« ПретходнаНастави »
bers of our confederacy are all politically equal-they are all sufficiently powerful and wealthy to establish seminaries of learning of the highest rank, and provide them with all the appendages and apparatus necessary for their success. Springing up over every part of our country, and pressing forward not with mean or hostile jealousy, but in ardent and generous emulation, these sources of learning and of knowledge will diffuse around them the bright glories of enlightened and progressive civilization; will advance with the improvements of mankind, and by mutual and active competition, save each other from the negligence, the abuses, the lethargy which too often creep into or hover around old and privileged establishments. There will not be one Capital absorbing the talent, wealth and enterprize of the country, leaving the extremities cheerless and desolate; but many separate points radiant with light and intelligence, and we should hope, with unfading freshness and perpetual youth. Mr. Dwight appears anxious to see concentrated in one or two great establishments, the literary means and efforts of the whole republic. For our own parts, if we ever feel disposed to indulge in those visions which arise so easily before our statesmen and poets when predicting the future glories of our country, and which play before our author himself in sufficient magnificence, we derive our most confident anticipations from the federative nature of our union, so well calculated to extend the advantages and blessings of our institutions into every nook and corner of our extensive domain, and preserve in health and vigour the principles that so soon decay in the atmosphere of a corrupt metropolis. If we were disposed to pursue this subject, Greece, in the bright days of her renown, even Germany, in her present triumphant career, would furnish strong illustrations to support our opinions. It is difficult to overrate the beneficial effects of emulation upon the progress of knowledge and the arts, and experience shews that states-especially a number of small states clustered together under something like the same system of manners and government-are as alive to its impulses as individuals. No one who reads the Greek authors needs to be told that the reflection, “what will be said of us at the Olympic Games,” inspired many a lofty aspiration and gave vigour and animation to many a virtuous resolution.
Mr. Dwight seems to fear that the number and jealousy of the religious sects in the United States, will prevent or frustrate all attempts to make extensive literary establishments, and, perhaps, diminish the efficiency of those which already exist that the apprehension of all, lest some one should become predominant, will induce each sect rather to confine its efforts to its
own schools than throw them into a common fund for general benetit. We hope no such evil consequences will occur, at least, not until each state can support four, five or six of these establishments, when the division would cease to be an evil. For while we do not wish to see all the means of the country confined to one or two great institutions, we are aware that those means may be broken up and frittered away into so many fragments as to be rendered altogether inefficient.
On the results of German education when compared with our own, Mr. Dwight makes the following observation :
"Like our individual States, they are too small in population and resources to exert much influence on the political world. Only one avenue to distinction remains, viz. that of literatnre. Accordingly we find in many of them, at least one university, which is patronised in the most liberal manner, and provided very abundantly with the materiel of instruction. A literary rivalry is thus excited, which is not only visible in the broad foundation on which they rest, but also in the strife which so generally exists among the monarchs, to obain the most eminent literati of this country.
“ Weimar, for example, with a territory not larger than many of the counties of New-York, and a population of two hundred and three thousand inhabitants, has a university of between four and five hundred students, with two libraries, containing one hundred and forty thousand volumes, three learned societies, and several distinguished gymnasia, besides other schools of an elevated character. Baden, with a territory not so large as Massachusetts, and a population of but little over a million, has two universities, containing almost twelve hundred students, three public libraries, in which are assembled one hundred and forty thousand volumes, four lycea, and fourteen gymnasia, to say nothing of the numerous Latin schools which exist there. It is such institutions which give to these petty kingdoms and duchies their fame, without which they would be almost unnoticed, or if observed, soon forgotten by the traveller. More learned works bave issued from the university of Göttingen in less than ninety-five years, than from the whole continent of America during the three centuries which have elapsed since its discovery." pp. 189-190.
On perusing the latter part of this paragraph, we certainly were amused with the moderation of our author. We might have erred as much in the precipitancy of our judgment as he has dove in his caution, but we should certainly have omitted the ninety, and permitted the comparison to rest on the remaining five years. When we speak of contrasting the learning of the two people, we are led immediately to recollect not only what has been the state of education in this country, with some few exceptions, from its first settlement to the present hour-but how little a scholar in the United States could perform, even if by his own exertions he should
have repaired the omissions of his youthful days, and had qualified himself to profit by the wisdom and knowledge of antiquity.
Learning is the knowledge of the history, the traditions, the manners, the opinions, the written memorials of past ages. Whoever, smitten with the love of letters, aspires to the reputation of learning, must ascend to the original sources of knowledge, must commune with departed sages in their own tongues, must gather their opinions from the records they themselves have left, and bring to the test of criticism their statements and their dogmas. When searching after facts, he must resort to contemporary witnesses, or when these are wanting to the testimony of those who lived nearest in time and place to the events he wishes to investigate—and to render his researches still more satisfactory, he must trace and examine the illustrations and comments which succeeding writers have added to them, and must seek the collateral aid which monuments, inscriptions, and all the remains of antiquity will afford. But who can pursue these researches, who can acquire this knowledge, when the registers of the facts and opinions, the volumes in which the deeds and thoughts of pist ages have been preserved, are not in his possession nor ishin his reach. It is idle to think of comparing the efforts of at scholars of the two continents, when circumstances have left for them no common ground of comparison. It is as absurd to aceuse the scholars of this country of want of learning, as it would be to reproach Cicero for not having understood the literature of the Brahmins. It existed, but not for him.
In what part of the United States, by any effort of human talent, could Fabricius have compiled his Bibliotheca Græca, or Eichhorn his Introduction to the Old Testament, or Bayle his Dictionary, or Gibbon his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, or Michaelis or Mosheim, Heyne or Heeren, the splendid lights of Gottingen, have composed their celebrated writings? We may go farther—we may ask in what science, in what literary pursuit can the scholars of the United States compete even now on equal terms with those of Europe? When our governments or the patrons of literature shall form in four, six or a dozen different places (our country is too extensive for one to meet the wants of its citizens) such libraries as that of Göttingen, we may then expect from the industry of our students the learning of the old world, or justly hold them answerable for their inferiority.
The influence of these untoward circumstances on our literature has been most unpropitious. It has led us to copy from our European brethren the worst of their habits. We have been content to sit down with information received at second
hand; to write on science without the means of knowing its real state and progress abroad ; to write history without the means, until, perhaps, at last the inclination was lost of consulting original authority. We are in danger of becoming compilers from compilations, of retailing dregs so often drained as to have lost all relish of their original flavour. The past century was in its example also unfavourable to us. It was emphatically the age of superficial writers, even while it occasionally produced the most profound thinkers. In English literature, Gibbon was the only historian who deserved a reputation for research at once faithful and profound, and a diligence persevering and unconquerable; yet even in Gibbon, the want of Oriental learning is now seen and regretted. Style, by the critics after the days of Addison, had been carried to the highest pitch of elegance, and elevated to the first rank in literary merit. Style, an admirable but still a subordinate virtue, worthless when not encircling and decorating knowledge, was made a substitute for all other qualities, and the deep erudition of the older writers was thrown aside that the world might enjoy the polished periods, the sparkling ornaments, or the affected sentimentalism of their degenerate successors. From this dangerous descent, the world was in a great measure recalled by the example of the German schools. Their Guides had been the jest of the wits, the bye-word of the ignorant, the scorn and horror of the indolent. Forbearance itself could scarcely tolerate the word-weighing, stop-correcting, sentencemending race. A progeny poring forever over mutilated fragments, fading manuscripts, worm-eaten folios and mouldering inscriptions-yet they went on patiently bearing their reproach, until the world began at last to perceive that if it became necessary to know the value of an ancient manuscript, it was by German industry it had been collated and compared ; if it wished to read correctly an ancient writer, it was to a German edition that recourse must be had ; if it wished to understand ancient opinions, it was in German expositions they were most accurately unfolded; if it wished to ascertain doubtful or disputed facts, it was by German sagacity they had been investigated and explained. German learning, in short, was gradually acquiring its natural and inevitable influence over the civilized world, and stamping many of its features on the character of
It was also perceived that the uncouth language of Germany, which her monarchs had disdained to speak, was capable of acquiring a modulation as it always possessed a flexibility not surpassed by that of any language whatever, and began to pour
forth strains of the most original poetry. The plodding Germans were found to be of "imagination all compact," and how could invention be denied to those who had shaken the old systems of the world to their foundations, by the discovery of gunpowder and printing ? France, after a long struggle, was obliged to bend to this example, and its influence has extended to Great Britain. Those who read, may hereafter, if they please, read compilations, but those who write, must, if they wish to obtain character or reputation, draw their materials from authentic and original sources. Even these authorities are no longer received with a blind credence, as in the days of honest old Rollin, who swallowed the millions of Xerxes and many other wonderful tales with as much gravity and good faith as Herodotus could have desired in a Greek at the Olympic Games, but they are now scrutinized, and their real value ascertained with a discrimination and philosophical acumen unknown in former times. For this also the world is indebted to the critical schools of Germany. In all these respects, we are and must be behind the learned men of Europe, until good libraries, which can alone place us on an equality, are furnished to our scholars.
On another subject, however, we must express our surprise at the slow developement of talent in the United States. Learning depends on means which may or may not be in our possession-on extraneous and adventitious circumstances. Poetry springs from the living fountains of the nature that is within us. In its noblest strains, it is but the expression of deep feeling, of lofty sentiment, of embodied passion, the representation of beauty, grace and power, of daring enterprize and heroic achievement. Wherever man is found, his passions and his frailties, love and ambition, fear, avarice, hope, jealousy, revenge attend his footsteps. In the desert as in the crowded hall, in silence and in solitude their voice is heard, and whether in the broken accents of suffering and sorrow, or kindling with the rapture of a holy enthusiasm, they often break forth in poetry and song.
If we are denied some of those collateral aids which have shed so many charms over the strains of the "mighty masters of the lyre,” if some of the gorgeous drapery, the picturesque monuments, and thrilling associations of the antique world - if knight and tower, if long-drawn aisle and fretted vault and holy shrine, if magic cave and cell, and enchanted palaces, if fable with her wild creations, and tradition with her wondrous and mysterious legends are wanting in our land—we bave the desert and its solitude, the whirlwind, the mountain and the cataract, scenes of sublimity and beauty, where we may VOL. IV.NO. 7.