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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and
sLxty-seven, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.


The Baccalaureate Discourses in this volume were
addressed by Dr. Olin to the young men under his charge
during the last years, the Lectures during the last months,
of his life. The writing of the Lectures was his closing
li'terary labor, their delivery his final public utterance. A
precious legacy to students, in whose welfare he was most
deeply interested, their earnest words have in many in-
stances given permanent impressions to character, decided
direction to conduct. They embody his mature and com-
prehensive views in relation to mental and moral culture,
developed in the experience of nearly a quarter of a
century spent in college halls ; and their suggestions and
counsels deserve the careful consideration of the under-
graduates of the colleges of our land.

As there has been a special demand for the volume of
Dr. Olin's Works containing these lessons to young men
— lessons from their point and power entitled to take a
permanent plac^tin college literature — it has been thought
desirable to issue them in a form adapted to the library
of a student.


QL{)c Sljcorn anb |3racticc of Gcljolastk £ife.

(in seven lectures.)


Introductory Remarks. — All serious Pursuits have a recognized The-
ory. — Educated Intellect encroaches upon the Sphere of mere physi-
cal Energy. — Illustration. — Education a Science as vi'ell as an Art.
— An Acquaintance with the Theory essential to the Success of
the Teacher. — Still more so to the Student. — Involuntary Inmates
of a College. — Mental Aliment without mental Appetite. — Its Re-
sults. — Revolt from an odious Bondage. — Few youthful Defects
irretrievable. — Curative Discipline of a wise mental Regimen. —
Manly Resolutions and Efforts. — The Law of Habit. — Its Efficacy.
— It diminishes the Friction of Life, and is highly beneficent, but
despotic. — The Boy is Law-giver to the Man; hence the supreme
Importance of attending to the Formation of Habits. — No Antidote
for Offenses against our intellectual Nature. — The Season for sow-
ing no less important than the Soil. — Temptations of the young
Student to embrace fallacious Theories of academic Life Pago 9



Nature and proper Function of Motives. — Treatment of first Princi-
ples necessarily Metaphysical. — Arguments from no other Source
so luminous and satisfactory. — False Theories adopted by some
Students relative to their own Capabilities. — Causes of their adop-
tion : Indolence ; imperfect mastery of elementary Principles. —
The Remedy. — Various types of Mind. — Diflerence between Mo-
lives which do and which ought to control. — The power of Motive
not arbitrary. — Men have power to control the Motives that control
them. — Selection of the Motive Forces. — They should be pure, per-


manent, elevating. — Difference between voluntary and involuntary
Motives ; unworthy and inadequate Motives ; a desire to escape
more laborious Occupations; dread of Disgrace ; the gratification
of parental Pride ; Emulation ; Ambition : the two last, however,
not to be discarded as purely mischievous. — Ambition distinguish-
able from Emulation, but liable to the same Objection. — Character-
istics of an ambitious College-Student Page 23



Difficulties in the Student's Career not greater than they should be.—
A Mind not Insane or Imbecile is competent to overcome them. —
Analogy between tlie Cultivation of the Mental and the Moral Povi'-
ers. — The Dictates of Conscience. — Proper Incentives to a thor-
ough Education must fulfill two indispensable Conditions : Conge-
niality to the Mind and Permanency in their Influence. — A Desire
to develop and cultivate the Intellect. — The Connection of the Mo-
tive with the End of Intellectual Pursuits. — On this Principle, the
attempt to learn is of itself Success, and every Obstacle overcome
is a Triumph. — The Student is preparing not only for Temporal
Enjoyments, but for the Cycles of Eternal Being. — The Mental no
less than tiie Moral Character receives ineffaceable Impressions in
the present Life. — Curiosity as a Motive. — Its Function analogous
to that of the Appetite. — Its Suggestions always to be heeded. —
Difference in this Respect between a Wise Man and a Fool. — Cu-
riosity as tending to produce an earnest love of Truth for its own
Sake. — Mental Habitudes of Newton and of Washington. — Admon-
itory Caution 36



Retrospect of the preceding Suggestions. — Claims of Patriotism and
of Religion. — What is Education 1 — Analogies from physical Train-
ing, Labor, Rest, Recreation, Diet, Dress, general Symmetry. —
Distortion and Malformation. — Some Faculties of the Mind invigo-
rated at the expense of others. — Illustrations. — Course of Study
should he comprehensive, well selected, and .well proportioned. —
It is the mental Effort, and not the Knowledge attained, that dis-
ciplines the Mind. — Illustrations. — Shallow but common Argument
against the pursuit of literary Studies. — Grievous Mistakes into
wiiich Students fall from not appreciating the true Idea of Educa-


tion. — The Mischief enlianced by the example of showy Accomplish-
ments. — Tiie Course of Studies pursued in American Colleges. —
The Result of protracted Experiments in Education, and the best
System ever devised for the Development and Discipline of the
Mind Page 50



Early intellectual Habits. — Power to modify and change them. — The
Memory. — Concentration of Thought. — Improvement of the reason-
ing Faculties. — The Study of general Principles. — Illustrations from
Chemistry and Geology. — The Mathematics. — The Languages of
Antiquity. — New Sources of Satisfaction thence arising to the dili-
gent Student. — The attainment of a pure and elegant Style. — A
Suggestion from personal Experience. — Efficacy of Method and or-
derly Arrangement. — Objections answered. — Laws of Association.
— Superficial Methods of Study. — Thoroughness of Investigation
the only Method of making future Studies easy and pleasant. — Fa-
cility of Acquisition not always a test of intellectual Capacity. —
What are called hard Studies rather to be preferred. — From them
the Mind derives Strength. — Discipline rather than brilliant Tal-
ents produces great Men 64



A difficult Problem. — Essentials to the efficiency and completeness of
Mental Discipline. — Attention to minor Matters. — Vices of Manner,
when habitual, difficult to eradicate. — Vicious Pronunciation of
common English Words. — The Remedy to be applied in Youth, if
ever. — The correction of Faults does not require Talent and Ge-
nius, but Humility and Resolution. — Awkwardness of Attitude and
Gesture. — Slang Phrases. — Corrupt Language leads to corruption
of Taste.— JGrossness cultivated by the Student clings to the Man
in after Life. — Self-reforming Power the distinguishing Privilege
of the Young. — Labor, Self-denial, Patience, Perseverance requi-
site. — Analogy from the business of the Gardener. — Attention fixed
on Things to be avoided rather than on Things to be acquired. —
The removal of a Fault more important than the acquisition of an
Accomplishment. — Simplicity of Action. — Unambitious Style. — Pu-
rity of Language. — Use of strong Epithets. — Illustrations. — Effects.
— False llhetoric .eads to false Lofjic 78




Nature and power of Habit. — Character widely different from Repu-
tation. — It is made up of a Man's real Qualities and Accomplish-
ments. — Latent Agencies incessantly at work. — Peculiar Impressi-
bility of the youthful Mind. — Far more so than that of Childhood or
mature Manhood. — Germs of Good and Evil rapidly developed at
College. — Practical importance of the prudential Regulations of
Academic Life. — System and Regularity. — Punctuality. — Order. —
A Defense against the Encroachments of Indolence. — Character
modified by Associations. — Laws of Academic Institutions. — They
are its Ideal, its Model.— IVhy they do not always produce the de-
sired Result. — Young Men are Free Agents Page 94

BaccaliTurcatc HDisconrscs.


A Discourse to the Graduating Class of the Wesleyan University.
1844 103



A Discourse to the'Graduating Class of the Wesleyan University.
1845 12.'j



A Discourse to the Graduating Class of the Wesleyan University.
1 848 ^ 163



A Discourse to the Graduating Class of the Wesleyan University.
1849 201


QL\)c iEljcorji a\\b Practice of Scljolastic £ife.
lecture' I.


Introductory Remarks. — All serious Pursuits have a recognized The-
ory. — Educated Intellect encroaches upon the Sphere of mere physi-
cal Energy. — Illustration. — Education a Science as well as an Art. —
An Acquaintance with the Theory essential to the Success of the
Teacher — Still more so to the Student. — Involuntary Inmates of a
College. — Mental Aliment without mental Appetite. — Its Results. —
Revolt from an odious Bondage. — Few youthful Defects irretrieva-
ble. — Curative Discipline of a wise mental Regimen. — Manly Reso-
lutions and Efforts. — The Law of Habit. — Its EfBcacy. — It diminish-
es the Friction of Life, and is highly beneficent, but despotic. — The
•Boy is Law-giver to the Man; hence the supreme Importance of at-
tending to the Formation of Habits. — No Antidote for Offenses against
our intellectual Nature. — The Season for sowing no less important
than the Soil. — Temptations of the young Student to embrace falla-
cious Theories of academic Life.

I HAVE long desired to read a brief course of Lectures be-
fore the students of the University on the theory and 2'>^'(^ctice
of the Scholastic Life. Hitherto I have been prevented from
entering on the execution of this design by the same cause
which has thwarted so many of my plans for professional
usefulness. That I am hereafter to be exempt from these
interruptions, I know not that I have reasonable ground of
expectation, and the brief discourse to which you are about
to listen does not pledge or purpose any extended discussion

A 2


of the subject which has been suggested. This essay is not
offered as an introduction to such a discussion, nor as ex-
pressive of a hope that I may be able to follow it up with
such a course of instruction as seems to me very desirable
Should circumstances permit, however, I shall gladly prose-
cute the design suggested, in a few lectures, delivered occa-
sionally, and at such intervals and at such times as may be
most convenient. Such a plan, or, to speak more properly,
this entire absence of a plan, will exclude the possibility of
symmetry and fullness ; but the most brief, desultory treat
ment of such a subject may not be unfruitful of suggestive
hints, which the thoughtful student will be able to pursue
and elaborate for himself Any exposition of the principles
and maxims concerned in his daily occupations may be ex-
pected to exert an influence valuable in proportion to the
philosophical insight and practical wisdom with which it
may be characterized.

Every serious pursuit in which the various powers and
faculties of men find employment has a theory — a code of
fundamental principles, or, at least, of recognized rules of pro-
cedure, in accordance with Avhich its labors are supposed to
be conducted. This is true of the various branches of hairdi-
craft and of mechanic arts, no less than of those higher de-
partments of study and activity which give employment to
the most distinguished professional attainments and the pro-
foundest scientific knowledge. As society advances in civil-
ization and refinement, the simple operations of the work-shop
and the field grow into arts and sciences. The rude appli-
ances of the peasant-mechanic give place to the elaborate
machinery and dynamic combinations of an industrial estab-
lishment. Every step in this career of improvement implies
and necessitates a corresponding progress in the artisan and
the operative. Formerly it was enough that he possessed
vigor and dexterity. Precision of the eye was his guiding
mtelligence, and the right hand's strength and cunning were


instead of mechanical forces and adjustments. Skillful man-
ipulation was then all-sufficient for his purpose ; but he must
now draw upon his mental resources, and rise up to the com-
prehension of a principle at the peril of being thrown out of
employment, or of being fixed in the position of an unthink-
ing co-operative, with the wheels and hammers that whirl
and clack around him. It is in obedience to the laws of our
being that intellect and education incessantly encroach upon
the sphere of unintelligent physical energy, and gradually
extend their dominion over the entire field of human occupa-
tions. Of the strength and universality of this tendency, a
striking illustration is furnished by the present condition of
the laboring classes in this country. These classes are com-
posed partly of native-born citizens, who have enjoyed the
benefits of a good common education, and partly of foreign
immigrants, who liave never learned to read, or, what is about
its equivalent, having learned to read, have been prevented
by their rulers, their religious teachers, or their poverty, from
reading books calculated to awaken thought and invigorate
the intellect. As a result of this difi'erence in mental condi-
tion, those who have been trained to think, do, as a general
rule, engross all the occupations in which thought and intel-
ligence are favorable to success, while the more rude exotic
masses ar^ doomed to perform the drudgery and to fill the
servile offices of a great nation.

The uneducated Irishman excavates canals and rail-roads.
He is a porter, a hod-carrier, a quarry-man, a stable-boy, but
seldom an artisan, an architect, an engineer, or a master-
builder. He can wield a spade or perforate a rock by the
monotonous stroke of the drill, but he is generally found
poorly quahfied for the more complex operations of agricul-
ture ; and his daughters seldom make good operatives in a
manufactory. It is instructive to observe with what uner-
ring instincts these untaught sons of toil and misfortune, upon
their first arrival upon our shores, subside into their natural



place beneath the lowest stratum of our American society,
and, lifting up the superincumbent mass upon their brawny
shoulders, seize upon all the humbler occupations as the en-
dowment held in trust for them by this great, free country.
It is not national prejudice or national jealousy that imposes
this inevitable burden upon the adopted citizen. It is not his
natural inferiority in mental or physical endowments. We
freely admit the refugees of all nations to share all the privi-
leges and facilities of our fruitful domain, and the educated
Irishman and the educated German are wont to prosper, even
beyond the men of other races, in the various departments of
business and enterprise. The comparative ignorance of the
immigrant must be held responsible for all the unfavorable
results of his unequal competition Avith the native American.
The American is intelligent. He brings an awakened intel-
lect to the pursuits of life. He grasps the theory — he com-
prehends the principles of his occupation, and to that extent,
at least, he is a philosopher whose hands are guided by his
understanding. The blunter and the darker intellect plies
his tools diligently enough, but never stirs his ideas. He is
the very slave of routine, but is incapable of understanding
or following out a theory. He is a prodigy of dexterity,
which comes from a patient repetition of one or a series of
corporeal movements, but is hopelessly deficient in skill,
which supposes some comprehension of the science needful
to the perfection of his art.

To apply this palpable but highly instructive illustration
to the subject in hand, the scholastic life involves theory as
well as 'practice. Education is a science as well as an art.
Educational institutions are organized and conducted on well-
established philosophical principles, no less than in accord-
ance with the lessons of experience and the exigencies of
the current time. The pursuits of the student rest upon
grounds, and are sustamed by reasons that lie back of all
schools and colleges, and possess an authority quite independ-


eat of positive rules and institutions. It is admitted, on all
hands, that the teacher who has not mastered these ilmda-
mental principles, and who does not feel their power, and in-
fuse their spirit into the performance of his duties, is emi-
nently disqualified for his vocation. He degrades a liberal,
intellectual function into irksome drudgery, which, when it
no longer ministers in the presence of a guiding philosophy,
no longer possesses power to move the springs of mental ac-
tivity, or authority to direct the inquiries of awakened curi-
osity. Witl^a good reason, then, is it demanded of every in-
structor of youth that he should come to the discharge of his
duties in the full comprehension of the principles that under-
lie his art ; but the reason is good and sufficient only be-
cause, to the fit discharge of such duties, it is indispensable
that he be able to induct his pupils into a mastery of the
same higher philosophy.

This knowledge of first principles is even more important
to the student who aspires to an education truly liberal than
to the teacher himself, who often acquires the elements of
science and language very perfectly by virtue of endless rep-
etitions, while wholly unconscious of their subtile powers and
manifold relations and affinities. By force of inveterate
habit, he can walk in the dark, and without tripping, the
wonted round of his narrow curriculum. He may be likened
to the porter of a princely mansion, who never advances be-
yond the vestibule of the palace, though forever employed in
opening the door which admits hundreds into beautiful sa-
loons blazing with light and magnificence.

The great majority of those who enter our higher institu-
tions of learning do not study science and literature as a pro-
fession, but as a discipline — as the only approved method of
acquiring high mental accomplishments, and as the richest
source of refined, elevating pleasures. For the attainment of
such ends, something more is manifestly demanded than an
unsympathizing, half-forced compliance with the routine of


the study and the lecture-room. The most exemplary indus-
try may easily forfeit some of the highest rewards of mental
efibrt for want of taking into its theory of the scholastic life a
few just, guidijig ideas, and the most honorable ambition, at
the close of the most successful scholastic career, often finds it-
self disappointed and chagrined just because, through its fault
or its misfortune, it chose to yield the direction of irretrieva-
ble years and opportunities to the control of ideas and motives
which, however favorable to intensity of purpose and pursuit,
are not found compatible with the freest and ^ost healthy
intellectual growth, and with the fullest breadth and depth
of intellectual life.

These remarks do, as I will allow myself to believe, suffi-
ciently develop the general object and intention of this lec-
ture. It seeks to demonstrate, and to impress on those who
hear me, the pressing elementary importance of comprehend-
ing the theory of the scholastic life, and of prosecuting their
studies under the guiding, sustaining impulses of an intelli-
gent ever-conscious homage to the reasons that should inspire
and control their pursuits.

The aims of this discussion suppose in the student an in-
genuous desire to make the most of his academic opportuni-
ties — a willingness to endure the labor of mental efibrt — a
manly purpose to bestow upon the capacities with which Na-
ture has endowed him, a diligent and pains-taking culture —
a laudable ambition to attain to whatever mental excellence
may be conceded to a thoughtful, earnest use of his time and
opportunities. It must be obvious to all that a system of ed-
flcation conceived and carried out in a just, philosophical
spirit, can adapt itself to those only who really desire to be
educated, and who are prepared to co-operate heartily in the
accomplishment of this object. The teacher will no doubt
have to provide for a number of anomalous cases in which
the voluntary concurrence will be too feeble for easy recogni-
tion, but with these he must deal as exceptions to all natural


and reasonable laws, and by such expedients as observation,
experience, or even despair may suggest.

I am also aware that there is usually to be found in places
of public education a class of young students who are en-
gaged in scholastic pursuits in deference to wishes and ar-
rangements in which their own preferences have not been
consulted, and from which, if their tastes had been gratified,
they would perhaps have chosen to refrain. We are accus-
tomed, however, to find in this class a number of examples
of fine, growing scholarship, and it is often a peculiar advant-
age enjoyed by persons so young that they have not ac([uired
that relish for the excitements, the gains, or the freedom of
active life which diverts so many who come later to engage
in scholastic pursuits, from their chosen career. If young
men in this particular stage and condition of intellectual de-
velopment will, as in duty and all consistency bound, hold
themselves pledged to carry out the cherished design of the
parent, under the favorable auspices of the large and manly
philosophy which is here commended to their approbation, I
know not who may cultivate the field now open before them
with fairer hopes of reaping a plentiful harvest.

Scholastic pursuits prosecuted in the absence of these ge-
nial, attractive influences, must always lack the vitality of
a conscious, joyous spontaneity, and incur the hazard of bring-
ing upon the mind an irritating sense of being in bondage to
arbitrary rules, which, having no felt affinities for the intel-
lectual constitution, naturally become repulsive, and provoke
opposition rather than incite to a cheerful, productive indus-
try. Mental aliment taken thus, without any call from the
mental appetite, is likely to be digested imperfectly or not at
all, and consequently to minister little to constitutional beau-
ty, vigor, or elasticity. It is bolted under a painful sense
of necessity or duty, in a paroxysm of resolution or despair,
like nauseous drugs, or like the unpalatable diet prescribed
to dyspeptics by Dr Alcott or Mr. Graham, rather than re-


ceived with gusto and gladness like the delicious morsels of
the confectioner or the ripe fruits of early autumn, which
every organ concerned seizes with avidity and caresses lov-
ingly, prolonging the satisfaction as far as pleasure so fleet-
ing can be induced to remain. It is an inevitable result that
intellectual objects thus prosecuted under external pressure,
without inward excitement or vocation, will become not only
insipid, but distasteful ; and whenever the disgust shall grow

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Online LibraryStephen OlinCollege life; its theory and practice → online text (page 1 of 21)