Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

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a training of the logical and reasoning faculties, upon precisely
those studies that are needed to broaden the mind and enlarge
the conception of the life that has been lived, and ought to be
lived, in this world, and are as far as possible removed from
the so-called practical pursuits that absorb the most of us.
One would think that in the colleges and universities the stand
ard of the higher learning might be maintained, that instead
of accommodating themselves to the commercial spirit, they
would preserve a few places free from it, places where the ele
vating influences of life should be cultivated.

But the materializing spirit, the industrial spirit, which
demands the bending of all powers and all learning to its pur
poses, is too strong for many of them. This spirit insists that
the knowledge of how to shoe and cure a horse, set type, build
a railway, assay metals, suit fertilizers to soils, conduct a busi
ness, is an education $ and if you throw in a modern language
or two, it is, I suppose, a liberal education. That is to say,
education this is the reasoning must be suited to the


exigencies of modern life, instead of endeavoring somewhat
to ennoble and correct the tendency of modern life by edu

It is this industrial and commercial spirit, this denial of the
higher wants of the soul, under whatever pretense it is disguised,
that is demanding a radical revision of the college curriculum,
and that the ancient stamp of scholarship shall be put upon
fitness for industrial and commercial pursuits. The pretense
is often plausible. Young men must be fitted for their work in
life ; it is the business of a university to teach anything that
anybody wants to learn ; the number of necessary knowledges
has greatly multiplied ; it is not possible to give a young man, in
four years, the necessary knowledge that he can apply on his
graduation and at the same time a training in the humanities ;
something must be thrown overboard, and, of course, that must
go which will be of the least service to a young man in earning
a living ; though it will be noticed that this argument was never
raised in the case of young men destined to the ministry, the
law, or medicine. There is competent testimony that a classical
training is as necessary to the higher pursuits of science as it is
in the professions. But the inference is that the highest object
of an education is what these practical people say it is. I pre
sume there are Christian churches that would admit members
on a show of works, though the candidates had not faith enough
to be detected by a microscope.

It seems to me that just at this moment there is need of
insisting upon the importance in life of a pure intellectual
culture for as many persons as can obtain it, and of supple
menting the practical training with the intellectual culture
whenever possible. I know that it is argued that the new
learning (and we are constantly reminded that it was not many
centuries ago that the classics were opposed as the new learn
ing) is as fit for the highest discipline and training of the intel
lect as the now traditional humanities.

The analogy sought to be made between the former oppo
sition to the introduction of the classics and the substitution of
something else for the classics in a university curriculum, is
thought to be very significant. In the language of one of the
chief advocates for, at least, a partial substitution, for placing
the new studies on a par with the old as to the degree that shall
mean to the world a liberal education :


"It took two hundred years for the Greek language and literature gradu
ally to displace in great part the scholastic metaphysics, which, with scho
lastic theology, have been for generations regarded as the main staple of
liberal education. . . . The revived classical literature was vigorously
and sincerely opposed as frivolous, heterodox, and useless for discipline ;
just as natural history, chemistry, physics, and modern literature are now
opposed. The conservatives of that day used precisely the same arguments
which the conservatives of to-day bring forward, only they were used against
classical literature then, while now they are used in its support."

I suppose that President Eliot means by this illustration that
there is a progress of ideas, and that there must be a progressive
adaptation of methods and means, and he says that he has no
intention of abandoning the classics, but only of putting other
studies on an equality with them. But if his analogy is put
forward as anything more than an interesting historical reminis
cence, as a logical argument, then, in the popular apprehension
of his position though he should not be held responsible for
that we should have a syllogism something like this :

Men four hundred years ago opposed the substitution of the
classics for scholastic metaphysics as useless for discipline, just
as now men oppose the substitution of the sciences, etc., for the
classics as comparatively useless for discipline. But the men
four hundred years ago were in error in opposing the substitution
of the classics. Therefore, the men now are in error in opposing
the substitution of the sciences.

And some might be inclined to travesty this syllogism by
another :

Many artists in the sixteenth century opposed the substitu
tion of the canons of Greek art for those then current, just as
many artists now oppose the substitution of American canons
of art for the Greek. But the artists of the sixteenth century
were in error in opposing the substitution of the Greek. There
fore, the artists to-day are in error in opposing the substitution
of the American.

Notwithstanding these excellent syllogisms, the question re
mains whether the renaissance of literature, art, and social
philosophy in the sixteenth century was or was not a solid,
indispensable, and permanent addition to modern culture and

It is not the purpose of this paper to go specially into the
question of the classics. It is my main desire to call attention


to the origin and the spirit of this demand upon the universities,
identified as it is with the commercial spirit and the lax notions
of education that partially account for many delusions. But it
comes in our way to notice one or two things.

I suppose it will be admitted that the NOTE of a liberal
education is that it is not provincial or local, but universal. It
is the range of thought and not of body that determines
whether a man is provincial. Thoreau, on Walden Pond, read
ing the Greek poets and keeping an eye on the musk-rat and the
squirrel and other like visitors, was free of a much larger world
than many who have been round the globe. The object of
culture is to put a man in relation with the ideas of all
ages and civilizations, not to confine him to the ideas local,
or of the age in which he lives. And the mind gets the most
enlargement from that which is unfamiliar to it, remote from
its own inheritance, tradition, local association. This is the use
of travel to an observing man, who is capable of assimilating
to his mental growth the reports of his senses. This is the use
of the study of any of the natural sciences the enlargement of
the mind resulting from an extended field of observation, rather
than the value of the collected facts. For the mind may be full
of facts in half a dozen sciences, and yet be as dry and infertile
as a chip. This is the value of a study of the modern languages,
that it opens to one not simply new ways of expressing ideas,
which may be of little value, but new methods of thinking and
new ways of looking at life and all its problems. Peoples differ
in mental constitution, in moral attributes, in intellectual char
acteristics, just as much as their languages differ in form; for
language is not an accidental or artificial product, but an ex
pression of something deep in the life of the people out of whose
habits and character and necessities it grew. And that, I sup
pose, is why translation is so difficult from one tongue to
another. It is not a slight thing that is lost, it is the essence of
life. And this difficulty of translating increases in exact pro
portion as the characters and mental and moral traits of the
peoples differ. It is as difficult to translate Persian into Eng
lish as it is for us to get ourselves into the attitude of the
oriental mind. But when, through a knowledge of an oriental
language, we have come in some degree to take in the oriental
attitude of mind, we have a solid and extensive addition to
culture and a distinct enlargement of our own mind.


Now, the great objection to the study of Greek and I
am speaking of it now with reference solely to a liberal
education, and to a want in the human soul greater than the
want of mere knowledge, and not as to its fitness to enable
a person to earn good wages in an industrial establishment
is that Greek is a dead language, and Greek life and habits
are remote from modern sympathies. That is the very reason
I would urge for its study, being what it is, and expressing
a civilization and a habit of thought that have passed away.
Admitting that it is a dead language, and not for the moment
insisting upon its importance in our own language and that
it is an expression only of a foreign and remote civilization,
I seem to have stated the strongest argument for its being
retained in any education deserving to be called liberal. The
Greek way of looking at life was different from ours, the
whole mental habit was different $ this is as evident in its
attitude toward the deepest questions as in the play of the
lighter and sportive faculties, in wit and humor. With only
a superficial acquaintance with its literature I can see that.
These people were of our human nature and of like passions,
yet in their presence I am conscious of an unlikeness, of a new
mystery of existence. The language, the literature, and the
people are one. The whole woof and warp of the life of the
people, the habit of mind, the philosophy of their living, are
interwoven in, and expressed by, their language. This language
is as distinct and important a creation in the world as Greek
art. It is the mirror, if one may say so, of a wonderful people.
To come to a knowledge of this people and their way of looking
at life, in the only way it can perfectly be reached, by their
language, is a great intellectual effort. The very attempt to
comprehend a whole system and civilization so different from
our own involves not only a vigorous mental discipline, but an
enlargement of the faculties very different from the sort of
" drill " that is sometimes called discipline. For I am not
now speaking of gerund-grinding, but of such a knowledge
of Greek life and literature as is now understood by the
study of Greek. It not only, as President Eliot says, required
two centuries to introduce the study of Greek, but it has taken
three more to learn how to study it properly. Perhaps it will
turn out that the coming age, more even than the time of
the Renaissance, will reap fruits of inestimable value from


the people who still remain the highest examples of simple

There can be no more remunerative effort for the mind than
that of putting itself in the position to understand the Greek
thought about nature, and about man, and the meaning of life.
And this because, as I said before, it is alien to us and to all
our modern habits. We get from this study the sort of dis
cipline and intellectual breadth which we cannot possibly get
from the study of any modern language, because the ideas, the
way of regarding life in these languages, are modern and very
much like our own. The Greek chapter in human life is remote,
it is closed, it is complete, it is unchangeable, it is set apart as a
unique and most instructive performance. The mind is greatly
enlarged and fructified by the investigation of any ancient life
Egyptian, Assyrian, Indian ; but that of no other nation offers
us the same facilities, the same opportunities, as the Greek, in a
life so completely expressed in art and in letters. The intel
lectual effort required to put ourselves en rapport with this
totally foreign mind seems to me to be of the highest kind and
of the highest service. I can conceive of nothing equal to it
in the way of bringing the faculties into vigorous play and
liberalizing the mind.

There is another and very practical aspect of the question ;
I mean the value of a classical training as a foundation for high
attainments in science, that is, a scientific education not limited
by, or dependent on, practical aims. A commercial knowledge
of French and German does not require the help of college or
university ; and a polytechnic school will furnish such a knowl
edge of science for practical use as the industries demand. The
ultilitarian spirit not only demands the substitution of some
thing else for the classics, but it demands a university stamp for
a polytechnic education. Now, we are speaking of a real educa
tion, and the p/Unt insisted on is that a preliminary training in
the humanities, in the classics, and especially in Greek, is neces
sary to high attainments in the sciences and in all the modern
languages, including our own. In support of this, I refer to the
opinions, based upon experience, of the foremost scholars in
science now living ; and I do this not in the mere interest of
Greek or of science, but of the highest aims of education. It is
profoundly significant that the most powerful plea ever made in
behalf of the classics should come from the side of science.


The Opinions of the Philosophical Faculty of the University
of Berlin, and the address of the great chemist, Dr. Hofmann,
the rector, upon the necessity of Greek and Latin as means of
the best mental training, have been so often published in this
country that it is only necessary for me to refer to them here.
The testimony, based on experience, of the necessity of a classi
cal training in the higher walks of science is unequivocal and
unanimous. It is of the utmost importance because it goes to
the root of the subject of mental training. The pupils without
the classical training "had no clear consciousness of their own
scientific capacity, and no sure insight into the growth of
man's mental life " ; " they suffer from the whims of independ
ence and the lack of self-knowledge." Prof. Hofmann says :
" Ideality in academic study, unselfish devotion to science for
its own sake, and that unshackeled activity of thought which is
at once the condition and the consequence of such devotion,
retire more and more into the background as the classical
groundwork of our mental life found in the gymnasium is with
drawn from the pre-university course." " The ideality of the
scientific sense, interest in learning not dependent upon, nor
limited by, practical aims, but ministering to the liberal
education of the mind as such, the many-sided and widely ex
tended exercise of the thinking power," can be satisfactorily
cultivated only in classical institutions. It is the experience in
America as well as in Germany that the best civil engineers are
those who have had a thorough classical training. The effect
of opening the university to non-classical 'students on equal
terms with the classical is the lowering of university instruction
itself. Another significant fact is that the directors of the
realschule, in order to prevent a constant falling off in stand
ards, require that teachers in them shall have had a classical

A criticism has been made upon the reporf of the Berlin
faculty that it was unfair as to the test of performance of the
pupils of the realschulen in the university, because these stu
dents come from a lower class in society, and have not behind
them the traditions of culture of the pupils from the gymna
sium. The obvious and sufficient answer to that is, that if the
realschule standards prevail, a general deterioration is inevi
table, and in another generation all the students will be down
to the realschule standard.


The last demand of the industrial spirit is that all education
shall be' lowered to its material aims j for lowered it will be if
all distinction is removed in academic honor between an educa
tion for the sake of the mind itself and an education dependent
on and limited to material and practical aims. The danger in
this is no less to science than to literature and philosophy. It
is greatest of all to the tone of modern life. The drift of society
is pretty much all one way. The industrial spirit can take care
of itself and get all it wants. If those who care for the things
of the spirit, for the highest mental life, expect to save any
thing in the deluge, they must make a united and stout defense
of the ledge of rock on which they stand that is still above



" GENTLEMEN/ 7 said an eminent professor of Greek exege
sis, now an ornament of the English bench of bishops, speaking
to a large company of theological students twenty-five years
ago, " Gentlemen, do not commit yourselves, as you go forth
into life, to any rigid definition of inspiration. 7 * And the counsel
was wise and good ; specially appropriate to a class of young
men who are apt to rely too much upon definitions, to resort to
them for answers to all objectors, to cite them as of final
authority in the closest controversies. The caution against a
too ready trust of such sort was not only wise and good, but it
was startlingly novel for the time, and for a collegiate inclosure
of the established church. There was a strangely prudential
sound in the sentence, to those familiar with the old orthodox
style of talk from English pulpits and professorial chairs,
about the "plenary" inspiration of the Bible and cognate
questions. Fifty years, twenty years, before the time just indi
cated, no such seemingly timid counsel could have been heard,
probably, from any English theological lecturer. What had hap
pened, meanwhile, requiring such discreet evasiveness in dealing
with one of the fundamentals of orthodoxy ? A fit answer to
that question takes us back to an important epoch in the history
of English religious thought. " Essays and Reviews " had ap
peared some little time before, and were already in the hands of
great numbers of intelligent men and women ; the intellectual
air of Great Britain being impregnated by the new, large, fresh,
free thought of the scholarly writers ; and to Mr. Jowett's paper
in the celebrated collection was due, I suspect, more than to any
other proximate cause, that bit of prudential advice to a certain
class of theological students, not to be in haste in adopting any
positive opinion about Biblical inspiration.*

* Of course, such a work as that which " Essays and Eeviews " repre
sented had been long going on in Germany ; but little heed was given to it
by English orthodox teaching, till popular attention was called to it as above



But why the formally emphasized precaution ? What intrin
sic difficulty is there in the word that was thus to be allowed
to float loosely about in men's minds, because of the danger, or
the impossibility, of tying it down to any fixed meaning ? The
idea and fact of inspiration are familiar to all. The common
notion men have of inspiration is correct enough, so far as it
goes. It is an invasion of the mind or heart by some power or
influence from above us, or from around us, energizing, enlight
ening, uplifting, and, it may be, hallowing, those faculties or
affections of our nature which the inspiring incidents, things,
persons, may have the fitness and force thus to incite. And
than this sort of experience, there is none more unquestioned
among men. All men are believers in, and subject to, inspira
tion. And hence it is that we all speak so freely, as of a real
force acting upon consciousness, of the inspiration of nature, of
art, of heroisms, and, supremely, of the transporting power of
the loves and hates of men and women. Men of a sober style
of speech have not hesitated to speak of great orators, artists, or
writers, as inspired men. Certain it is, that multitudes of men
and women have been inspired by the genius incarnate in such
men, which still breathes, so to speak, through their works.
And if one human spirit can so influence another, it is not a
claim to be heard with scoffing, that the Divine Spirit has
exerted, and still exerts, a mightier potency over the thoughts
and affections of men, in ways little more mysterious than those
in which the gifts and graces of genius act upon and inspire us.
But, strangely enough, and to the serious hurt of the cause he
defends, the theologian, while claiming that " every good gift,
and every perfect gift, is from above," that "the true light
lighteneth every man that cometh into the world," has yet
laboriously and persistently denied that inspiration can be
properly affirmed, in any but a simply rhetorical sense, of
any other than a limited, specific part of the Divine Spirit's
work in the enlightenment and moral progress of mankind. A
task at which theologians of the orthodox type have worked
very hard has been this, in effect, to find two distinct and
mutually exclusive meanings for the word "inspiration/ 7 and
that in support of a purely artificial theory of their own. They
want the word as the designation of a supernatural influence,
under which, it is claimed, certain men have spoken truth direct
from God ; while they dare not deny all inspiration to men not


supernaturally moved. For the moral and religious literature
of tlie world bears witness to the fact, that the deeper experi
ences of men in all ages and nations have run so inextricably
into each other, while the utterances of such experiences have
often had so nearly the same pure, spiritual ring in them, that
the keenest intellectual insight, with the finest sensibility, has
been unable to distinguish between them, as being some inspired
and others uninspired. It is impossible, in other words, to
mark off the great teachers and leaders of mankind into classes
by rigid lines. The most that any such attempt can show us is,
that some men have stood on higher ground than others, or
have been visited by richer effusions of the one vitalizing,
enlightening, and purifying energy. Yet is this indiscriminate
classification accepted very generally without question in the
Christian world to-day. Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul, were in
spired; Socrates, Sakya-muni, Marcus Aurelius, Shakspeare,
were uninspired. Inspiration was exclusively the prerogative,
that is, of the prophets and teachers through whom God
revealed himself in Jewish and in early Christian times. But,
accepting that narrow view of the Divine Spirit's operation in
the world of moral intelligence and feeling, in what estimate
are we to hold the lofty wisdom and the pure goodness that the
world has revered in men who have lived beyond the limits
within which orthodox teaching confines the gifts of inspira
tion ? Whence words like these ? are they " from heaven or
of men?"

" The Supreme One said: I am made evident by my own power ; and as
often as there is a decline of virtue, and an insurrection of vice and injustice
in the world, I make myself known : and thus I appear from age to age, for
the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establish
ment of virtue."

" Holy acts of sacrifice are performed by those who are devoted to their
own duties, whose conduct is right and free from blemish ; who are good, and
tread in good paths."

" When the intellect is pure as well as the heart, to it the region of the
Deity becomes visible."

" God is near you, is with you, is within you."

" A sacred Spirit dwells within us, the observer and guardian of all our
evil and our good."

"Be self-denying, but do not boast of it: keep a watch upon yourself as
your own most dangerous enemy. Do not plume yourself upon intellectual
knowledge, which is in itself quite valueless, but on a consistent nobleness
of action. Never relax your efforts, but aim at perfection."


11 Bury my body as you please, but do not mourn as if you were burying
Socrates. Think of me, rather, as gone to be with the wise and good, and

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 22 of 60)