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Convocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras online

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istration. In opposition to much prejudice a prejudice that
to some extent, no doubt, was due to their own failings, among
which may be reckoned an unwillingness to begin low enough on
the official ladder they have gradually made their way in the
Courts and Cutcherries, and I believe it is generally admitted
that especially in method and regularity, and I believe also, in
the tone of morality, the public service has in recent years
vastly improved. And this result is only what might have been
expected. Method and system are the charac-
An educated teristic marks of intellectual training. You can

man and an ig- ., . ,, . -, ,. , -, -, P, -...

norant man. see it in the simplest narrative as told by different
men. The uneducated man is dominated by

88 University of Madras.

accidental circumstances of time and place, and follows every
incident, however irrelevant it may be. The man of culture sees
the relations of things and the art of arrangement is habitual to
him. And it is impossible for a student to master anybody of
reasoned truth without acquiring some tincture of method and
orderly arrangement. Everyone has heard of the remark once
made of Burke, that one could not stand under the same archway
during a shower of rain without finding him out. The comment
of Coleridge on this observation is not perhaps so commonly
known. I gladly quote the substance of it, as it bears on the
point I am seeking to enforce. That which strikes us, he says,
in such a casual meeting with a man of superior mind or culture
is not the weight or novelty of his remarks, for that is precluded
by the shortness of the intercourse. Still less will it arise from
any peculiarity of his words and phrases. For unusual words
he would avoid as a rock. Only one point of distinction remains ;
and that is the habitual and unpremeditated arrangement of
what he says. However desultory the talk, there is method in
the fragments. This habit of mind is more needed at present
in the public service of this country than at any previous time.
The administration has become in recent years more elaborate,
and it is certain that, for the working of our present system
there are needed men who have received a somewhat extended
course of intellectual training.

I have already given the reason why I did not rise to

the challenge of my anti-educational friend, and stated that

I should be ready k> leave the matter to the slowly gathering

weight of opinion which seems to me unmistakably in its favor.

At the same time, I do not wish to discourage our critics by

treating them with apparent neglect. I trust they will persevere.

Satire and ridicule have their uses. But, as they would be still

more useful if they were guided by knowledge and sympathy,

I will venture to make one or two remarks that

The fault of m ten( j to a more friendly and charitable view

our Critics* f~i i i i* i_ mi * j_ *

or educational work in this country. Ine critics
of the Hindu student set up too high a standard. They com-
pare him not with the graduates of England or Scotland or
Germany, but with an ideal man who loves culture purely
for its own sake and into whose mind there never enters, in
connection with his studies, any idea of personal aggrandize-
ment in the shape either of money or of fame. This perfect
character, of which perhaps rare specimens may be found, is not,
I venture to say, the type of the ordinary graduate in any country
known to geographers. To find this high ideal, you must make

1873. Mr. W. A. Porter. 89

a voyage to the kingdom of New Atlantis that glorious dream
of Bacon's where, as we are told, they trade not for silver and
gold, nor for silk and spices, but for knowledge and light. One
evil of this impossible standard is that with a want of logic which
is not uncommon, people are apt to conclude that because there
is a large balance of alloy, there is no precious metal whatever.
The failure to reach the lofty ideal being conspicuous, it is argued
that the nobler elements are altogether wanting. Thus it has
happened that the commonest reproach that is flung at our students
is that they have no real interest in knowledge for its own sake.
Let us look at this matter fairly. It is perfectly true that the hope
of advancement is the original motive which sends so many boys
to our schools. It is equally certain that the majority of our stu-
dents have to turn their knowledge to immediate use as a means
of living. But after both these admissions, which I make in the
frankest manner, I emphatically deny the inference commonly
made from them that there is no love of knowledge. Knowledge
must be gained before it is loved, and the fact, that it is turned
to purposes of utility, is no proof that it is regarded in no
higher aspect. I will put a parallel case. Most men who study
law or medicine do so with a view of making a living by their
profession. And, as soon as they are qualified, they are ready,
may I say eager, to exchange their knowledge for money. Yet
no one would say that in the rank of these two great professions
there is no disinterested regard for their respective pursuits.
How then has it happened that the injurious
The reason for opinion I am combating- is so widely spread ? The

the unfounded , mi . f- *> i

charge. reason is not far to seek. The contention for place

and profit is in public and all men can see it.
The effort after knowledge and self-improvement is made in
retirement and known only to their associates . That every avenue
to office is painfully crowded with applicants, that the doors of
every court and cutchery are besieged by youths who have
passed examinations is a sight plain enough to every one. But
the silent and studious hour is not passed in the public eye.
Thus it has happened that one particular phase which hap-
pens to be prominent has been accepted for the whole character,
and the voices of the few that knew better were too feeble to be
heard amidst the. general chorus of depreciation. In fact, the
character of our students has been painted by persons who had
only a superficial acquaintance with them. And as in the absence
of exact knowledge, there is plenty of room for the fancy to
work, their delineators have in this instance imitated the spirit
of the old geographers, who, in mapping the unknown interior
of Africa, filled it with deserts.

90 University of Madras.

I refrain from making any sweeping assertion as to the
genuine interest felt by our students in science
and literature, lest I should fall into an error on
the other side as great as that I am combating. I
content myself with pointing out that, whatever be its amount
it is necessary in judging it to take account of any special cir-
cumstances that tend to diminish it. One of these is the recent
introduction of English education. It has not yet been in
existence even for a single generation, and, except in a few
centres, there is not a sufficient number of educated men inter-
ested in the new studies to form an intellectual society. I lay
great stress on this fact. Every one knows the difficulty of
solitary studies, and, on the other hand, how powerfully we
are attracted towards subjects which interest the society in
which we move. I believe it explains, in a great degree, the
practice too common I admit, but by no means so common as is
often stated, of dropping English studies after the degree is
obtained. Even in England, we do not find all our graduates
solacing their leisure with the differential calculus or a Greek
play, and it is not to be wondered at that the student in this
country, with so much less in his surroundings to draw him to
study, should show too much alacrity in dismissing his books.

In another point that is commonly made a ground of censure,
there are special circumstances that ought to be
ti< 0reign P kept in minc *- I nave heard it often imputed as a
failing to the educated youth of this Presidency,
that they take no liberal interest in the great transactions
that are taking place around them. And by great transactions
is generally meant what is happening on the European stage.
Let those who make this complaint consider in what degree
we ourselves take an interest in the politics of foreign countries,
I believe it is in the main limited to those questions to which
there is something similar at home. Apart from war, which
appeals to elementary passions and will be eternally inter-
esting, I believe it is limited, as I have stated. A struggle
between labour and capital in France interests us because it
is a vital question in England. And it is much the same with
the politics of ancient times. The history of Greece owes much
of its interest to the resemblance between the parties of Greece
and the parties of our own time. A recent writer has called
Mitford's history a party pamphlet, and of the same historian
Mr. Arnold said " He described the popular party in Athens
just as he would have described the Whigs in England. He
was unjust to Demosthenes because he would have been LID just

1873. W. A. Portet. 91

to Fox." It is plainly unreasonable to look for any vivid
interest in European politics when the questions that agitate
the Western nations are so different from those that present
themselves in the East. If our students were not too polite to
descend to so obvious a retort, they might ask with some perti-
nence if educated Englishmen were in the habit of taking a deep
interest in the land tenures of India.

While I urge these pleas for a more kindly spirit of criticism
as regards the higher education in this country, I
concede that there are many imperfections which
cannot escape the most friendly critic. Perhaps,
it would have been better if I had directed attention to some
of these. To do so would be useful both to you and to me,
to you before whom there lie, I hope, many years of further
progress, and to me whose duty it is, as one of the body of
teachers, never to be satisfied with what it has already done
if anything better is within reach. Permit me, though late,
to refer to a single defect. Speaking then from my own ex-
perience, I believe it is true, looking to the great body of our
students, that while there is plenty of industry there is too
little thought. They are prone to satisfy themselves with words
without realizing clearly to their own minds an exact image or
picture of the thing, and, in a complicated group of facts, they
are too often content with attending to the parts separately with-
out studying their relation to each other or the whole. Of the
latter defect illustrations are easily given. In examinations it
is seen in the frequent mistakes as to the exact point of a
question. It has been said that it requires some knowledge to
ask a wise question. It is equally true that it requires a good
deal of knowledge to understand the purport and drift of a
question. Any body of reasoned truth or any group of con-
nected facts is like a complicated machine and a knowledge of
the bearing and connection of the parts is necessary for an intel-
ligent comprehension of a question. From a want of this comes
the charge of vagueness so frequently made against a particular
paper. The vagueness for the most part is in the student's mind
and not in the question. The same defect is seen in the want of
power to separate material things from immaterial when a
brief statement is required of a complicated story. A wise
traveller, after visiting the points of interest in a foreign city
seeks some lofty point, tower, or mina,ret, from which the whole
lies before him ; and the student by a mental effort, which may
not inaptly be likened to the toilsome labour of climbing, should
seek to get a wide survey of every subject he studies. Labour

92 University of Madras.

of this kind is painful, and this fact in some degree accounts
for its being so little practised. But I believe
there is something in our system which tends to
encourage this kind of mental indolence- It has
the defect of having been framed for an earlier stage of edu-
cation. Our schools have gradually developed into colleges
and as was natural enough, the system remained unaltered. The
schoolboy was under instruction for six hours a day, and the
student to the last day of his course attends his professors for
the same number. For all these hours, he is listening to in-
struction and is left without sufficient time for preparation or
subsequent reflection. We are now beginning to find our
mistake, and the question has attracted the attention of the
highest authority. What in fact is the lesson taught by this
system ? Is it not that the student's chief business is the passive
one of receiving and not the active one of finding. We act
as if his brain were an empty hull into which each professor
in his turn was to tumble a science. By this system of over-
teaching, we deprive our students of the pleasures of search and
leave them none of the spontaneity in the pursuit of their studies
which springs from being left to themselves. I remember an
apologue quoted by a distinguished literary man, at once novelist
and orator, whom we have recently lost. A certain Greek writer
tells us of some man who to save his bees a troublesome flight to
Hymettus cut their wings and placed before them the finest
flowers he could select. The poor bees made no honey. I think
that by our system we imitate this foolish man. We cut the
wings of our students and give them the flowers they should find
for themselves.

Let me conclude by urging you to make use of the advan-
tages which a knowledge of English offers you. It is the most
valuable of your acquisitions. It opens to you a great literature.
It places you in communication with modern thought. The
treasures of a foreign tongue are guarded by difficulties as hard
to be passed as the dragons of ancient story. You have made
your way through them, and you are now within hearing of the
great poets and sages whose writings adorn our tongue. These
are now your inheritance. I wonder when I hear the strange
limitation sometimes placed upon the moral power of what is
called secular education. We have in our service that vast
literature of power whose influence on the character by acting
on the emotions none can measure. Who has not felt it ?

A new current given to the thoughts, a new purpose im-
planted, It is often, as it was with the Anthony of our great

1874. Honorable H. 8. Ounningham. 93

dramatist when in the company of the Egyptian Queen he was
giving a kingdom for pleasure.

He was disposed to mirth, but, on the sudden,
A Roman thought struck him.

Thus often some noble thought, a note flung from the harp
of some mighty singer, strikes across the pettiness of our lives
and sets us on a path of a new endeavour.



My Lord, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, and Gentlemen, The ordain-
ers of to-day's ceremonial have decreed that a part of the
programme should consist in an address by a member of the
Senate to those who have taken degrees, exhorting them to con-
duct worthy of the honour conferred upon them.

r TJ 16 b i ects They thought, I suppose, that some one acting as
of the Univer- ,-1 o .1 111

sity. the benate s mouth-piece should express to you

what is, I am sure, the Senate's common feeling
our deep sense of the importance of the objects for which the
University exists, our earnest hope that those objects may be
attained, and our hearty good wishes, gentlemen, for yourselves.
And in wishing you well, we wish well to the country at large,
for with you and such as you lie the hopes of the India of the
future. It is here, in the educated classes, in the thinking,
knowing, reading portion of the community, that is to be found
the real outcome of our administration and the true test of its
success. It will be in vain that year by year the machinery of
Government is rendered more elaborate and complete in vain
that the last discovery of science, the last triumph of art, each
new invention, each fresh device for enriching and embellishing
life, is transported to your shores and India brought into the
full blaze of European culture, all will be in vain if there is not
meanwhile growing up a class of sensible, intelligent, sound-
thinking, and right-feeling men, with vigorous judgments and
high aims and pure tastes, who will know how to use these many
advantages to good effect, how to cause that the contact of East
and West shall be a blessing instead of a disaster who will act,
as it were, as the interpreters and heralds of knowledge to their
less instructed countrymen, and be the medium through which
knowledge, and the many blessings which knowledge connotes
may filter down to the strata of society which lie below them.

94 University of Madras.

We must take care, then, that our culture is practically
useful with respect to the circumstances of those
wno et ik Otherwise learning degenerates into
pedantry. Let us remember the apologue of the
French savant who was caught, so historians assure us, by an
Arab tribe. His captors proceeded at once to turn their prize
to good purpose. They asked him if he could ride ? He
answered, ' ' No "; could he fight ? again a negative ; could he
run ? No. He said, he was accustomed only to sedentary pur-
suits. Thereupon they tarred and feathered him and set him
to hatch eggs, that being the only strictly sedentary pursuit
with which they happened to be acquainted, and of the practi-
cal utility they were at all convinced.

And not only must our culture be practically useful, but
those who receive it must beware of the dangers and responsi-
bilities which it entails. In the first place there is the danger
incidental to all great unsettlements of thought and sudden
inroads of new ideas, and the shock which is thus given to

society. In this respect the History of India has

History of been exceptional. In most nations the progress

exraptionai. na- ^ a na ^ on m culture has been gradual; knowledge

ture. has been learnt line upon line and letter by letter;

the whole community has gone more or less
along with the leaders of its thought; society has become
accustomed to altered forms of life ; new ideas have permeated
and leavened the whole structure before being adopted by any
one fraction of it. In India, it has been far otherwise. We
look back to a remote period in the very dawn of history,
and we find her in the van of civilization. We find a branch
of that happy and noble Aryan community from which you and
we, gentlemen, take our rise, practising many of the amenities
and all the virtues of civilized life at a time when most of what
is now regarded as the civilized world was sunk in barbarism.
India, however, appears at an early date to have entered upon
a cycle of national existence in which progress found no place,
and to have remained stationary while the nations of the West
sprang into being and took up the running. The structure of
society admitted of little change, and the prevailing theologies
discouraged the desire for it. India was one of the stationary
powers of the world. Then at last the spell was broken, her
long sleep was ended. She was caught by a wave of the turbu-
lent European life, at one of its most turbulent moments, and
hurried along on that resistless current to that future which
awaits us all. Henceforth India had to be a member of the

1874. Honorable H. S. Cunningham. 95

modern world. Henceforward all was change, new ideas poured
in apace. Enlarged knowledge made havoc of the old traditionary
beliefs, and great revolutions of thought came about. The most
august and venerable institutions began to shake and crumble.
All the old paths of life were broken up. Now this is a process,
in the highest degree perilous to all concerned. Change of
course there must be ; we can none, even the most conservative
among us, be exactly as were our forefathers :

What custom wills, in all things should we do it,
The dust on antique Time would lie unswept,
And mountainous Error be too highly heaped
For Truth to overpeer

But still there is a great danger as well as great pain in
leaving the old customary paths in which so many preceding
generations walked. The old belief, with all its venerated
associations, learnt from our childhood, seems to form part of a
man's very heart, and, true or false, to lose it, is to lose a portion
of himself. Life looks cold and dreary and hopeless without
the graces that the piety and fancy of younger generations have
thrown around it. " If " we feel inclined to cry with the poet

" If the sad grave of human ignorance bear
One flower of hope, ah, pass and leave it there "

Leave at any rate the hopes and beliefs, which, all illusive as
they may have been, served yet to irradiate a darkling life and to
guide some wandering spirit across the trackless ocean of exist-
ence ! It is for those who encounter these dangers not to ignore
them, but to face them at once with modesty and courage. Let
them beware of lawlessness, cynicism or arrogance of thought ;

Make knowledge circle with the wind,
But let her herald, Reverence, fly
Before her to whatever sky
Bear seed of men or growth of mind j

Be slow to use your liberty as a cloak of licentiousness. Be
slow to abandon those traditionary rules of a temperate life,
which come to you, with all the sanction of religion and
experience of ages. Come to the new world of thought that has
opened upon you, but come with cautious steps and a reverent
mind. Do not forget that if, from the circumstances of the
case we are debarred from offering you instruction in many
of the deeper, graver, and more serious aspects of life, none
the less do those aspects exist, and none the more safely
can they be ignored by you. Underneath these
What is com- different religions, yours and ours, and nearer
SiT Eastman? *^e SUI> f ace perhaps than theologians would have
the West. us believe, lie certain common aspirations, com-

mon cravings, common pangs, and the man who

96 University of Madras.

ignores them, ignores the highest part about' himself and is on
the high road to a degrading materialism. It is a fine conception
of the poet which represents man as coming at his birth fresh
from celestial abode with all the signs of it about him, which
gradually, in rude contact with the world, fade away

With something of a mother's mind

And no unworthy aim

The homely nurse doth all she can

To make her foster child, her inmate, Man,

Forget the splendors of his home

And that imperial palace whence he came.

But they must not be forgotten. Art in its fairest forms, science
with its train of wonders, literature with its thousand delights,
will to the man without moral sense but make the absence of that
moral sense the more apparent. And remember that while there
is endless diversity as to dogma, that diversity does not extend to
the world of morals, and while theologians are hopelessly at
variance about their respective creeds, there is no such variance
among good and reasonable men as to how we ought to live and
what objects we ought to propose to ourselves. Virtue and
vice have the same meanings to us all. Honesty and justice and
truth that much neglected virtue, candour oi: intellect purity
of soul and body magnanimity on the one hand, and mercy and
generosity and self-devotion on the other these are the same to
all alike, these are the real landmarks by which our course must
be steered ; and while these remain intact, the shock of dogmatic
systems, though it may perplex, need never overwhelm. It is not
when men doubt the dogmatic and philosophical parts of their
creeds,but when moral truths are obscured that individuals become
corrupt and nations sink into infamy. Education may, and proba-
bly will, make a man question his creed it never need make
him doubt about his conduct. Let a student remember this, and
that everything he learns should tend towards ennobling himself
and bettering the world about him, and there need be no fear
for the result. Let him remember Lord Bacon's warning : " I
would/' says he, ' ' address one general admonition to all ; that
they consider what are the true ends of knowledge and that
they seek it not either for the pleasure of the mind, or for con-
tention, or for superiority to others, or for profit or power or
any of these inferior things ; bnt for the benefit and use of life ;
and that they perfect it and govern it in charity."

But it may be said, why educate at all ? It is, perhaps, hardly
respectful to so lettered an audience as that which

Online LibraryK Subba RauConvocation addresses of the universities of Bombay and Madras → online text (page 41 of 66)