Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/757

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
739
LITERATURE AND SCIENCE.

to the sister university. I will venture to say that to an honor of this kind from the University of Cambridge no one on earth can be so sensible as a member of the University of Oxford. The two universities are unlike anything else in the world, and they are very like one another. Neither of them is inclined to go hastily into raptures over her own living offspring or over her sister's; each of them is peculiarly sensitive to the good opinion of the other. Nevertheless they have their points of dissimilarity. One such point, in particular, can not fail to arrest notice. Both universities have told powerfully upon the mind and life of the nation. But the University of Oxford, of which I am a member, and to which I am deeply and affectionally attached, has produced great men, indeed, but has, above all, been the source or the center of great movements. We will not now go back to the middle ages; we will keep within the range of what is called modern history. Within this range, we have the great movements of Royalism, Wesleyanism, Tractarianism, Ritualism, all of them having their source or their center in Oxford. You have nothing of the kind. The movement taking its name from Charles Simeon is far, far less considerable than the movement taking its name from John Wesley. The movement attempted by the Latitude men in the seventeenth century is next to nothing as a movement; the men are everything. And this is, in truth, your great, your surpassing distinction; not your movements, but your men. From Bacon to Byron, what a splendid roll of great names you can point to! We, at Oxford, can show nothing equal to it. Yours-is the university not of great movements, but of great men. Our experience at Oxford disposes us, perhaps, to treat movements, whether our own, or extraneous movements such as the present movement for revolutionizing education, with too much respect. That disposition finds a corrective here. Masses make movements, individualities explode them. On mankind in the mass, a movement, once started, is apt to impose itself by routine; it is through the insight, the independence, the self-confidence of powerful single minds that its yoke is shaken off. In this university of great names, whoever wishes not to be demoralized by a movement comes into the right air for being stimulated to pluck up his courage and to examine what stuff movements are really made of.

Inspirited, then, by this tonic air in which I find myself speaking, I am boldly going to ask whether the present movement for ousting letters from their old predominance in education, and for transferring the predominance in education to the natural sciences, whether this brisk and flourishing movement ought to prevail, and whether it is likely that in the end it really will prevail. My own studies have been almost wholly in letters, and my visits to the field of the natural sciences have been very slight and inadequate, although those sciences strongly move my curiosity. A man of letters, it will perhaps be