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prompted me to learn whatever was proposed for my instruction and improvement, I felt in myself a sentiment of ambition, a desire to possess the qualifications which I found to be productive of esteem, and that should enable me to excel among my contemporaries. I was ambitious to be a leader, and to be regarded by others with feelings of complacency. I had no wish to rule by brute force and compulsion; but I was desirous to govern by love, and honour, and “ the cords of a man."
I do not imagine that, when I aver thus much of myself, I am bringing forward any thing unprecedented, or that multitudes of my fellow-men do not largely participate with me.
The question therefore I am considering is, through what agency, and with what engines, a youth thus disposed, and with these qualifications, is to be initiated in all liberal arts.
I will go back no further than to the commencement of the learning of Latin. All before was so easy to me, as never to have presented the idea of a task. I was immediately put into the accidence. No explanation was attempted to be given why Latin was to be of use to me, or why it was necessary to commit to memory the cases of nouns and the tenses of verbs. I know not whether this was owing to the unwillingness of my instructor to give himself the trouble, or to my supposed incapacity to apprehend the explanation. The last of these I do not admit. My docility however came to my
aid ; and I did not for a moment harbour any repugnance to the doing what was required of me. At first, and unassisted in the enquiry, I felt a diffculty in supposing that the English language, all the books in my father's library, did not contain every thing that it would be necessary for me to know. In no long time however I came to experience a pleasure in turning the thoughts expressed in an unknown tongue into my own; and I speedily understood that I could never be on a level with those eminent scholars whom it was my ambition to rival, without the study of the classics.
What then were the obstacles, that should in any degree counteract my smooth and rapid progress in the studies suggested to me? I can conceive only two.
First, the versatility and fickleness which in a greater or less degree beset all human minds, particularly in the season of early youth. However docile we may be, and willing to learn, there will be periods, when either some other object powerfully solicits us, or satiety creeps in, and makes us wish to occupy our attention with any thing else rather than with the task prescribed us.
But this is no powerful obstacle. The authority of the instructor, a grave look, and the exercise of a moderate degree of patience will easily remove it in such a probationer as we are here considering.
Another obstacle is presumption. The scholar is willing to conceive well of his own capacity. He
has a vanity in accomplishing the task prescribed him in the shortest practicable time. He is impatient to go away from the business imposed upon bim, to things of his own election, and occupations which his partialities and his temper prompt him to pursue. He has a pride in saying to himself, “This, which was a business given to occupy me for several hours, I can accomplish in less than one."
But the presumption arising out of these views is easily subdued. If the pupil is wrong in his calculation, the actual experiment will speedily convince him of his error. He is humbled by and ashamed of his mistake. The merely being sent back to study his lesson afresh, is on the face of the thing punishment enough.
It follows from this view of the matter, that an ingenuous youth, endowed with sufficient capacity for the business prescribed him, may be led on in the path of intellectual acquisition and improvement with a silken cord. It will demand a certain degree of patience on the part of the instructor. But Heaven knows, that this patience is sufficiently called into requisition when the instructor shall be the greatest disciplinarian that ever existed. Kind tones and encouragement will animate the learner amidst many a difficult
may perhaps sometimes be called for. And, if the preceptor and the pupil have gone 'on like friends, a grave remark, a look expressive of rebuke, will be found a very powerful engine. The instructor
should smooth the business of instruction to his pupil, by appealing to his understanding, developing his taste, and assisting him to remark the beauties of the composition on which he is occupied.
I come now then to the consideration of the two engines mentioned in the commencement of this Essay, reprehension and chastisement. And here, as in what went before, I am reduced to the referring to my own experience, and looking back into the history of my own mind.
I say then, that reprehension and reprimand can scarcely ever be necessary. The pupil should undoubtedly be informed when he is wrong. He should be told what it is that he ought to have omitted, and that he ought to have done. There should be no reserve in this. It will be worthy of the highest censure, if on these points the instructor should be mealy-mouthed, or hesitate to tell the pupil in the plainest terms, of his faults, his bad habits, and the dangers that beset his onward and honourable path.
But this may be best, and most beneficially done, and in a way most suitable to the exigence, and to the party to be corrected, in a few words. The rest is all an unwholsome tumour, the disease of speech, and not the sound and healthful substance through which its circulation and life are conveyed.
There is always danger of this excrescence of speech, where the speaker is the umpire, and feels himself at liberty, unreproved, to say what he
pleases. He is charmed with the sound of his own voice. The periods flow numerous from his tongue, and he gets on at his ease. There is in all this an image of empire ; and the human mind is ever prone to be delighted in the exercise of unrestricted authority. The pupil in this case stands before his instructor in an attitude humble, submissive, and bowing to the admonition that is communicated to him. The speaker says more than it was in his purpose to say; and he knows not how to arrest himself in his triumphant career. He believes that he is in no danger of excess, and recollects the old proverb that “words break no bones.”
But a syllable more than is necessary and justly measured, is materially of evil operation to ingenuous youth. The mind of such a youth is tender and Alexible, and easily swayed one way or the other. He believes almost every thing that he is bid to believe ; and the admonition that is given him with all the symptoms of friendliness and sincerity he is prompt to subscribe to. If this is wantonly aggravated to him, he feels the oppression, and is galled with the injustice. He knows himself guiltless of premeditated wrong. He has not yet learned that his condition is that of a slave ; and he feels a certain impatience at his being considered as such, though he probably does not venture to express it. He shuts up the sense of this despotism in his own bosom; and it is his first lesson of independence and rebellion and original sin.