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trate into the old citadel of scholasticism. The question
came to be asked if celibacy was indeed an indispensable
condition of the teaching office. Men begau to comprehend
that at least marriage was not a reason for exclusion.
Finally, real progress was made in discipline as well as in
methods, and the indubitable proof of this is the Treatise on
Studies, by Rollin.

253. The Treatise on Studies. — Rollin has summed up
his educational experience, an experience of fifty years, in a
book which has become celebrated under the title of Treatise
on Studies. The full title of this work was : l)e hi mani&re
d'enseigner et d'itudier les belles-lettres i></r r<i/>/><>rt a Vesprit
et cm coeur. The first two volumes appeared in 1726, and
the other two in 1728.


The Treatise on Studies is not like the Emile, which was
published twenty years later, a work of venturesome inquiry
and original novelties ; but is a faithful exposition of the
methods in use, aud a discreet commentary on them. While
this treatise belongs by its date to the eighteenth century, it
is the pedagogy of the seventeenth century, and the tradi-
tions of the University under the reign of Louis XIV. that
Rolliu has collected, and of which he has simply wished to
be the reporter. In the Latin dedication, which he addresses
to the Rector of the University of Paris, he clearly defines
his intentions and his purpose : —

" My first design was to put in writing and define the
method of teaching which has long been in use among you,
and which, up to this time, has been transmitted only by
word of mouth, and through a sort of tradition ; and to erect,
so far as I am able to do it, a durable monument of the
rules and practice Avhich you have followed in the instruction
of youth, for the purpose of preserving, in all its integrity,
the taste for belles-lettres, and to preserve it, if possible,
from the injuries and the alterations of time."

254. Different Opinions. — Rollin has always had warm
admirers. Voltaire called the Treatise a book " forever
useful," and whatever may be our reservations on the defi-
ciences, and on the short and narrow views of certain parts
of the pedagogy of Rolliu, we must subscribe to this iudff-
ment. But we shall not go so far as to accept the enthusi-
astic declarations of Villemain, who complains that the study
of the Treatise is neglected in our time, " as if new methods
had been discovered for training the intelligence aud the
heart" ; and he adds, " Since the Treatise on Studies, not a
forward step has been taken." This is to undervalue all the
earnest efforts that have been made for two centuries by


educators just as profound as was the ever timid and cautious
Rollin. When we compare the precepts of the Treatise with
the reforms which the spirit of progress has already effected,
and particularly with those which it will effect, we are
astonished to hear Nisard say: "In educational matters,
the Treatise on Studies is the unique book, or better still,
the book."

To put such a burden of pompous praise on Rollin is to
compromise his real worth ; and without ceasing to do
justice to his wise and judicious spirit, we wish to employ
more discretion in our admiration.

255. Division of the Treatise on Studies. — Before
calling attention to the most interesting parts of the Treatise
on Studies, let us briefly state the object of the eight books
of which it is composed.

The Treatise opens with a Preliminary Discourse which
recites the advantages of instruction.

The title of the first book is : Exercises which are proper
for very young children; of the education of girls. Rollin
acknowledges that he treats only very superficially "this
double subject," which is foreign to his original plan. In
fact, the first edition of his Treatise on Studies contained but
seven books, and it is only in 17:34 that he wrote, " at the
urgent requests and prayers of several persons," that short
essay on the education of boys and girls which first appeared
under the form of a supplement, and which became the first
book of the work only in the subsequent editions.

The different subjects proper for training the youth in
the public schools, that is, in the colleges, — such is the
object of the six books which follow : Book II. Of the learn-
ing of the languages; that is, the study of Greek and Latin;
Book III. Of poetry; Book IV. Of rhetoric; Book V. Of


the three kinds of eloquence; Book VI. Of history ; Book
VII. Of philosophy .

Book VIII., the last, entitled Of the interior government
of schools and colleges, has a particular character. It does
not treat of studies and intellectual exercises, but of disci-
pline and moral education. It is, on all accounts, the most
original and interesting part of Rollin's work, and it opens
to us the treasures of his experience. This eighth book has
been justly called the " Memoirs of Rollin." That which
constitutes its merit and its charm is that the author here at
last decides to be himself. He does not quote the ancients
so much ; but he speaks in his own name, and relates what
he has done, or what he has seen done.

256. General Reflections on Education. — There is
little to be gathered out of the Preliminary Discourse of
Rollin. He is but slightly successful in general reflections.
When he ventures to philosophize, Rollin easily falls into
platitudes. He has a dissertation to prove that "study
gives the mind more breadth and elevation ; and that study
gives capacity for business."

On the purpose of education, Rollin, who copies the
moderns when he does not translate from the ancients, is
content with reproducing the preamble of the regulations of
Henry IV., which assigned to studies three purposes : learn-
ing, morals and manners, and religion.

" The happiness of kingdoms and peoples, and particularly
of a Christian State, depends on the good education of the
youth, where the purpose is to cultivate and to polish, by the
study of the sciences, the intelligence, still rude, of the young,
and thus to fit them for filling worthily the different vocations
to which they are destined, without which they will be useless
to the State ; and finally, to teach them the sincere religious


practices which God requires of them, the inviolable attach-
ment they owe to their fathers and mothers and to their
country, and the respect and obedience which they are bound
to render princes and magistrates."

257. Primary Studies. — Rollin is original when he in-
troduces us to the classes of the great colleges where he has
lived ; but is much less so when he speaks to us of little
children, whom he has never seen near at hand. He has
never known family life, and scarcely ever visited public
schools ; and it is through his recollections of Quintilian that
he speaks to us of children.

There is, then, but little to note in the few pages that he
has devoted to the studies of the first years, from three to
six or seven.

One of the most interesting things we find here, perhaps,
is the method which he recommends for learning to read, — ■
" the typographic cabinet of du Mas." "It is a novelty,"
says the wise Rollin, "and it is quite common and natural
that we should be suspicious of this word novelty." But
after the examination, he decides in favor of the system in
question, which consists in making of instruction in reading,
something analogous to the work of an apprentice who is
learning to print. The pupil has before him a table, and on
this table is placed a set of pigeon-holes, " logettes," which
contain the letters of the alphabet, printed on cards. The
pupil is to arrange on the table the different letters needed to
construct the words required of him. The reasons thai
Rollin gives for recommending this method, successful tests
of which he had seen made, prove that he had t;d<en into
account the nature of the child and his need of activity : —

"This method of learning to read, besides several other
advantages, has one which seems to me very considerable, —


it is that of being amusing and agreeable, and of not having
the appearance of study. Nothing is more wearisome or
tedious in infancy than severe mental effort while the body
is in a state of repose. With this device, the' mind of the
child is not wearied. He need not make a painful effort at
recollection, because the distinction and the name of the
boxes strike his senses. He is not constrained to a posture
that is oppressive by being always tied to the place where he
is made to read. There is free activity for eyes, hands, and
feet. The child looks for his letters, takes them out,
arranges them, overturns them, separates them, and finally
replaces them in their boxes. This movement is very much
to his taste, and is exactly adapted to the active and restless
disposition of that age."

Eollin seems really to believe that there " is no danger in
beginning with the reading of Latin." However, "for the
schools of the poor, and for those in the country, it is
better," he says, "to fall in with the opinion of those who
believe that it is necessary to begin with the reading of

It may be thought that Rollin puts a little too much into
the first years of the child's course of study. Before the
age of six or seven he ought to have learned to read, to
write, to be nourished on the Historical Catechism of Fleury,
to know some of the fables of La Fontaine by heart, and to
have studied French grammar, and geography. At least,
Rollin requires that "no thought, no expression, which is
within the child's range," shall be allowed to be passed by.
He requires that the teacher speak little, and that he make
the child speak much, "which is one of the most essential
duties and one of those that are the least practised." He
demands, above all else, clearness of statement, and com-
mends the use of illustrations and pictures in reading books.


"They are very suitable," he says, " for striking the atten-
tion of children, and for fixing their memory ; this is prop-
erly the writing of the ignorant." 1

258. The Education of Girls. — The same reasons ex-
plain the shortcomings of Rolliu's views on the education of
women, and the relative mediocrity of his ideas on the edu-
cation of children. Living in solitude and in the celibate
state, he had no personal information on these subjects, and
so he goes back to F6nelon for his ideas on the education of
women, and to Quintilian in the case of children.

Is the study of Latin fit for girls ? Such is the first ques-
tion which he raises ; but he has the wisdom to answer it in
the negative, save for " nuns, and also for Christian virgins
and widows." "There is no difference in minds," Rollin
emphatically says, "that is due to sex." But he does not
extend the consequences of this excellent principle very far.

1 Save once, Rollin has scarcely made an allusion to primary instruc-
tion proper. "We quote this passage on account of its singularity: " Several
years ago there was introduced into most of the schools for the poor in
Paris a method which is very useful to scholars, and which spares much
trouble to the teachers. The school is divided into several classes. I
select only one of them, that composed of children who already know how
to write syllables ; the others must be judged by this one. I suppose that
the subject of the reading lesson is Dixit Dominus Domino meo : Sede a
dertris meis. Each child pronounces one syllable, as Di. His competitor,
who stands opposite, takes up the next, xit, and so on. The whole class is
attentive ; for the teacher, without warning, passes at once from the head
of the line to the middle, or to the foot, and the recitation must continue
without interruption. If a pupil makes a mistake in some syllable, the
teacher, without speaking, raps upon the table with his stick, and the com-
petitor is obliged to repeat as it should be the syllable that has been
wrongly pronounced. If he fail also, the next, upon a second rap of the
stick, goes back to the same syllable, and so on till it has been pronounced
correctly. More than thirty years ago, I saw with unusual pleasure this
method in successful operation at Orleans, where it originated through the
care and industry of M. Garot, who presided over the schools of that


He is content to require of women the four rules of arith-
metic ; orthography, in which he is not over exacting, for
' ' their ignorance of orthography should not be imputed to
them as a crime, since it is almost universal in their sex ; "
ancient history and the history of France, " which it is dis-
graceful to every good Frenchman not to know." 1 As to
reading, Rollin is quite as severe as Madame de Maintenon :
" The reading of comedies and tragedies may be very dan-
gerous for young ladies." He sanctions only Esther and
Athalie. Music and dancing are allowed, but without enthu-
siasm and with endless precautions : —

" An almost universal experience shows that the study of
music is an extraordinary dissipation."

"I do not know how the custom of having girls learn to
sing and play on instruments at such great expense has
become so common. ... I hear it said that as soon as they
enter on life's duties, they make no farther use of it."

259. The Study of French. — Rollin is chiefly preoccu-
pied with the study of the ancient languages ; but he has the
merit, notwithstanding his predilection for exercises in Latin,
of having followed the example of the Jansenists so far as
the importance accorded to the French language is con-

" It is a disgrace," he says, " that we are ignorant of our
own language ; and if we are willing to confess the truth, we
will almost all acknowledge that we have never studied it."

Rollin admitted that he was " much more proficient in the
study of Latin than in that of French." In the opening of
his Treatise, which he wrote in French only that he might
place himself within the reach of his young readers and their
parents, he excuses himself for making a trial in a kind of

1 Rollin does cot require it, however, of young men.


writing ivhich is almost new to him. And in congratulating
him on his work, d'Aguesseau wrote, "You speak French
as if it were your native tongue." Such was the Rector of
the University in France at the commencement of the
eighteenth century.

Let us think well of him, therefore, for having so over-
come his own habits of mind as to recommend the study of
French. He would have it learned, not only through use,
but also " through principles," and would have " the genius
of the language understood, and all its beauties studied."

Rollin has a high opinion of grammar, but would not
encourage a misuse of it : —

"Long-continued lessons on such dry matter might be-
come very tedious to pupils. Short questions, regularly
proposed each day after the manner of an ordinary conversa-
tion, in which they themselves would be consulted, and in
which the teacher would employ the art of having them tell
what he wished to make them learn, would teach them in the
way of amusement, and, by an insensible progress, con-
tinued for several years, they would acquire a profound
knowledge of the language."

It is in the Treatise on Studies that we find for the first
time a formal list of classical French authors. Some of
these are now obscure and forgotten, as the Remarkable
Lives written by Marsolier, and the History of the Academy
of Inscriptions and Belles- Lettres, by de Boze ; but the most
of them have held their place in our programmes, and the
judgments of Rollin have been followed for two centuries, on
the Discourse on Universal History, by Bossnet, on the works
of Boileau and Racine, and on the Logic of Port Royal.

Like all his contemporaries, Rollin particularly recom-
mends Latin composition to his pupils. However, he has
spoken a word for French composition, which should bear,



first, on fables and historical narratives, then on exercises in
epistolary style, and finally, on common things, descriptions,
and short speeches.

260. Greek and Latin. — But it is in the teaching of
the ancient languages that Rollin has especially tried the
resources of his pedagogic art. For two centuries, in the
colleges of the University, his recommendations have been
followed. In Greek, he censures the study of themes, and
reduces the study of this language to the understanding of
authors. More of a Latinist than of a Hellenist, of all the
arguments he offers to justify the study of Greek, the best
is, that, since the Renaissance, Greek has always been
taught ; but, without great success, he admits : —

" Parents," he says, " are but little inclined in favor of
Greek. They also learned Greek, they claim, in their youth,
and they have retained nothing of it ; this is the ordinary
language which indicates that one has not forgotten much of

But Latin, which it does not suffice to learn to read, but
which must be written and spoken, is the object of all
Rollin's care, who, on this point, gives proof of consummate
experience. Like the teachers of Port Royal, he demands
that there shall be no abuse of themes in the lower classes,
and recommends the use of oral themes, but he holds firmly
to version, and to the explication of authors : —

" Authors are like a living dictionary, and a speaking
grammar, whereby we learn, through experience, the very
force and the true use of words, of phrases, and of the rules
of syntax."

This is not the place to analyze the parts of the Treatise
on Studies which relate to poetics and rhetoric, and which
are the code, now somewhat antiquated, of Latin verse and
prose. Rollin brings to bear on this theme great professional


sagacity, but also a spirit of narrowness. He condemns
ancient mythology, and excludes, as dangerous, the French
poets, save some rare exceptions. He claims that the true
use of poetry belongs to religion. He has no conception of
the salutary and wholesome influence which the beauties of
poetry and eloquence can exercise over the spirit.

261. Rollin the Historian. — Rollin has made a reputa-
tion as an historian. Frederick II. compares him to Thucy-
dides, and Chateaubriand has emphatically called him the
" F£nelon of History." Montesquieu himself has pleasantly
said: " A noble man has enchanted the public through his
works on history ; it is heart which speaks to heart ; we feel
a secret satisfaction in hearing virtue speak ; he is the bee of

Modern criticism has dealt justly with these exaggerations.
The thirteen volumes of his Ancient History, which Rollin
published, from 1730 to 1738, are scarcely read to-day. His
great defect as an historian is his lack of erudition and of
the critical spirit ; he accepts with credulity every fable and
every legend.

We are to recollect, however, that as professor of history
— and in truth he pretended to be only this — Rollin has
greater worth than as an historian. He knew how to intro-
duce into the exposition of facts great simplicity and great
facility. And especially he attempted to draw from events
their moral lesson. " We ought not to forget," says a
German of our time, " that Rollin has never made any
personal claim to be considered an investigator in historical
study, but that the purpose he had chiefly in view was educa-
tional. As he was the first to introduce the study of history
into French colleges (this is true only of the colleges of
the University"), he sought to remedy the complete absence
of historical reading adapted to the needs of the young.


This is a great educational feat ; for it is undeniable that his
works are of a nature to give to the young of all nations a
real taste for the study of history, and at the same time
a vivid conception of the different epochs, and of the life of
nations." i

262. The Teaching of History. — However, considered
simply as a professor of history, Rollin is far from being
irreproachable. Doubtless it is good to moralize on history,
and to make of it, as he says, " a school of enduring glory
and real grandeur." But is not historical accuracy neces-
sarily compromised, and is there not danger of making the
subject puerile, when the teacher is guided exclusively by
the idea of moral edification?

Another graver fault in Rollin is that he systematically
omits the history of France, and with it, all modern history.
In this respect, he falls below the Oratory, Port Royal,
Bossuet, Fenelon, and Madame de Maintenon. It is inter-
esting to observe, moreover, that Rollin recognizes the utility
of the study of national history, but his excuse for omitting
it is the lack of time : —

" I do not speak of the history of France. ... I do not
think it possible to find time, during the regular course of
instruction, to make a place for this study; but I am far
from considering it as of no importance, and I observe with
regret that it is neglected by many persons to whom, never-
theless, it would be very useful, not to say necessary.
When I say this, it is myself that I criticise first, for I
acknowledge that I have not given sufficient attention to it,
and I am ashamed of being in some sort a stranger in mj
own country after having traversed so many others."

i Doctor Wolker, quoted by Cadet, in his edition of Rollin, Paris, 1882.


263. Philosophy. — It is moral edification that Rollin
seeks in philosophical studies, as in historical studies. . With
but little competence in these matters, he admits that he has
applied himself only very superficially to the study of
philosoplry. He knows, however, the value of ethics and
logic, which govern the morals and perfect the mind ; of
physics, which furnishes us a mass of interesting knowl-
edge ; and finally, of metaphysics, which fortifies the religious
sentiment. The ethics of antiquity seems to him worthy of
attention ; it is, in his view, the introduction to Christian

264. Scientific Instruction. — Rollin has given us a com-
pendium of astronomy, of physics, and of natural history.
Without doubt his essays have but a moderate value.
Rollin's knowledge is often inexact, and his general ideas
are narrow. He is capable of believing that " nature entire
is made for man." But yet he deserves some credit for hav-
ing comprehended the part that the observation of the sensi-
ble world ought to play in education : —

" I call children's physics a study of nature which requires
scarcely anything but eyes, and which, for this reason, is
within the reach of all sorts of persons, and even of children.
It consists in making ourselves attentive to the objects which
nature presents to us, to consider them with care, and to
admire their different beauties ; but without searching into
their secret causes, which comes within the province of the
physics of the scientist.

" I say that even children are capable of this, for they have
eves, and are not wanting in curiosity. They wish to know ;
they are inquisitive. It is only necessary to awaken and
nourish in them the desire to learn and to know, which is
natural to all men. This study, moreover, if it may be so


called, far from being painful and tedious, affords only
pleasure and amusement ; it may take the place of recrea-
tion, and ordinarily ought not to take place save in playing.
It is inconceivable how much knowledge of things children
might gain, if we knew how to take advantage of all the
occasions which they furnish for the purpose."

265. The Educative Character of Rollin's Pedagogy.
— It should not be supposed that Rollin's exclusive purpose
was to make Latinists and literary men. I know very well
that he himself has said that " to form the taste was his
principal aim." Nevertheless, he has thought of other
things, — moral qualities not less than intellectual endow-
ments. He wished to train at once "the heart and the
intellect." With him, instruction in all its phases takes an
educative turn. He esteems knowledge only because it leads
to virtue. In the explication of authors, attention should be
directed to the morality of their thoughts, at least as much
as to their literary beauty. The maxims and examples which
their writings contain should be skillfully put in relief, so
that these readings may become moral lessons not less than

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