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The study of English literature : three essays. I. The study of literature, by John Morley. II. Hints on the study of English literature, by Henry J. Nicoll. III. The study of English literature, by Leslie Stephen online

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LIBRARY

OF THE



UNivERSitY OF CALIFORNIA.

v & \ N

X
Class ^






THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LITERHTURE.



THREE ESSAYS.



I. THE STUDY OF LITERATURE.

By JOHN MORLEY.

II. HINTS ON THE STUDY OF ENGLISH

LITERATURE.

By HENRY J. NICOLL.

III. THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LITER A-

'TURE.

By LESLIE STEPHEN.



WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
BY

ALBERT F. BLAISDELL,

AUTHOR OF " THE STUDY OF ENGLISH CLASSICS," " FIRST STEPS
WITH AMERICAN AND BRITISH AUTHORS," ETC.



BOSTON:

WILLARD SMALL, PUBLISHER,

No. 24 FRANKLIN STREET.

1902.



PRESS OF

ALFRED MUDGE & SON,
BOSTON.



CONTENTS.



PAGE

I. THE STUDY OF LITERATURE. AN

ADDRESS BY JOHN MORLEY 3



II. HINTS ON THE STUDY OF ENG-
LISH LITERATURE. HENRY Ni-
COLL'S INTRODUCTION TO "LANDMARKS
OF ENGLISH LITERATURE " 43

III. THE STUDY OF ENGLISH LITERA-
TURE. AN ADDRESS BY LESLIE STE-
PHEN 71




INTRODUCTION.



SINCE the publication of a series of
articles two years ago in the London Pall
Mall Gazette and other periodicals on the
"Best Hundred Books," the discussion
has branched off on to the subject of
English literature. The leading English
periodicals have furnished one or more
articles for the discussion. Of the note-
worthy contributions, two have attracted
the attention of students of literature,
both from the reputation of the authors
and the real worth of their literary pro-
ductions. We refer to the annual address
of last year, given by John Morley to the
students of the London Society for the
Extension of University Teaching, Feb.
26, 1887, and a lecture delivered by Leslie
Stephen to the Students' Association of
St. Andrews, March 26, 1887.

The text of these two addresses has
been given in full in the succeeding pages.



2 INTRODUCTION.

Such men as Morley and Stephen do not
lecture unless they have something to say.
What they have to say on English litera-
ture is of special weight, for they have
made it a life-long study. Hence these
addresses are scholarly, crisp, and inter-
esting. To these two articles we have
added a third, " Hints on the Study of
English Literature," by Henry J. Nicoll,
the introductory chapter to his excellent
text-book called "Landmarks of English
Literature" This was written several
years ago, but it is of special interest to
students in connection with the two ad-
dresses.

Such notes have been added as will
serve to make the text more easily under-
stood by the general reader. It is to be
hoped that the three articles will be help-
ful and stimulating to teachers and stu-
dents of English literature.

ALBERT F. BLAISDELL
PROVIDENCE, R. I., August, 1888.



UNIVE, -

OF

s^L;r



ON THE

STUDY OF LITERATURE

THE ANNUAL ADDRESS

10 THE STUDENTS OF THE LONDON SOCIETY FOR

THE EXTENSION OF UNIVERSITY TEACHING,

DELIVERED AT THE MANSION HOUSE,

FEBRUARY 26, 1887

BY JOHN MORLEY 1



WHEN my friend Mr. Goschen 2 invited
me to discharge the duty which has fal-
len to me this afternoon I confess that I
complied with very great misgivings. He
desired me to say something, if I could,
on the literary side of education. Now,
it is almost impossible and I think those

1 The Right Honorable John Morley was born in 1838, gradu-
ated at Oxford and is a lawyer by profession. He was editor of the
Fortnightly Review from 1867 to 1882, of the Pall Mall Gazette
from 1880 to 1883, and of Macntillarfs Magazine from 1883 to
1885. On the formation of Gladstone's Home Rule Cabinet in 1886,
Mr. Morley was made Chief Secretary for Ireland. He has been a
prominent member of the House of Parliament. Mr. Morley has
made many and notable contributions to literature. Among them,
are "Edward Burke" "Voltaire," "Rousseau," and "Richard
Cobden." He is the editor of the well known " English Men of
Letters Series."

2 The Right Honorable George Joachim Goschen, Chancellor of
the Exchequer, born in 1831 and graduated at Oxford. He has
written largely on financial questions.



4 ON THE STUDY

who know most of literature will be read-
iest to agree with me to say anything
new in recommendation of literature in a
scheme of education. But, as tax-payers
know, when the Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer levies a contribution, he is not a
person to be trifled with. I have felt,
moreover, that Mr. Goschen has worked
with such extreme zeal and energy for so
many years on behalf of this good cause,
that anybody whom he considered able to
render him any co-operation, owed it to
him in its fullest extent. The Lord May-
or has been kind enough to say that I am
especially qualified to speak on English
literature. I must, however, remind the
Lord Mayor that I have strayed from lit-
erature into the region of politics; and I
am not at all sure that such a journey con-
duces to the soundness of one's judgment
on literary subjects, or adds much to the
force of one's arguments on behalf of lit-
erary study. Politics are a field where
action is one long second-best, and where
the choice constantly lies between two
blunders. Nothing can be more unlike in
aim, in ideals, in method, and in matter,
than are literature and politics. I have,
however, determined to do the best that I
can ; and I feel how great an honor it is
to be invited to partake in a movement
which I do not scruple to call one of the



OF LITERATURE. 5

most important of all those now taking
place in English society.

What is the object of the movement? 1
What do the promoters aim at ? I take
it that what they aim at is to bring the
very best teaching that the country can
afford, through the hands of the most
thoroughly competent men, within the
reach of every class of the community.
Their object is to give to the many that
sound, systematic, and methodical knowl-
edge, which has hitherto been the privilege
of the few who can afford the time and
money to go to Oxford and Cambridge ; to
diffuse the fertilizing waters of intellect-
ual knowledge from their great and copious
fountain heads at the Universities by a
thousand irrigating channels over the whole
of our busy, indomitable land. Gentlemen,
this a most important point. Goethe said
that nothing is more frightful than a
teacher who only knows what his scholars
are intended to know. We may depend
upon it that the man that knows his own
subject most thoroughly, is most likely to
excite interest about it in the minds of
other people. We hear, perhaps, more
often than we like, that we live in a dem-
ocratic age. It is true enough, and I can
conceive nothing more democratic than
such a movement as this, nothing which

1 See Appendix.



6 ON THE STUDY

is more calculated to remedy defects that
are incident to democracy, more thorough-
ly calculated to raise democracy to heights
which other forms of government and old-
er orderings of society have never yet at-
tained. No movement can be more wise^
ly democratic than one which seeks to\
give to the northern miner or the London
artisan knowledge as good and as accurate
though he may not have so much of it, as
if he were a student at Oxford or Cam-
bridge. Something of the same kind may
be said of the new frequency with which
scholars of great eminence and consum-
mate accomplishments, like Jowett, Lang,
Myers, Leaf, and others, bring all their
scholarship to bear, in order to provide
for those who are not able, or do not care,
to read old classics in the originals, bril-
liant and faithful renderings of them in
our own tongue. Nothing but good, I j
am persuaded, can come of all these at-
tempts to connect learning with the living
forces of society, and to make industrial
England a sharer in the classic tradition
of the lettered world.
~ f I am well aware that there is an appre-

/hension that the present extraordinary zeal
for education in all its forms elementary,
secondary, and higher may bear in its
train some evils of its own. It is said that
nobody in England is now content to prac-



OF LITERATURE. *J

tise a handicraft, and that every one seeks
to be at least a clerk. It is said that the
moment is even already at hand when a
great deal of practical distress does and
must result from this tendency. I remem-
ber years ago that in the United States I
heard something of the same kind. All I
can say is, that this tendency, if it exists,
is sure to right itself. In no case can the
spread of so mischievous a notion as that
knowledge and learning ought not to come
within the reach of handicraftsmen, be at-
tributed to literature. There is a famous
passage in which Pericles, the great Athe-
nian, describing the glory of the commu-
nity of which he was so far-shining a mem-
ber, says, "We at Athens are lovers of the
beautiful, yet simple in our tastes ; we cul->
tivate the mind without loss of manliness."/
But then remember that after all Athenian
society rested on a basis of slavery, Athen-
ian citizens were able to pursue their love
of the beautiful, and their simplicity, and
to cultivate their minds without loss of
manliness, because the drudgery and hard
work and rude service of society were per-
formed by those who had no share in all
these good things. With us, happily, it is
very different We are all more or less
upon a level. Our object is and it is that
which in my opinion raises us infinitely
above the Athenian level to bring the



ON THE STUDY

Periclean ideas of beauty and simplicity
and cultivation of the mind within the
reach of those who do the drudgery and
the service and rude work of the world.
And it can be done do not let us be
afraid it can be done without in the least
degree impairing the skill of our handi-
craftsmen or the manliness of our national
life. It can be done without blunting or
numbing the practical energies of our peo-
ple.

I know they say that if you meddle with
literature you are less qualified to take
your part in practical affairs. You run a
risk of being labelled a dreamer and a
theorist. But, after all, if we take the very
highest form of all practical energy the
governing of the country all this talk is
ludicrously untrue. I venture to say that
in the present Government, from the Prime
Minister downwards, there are three men
at least, who are perfectly capable of earn-
ing their bread as men of letters. In the
late Government, besides the Prime Minis-
ter, there were also three men of letters,
and I have never heard that those three
were greater simpletons than their neigh-
bors. There is a Commission now at work
on a very important and abstruse subject.
I am told that no one there displays so
acute an intelligence of the difficulties that
are to be met, and the important argu-



OF LITERATURE. 9

ments that are brought foward, and the
practical ends to be achieved, as the chair-
man of the Commission, who is not what
is called a practical man, but a man of
study, literature, theoretical speculation,
and university training. Oh no, gentle-
men, some of the best men of business in
the country are men who have had the
best collegian's equipment, and are the
most accomplished bookmen.

It is true that we cannot bring to Lon-
don with this movement, the indefinable
charms that haunU the gray and venerable
quadrangles of Oxford and Cambridge. We
cannot take you into the stately halls, the
silent and venerable libraries, the solemn
chapels, the studious old-world gardens.
We cannot surround you with all those
elevated memorials and sanctifying associa-
tions of scholars and poets, of saints and
sages, that march in glorious procession
through the ages, and make of Oxford and
Cambridge a dream of music for the in-
ward ear, and of delight for the contempla-
tive eye. We cannot bring all that to you;
but I hope, and I believe, it is the object
of those who are more intimately connect-
ed with the society than I have been, that
every partaker of the benefits of this so-
ciety will feel himself and herself in living
connection with those two famous centres,
and feel conscious of the links that bind



IO ON THE STUDY

the modern to the older England. One
of the most interesting facts mentioned in
your report this year and I am particular-
ly interested in it for personal reasons is
that last winter four prizes of 10 each
were offered in the Northumberland mi-
ning district, one each to the male and
female student in every term who should
take the highest place in the examination,
in order to enable them to spend a month
in Cambridge in the long vacation for the
purpose of carrying on in the laboratories
and museums the work in which they had
been engaged in the winter at the local
centre. That is not a step taken by our
society; but Cambridge University has
inspired and worked out the scheme, and
I am not without hope that from London
some of those who attend these classes
may be able to go and have a taste of
what Oxford and Cambridge are like. I
like to think how poor scholars three or
four hundred years ago used to flock to
Oxford, regardless of cold, privation, and
hardship, so that they might satisfy their
hunger and thirst for knowledge. I like
to think of them in connection with this
movement. I like to think of them in
connection with students like those miners
in Northumberland, whom I know well,
and who are mentioned in the report of
the Cambridge Extension Society as, after



OF LITERATURE. II

a day's hard work in the pit, walking four
or five miles through cold and darkness
and rough roads to hear a lecture, and
then walking back again the same four or
five miles. You must look for the same en-
thusiasm, the same hunger and thirst for
knowledge, that presided over the founda-
tion of the Universities many centuries
ago, to carry on this work, to strengthen
and stimulate men's faith in knowledge,
their hopes from it, and their zeal for it.

The progress of the Society has been
most remarkable. 1 In 1876 there were, I
find, five centres and seven courses. This
year there are thirty-one centres and sixty
courses. But to get a survey of this move-
ment, you must look not only at London,
but at the Oxford and Cambridge societies.
You find there that Oxford has twenty-two
centres and twenty-nine courses, and Cam-
bridge has fifty centres and eighty courses.
I say that the thought of all this activity,
and all the good of every kind, social,
moral, and intellectual, which is being
done by means of it, is in the highest de-
gree encouraging, and not only encourag-
ing, but calculated to inspire in every man
who has ever felt the love and thirst for
knowledge, the deepest interest in the
movement and the warmest wishes for its
farther success.

1 See Table in Appendix,



12 ON THE STUDY

Speaking now of the particular kind of
knowledge of which I am going to say a
few words how does literature fare in
these important operations? Last term
out of fifty-seven courses in the Cambridge
scheme there were ten on literature ; out
of thirty-one of our courses, seven were
on literature. Well, I am bound to say
I think that that position for literature in
the scheme is very reasonably satisfactory.
I have made some inquiries, since I knew
that I was going to speak here, in the
great popular centres of industry in the
North and in Scotland as to the popularity
of literature as a subject of teaching. I
find very much what I should have ex-
pected. The professors all tell very much
the same story. This is, that it is extreme-
ly hard to interest any considerable number
of people in subjects that seem to have no
direct bearing upon the practical work of
every-day life. There is a disinclination to
study literature for its own sake, or to study
anything which does not seem to have a
visible and direct influence upon the daily
work of life. The nearest approach to a
taste for literature is a certain demand for
instruction in history with a little flavor
of contemporary politics. In short, the
demand for instruction in literature is
strictly moderate. That is what men of
experience tell me, and we have to recog-



OF LITERATURE. 13

nise it. I cannot profess to be very much
surprised. Mr. Goschen, when he spoke
I think in Manchester some years ago,
said there were three motives which might
induce people to seek the higher education.
First, to obtain greater knowledge for
bread-winning purposes. From that point
of view science would be most likely to
feed the classes. Secondly, the improve-
ment of one's knowledge of political econ-
omy, and history, and facts bearing upon
the actual political work and life of the day.
Thirdly, and I am quite content to take
Mr. Goschen's enumeration, was the de-
sire of knowledge as a luxury to brighten
life and kindle thought. I am very much
afraid that, in the ordinary temper of our
people, and the ordinary mode of looking
at life, the last of these motives savors a
little of self-indulgence, sentimentality,
and other objectionable qualities. There
is a great stir in the region of physical
science at this moment, and it is, in my
judgment, likely to take a chief and fore-
most place in the field of intellectual ac-
tivity. After the severity with which
science was for so many ages treated by
literature, I cannot wonder that science now
retaliates, now mightily exalt herself, and
thrusts literature down into the lower place.
I only have to say on the relative claims of
science and literature what the great Dr.



14 ON THE STUDY

Arnold said: "If one might wish for im-
possibilities, I might then wish that my'
children might be well versed in physical
science, but in due subordination to the
fulness and freshness of their knowledge
on moral subjects. This, however, I be-
lieve cannot be ; wherefore, rather than
have it the principal thing in my sons'
mind, I would gladly have him think that
the sun went round the earth, and that
the stars were so many spangles set in the
bright blue firmament." 1 I am glad to
think that one may know something of
these matters, and yet not believe that
the sun goes round the earth. But of the
two, I, for one, am not prepared to accept
the rather enormous pretensions that are
nowadays sometimes made for physical
science as the be-all and end-all of educa-
tion.

Next to this we know that there is a
great stir on behalf of technical and com-
mercial education. The special needs of
our time and country compel us to pay a
particular attention to this subject. Here
knowledge is business, and we shall never
hold our industrial pre-eminence, with all
that hangs upon that pre-eminence, unless
we push on technical and commercial edu-
cation with all our might. But there is
and now I come nearer my subject-

1 Stanley's Life of Arnold, ii. 31.



OF LITERATURE. 15

third kind of knowledge which, too, in its
own way is business. There is the culti-
vation of the sympathies and imagination,
the quickening of the moral sensibilities,
an4 the enlargement of the moral vision.
(The great need in our modern culture, I
Which is scientific in method, rationalistic /
in spirit, and utilitarian in purpose, is to
find some effectivejierency for cherishing ^
within us the ideajTy That is, I take it,
the business anoTmnction of literatun_
Literature alone wilLnp.t.make a.^ood citi-
zen ; it will not make a good man. His-
tory affords too many proofs that scholar-
ship and learning by no means purge men
of acrimony, of vanity, of arrogance, of a
murderous tenacity about trifles. Mere
scholarship and learning and the knowl-
edge of books do not by any means arrest
and dissolve all the travelling acids of the
human system. Nor would I pretend for
a moment that literature can be any sub-
stitute for life and action. Burke said,
"What is the education of the generality
of the world ? Reading a parcel of books ?
No ! Restraint and discipline, examples of
virtue and justice, these are what form
the education of the world." That is pro-
foundly true ; it is life that is the great
educator. But the parcel of books, if they
are well chosen, reconcile us to this disci-
pline ; they interpret this virtue and justice ;



1 6 ON THE STUDY

they awaken within us the diviner mind,
and rouse us to a consciousness of what
is best in others and ourselves.

As a matter of rude fact, there is much
to make us question whether the spread
of literature, as now understood, does
awaken the diviner mind. The figures of
the books that are taken out from public
libraries are not all that we could wish.
I am not going to inflict many figures on
you, but there is one set of figures that
distresses book-lovers, I mean the enormous
place that fiction occupies in the books
taken out. In one great town in the North
prose fiction forms 76 per cent of the
books taken out. In another great town
prose fiction is 82 per cent ; in a third 84
per cent ; and in a fourth 67 per cent. I
had the curiosity to see what happens in
the libraries of the United States ; and
there supposing the system of catalogu-
ing and enumeration to be the same they
are a trifle more serious in their taste than
we are ; where our average is about 70 per
cent, at a place like Chicago it is only
about 60 per cent. In Scotland, too, it
ought to be said that they have what I
call a better average in respect to prose
fiction. There is a larger demand for
books called serious than in England.
And I suspect, though I do not know, that
one reason why there is in Scotland a



OF LITERATURE. 1?

greater demand for the more serious classes
of literature than fiction, is that in Scotch
Universities there are what we have not in
England well-attended chairs of litera-
ture, systematically and methodically stud-
ied. Do not let it be supposed that I at
all underrate the value of fiction. On the
contrary, I think when a man has done a
hard day's work, he can do nothing better
than fall to and read the novels of Walter
Scott or Miss Austen, or some of our living
writers. I am rather a voracious reader of
fiction myself. I do not, therefore, point to
it as a reproach or as a source of discour-
agement that fiction takes so large a place
in the objects of literary interest. I only
insist that it is much too large, and we
should be better pleased if it sank to about
40 per cent, and what is classified as gen-
eral literature rose from 13 to 25 per cent.
There are other complaints of literature
as an object of interest in this country. I
was reading the other day an essay by the
late head of my old college at Oxford a
very learned and remarkable man Mark
Pattison, 1 who was a book-lover if ever
there was one. Now, he complained that
the bookseller's bill in the ordinary Eng-

*Mark Pattison ( 1813-1884) the distinguished Rector of Oriel
College, Oxford, and famous scholar, made many valuable con-
tributions to literature. He is well known for his writings on
John Milton.



1 8 ON THE STUDY

lish middle class family is shamefully small.
He thought it monstrous that a man who
is earning .1000 a year should spend less
than i a week on books that is to say,
less than a shilling in the pound per an-
num. Well, I know that Chancellors of
the Exchequer take from us 8d. or 6d. in
the pound, and I am not sure that they
always use it as wisely as if they left us to
spend it on books. Still, a shilling in the
pound to be spent on books by a clerk
who earns a couple of hundred pounds a
year, or by a workman who earns a quarter
of that sum, is rather more, I think, than
can be reasonably expected. I do not
believe for my part that a man really
needs to have a great many books. Patti-
son said that nobody who respected him-
self could have less than 1000 volumes.
He pointed out that you can stack 1000
octavo volumes in a book-case that shall
be 13 feet by 10 feet, and 6 inches deep,
and that everybody has that space at dis-
posal. Still the point is not that men
should have a great many books, but that
they should have the right ones, and that
they should use those that they have. We
may all agree in lamenting that there are
so many houses even some of consider-
able social pretension where you will
not find a good atlas, a good dictionary,
or a good cyclopaedia of reference. What



OF LITERATURE. 19

is still more lamentable, in a good many
more houses where these books are, they
are never referred to, or opened. That is
a very discreditable fact, because I defy
anybody to take up a copy of the Times
newspaper and I speak in the presence
of gentlemen well up in all that is going
on in the world and not come upon
something in it, upon which they would
be wise to consult an atlas, dictionary, or
cyclopaedia of reference.

I do not think for a single moment that


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Online LibraryJohn MorleyThe study of English literature : three essays. I. The study of literature, by John Morley. II. Hints on the study of English literature, by Henry J. Nicoll. III. The study of English literature, by Leslie Stephen → online text (page 1 of 7)