Page images
PDF
EPUB

ESSAY L. OF STUDIES.

STI

TUDIES serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability.

Their chief use for delight is in privateness,' and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business; for, expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies, is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to inake' judgment wholly by their rules, is the humour of a scholar; they perfect nature, and are perfected by experience—for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them, for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously ;' and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books; else distilled books are, like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man; and, therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have

3

· Privateness. Privacy. See page 104. ? Make. Give. See page 469.

Curiously. Attentively. At first I thought there had been no light reflected from the water; but observing it more curiously, I saw within it several spots which appeared darker than the rest.'—Sir Isaac Newton.

+ Would. Should. See page 331.

much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend: ‘Abeunt studia in mores”—nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit, but may be wrought out by fit studies, like as diseases of the body may have appropriate exercisesbowling is good for the stone and reins,' shooting for the lungs and breast, gentle walking for the stomach, riding for the head, and the like; so, if a man's wits be wandering, let him study the mathematics, for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again ; if his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences,' let him study the schoolmen, for they are “cymini sectores ;" if he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call upon one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyers' cases—so every defect of the mind may have a special receipt.

ANTITHETA ON STUDIES.
PRO.

CONTRA, Lectio est conversatio cum pruden- 'Quæ unquam ars docuit tempestitibus; actio fere cum stultis.

vum artis usum ? * In reading, we hold converse with the What art has ever taught us the mise ; in the business of life, generally suitable use of an art ?' with the foolish.'

· Artis sæpissime ineptus usus est, ne *Non inutiles scientiæ existimandæ sit nullus. sunt, quarum in se nullus est usus, si

* A branch of knowledge is often put ingenia acuant, et ordinent.

to an improper use, for fear of its being • We should not consider even those

idle.' sciences which have no actual practical application in themselves, as without value, if they sharpen and train the intellect.'

i That.

What. See page 72. ? •Manners are influenced by studies.' 8 Stond. Hindrances. See page 411. • Wrought. Worked. “Who, through faith, wrought righteousness.'—Heb. xi. 33.

*How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast wrought for them that trust in Thee!'Psalm xxxi. 19.

• Reins. Kidneys ; inward parts. “Whom I shall see for myself, though my reins be consumed within me.'-Job xix. 27. • Differences. Distinctions. See page 466.

‘Splitters of cummin.' Vid. A. L. I. vii. 7.

ANNOTATIONS.

Crafty men contemn studies.'

It is not unlikely that by the crafty' (in the Latin "callidi') Bacon meant not exactly what the word now denotes, but -in agreement with the ancient use of the word “craft,' for an occupation'—what we commonly call practical men ;—those expert in the details of business, and exclusively conversant in these. Some such men resemble a clock with a minute-hand but no hour-hand. These are apt to take for granted that a student, and especially an anthor, must be unfit for business. And the vulgar sometimes go further, and are disposed to give a man credit for practical sagacity merely on account of his being illiterate.

It is worth observing that some of those who disparage some branch of study in which they are deficient, will often affect more contempt for it than they really feel. And not unfrequently they will take pains to have it thought that they are themselves well versed in it, or that they easily might be, if they thought it worth while ;-in short, that it is not from hanging too high that the grapes are called sour.

Thus, Swift, in the person of Gulliver, represents himself, while deriding the extravagant passion for Mathematics among the Laputans, as being a good mathematician. Yet he betrays his utter ignorance, by speaking of a pudding in the form of a cycloid :' evidently taking a cycloid for a figure, instead of a line. This may help to explain the difficulty he is said to have had in obtaining his Degree.

Lord Chesterfield, again, when writing to his son in disparagement of classical studies, gives him to understand that he is himself quite at home in the classics. But when he proceeds to criticise IIomer for celebrating the courage of Achilles, who could slow none, being invulnerable, he betrays his having never read even a translation of the Iliad. For not only does Homer make no mention of his hero's being invulnerable, but he even represents him as receiving a wound; and a great part of the poem turns on his being detained from the fight for want of his armour.

'See Acts xix, 25-27.

The contempt of studies, whether of crafty men or narrowminded men, often finds its expression in the word ‘smattering;' and the couplet is become almost a proverb,

A little learning is a dangerous thing,
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.'

But the poet's remedies for the dangers of a little learning are both of them impossible. None can drink deep' enough to be, in truth, anything more than very superficial; and every human Being, that is not a downright idiot, must taste.

It is plainly impossible that any man should acquire a knowledge of all that is to be known, on all subjects. But is it then meant that, on each particular subject on which he does learn anything at all, he should be perfectly well informed ? Here it may fairly be asked, what is the well ??—how much knowledge is to be called 'little' or 'much? For, in many departments, the very utmost that had been acquired by the greatest proficients, a century and a half back, falls short of what is familiar to many a boarding-school miss now. And it is likely that our posterity, a century and a half hence, will in many things be just as much in advance of us. And in most subjects, the utmost knowledge that any man can attain to, is but 'a little learning' in comparison of what he remains ignorant of. The view resembles that of an American forest, in which the more trees a man cuts down, the greater is the expanse of wood he sees around him.

But supposing you define the much and the little with reference to the existing state of knowledge in the present age and country, would any one seriously advise that those who are not proficients in astronomy should remain ignorant whether the earth moves or the sun ?—that unless you are complete master of agriculture, as far as it is at present understood, there is no good in your knowing wheat from barley ?-that unless you are such a Grecian as Porson, you had better not learn to construe the Greek Testament?

The other recommendation of the poet, 'taste not—that is to say, have no learning,—is equally impossible. The truth is, every body has, and everybody ought to have, a slight and superficial knowledge—a “smattering,' if you will—of more subjects than it is possible for the inost diligent student to acquire thoroughly. It is very possible, and also very useful, to have that slight smattering of chemistry which will enable one to distinguish from the salts used in medicine, the oxalic acid, with which, through mistake, several persons have been poisoned. Again, without being an eminent botanist, a person may know-what it is most important to know—the difference between cherries and the berries of the deadly nightshade; the want of which knowledge has cost many lives.

Again, there is no one, even of those who are not profound politicians, who is not aware that we have Rulers; and is it not proper that he should understand that government is necessary to preserve our lives and property? Is he likely to be a worse subject for knowing that? That depends very much on the kind of government you wish to establish. If you wish to establish an ujust and despotic government-or, if you wish to set up a false religion—then it would be advisable to avoid the danger of enlightening the people. But if you wish to maintain a good government, the more the people understand the advantages of such a government, the more they will respect it; and the more they know of true religion, the more they will value it.

There is nothing more general among uneducated people than a disposition to socialism, and yet nothing is more injurious to their own welfare. An equalization of wages would be most injurious to themselves, for it would, at once, destroy all emulation. All motives for the acquisition of skill, and for superior industry, would be removed. Now, it is but a little knowledge of political economy that is needed for the removal of this error; but that little is highly useful.

Again, every one knows, no matter how ignorant of medicine, that there is such a thing as disease. But as an instance of the impossibility of the 'taste not recommendation of the poet, a fact may be mentioned, which perhaps is known to most. When the cholera broke out in Poland, the peasantry of that country took it into their heads that the nobles were poisoning

« PreviousContinue »