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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/282

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actlythe opposite way, there has been no more conspicuous instance of incalculable waywardness in mental operations than was here furnished by the Chief-Justice of England. He might as well have broken into a eulogy of Napoleon Bonaparte before the Peace Society as to have named John Bright in Yale College in connection with dead-language studies. He was expected to applaud the ancient classical scholarship as the supreme incomparable means of bringing the human mind up to its highest power; and he did this by quoting a man as the most commanding orator of England who knew nothing about ancient scholarship, and who has achieved his distinction entirely by the study of the English classics. He came to eulogize the dead languages, arid gave super-eminence to a man who knew nothing of either, and had devoted himself exclusively to the mastery of his vernacular speech. Lord Coleridge represented the intellectual accomplishments that give the highest advantage in the bar and the senate as fourfold. The highest education is exemplified by (1) "the man who can state anything best"; (2), "who can pursue an argument more closely"; (3), "who can give the richest and most felicitous illustrations"; and (4), "who can command some beauty of diction"; and he then pointed to the man of all England who possesses the traits in the highest degree, and who is confessedly only a smatterer in Latin and Greek. He commended classical education, but he referred to another education, not classical, which yields still higher results. Certainly, if the Yale boys turn this memorable occasion to its highest uses, they will be incited to tread in the path followed by the most distinguished orator of England, and, wasting little time upon the dead languages, will concentrate their main efforts in gaining a skillful and powerful control of the living language in which all their work is to be done.

The case of John Bright turns the tables upon the classicists. His example, like that of many other of our strongest men, proves the advantage of not squandering mental force over a wide field of lingual study. If the native speech, as an instrument of expression, is to be perfected, it must become an object of systematic, undivided cultivation. This is a dictate of common sense, and has been long understood. We dissipate our energies upon foreign tongues, and it is still as true as it was in the time of Dryden, that "the properties and delicacies of the English are known to few." The mediƦvals studied Latin because they had to make use of it. All learning was in Latin, and the language had to be acquired for practical purposes. Melanchthon, in 1528, made a report on churches and schools which became the basis in Saxony of a reformed education independent of Rome, and the example was followed in other German states. In this report it is recommended that "the children be taught Latin only, not German, Greek, or Hebrew. Plurality of tongues does them more harm than good." In the very nature of the case, our craze for foreign languages, living and dead, must be at the expense of a perfected English. It has been well said that "the idea of training upon a foreign language had grown up in modern times. The Greeks did not train upon Persian or Scythian; they knew no language but their own." This is not only a fact of profound significance, but it is a crushing answer to the modern polyglot superstition. Everybody is recommended to study Greek because the language is so beautiful and perfect. Obviously the true lesson is that the Greeks made it so because they were shut up in it, and could give their whole power to its improvement. Granting the unapproachable perfection of Greek literature, and that the Greeks surpassed the world in philosophical acuteness, the invincible fact remains that they expended no ef-