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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/861

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

MATTHEW ARNOLD ON LITERATURE AND SCIENCE.

IT was hardly to be supposed that Professor Huxley's address at the opening of Sir Josiah Mason's College would be left without some attempt at a formal answer. The bare establishment of a collegiate institution, from which "mere literary instruction" was excluded, was not in itself very important, as it is not expected that mechanical, technical, and industrial schools will give much attention to literature at any rate. But when literary education, as a method of culture, was attacked as narrow and inadequate, and another method more liberal, more efficient, based upon science, and claiming superiority upon that ground, was forcibly presented so as to elicit extensive assent, the challenge to the devotees of literary cultivation could not be passed by.

In this crisis, Mr. Matthew Arnold comes forward as the champion of literature. His position was recognized by Professor Huxley as among the foremost in English literature, and he quoted from him the positions to be contested. Mr. Arnold was therefore in a sense called out, and he has made his response in an address before the Cambridge University, which we re-print from the "Fortnightly Review." We are interested in seeing how an eminent literary man deals with the two methods of study, and from this point of view the discussion will justify some comment.

Mr. Arnold first deplores what he considers the crusade of science against literature; and then tries to make out that, properly considered, there is no ground of controversy. But, because he does not or will not see the other side, is not a sufficient reason for denying its existence. There is undoubtedly a broad issue at the present time between literature and science, as distinctive methods of mental culture. The literary method grew up and was carried to great perfection by the creation of the masterpieces of literary art long before science appeared. That method has continued to the present time as a separate influence, and with a distinctive ideal in the traditional systems of education. It is undeniable that, as our colleges are constituted, a liberal, classical, literary education can be obtained with but very little knowledge of science, and it is notorious that great multitudes acquire a comprehensive literary culture while remaining as ignorant of the sciences as they would have been in the scholastic ages. If there is to be any comparison of methods, their characteristics must be limited and defined, and certainly there is no difficulty in distinguishing the quality of literary cultivation.

Mr. Arnold had said, "In our culture the aim being to know ourselves and the world, we have, as the means to this end, to know the best that has been thought and said in the world." It is fair to infer that the word "best" is here to be interpreted by the literary standard—not by everything that has been thought and said, but by the "best," that is the choicest, the finest, the most excellent, as found in the supreme literary performances of both the ancient and modern mind. That this was Mr. Arnold's meaning is evident from another passage quoted by Professor Huxley. He says: "Europe is to be regarded as now being, for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one