صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

they are at best an ill-natured race. But it is not so. Even those known as satirists--those who have inflicted most painprove on acquaintance as capable of all the tenderer emotions of our nature as any other class of writers. The severest critics among the Greeks were Socrates, Aristotle, Lucian, and Longinus; the severest among the Romans, Juvenal, Horace, and Quintilian. Which of either nationality can be said to have been wanting in good-nature or in human sympathy? The one who of all the Romans was most distinctively a critic in the modern sense of the term, and who accordingly was most disliked both by bad authors and bad educators, was Quintilian. But what is the estimate we have of him from authors and educators of the highest rank? As it is the best authors and best educators who are the best friends of critics at the present day--as it is they who value their labors and esteem themselves, while they are much more likely to be abused by the worthless tribe of anthors and educators-so it was in the time of Quintilian. Thus in all classic literature there is not a nobler tribute to any author than that paid by Horace to one of the class who have ever been ohjects of detestation to the whole "dark lantern” genus. “Are, then, the eyes of Quintilian sealed in endless sleep?” exclaims one of the most charming of poets. “When will Modesty and unspotted Faith, the sister of Justice and unadorned Truth, ever find an equal to him? He is

him? He is gone, bewailed by many good men, by none more than by thee, O Virgil!”

Ergo Quintilium perpetuus sopor
Urget! cui Pudor, et Justitiæ soror,
Incorrupta Fides, nudaque Veritas,

Quando illum invenient parem?
Multis ille bonis flebilis occidit;

Nulli flebilior quam tibi, Virgili.* True, two at least of the Greeks, Socrates and Longinus, suffered death for their criticisms, and it is more than suspected that Lucian met a similar fate. But we need only speak now of Socrates and Longinus. , Who had a warmer sympathy for his race than the former? Who was à more faithful or more affectionate friend than the secretary of Queen Zenobia, put to death by her vietorious but ungallant enemy, for his fidelity to her cause the cause of justice, the cause of the weak against the strong! The severest critics of modern timesthose of England, France, and Germany-are too familiar to our readers to render it necessary to say anything more of them here than to ask, Which of them was more ill-natured than writers in general? Was the author of "Hudibras ?" Was “Junius," whether we regard him as Sheridan, Burke, or Francis? Was Jeffreys ? Was St. Beuve ? Was Schlegel ? Was Herder? Was Maginn? etc., etc.

* Od. i. 24, 1.

No. There is not one of all whom it would not be as unreasonable to accuse of ill-nature on account of his criticisms as it would be to accuse the surgeon of ill-nature on account of his surgical operations. It is not denied that the lancet causes pain and suffering ; but it is as generally admitted by intelligent men that it prevents much more pain and suffering than it inflicts. Is the same true, or is it not; of the critic's pen? At all events, it is because we think it is that we take the liberty, from time to time, of eriticising all whom we think may be improved by criticism, and all on whom criticism may exercise a salutary influence on others, if they are so blind or obdurate themselves that nothing will arouse them to a proper sense of their duties.

It is true that we hesitate less to criticise a public institution than we do to criticise an individual, even though the latter be a public functionary. And still greater is the difference if the former claims to be an institution of learning. We make this distinction for two reasons; the first ie, that in our opinioni, oni no institutions does the public weal depend more, especially in republics, than on colleges and universities; the second, that there are no institutions the nature of whose work, as faithfully and efficiently performed, we have studied so long or so much.

Yet when the facts are known it cannot be said that we have boen in any hurry to criticise the University of Penn sylvania ; on the contrary, we have long abstained from doing

[ocr errors]

80. For this also we had a twofold motive. There are hosts of Philadelphians, to offend whom would give us much pain; and no other city can boast a more impartial or more faithful press of its ojgn than the Quaker City. It would ill become us to overlook the fact that among its editors are men distinguished alike for their ability and their integrity, and who are appreciated and honored accordingly by their fellow-citizens. Were we disposed to pay compliments which are not needed, we could mention several of those gentlemen who are abnndantly qualified by learning and literary talent to make every necessary criticism on the University of Pennsylvania. To this we trust we need hardly add that it is in no arrogant spirit we take np

the subject. The truth is, that we have been urged to do so by some of the ablest editors, as well as some of the most intelligent private citizens, and public functionaries, of Philadelphia ; the reason for urging us, while the work could be so well done at home, being, that an article in a Quarterly which is known pays so much attention to higher education might have more effect than articles in the newpapers.

What first led us to question the efficiency of the University of Pennsylvania, was a casual intercourse we had two or three years since with several of its recent graduates. We had no reason, to doubt the honesty or truthfulness of the young gentlemen alluded to, and yet we confess we became quite skeptical when they informed us that they had graduated with high honors at the University of Pennsylvania. Surely, thought we, the University teaches its students, at least, not only to spell, but also to write the vernacular tongue more or less correctly, although," the dead languages” evidently remain dead, indeed, in its hands.......

Qur inisgivings led us to inquire and, investigate, but the more we did so the more the most serious of those misgivings were increased, until we became convinced that in its present condition the institution had no just claim to the character of an efficient high school much less to that of a university, But it is proper to add that in all our researches we found testimony tending to show that the medical department should be regarded as an exception to the general condition of torpidity, indolence, inefficiency-nay, it must be said, ignorance-prevailing at that institution.

In order that there should be no mistake on our part, however, and that we should do no injustice to the institution, we addressed a note to Charles J. Stillê, LL. D., as president of the university, respectfully inquiring whether it would be agreeable to him to allow us the privilege of hearing some of the recitations in Latin, Greek, or English literature. Without implying any doubt that the University was all it claimed to be, we remarked that we wished to give our impressions of it, such as they might be, in our journal. To this we added that we would not interfere in any manner with the recitations ; that we would not presume to propose any questions to the students, and that our apology for asking the privilege was the interest which we always take, however humbly, in the great cause of education. Dr. Stillé replied in polite language, but the greater part of his letter was occupied in explaining to us that

" there is no such person as the President of the University of Pennsylvania,” that he is the Provost, etc. Evading our respectful inquiry, he concluded by informing us that we could be present at the commencement exercises in June, when the public were admitted. We confess that the meaning of this in our mind was: “ Both students and instructors would make a sorry figure at their ordinary work, but when the cramming process has been duly performed, and the reporters of the daily papers are present to render ample justice to all the wonderful results of that process, then the cirremstances are different. At all events, it is not likely that you will leave your desk in New York toward the close of June, come on to Philadelphia and watch for two days, at an exhibition like ours, to see how we teach the young idea how to shoot;" and Dr. Stillé was quite right in coming to this conclusion. If we only wanted “exhibitions,” we had plenty of such much nearer home.

Still we continue to receive letters from educated men, not only from Philadelphia, but also from several of the neighboring towns and villages, all of which agree in at least one point:

[ocr errors]

however much they differ in other respects, they are unanimous in the opinion that the University of Pennsylvania, if not exactly a fraud, makes a near approach to that character. Presently we will extract some passages from those letters, but before doing so we have another word or two to say. After an interval of about a year we again address Dr. Stillé. As the new buildings had now been constructed, we were led to suppose that improved rules would prevail; we thought it reasonable to expect that at least the rule of secrecy and mystery would be abolished. This time we intimate to the provost, in as courteous language as we can use, that if we are not allowed to judge for ourselves in regard to the system of instruction pursued at the University, we must only inform ourselves in the best way we can, in order to comply, as far as possible, with the wishes of that portion of our readers who feel that they have a right to know what the institution is really able and willing to do.

Again, we receive a polite note from Dr. Stillé. He informs us that he would be pleased to show us all the classrooms, the lectnre-halls, ete. In short, he would show every courtesy, except to allow the recitations to be heard by one who might possibly make unfavorable criticisms upon them. Indeed, so far as promptness in replying is concerned, we know no better correspondent. He has, however, failed once in this sort of courtesy. Before we became fully aware that the University of Pennsylvania differs in some important particulars from other universities, we took the liberty of writing to him in Latin, using none of the vernacular. Whether it was that our Latinity was not up to his standard, and that he was therefore disgusted with it, or whether he regarded our epistle as a satire in disguise on the University of Pennsylvania, we have never to this day received any reply to our Latin communication. This has seemed to us all the more strange from the fact that as soon as we wrote in English, on taking it for granted that it was useless, or worse than useless, to write in an unknown tongue," the gentleman wrote at once as shown above." That we were not the less civil, how

« السابقةمتابعة »