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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/281

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

classics would stop the progress of knowledge, and arrest the advance of civilization. The failure of dead-language studies is therefore a salutary result in the course of nature—a necessity, a blessing, and an occasion of thankfulness, rather than of regret and lamentation.

 

 

QUEER DEFENSES OF THE CLASSICS.

They played it rather rough on Lord Coleridge the other day in calling him out on the classical question at Yale College. To be sure, it was a great temptation to exploit so illustrious a man in behalf of a declining cause, especially just now when it is understood that they are somewhat sore at that venerable seat of learning at being pilloried as fetich-worshipers, on account of their devotion to dead languages. It looked a little like a put-up job, as President Porter called up the subject in his pleasant little opening speech, and Lord Coleridge acknowledged that he had been posted that very morning with reference to Mr. Adams's address attacking the curriculum for which Yale is especially distinguished. But it was a little cruel not to have allowed his lordship more time, so that he might at least have refrained from giving away his whole case. Lord Coleridge was reported as saying: "I have done many foolish things in my life, and wasted many hours of precious time; but one thing I have done which I would do over again, and the hours I spent at it are the hours which I have spent most profitably, and the knowledge thus gained I have found the most useful, and practically useful. From the time I left Oxford I have made it a religion, so far as I could, never to let a day pass without reading some Latin and Greek, and I can tell you that, so far as my course may be deemed a successful one, I deliberately assert, maintain, and believe, that what little success has been granted to me in life has been materially aided by the constant study of the classics, which it has been my delight and privilege all my life to persevere in. This is not said for the sake of controversy; still less is it said to an audience of American university young men for the purpose of appearing eccentric; but it is said because I believe it to be true, and I will tell you why. Statement, thought, arrangement, however men may struggle against them, have an influence upon them, and public men, however they may dislike it, are forced to admit that, conditions being equal, the man who can state anything best, who can pursue an argument more closely, who can give the richest and most felicitous illustrations, and who can command some kind of beauty of diction, will have the advantage over his contemporaries. And if at the bar or in the senate anything has been done which has been conspicuously better than the work of other men, it has, in almost every case, been the result of high education. I say high education, not necessarily classical, because every man can not have it. The greatest orator of my country at this moment, as he himself has often said, has 'only a smack of it.'"

But for the gravity of the occasion, and the dignity of those who figured in its proceedings, we should say that this was a little funny, and might query whether the noble lord had not been misreported in citing the greatest orator of England in connection with classical education. But there can be no mistake, for his lordship again remarks, "The man who has influenced his contemporaries the most is, generally speaking, the man of highest education" and he had previously said, "If John Bright comes here, you will know what English speaking is you will know what English oratory is." Since the celebrated case of Balaam, who was sent for to prophesy one way, and, when it came to the pinch, went back on his employers, and prophesied inex-