Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/20

This page has been validated.

specialty for the few, classical studies still have a future before them, and we can ill afford to lose the elevating and refining influence exercised by their real votaries on those who do not directly pursue them; but as the main instruments of liberal culture their day seems to me to be nearly over.

In England, the very stronghold of the classical theory, classical study seems to be declining, in spite of, or rather through, the very means taken for keeping it alive. "I fear," says the late Earl of Derby, in the preface to his translation of the Iliad, "that the taste for and appreciation of classical literature are greatly on the decline." "The study of classical literature is probably on the decline," says Matthew Arnold, in his essay on translating Homer. "I cannot help thinking," says Mr. Sidgwick, of Cambridge, "that classical literature, in spite of its enormous prestige, has very little attraction for the mass even of cultivated persons at the present day. I wish statistics could be obtained of the amount of Latin and Greek read in any year, except for professional purposes, even by those who have gone through a complete classical curriculum. From the information that I have been able privately to obtain, I incline to think that such statistics, when compared with the fervent admiration with which we all speak of the classics, upon every opportunity, would be found rather startling.[1] And the truth is that the classical system of liberal education in England maintains its place, so far as it does maintain it, solely from the fact of its being a strictly protected system, through the enormous pecuniary prizes to which it is the sole means of access."[2]

Our own attempts to establish a liberal education seem to me to have thus far proved little less than abortive, because, following as we have in the steps of the mother-country, we cannot bring ourselves to abandon the old shadow for the new substance. For classical study has really dwindled into a shadow. Once it did mean the study of philosophy, of ethics, politics, history, poetry; now, for ninety-nine in a hundred of its students, it means none of these, but the mere dry study of grammar. The scholars of the Renaissance read their Plato in the original, and compassed sea and land to find a teacher who could unlock for them his treasure-house, but it was the treasure-house of his thought, not his grammar. The

  1. "Essays on a Liberal Education, ed. Farrar," p. 106.
  2. "The prizes proposed," says Dr. Donaldson ("Classical Scholarship and Classical Learning," p. 154), "are of enormous value. It is estimated that the first place in either Tripos (classics or mathematics) is worth, in present value and contingent advantages, about £10,000. . . . In classics, the majority of successful candidates for high honors have been under tuition in Greek and Latin for at least ten years."

    The number of college fellowships at Oxford is somewhat over 300, and their average value £300 per annum. There are 400 scholarships, of an average value of £80, tenable for five years. The incomes of nineteen heads of houses are estimated at £23,000 a year.—(Heywood, in Social Science Transactions for 1871.) The sole access to all these pecuniary prizes has heretofore been through classical study.