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national excellence. Our few real and great orators will sustain a comparison with the few real and great orators of Europe; this much we may safely claim for them, and this is as much as will be conceded by the rest of the world. But it is in the general diffusion of a certain rhetorical facility, in the ability of every educated American to think and talk on his legs, that our superiority to Europeans consists. And doubtless it is a very convenient accomplishment for a gentleman to possess, one which an American is often proud of abroad, or before foreigners at home. But (leaving out of consideration so much of the price we pay for it as has been dilated on in the last few pages) it may be doubted whether the practical benefits accompanying its exercise are very great or altogether unmixed ; whether our national speech-making talent does not, in some situations, cause an immense waste of time and ruinous delay of business, while in others it mocks both speakers and hearers with a delusive show of improvement. As to the combinations of writing and oratory, made to serve indifferently for either--the you ŠTUDEIxtixoi, so much in vogue among us under the different names of “ Addresses,” “Discourses,” “Orations” and “ Lectures ”—they are usually undertaken because the author received a flattering invitation and felt bound to put together an hour's worth of something—or because it was an easy and pleasant way of making pocket money-or because it was a cheap and convenient way of advertising something that he meant to bring out in book shape afterwards, and so make money of twice-or for any reason rather than an earnest
desire and intent to teach the audience anything or make them think; and attendance at such Addresses, &c., is as much mental dissipation as the Frenchman's theatre or the German's concert.
There is one evil result of our national over-encouragement to oratory which has not yet been touched on; but to this it will be more convenieut to recur in the next chapter.
THE ADVANTAGES OF CLASSICAL STUDIES, PARTICULARLY IN
REFERENCE TO THE YOUTH OF OUR COUNTRY.
“ Haec studia adolescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfugium et solatium praebent, delectant domi non impediunt foris.”—Cic. PRO ARCHIA.
“ The cultivated world, up to the present day, has been bound together, and each generation bound to the preceding by living upon a common intellectual estate. They have shared in a common development of thought because they have understood each other. Their standard examples of poetry, eloquence, history, criticism, grammar, etymology, have been a universal bond of sympathy, however diverse might be the opinions which prevailed respecting any of these examples. All the civilized world has been one intellectual nation, and it is this which has made it so great and prosperous a nation.”_WHEWELL ON UNIVERSITY EDUCATION.
We have thus far proceeded on the supposition that classical studies form a necessary and important part of a liberal education. But there is a class of persons (not very numerous or influential perhaps, but still too much so to be passed over in silence) who would join issue with me on this first principle. They would deny the utility of classics as a general collegiate study, and affirm that the error of our Colleges is, not the classical deficiency of their course, but their admission of Latin and Greek at all as a necessary element of that course.
One is certainly tempted to take a high tone in replying to such objections, and to treat them very summarily. Our first impulse is to tell the objectors that the almost unanimous voice of the civilized world has established the study of the classics as a requisite element of the best education, and that for us to act differently would be to proclaim and make ourselves boors. But as there are those with whom prescription has no weight but is rather an objection, we will try the study in question on its own intrinsic merits, first examining and rebutting the charges brought against it, and then asserting its positive excellences. We have a right to call on the other side to make the attack, as we are in possession. There are one or two moral objections which it may
be well to begin with disposing of. First, it is said that the ancient authors are corrupting and unfit for young men to study or read, on account of the occasional indecencies to be found in them and the debasing mythology which they uphold. Now as regards the mythology, that any one was ever injured in his faith or morals by reading that Jupiter married his sister and had a number of other wives in addition seems hardly a matter to be argued seriously. If such things suggest any thoughts to a youth they are most likely to impress him with the necessity there was for a revelation, when he sees that the wisest heathen nations could make no better religion for themselves than such stuff as this. As to the grossness of the ancients, if we are to lay down as a rule that a young man is to peruse nothing which a young lady in white muslin may not read aloud to a family circle, we shall make great havoc among the literature of all languages, our own not excepted. What does harm in most cases is not grossness but voluptuousness; and there is
very little voluptuous writing in the ancients. It would hardly be overstating the case to say that of the properly classical authors, Ovid is the only one who represents vice in a luscious and attractive form. Three chapters of almost any French novel, or two hours' walk on the Boulevards of Paris, will put a young man in more danger than all the Aristophanes and Juvenal he can read in a year. Yet a father who prevented his son learning French on account of the risks his morals might run from an acquaintance with Gautier or Paul de Kock, would be deemed by most people over-scrupulous, and a tourist who should fear to visit Paris because there are unchaste pictures in the shop-windows there, would incur not altogether undeserved laughter. The student is not compelled to wade through any of the filth he sometimes meets with—nay, with expurgated editions he may not even be aware of its existence. For my own part, however, I think it not only permissible but actually desirable that he should read something at least of the very worst that is to be found in ancient literature. It is a disgusting but wholesome preventive dose against intellect worship. Most conscientiously can I say that nothing has ever more strongly impressed me with the utter incompetency of the highest intellectual refinement, unaided by true religion, to preserve man from the lowest degradation of vice, than studying Athenian life in Plato and Aristophanes, and