Gabriel Compayré.

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only to be feared;" "There are children who would be
killed sooner than made better by blows : by mildness and
kind admonitions, one may make of them whatever he
will;" "Children will iearn to speak their native tongue
without any weariness, by usage and practice;" "Drill in
reading and writing is a little bit tiresome, and the teacher


will ingeniously palliate the tedium by the artifice of an
attractive method;" "The ancients moulded toothsome
dainties into the forms of the letters, and thus, as it were,
made children swallow the alphabet;" "In the matter of
grammatical rules, instruction should at the first be limited
to the most simple ; " " As the bod}' in infant years is nour-
ished by little portions distributed at intervals, so should
the mind of the child be nurtured by items of knowledge
adapted to its weakness, and distributed little by little."

From out these quotations there appears a method of
instruction that is kindly, lovable, and full of tenderness for
the young. Erasmus claims for them the nourishing care
and caresses of the mother, the familiarity and goodness of
the father, cleanliness, and even elegance in the school, and
finally, the mildness and indulgence of the teacher.

100. The Instruction of Women. — The scholars of
the Renaissance did not exclude women from all participa-
tion in the literary treasures that a recovered antiquity had
disclosed to themselves. Erasmus admits them to an equal

In the Colloquy of the Abbe and the Educated Woman,
Magdala claims for herself the right to learn Latin, " so that
she may hold converse each day with so many authors who
are so eloquent, so instructive, so wise, and such good coun-
sellors." In the book called Christian Marriage, Erasmus
banters young ladies who learn only to make a bow, to hold
the hands crossed, to bite their lips when they laugh, to eat
and drink as little as possible at table, after having taken
ample portions in private. More ambitious for the wife,
Erasmus recommends her to pursue the studies which will
assist her in educating her own children, and in taking part
in the intellectual life of her husband.


Vives, a contemporary of Erasmus (1492-1540), a Span-
ish teacher, expressed analogous ideas in his books on the
education of women, in which he recommends young women
to read Plato and Seneca.

To sum up, the pedagog}* of Erasmus is not without value ;
but with him, education ran the risk of remaining: exclusively
Greek and Latin. A humanist above everything else, -he
granted but very small place to the sciences, and to history,
which it sufficed to skim over, as he said ; and, what reveals
his inmost nature, he recommended the stud} r of the physical
sciences for this reason in particular, that the writer will find
in the knowledge of nature an abundant source of metaphors,
images, and comparisons.

101. Rabelais (1483-1553). —Wholly different is the
spirit of Rabelais, who, under a fanciful and original form,
has sketched a complete system of education. Some pages
of marked gravity in the midst of the epic vagabondage of
his burlesque work, give him the right to appear in the first
rank among those who have reformed the art of training and
developing the human soul. 1

The pedagogy of Rabelais is the first appearance of what
may be called realism in instruction, in distinction from the
scholastic formalism. The author of Gargantua turns the
mind of the young man towards objects truly worthy of oc-
cupying his attention. He catches a glimpse of the future
reserved to scientific education, and to the study of nature.
He invites the mind, not to the labored subtilties and com-
plicated tricks which scholasticism had brought into fashion,
but to manly efforts, and to a wide unfolding of human

1 See especially the following chapters: Book I. chaps, xiv., xv., xxi.,
xxii., xxiv.; Book II. chaps, v., vi., vn., vni.


102. Criticism of the Old Education : Gargantua and
Eudemon. — In the manners of the sixteenth century, the
keen satire of Rabelais found many opportunities for dis-
porting itself ; and his book ma}' be regarded as a collection
of pamphlets. But there is nothing that he has pursued
with more sarcasms than the education of his day.

At the outset, Gargantua is educated according to the
scholastic methods. He works for twenty years with all his
might, and learns so perfectly the books that he studies that
he can recite them by heart, backwards and forwards, " and
yet his father discovered that all this profited him nothing ;
and what is worse, that it made him a madcap, a ninny,
dreamy, and infatuated."

To that unintelligent and artificial training which sur-
charges the memory, which holds the pupil for long years
over insipid books, which robs the mind of all independent
activity, which dulls rather than sharpens the intelligence, —
to all this Rabelais opposes a natural education, which appeals
to experience and to facts, which trains the young man, not
only for the discussions of the schools, but for real life, and
for intercourse with the world, and which, finally, enriches
the intelligence and adorns the memory without stifling the
native graces and the free activities of the spirit.

Eudemon, who, in Rabelais' romance, represents the pupil
trained by the new methods, knows how to think with accu-
racy and speak with facility ; his bearing is without bold-
ness, but with confidence. When introduced to Gargantua,
he turns towards him, "cap in hand, with open countenance,
rudd}* lips, steady eyes, and with modesty becoming a
youth " ; he salutes him elegantly and graciously. To all
the pleasant things which Eudemon says to him, Gargantua
finds nothing to say in reply : " His countenance appeared
as though he had taken to crying immoderately ; he hid his


face in his cap, and not a single word could be drawn from

In these two pupils, so different in manner, Rabelais has
personified two contrasted methods of education : that which,
by mechanical exercises of memory, enfeebles and dulls
the intelligence ; and that which, with larger grants of
liberty, develops keen intelligences, and frank and open

103. The New Education. — Let us now notice with
some detail how Rabelais conceives this new education. 1
After having thrown into sharp relief the faults con-
tracted by Gargantua in the school of his first teachers, he
entrusts him to a preceptor, Ponocrates, who is charged with
correcting his faults, and with re-moulding him ; he is to
employ his own principles in the government of his pupil.

Ponocrates proceeds slowly at first ; he ■ considers that
" nature does not endure sudden changes without great
violence." He studies and observes his pupil ; he wishes to
judge of his natural disposition. Then he sets himself to
work ; he undertakes a general recasting of the character and
spirit of Gargantua, while directing, at the same time, his
physical, intellectual, and moral education.

104. Physical Education. — Hygiene and gymnastics,
cleanliness which protects the body, and exercise which
strengthens it, — these two essential parts of physical edu-

1 The contrast between the general system of education that culmin-
ated with the Reformation, and the system that had its rise at the same
period, is so marked that there is an historical propriety in calling the first
the old education, and the second, or later, the new education. Recollect-
ing the tendency of the human mind to pass from one extreme to an
opposite extreme, we may suspect that the final state of educational
thought and practice will represent a mean between these two contrasted
systems: it is inconceivable that the old was wholly wrong, or that the
new is wholly right. (P.)


cation receive equal attention from Rabelais. Erasmus
thought it was nonsense (" ne rime d, rien ") to wash more
than once a day. Gargantua, on the contraiy, after eating,
bathes his hands and his eyes in fresh water. Rabelais does
not forget that he has been a physician ; he omits no detail
relative to the care of the body, even the most repugnant.
He is far from believing, with the mystics of the Middle
Age, that it is permissible to lodge knowledge in a sordid
bod}', and that a foul or neglected exterior is not unbefitting
virtuous souls. The first preceptors of Gargantua said that
it sufficed to comb one's hair " with the four fingers and the
thumb ; and that whoever combed, washed, and cleansed
himself otherwise, was losing his time in this world." With
Ponocrates, Gargantua l-eforms his habits, and tries to re-
semble Eudemon, " whose hair was so neatly combed, who
was so well dressed, of such fine appearance, and was so
modest in his bearing, that he much more resembled a little
angel than a man."

Rabelais attaches equal importance to gymnastics, to walk-
ing, and to active life in the open air. He does not allow
Gargantua to grow pale over his books, and to protract his
study into the night. After the morning's lessons, he takes
him out to play. Tennis and ball follow the application to
books : " He exercises his body just as vigorously as he had
before exercised his mind." And so, after the study of the
afternoon till the supper hour, Gargantua devotes his time
to physical exercises. Riding, wrestling, swimming, every
species of physical recreation, gymnastics under all its forms,
— there is nothing which Gargantua does not do to give agility
to his limbs and to strengthen his muscles. Here, as in
other places, Rabelais stretches a point, and purposely resorts
to exaggeration in order to make his thought better compre-
hended. It would require days of several times twenty-four



hours, in order that a real man could find the time to do all
that the author of Gargantua requires of his giant. In con-
trast with the long asceticism of the Middle Age, he proposes
a real revelry of gymnastics for the colossal bod}' of his hero.
We will not forget that here, as in all the other parts of
Rabelais' work, fiction is ever mingled with fact. Rabelais
wrote for giants, and it is natural that he should demand
gigantesque efforts of them. In order to comprehend the
exact thought of the author, it is necessary to reduce his
fantastic exaggerations to human proportions.

105. Intellectual Education. — For the mind, as for
the body, Rabelais requires prodigies of activity. Gargantua
rises at four in the morning, and the greater part of the long
day is filled with study. For the indolent contemplations of
the Middle Age, Rabelais substitutes an incessant effort and
an intense activity of the mind. Gargantua first studies the
ancient languages, and the first place is given to Greek,
which Rabelais rescues from the long discredit into which it
had fallen in the Middle Age, as is proved by the vulgar
adage, " Groecum est, non legitur."

" Now, all disciplines are restored, and the languages rein-
stated, — Greek (without which it is a shame for a person
to call himself learned), Hebrew, Chaldean. Latin. There
are very elegant and correct editions in use, which have been
invented in my age by divine inspiration, as, on the other
hand, artillery was invented by diabolic suggestion. The
whole world is full of wise men, of learned teachers, and of
very large libraries, and it is my opinion that neither in the
time of Plato nor in that of Cicero, nor in that of Papinian,
were there such opportunities for study as we see to-day."

Like all his contemporaries, Rabelais is an enthusiast in
classical learning ; but he is distinguished from them by a


very decided taste for the sciences, and in particular for the
natural sciences.

106. The Physical and Natural Sciences. — The Mid-
dle Age had completely neglected the stud} 7 of nature. The
art of observing was ignored by those subtile dialecticians,
who would know nothing of the physical world except through
the theories of Aristotle or the dogmas of the sacred books ;
who attached no value to the study of the material universe,
the transient and despised abode of immortal souls ; and
who, moreover, flattered themselves that they could discover
at the end of their syllogisms all that was necessary to know
about it. Rabelais is certainly the first, in point of time, of
that grand school of educators who place the sciences in the
first rank among the studies worthy of human thought.

The scholar of the Middle Age knew nothing of the
world. Gargantua requires of his son that he shall know it
under all its aspects :

"As to the knowledge of the facts of nature," he writes
to Pantagruel, " I would have you devote yourself to them
with great care, so that there shall be neither sea, river, nor
fountain, whose fish you do not know. All the birds of the
air, all the trees, shrubs, and fruits of the forests, all the
grasses of the earth, all the metals concealed in the depths
of the abysses, the precious stones of the entire East and
South, — none of these should be unknown to you. By fre-
quent dissections, acquire a knowledge of the other world,
which is man. In a word, I point out a new world of

Nothing is omitted, it is observed, from what constitutes
the science of the universe or the knowledge of man.

It is further to be noticed, that Rabelais wishes his pupil
not only to know, but to love and experience nature. He


recommends his pupils to go and read the Georgks of Virgil
in the midst of meadows and woods. The precursor of
Rousseau on this point as upon some others, he thinks there
is a gain in spiritual health by refreshing the imagination and
giving repose to the spirit, through the contemplation of the
beauties of nature.

Ponocrates, in order to afford Gargantua distraction from
his extreme attention to study, recommended once each
month some very clear and serene day, on which they set out
at an early hour from the city, and went to Chantilly, or
Boulogne, or Montrouge, or Pont Charenton, or Vaunes, or
Saint Cloud. And there they passed the whole day in play-
ing, singing, dancing, frolicking in some fine meadow,
hunting for sparrows, collecting pebbles, fishing for frogs
and crabs. 1

107. Object Lessons. — In the scheme of studies planned
by Rabelais, the mind of the pupil is always on the alert,
even at table. There, instruction takes place while talking.
The conversation bears upon the food, upon the objects
which attract the attention of Gargantua, upon the nature
and properties of water, wine, bread, and salt. Every sen-
sible object becomes material for questions and explanations.
Gargantua often takes walks across fields, and lie studies
botany in the open country, ''passing through meadows or
other grassy places, observing trees and plants, comparing
them with ancient books where they arc described, . . . and
taking handfuls of them home." There are but few didactic
lessons; intuitive instruction, given in the presence of the
objects themselves, such is the method of Rabelais. It is
in the same spirit that he sends his pupil to visit the stores
of the silversmiths, the founderies, the alchemists' labora-

1 Book I. chap. xxiv.


tories, and shops of all kinds, — real scientific excursions,
such as are in vogue to-day. Rabelais would form a com-
plete man, skilled in art and industry, and also capable, like
the Emile of Rousseau, of devoting himself to manual labor.
When the weather is rainy, and walking impracticable, Gar-
gantua employs his time in splitting and sawing wood, and
in threshing grain in the barn.

108. Attractive Methods. — By a reaction against the
irksome routine of the Middle Age, Rabelais would have
his pupil study while playing, and even learn mathematics
" through recreation and amusement." It is in handling
playing-cards that Gargantua is taught thousands of '- new
inventions which relate to the science of numbers." The
same course is followed in geometry and astronomy. The
accomplishments are not neglected, especially fencing. Gar-
gantua is an enormous man, who is to be developed in all
directions. The fine arts, music, painting, and sculpture, are
not sti*angers to him. The hero of Rabelais represents, not
so much an individual man, as a collective being who per-
sonifies the whole of society, with all the variety of its new
aspirations, and with all the intensity of its multiplied needs.
While the Middle Age, through a narrow spirit, left in inac-
tion certain natural tendencies, Rabelais calls them all into
life, without choice, it is true, and without discrimination,
with the whole ardor of an emancipated imagination.

109. Religious Education. — In respect of religion as of
everything else, Rabelais is the adversary of an education
wholly exterior and of pure form. He ridicules his Gargan-
tua, who, before his intellectual conversion, when he was
still at the school of " his preceptors, the sophists,." goes to
church, after a heart}* dinner, to hear twent} 7 -six or thirty
masses. What he substitutes for this exterior devotion, for


this abuse of superficial practices, is a real feeling of piety,
and the direct reading of the sacred texts : " It is while
Gargantua was being dressed that there was read to him a
page of Divine Scripture." 1 Still more, it is the intimate and
personal adoration " of the great psalmodist of the universe,"
excited by the study of the works of God. Gargantua and
his master, Ponocrates, have scarcely risen when the} T observe
the state of the heavens, and admire the celestial vault. In
the evening they devote themselves to the same contempla-
tion. After his meals, as before going to sleep, Gargantua
offers prayers to God, to adore Him, to confirm his faith, to
glorify Ilim for His boundless goodness, to thank Him for
all the time past, and to recommend himself to Him for the
time to come. The religious feeling of Rabelais proceeds at
the same time, both from the sentiment which provoked the
Protestant Reformation, of which he came near being an
adherent, and from tendencies still more modern, — those, for
example, which animate the deistic philosophy of Rousseau.

110. Moral Education. — Those who know Rabelais cub-
by reputation, or through some of his innumerable drolleries,
will perhaps be astonished that the jovial author can be
counted a teacher of morals. It is impossible, however, to
misunderstand the sincere and lofty inspiration of such pas-
sages as this :

" Because, according to the wise Solomon, wisdom does
not enter into a malevolent soul, and knowledge without con-
science is but the ruin of the soul : it becomes you to serve, to
love, and to fear God, and to place on Him all your thoughts,

1 Rabelais recommends the study of Hebrew, so that the sacred books
may be known in their original form. In some place he says: " I love much
more to bear the Gospel than to bear the life of Saint Margaret or some
other cant."


all your hopes. ... Be suspicious of the errors of the world.
Apply uot your heart to vauity, for this life is transitory ;
but the word of God endures forever. Be useful to all your
neighbors, and love them as yourself. Revere your teachers,
flee the company of men whom you would not resemble ; and
the grace which God has given j-ou receive not in vain. And
when you think you have all the knowledge that can be ac-
quired by this means, return to me, so that I may see you,
and give you my benediction before I die." 1

111. Montaigne (1533-1592) and Rabelais. — Between
Erasmus, the learned humanist, exclusively devoted to belles-
lettres, and Rabelais, the bold innovator, who extends as far
as possible the limits of the intelligence, and who causes the
entire encyclopedia of human knowledge to enter the brain
of his pupil at the risk of splitting it open, Montaigne
occupies an intermediate place, with his circumspect and
conservative tendencies, with his discreet and moderate ped-
agogy, the enemy of all excesses. It seemed that Rabelais
would develop all the faculties equally, and place all
studies, letters, and sciences upon the same footing. Mon-
taigne demands a choice. Between the different faculties he
attempts particularly to train the judgment ; among the dif-
ferent knowledges, he recommends by preference those which
form sound and sensible minds. Rabelais overdrives mind
and body. He dreams of an extravagant course of instruc-
tion where every science shall be studied exhaustively. 2

1 Book II. chap. vin.

2 This pansophic scheme of Rabelais has been revived in later times by
Bentham, in his Chrestomathia, and still later by Spencer, in his Educa-
tion. It seems to have been forgotten that the division of labor affects
education in much the same way as it affects all other departments of
human activity: that there is no more need of having as a personal posses-
sion all the knowledge we need for guidance, than for owning all the
agencies we need for locomotion or communication. (P.)


Montaigne simply demands that " one taste the upper
crust of the sciences " ; that one skim over them without
going into them deeply, " in French fashion." In his view,
a well-made head is worth more than a head well filled. It
is not so much to accumulate, to amass, knowledge, as to
assimilate as much of it as a prudent intelligence can digest
without fatigue. In a word, while Rabelais sits down, so to
speak, at the banquet of knowledge with an avidity which
recalls the gluttony of the Pantagruelian repasts, Montaigne
is a delicate connoisseur, who would only satisfy with dis-
cretion a regulated appetite.

112. The Personal Education of Montaigne. — One
often becomes teacher through recollection of his personal
education. This is what happened to Montaigne. His ped-
agogy is at once an imitation of the methods which a father
full of solicitude had himself applied to him, and a protest
against the defects and the vices of the college of Guienne,
which he entered at the age of six years. The home
education of Montaigne affords the interesting spectacle of
a child who develops freely. My spirit, he himself says, was
trained with all gentleness and freedom, without severity or
constraint. His father, skilful in his tender care, had him
awakened each morning at the souud of musical instruments,
so as to spare him those brusque alarms that are bad pre-
parations for toil. In a word, he applied to him that tem-
pered discipline, at once indulgent and firm, equally removed
from complacency and harshness, which Montaigne has
christened with the name of severe mildness. Another char-
acteristic of Montaigne's education is, thai he learned Latin
as one learns his native tongue. His father had surrounded
him with domestics and teachers who conversed with him
only in Latin. The result of this was, that at the age of six
he was so proficient in the language of Cicero, that the best


Latinists of the time feared to address hirn (craignissent ti
I'accoster). On the other hand, he knew no more of French
than he did of Arabic. 1 It is evident that Montaigne's father
had taken a false route, but at least Montaigne derived a just
conception from this experience, namely, that the methods
ordinarily pursued in the study of the dead languages are too
slow "and too mechanical ; that an abuse is made of rules,
and that sufficient attention is not given to practice : " No
doubt but Greek and Latin are very great ornaments, and
of very great use, but we buy them too dear." 2

At the college of Guienne, where he passed seven years,
Montaigne learned to detest corporal chastisements and the
hard discipline of the scholars of his day : " . . . Instead of
tempting and alluring children to letters by apt and gentle
ways, our pedants do in truth present nothing before them
but rods and ferules, horror and cruelty. Away with this
violence ! away with this compulsion ! than which, I certainly
believe, nothing more dulls and degenerates a well-descended
nature. . . . The strict government of most of our colleges
has evermore displeased me. . . . 'Tis the true house of
correction of imprisoned youth. . . . Do but come in when
the}* are about their lesson, and you shall hear nothing but
the outcries of boys under execution, with the thundering
noise of their Pedagogues, drunk with fury, to make up the
consort. A pretty way this ! to tempt these tender and

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 9 of 48)