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Catholic University should put before it, as its great
object, to make its students " gentlemen," still to-
make them something or other is its great object, and
not simply to protect the interests and advance the
dominion of Science. If, then, this may be taken for
granted, as I think it may, the only point which
remains to be settled is, whether I have formed a pro-
bable conception of the sort of benefit which the Holy
See has intended to confer on Catholics who speak the


English tongue by recommending to the Irish Hier-
archy the establishment of a University ; and this I
now proceed to consider.

Here, then, it is natural to ask those who are in-
terested in the question, whether any better interpreta-
tion of the recommendation of the Holy See can be
given than that which I have suggested in this Volume.
Certainly it does not seem to me rash to pronounce
that, whereas Protestants have great advantages of
education in the Schools, Colleges, and Universities
of the United Kingdom, our ecclesiastical rulers have
it in purpose that Catholics should enjoy the like advan-
tages, whatever they are, to the full. I conceive they
view it as prejudicial to the interests of Religion that
there should be any cultivation of mind bestowed upon
Protestants which is not given to their own youth also.
As they wish their schools for the poorer and middle
classes to be at least on a par with those of Protestants,
they contemplate the same object also as regards that
higher education which is given to comparatively the
few. Protestant youths, who can spare the time,
continue their studies till the age of twenty-one or
twenty-two ; thus they employ a time of life all-
important and especially favourable to mental culture.
I conceive that our Prelates are impressed with the
fact and its consequences, that a youth who ends his
education at seventeen is no match (ctterit paribus} for
one who ends it at twenty-one.

All classes indeed of the community are impressed
with a fact so obvious as this. The consequence is,
that Catholics who aspire to be on a level with Protestants
in discipline and refinement of intellect have recourse
to Protestant Universities to obtain what they cannot
find at home. Assuming (as the Rescripts from Pro-


paganda allow me to do) that Protestant education is
inexpedient for our youth we see here an additional
reason why those advantages, whatever they are, which
Protestant communities dispense through the medium
of Protestantism should be accessible to Catholics in a
Catholic form.

What are these advantages ? I repeat, they are
in one word the culture of the intellect." Robbed,
oppressed, and thrust aside, Catholics in these islands
have not been in a condition for centuries to attempt
the sort of education which is necessary for the man
of the world, the statesman, the landholder, or the
opulent gentleman. Their legitimate stations, duties,
employments, have been taken from them, and the
qualifications withal, social and intellectual, which are
necessary both for reversing the forfeiture and for
availing themselves of the reversal. The time is come
when this moral disability must be removed. Our
desideratum is, not the manners and habits of gentle-
men ; these can be, and are, acquired in various other
ways, by good society, by foreign travel, by the innate
grace and dignity of the Catholic mind ; but the
force, the steadiness, the comprehensiveness and the
versatility of intellect, the command over our own
powers, the instinctive just estimate of things as they
pass before us, which sometimes indeed is a natural
gift, but commonly is not gained without much effort
and the exercise of years.

This is real cultivation of mind ; and I do not deny
that v the characteristic excellences of a gentleman are
included in it." Nor need we be ashamed that they
should be, since the Poet long ago wrote, that " In-
genuas didicisse fideliter artes, Emollit mores." Cer-
tainly a liberal education does manifest itself in a


courtesy, propriety, and polish of word and action,
which is beautiful in itself, and acceptable to others ;
but it does much more. It brings the mind into form,
for the mind is like the body. Boys outgrow their
shape and their strength ; their limbs have to be knit
together, and their constitution needs tone. Mistaking
animal spirits for nerve, and over-confident in their
health, ignorant -what they can bear and how to
manage themselves, they are immoderate and extrava-
gant; and fall into sharp sicknesses. This is an
emblem of their minds ; at first they have no
principles laid down within them as a foundation for
the intellect to build upon ; they have no discriminat-
ing convictions and no grasp of consequences. In con-
sequence they talk at random, if they talk much, and
cannot help being flippant, or what is emphatically
called "young" They are merely dazzled by phe-
nomena, instead of perceiving things as they are.
v It were well if none remained boys all their lives ;
but what is more common than the sight of grown
men, talking on political or moral or religious subjects,
in that ofthand, idle way, which we signify by the word
unreal? "That they simply do not know what they
are talking about" is the spontaneous silent remark
of any man of sense who hears them. Hence such
persons have no difficulty in contradicting themselves
in successive sentences, without being conscious of it.
Hence others, whose defect in intellectual training is
more latent, have their most unfortunate crotchets, as
they are called, or hobbies, which deprive them of the
influence which their estimable qualities would other-
wise secure. Hence others can never look straight
before them, never see the point, and have no difficulties
in the most difficult subjects. Others are hopelessly


obstinate and prejudiced, and return the next moment
to their old opinions, after they have been driven
from them, without even an attempt to explain why.
Others are so intemperate and intractable that there is-
no greater calamity for a good cause than that they
should get hold of it. It is very plain from the very
particulars I have mentioned that, in this delineation of
intellectual infirmities, I am drawing, not from Catho-
lics, but from the world at large ; I am referring to an
evil which is forced upon us in every railway carriage,
in every coffee-room or table d'hote, in every mixed
company, an evil, however, to which Catholics are
not less exposed than the rest of mankind.

* When the intellect has once been properly trained
and formed to have a connected view or grasp of
things, it will display its powers with more or less
effect according to its particular quality and measure
in the individual.'' In the case of most men it makes
itself felt in the good sense, sobriety of thought,
reasonableness, candour, self-command, and steadiness
of view, which characterise it. In some it will have
developed habits of business, power of influencing
others, and sagacity. In others it will elicit the talent
of philosophical speculation, and lead the mind forward
to eminence in this or that intellectual department.
'Jn all it will be a faculty of entering with comparative
ease into any subject of thought, and of taking up with
aptitude any science or profession. All this it will be
and will do in a measure, even when the mental forma-
tion be made after a model but partially true ; for, as
far as effectiveness goes, even false views of things
have more influence and inspire more respect than no
views at all. Men who fancy they see what is not are
more energetic, and make their way better, than those


who see nothing ; and so the undoubting infidel, the
fanatic, the bigot, are able to do much, while the
mere hereditary Christian, who has never realised the
truths which he holds, is unable to do anything. But,
if consistency of view can add so much strength
even to error, what may it not be expected to furnish
to the dignity, the energy, and the influence of Truth !

Some one, however, will perhaps object that I am n
but advocating that spurious philosophism, which shows
itself in what, for want of a word, I may call " viewi-
ness," when I speak so much of the formation, and
consequent grasp, of the intellect. It may be said V 1 -:
that the theory of University Education, which I have
been delineating, if acted upon, would teach youths
nothing soundly or thoroughly, and would dismiss
them with nothing better than brilliant general views
about all things whatever.

This indeed would be a most serious objection,
if well founded, to what I have advanced in this
Volume, and would gain my immediate attention,
had I any reason to think that I could not rempve
it at once, by a simple explanation of what I consider
the true mode of educating, were this the place to do
so. But these Discourses are directed simply to the
consideration of the alms and principles of Education.
Suffice it, then, to say here, that I hold very strongly
that 'the first step in intellectual training is to impress
upon a boy's mind the idea of science, method, order,
principle, and system ; of rule and exception, of rich-
ness and harmony. This is commonly and excellently
done by making him begin with Grammar; nor can
too great accuracy, or minuteness and subtlety of
teaching be used towards him, as his faculties expand,
with this simple view. Hence it is that critical


scholarship is so important a discipline for him when
he is leaving school for the University. A second
science is the Mathematics : this should follow Gram-
mar, still with the same object, viz., to give him a
Ap- conception of development and arrangement from and
ground a common centre. Hence it is that Chronology
and Geography are so necessary for him, when he reads
History, which is otherwise little better than a story-
book. Hence, too, Metrical Composition, when he
reads Poetry ; in order to stimulate his powers into
action in every practicable way, and to prevent a merely
passive reception of images and ideas which in that
case are likely to pass out of mind as soon as they have
entered it. s Let him once gain this habit of method,
of starting from fixed points, of making his ground
good as he goes, of distinguishing what he knows from
what he does not know, and I conceive he will be
gradually initiated into the largest and truest philoso-
phical views, and will feel nothing but impatience and
disgust at the random theories and imposing sophistries
and dashing paradoxes, which carry away half- formed
and superficial intellects.*

^ Such parti-coloured ingenuities are indeed one of the
chief evils of the day, and men of real talent are not
slow to minister to them. An intellectual man, as the
world now conceives of him, is one who is full of
" views " on all subjects of philosophy, on all matters
of the day. It is almost thought a disgrace not to
have a view at a moment's notice on any question
from the Personal Advent to the Cholera or Mes-
merism. This is owing in great measure to the
necessities of periodical literature, now so much in
request. Every quarter of a year, every month, every
day, there must be a supply, for the gratification of the


public, of new and luminous theories on the subjects
of religion, foreign politics, home politics, civil eco-
nomy, finance, trade, agriculture, emigration, and the
colonies. Slavery, the gold-fields, German philo-
sophy, the French Empire, Wellington, Peel, Ireland,
must all be practised on, day after day, by what are
called original thinkers. As the great man's guest
must produce his good stories or songs at the evening
banquet, as the platform orator exhibits his telling
facts at midday, so the journalist lies under the stern
obligation of extemporising his lucid views, leading
ideas, and nutshell truths for the breakfast table.
The very nature of periodical literature, broken into
small wholes, and demanded punctually to an hour,
involves this extempore philosophy. "Almost all
the Ramblers," says Boswell of Johnson, " were
written just as they were wanted for the press ; he
sent a certain portion of the copy for an essay, and
wrote the remainder while the former part of it was
printing." Few men have the gifts of Johnson, who
to great vigour and resource of intellect, when it was
fairly roused, united a rare common-sense and a con-
scientious regard for veracity, which preserved him
from flippancy or extravagance in writing. Few men
are Johnsons ; yet how many men at this day are
assailed by incessant demands on their mental powers,
which only a productiveness like his could suitably
supply ! There is a demand for a reckless originality
of thought, and a sparkling plausibility of argument,
which he would have despised, even if he could have
displayed ; a demand for crude theory and unsound
philosophy, rather than none at all. It is a sort of
repetition of the " Quid novi ? " of the Areopagus,
and it must have an answer. Men must be found


who can treat, where it is necessary, like the Athenian
. sophist, de omnl scibili,

*' Grammaticus, Rhetor, Geometres, Pictor, Aliptes,
Augur, Schcenobates, Medicus, Magus, omnia novit."

v I am speaking of such writers with a feeling of real
sympathy for men who are under the rod of a cruel
slavery'. I have never indeed been in such circum-
stances myself, nor in the temptations which they
involve ; but most men who have had to do with
composition must know the distress which at times it
* occasions them to have to write a distress sometimes
so keen and so specific that it resembles nothing else
than bodily pain. That pain is the token of the wear
and tear of mind ; and, if works done comparatively
at leisure involve such mental fatigue and exhaustion,
what must be the toil of those whose intellects are to
be' flaunted daily before the public in full dress, and
that dress ever new and varied, and spun, like the
silkworm's, out of themselves ! Still, whatever true
sympathy we may feel for the ministers of this dearly
purchased luxury, and whatever sense we may have
of the great intellectual power which the literature in
question displays, we cannot honestly close our eyes
to the evil.

One other remark suggests itself, which is the last
I shall think it necessary to make. The authority,
which in former times was lodged in Universities,
now resides in very great measure in that literary
world, as it is called, to which I have been alluding.
This is not satisfactory, if, as no one can deny, its
teaching be so offhand, so ambitious, so changeable.
It increases the seriousness of the mischief, that so
very large a portion of its writers are anonymous, for


irresponsible power can never be anything but a great
evil ; and, moreover, that, even when they are known,
they can give no better guarantee for the philosophical v
truth of their principles than their popularity at the
moment, and their happy conformity in ethical char-
acter to the age which admires them. Protestants,
however, may do as they will : it is a matter for their
own consideration ; but at least it concerns us that our
own literary tribunals and oracles of moral duty should
bear a graver character. NAt least v it is a matter of
deep solicitude to Catholic Prelates that their people
should be taught a wisdom, safe from the excesses and
vagaries of individuals, embodied in institutions which
have stood the trial and received the sanction of ages,
and administered by men who have no need to be
anonymous, as being supported by their consistency
with their predecessors and with each other. <

Nov. zi, 1852.


The Scope & Nature of
University Education



addressing myself, gentlemen, to the considera-
tion of a question which has excited so much
interest, and elicited so much discussion at the
present day, as that of University Education, I feel
some explanation is due from me for supposing, after
such high ability and wide experience have been brought
to bear upon it, that any field remains for the additional
labours either of a disputant or of an inquirer. If,
nevertheless, I still venture to ask permission to con-
tinue the discussion, already so protracted, it is because
the subject of Liberal Education, and of the principles
on which it must be conducted, has ever had a hold
upon my own mind; and because I have lived the
greater part of my life in a place which has all that
time been occupied in a series of controversies among
its inmates and with strangers, and of measures, experi-
mental or definitive, bearing upon it.' About fifty years
since, the Protestant University, of which I was so
long a member, after a century of inactivity, at length



was roused, at a time when (as I may say) it was
giving no education at all to the youth committed to
its keeping, to a sense of the responsibilities which its
profession and its station involved, and it presents to
us the singular example of an heterogeneous and an in-
dependent body of men, setting about a work of self-
reformation, not from any pressure of public opinion,
but because it was fitting and right to undertake it.
Its initial efforts, begun and carried on amid many
obstacles, were met from without, as often happens
in such cases, by ungenerous and jealous criticisms,
which, at the very moment that they were urged, were
beginning to be unjust. Controversy did but bring out
more clearly to its own apprehension the views on
which its reformation was proceeding, and throw them
into a philosophical form. The course of beneficial
change made progress, and what was at first but the
result of individual energy and an act of the academical
corporation, gradually became popular, and was taken
up and carried out by the separate collegiate bodies,
of which the University is composed. This was the
first stage of the controversy. Years passed away, and
then political adversaries arose against it, and the sys-
tem of education which it had established was a second
time assailed ; but still, since that contest was conducted
for the most part through the medium, not of political
acts, but of treatises and pamphlets, it happened as before
that the threatened dangers, in the course of their re-
pulse, did but afford fuller development and more exact
delineation to the principles of which the University
was the representative.

In the former of these two controversies the charge
brought against its studies was their remoteness from
the occupations and duties of life, to which they arc



the formal introduction, or, in other words, their *'-
utility ; in the latter, it was their connection with a par- '
ticular form of belief, or, in other words, their religious

Living then so long as a witness, though hardly as an
actor, in these scenes of intellectual conflict, I am able, .^
gentlemen, to bear witness to views of University Educa-
tion, without authority indeed in themselves, but not
without value to a Catholic, and less familiar to him,
as I conceive, than they deserve to be. And, while
an argument originating in the controversies to which I
have referred, may be serviceable at this season to that
great cause in which we are here so especially inter-
ested, 'to me personally it will afford satisfaction of a ^
peculiar kind'; for, though it has been my lot for many
years to take a prominent, sometimes a presumptuous,
part in theological discussions, yet the natural turn of
my mind carries me off to trains of thought like those
which I am now about to open, which, important
though they be for Catholic objects, and admitting of
a Catholic treatment, are sheltered from the extreme
delicacy and peril which attach to disputations directly
bearing on the subject-matter of Divine Revelation.

There are several reasons why I should open the v^.V
discussion with a reference to the lessons with which v
past years have supplied me. One reason is this : It
would concern me, gentlemen, were I supposed to have
got up my opinions for the occasion. This, indeed,
would have been no reflection on me personally, sup-
posing I were persuaded of their truth, when at length
addressing myself to the inquiry ; but it would have
destroyed, of course, the force of my testimony, and
deprived such arguments, as I might adduce, of that
moral persuasiveness which attends on tried and sus-



tained conviction. It would have made me seem the
advocate, rather than the cordial and deliberate main-
tainer and witness, of the doctrines which I was to
support ; and, though it might be said to evidence the
faith I reposed in the practical judgment of the Church,
and the intimate concurrence of my own reason with
the course she had authoritatively sanctioned, and the
devotion with which I could promptly put myself at her
disposal, it would have cast suspicion on the validity
of reasonings and conclusions which rested on no in-
dependent inquiry, and appealed to no past experience.
In that case it might have been plausibly objected by
opponents that I was the serviceable expedient of an
emergency, and never could be more than ingenious
and adroit in the management of an argument which
was not my own, and which I was sure to forget again
as readily as I had mastered it. v But this is not so.
The views to which I have referred have grown
into my whole system of thought, and are, as it
were, part of myself. < Many changes has my mind
gone through : here it has known no variation or
vacillation of opinion, and though this by itself is no
proof of truth, it puts a seal upon conviction and is
a justification of earnestness and zeal. The prin-
ciples, which I am now to set forth under the
sanction of the Catholic Church, were my profession
at that early period of my life, when religion was to
me more a matter of feeling and experience than of
faith. They did but take greater hold upon me, as I
was introduced to the records of Christian Antiquity,
and approached in sentiment and desire to Catholicism ;
and my sense of their truth has been increased with
the events of every year since I have been brought
within its pale.



And here I am brought to a second and more im-
portant reason for referring, on this occasion, to the
conclusions at which Protestants have arrived on the
subject of Liberal Education ; and it is as follows :
Let it be observed, then, that the principles on which
I would conduct it are attainable, as I have already
implied, by the mere experience of life. They do not
come simply of theology ; they imply no supernatural
discernment ; they have no special connection with
Revelation ; they almost arise out of the nature of
the case ; they are dictated by merely human prudence
and wisdom, though a divine illumination be absent,
and they are recognised by common sense, even where
self-interest is not present to quicken it ; and, "there-
fore, though true, and just, and good in themselves,
they imply nothing whatever as to the religious profes-
sion of those who maintain them/ They may be held
by Protestants as well as by Catholics ; nay, there is
reason to anticipate that in certain times and places
they will be more thoroughly investigated, and better |
understood, and held more firmly by Protestants than !
by ourselves.

It is natural to expect this from the very circum-
stance that the philosophy of Education is founded on
truths in the natural order. Where the sun shines
bright, in the warm climate of the south, the natives
of the place know little of safeguards against cold and
wet. They have, indeed, bleak and piercing blasts ;
they have chill and pouring rain, but only now and
then, for a day or a week ; they bear the incon-
venience as they best may, but they have not made
it an art to repel it ; it is not worth their while ; the
science of calefaction and ventilation is reserved for
the north. ^It is in this way that Catholics stand



relatively to Protestants in the science of Education ;
Protestants depending on human means solely, are led
to make the most of them ^ their sole resource is to
use what they have ; " Knowledge is " their " power "
and nothing else ; they are the anxious cultivators of a
rugged soil. It is otherwise with us ; "fanes ceclderunt
mihi in praclaris" We have a goodly inheritance.
This is apt to cause us (I do not mean to rely too

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 3 of 22)