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Of what use are all their studies to them?
may be said, that they have themselves only to blame, and that they might, and should have persevered : and this is true in the abstract, but, like many theories, fails in the application.
With human beings, allowance must be made for human failings and imperfections, and if the mind sinks under the load that is laid upon it,' they who lay that load are not, themselves, exempt from blame.
What then do I advise? The relinquishment of mathematical pursuits ? By no means. I would give equal honor, nay, concede all that can fairly be conceded to long established habits and prejudices; I would give precedence to mathematical studies, but not exclusive privileges and rewards.
Nec nihil neque omnia. I would give a large and liberal share of honors and rewards to classical studies, not only in the distribution of classical prizes at present existing by the benefactions of various founders, but in the senate-house examination, and in the classification of academic degrees.
I have heard from the examining chaplains of some bishops, a remark, which I believe is pretty general, and which, as I am persuaded most of the members of this University will understand it sufficiently by this allusion, it is unnecessary to place more prominently on record. The only objections which have been made to the establishment of a public examination at the end of the second year, in which a certain knowledge of the Greek Testament and the principles of religion should be a sine qua non towards passing for the senate house degree, have rested on the interruption such an examination would give to the higher reading men, in the mathematical pursuits. I am sorry to think such an objection should be urged by men, whom I believe to be very sincere Christians, and very good, and in all respects where prejudice does not operate, very wise men. But, in this instance, I confess I think them influenced by partiality for usage now some time established, and for their favorite science and pursuits.
What would be thought of a man who should assert, that it was much better to be a good classic than a good Christian? That it would be a pity to read the Greek Testament, lest it should interrupt his study of Aristophanes ? And what right have mathematical studies to an exemption, which would not be granted to a student in classics, or any other branch of learning ?
But granting that such an examination would cause a short interruption to mathematical pursuits, which is granting more than is necessarily due, what injury would it be to any, since the interruption would be alike to all? It would give no undue advantage to one above another, since all must submit to it; and supposing it occasioned all to know a problem or two less, would any real evil result from this defect, or any inconvenience, which would not be counterbalanced by great and substantial good? Admit, which is a great deal more than is ever likely to happen or be proved, that it prevents A. from being senior wrangler, then B. will be senior wrangler instead ; and the course of mathematical examination will be just the same, whatever
be the result of it to this or that individual.
So far, therefore, the effect of this minor examination, on that at present in usage for the degree, must be absolutely harmless ; but beyond this, the result to every one of the examinants must be productive of great and substantial good, by bringing them acquainted with the grounds and principles of their faith, by leading them to that knowledge, in comparison with which all other knowledge is idle and unprofitable, and guiding them to the search after those truths, in comparison with which all mathematical truth is vanity itself.
I may add, that the beneficial consequences of such an examination are incalculable. When the impression is made in early life, and the minds of young men are directed towards the consideration of those great and important truths, which are inseparably connected with the eternal interests of themselves and of all mankind, the impression will never be wholly worn out, there will always be a tendency of thoughts and inclinations to this great object, and the germ of Christianity may be preserved, even amidst the temporary allurements of the gayest scenes of pleasure and dissipation. If it springs not immediately, it may in later life; it may at least prove a preservative against the blasphemies of infidelity; and it may guard men from being led, by late repentance, to the extravagances of fanaticism and wild enthusiasm.
On all these grounds, and on many others which might be urged, I see strong and even irresistible arguments in favor of a general preparatory examination. That examination should confer no honors, and concede no exemption. It should be plain, perspicuous, and intelligible. No puzzling questions should be asked, because, as no distinctions of honor are granted, no trial of genius is necessary. The majority of young men educated at this University are designed for holy orders; but even were it not so, every layman who calls himself a Christian, certainly every layman who has received a liberal education in a Christian University, ought to know something of the proofs, history, and doctrines of the Christian religion. The very least that can be required, is a knowledge of the Gospels in their original tongue,
thé proofs of natural and reavealed religion, and a general acquaintance with Scripture history to the time of the Apostles. I do not pretend to dictate to the good sense of the University, but as a member of it, I may be allowed, without presumption, to state, that I think the Greek Gospels, Grotius de Veritate, and the first volume of Bishop Tomline's Theology, are sufficient for the proposed examination. No burden is laid on any man by requiring an acquaintance with these. It is his duty to know these, and if he does not know them by the time he has been two years at the University, there is infinite blame imputable either to his instructors or to himself.
I know very well what may be alleged about the procrastination of these studies till after the degree of A. B. has been taken; but I do not stop to combat arguments of this sort; they bear their own refutation in themselves, like many of those which may
be urged by my adversaries on minor topics. If any of these gentlemen will tell me, that it is of no consequence if a young man of twenty dies ignorant of the truths of Christianity, because there is a chance of his living to know them at the age of twenty-two, I will
that his tutors may have some excuse for withdrawing his attention to them till he has no farther occasion for their services.
So much for this subject. I am content merely to throw out hints on it, because I have little time for more, and trust these will be sufficient for future exertions. Will it be allowed me to state my own view of the improved system, in the most general terms, leaving the detail and modification of them to the sense of the University ?
I would oblige every man, at the expiration of his two first years, to undergo the above-mentioned preparatory examination ; and he should then be called upon to declare whether he intended to graduate in mathematics, or classics, which should not preclude him from offering himself for examination in the senate-house in both. In the senate-house examination, the week for mathematics should proceed as usual. That for classics should follow, in which there should be a first, second, and third class, as in mathematics. Let the senior wrangler preserve his pre-eminence, and next to him the first of the first class classics; then the other wranglers, who, in most cases, should not exceed 15, and then the other first class classics, who should not exceed the like number. Next to these, mathematical senior optimés, not exceeding 14 ;, and then second class classics, to the same number. Then the mathematical junior optimés, and the third class classics, whose number should not exceed ten respectively. This would give, supposing each class full, 40 mathematical, and as many classical honors; but it is to be presumed that several men would be
ranked in both classes. If the fellowships of the University are distributed with due regard to these honors, no doubt a greater emulation will be excited to excel in both departments.
Exédov eipnxa. But I must add a few words on the classical examination. It would of course comprise not merely the construing Greek and Latin, but a variety of questions connected with the passages selected, and depending on history, antiquities, chronology, geography, metrical and philological criticism, and ancient philosophy. And this leads me to a remark, which will perhaps be unpalatable to some of our distinguished scholars, but which truth compels me not to omit. I mean, that our range of Greek reading is at present too much confined. We labor about the dramatic writers too much, to the exclusion of the rest.": We weary ourselves with adjusting iambics, and trochaics, and anapæsts, and twisting monostrophics into choruses and dochmiacs, and almost seem to neglect the sense for the sake of the sound. I do not mean to disparage these labors, which are sometimes learned and often ingenious; but I wish merely to hint, that if these things are good, there are also better things than these. We must not forsake the critics, philosophers, orators, and historians of Greece, for a mere branch of her poets; and I fearlessly say, without risk of contradiction from the most competent and able judges, that Plato, Aristote, Xenophon, Thucydides, Polybius, and Demosthenes, afford more improvement to the taste, and purification to the morals, more exercise for thought and reflection, more dignity to the conceptions, and enlargement to the understanding of the student, than all the Greek tragedies that were ever penned. Not that I affect to slight or despise those noble monuments of the Grecian Muse, which are yet left to us in the works of her dramatic writers; but I underprize them in comparison of the mighty names I have enumerated, and think that too much is sacrificed to them, if these are neglected in consequence. This remark, and all those which have preceded it, will, I hope, be taken in good part by all considerate and thinking men. I wish to offend none; but I am sufficiently aware, that the subject I have handled is of a nature liable to excite the jealousy of some, and awake the fears of others. The attack or defence, however, of these remarks I shall leave to other hands. I appear now, probably, for the first and last time, in the contest. I have said nothing but from an ardent. wish for the honor and credit of the University, and the promotion of public good, by directing our studies to great and useful purposes, and enabling the majority of students who come to this place for instruction, to carry something away in one branch of literature, if they cannot in another.
Cambridge, Jan. 15, 1822.