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.E16




Copy 1




] AN ADDRESS




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j SCHOLARLY WORKERS: THEIR SPIRIT AND METHODS.


< HY

HON. JOHN EATON, LL. D.,


.


U. >S'. Com/mikHion&r of Education.

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< DELIVERED BEFORE THE LITERARY SOCIETIES OF ROANOKE


college;


< SALEM, YA., AT THE AXNFAL COMMENCEMENT,




< TUESDAY, JUNE 10, 1879.




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< WASHINGTON, D. «'.


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1879.






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LB 875
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Copy 1



AN ADDRESS



SCHOLARLY WORKERS: THEIR SPIRIT AND METHODS.



HON. JOHN EATON, LL. D.,



U. 8. Commissioner of Education.



DELIVERED BEFORE THE LITERARY SOCIETIES OF ROANOKE COLLEGE,
SALEM, VA., AT THE ANNUAL COMMENCEMENT,



^



(/



u



TUESDAY, JUNE 10, 1879.




WASHINGTON, D. C.
JUDD & DETWEILER, PRINTERS.
1879. .




e>



SCHOLARLY WORKERS: THEIR SPIRIT AND METHODS.



Youth is credited with being a period of awkwardness.
Goldsmith, to whom we are indebted for some of the most
beautiful passages in the English language, was often em-
barrassed in finding the right word in conversation ; but,
more serious than all that appears to the observation of
others, is that awkwardness which the upright soul feels
when, in any unfitting or wrong attitude, it approaches
truth or the responsibilities of life. Life's labyrinth is all
dark before the youth ; neither its complicated passages nor
its end are revealed. How shall they find the clew ? To
aid in this crisis, the home is filled with loving solicitude,
the school offers its teachers and appliances, the church its
precepts and sacraments, and the wise of all ages their
philosophies.

Coming here to greet the gathered representatives of the
wisdom and youth of this cherished institution, can I do
better than invite attention to a discussion of the spirit and
methods of scholarly workers ?

Our American civilization is a great stimulus to the as-
sumption of responsibilities. Its fundamental principles
force all of us to be workers. Our law recognizes no rights
of primogeniture. The precepts and practices of our life,
while they stimulate individuality, tend to make us careless
of the past and unmindful of the future, and to concentrate
our thoughts and deeds on the present. We are pronounced
deficient in the respect for antiquity;' it is declared that the
families of our great men lose the characteristics that made
them eminent after the third, the second, or perchance the
first generation, and it is claimed that the cherishing of more
inspiring memories and the encouragement of more far
reaching hopes would afford elements for a better training



4 ROANOKE COLLEGE.

in the responsibilities of life than is possible under our
present tendencies.

Moreover, our youth cannot now retire to a solitude so re-
mote that they shall be influenced solely by the opinions
and events of a single community. Their food, their cloth-
ing, their society, are affected by world wide influences.
Nothing is really foreign to them. Before them are spread
the crimes and virtues of the remotest peoples. The most
distant questions of society, of politics, of science and art,
of belief and conduct, press upon them for solution. Noth-
ing before them is apart by itself either for observation or
contemplation; nothing is simple ; all is complex, vast, in-
tense, swift. Their voyage of life is not, as was depicted in
ancient mythology, a middle way between two opposing
perils, after passing which the course was safe. The mod-
ern Scylla and Charybdis, the perils and competitions of our
youth, are found in every opportunity and every responsi-
bility, great and small. "What fortitude, patience, and self-
mastery of spirit — what honesty, fidelity and comprehensive-
ness of method will they need! Already, before the hand
of the youth directs the rudder alone, unaided and unsup-
ported, he has encountered, in type or in reality, much of
the sea and the weather of his future life ; he enters upon
the responsibilities we here consider with a certain develop-
ment of his powers. If he has a Byronic nature, it is no
matter how brilliantly he is endowed ; if he is compelled to
confess with that misguided poet : " I never was governed
when I was young," he is likely to enter upon a career de-
fiant of truth as practised in decent life and taught in the
precepts of morality. Like the savage, his keenest pursuit,
his largest development-, his utmost struggles, are not likely
to be for self-mastery, but to seize or destroy his game or
his enemy. He is not submissive, he is not humble, he
cannot therefore expect to enter the temple of truth ; its
gates are closed to him; its enchanting occupations, its
beauties and glories and divine inspirations he cannot pene-



ADDRESS OF HON. JOHN EATON. 5

trate. But if possessed of the willing, cheerful spirit of
Shakspeare, truth opens to him on every hand and invites
his approach. He has the key to her richest treasure. To
him there are sermons in the rudest stones ; to him

" the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."

In nature and art his sympathies are universal :

" Aloft ascending, and descending down
To inferior kinds."

He enters into the conditions and moods of others; he
bears their joys and sorrows. He knows men "from the
heart outward, and not from the flesh inward." He pene-
trates the core, and gets at the essence of men and things ;
to him the essential and non-essential are. not confused.
When he encounters the evils that assail him he does not,
Sampson like, bury himself with them in a common ruin,
because he has never been blinded by yielding himself to
the influences of Delilah. May he not be described always
as Sainte-Beuve described his ideal of a scientist — the soul
of a sage in the body of an athlete ; he may not have real-
ized it in himself, but he is aiming at it. With this in view
his hours are occupied with exercise of mind or body; his
physical, mental, moral, spiritual habits are formed ; his
aims are selected, purified and elevated; his opinions are
considered, cherished, vindicated and practised ; he detects
and rejects the false, the mean, the wrong, for himself and
others, with a precision and certainty like that of chemical
repulsion ; his nature, his principles, his practices are in
accord with the highest in every condition of life. He
does not reject the principles of heredity; but memories of
ancestral inferiority do not degrade him, nor ancestral supe-
riority infatuate him with foolish pride; he cherishes their
lessons while he draws, from his responsibilities to posterity,
influences that impart to him in the midst of the intensest



6 ROANOKE COLLEGE.

activity something of the sublimity of repose. He accepts
for himself, whatever his sphere, Milton's dictum that every
man " ought of himself to be a true poem, that is, a com-
position and pattern of the best " and most honorable things.
His spirit is strong enough, and his methods so adapted as
to overcome his own weaknesses and surrounding difficulties.
An all-absorbing purpose, reaching to a distant and high
object of pursuit, finds some way of lifting and drawing
him towards it, whatever the incidental resistance. Ten
thousand demands may come upon him ; he may be hourly
turned aside, still he is accomplishing that great purpose.
Plutarch describes Julius Csesar as a spare man, of soft
white skin, distempered in the head and subject to epilepsy,
yet enduring beyond the wont of the strongest, coarse diet,
indefatigable journeys, exposures in the field, exhausting
labors, finding sleep in chariots and litters as he was borne
along, and employing even his times of rest in the pursuit
of action. Amanuenses wrote for him as he went from fort
to fort; his letters were literally dictated from the saddle ;
here surely was mastery of self and of environment; with
him difficulties encountered were but spurs to greater effort.
Each day, nay each hour, marked the purpose not only
conceived, but executed. With him, to will was to do.

In striking contrast appears that other class of minds of
which Coleridge was a representative. Of massive mind,
possessed of vast and varied intellectual treasures, he was
forever beginning and never finishing. Of him Charles
Lamb said : " Poor Col.; but two days before he died he
wrote to a publisher proposing an epic poem on the wan-
derings of Cain in twenty-four books. It is said he has left
behind him more than forty thousand treatises of criticism,
metaphysics, and divinity, but few of them in a state of com-
pletion." Southey wrote to Coleridge: "You spawn plans
like a herring; I only wish as many of the seed were to
vivify in proportion/' True he had great activity of thought,
but he had an equally great constitutional indolence. If he



ADDRESS OF HON. JOHN EATON. 7

had cultivated the spirit and the methods best fitted to pro-
duce results out of these conditions, he might not always have
finished his undertakings, but certainly he would have com-
pleted more than he did, and have made a marvellously dif-
ferent figure in literature and history. In some individuals
an embarrassment arises from the apparent separation be-
tween the subjective and objective. The eyes are open, the
object is before them, but they have no vision of anything
external. Thought here obeys two commands : the law of
association and the law of the will. Under either there may
come the play of reason, of memory, of imagination and the
excitation of the sensibilities. The law of association may
carry the mind on its abstract ethereal track, unaffected by
any influence through the senses. This abstraction may be
employed in profound thought, in those processes of deduc-
tion and induction out of which came the triumphs of a
Plato, Aristotle, Newton, Kepler, and a Laplace. Or they
may occupy the mind in useless reverie, in dreams, in sen-
timentality, such as move the infatuated reader of fiction to
tears of sympathy and conceptions of the greatest heroism
without stimulating him to kindly word or deed for the
relief of suffering, and without creating enough respect for
himself or others to make him appear in public decently
attired. True, our highest thoughts never fully grow into
acts. The greatest genius is more apt to be dissatisfied with
his attainments than the man who stands at the other end
of the intellectual scale; and here, therefore, the spirit and
methods of scholarly workers come to their aid.

Here they too are met by a favorite fallacy, covered up in
an important truth ; they are told that the mind must fol-
low its own bent. While this is in the main true, they
should not be deceived so far as to follow natural impulse
to their own destruction. All should aim at completeness
of nature as well as art by attending duly to that portion
of the body or that faculty of the mind which is deficient or
feeble. This is needful not only for the defective part but



8 ROANOKE COLLEGE.

for the sure health and intelligent activity of the whole
organism. Young people may be deceived by their own
judgment as to what is the tendency of their natural parts ;
when, however, this is accurately determined, they may well
settle in the main their pursuits in life, but never to the
total neglect of any thing essential to manhood or woman-
hood. To mistakes made at this point we may trace many
failures in life, many imperfect or distorted characters
which appear to have no place in the economy of society,
and which everywhere confess themselves out of place ; in
this opinion all who know them concur. Follow this fallacy,
let it become a universal rule of action in a republican form
of government, and we can easily imagine how soon these
perverted natures, perverted in physique and in mind, may
become sufficiently numerous to modify unfavorably the
enactment and administration of law. How long before
these half-developed souls may be constituted into classes
and arrayed in deadly feuds against each other?

Writers on vital statistics tell us that in savage life un-
tempered exposures destroy the feeble in infancy ; and they
give this as a reason why we never encounter among bar-
barians puny and sickly men and women.

Is it to be true that the haste and multiplicity of affairs
(which the civilization of our day permits like an avalanche
to overtake so many when young) are to smite down their
manhood and their womanhood, so that a gulf, well nigh as
dark as the river of death, shall set them apart, as an asy-
lum or prison class, from the possibilities, the hopes, the
memories, the occupations of those who, in the survival of
the fittest, as the men and women with healthy minds and
healthy bodies, enduring, true, noble, pursue the higher life
that places our age in contrast with all others — settiug them
in their destitution and criminality apart from the benefac-
tors of our race who fill our firmament with the primal
duties that shine aloft like stars and scatter at their feet
like flowers

" The charities that soothe, and heal, and bless."



ADDRESS OF HON. JOHN EATON. V

As it is the part of civilization to arrest the infant death
rate of savage life, so it is the part of wisdom for us to
determine and arrest the causes that increase among us
these destitute and criminal classes.

It is the merit of our Christian civilization that its growth
has an inherent tendency to overcome and render impos-
sible these evils. Every man must be the architect of his
own fortune ; he must live honestly with all men, and pro-
vide for those of his own household. Every man is consti-
tuted a worker, and, beginning at the beginning, he must
of necessity be a learner, and in this sense a scholarly
worker, whether his instrument be the spade, the plow, the
carpenter's plane, the sword, or the pen.

The principles we have been discussing are of universal
application. They embody themselves in the declaration,
the larger the manhood the better for the man in every
sphere ; or, as Socrates put it, first the man then the special-
ist; and, as I have said, a marked quality of our institu-
tions is their arrangement and tendency to aid every one in
producing these results. Our theory is that everyone chooses
for himself. The aim of our Christian institutions is that he
shall choose the better, that our large liberty shall not work
out a greater evil but a greater good. True, a man may reject
this obligation partly or even altogether; no decree of king
or caste controls him ; he chooses freely until his wrong
choice leads to that wrong act which society for its self-pro-
tection selects for punishment Here he encounters in a
most serious form a lesson on the perversions of character.
In order that his natural capacity may be aided in these
choices by the concentration of additional light upon his
path, the whole people in their capacity as citizens guarantee
universal instruction. We may observe how this tendency
of our Christian civilization to aid a man in balancing and
making the best of every condition, follows him in his du-
ties and in his misfortunes.

Perchance he is a husband and father, with a competency,
2a



10 ROANOKE COLLEGE.

and is overtaken by misfortunes. Then, this action of the
whole people through the state conies to his relief; perhaps
offers first to instruct his children. The eldest child finds
his way to the free school, and, it may be, onward to the
free high school, and thence to the free university. The
second child is perhaps afflicted with blindness ; the State
offers the school for the blind, and so far restores a balance
to his capacity that he not only supports himself but
blesses others. The third child is deaf and dumb ; the
same is accomplished for him. The fourth and last is an
imbecile, and the restorative, balancing tendency of our
Christian civilization is not yet exhausted, but the state
takes this unfortunate child, repulsive in his want of mind,
to the school for idiots. Nay, his wife becomes insane, and
the state affords her an asylum for the rest of her life.
Nor is this the end ; the father overborne, his efforts para-
lyzed by the shocks of repeated and inevitable misfortunes,
dies penniless, and a civil officer gives him honorable burial.
Nor are these acts of Christian, statesmanlike reason without
their reward. The children are all saved from pauperism
and crime, those cankers upon the body politic; all are
self-supporting.

Even the idiot, in due time, comes forth from his school
home, to perform among friends those simple tasks that
earn him an ample livelihood. The others are good citi-
zens, thrifty livers, Christian workmen; and the first-born,
possibly by the greater aid df his collegiate instruction, re-
turns to the State a hundred fold the expenditures for the
entire family, by his career of eminent usefulness in some
one of the skilled industries or the learned professions.

Society and philosophy sometimes allow these supreme
tendencies to be overlooked, and the young catch the idea
that there is no difference between doing well and doing
ill ; their moral vision is obscured, as was Solomon's when
he saw the end alike to all. For a moment, or to a limited
observation, there are present so many instances of wealth



ADDRESS OF HON. JOHN EATON. 11

and position attained by fraud — the alloy or gilding passing
for the pure gold, the adulterated for the genuine article,
the shadow for the substance, the clothes for the man, the
name for the thing — that in his inexperience he doubts the
difference. To iucrease his surprise he finds literature, and
even a pretence of philosophy, inculcating this fallacy.
Perchance some Hudibras solemnly informs him —

" He has first matter seen undressed
And found it naked and alone,
Before one rag of form was on."

His confusion is increased by the war of the schools, the
thunder of their artillery, the gleam of their swords, and
flash of their musketry.

Studying the progress of events in the history of nations,
of individuals, of doctrines, he observes that the growth of
these evils has been followed by extreme remedies. How
shall he deal with this incomprehensible past ? Shall he
attempt to settle all questions for himself? Shall he repeat
the experiments and errors of the astrologer and alchemist
before he rejects their follies and accepts the results of sci-
entific astronom} 7 or chemistry ? Shall a 3-outhful commu-
nity go through all the forms of institutions and laws that
have been tried, from the times of the Egyptians down to
our own modern republic, before adopting a permanent form
of government ? Rejection of the palpably false or the worn
out and effete is the only conclusion. Using native good
sense something must be taken on trust. He must trust his
own powers within their limits ; on the farm he must trust
the soil, the seed, the season and methods of labor ; in the
manufactory, the nature of the wood, the stone, the metal,
the implements, and processes of change ; in commerce he
must add trust in the fabricator and the conditions of transit;
in society and civil affairs he must trust his fellows. Shall
he pause here, or will he continue in the exercise of the
same good sense in the higher region of morality and relig-



12 ROANOKE COLLEGE.

ion ? Shall his faith rise, not contrary to reason, but above
reason, and accept the divine Creator, benefactor, ruler?
True, the laws of chemistry and physics, astronomy, geology,
mathematics, and biology may accompany and confirm him,
but cannot direct him in this last, highest act of the soul.
Indeed he has not come up to this high standpoint without
serious lessons in the exercise of temper, and larger discrim-
ination in the selection and use of methods. In the physi-
cal act of going up and down hill he exercises equally the
powers of reason and will, but each act requires a different
movement of the muscles. His spirit, his reason, all his
powers may everywhere Jje brought into requisition, and
there appear more and more evidences of final accord be-
tween all facts and all laws that he studies ; but the tests of
chemistry are not available either in physics or moral affin-
ity, and he must leave behind the demonstrations of mathe-
matics when he passes into the region of moral science.
His theology and geology will be found in accord, though by
most diverse tests. It may not gratify his conceit or pride
or vanity that he cannot sucoeed in this high region by the
methods of any physical science in which he may be expert ;
that in his moral activities his conclusions must be based
solely on probabilities, and that for all beyond he must trust
with the simplicity and humility of a child ; but in all his
pursuit of art or science he has had experience in discern-
ing between true and false, and, if honest with himself, he
has found his powers the more healthful, the more free the
atmosphere around him is from admixtures of error. Not
an inconsequential aid has he found daily toil ; again and
again it has solved problems beyond the reach of his science.
Cecil said of Sir Walter Raleigh, " I know that he can labor
terribly.". Thackeray said of Macaulay : " He reads twenty
books to write a sentence ; he travels a hundred miles to
make a line of description." Observe how he lays out the
plan for his history, and then revises and re-revises and di-
vides the time for the work between reading and travelling,



ADDRESS OF HON. JOHN EATON. 13

that he may personally know all the books and all the places
before writing, and then proposes to get off' two pages a day,
and afterward devote a year to polishing, retouching, and
printing. He added to all the vast powers with which
nature had endowed him patient, minute, and persistent dili-
gence. He answered to Pope's precept that a good writer
must be a good blotter. Woodrow observes of one of his
compositions that scarcely five consecutive lines in any one
of Macaulay's minutes win be found unmarked by blots or
corrections. Follow him in working up the battle of the
Boyne, his visits, his notes, actually spending nineteen work-
ing days over thirty octavo pages and then dissatisfied with
the result. Fortunate, if this is understood to be the price
of supremacy in any art. Leonardo da Vinci would walk
the whole length of Milan that he might improve a single
tint in his picture of the Last Supper. Napoleon would con-
sult his army returns in the sleepless hours of night, and
during the overture of the opera would study problems in
the movements of his armies. The spirit of toil is their all
conquering power, while with purity of motive and fidelity
of method their heads are not troubled with the snakes of
Orestes or the "bricks" of the American debauchee. No
duty can call them too quickly, or require them to wait too
long or sacrifice too much. In £heir relations to others
they accord the fairness and charity they expect ; their ani-
mosity, or jealousy, or anger, or other evil passions, if stirred
within them, are tempered with the thought of their supreme
obligation to what is right, and the conviction that human
life is a cooperation, a correlation of forces, in which we all
serve by turn. We drink a mingled cup, but recognize
order as the first law of all that is good.

One plants, another waters. An incident in Newton's
life fitly illustrates this better spirit and method. His best
efforts in demonstrating his theory of gravitation, by calcu-
lating the revolutions of the moon on the basis of the
earth's radius, as then accepted, were unsuccessful, and he



14 ROANOKE COLLEGE.

put aside his papers for sixteen years, until, receiving in-
formation of a French colleague's more accurate measure-
ment of the earth, he resumed his calculations and success-
fully verified the result.

They give light and accept it ; their honor lies not in
their titles or lack of them, not in the noise, or lack of it,
that attends their position. '

However humble their sphere, they make that daily ad-
vancement in character and in the condition of their toil
which affords them the essential joys of triumph. From the
most indifferent source may come their greatest lesson, their
highest reward.

They recall that the royal associate Naaman received
from the humble Hebrew servant the word that led him to
the cure of his leprosy.

Buffon, after long years of the severest study, was led,
by the inspection of marine yet inland shells which he
found different from species then known to be inhabiting
the earth, to that idea of infinite time containing successive


1

Online LibraryR.L. Polk & CoPolk's San Francisco (San Francisco County, Calif.) city directory (Volume 1968) → online text (page 1 of 2)