must be a very good-tempered man, or he would not bear so much:—this is my remark, not Mr. Black's, who will not be interrupted, but only raises his voice: "Now, I know how this Theme was written," he says, "first one sentence, and then your boy sat thinking, and devouring the end of his pen; presently down went the second, and so on. The rule is, first think, and then write: don't write when you have nothing to say; or, if you do, you will make a mess of it. A thoughtful youth may deliver himself clumsily, he may set down little; but depend upon it, his half sentences will be worth more than the folio sheet of another boy, and an experienced examiner will see it.

"Now, I will prophesy one thing of Robert, unless this fault is knocked out of him," continues merciless Mr. Black. "When he grows up, and has to make a speech, or write a letter for the papers, he will look out for flowers, full-blown flowers, figures, smart expressions, trite quotations, hackneyed beginnings and endings, pompous circumlocutions, and so on: but the meaning, the sense, the solid sense, the foundation, you may hunt the slipper long enough before you catch it."

"Well," says Mr. Brown, a little chafed, "you are a great deal worse than Mr. White; you have missed your vocation: you ought to have been a schoolmaster." Yet he goes home somewhat struck by what his friend has said, and turns it in his mind for some time to come, when he gets there. He is a sensible man at bottom, as well as good-tempered, this Mr. Brown. {362}

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§ 3. Latin Writing


MR. WHITE, the Tutor, is more and more pleased with young Mr. Black; and, when the latter asks him for some hints for writing Latin, Mr. White takes him into his confidence and lends him a number of his own papers. Among others he puts the following into Mr. Black's hands.

Mr. White's view of Latin translation.

"There are four requisites of good Composition,—correctness of vocabulary, or diction, syntax, idiom, and elegance. Of these, the two first need no explanation, and are likely to be displayed by every candidate. The last is desirable indeed, but not essential. The point which requires especial attention is idiomatic propriety.

"By idiom is meant that use of words which is peculiar to a particular language. Two nations may have corresponding words for the same ideas, yet differ altogether in their mode of using those words. For instance, 'et' means 'and,' yet it does not always admit of being used in Latin, where 'and' is used in English. 'Faire' may be French for 'do'; yet in a particular phrase, for 'How do you do?' 'faire' is not used, but 'se porter,' viz., 'Comment vous portez-vous?' An Englishman or a Frenchman would be almost unintelligible and altogether ridiculous to each other, who used the French or English words, with the idioms or peculiar uses of his own language. {363} Hence, the most complete and exact acquaintance with dictionary and grammar will utterly fail to teach a student to write or compose. Something more is wanted, viz., the knowledge of the use of words and constructions, or the knowledge of idiom.

"Take the following English of a modern writer:

"'This is a serious consideration:—Among men, as among wild beasts, the taste of blood creates the appetite for it, and the appetite for it is strengthened by indulgence.'

"Translate it word for word literally into Latin, thus:—

"'Hęc est seria consideratio. Inter homines, ut inter feras, gustus sanguinis creat ejus appetitum, et ejus appetitus indulgentiā roboratur.'

"Purer Latin, as far as diction is concerned, more correct, as far as syntax, cannot be desired. Every word is classical, every construction grammatical: yet Latinity it simply has none. From beginning to end it follows the English mode of speaking, or English idiom, not the Latin.

"In proportion, then, as a candidate advances from this Anglicism into Latinity, so far does he write good Latin.

"We might make the following remarks upon the above literal version.

"1. 'Consideratio' is not 'a consideration;' the Latins, having no article, are driven to expedients to supply its place, e.g., quidam is sometimes used for a.

"2. 'Consideratio' is not 'a consideration,' i.e., a thing considered, or a subject; but the act of considering.

"3. It must never be forgotten, that such words as 'consideratio' are generally metaphorical, and therefore cannot be used simply, and without limitation or explanation, {364} in the English sense, according to which the mental act is primarily conveyed by the word. 'Consideratio,' it is true, can be used absolutely, with greater propriety than most words of the kind; but if we take a parallel case, for instance, 'agitatio,' we could not use it at once in the mental sense for 'agitation,' but we should be obliged to say 'agitatio mentis, animi,' etc., though even then it would not answer to 'agitation.'

"4. 'Inter homines, gustus,' etc. Here the English, as is not uncommon, throws two ideas together. It means, first, that something occurs among men, and occurs among wild beasts, and that it is the same thing which occurs among both; and secondly that this something is, that the taste of blood has a certain particular effect. In other words, it means, (1) 'this occurs among beasts and men,' (2) viz., that the 'taste of blood,' etc. Therefore, 'inter homines, etc., gustus creat, etc.,' does not express the English meaning, it only translates its expression.

"5. 'Inter homines' is not the Latin phrase for 'among.' 'Inter' generally involves some sense of division, viz., interruption, contrast, rivalry, etc. Thus, with a singular noun, 'inter cœnam hoc accidit,' i.e., this interrupted the supper. And so with two nouns, 'inter me et Brundusium Cęsar est.' And so with a plural noun, 'hoc inter homines ambigitur,' i.e., man with man. 'Micat inter omnes Julium sidus,' i.e., in the rivalry of star against star. 'Inter tot annos unus (vir) inventus est,' i.e., though all those years, one by one, put in their claim, yet only one of them can produce a man, etc. 'Inter se diligunt,' they love each other. On the contrary, the Latin word for 'among,' simply understood, is 'in.' 

"6. As a general rule, indicatives active followed by accusatives, are foreign to the main structure of a Latin sentence. {365} 

"7. 'Et;' here two clauses are connected; having different subjects or nominatives; in the former 'appetitus' is in the nominative, and in the latter in the accusative. It is usual in Latin to carry on the same subject, in connected clauses.

"8. 'Et' here connects two distinct clauses. 'Autem' is more common.

"These being some of the faults of the literal version, I transcribe the translations sent in to me by six of my pupils respectively, who, however deficient in elegance of composition, and though more or less deficient in hitting the Latin idiom, yet evidently know what idiom is.

"The first wrote:—Videte rem graviorem; quod feris, id hominibus quoque accidit,—sanguinis sitim semel gustantibus intus concipi, plenč potantibus maturari.

"The second wrote:—Res seria agitur; nam quod in feris, illud in hominibus quoque cernitur, sanguinis appetitionem et suscitari lambendo et epulando inflammari.

"The third:—Ecce res summā consideratione digna; et in feris et in hominibus, sanguinis semel delibati sitis est, sępius hausti libido.

"The fourth:—Sollicitč animadvertendum est, cum in feris tum in hominibus fieri, ut guttę pariant appetitum sanguinis, frequentiores potus ingluviem.

"And the fifth:—Perpende sedulo, gustum sanguinis tam in hominibus quam in feris primņ appetitionem sui tandem cupidinem inferre.

"And the sixth:—Hoc grave est, quod hominibus cum feris videmus commune, gustasse est appetere sanguinem, hausisse in deliciis habere."

Mr. Black, junr., studies this paper, and considers that he has gained something from it. Accordingly, when he sees his father, he mentions to him Mr. White, his {366} kindness, his papers, and especially the above, of which he has taken a copy. His father begs to see it; and, being a bit of a critic, forthwith delivers his judgment on it, and condescends to praise it; but he says that it fails in this, viz., in overlooking the subject of structure. He maintains that the turning-point of good or bad Latinity is, not idiom, as Mr. White says, but structure. Then Mr. Black, the father, is led on to speak of himself, and of his youthful studies; and he ends by giving Harry a history of his own search after the knack of writing Latin. I do not see quite how this is to the point of Mr. White's paper, which cannot be said to contradict Mr. Black's narrative; but for this very reason, I may consistently quote it, for from a different point of view it may throw light on the subject treated in common by both these literary authorities.


Old Mr. Black's Confession of his search after a Latin style.

"The attempts and the failures and the successes of those who have gone before, my dear son, are the direction-posts of those who come after; and, as I am only speaking to you, it strikes me that I may, without egotism or ostentation, suggest views or cautions, which might indeed be useful to the University Student generally, by a relation of some of my own endeavours to improve my own mind, and to increase my own knowledge in my early life. I am no great admirer of self-taught geniuses; to be self-taught is a misfortune, except in the case of those extraordinary minds, to whom the title of genius justly belongs; for in most cases, to be self-taught is to be badly grounded, to be {367} slovenly finished, and to be preposterously conceited. Nor, again, was that misfortune I speak of really mine; but I have been left at times just so much to myself, as to make it possible for young students to gain hints from the history of my mind, which will be useful to themselves. And now for my subject.

"At school I was reckoned a sharp boy; I ran through its classes rapidly; and by the time I was fifteen, my masters had nothing more to teach me, and did not know what to do with me. I might have gone to a public school, or to a private tutor for three or four years; but there were reasons against either plan, and at the unusual age I speak of, with some inexact acquaintance with Homer, Sophocles, Herodotus, and Xenophon, Horace, Virgil, and Cicero, I was matriculated at the University. I had from a child been very fond of composition, verse and prose, English and Latin, and took especial interest in the subject of style; and one of the wishes nearest my heart was to write Latin well. I had some idea of the style of Addison, Hume, and Johnson, in English; but I had no idea what was meant by good Latin style. I had read Cicero without learning what it was; the books said, 'This is neat Ciceronian language,' 'this is pure and elegant Latinity,' but they did not tell me why. Some persons told me to go by my ear; to get Cicero by heart; and then I should know how to turn my thoughts and marshal my words, nay, more, where to put subjunctive moods and where to put indicative. In consequence I had a vague, unsatisfied feeling on the subject, and kept grasping shadows, and had upon me something of the unpleasant sensation of a bad dream.

"When I was sixteen, I fell upon an article in the Quarterly, which reviewed a Latin history of (I think) the Rebellion of 1715; perhaps by Dr. Whitaker. {368} Years afterwards I learned that the critique was the writing of a celebrated Oxford scholar; but at the time, it was the subject itself, not the writer, that took hold of me. I read it carefully, and made extracts which, I believe, I have to this day. Had I known more of Latin writing, it would have been of real use to me; but as it was concerned of necessity in verbal criticisms, it did but lead me deeper into the mistake to which I had already been introduced,—that Latinity consisted in using good phrases. Accordingly I began noting down, and using in my exercises, idiomatic or peculiar expressions: such as 'oleum perdidi,' 'haud scio an non,' 'cogitanti mihi,' 'verum enimvero,' 'equidem,' 'dixerim,' and the like; and I made a great point of putting the verb at the end of the sentence. What took me in the same direction was Dumesnil's Synonymes, a good book, but one which does not even profess to teach Latin writing. I was aiming to be an architect by learning to make bricks.

"Then I fell in with the Germania and Agricola of Tacitus, and was very much taken by his style. Its peculiarities were much easier to understand, and to copy, than Cicero's; 'decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile;' and thus, without any advance whatever in understanding the genius of the language, or the construction of a Latin sentence, I added to my fine words and cut-and-dried idioms, phrases smacking of Tacitus. The Dialogues of Erasmus, which I studied, carried me in the same direction; for dialogues, from the nature of the case, consist of words and clauses, and smart, pregnant, or colloquial expressions, rather than of sentences with an adequate structure."

Mr. Black takes breath, and then continues:

"The labour, then, of years came to nothing, and when I was twenty I knew no more of Latin composition than {369} I had known at fifteen. It was then that circumstances turned my attention to a volume of Latin Lectures, which had been published by the accomplished scholar of whose critique in the Quarterly Review I have already spoken. The Lectures in question had been delivered terminally while he held the Professorship of Poetry, and were afterwards collected into a volume; and various circumstances combined to give them a peculiar character. Delivered one by one at intervals, to a large, cultivated, and critical audience, they both demanded and admitted of special elaboration of the style. As coming from a person of his high reputation for Latinity, they were displays of art; and, as addressed to persons who had to follow ex tempore the course of a discussion delivered in a foreign tongue, they needed a style as neat, pointed, lucid, and perspicuous as it was ornamental. Moreover, as expressing modern ideas in an ancient language, they involved a new development and application of its powers. The result of these united conditions was a style less simple, less natural and fresh, than Cicero's; more studied, more ambitious, more sparkling; heaping together in a page the flowers which Cicero scatters over a treatise; but still on that very account more fitted for the purpose of inflicting upon the inquiring student what Latinity was. Any how, such was its effect upon me; it was like the 'Open Sesame' of the tale; and I quickly found that I had a new sense, as regards composition, that I understood beyond mistake what a Latin sentence should be, and saw how an English sentence must be fused and remoulded in order to make it Latin. Henceforth Cicero, as an artist, had a meaning, when I read him, which he never had had to me before; the bad dream of seeking and never finding was over; and, whether I ever wrote Latin or not, at least I knew what good Latin was. {370}

"I had now learned that good Latinity lies in structure; that every word of a sentence may be Latin, yet the whole sentence remain English; and that dictionaries do not teach composition. Exulting in my discovery, I next proceeded to analyze and to throw into the shape of science that idea of Latinity to which I had attained. Rules and remarks, such as are contained in works on composition, had not led me to master the idea; and now that I really had gained it, it led me to form from it rules and remarks for myself. I could now turn Cicero to account, and I proceeded to make his writings the materials of an induction, from which I drew out and threw into form what I have called a science of Latinity,—with its principles and peculiarities, their connection and their consequences,—or at least considerable specimens of such a science, the like of which I have not happened to see in print. Considering, however, how much has been done for scholarship since the time I speak of, and especially how many German books have been translated, I doubt not I should now find my own poor investigations and discoveries anticipated and superseded by works which are in the hands of every school-boy. At the same time, I am quite sure that I gained a very great deal in the way of precision of thought, delicacy of judgment, and refinement of taste, by the processes of induction to which I am referring. I kept blank books, in which every peculiarity in every sentence of Cicero was minutely noted down, as I went on reading. The force of words, their combination into phrases, their collocation—the carrying on of one subject or nominative through a sentence, the breaking up of a sentence into clauses, the evasion of its categorical form, the resolution of abstract nouns into verbs and participles;— {371} what is possible in Latin composition and what is not, how to compensate for want of brevity by elegance, and to secure perspicuity by the use of figures, these, and a hundred similar points of art, I illustrated with a diligence which even bordered on subtlety. Cicero became a mere magazine of instances, and the main use of the river was to feed the canal. I am unable to say whether these elaborate inductions would profit any one else, but I have a vivid recollection of the great utility they were at that time to my own mind.

"The general subject of Latin composition, my dear son, has ever interested me much, and you see only one point in it has made me speak for a quarter of an hour; but now that I have had my say about it, what is its upshot? The great moral I would impress upon you is this, that in learning to write Latin, as in all learning, you must not trust to books, but only make use of them; not hang like a dead weight upon your teacher, but catch some of his life; handle what is given you, not as a formula, but as a pattern to copy and as a capital to improve; throw your heart and mind into what you are about, and thus unite the separate advantages of being tutored and of being self-taught,—self-taught, yet without oddities, and tutorized, yet without conventionalities."

"Why, my dear father," says young Mr. Black, "you speak like a book. You must let me ask you to write down for me what you have been giving out in conversation."

I have had the advantage of the written copy. {372}

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§ 4. General Religious Knowledge


IT has been the custom in the English Universities to introduce religious instruction into the School of Arts; and a very right custom it is, which every University may well imitate. I have certainly felt it ought to have a place in that School; yet the subject is not without its difficulty, and I intend to say a few words upon it here. That place, if it has one, should of course be determined on some intelligible principle, which, while it justifies the introduction of Religion into a secular Faculty, will preserve it from becoming an intrusion, by fixing the conditions under which it is to be admitted. There are many who would make over the subject of Religion to the theologian exclusively; there are others who allow it almost unlimited extension in the province of Letters. The latter of these two classes, if not large, at least is serious and earnest; it seems to consider that the Classics should be superseded by the Scriptures and the Fathers, and that Theology proper should be taught to the youthful aspirant for University honours. I am not here concerned with opinions of this character, which I respect, but cannot follow. Nor am I concerned with that large class, on the other hand, who, in their exclusion of Religion from the lecture-rooms of Philosophy and Letters (or of Arts, as it used to be called), are actuated by scepticism or indifference; but there are other persons, much to be consulted, who arrive at the {373} same practical conclusion as the sceptic and unbeliever, from real reverence and pure zeal for the interests of Theology, which they consider sure to suffer from the superficial treatment of lay-professors, and the superficial reception of young minds, as soon as, and in whatever degree, it is associated with classical, philosophical, and historical studies;—and as very many persons of great consideration seem to be of this opinion, I will set down the reasons why I follow the English tradition instead, and in what sense I follow it.

I might appeal, I conceive, to authority in my favour, but I pass it over, because mere authority, however sufficient for my own guidance, is not sufficient for the definite direction of those who have to carry out the matter of it in practice.


In the first place, then, it is congruous certainly that youths who are prepared in a Catholic University for the general duties of a secular life, or for the secular professions, should not leave it without some knowledge of their religion; and, on the other hand, it does, in matter of fact, act to the disadvantage of a Christian place of education, in the world and in the judgment of men of the world, and is a reproach to its conductors, and even a scandal, if it sends out its pupils accomplished in all knowledge except Christian knowledge; and hence, even though it were impossible to rest the introduction of religious teaching into the secular lecture-room upon any logical principle, the imperative necessity of its introduction would remain, and the only question would be, what matter was to be introduced, and how much.

And next, considering that, as the mind is enlarged and cultivated generally, it is capable, or rather is {374} desirous and has need, of fuller religious information, it is difficult to maintain that that knowledge of Christianity which is sufficient for entrance at the University is all that is incumbent on students who have been submitted to the academical course. So that we are unavoidably led on to the further question, viz., shall we sharpen and refine the youthful intellect, and then leave it to exercise its new powers upon the most sacred of subjects, as it will, and with the chance of its exercising them wrongly; or shall we proceed to feed it with divine truth, as it gains an appetite for knowledge?

Religious teaching, then, is urged upon us in the case of University students, first, by its evident propriety; secondly, by the force of public opinion; thirdly, from the great inconveniences of neglecting it. And, if the subject of Religion is to have a real place in their course of study, it must enter into the examinations in which that course results; for nothing will be found to impress and occupy their minds but such matters as they have to present to their Examiners.

Such, then, are the considerations which actually oblige us to introduce the subject of Religion into our secular schools, whether it be logical or not to do so; but next, I think that we can do so without any sacrifice of principle or of consistency; and this, I trust, will appear, if I proceed to explain the mode which I should propose to adopt for the purpose:—

I would treat the subject of Religion in the School of Philosophy and Letters simply as a branch of knowledge. If the University student is bound to have a knowledge of History generally, he is bound to have inclusively a knowledge of sacred history as well as profane; if he ought to be well instructed in Ancient Literature, Biblical Literature comes under that general {375} description as well as Classical; if he knows the Philosophy of men, he will not be extravagating from his general subject, if he cultivate also that Philosophy which is divine. And as a student is not necessarily superficial, though he has not studied all the classical poets, or all Aristotle's philosophy, so he need not be dangerously superficial, if he has but a parallel knowledge of Religion.


However, it may be said that the risk of theological error is so serious, and the effects of theological conceit are so mischievous, that it is better for a youth to know nothing of the sacred subject, than to have a slender knowledge which he can use freely and recklessly, for the very reason that it is slender. And here we have the maxim in corroboration: "A little learning is a dangerous thing."

This objection is of too anxious a character to be disregarded. I should answer it thus:—In the first place it is obvious to remark, that one great portion of the knowledge here advocated is, as I have just said, historical knowledge, which has little or nothing to do with doctrine. If a Catholic youth mixes with educated Protestants of his own age, he will find them conversant with the outlines and the characteristics of sacred and ecclesiastical history as well as profane: it is desirable that he should be on a par with them, and able to keep up a conversation with them. It is desirable, if he has left our University with honours or prizes, that he should know as well as they about the great primitive divisions of Christianity, its polity, its luminaries, its acts, and its fortunes; its great eras, and its course down to this day. He should have some idea of its propagation, and of the order in which the nations, which have submitted to it, {376} entered its pale; and of the list of its Fathers, and of its writers generally, and of the subjects of their works. He should know who St. Justin Martyr was, and when he lived; what language St. Ephraim wrote in; on what St. Chrysostom's literary fame is founded; who was Celsus, or Ammonius, or Porphyry, or Ulphilas, or Symmachus, or Theodoric. Who were the Nestorians; what was the religion of the barbarian nations who took possession of the Roman Empire: who was Eutyches, or Berengarius, who the Albigenses. He should know something about the Benedictines, Dominicans, or Franciscans, about the Crusades, and the chief movers in them. He should be able to say what the Holy See has done for learning and science; the place which these islands hold in the literary history of the dark age; what part the Church had, and how her highest interests fared, in the revival of letters; who Bessarion was, or Ximenes, or William of Wykeham, or Cardinal Allen. I do not say that we can insure all this knowledge in every accomplished student who goes from us, but at least we can admit such knowledge, we can encourage it, in our lecture-rooms and examination-halls.

And so in like manner, as regards Biblical knowledge, it is desirable that, while our students are encouraged to pursue the history of classical literature, they should also be invited to acquaint themselves with some general facts about the canon of Holy Scripture, its history, the Jewish canon, St. Jerome, the Protestant Bible; again, about the languages of Scripture, the contents of its separate books, their authors, and their versions. In all such knowledge I conceive no great harm can lie in being superficial.

But now as to Theology itself. To meet the apprehended danger, I would exclude the teaching in extenso of {377} pure dogma from the secular schools, and content myself with enforcing such a broad knowledge of doctrinal subjects as is contained in the catechisms of the Church, or the actual writings of her laity. I would have students apply their minds to such religious topics as laymen actually do treat, and are thought praiseworthy in treating. Certainly I admit that, when a lawyer or physician, or statesman, or merchant, or soldier sets about discussing theological points, he is likely to succeed as ill as an ecclesiastic who meddles with law, or medicine, or the exchange. But I am professing to contemplate Christian knowledge in what may be called its secular aspect, as it is practically useful in the intercourse of life and in general conversation; and I would encourage it so far as it bears upon the history, the literature, and the philosophy of Christianity.

It is to be considered that our students are to go out into the world, and a world not of professed Catholics, but of inveterate, often bitter, commonly contemptuous, Protestants; nay, of Protestants who, so far as they come from Protestant Universities and public schools, do know their own system, do know, in proportion to their general attainments, the doctrines and arguments of Protestantism. I should desire, then, to encourage in our students an intelligent apprehension of the relations, as I may call them, between the Church and Society at large; for instance, the difference between the Church and a religious sect; the respective prerogatives of the Church and the civil power; what the Church claims of necessity, what it cannot dispense with, what it can; what it can grant, what it cannot. A Catholic hears the celibacy of the clergy discussed in general society; is that usage a matter of faith, or is it not of faith? He hears the Pope accused of interfering with {378} the prerogatives of her Majesty, because he appoints an hierarchy. What is he to answer? What principle is to guide him in the remarks which he cannot escape from the necessity of making? He fills a station of importance, and he is addressed by some friend who has political reasons for wishing to know what is the difference between Canon and Civil Law, whether the Council of Trent has been received in France, whether a Priest cannot in certain cases absolve prospectively, what is meant by his intention, what by the opus operatum; whether, and in what sense, we consider Protestants to be heretics; whether any one can be saved without sacramental confession; whether we deny the reality of natural virtue, or what worth we assign to it?

Questions may be multiplied without limit, which occur in conversation between friends, in social intercourse, or in the business of life, when no argument is needed, no subtle and delicate disquisition, but a few direct words stating the fact, and when perhaps a few words may even hinder most serious inconveniences to the Catholic body. Half the controversies which go on in the world arise from ignorance of the facts of the case; half the prejudices against Catholicity lie in the misinformation of the prejudiced parties. Candid persons are set right, and enemies silenced, by the mere statement of what it is that we believe. It will not answer the purpose for a Catholic to say, "I leave it to theologians," "I will ask my priest;" but it will commonly give him a triumph, as easy as it is complete, if he can then and there lay down the law. I say "lay down the law;" for remarkable it is that even those who speak against Catholicism like to hear about it, and will excuse its advocate from alleging arguments if he can gratify their curiosity by giving them information. Generally {379} speaking, however, as I have said, what is given as information will really be an argument as well as information. I recollect, some twenty-five years ago, three friends of my own, as they then were, clergymen of the Establishment, making a tour through Ireland. In the West or South they had occasion to become pedestrians for the day; and they took a boy of thirteen to be their guide. They amused themselves with putting questions to him on the subject of his religion; and one of them confessed to me on his return that that poor child put them all to silence. How? Not, of course, by any train of arguments, or refined theological disquisition, but merely by knowing and understanding the answers in his catechism.


Nor will argument itself be out of place in the hands of laymen mixing with the world. As secular power, influence, or resources are never more suitably placed than when they are in the hands of Catholics, so secular knowledge and secular gifts are then best employed when they minister to Divine Revelation. Theologians inculcate the matter, and determine the details of that Revelation; they view it from within; philosophers view it from without, and this external view may be called the Philosophy of Religion, and the office of delineating it externally is most gracefully performed by laymen. In the first age laymen were most commonly the Apologists. Such were Justin, Tatian, Athenagoras, Aristides, Hermias, Minucius Felix, Arnobius, and Lactantius. In like manner in this age some of the most prominent defences of the Church are from laymen: as De Maistre, Chateaubriand, Nicolas, Montalembert, and others. If laymen may write, lay students may read; they surely may read what their fathers may have written. They {380} might surely study other works too, ancient and modern, written whether by ecclesiastics or laymen, which, although they do contain theology, nevertheless, in their structure and drift, are polemical. Such is Origen's great work against Celsus; and Tertullian's Apology; such some of the controversial treatises of Eusebius and Theodoret; or St. Augustine's City of God; or the tract of Vincentius Lirinensis. And I confess that I should not even object to portions of Bellarmine's Controversies, or to the work of Suarez on laws, or to Melchior Canus's treatises on the Loci Theologici. On these questions in detail, however,—which are, I readily acknowledge, very delicate,—opinions may differ, even where the general principle is admitted; but, even if we confine ourselves strictly to the Philosophy, that is, the external contemplation, of Religion, we shall have a range of reading sufficiently wide, and as valuable in its practical application as it is liberal in its character. In it will be included what are commonly called the Evidences; and what is a subject of special interest at this day, the Notes of the Church.

But I have said enough in general illustration of the rule which I am recommending. One more remark I make, though it is implied in what I have been saying:—Whatever students read in the province of Religion, they read, and would read from the very nature of the case, under the superintendence, and with the explanations, of those who are older and more experienced than themselves.

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1. This was written in June, 1854, before the siege began.
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2. Here again Mr. Brown prophesies. He wrote in June, 1854.
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