Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

The North American review (Volume 139) online

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out such innovations, but they cannot help themselves. The
things are absolute necessities. Beefsteak cannot be talked out
of society. To their horror, they find that the people, in whose
hands is the government of this land, compel them to teach
what, in the old system of half-time, the people were willing to
teach at home. It needs, of course, no experiment to prove that
these practical affairs are learned more quickly and better at
home than at school. Mr. Stanley Hall's curious investigation
proved that a considerable number of pupils in a good Boston
school thought that a cow was less than three inches long. Such
is the result of using a primer in which the picture of a cow is
as small as the picture of a gimlet.

If, now, it were only to gain the desirable knowledge of com
mon things, most parents who have had experience of both
systems will decide that the pupil who is at school twenty-four
weeks in the year, is better off than the pupil who is at school
forty-six weeks in the year, other things being equal. The loyal
and intelligent father submits to the convenience of the great
body of the people. But if he had his own way, he would say
that the boy or girl who has the book-work by itself and the out
door work by itself, is better off than the boy who has to do his
outdoor work indoors. Indeed, so far as judging institutions
by their fruits is a rule, the half-time system makes quite as good
a show as the full-time system. The remark is constantly made
that " country-bred boys," by which is meant boys bred on the
half-time school system, " go ahead "of " academy boys." It is
certainly suggestive. The system under which Daniel "Webster
was trained, or Jonathan Edwards, will not fear to be tested, if
the test is to be a show of men produced by it.

And, so far as the attempt to give a knowledge of things or
of processes of handiwork is made at school, it is clear enough that
it cannot really succeed. As matter of the theory of education,
indeed, the schools are wholly transformed by the introduction
of the extra studies required in the full-time system. They are
injured in the same degree on all the sides of intellectual effort.


In these changes the fundamental idea of a good school is for
gotten. Children are really sent to school, not to learn facts,
but to learn how to learn them. But in the modern system
the teacher is compelled to pour in avalanche after avalanche
of facts, though he know that they destroy, in their progress,
the careful roadways that he has been building. A pathetic
instance is in the introduction of " English literature "into the
school curriculum. Nothing is sadder than to see a boy strug
gling with " Ivanhoe " or " Henry the Fifth," as a school task.*
Of course he should read them in the spontaneous joy of home-
life. He would read them so, if you permitted him to have any
home-life or any spontaneous joy. Failing this, because you know
he will be disgraced if he do not know the difference between
John Falstaff and John Knox, you make two school exercises in
which you teach him that John Knox died in 1572, while the
character whom Falstaff represents was roasted to death in 1417.
If by good luck your boy remembers the word " Falstaff," or the
word " Knox," your school will not be disgraced when the day
of examination comes. But it is certain that he will not remem
ber either word a year after. The teachers of the public schools
would gladly keep out of them all these extra studies. But in
their agonized pleas that they may not be expected to teach hem
stitch, cookery, gymnastics, and " Ivanhoe," they must remember
that the boys and girls must attend to such things, and must
have some time for them. I do not care to dwell on the injury
they inflict on the school as a place for intellectual discipline.

A more serious danger of the full-time system is moral. By
taking boys and girls out from the working force of the world,
as it does, it gives them to understand that they are the only
creatures of God that have nothing to do for the world in which
they live. The community is taxed, the hours of home and its
occupations are regulated, so that the public schools may be
carried on. Everything yields to the mechanism of these
schools. Their apparent purpose is that the children shall be
more learned. Any child who could analyze the system intelli
gently would conclude that the children are the most important
persons in the world, that they are born in the purple, and are
to be kept in the purple, and that, like the princes in Plato's
* One or two English novels or plays are now among the " requisites" for
examination at the best colleges, as the JEneid or Aleestis might be in Latin
or Greek.


Republics, they are never to put their own hands to useful work
in the common weal. Now, this conclusion is false from end to
end. In truth, the child is, from the beginning, a dependent
part of the organism that we call mankind. Or, to state it back
ward, " the human race is the individual, of which men and
women are the separate members. 7 ' This is the phrase of Fichte,
which he borrows from Paul, who took his figure from Menenius
Agrippa, or, more probably, from his own fellow-countryman,
^Esop. Selfish men try to forget this ; that is bad enough. It is
much worse to arrange your school system so as to divorce the
children from that intimate relationship with their kind, in
which they also do their part of the common work. In the good
old life of the country, where the half-time system makes such a
thing possible, boy and girl are parts of the great organism.
The boy who drives the cow to the pasture or rides the horse to
plow, the girl who opens the gate that the cows may come in, or
carries out food to the chickens, are in the common life j they
give and take, they lend and borrow, they help and are helped.
But the average child, in the machine life of our full-time public-
school system, has no chance to render any service. He con
stantly receives, and never gives. He does not even wash his own
slate, far less does he wash that belonging to any one else ; he
cannot go on an errand ; the hours of meals at home must be
subordinated to the school requisitions ; he gradually ceases to
think that he is a person to be called upon for service ; he is
almost annoyed if it is suggested that he is a part of the working
force. All this is very bad for him morally.

The superintendents, supervisors, and other oflicial people
who have somewhat scornfully turned over these pages thus far,
will consider that they make a very great concession if they
admit that, for the present, in some thinly-settled rural districts
of great poverty, the old half-time system may be endured a
little longer. They all look forward to a blessed millennium
when a stiff State grant, or a large school fund, may blot such
embryotic work out of existence and arrange all the schools on
the full-time system. I propose exactly the other change. True,
I propose that the school-masters and school-mistresses shall be
engaged for a year's service, paid for it, and indulged with
such vacations as fall to doctors, lawyers, ministers, and other
educated people. But I propose that each of the children shall
go to school just half the time that the teachers spend there.


This plan is carried out in many of the English factory towns,
where " half-time,' 7 means that half the pupils go to school in
the morning, and work in mills in the afternoon ; while in the
afternoon the school receives the other half, who have been at
work in the morning. It is well known, and is an interesting
fact, that these children advance in their school studies as fast
and as far as those who are kept in school all the time. But I
do not believe that this system of half-time can be compared, for
practical efficiency, with the old national system of this country
the system of a winter-school and a summer-school. Without dis
cussing detail, I will give the outlines of the plan I suggest as
the system that would work best for all the public schools of New
England. I speak of those schools because there I am at home.
I believe the general plan, with proper modifications, will meet
the objections oftenest felt in the public-school systems of all
parts of the country.

I propose that in every school district where there are as many
as sixty pupils, they shall be divided into two brigades. The
brigades might be divided by lot, with liberty of exchange from
one to the other, where convenience required. Let the school
year begin with the first Monday in September. I would send
brigade A to school fifteen weeks, from the first Monday in
September to the third Monday in December. They would then
remain at home ; the parents should do with them what they
choose, which is more than any parent does with his children
now. The second brigade, or brigade B, would then take their
long term of fifteen weeks, which would bring us to the second
Monday in April. We have sixteen more school weeks before
the third Monday in July. Each brigade would have eight of
these weeks at school, and eight at home. On the third Monday
in July the school-masters and the school-mistresses would take
their vacation, which would last until the first Monday in

It is a pathetic comment on the present artificial system,
that the first criticism made on that which I propose would be:
" WTiat in the world should we do with the children if we had
them seven months at home in every year ? w People have, in
fact, drilled themselves, to think that God did not mean that they
should take care of their own children, but that they should
intrust such care to other people. They would soon learn to do
what the farmer, or blacksmith, or minister does in the country


town where the natural system still holds ; they would make
the children of use. The boy or girl would again be a part of
the Kosmos. If he had time to study or read, he would do so
under that good master, himself, if he had no other. He would
learn the value of time, the necessity of punctuality, the need of
subordination; he would acquire modesty and self-control,
order and method, quite as well as he does at school. He would
have a much better chance for physical exercise and training in
the industrial arts than he has now. His chance for health, eye
sight, and a well-balanced constitution would be much better
than it is now.

I will venture to illustrate the work of the system in a large
city by a passage from the journal of my friend Colonel Ingham,
when, in Garibaldi's time, he discovered again and visited the
city of Sybaris. He found the laws of Charondas still in force

" Tuesday, 5th. Fine again. I have been with the boys a good deal to
day. They took me to two of the gymnasiums, to one of the swimming
schools, to the market for their nomos, and afterward to an up-town market,
to the picture gallery and museum of another nomos, which they thought was
finer than theirs, and to their own sculpture gallery. As we walked, I asked
one of them if I were not keeping him from school.

" ' No/ said he, 'this is my off-term.'

"'Pray, what is that?'

" ' Don't you know? We only go to school three months in winter and
three in summer; I thought you did so in America; I know Mr. Webster did;
I read it in his life.'

" I was on the point of saying that we knew now how to train more
powerful men than Mr. Webster, but the words stuck in my throat, and the
boy rattled on :

" * The teachers have to be there all the time, except when they go into
retreat. They take turns about retreat. But we are in two choroi. I am
choros-boy now, James is anti-ehoros. Choros have school in January,
February, March, July, August, September. Next year I shall be anti-

u ' Which do you like best, off -term or school ? ' said I.

" ' O, both is as good as one. When either begins we like it. We get
rather sick of either before the three months are over.'

" ' What do you do in your off -terms ? ' said I, ' go fishing ? '

"'No, of course not,' said he, 'except Strep, and Hipp, and Chal, and
those boys, because their fathers are fishermen. No ! We have to be in our
fathers' offices, we big boys ; the little fellows, they let them stay at home.
If I were here without you now, that truant officer we passed just now would
have had me at home by this time. Well, you see they think we learn about
business, and I guess we do ; I know I do,' said he, ' and sometimes I think I
should like to be a proxenus when I am grown up, but I do not know.'


"I asked George about this, this evening. He said the boy was pretty
nearly right about it. They had come round to the determination that the
employment of children, merely because their wages were lower than men's,
was very dangerous economy. The chances were, that the children were
overworked, and that their constitutions were fatally impaired. ' We do not
want any Manchester trained children here.' Then they had found that
steady brain-work on girls at the growing age was pretty nearly slow murder
in the long run. They did not let girls go to school with any persistency
after they were twelve or fourteen. After they were twenty they might
study what they choose.

11 'We let no child go to school more than half the time ; nor even with
the strongest more than four hours a day.' "

I am quite sure that sensible fathers and mothers who have
the pleasure and profit of having sensible children, will find it
easy to occupy off-time in ways profitable to the children, which
will at once justify the system to those who are in doubt. Let
me suggest to any father or mother who looks forward sadly to
the next century, wishing that he or she lived in that happy era
when the school " machine" of to-day will be " smashed" as thor
oughly as chivalry is now, that the plan I propose can be easily
carried out now, for the benefit of families, even if supervisors
and committees are not yet converted. If a dozen fathers living
near one another determine to take their boys from school for
fifteen weeks, and to present them at the school again when these
fifteen weeks are over, any intelligent master will adapt the
regime of that school to what he will call " the experiment."
Things will go on as if these twelve boys had had whooping-
cough, only the boys will not whoop. And there will be a chance
to let these boys attend at the ofiice or the store ; to learn how to
go on an errand, how to cash a check, or how to tie up a parcel j a
chance to read Scott or Shakspere ; a chance to learn to sing, to
dance, to swim, or to fence ; a chance for the gymnasium. The
fifteen weeks will soon be gone, and f when the next school term
comes, the boy will go to it with an appetite that the jaded school
boy of the full-term system has, in most instances, quite for
gotten. To school committees, and to the finance committees who
stand behind school committees, it is fair to suggest what they
must not think a corrupt proposal, even in critical days. The
system of half-time, while it will probably teach all that the sys
tem of full-time teaches, will cost the tax-payer only half as
much money.



THE critics have been more than usually busy of late, asking
the world, What is poetry ? But however much interest we may
find in this debate, it does not really bring us nearer to answer
ing the question, any more than the discussions of the physiolo
gists have enabled them to answer that other question, What is
life ? It is hard, indeed, to grasp the subtle essence that we call
poetry, and to bind it into any set form of abstract words ; but,
none the less, we know poetry when we meet with it, and the
best definition would neither help toward the production nor
heighten the enjoyment of it. Whether poetry can truly be
called a "criticism of life" seems open enough to doubt ; but
there can be no doubt that it is an expression of life, or of some
sides of it, in language which is imaginative, musical, beautiful.
And of life, those sides of it, or those sentiments springing out
of it, which are the deepest and the purest and the most perma
nent, supply poetry with its finest material noble sentiments,
intensely conceived, adequately and musically rendered. This has
given to the world its finest lyrics ; and the pure lyric is poetry
in its purest essence. If there be any part of life which poetry
may call peculiarly its own, it is the whole range of the affec
tions. Indeed these, it may be truly said, have no other so
fitting and natural language. When any emotion has kindled
to a certain heat, prose the calm language of the judgment
is no fitting vehicle for it. The more intense the emotion, the
more foolish it would look in such a garb. There are many
reasons for this. Emotion is in itself rhythmical, and can only
be fittingly uttered in the most rhythmical form of words.
Again, it is shy and retiring, and needs something to stand
between it and the rude gaze of the world. And this the very
formality of meter does. It furnishes a veil to the modesty and
tenderness of deep emotion. This is one great service of poetry.
VOL. cxxxix. NO. 336. 453 33


It hides our feelings, while it reveals them. Many of the finest,
most delicate emotions never have been, and never will be
breathed except through the medium of verse. The shyest,
most sensitive man will, if he has the power of song, express
through it feelings and experiences that he never would have
ventured to breathe into the ear of his most trusted friend

But the poets have not merely expressed what is the emo
tion or affection as it really exists ; they have used affection to
interpret the meaning of life. They are the great assertors of
" the sovereignty of feeling over knowledge/' that to love, rather
than to know, is the true end of life. They " measure life by
love." Affection is with them the true interpretation of life. In
this confused panorama called life, " ten thousand things come
before us, one after another, and what are we to think of them,
what color are we to give them, how are we to interpret them ? n
The poets, with almost one voice, answer, that affection, in some
form or another, is the key by which we are to interpret the
obscurities and contradictions that surround us ; that it is the
one good which'life has to give; the one thing worth living for;
the streak of blue sky here and there illumining what else
would be but a dark or dismal horizon. Many poets stop there ;
with them, when affection has been once for a moment attained,
they feel that

11 Their soul hath her content so absolute,
That not another comfort, like to this,
Succeeds in unknown fate."

But other wiser poets make us feel, even while they best
portray affection, that earth is not made for its full fruition ;
that the inborn, ineradicable desire and capability to love and
be loved is here to be trained, disciplined, not rested in as final
enjoyment; that enough is given to be a solace and to kindle
hope, not enough to rest in as the ultimate good. The poets
who do this are exercising their highest office; they make us
feel " the infinite in things " when they show that the purest
human affection has kinship with what is heavenly and eternal,
which it foreshadows, which it rests on, for which it is a

The forms in which this interpretation of human affection
have been set forth in poetry are manifold. In tragedy we
see the divine spark struggling with the thwarting elements
of life the sordid, the selfish, and the base. Desdemona's


love, to be wrought out and perfected, requires the presence of a
Cassio and an lago. But it is not of this form of affection the
passionate love of man and woman that I am now to speak.
That would be ground too delicate to venture on ; besides that,
it would crowd upon our view more than the half of all extant
poetry. It is rather that more temperate but not less real form
of affection which we call " friendship/ 7 that will now engage
us. It will be enough if I can succeed in recalling a few of the
most rememberable examples of this, as these appear in the
ancient poets, that is, the poets of pre-Christian ages. These
are, indeed, the lights that more than anything else illuminate
and relieve the troubled background of human history.

At the name of friendship, one supreme instance, I suppose,
rises up before every one, the earliest and the most known in the
records of the past. I need hardly name David and Jonathan,
yet I cannot pass them by, for theirs is, and will remain, the
typical friendship of the world. Have you ever considered that
characteristic of the Hebrew people, that as they attained to a
purer, nearer, more intimate thought of God than any other
race, so there is in their human affections a home-heartedness,
a depth and intensity, elsewhere unapproached. Perhaps these
two characteristics have a common ground. Think of the story
of Joseph and his brethren, the idyll of Ruth, and many a word
scattered through psalmist, prophet, and historian of the Old
Testament, and you will understand what I mean.

But, pathetic as the others are, the finest type, the highest
ideal, of true friendship will always be that which began when
that shepherd boy, who was " ruddy, and withal of a beautiful
countenance, and goodly to look to," was brought from the
sheepcotes of Bethlehem into the palace of the king, and the
king's son looked upon the shepherd lad, and " it came to pass
that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and
he loved him as his own soul." Then that last meeting, when
David " arose out of his place toward the south, and fell on his
face to the ground, and bowed himself three times ; and they
kissed one another, and wept one with another, till David
exceeded, and Jonathan said to David, ' Go in peace. . . .
The Lord be between me and thee, and between my seed and
thy seed forever.' And David arose and departed, and Jonathan
went into the city," and they met no more. And when Saul and
Jonathan fell down slain in Mount Gilboa, what an elegy was


that which David wailed over them. The best that Greece and
Borne have to show of friendship looks pale beside this. After
David had sung that strain, no such second affection was ever
granted him. In his life, so full of startling vicissitude, the
opening scene stands alone for its brightness and attractiveness :

"Double praise thou shalt attain,
In royal court and battle-plain;
Then come heart-ache, care, distress,
Blighted hope, and loneliness;
Wounds from friend and gifts from foe,
Dizzied faith, and guilt, and woe;
Loftiest aims by earth defiled,
Grleams of wisdom sin-beguiled,
Sated power's tyrannic mood,
Counsels shared with men of blood;
Sad success, parental tears,
And a dreary weight of years.
Strange that guileless face and form
To lavish on the scarring storm !"

When we turn to the Greeks, it is in their philosophers more
than in their poets that we see how great a power in their life
was friendship, how large and preeminent was the place that it
held. Why was this? I shall here condense the answer that
the German scholar Curtius gives to this question. " In every
age," he says, " the native selfishness of man has been the great
power against which moralists, philosophers, and teachers have
had to contend." What shall counterwork, subdue, change this
evil principle ? Law and self-control may restrain it outwardly,
but cannot eradicate or dispossess it from within. What then
could do it? Nothing but the inspiration of a new affection.
Greek religion could not supply this, for it exhausted itself in
external performances, and could not create affection. It knew
nothing of the love of God to man, and therefore could not
awake in man an inward love to God. Domestic love could not
do it, for marriage was rather a duty which a man as citizen
owed to the state than an affair of the heart. Except in rare
instances, woman was too subordinate, too inferior, to be a help
mate or a friend of man. Exceptions there may have been, as
we may gather from Homer's conception of Andromache :

" Father to me thou art, and mother dear,
And brother too, kind husband of my heart."


But such cases were too rare to be taken into account. Find
ing the motive power that man needed neither in religion nor

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 44 of 60)