The education of the farmer/The Education of the Farmer not to be separated from Middle-Class Education generally





"How should I educate my son to make him a good farmer?" This is a question more easily asked than answered.

Perhaps it would not be far from the truth to say, "Try to make him a good man, and leave him to make himself a good farmer: aim at the formation of a manly character and of an inquiring mind, and habits of business will follow,"

If this be true, his education depends far less on book-learning than on the training of the mother, the example of the father, the habits of the family, and the choice of friends. These are the human agencies, external to himself, and yet, in one sense, a part of himself, which prepare the man whether for good or evil, for power or for weakness. But boys are not acted upon from without only; each one has received from his Maker a peculiar physical and mental constitution; according to the use he makes of what God has given him, will be his real and abiding character; the circumstances which call out the manly character in one boy enfeeble another, because they are differently used by the two boys.

So that the ultimate effect of the best education depends at last on the self-determining will of each individual, and the relation in which his inmost spirit stands to that invisible world, for which, whether he be master or servant here, he is really training.

The circumstances under which this paper is written preclude any explicit discussion of the religious influences to be used In education, but less than this I could not say without being liable to be misunderstood. Avoiding, therefore, all controversial topics, I shall write throughout without scruple, as addressing readers who recognize Christianity as a fact of our national life. The one point which I do venture to press. In an educational point of view, is the need of consistency. Children are trustful, and must have some rule to go by; they are full of inquiry, but irritated and injured by doubt. If you wish a son to think for himself, and to think charitably when he is old, let him learn from his parent's and master's example to believe something, and to act upon it; he will be in a better position to judge of the truth of his early convictions when he grows up, if he put them to the test of practice in youth.

I take it for granted that a neighbour of mine represented a general feeling when he said, "Farmers don't wish to be only farmers; they don't forget that they are men." In accordance with this feeling, we must keep two distinct points in view in treating of the education of the farmer.[1]

First, How is he to learn his business as a farmer in the present condition of the British islands?

Secondly, How is he to be a happy member of the society in which he lives?

Our chief business in this Journal is with the first of these points, but they cannot be separated in practice.

The first question which meets us at the outset is. Does the farmer require a special agricultural education?

He is to live by agriculture; must he not learn the art by which he is to live? We might safely answer on general grounds, "All arts are best learnt by practice; and unless there is some special reason why farming should be taught to schoolboys, this art will follow the rule of others, and be learned by apprenticeship after school."

The Sciences connected with Agriculture.

But a moment's attention to what agriculture involves will settle the question. Agriculture is the art of producing human food from a limited extent of land, in the greatest abundance and in the shortest space of time consistent with a profit to the producer. The production of food, in some form, is as old as the human race; in savage life it is obtained by hunting; in the pastoral life, one stage above the savage, food is obtained from flocks and herds; a little further on in civilization, the sowing and reaping of the most fertile spots supply the wants of a scanty peasantry; but in a country with a dense population, requiring a high class of food, with a limited surface of land constantly cropped, the demands of the practical farmer on the resources of science are constant and manifold.

If we consider on what powers of nature human food depends, it is surprising how many departments of knowledge may contribute something to the result. How plants grow—and how animals feed—why some thrive and others are stunted—are questions as yet imperfectly answered: but they are the subject-matter of the science of Physiology; a science, the comprehension of which implies an accurate knowledge of Chemistry and of the general principles of Natural Philosophy. The constitution of the soil, the varieties of strata, are taught by Mineralogy and Geology. Draining, in its present advanced state, depends on the laws of Hydrostatics. The economy of farm-labour requires the skilful application of the laws of Mechanics. These are all matters of fact, plain, broad, and palpable, entering into the simplest arrangements of a well-conducted farm. But if we go on to more delicate subjects, how much is the produce of the farm affected by the principles of Heat and Light, perhaps of Electricity, by the complicated agencies of climate included in the province of Meteorology! To the subjects already named must be added the diseases of vegetables and animals, and the intricate questions involved in the art of high breeding. In addition to what belongs to agriculture as a food-producing art, the farmer requires knowledge of the principles which affect the rates of wages, profits, rents, principles taught by Political Economy, but having a most important bearing on the question, "Will it pay?"

Here then is a prospect for the poor lad at the commencement of his school life; that successful agriculture depends on natural philosophy, chemistry, physiology, meteorology, pathology, political economy, and a few other sciences.

The bare enumeration of these subjects is conclusive. The boy's studies must have some limit. It is, therefore, plain that he cannot master all the sciences on which his art depends. We must, then, find some other mode of education.

The Use of Science to a Farmer.

First let us dissipate this alarm about the sciences, as affecting the mere question of profit in business. The farmer will be able to deal with science as he deals with his tradesman, or his lawyer, or his doctor. Either he will be able to buy ready made the articles he wants (manures for instance), when he wants them, and as he wants them, and judge by the result how they agree with his land; or he must call in his professional chemist or mechanic, give him a fee and trust to his advice; taking good care in his dealings to apply to respectable and upright men, and to keep clear of quacks of all kinds.

One advantage of a dense population is the manifold division of labour; scientific discoveries are quickly turned to account by ingenious inventors; capital is forthcoming to supply any demand; and new inventions, by means of advertising and agencies, are soon spread over the whole surface of the country. What the farmer wants in his business, is a sound, healthy, and, at the same time, discriminating habit of mind—a habit disposing him to take advantage of all useful inventions, and to reject fanciful schemes; and therefore he should desire for his son, 1st., Readiness to acquire knowledge; 2ndly, Power to use and apply knowledge when acquired.

These are qualities confined to no particular calling, and requiring no special model-schools to teach them.

Education for Farming only a Branch of Middle-Class Education.

Still, granting that the sciences above enumerated are either unattainable, or not required, by the ordinary farmer, it may yet be asked, "Is there not something so peculiar in the business of farming as to require special teaching?" The country and the town, land and trade, present ideas so opposite, that it may well be supposed that the education which fits for the one is not a good preparation for the other. Let us see. English society throws itself broadly into three classes—the labourers; the employers of labour for profit; and the educated classes, who live by the labour of their own brains, or by incomes derived from their predecessors. The middle class, living on profits, includes the tradesman who supplies the bodily wants of his customer by retail; the manufacturer, who converts the raw material into a state fit for use; and the agriculturist, who supplies raw materials for food and clothing. In addition to these, there are of course many other branches of mercantile business, furnishing employment to a large class of agents and clerks.

The occupation of the farmer, for which he is to be fitted by his education, has much in common with that of the tradesman and the manufacturer. His time will be spent in supplying the material wants of his fellow-creatures. He will look for the maintenance of his own family to the profits derived from the judicious expenditure of capital in the payment of wages, in the purchase of stock at the lowest price, to be sold again at the dearest. He will be engaged in the constant struggle with the powers of nature, and his success will in great measure depend on the employment of processes skilfully adapted to economise time, money, and labour.

In all this there is no clear distinction to be drawn between the employments of the farmer and those of other men of business in the middle ranks; whereas the whole of the middle class is separated on the one hand from the labourers who work for wages, as other men's servants, with a view to their employer's profit or enjoyment; and on the other from what are called the independent classes and the members of the liberal professions, who are reasonably expected by all ranks to maintain as the characteristic of English gentlemen a generous disregard to mercantile profit in their transactions with their neighbours. From these considerations we may draw the conclusion that the farmer's education should take its character rather from the circumstances which attach to business in general than from the peculiarities of agriculture.

The chief peculiarities of the farmer's business are, that he can only produce his goods at certain seasons, and that the powers of nature which he deals with are affected by the vicissitudes of weather; from which the inference is that he has the greater need for vigilant observation, attention to details, and patience. Special scientific knowledge will avail little against the seasons if these qualities be wanting.

Another element, however, must be taken into consideration which has much effect in determining the character of the education which it is possible to give to any class, and that is the element of Time. The period of education may be divided into three portions,—those of childhood, boyhood, and manhood. For convenience sake we may take the ages of ten and eighteen as the extreme points at which the second is separated from the first and the third. Speaking generally, the education of the labourer terminates with the first period; that of the middle classes rarely reaches the limits of the second.

Middle-Class Education must prepare for Life not for College.

At or before the age at which university life commences the youth who is destined for trade or agriculture passes from book-learning to a more practical or probationary training. It is this circumstance more than any other which gives its peculiar character to middle-class education. The classical training of the grammar school, as generally understood, is preparatory to university study. Much of the time of the public schoolboy is therefore spent, and wisely spent, in laying up materials for future scholarship, and in acquiring facility in the use of language and other instruments of thought, the value of which will not appear until he has passed through the philosophical training of his maturer powers and stepped out into the arena of public or professional life. To give the middle-class boy this long preparatory discipline would be to misapply his time; it would prevent him from receiving the training and gaining the information which will be called into play by his business as soon as he leaves school, and, what is more important, would increase the difficulty of giving him, before it is too late, a taste for reading, of a pure and elevating character, such as may serve to raise him above the depressing influences of the market. For it must be understood that the earlier stages of classical study are mere drudgery. The pleasant associations connected with the classics are not formed till after the grammatical difficulties have been mastered. How far Latin as a question of drill may enter into middle-class education shall be discussed presently, but for the refining influence of literature the young farmer must mainly depend on his own language, and his time is very limited.

We may, then, consider two points as established:—1st. That a special agricultural education is unnecessary and undesirable, at least for young boys. 2nd. That the middle-class education, which the farmer will usually receive, should be complete in itself, and not a truncated portion of a loftier edifice—not the first stage of a journey broken off in the middle.

The End of all Education.

These two general principles being disposed of, we fall back on the question what are the main points to be kept in view in the endeavour to foster a good manly character in a lad who is to learn afterwards to make himself a farmer?

At the risk of uttering truisms, let us mark out the objects of all education, bearing in mind, as we pass them in review, the future occupation to which the father is looking forward for his son.

The object of education generally is to call out and discipline those faculties of mind and will which God has given us; and we may find a clue to our inquiry, without trenching too much on serious subjects, in the threefold division of human duty:—1st. As in this world of sense we are all tempted to forego our real good for present gratification, we need to form a habit of looking above and beyond things present; in other words, to see the invisible by the eye of Faith, and the future by that of Hope, 2ndly. Inasmuch as we are tempted to gratify self, and inasmuch as our influence over others depends on our credit, unselfishness and veracity should be especially cultivated in our intercourse with others,—in other words. Charity and Truth—"speaking the truth in love." 3rdly. Much of our success in life depends on the free but orderly use of our powers of body and mind: Nature does much, but training should do still more, to quicken boys, or make them alive, physically, morally, and intellectually. Activity, perseverance, method, in his conduct,—observation, memory, judgment, in the use of his intellect,—are needed by every man, but by none more than by the farmer; and I venture, with all submission to practical men on the one hand, and scientific gentlemen on the other, to assert that these points are more important to be thought about before eighteen than to judge the weight of a bullock or to study agricultural chemistry.

The object of the education of the farmer should be to give him the moral and intellectual habits required by practical men in general, rather than the special knowledge of Agriculture. But, although the knowledge of technical details may be postponed, his mental training should be considered with reference to one marked distinction:—the business of the statesman and the divine is with Persons; the business of the farmer and the commercial man is with Things.

From this it follows that after the first instruments of knowledge, such as reading and writing, have been acquired, the farmer's preparation for business should be scientific rather than literary. He will be occupied with numerous petty details on which in fact his profits will depend; one great object of his education should therefore be to counteract the narrowing influence of empirical knowledge, by giving him confidence in the great Laws of Nature. But with still higher objects in view, namely, to elevate him as man above his daily work, to call out his sympathies, and to warm his affections, Literature should have an important though a subordinate place.

The Three Periods of Education.

It was observed above that the education of all classes may be divided into three portions—that of the child, the schoolboy, and the young man. Into the training of the farmer, as a young man, we do not propose to enter here;[2] that belongs to apprenticeship. The young statesman serves his apprenticeship as a private secretary; the lawyer, as a pupil in chambers; the medical man, as a hospital dresser; the clergyman, seldom, alas! till his first curacy. The young farmer, in like manner, serves his apprenticeship to his father, or to some one with whom his father places him to learn his business. A wide line must be drawn between apprenticeship and education.[3] Many mistakes arise from confusing the two. English education and English common sense will be ruined if all schools become special, by the vain attempt to introduce practice into school life. The model "School-Farm" cannot be a model "Business-Farm."

Our chief concern here is with the school, but a few words must be said about the home life, which precedes and accompanies schooltime.


Too much importance cannot be attached to the precious years of childhood, when the faculties are budding into life; and though nothing can be worse than some of the false excitement of infant schools, the mother's early training has much effect on the mental power of after years. An eminent French philosopher told me once that he had been commissioned by his government to look into the system of education in this country, with a view to account for what seemed to a Frenchman incomprehensible, viz,, the practical effect of our English education, especially in the higher ranks, considering how very little scientific or methodical preparation for the business of life it includes. I introduced him to various persons, some of whom accounted for the fact by the catechetical method of college lectures; others by the freedom of public schools, but when I mentioned the question to Professor Sedgwick, he answered in his characteristic way—"You should have told him they have English mothers."[4]

It is not for me to teach English mothers how to do their duty; but if I may call to my aid the memory and example of that blessed office as actually practised, the following points may be selected as bearing on the present subject:—

Mother's Training.

To the mother it belongs especially to train the child's affections, and to mould the character by sowing the first seeds of self-control. The elementary religious training is also her peculiar province, and there is no saying how deep may be the impression left by the reverent reading of the Bible narratives on a mother's knee. Simple Hymns and Scripture prints are invaluable, and of these there is no lack at a very moderate cost. The mistress of a farm-house may not have leisure for much intellectual teaching beyond the first steps of reading and spelling, but she may prepare the way for future instruction by forming good habits, which however cannot be done without taking great pains. She may awaken observation by interesting the child in the habits of animals, the songs of birds, and the varieties of flowers; by pointing out the causes of common occurrences in nature, and the reasons for some of the things she does in the dairy, the kitchen, and the poultry-yard. She can form habits of diligence and perseverance by requiring little tasks in household matters, undertaken as they will be at first as a pleasure, to be punctually and regularly performed. It is needless to observe that this requires patience, good-temper, and some self-denial in the mother, for it is far less troublesome to do anything oneself than to get it done by a child, with the prospect of having it all to do over again. It is a wise maxim, "Remember that children have to be told the same thing over and over again; they must be reminded every day, and all day, and that cheerfully." Self-reliance is another habit to be acquired in very early years. I have heard it quoted as the saying of one of the best and most disinterested educators[5] in England, "that the secret of education consists in putting children into a difficulty and leaving them to find their own way out of it."

Practical habits in the business of life depend, in a great measure, on a certain quickness of perception and fertility of resource. It is therefore of great importance to call out the inventive powers and to encourage the activity given by nature to the young. In children there is a strong temptation to dreaming, or what is called wool-gathering, and dawdling. In this point of view games are invaluable. By games I mean real play, not lessons in disguise, which children are sure to find out. Play is a provision of nature and involves freedom as well as activity. Only let play be play; either play of the mind, that is activity in guessing, finding out, and contriving; or play of the body, in the active exercise of the limbs; and the more fun the better. Nor are the little imitative amusements of children to be despised, for the play of the imagination calls out the inventive and active powers in happy combination.

The bane of childhood is to pamper the appetite for bodily indulgence or any kind of pleasure. It is a profound principle of an ancient moral writer that pleasure, which is given to man as the natural result of healthy action, should not be its motive. When pleasure is allowed to take the place of duty, or to be followed in excess, it always disappoints, and produces a morbid craving for excitement, which destroys all power of enjoyment.

"It is not pleasure (says a German)[6] but play which keeps children cheerful, therefore give no plaything whose end is only to he looked at, but one which can be used. That which produces and maintains cheerfulness is activity clothed in the lightest wings."

As to actual teaching, for the reason given above, little need be said. But I earnestly commend to mothers in the middle classes two little books written by my more than respected tutor, the Right Rev. Thomas Vowler Short, a Devonshire man, now Bishop of St. Asaph, 'Bishop Short's Hints on Teaching Little Children to Read;' 'Instructions for Teaching Arithmetic to Little Children.'[7] Having tried them both with my own children I can answer for their value, and also for that of many other books written for National Schools, as suited for parental use. My farming friends may rest assured that the economy of labour has not made more advance within the last twenty years in the art of growing turnips than it has in the art of teaching children to read and to count. At the same time either a natural gift or some special information and training is required for teaching young children well. Without, however, depreciating the more intellectual methods, I venture still to think the old-fashioned Multiplication Table, which must be learned sooner or later, is very good discipline, and the sooner it is learnt the better.[8] There must be some learning by rote in education, only let what is learned be learned quite perfectly. The old spelling-books are worse than useless. The 'Spelling-book Superseded,' published, by the Irish Board,[9] will be a good substitute and a great help to a mother.

Children have generally a love of poetry, and the memory is their strongest faculty; a few simple pieces of poetry are easily learned early, and will give pleasure in after life, only let them be simple and natural. I never knew a child who did not enjoy Watts' Hymns, or Hymns for Little Children,[10] of which this is a specimen:—

"All things bright and beautiful,
  All creatures great and small,
 All things wise and wonderful,
  The Lord God made them all.

 Each little flower that opens,
  Each little bird that sings,
 He made their glowing colours,
  He made their tiny wings.

 The rich man in his castle,
  The poor man at his gate,
 God made them, high or lowly,
  And ordered their estate.

 The purple-headed mountain,
  The river running by,
 The sunset, and the morning,
  That brightens up the sky.


 He gave us eyes to see them,
  And lips that we might tell
 How great is God Almighty,
  Who has made all things well."

Or the following agricultural picture:—

"Little birds sleep sweetly
In their soft round nests,
Crouching in the cover
Of their mothers' breasts.

Little lambs lie quiet,
All the summer night.
With their old ewe mothers.
Warm and soft and white.

But more sweet and quiet
Lie our little heads,
With our own dear mothers
Sitting by our beds.


Birds are not so merry
Singing on the trees.

Lambs are not so happy,
Mid the meadow flowers;
They have play and pleasure,
But not love like ours."

It is needless to say that obedience and truth are the moral qualities which lie at the foundation of all education of the very young; but in this as in other matters more depends on example than on precept. I cannot refrain from quoting the following testimony to English life from a very remarkable German work, recently translated, 'Christian Family Life,' by Thiersch:—

"Servants and children should know everything which they have to do as accurately as the crew of a ship. It is not by chance that the most maritime people in the world is also in domestic life a model in the distribution and ordering of all which is to be done. In England this praiseworthy peculiarity is in fact grounded alike upon a well understood interest, upon national tradition, and upon religious motives. Nelson's signal, 'England expects every man to do his duty,' is properly a quotation from the English Catechism, 'to do my duty in that state of life unto which it shall please God to call me.' This principle forms the key-note of the English public and domestic life."

We in turn may learn something from Luther's Catechism.

"Let every one his duties know.
And things at home all right will go."[11]

It is an important point for the mother not to forget how entirely all her good instruction and careful training will be counteracted if she allows her children, when out of her sight, to be with servants unfit for the charge. I am led to press this point in consequence of having been told by a gentleman at the head of a large collegiate school, that he could trace the bad tricks and low tone of mind of some boys under his charge to the influence of inferior servants. Propriety in conduct and manner, truth, and good temper, are essential in those who are to be about children; how can we expect these qualities to be in our children if a contrary example is set them? Those who have been blessed with good nurses know how beneficial their influence is on the character.

Before I go on to speak of the school itself I may refer to the remark of several schoolmasters, that the great difficulty they have to contend with is the habits the boys bring from home; undisciplined wills and untrained attention, producing a state of mind which is entirely the reverse of teachable. The master is expected to take boys in this state for a year, to give them what is called a finishing, after a year's running wild in the country—a very common but most unwise way of interrupting education.

A boy's school-life in general commences when he is found to be troublesome at home; this is usually about eight years old. The question then arises whether he is to go to a day-school or a boarding school. If every farmer's little boy had a chance of being placed for a while under such teachers as are sent out annually from Whitelands, Salisbury, and other female training-schools, how happy would it be for them.

It is needless, however, here to speak of the training of a female teacher, which is only a continuation of nursery discipline, though often most valuable to young boys; nor to discuss the question in what cases it is desirable that the farmer's son should be educated by the teacher of the village school; suffice it to say that happy are those boys whose parents are wise enough to think more, during the early days of youthful simplicity, of the qualifications of the teacher, than of their own dignity. The practical question which we have to deal with here, is the education to be given at the boarding school of the middle classes for boys from the ages of 10 or 12 to 16 or 18.

School Training.

Two remarks may be made at the outset as generally applicable to all schools. First; that the education which boys receive from each other is at least as important as that imparted by the master. Secondly; that the moral and intellectual tone of the master will impress itself on the boys with far more lasting effect than his precepts. From this it follows that the games[12] of a school, its traditions and social habits, and the power which the master possesses of awakening a spontaneous healthy activity of body and mind, are among the principal points to be considered in the choice of a school. Where these things are as they should be, the evidence will be seen in the happy countenances of the boys, and the associations with which former pupils look back to their school-life. It is well known that the opinions and tone of the boys in the upper forms of a public school are a better test of its condition than the honours gained at the universities.

We now come to the matter of instruction itself, which, as already remarked, must be looked at in two aspects. First; Preparation for the actual business of life. Secondly; Expansion of the moral and intellectual nature of the man.

Education of the Farmer as a Man of Business.

Parents desire what they call an useful education; but what is really useful? Something which we could use, if we knew how to handle it; or the power of using whatever is likely to come to hand? What do we desire for our children's bodies; the free action of their limbs, or some newly invented leading strings and crutches?

I believe that in some quarters the prevailing idea of what is useful in education will be found to be embodied, first and foremost, in writing copperplate, to which may be added land-surveying for a farmer, book-keeping for trade, with the addition of Latin if the trade should be in drugs.[13]

This is a view of useful education which I wish not to caricature, but seriously and soberly to controvert on the most practical grounds of utility and experience. And lest I should be thought to be setting up a man of straw, or fighting a shadow, let me refer to one or two facts by way of illustration.

I saw an intelligent boy plodding over, what seemed to me, useless technicalities, and I observed to the master that I thought he was wasting his time; the answer was, "I know it, that boy ought to be learning 'Euclid,' but what can I do? his father won't allow it, he says it will be of no use in after life." Now, if there be one book to be named above all others on secular subjects, which for boys in the middle classes, is "useful in after life," that book is unquestionably 'Euclid.' It is the book which, after two thousand years, remains unsurpassed as an instrument of intellectual training, for all who are to be conversant with matter, and therefore with the principles of measurement. Even the word geometry means "land measuring," and is supposed to have had its origin in the wants of the Egyptian farmer of old.

Another fact within my own experience may serve to throw some light on what is really useful in this very subject of measurement alone. A gentleman who was called upon to examine a school of some note, observed that the boys were taught land-surveying in the usual way, learning to measure circular moats round impossible castles, and to do other unpractical problems without apparently mastering principles; and he gave notice some weeks before the day of examination that he intended to test the boys' power of using what they were learning, saying at the same time that he believed the First Book of Euclid would do the boys a great deal more good; a remark which was received with a respectful smile, and which he could only confirm by referring to the fact that carpenters and masons in the adjoining parish found it worth while to read Euclid, and, he might have added, Shakspeare too. Well, on the day of examination, the examiner proposed to the boys this question—"Your school is 60 feet long, 20 feet wide, you may have as many planks as you want of 9 inches wide and 10 feet long to cover it; how many planks must you have?" a simple question in multiplication and division:—the juvenile land-measurers were quite at a loss. Some surprise having been expressed, an intimation was conveyed in a very courteous tone, that the right method of setting questions had not been adopted; that the rule should be named first, and then an example set. The rejoinder was not equally courteous on the examiner's part. "I thought so; and I suppose you are going to walk about with the boys through life to tell them what rule to work sums by in their business!" The hint was very frankly and kindly taken, and the following year similar questions were worked without difficulty.

But if the method of teaching above referred to, still very common even in the enlightened nineteenth century, be not education, it may be worth while to produce a sample from the schools, or rather from the open market-place of Athens, which will convey my meaning better than any words of my own:—

The Teaching of Socrates.

Appended to a Lecture delivered at the Royal Institution, by Dr. Whewell on "The Influence of the History of Science upon Education," is a specimen of teaching extracted from Plato.[14] Those who have seen the specimen will not be sorry to have it referred to; and those to whom the reference may be new will not regret having been led to examine the Lecture and note for themselves. As we have a very different object to serve to what Plato had, we need not quote verbatim; our business will be, not to show that those who do not know have still in their minds a latent knowledge, but to note how a boy may be taught as it were to discover for himself, under the guidance of a competent teacher, the length of the side of a square whose area shall be double that of a given square.

Socrates asks, Do you know that this is a square?
Boy. Yes.
Socrates. Why?
Boy. Because the four sides are equal, and the lines which are drawn across
the middle, from corner to corner, are equal.
Socrates. May there be a square twice as great as this?
Boy. Yes.
(Thus far have we elicited knowledge already possessed, and refreshed the
boy's memory.)
Socrates.—How long must one side of the new square be that its area may
be twice so great as that of the old square?

Boy. Twice as long as the side of the first square.
(Here we have brought out for us the error—a very common one, as you
all know:—now for the teaching-skill in making the boy detect the
Socrates. So you say the square on a double line will be the double of the first square? Now let us fit to one end of the first square a second square which is equal to it; and let us fit two other squares of the same size to the sides of those two squares; then what figure have we?
Boy. A square.
Socrates. And how many times as great as the first square is it?
Boy. Four times as great.
Socrates. Not twice as great, as you said?
Boy. No, it is four times as great.
(Thus is the error exposed, the boy being thoroughly convinced:—now for the teacher's guidance in the discovery of the new truth.)
Socrates. If in this new square, which is made up of four of the old squares, we draw four diagonals, so as to cut of the four outside corners, each of these diagonals cut each of these squares, how?
Boy. Into halves.
Socrates. And you already know that these four diagonals will be equal, and will form another square?
Boy. Yes, I know.
Socrates. And of what parts of the four squares is this inside square made up?
Boy. Of the four inside halves.
Socrates. And four halves are equal to what?
Boy. To two wholes.
Socrates. Then we have got a square that is equal to how many of the original squares?
Boy. To two of them.
Socrates. And it is a square upon what line?
Boy. Upon the line that divides the original square into two halves.
Socrates. That is, upon its diagonal?
Boy. Yes.

Surely no one can have failed to see that in eliciting the error, in correcting it, in discovering the truth, the boy's mind was being put through a course of discipline most salutary, and it will be hardly possible to doubt that the boy thus taught would be ready of himself to go over the steps of the proof again by himself, and to turn at his leisure to any other form of proof of the propositions that might fall within his reach. At the same time the practised teacher will have suggested to his mind many other useful hints which this lesson could be made to furnish—that this is a special case of the celebrated 47th proposition, the right-angled triangle here being isosceles—that the square of a half is a fourth—the square on the double of a line or of the double of a number is four times the square on that line or of that number—that (2a)2 is not 4 a nor 2 a2 but 4 a2 &c., &c., and he will perceive also that connecting together these similar instances will give the boy a power of remembering them too, such as mere rote-work can never confer.[15]

I do not think that any remarks of mine could impress upon parents so forcibly as the above extract from the lecture of a practical teacher what I mean by a really useful method of teaching. The great defect of commercial education, as commonly practised, is the want of a sufficient amount of good oral teaching, and especially of teaching by question and answer. Many of the old-fashioned trade school-books are expressly got up with this view, to save the master time and trouble; a definite lesson to be learnt by heart and said to an usher being the great desideratum. But the parents must forgive me if I make the remark that this is, to a great extent, their own fault; if they will grind down the teacher of their child to the lowest farthing of remuneration, and expect the master to produce a certain show of learning in twelve months, what can be the result but that the master must engage assistants as cheaply as he can, and that he must teach by rote if he is not allowed time for mental training? Do not let me be supposed, however, to speak slightingly of rote and of routine; there is no good education without them: but they are not the whole of education. The exercise of the memory by learning by heart, the habit of learning rules before they are understood, with a view to apply them and to learn gradually to understand them, is all founded on common sense, that is, on a knowledge of human nature wrought out by the experience of ages.

But two points are essential to the success of the old methods. First, as to what is learnt by rote, either it should be definite and practical like the multiplication table, the accidence of the Latin Grammar, and lists of names and dates, which if not learnt by the young, will never be learnt at all; or else the stores laid up in the memory should be intrinsically excellent and beautiful in themselves, a possession for ever, like the Psalms of David or beautiful poetry.

The second point is the frequent application of what is learned. Facts and rules committed to memory must be made living by intelligent application as a means of calling out the reasoning powers; on the other hand, rules which depend on processes of reasoning within the boy's apprehension should be proved first and learnt by heart afterwards, and then rendered familiar by practice.

What is especially required in the middle ranks is a power of judging of quantities, weights, measures, percentages, profits, losses, and of reasoning correctly on such subjects as come in the natural course of business. It is beyond a doubt that success in business and the mastery of those subjects which are useful in after life depends on the strength of the powers of observation and judgment generally, and not on the previous acquisition of formulae or technical rules, though these in their proper place have their value. The fact is, a man should make his own formulæ for daily use, when he knows how to make them and what work he has to do.

If these fragmentary suggestions have been of any use in conveying to the minds of some of my agricultural friends my impressions as to the principles involved in a truly practical education, and my sense of the evils commonly prevalent in schools, and likely to continue without a remedy as long as schoolmasters are required to do what is impossible, I may shorten the discussion by stating at once what I think may be done at school within a reasonable time.

I assume that either at home or at a small preparatory school the mechanical aids necessary to all learning, namely, the art of reading, writing, and counting, have been, to a certain extent, secured. They are not education, but its tools; and, as education advances, the power of using the tools will improve.

Elements of Practical Education.—Language.

I should then say, that, next to right religious and moral habits, the power of reading intelligently and of expressing oneself clearly and correctly in speaking or in writing stands first among the elements of education.

This is not to be acquired by learning rules out of an English grammar, still less by copying set phrases out of a letter-book. It is, in fact, the result and the test of the progress of general education, and can only be arrived at gradually. The command of the English grammar is not easily attainable without learning some other language. But I intend to recur to the question of language further on, therefore let the bare mention of the subject suffice for the present.

On the subject of spelling, I will only say that some of the most common faults of spelling would be corrected by a very small amount of training and slight acquaintance with the sources of the English language. No one who has ever made acquaintance with the Latin words "principium," "paro," will confuse "principle" and "principal," and write separate" and "comparative," as they are often written. A boy who has conjugated "capio," and its compounds, will have gained the clue to the mystery of the diphthongs ei and ie.[16]

Calculation and Practical Geometry.

Next in point of usefulness may be placed the power of exact and rapid calculation. It is said by some very old-fashioned people that those who cannot read often make more money than those who are great scholars. This is very true; and if money-making were all that there is to be thought about in this life, perhaps schoolboys and schoolmasters might save themselves a world of trouble. But those unlettered money-makers prove my case; for it is clearly to the use of their natural faculties, and not to flourishing ciphering-books and the 'Tutor's Assistant,' nor to technical rules of any kind, except those which they may have made for themselves, that they owe the marvellous power of mental arithmetic which some of these expert dealers possess, without being able to give an account of how the ready-reckoner in their brain is constructed.

It is just this free, instinctive mental power which it is the aim of all sound arithmetical and mathematical training to evoke. It cannot be put into a boy,—it must be called out of him. The first point is a thorough mastery of the four first rules of arithmetic, and a power of applying them to facts; next, the practice and theory of fractions; after which a boy will be more capable of understanding the principles contained in the earlier rules and the Rule of Three.

I should be inclined to name next, with a view to art and trade, the practical construction (without the mathematical proofs) of geometrical forms, such as may be gained from the introductory works used at Marlborough House. This would lay a foundation for mechanical and architectural drawing, and give a boy neatness in the use of his fingers,—in short, the command of the rule and compasses. But, as I have said above, I would set before all boys in the middle classes, without exception, a portion of Euclid as the great work to be mastered. Algebra, so essential as the foundation of higher mathematics, appears to me, for boys of the class referred to, less important. Algebra is certainly not equal to geometry as a means of mental discipline; and though, if carried far enough, it throws much light on arithmetic, and gives great command over scientific calculation, the introduction of algebra into the education of the farmer is something like erecting a steam-engine on a farm which has hardly work for a team of horses.

Natural Philosophy.

With a sound preparation in the use of ordinary language, in arithmetic, and geometry, the pupil (still keeping in view only what is to be useful in business) will be ready for the study of the laws of the natural world, especially of those having relation to mechanism. A knowledge of the first principles of mechanical philosophy is most valuable to men of business for two reasons: first, because their life is spent in moving material substances, and among all the properties of matter that of weight is the most universal; secondly, because their life is spent in details, and the tendency of details is to narrow the mind. The practical man is always tempted to attach too much importance to local experience, to peculiar circumstances with which he has had to cope, and to his own contrivances for mastering his special difficulties. One great means of correcting these tendencies is to acquire a confidence in the laws of nature, and to know the inevitable conditions of work and of power. The kind of practical confidence which I mean is gained, under the law of labour, by the workman, and his remarks often surprise amateurs who have never put their own hands to the spade. This subject may be illustrated by the remark of an intelligent Exeter tradesman, with which 1 was much struck. Speaking of pottery-works, he said, "It takes six tons of coal to burn one ton of clay; so it is cheaper to carry the clay to the coal than the coal to the clay." How many unprofitable speculations would have been averted by the habit of applying plain laws of nature to business in this way.

I may mention two facts of an opposite character. I was once pitching hay with my boys in the field of an excellent farmer, now no more; and each of us trying to lift as much as we could, I dropped my right hand close to the load to give it the first lift more easily, and advised my boys to do the same. I observed the farmer did otherwise, holding both hands comparatively near the other end of the fork. As I am always in the habit of attending to the experience of practical men, I asked him if I was wrong? He told me I was, and gave me, as a reason, that, in turning the screw of a cider-press, you put your hand as near the end of the lever as possible. Whether he was right in the fact I will not now discuss; but no one who has ever been trained in the first principles of mechanics would have given such a reason.

Another instance of practical error, arising from inattention to a simple law of mechanics, was a recommendation I once heard given to increase the purchase of a wheel and axle by lengthening the axle; and the reason given was the increase of purchase gained by using a long screwdriver. The facts are trifling, but they show the bearing of sound mechanical principles on practical business.

Chemistry and Physical Science.

Next to natural philosophy, in order of direct reference to business, should naturally come chemistry. As a means of opening the mind and creating an interest in the powers of nature and the processes of art, chemistry is certainly most valuable. Under the direction of a competent chemist the practice of analysis is an excellent means of mental discipline; and one not unsuited to boys. It has this advantage; there is something to be done as well as something to be thought about. But where pupils cannot be placed under a professional and educated chemist, I doubt whether analysis can be practised with sufficient accuracy to serve as a means of mental discipline, or even so as to avoid great mistakes and even serious accidents.[17]

I more than doubt the value of such chemistry as can be learned at school being of any value to the farmer as a practical guide in his business. The reason is, that the properties of the constituent parts of matter are so complicated that they cannot be presented in their practical application with the same simplicity as mechanical laws; they are not, therefore, so suitable a means of education. Some of the processes of manufacture, such as the making of soap, of sulphuric acid, perhaps also brewing and baking, may be used as illustrations; but chemistry, in reference to farming, is complicated by organic life; and the chemistry of vegetables and animals is very intricate. To form a sound opinion on questions of agricultural chemistry implies, moreover, an acquaintance with physiology, and, still more, a familiarity with the processes of the farm. I should therefore counsel that those young farmers who wish to be agricultural chemists should complete their general education first, strengthen their powers of judgment, gain an acquaintance with the language and common facts of popular science, and, after they have left school, repair to Professor Voelcker at Cirencester, or to some practical School of Chemistry, and devote at least a whole year to the subject. At any rate, they must not trust to a smattering of chemistry picked up at school as of any real use in farming, though it may be very amusing and very instructive in other ways. The same may be said of the other natural sciences. It is well that a taste for them should be cultivated, provided that they are not allowed to supersede the real work of the school. It is also a very good thing to give boys handy habits in the use of tools, and therefore a workshop may be a useful addition to a school, provided there is some one who has a real love of carpentry and mechanical ingenuity. Those who have lived with sailors know how they can turn their hand to anything. But much depends on whether mechanical habits come naturally as an amusement, otherwise a good game at cricket were far better.

Education of the Farmer as a Human Being.

Thus far I have spoken of subjects which while they train the mental powers have a direct bearing on the business of the middle classes. We pass on to those which tend to the education of man as man: first, by awakening mental vigour generally; secondly, by calling out human sympathy. Had logical consistency been regarded, the education of the man should have come first. I have reserved this subject for obvious practical reasons—certainly not because I undervalue its importance. In the mind of the true Educator it will ever have precedence.

I once heard the advice given by a distinguished reformer of educational institutions, that instead of farmers being troubled with scientific questions in which they take no interest, they should be advised to read good novels, on the ground that it would give them an interest in the feelings of other classes, encourage a taste for general reading, and afford them many a pleasant hour with their families which is now devoted to the thought of the markets. Some of my readers will smile (as well they may) at the suggestion, and say that it is not much needed, at least on one side of the fireplace; but the principle contained in the advice is sound, viz., that the imagination is a gift of our Creator as well as the reason, and that it is not intended to be wasted or crushed. One great use of the imagination in youth is to excite an interest in persons and things which do not centre in self. It may suffice to say, without dilating further on this subject, that an interest in the feelings of mankind at large may be awakened by poetry; in the good and great men of other times, by history and biography; and in the productions and scenery of other lands, by geography and travels. All these subjects may be comprised for our present purpose under the general term Literature. But I shall speak principally of poetry, as that which best represents literature with reference to the earlier stages of education, and also because it has hitherto been too much neglected in systematic English education.[18]

It is with feelings of painful interest that I quote, in support of this opinion, the following passage from a pamphlet which my lamented friend, the late Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford, did me the honour to address to me eighteen years ago, during the first week of the Long Vacation, when he had been just released from laborious duties in the University and in his College—one among many proofs of his untiring industry, and readiness to help forward what he thought likely to do good.

"… How great are the delights, and how salutary the effect of the boyish ardour for honourable and lovely objects, which good poetry inspires! It is a great mistake to think that education is designed only to make perfect reflecting machines, although it is most true that nothing can be done rightly without reflection; but the feelings are part of our moral nature, intended to give an impulse to action, and they must be cultivated by teaching. Children must be taught to feel aright, by having right objects set before them, and having their feelings called forth towards them in the proper manner and degree.

"By this means they will be trained early to love what is good and hate what is evil, and will have chosen their part before they are called on to act: they will come into the world with their hearts already enlisted on one side, the partisans of all that is good and amiable. And this is to be done in part by the use of poetry: poetry is the language of feeling, and speaks to the feelings, and he who often uses this language learns to feel thus himself. … I would, therefore, propose the introducing of English poetry into your schools, as being likely to do good in many ways. First, it would be most powerful in forming the taste and feelings, as has been shown. Next, it would be of service for the purpose mentioned before, that which first led me to speak of it, namely, it would promote the knowledge of the English tongue in the purest form. We might think that a boy who had ever learnt a hundred lines of Spenser by heart in his life would be safe from most of the common vulgarisms heard in our provinces. … To carry the plan here recommended into execution, we must find poets fit for reading and learning in the manner proposed. I do not think this would cause any difficulty. Selections might be easily made. We might begin with Spenser and Shakspeare, for we need not go farther back than these; the older poets would be unintelligible. All of Spenser might be read, unless where too hard. Shakspeare is an inexhaustible mine for selection. Some of Milton. These would do for the elder boys only. Many of the moral poets, as Young, Akenside, Collins, Beattie, and a little of Pope, &c., might be taken in. Then for the younger readers, the delight of childhood, Cowper; and the rural poets, as Thomson and others."[19]

Literature awakens Mental Power.

The value of literature is becoming more appreciated throughout all ranks of society in England; and surely in one sense it is more needed by the man of business than by any other class. Nor can there be a greater mistake than to suppose that any one will be a worse man of business for cultivating the general powers of his mind and heart. And if, in any case, the highest works of the human mind should fail of their true end, and be degraded by ministering to vulgar display and self-inflation—as in this poor world of ours "noblest things find vilest using"—the blame must be laid, not on the books, but on some defect in the character or moral training of the reader. A healthy literature, well studied, should make a man modest, because it introduces him to real greatness; and it should incite him to be active by giving him higher objects of ambition than sensual gratification or a mere display of money.

The great characteristic of literature, as distinguished from scientific or technical writing, is its breadth and largeness, in contrast to all that is narrow and exclusive. Its aim is not so much to convey information as to set the mind of the reader at work for itself in harmony with the great spirits of our race. It awakens power in the mind, and kindles the affections. It carries a man back to the past, and bids him thence gather hope for the future.

Good literature is, therefore, in the highest sense practical. It is common to contrast the practical to the poetical character; but the practical and the poetical powers have much in common, and both are opposed to the abstract and the speculative. A truly practical man, if he has a warm heart, has generally a touch of humour and of poetry within, which peeps out, in spite of itself, in the midst of his work. It is equally true that in every great poet there is always a practical element of judgment, at least in matters relating to his own art; otherwise, however deep his feelings, however lofty his perception of the beautiful, he would fail of giving such body and form to his compositions as to convey his thoughts in a manner suited to the apprehension of mankind at large. For this, among other reasons the study of the works of a great poet is improving to the young; it tends to give an appreciation of good work and finished execution, and of the fitness of means to the end for which they are used. What is clumsy, ill-contrived, and slovenly becomes disagreeable to a mind so trained.

There is, however, an impression in some persons' minds that, while books of information and of science give solidity to the understanding, poetry and works of fiction can at best only foster a love of ornament. Such an opinion may excite the less surprise when we read in the words of one of the most accomplished masters of the art of writing in the last century a description of the office of the poet. Thus writes Pope:—

"Poetry and criticism are by no means the universal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their closets and of idle men who read there All the advantages, I can think of, accruing from a genius for poetry, are the agreeable power of self-amusement when a man is idle or alone, the privilege of being admitted into the best company, and the freedom of saying as many careless things as other people, without being so severely remarked on."

"No wonder," remarks the eloquent lecturer,[20] from whose pages I borrow the above quotation, "that, when a poet could thus write of his art, working-men, and such men who have no time for prettinesses, and have not the privilege of being 'admitted into the best company,' should have been indifferent to poetry, and that it should have come to be reckoned among the luxuries of the wealthy and the idle."

Now, in opposition to this view of poetry, which is about as reasonable as to admire one of the fair sex for the artificial flowers in her bonnet, let me set the picture drawn by Coleridge, our own Devon poet, of his old schoolmaster. Where, in modern times at least, shall we find the music of verse more sweet, or the delicacy of expression more tender, than in the songs of the Bard of Ottery? and yet see how strongly he feels about the common sense which is needed by the poet:—

"At school I enjoyed the inestimable advantage of a very sensible, though at the same time a very severe, master. He early moulded my taste to the preference of Demosthenes to Cicero, of Homer and Theocritus to Virgil, and again of Virgil to Ovid. At the same time that we were studying the Greek tragic poets, he made us read Shakspeare and Milton as lessons, and they were the lessons, too, which required most time and trouble to bring up so as to escape his censure. I learnt from him that poetry—even that of the loftiest, and seemingly that of the wildest, odes—had a logic of its own as severe as that of science. In the truly great poets, he would say, there is a reason assignable, not only for every word, but for the position of every word.

"In our own English compositions he showed no mercy to phrase, metaphor, or image, unsupported by a sound sense, or where the same sense might have been conveyed with equal force and dignity in plainer words. Lute, harp, lyre, muse, muses, and inspirations, Pegasus, Parnassus, and Hippocrene, were all an abomination to him. I fancy I can almost hear him now, exclaiming, 'Harp? Harp? Lyre? Pen and ink, hoy, you mean!—Muse, boy, Muse? Your nurse^s daughter, you mean!—Pierian spring? Oh, aye! the cloister-pump, I suppose!' Nay, certain introductions, similes, and examples were placed by name on a list of interdiction

… "There was one custom of our master's which I cannot pass over in silence, because I think it imitable and worthy of imitation. He would often permit our theme exercises, under some pretext of want of time, to accumulate till each lad had four or five to be looked over. Then placing the whole number abreast on his desk, he would ask the writer why this or that sentence might not have found as appropriate a place under this or that other thesis? and if no satisfying answer could be returned, and two faults of the same kind were found in one exercise, the irrevocable verdict followed, the exercise was torn up, and another on the same subject to be produced, in addition to the tasks of the day. The reader will, I trust, excuse this tribute of recollection to a man whose severities … neither lessen nor dim the deep sense of my moral and intellectual obligations. He sent us to the University excellent … scholars. … Yet our classical knowledge was the least of the good gifts which we derived from his zealous and conscientious tutorage."—Biographia Literaria, by S. T. Coleridge, p. 7.

In addressing myself to parents in the middle classes, and, in some degree, to the instructors of their children, I feel sure that this picture of a fine schoolmaster of the old school will not be out of place, and will put more plainly before them than any general descriptions of my own what literature, rightly used in teaching, may do to nourish vitality of mind and strong common sense in the boys they have to prepare for a life of business.[21]

Nor will it be out of place to refer here to an anecdote of the eminent man who presided over Christchurch at the commencement of this century, Dr. Cyril Jackson, one of the most remarkable men of his day; especially remarkable for the influence which he acquired and retained over those once under his authority.

The Dean said to one of his gentlemen commoners, who came to take leave of him, after passing a creditable examination (before the days of classes)—"So you have been thanked for your examination, and you probably think your education is completed; but you will find that the most important part for the business of life is yet to come. I have made you learn Greek, because I knew it would be good for you: and now I do not care how soon you forget it; I have taught you how to learn—now, go and learn what you will." The saying is the more impressed on my own mind, because I recall with pleasure the kindness with which the good old man, whom I was taken with my parents to visit in his retirement at Felpham, encouraged some piece of childish curiosity as one step towards a habit of accurate observation.

Literature trains Moral Feeling.

And now a word as to what good literature may do to awaken a genial kindly interest in things and persons out of self, and above and beyond the narrow range of business. 1 cannot do better than refer my readers to a charming work by the late Professor Reed of Pennsylvania, whose premature death in the 'Arctic' steamer was a loss to the Anglo-Saxon family, for he was one of the types and bonds of our brotherhood:—

"What," he asks, "is literature? … Books that are technical, that are professional, that are sectarian, are not literature in the proper sense of the term. The great characteristic of literature, its essential principle, is that it is addressed to man as man; it speaks to our common human nature; it deals with every element in our being that makes fellowship between man and man through all ages of man's history, and through all habitable regions of this planet. According to this view, literature excludes from its appropriate province whatever is addressed to men as they are parted into trades, and professions, and sects—parted, it may be, in the division for mutual good; or, it may be, by vicious and unchristian alienation.

"A London linendraper writes a treatise on angling, with no other thought, perhaps, than to teach an angler's subtle craft, but infusing into his art so much of Christian meekness, so deep a feeling for the beauties of earth and sky, such rational loyalty to womanhood, and such simple, child-like love of song—the songs of bird, of milkmaid, and of minstrel—that this little book on fishing has earned its life of two hundred years already, outliving many a more ambitious book, and Izaac Walton has a place of honour amid British authors, and has the love even of those who have learned the poet-moralist's truer wisdom:—

'Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.'"[22]

I can most earnestly commend the work from which this extract is taken to mothers for its purity and wisdom; it will be a real help to them as a guide in the selection of reading for their families.

Instead of adding any remarks of my own in illustration of the principle laid down by Professor Reed, I shall at once appeal to that fellowship between man and man which a writer must claim from his reader, or he writes in vain, by setting before my friends three pictures of humble life drawn from distant periods of our literature, but all agreeing in this, that those who painted them drew from nature, and expressed themselves in pure and unaffected English.

The first is the picture of a faithful household-servant from Shakspeare:—


What! my young master? my gentle master,
O my sweet master, you memory
Of old Sir Rowland! Why, what make you here?
O unhappy youth,
Come not within these doors;


What, wouldst thou have me go and beg my food?


… I have five hundred crowns,
The thrifty hire I sav'd under your father,
Which I did store to be my foster-nurse.
When service should in my old limbs lie lame,
And unregarded age in corners thrown:

Take that and He that doth the ravens feed,
Yea, providently caters for the sparrow,
Be comfort to my age! Here is the gold;
All this I give you. Let me be your servant;
Though I look old, yet am I sti'ong and lusty.
For in my youth I never did apply
Hot and rebellious liquors in my blood;
Therefore my age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty, but kindly. Let me go with you;
I'll do the service of a younger man
In all your business and necessities.


O good old man; how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world,
When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
Thou art not for the faction of these times,
Where none will sweat but for promotion;
And having that, do choke their service up
Ev'n with the having. 'Tis not so with thee.
But, poor old man, thou prun'st a rotten tree.
That cannot so much as a blossom yield,
In lieu of all thy pains and husbandry.
But, come thy ways, we'll go along together;
And ere we have thy youthful wages spent,
We'll light upon some settled low content.


Master, go on; and I will follow thee.
To the last gasp with truth and loyalty.
From seventeen years till now almost fourscore
Here lived I, but now live here no more.
At seventeen years many their fortunes seek;
But at fourscore, it is too late a week.
Yet fortune cannot recompense me better,
Than to die well, and not my master's debtor.

As You Like It, Act ii., Scene 3.

What farmer's " feeling heart" will not respond to the touching description of the "patience of the poor" as thus given by Cowper:—

"Poor, yet industrious, modest, quiet, neat,
Such claim compassion in a night like this,
And have a friend in every feeling heart.

The frugal housewife trembles when she lights
Her scanty stock of brushwood, blazing clear.
But dying soon, like all terrestrial joys.
The few small embers left she nurses well;
And, while her infant race, with outspread hands.
And crowded knees, sit cowering o'er the sparks,
Retires, content to quake, so they be warm'd.

The taper soon extinguish'd, which I saw
Dangled along at the cold fingers' end
Just when the day declined; and the brown loaf
Lodged on the shelf, half eaten without sauce
Of savoury cheese, or butter, costlier still;
Sleep seems their only refuge: for alas!
Where penury is felt the thought is chain'd,
And sweet colloquial pleasures are but few.
With all this thrift they thrive not. All the care
Ingenious parsimony takes, but just
Saves the small inventory, bed, and stool,
Skillet, and old carved chest, from public sale.
They live, and live without extorted alms
From grudging hands; but other boast have none,
To soothe their honest pride, that scorns to beg,
Nor comfort else, but in their mutual love.
I praise you much, ye meek and gentle pair,

For ye are worthy …"

The third picture is from Wordsworth. His works, I need not say, abound with incidents from rustic life, interesting to the young, as well as with deep thoughts suggested by nature to those who have formed

"The glorious habit by which sense is made
Subservient still to moral purposes,
Auxiliar to divine."

But the instance I shall quote is one in which abject poverty, in a repulsive form, is made to touch a deep chord of human sympathy, and to help us to find a lesson of good in everything, even in the outcast pauper: —[23]

The Old Cumberland Beggar.

"Him from my childhood have I known; and then
He was so old, he seems not older now.
He travels on, a solitary man;
So helpless in appearance, that for him
The sauntering horseman throws not with a slack
And careless hand his alms upon the ground,
But stops, that he may safely lodge the coin
Within the old man's hat;

She who tends

The toll-gate, when in summer at her door
She turns her wheel, if on the road she sees
The aged beggar coming, quits her work.
And lifts the latch for him that he may pass.

Poor traveller!

His staff trails with him; scarcely do his feet
Disturb the summer dust; he is so still
In look and motion, that the cottage curs,
Ere he has passed the door, will turn away,
Weary of barking at him. Boys and girls,
The vacant and the busy, maids and youths,
And urchins newly breeched—all pass him by;
Him even the slow-paced waggon leaves behind.

But deem not this man useless—
… … deem him not

A burden of the earth! 'Tis nature's law

That none, the meanest of created things,
Of forms created the most vile and brute,
The dullest or most noxious, should exist
Divorced from good—a spirit and pulse of good,
A life and soul, to every mode of being
Inseparably linked.

While from door to door

This old man creeps, the villagers in him
Behold a record which together binds
Past deeds and offices of charity,
Else unremembered; and so keeps alive
The kindly mood in hearts, which lapse of years,
And that half- wisdom, half-experience gives.
Make slow to feel, and by sure steps resign
To selfishness and cold oblivious cares.

Among the farms and solitary huts,

Hamlets and thinly-scattered villages.
Where'er the aged beggar takes his rounds,
The mild necessity of use compels
To acts of love, and habit does the work
Of reason; yet prepares that after-joy
Which reason cherishes. And thus the soul.
By that sweet taste of pleasure unpursued,
Doth find herself invariably disposed
To virtue and true goodness.
Yet further.—Many, I believe, there are
Who live a life of virtuous decency;
Men who can hear the Decalogue, and feel
No self-reproach; who of the moral law
Established in the land where they abide
Are strict observers; and not negligent
In acts of love to those with whom they dwell.
Their kindred, and the children of their blood:
Praise be to such, and to their slumbers peace!
But of the poor man ask, the abject poor—
Go and demand of him, if there be here
In this cold abstinence from evil deeds.
And these inevitable charities.
Wherewith to satisfy the human soul?
No—man is dear to man."

Enough has, I trust, been said to justify the value which I have attached to poetry, and to books which embody thoughts common to mankind at large, as distinguished from books supplying the special information required by particular classes as the materials for their respective departments of work.

The Study of Language.

But the mere perusal of literature cannot confer much benefit without an attentive study of language. Is that language to be English alone, or any other?—and if another language is to be learnt, is it to be ancient or modern?

I have not the least doubt in my own mind, that if only a reasonable period be allowed for education, there will be an eventual economy of time if some other language be learned. Latin first, if possible; and if not Latin, at least French or German. First let me present the general argument for Latin in words put into the mouth of a schoolmaster in a useful little work by Mr. Gresley.[24] A parent asks why boys cannot learn grammar in their own language only. The master answers:—

{{fine block|"That is a question which of late has been much debated. My own opinion is, that, where it is practicable, grammar should be taught by means of the Latin accidence; and I will give you my reason. It may be very true that grammar may be learnt in English; in fact, the most illiterate man must know, practically at least, something of grammar, or he could not put his ideas together in sentences Still, the utmost which can he taught in this way is very much below the knowledge of language attained by those who learn the classical languages. In teaching grammar in English, there is this difficulty to begin with. A boy does not perceive what you are aiming at. He understands what an English sentence means, without being able to say. This is a noun—this is a verb; and the mere technical knowledge of the construction of a sentence, the sense of which he knows very well already, has no interest for him. But when you put a Latin sentence before him he at once perceives that he cannot make it out at all without the help of grammar. Hence he sees the necessity of it, and sees what it really is; and sets about it with greater spirit, and consequently learns it better. In the next place, the Latin language (and still more the Greek) is superior in point of structure to our own. The clumsy contrivance of auxiliaries and particles, instead of inflection, takes away very much from the beauty of the English. In truth, the real beauty and force of language can scarcely be understood by one who is conversant only with modern languages."

Agreeing with the general drift of the preceding extract, I cannot concur in what Mr. Gresley said (many years ago, it must in justice be remembered) about auxiliaries and particles. They form part of the bone and sinew of the English language; and though the absence of inflexions makes it difficult to write clearly in English, there is nothing like English for strength and clearness when it is well written.

Perhaps the English language has not even yet received the attention it deserves as an instrument of education. As a language moreover it cannot be studied apart from its history; nor can its history and peculiarities be appreciated unless it be compared with other languages both ancient and modern. In the course of a masterly review of the languages of the world, the following tribute to English is paid by a German, Dr. Max Müller, Professor of European Languages at Oxford, quoting one of the greatest scholars of his fatherland:

"No language has sent so many colonies throughout the World as Teutonic. … But the mightiest branch of the Teutonic stem has been the Anglo-Saxon. It has stretched its boughs from England across the Atlantic to overshadow the new continent of America. It is the language of civilization in India, it preaches the Gospel on all the coasts of Africa, and Australia is receiving in it her first laws. On all the five continents it is the language that grows and conquers, the language of the future, the language of the world. Grimm speaks thus:—' None of the modern languages has, through the very loss and decay of all phonetic laws, and through the dropping of nearly all inflections, acquired greater force and vigour than English, and from the fulness of those vague and indefinite sounds, which may be learned, but can never be taught, it has derived a power of expression such as has never been at the command of any human tongue. Begotten by a surprising union of the two noblest languages of Europe, the one Teutonic, the other Eomanic, it received that wonderfully happy temper and thorough breeding, where the Teutonic supplied the material strength, the Romanic the suppleness and freedom of expression. Nay, the English language, -which has borne, not as it wei'e by mere chance, the greatest Poet of modern times, great in his very contrast with ancient classical poetry — I speak of course of Shakspeare — this English language may truly be called a world-language, and seems, like England herself, but in a still higher degree, destined to rule over all the corners of the earth. In wealth, wisdom, and strict economy, none of the living languages can vie with it.[25]

By what means then should the English language be taught? The grammars commonly in use are feeble adaptations of the old Latin grammar, mere dilutions of Lindley Murray, which only confuse and vulgarise the subject, loading the memory with a pedantic enumeration of technical rules, unsuited to the genius of the English language. Something has been done towards providing the middle classes with really English grammars by Dr. Latham, by Mr. Thring, and by Mr. M'Leod.

Should Farmers learn Latin?

But the right way of teaching English depends on the answer to another question, namely, whether there is any use in teaching Latin where it cannot be taught thoroughly—I mean so as to be remembered and used with facility through life.

Great changes have taken place in the public mind on this subject. In old times Latin was supposed to be the introduction to all learning above that of reading, writing, and ciphering. Grammar-schools taught the classic s almost exclusively. Against this the English mind, especially in the middle classes, rebelled. Attempts were made to compel an alteration in the old methods of grammar schools and universities, and to exchange classics for metaphysics at one time, and for physical science at another. These attempts having failed, other institutions sprung up by the side of the old ones. The London University and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge established the claims of physical science to a share at least in the formation of the English mind.

But the older institutions had life in them yet; and the original stocks, after a little pruning, have proved strong enough to throw out new shoots or to carry vigorous grafts, instead of being rooted up. The amount of work in physical science that has been going on in Oxford and Cambridge is, perhaps, not generally known; but the work is real, and the general feeling on this subject tells on the public schools, of which I will subjoin to this paper some evidence, in a sample of the questions on Chemistry which Eton boys have been encouraged to answer, making all the more progress in Latin verse, I hope and believe, in consequence.[26]

Whilst this development of the older institutions in the direction of modern knowledge has been going on, the value of their original training in all that is really essential has become more widely appreciated.

I have taken great pains to inquire into the opinions of intelligent men in the middle ranks, and into the experience of practical teachers on this subject, and I come to the conclusion, that while on the one hand, an exclusively classical education would not be tolerated, on the other, the sense of the importance of some knowledge of the elements of our language is on the increase, the only question being, whether this is best attained by learning French or Latin.

The strongest argument I have heard against Latin is that of a high classical scholar, to the effect that unless enough Latin is learned to make the ancient authors a source of real pleasure in after life nothing will be gained; and that for the purpose of understanding English, French is equally useful.

However true it may be that French does to a certain extent illustrate our own tongue, I must demur to its being a means of mental drill at all to be compared with the elements of the Latin grammar; and as to the question of pleasure in after life, I believe nothing is more thoroughly odious to boys than the remembrance of lessons in English grammar, for the reason given above, that they do not see what it comes to. Moreover, to a boy of any intelligence the derivation of English words from Latin, especially if illustrated by French, is a fertile source of interest long before the beauties of a Latin author can be perceived. At any rate, I am satisfied that the consensus of practical men is strongly in favour of the value of even two or three years' drill in the Latin accidence and in the most elementary rules of syntax; and this mainly on the ground of habits of attention and clearness of mind gained thereby, which they have never been able to give by any other means; so that I have heard it observed by a thoroughly practical man that he could draw a line in his Euclid class between the Latin boys and the others. At the same time the fact must not be disguised that Latin is irksome, especially when boys begin it late, which with farmers' sons must usually be the case, and that it does take up time.

The answer which I venture to suggest as the true solution of the question is, that the course to be taken should depend on the time the boy is likely to remain at school. Among those youths who are to enter on their future occupation at the age of fourteen, the cases in which Latin can be learned without too great consumption of the time required for other necessary branches of plain every-day knowledge must be very rare. On the other hand, if the education is likely to be continued beyond 14—say, to 16 or 17—presuming that the Latin is well taught by a good scholar, good enough scholar to select what is most important as a means of discipline, and to pass by what is only required in an University course; in short, able to give a thoroughly English character to the Latin training and to make it interesting—then, in such a case I have no doubt that, to learn even the elements of Latin would be a real saving of time during the years spent at school, a gain of strength and clearness of mind for after life. I have it on the authority of a teacher who has been brought up himself under the conditions here indicated, that an hour and a half daily enable him to take his boys through a portion of Caesar and a book of Virgil with considerable advantage to their general progress.

I had arrived at these conclusions after long observation of the effect of Latin on the training of young men intended for school-masters; and after frequent conversations with practical teachers experienced in the education of boys intended for trade, as well as with intelligent men engaged in business both in town and country.

But I am very much obliged to the Rev. J. Penrose, who has taken great interest in the plans proposed by Mr. Brereton and Lord Ebrington for the improvement of "County Education," as well as in the "West of England Examinations and Prizes," for permitting me to quote the result of his experience and inquiries.

"I have asked a great number of persons whose opinions I thought would be valuable, masters of commercial schools, inspectors, and men engaged in business, what were their opinions about Latin. One or two have thought it would be better to have none; but there is a decided consensus among the rest in favour of just the amount which is suggested in the 'Notice to Competitors.' I asked my relations in Lincolnshire to propose the question to their farmers, who were all in favour of Latin to a man."

Mr. Penrose did me the favour to put me in communication with Dr. Boole, the son, if I mistake not, of one to whom some of the best men of Lincoln owe their education, and himself the distinguished professor of mathematics in Queen's College, Cork, who allows me to quote the following vigorous remarks:—

"I think that Latin ought to be a subject of examination, but that the number of marks allotted to it should be too small to amount to anything like a bounty upon the study. Taking into account the position and prospects of those for whose benefit the examinations are intended, it would in my opinion be an evil if any were induced by the hope of reward or distinction to engage in a pursuit which they would not upon other grounds have chosen.

"I form this opinion partly upon considerations of economy and public utility, partly upon a regard for the freedom of education, and partly—and this is not the least element—upon personal observation of the difference of intellectual character among boys. Perhaps there are in every school a few who have a decided taste for the acquisition of languages. Very often this taste is associated with the love of poetry. Where these dispositions are combined the study of Latin becomes, more than that of any living language, a source of enjoyment; and a comparatively short time suffices to produce valuable results. Not only is the taste elevated and refined, but the habit of applying rules, and of referring to standards, in the first place of accuracy, in the second place of elegance, is formed. I can well conceive that the intellectual benefit thus acquired may survive almost the last shred of positive knowledge of the language which had been associated with it. But the cases to which I have referred are not numerous, and in a majority of instances the study of Latin in schools for the education of the sons of farmers and tradesmen (designed themselves to follow the same occupation) is productive of no compensating good for the undoubted irksomeness and restraint of the study itself. Of course this observation does not apply to schools in which the whole course of education, continued for a great number of years, favours the development of tastes and habits, which in the beginning may exist only in a very rudimentary degree."

I forwarded to Dr. Boole the detailed scheme of the West of England Examination, and informed him that the plans proposed were not limited to young boys about to leave school at an early age, and I received from him a letter, from which the next extract is taken:—

… "I fully think that if a parent be disposed to continue his son's school education for three years after his attaining the age of 15, he might properly be advised to require him to learn Latin, and at least one modern language in addition. I am sure that for the average of lads, with such advantage of time and opportunity, all this would be quite within the compass of a reasonable possibility. My previous observations were made under the impression that the school education of the sons of farmers would seldom be continued after the age of 15, unless there was a great deal of early neglect to make up for I think I ought further to say, that it is my decided opinion that where there has been no previous neglect, and it is still the wish of the parent to give his son farther advantages, he would be wise to remove him at about the age of 15 to a college or advanced school, where younger boys are not admitted. One reason for this is, that there would be less danger of formal repetition of what has been done before; another is, that it is well in the time of youth to be where the general level is high. However, I only make these remarks with reference to boys not destined for the Universities, for the consciousness of such destination supplies that higher level, which in schools for the middle class is most needed."

I must add the opinion of a Somersetshire man (Rev. E. Thring), already referred to, whose talents and exertions bid fair to earn a high reputation for the school of Uppingham, of which he is the head-master.

"For years 1 have been deeply interested in education, having begun my professional life by steady daily work in National Schools, to which I am indebted for all my training as a teacher, long before I had any thought of being an Upper Class Schoolmaster. I am very strongly of opinion that the hope of England in education lies in working up from below. And I equally think that there is no basis like Latin, if properly taught, which I would venture to assert a master at our great schools is no judge of; and that a boy remaining at school up to 15 or 16, can under such circumstances quite master the amount of knowledge of Latin you look to as a training for language and mental exercise, and an assistance to his own native literature. You do not want, it seems to me, that taste for Latin literature my old friend at Eton speaks of; but you do want a habit of close logical thought applied to something less abstract than figures and Mathematics, and a precision in wielding and understanding language which no other process can give Modern languages do not give this in the same degree, for the reason partly that our own language does not, viz., the perpetual tendency to slide into fluent conversational proficiency, and mistake it for real knowledge and mental training. A well-trained boy of 15 can compose ordinary Latin well, and compose in Verse and Prose fairly. If you consider that such a boy has had to give as much of his time to Greek, it will be clear how, omitting Greek, a boy of the middle classes would have plenty of time for his other subjects, and yet be able to give enough to Latin."

Lastly, one of the most distinguished scholars, as well as one of the most practical teachers in our country, Dr. Kennedy of Shrewsbury, permits me in the kindest manner to add his opinion:—

"I should strongly advocate the teaching of Latin to the children of the middle classes, on the ground that they desire, and it is desirable, that their instruction, as a class, should be on a higher level than that of the classes below them in the social scale, and this can hardly be better done than by giving them more linguistic, as well as deeper scientific, knowledge. Latin would, of course, be a material help to their acquirement of French, and knowing both these, they would at the same time acquire a more accurate knowledge of English."

I have devoted what may seem to some a disproportionate space to the subject of language, and particularly to the discussion of the question, whether and to what extent Latin should be taught to farmers' sons and others in the middle ranks?—because I know it is one on which many fathers are anxious for information. It is one also on which very powerful influences have been brought to bear in opposition, as I believe, to the right course. I have therefore felt it necessary to support my argument by high authorities. The subjects which remain must be more shortly disposed of.

Geography and History.

History and geography are full of interest to those whose minds are already sufficiently called out to enter into their mutual bearings; but after all that has been written and spoken on the subject of making them amusing to the very young, it admits of a reasonable doubt whether they can or ought to be taught without a certain amount of routine and drudgery. There are some sensible remarks on this subject in a little work called 'Progressive Geography,' ascribed to the Rt. Hon. W. Croker, showing the utility and reasonableness of committing to memory a string of names of places early in life; and what is true of names of places, is in some degree true of dates and simple facts in history.

The objection which seems to me to lie against the common epitomes of geography is this, that they are generally based upon the political divisions of the present day; and as the child is successively carried through the History of the Old and New Testament, the History of Saxon and Norman England, the History of Greece and Rome, his modern geography is never called into play, and receives no life from what he reads. We want the landmarks of ancient geography and middle-age geography to be clearly and simply set out for the young. The principle is recognised, but carried out in an inconvenient and unpractical way in the geography of the Irish Board. A great improvement has taken place no doubt in connecting geography more than heretofore with the physical features of the earth as it comes from the hand of its Maker, and showing, for instance, how towns and commerce have sprung up in connexion with rivers, and held their place under frequent political changes; but we must not expect philosophy from the young before their minds are stored with facts.

Perhaps it is best in middle schools to confine attention at first and chiefly to those portions of geography which may be made hereafter to have a practical bearing on the History of the Bible, on the salient events of Grecian and Roman History and on the growth of the English empire and commerce.

History as a systematic or philosophical study is unsuited to young boys. The best history for them, after a short outline has been learned as a task, is biography. Boys enter heartily into the admiration of noble characters—happy boys!—and they have little taste for critical discussion of political motives and intrigues. They can more easily take in the image of one leading personage at a time, and identify themselves with his fortunes; and when they meet with his name in history at a later period, they recognise a familiar acquaintance. Southey's 'Life of Nelson,' and Lockhart's 'Life of Napoleon,' both small books in Murray's Family Library, and a 'Life of the Duke of Wellington' by the Christian Knowledge Society, would give a very living interest in the most stirring period of modern history. For older boys probably the plan marked out by the Training-School Examinations should be followed, A general outline having been first learnt, attention is directed to particular periods, only one of which is selected at a time to be thoroughly studied.[27]

Drawing and Music.

Drawing and music are becoming every year more important. They used to be regarded as mere accomplishments; they are now elements of popular education, and no longer the luxury of the few; in Exeter alone there are 800 pupils in drawing in connexion with the Department of Science and Art. The expression of form by lines will soon be as common as that of words by letters; and the reading of the musical stave as that of the printed page. Drawing is useful to every one who has to employ a carpenter or a smith, and wishes to convey his ideas rapidly and distinctly. A few strokes of the pencil will save many words, and prevent mistakes. Drawing moreover teaches the young to observe form, to notice beauties, and generally to cultivate the perceptive powers of the eye; but then it must not be merely the copying of a style, but a humble, truthful endeavour to represent with accuracy what is put before the eye.

Of the value of Music as a means of education, I have a very strong conviction. By music I mean here vocal music, taught with a thorough knowledge of the scale, the intervals, keys, clefs, and chords, and with a view to singing standard music in parts. A naturally fine voice is a great gift, but a rare and sometimes a dangerous one; few persons engaged in trade or agriculture can have time for its cultivation with a view to solo performance; and without due cultivation it will give no pleasure to others; but the majority of persons have voice and ear enough to give and receive pleasure from taking a part in easy choral music, both secular and sacred. And oh, how greatly is the happiness of the family-gathering increased when there is such an object to raise the thoughts above the supper-table and the card-table! As a question of mental training, I can speak from long observation of the effect of singing on persons born in the middle ranks that the power of good old music in giving accuracy and refinement of mind surpasses that of any other instrument at the command of the teacher. The effect of fine glees and madrigals, or of the anthems of Farrant, Creyghton, and Gibbons, can only be compared to that of the highest classical poetry, but with this difference, that it takes ten years to learn to read the poetry, while an active part may be taken in the music in twelve months. Among the effects on the mind of such music may be mentioned, 1st, Habits of attention and precision called out by learning the notes; 2ndly, a sense of harmony and beauty of expression forming a corresponding habit of good taste; and lastly, owing to the necessity of keeping time, there is a demand on a giddy youth for steady attention, and on a slow one for a certain alertness and quickness of movement to prevent his being thrown out—the activity of the one is put under control, that of the other is called forth. On these grounds I earnestly advocate the study and practice of music—such music as Mr. Hull ah is teaching the people to love. This music is so truly English that it must bind English hearts together.[28]

The Expense of Farmers' Education.

The question of ways and means only remains to be spoken of. An opinion prevails in some quarters that an effort ought to be made to afford a good education to farmers' sons at a low rate of charge; I confess that I think it very undesirable that any step should be taken tending to lower the independence of the middle classes on the subject of providing for the best interests of their own children; and a little consideration of facts will show that an attempt on the part of a public body to offer a cheap education would be attended with great practical difficulties.

I believe the expense of commercial education as at present conducted in private establishments averages about 30l. per annum; some benevolent persons seem to think that it might be offered at a much lower rate.

Let us see what are the items of the expenditure for which we have to provide, distinguishing the cost of the education from the care of the body, and from all considerations of social position, and making due allowance for the expense which must be incurred at home if the boy were not at school. First, as to the cost of food and of personal superintendence, we may fairly allow 1s. per day, or say 7s. 6d. per week for 40 weeks, although with large numbers and by careful management the mere food may cost much less. Washing, I believe, costs about Is. per week, or 21. per annum. These items must be incurred in some form if the boy were living in his father's house. Then we have the incidents to a second establishment—house-rent, repairs, interest, wear and tear on bedding and furniture, with a special allowance for a bolstering- match now and then, without which a school would be worth nothing. In a town I do not see how we can allow less than 2l. or 3l. a-head for these. I know that these sums are much below the mark in one case. Firing and lighting, attendance at the rate of a servant to every 15 boys, would amount to a considerable sum per head. So that, apart from all question of education, the account for board and lodging, exclusive of teaching, stands thus:—

Board and personal charge 15
Washing—House-rent—Furniture—Firing—Lighting—Attendance 7
£ 22 per annum.

I fear that some persons are of opinion that they ought not to pay much more than this, and therefore they must suppose that the education is to be given for nothing, or for the profit which the master can make out of his housekeeping. But dismissing this view of the question, let us take the case of a school of 40 or 50 boys, including day boys, and see how education is to be paid for. Is it reasonable to expect a man of education with a family of his own to undertake the anxious life of a schoolmaster at his own risk for less than a clear income of 200l. per annum, after payment of all expenses? He needs much more to maintain his position in society, and to secure the means of retirement before he is worn out. His assistants ought to cost him, including their board, 150l. per annum. I allow 50l. more for occasional masters and sundry expenses in teaching; then we have;

Principal  200
Assistants  150
Sundries  50

If there are 50 boys in the school, including day boys and boarders, this gives an average expense for tuition of 8l., or, if only 40 boys, of 10l. per annum; these sums, I understand, represent in fact the actual cost of what is considered good education by the middle ranks in a neighbouring town, so that we arrive at the lowest fair cost of a boarding-school:—

Board and personal charge  15
Lodging and other expenses  7
Tuition  8

If a parent desires any special advantages of social position for his son, he must of course expect to pay for them,

I do not hesitate to express my own opinion, that a charge of 35l. or 40l. a-year may reasonably be expected for such an education as ought to be given in the higher class of boarding-schools for the middle classes, unless confined to very little boys; but such an education cannot be given without a good staff of masters, whose qualifications ought to be above suspicion; they should hold the certificate of some competent authority, and be remunerated in such a way as to feel at ease in their position, with a hope of eventually rising and being able to marry. How can a man who is miserable or hopeless, and therefore tempted to be selfish or reckless, be a fit companion for boys?

It may not be useless to point out to agriculturists what is spent by other classes on education. A young man who goes through a regular course of education to a college degree without assistance from foundations costs his father about 2500l, allowing 5 years at a private school, 5 years at a public school or private tutor, and three years at college; and this in the ordinary course of things, supposing no extravagance. Some of the clergy, probably, by strict and conscientious self-denial, and great efforts on their own parts and that of their friends, may enter holy orders at an expense not exceeding 1000l.; but these are rare instances; and the legal and medical professions, especially the latter, often involve expenses which exceed the amount last named. If the figures above given be referred to it will be seen that, after deducting the expense of living at home, a respectable education in the middle ranks may be had, from 10 years old till 16, for less than 150l.

The only conclusion I venture to draw from these facts is, that the sum required for a good education in the middle ranks is not so alarming as to place any real hindrance in the way of its being attained by all men of capital. For surely it is far better to sink the twentieth or the tithe of capital than to give children an inferior education, by which they will suffer all the best days of their life; the addition of a trifling percentage to what they will receive after their parent's death will be no compensation for such a disadvantage.

If the objects to be aimed at in the education of the middle classes, and the data for the calculation of its expense have been rightly indicated, it remains only to say a few words as to the measures by which such an education can be brought within the reach of farmers generally.

In the first place a wide line of distinction must be drawn between the education of the little farmers, and that of the higher class of yeomen.

Schools for the Small Farmers.

When a farmer's occupation is so small that his profits do not exceed one hundred pounds per annum, with capital even more than proportionally small, his position is in reality little above that of a superior town mechanic, or small tradesman. In such a case it is manifest that the son's labour is valuable to the father, who, instead of paying 301. a year for the boy at a boarding school, wants him at home; where he may earn his board, and if he has been well trained up to twelve years old, may go on improving his mind. I have not the least doubt that the best education the little farmer can possibly obtain for his son will be found in a good village school under a well-trained master; and that to send the boy for a finishing to a boarding school in a town is simple waste of time and money.

The entire expense of a good school, with a certificated master and pupil teachers for 50 boys, cannot be estimated at less than 100l. per annum, or 21. per head. Whatever may be said on the grounds of political economy, I see no practical objection worth serious consideration against this education being given to the poor on charitable principles, at such a rate as they can afford to pay, while the small farmers and tradesmen consult their own independence and respectable position by paying its fair price, say from 10s. to 15s. per quarter. The advantage to both parties would be very great, and by proper management no confusion of ranks need ensue; the labourer's child, alas! is sure to be driven out to work at an early age, and the boys in the first class will generally be drawn from a higher grade in society owing to their staying longer at school. Provided there be a competent assistant or pupil-teacher, and the school be well looked after, there is no fear that the poor will be the sufferers. This is the old-fashioned English arrangement under which many a great man has risen from the Village School through the University to high places in Church or State.

The country schools in England will never be what they might be till the middle classes take more interest in them. It is stated by Dean Dawes, on the authority of Sir John Pakington, that 15,000,000 out of the 18,000,000 inhabitants of England are dependent on incomes under 100s. a-year; five-sixths of the population of England are therefore deeply interested in having a good and cheap education within a walk from their own doors. "The farmers," the Dean also says, "and those of the same class in our rural districts, may rest assured, and until it is brought home to them into their own parishes or neighbourhood, they never will, as a class of men, get that education it is desirable they should have; and that by standing aloof, and feeling no interest in that of the labourer, they only augment the evil which they dread—the one is advancing in intelligence—the other is standing still; and I cannot but think, that in a very few years, the employers of labour will be the class which, of all others, will take the greatest interest in those very schools of which they now think so little."[29]

Schools for the Higher Yeomen.

I return then to the question. What practical arrangements should be made in the West of England for the education of those who can afford to send their sons away from home for their education, from the age of ten years old till they go into business?

Nothing has been yet said on the subject of the training of young farmers after they have left school. Let us first dispose of this question.

It is not uncommon, I believe, for boys intended for large occupations or for land agencies to be sent at an expense of from 200 to 300l., to reside with some experienced farmer to learn business. To this arrangement, if preceded by a thoroughly good school education, there can be little objection except the expense. And if a young farmer has a scientific turn of mind Cirencester College offers all that can be reasonably desired in the way of special agricultural knowledge, of which some idea may be formed from the Sessional Examination Questions.

This collegiate course is expensive, and although the excellent Principal is unremitting in his watchful care of the morals of the college, and exercises much personal influence over the inmates individually, parents will of course consider the character of a son before they remove him from the control of the parental roof to the society of a number of young men residing near a town, under very slight personal restraint.

For the period of boyhood, two courses are open to the West of England agriculturists: to aim at the foundation of public institutions in addition to those which exist at present, or to support measures tending to render existing schools thoroughly efficient for their purpose: or possibly both plans may be combined.

Middle Class Schools or Colleges.

I have already given reasons why in my judgment the attempt to found special schools for farmers' sons alone is inexpedient. Is it desirable to found new schools or colleges for the middle classes as a body? There are some great advantages in public institutions. The higher classes owe much to them, and in some parts of England there are old endowed schools, which have a traditionary history as dear to the burgesses and yeomanry, as that of their colleges and schools are to the Wykehamist, the Kings' man, and the Westminster—associations full roughly handled in these days. A similar attachment in its degree connects itself with the schools of Exeter, Tiverton, and some others in the West of England. I can also bear witness to the enthusiastic attachment of St. Mark's men to a modern institution, which, under the auspices of a West-countryman, has, despite of much opposition resting on grounds of simple misconception of the facts, to use a mild term, done more to ennoble the vocation of the teacher than any other perhaps in England.

Among the advantages of a public institution, the first is the fact of its publicity, owing to which the dietary and social arrangements will be less open to suspicion. The master having, probably, no interest in the board of the pupils, will only have to think of success or failure in connexion with his moral and intellectual charge.

The master will also in general be a person of well-known character and education, whose previous history has been ascertained by persons interested in the success of the school, and in sustaining his position in the social scale. There will also be some security for a proper selection of assistants, and for the dismissal of those who are unfit.

On the other hand, in public institutions set on foot by subscription or shares, evils arise from the tendency of proprietary bodies and Committees to interfere. School after school has failed owing to this cause alone. Men of vigorous and manly character, capable of forming and acting upon their own opinion, will not submit to be tools of others, especially of their inferiors in intellect. Therefore, unless the managing body have the good sense to give the master considerable discretion and independence, they are sure to dishearten and ultimately drive away all able men, and to find themselves clogged with respectable and pliant mediocrity. Farewell then to all manly character in the boys of such a school.

This should be well considered by those who may wish to found a college for the middle classes. As a body the middle classes consist of thoroughly practical men, who understand what business is, and mean to have it done properly; they have a great dislike to not getting the worth of their money, and high notions of public responsibility. This is all very well, but must be applied with caution to education. I remember an illustration of Archbishop Whately's, used in the House of Lords, that some people look after a school as children take care of their gardens. When the garden is prepared and the seed is sown "our little gardeners" soon begin to pull up the young plants to see if they are growing: or they like to put in large plants in full leaf, that they may see the fruit come soon. "Learn to labour and to wait," is the lesson needed by all who have to do with schools, as well as with farms and gardens.

Men of business are very apt to look with some degree of suspicion on the work of the brain, of which they do not see the immediate results. This is painfully discouraging to men of science, who are devoting their best energies to the advancement of agriculture; they feel that they are neither trusted nor paid as they ought to be, and they are tempted to turn away in disgust to more lucrative pursuits. Depend upon it the professional labour of educated men is worth paying for, and the interest of the public lies not in getting it done cheap, but In getting it done well. For this end there is only one course to be pursued. Keep up a high standard of honour in the profession, whatever that profession may be.

Besides the difficulties inherent in the management of all public institutions there are peculiar circumstances connected with matters of opinion on which parents feel very deeply. Into these I will not enter. But before a College for the middle classes could be founded, they would have to be seriously and calmly looked in the face, and the result must be a division of power as well as of labour, consequent on the multiplication of rival institutions, unless mutual forbearance Is exercised to an extent, of which, in the existing temper of the public mind, I see little prospect. I cannot say that I think the present a favourable time for any such project.

It may be well to advert to the fact that there are already some important public institutions established on definite principles. The Wesley an body have a very flourishing College at Taunton, erected at a cost of twelve thousand pounds, and containing accommodation for about 150 pupils, which is fully occupied. The Independents have a college at the same place with the particulars of which I am not acquainted, and there are several other special institutions in the West of England, The Diocesan Training College at Exeter offers an example of sound English education (apart from its special purpose of training teachers), which deserves the attention of farmers and others in the middle classes who wish to know what good teaching is; I can only say, with all sincerity, that I have heard the elements of knowledge conveyed within those walls with a clearness and soundness to which, with few exceptions, my own school and college experience gives no parallel.

But before such institutions can be founded for the middle classes, and by the middle classes themselves (for no one else can do it), those who originate them must fully count the cost.

The training Colleges in various parts of England have been raised at a very heavy outlay; their annual expenses average about 50l. per head for each student, calculated on 645 students in all parts of England and Wales'; of this sum 157. per head is the cost of tuition; the masters cannot be said to be highly paid, for the average of their incomes is 100l. per annum, including the salaries of men of high professional standing in very responsible offices. I believe there is no institution better managed than our own Exeter College. The entire cost per head is about 45l.; the board, including in the average that of masters and servants as well as pupils, is 17l. 10s. 6d.; washing about 21.; fuel and light about 21.; books 31. The amount per head for tuition is much below the general average, but the masters are in the proportion of one to every 13 pupils. It will be observed that in these figures there is no charge for house rent. The College has been built at a cost of 9000l., besides 2000l. for adjacent land. I have heard, in consequence of the publicity of the West of England prize schemes, of the existence of a proprietary school recently established by the middle classes at Hereford, with a capital sum of 1200l. raised in 40 shares of 30l. each. The terms to proprietors are—boarders 25l., day scholars 6l. 10s. per annum; to the public, boarders, 30l. per annum, day scholars 8l. This institution is still in its infancy.

An institution of a public kind for the education of the middle-classes exists at Probus in Cornwall, owing to the efforts and spirit of the son of a Berkshire yeoman, in which a very good education is given for 30 guineas. The school at Minehead, and at Failand Lodge near Bristol, are in some degree also due to public effort, and I believe are giving a very good education.

Should it be decided to attempt the building of a Middle-Class College, which I have heard suggested, I do not think it would be wise to commence operations without the prospect of raising five thousand pounds at least.

Supposing the College intended to hold 100 boarders, sleeping-room at 1000 cubic feet for each pupil would cost 20l. per head, or 2000l., with a plain style of building. I doubt whether school-rooms, class-rooms, masters'-rooms, offices, and other conveniences, including site, could be obtained for less than a further sum of 2000l'., to which must be added a residence for at least one married man with his family. Schools are often established in old mansions depreciated in value. Experience would lead me to think that such a building would in the end be found unsuitable except for domestic purposes, and that sooner or later the dining-hall, school-rooms, and dormitories, must rise from the ground.

Whenever any large body of men in the middle ranks are agreed on the course to be pursued, there can be no doubt that they will raise the funds required for this or any other undertaking, of the utility of which they are convinced; but I think it of paramount importance that a public institution for education should have a certain degree of independence. The colleges of our fore-fathers were foundations, not speculations.

The conclusion to which, after nearly twenty years attention to the subject, I have arrived, as to the direction in which my own efforts may most usefully be exerted on the subject of middle-class education, is already before the public. My hope rests for the present in giving a definite aim and purpose to the independent action of existing schools; so that parents may know better what to expect, and masters may have some encouragement in the path of duty, subject to this one paramount condition, that sooner or later their work shall be tested by a competent tribunal.

I hope that we are not far from the establishment and recognition of such a standard and such a tribunal; and that the Bath and West of England Society will have had some share in bringing about such a result.

I feel bound to acknowledge that to Lord Ebrington I owe the first clear perception of this object; though not altogether agreed with him as to the means of attaining it, I was happy to cooperate with him in his prize scheme, of which I regard that in which I am engaged as an extension.

I cannot close these remarks without expressing my thanks to several gentlemen engaged in various departments of education in the West of England, for the frank and hearty support which they have given to the West of England Examinations,

My personal acknowledgments for much valuable information are especially due to the Rev. J. Penrose, of Exmouth; and to Mr. Templeton, M.A., St. David's Hill, Exeter.

It is also a great pleasure to me to refer to communications of a friendly character from other gentlemen engaged in tuition in Devonshire and the adjoining counties, many of which cannot fail to impress those who read them with the conviction that in the West of England may be found a considerable number of manly minded men who despise imposture of all kinds, who are doing honest work, and shrink from no test, but rather desire a searching examination in order that it may appear who are the real Educators; men who, if there be defects in the methods adopted by themselves, wish to know the fact, that they may remedy those defects. Such men have nothing to fear; the demand for good education is on the increase, and parents are as anxious as they are themselves, that the public should know where to find it.

  1. See extracts from Dr. Arnold, Appendix, p. 50.
  2. The subject is shortly alluded to at p. 45.
  3. I owe to Mr. Temple the perception of this distinction in its full force.
  4. If this should meet Mr. Sedgwick's eye, I hope he will forgive the reference to a private conversation.
  5. The Rev. W. Fry, of Leicester.
  6. Jean Paul Richter, Levana.
  7. Price 4½d. each. Sold by the Christian Knowledge Society
  8. I would advise all mothers to buy a little book, called 'Bessie Gray,' if they wish to see what may be done by a little common-sense teaching.
  9. Sold by Groombridge.
  10. Hymns for Little Children. Masters, London.
  11. Ein jeder lern sein Lection
    So wird es wohl im Hause ston."
  12. I cannot resist quoting, as an illustration of the value of school games, the Uppingham Fives Song. By Rev. E. Thring.

    "Oh the spirit in the ball,
    Dancing round about the wall,
    In your eye and out again.
    Ere there's time to feel the pain;
    Hands and fingers all alive.
    Doing duty each for five.
    Oh the spirit in the ball.
    Dancing round about the wall.

    See again, now up it goes.
    Whizzing by that startled nose,
    Hands and feet are everywhere.
    Twinkling in the middle air,
    Bodies, bodies are no more.
    All is hit, and spring, and score.
    Oh the spirit in the ball.
    Dancing round about the wall.

    Poets sung it long ago,
    All the fight and all the woe,
    Geryon and thundering Zeus,
    Hundred-fisted Briareus,
    Argus with his million eyes.
    Oh 't was but a game of Fives.
    Oh the lordly game of Fives.
    Oh the spirit in the ball.
    Dancing round about the wall."

  13. "There is one great difficulty which schoolmasters find in doing their duty to boys, and at the same time satisfying their parents. Parents wish their boys to be pushed on: the conscientious master prefers to keep them back until they are well grounded; because he knows that this will be of most benefit to them in the end. Parents like to see some visible sign of their progress. The master who watches the opening of the mind knows that they are often making most progress when no great results are perceptible. We all know that in building a house a great part of the work is done underground. When the foundations are brought up to the level of the soil, a superficial observer might suppose that very little had been done; and yet in reality great progress towards building the house would have been made. Just so in education; a great deal may be silently going on which is not seen aboveground; a great foundation-work, upon which the future structure is to be reared. But parents are too apt to be impatient, and expect the structure to be reared before the foundation is laid; and schoolmasters are sometimes too ready, nay, almost obliged, in self-defence, to yield to this feeling of the parents. They will send the children home with strings of hard names of places, and a smattering of two or three sciences, and a number of fields measured, and maps copied, and account-books with swans and stags, and German-text flourishing all over them. This is all very well; but it is no criterion of real progress. When a boy is really able to do his sums, there is no reason whatever why his account-book should not be finished off in a neat and ornamental manner; and when he has mastered the art of land-surveying scientifically, let him make as many maps and measure as many fields as he pleases. But what I object to is the loss of much valuable time in mere outside show. A conscientious master is often obliged to run the risk of offending parents, and appearing to bring their children less forward than his competitors, because he will not give in to their plans, and sacrifice the sure and gradual development of his scholars' faculties to what is entirely superficial."—Extracted from 'The Schoolmaster,' by Rev. W. Gresley.
  14. From the 'Meno.'
  15. Extracted from a Lecture by W. A. Shields, of the Peckham Birkbeck Schools, delivered at St. Martin's Hall in 1853. I have given the extract with Mr. Shields' verbal alterations, which chiefly consist in avoiding leading questions to which the answer is "yes," his object being different from that of the author in the original; but the substance is the same, as a sample of teaching.
  16. I would strongly recommend the use in middle-schools of Dr. Kennedy's vocabulary, containing a selection of the most important Latin words, with their derivatives traced down to modern English.
  17. See letter from Professor Voelcker, Appendix, p. 52.
  18. I am permitted to quote the following extract from a letter to Mr. Penrose from Dr. Boole, on the study of an entire poem:—

    "I sympathize with your feeling of the importance of the study of English literature, and venture to throw out a suggestion. Instead of confining the attention of boys to the reading of mere extracts of a page or two in length, such as we meet with in school 'Reading-books,' 'Speakers,' &c., why not add the careful study, in a judiciously, not profusely, annotated edition of one or more of our English classics in their completeness—Cowper's Task, for instance? I have tried this plan myself, and, as it seemed to me, with success."

  19. Letter to T. D. Acland, Esq., M.P., on the System of Education to be established in the Diocesan Schools for the Middle Classes, by the Rev. Robert Hussey, B.D. 1839.—pp. 29, 35.
  20. 'The Influence of Poetry on the Working Classes,' by the late Rev. F. W. Robertson, of Brighton.
  21. Something, perhaps, ought to be said here about the selection of good prose writers, as a means of strengthening the minds of boys. In schools, otherwise well conducted, there is a great deficiency in this respect. School histories of England, compendiums and catechisms of science, are ill calculated to teach boys either how to read or how to think; and therefore what they learn does them no good. It is, perhaps, difficult to select entire works of great authors suited for boys; and some variety is desirable. It may be worth while to mention that the First Book of Hooker's great work (which treats of law in general, and is not controversial), and Bacon's 'Advancement of Learning,' have been separately published by a Member of King's College, London, in a cheap form; Sir Roger de Coverley, reprinted from the 'Spectator,' in Longman's Travellers' Library; and Lord Mahon's 'Forty-five, in Murray's Railway Library, were mentioned to me by a schoolmaster of deservedly high repute in the West of England. Other books are to be found at a cheap rate in the same useful collections. I should think that 'Half-hours with the Best Authors ' would be a most useful addition to school libraries. It contains many choice morsels not likely to come in an ordinary boy's way; for example, 'Coleridge's Account of Sir Alexander Ball,' from the 'Friend;' portions of noted articles from the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviews, &c.
  22. 'Introduction to English Literature, from Chaucer to Tennyson, by H. Reed, late Professor in the University of Pennsylvania,' p. 12. Price 2s. Shaw. London.
  23. These extracts are not continuous—space would only allow of selections.
  24. 'Church Clavering; or, The Schoolmaster,' by Rev. W. Gresley, p. 52.
  25. 'Max Müller On the Languages of the Seat of War in the East,' p. 64.
  26. See Note, p. 53. I am informed that the Winchester boys have had the advantage of chemical instruction from Mr. Odling.
  27. The periods named for the training-schools reach—1. To the battle of Hastings; 2. Battle of Bosworth; 3. Death of Charles I.; 4. Death of Queen Anne; 5. A.D. 1815.

    Mr. Edward Monro has published a little book, price Ad., called Edward III. and his Period,' as a sample of teaching history by assigning a single reign to the work of an entire school quarter, and portioning out the subjects among the boys; one boy to master the genealogy, another the geography; others the wars with Scotland, the wars in France, Chaucer, Wickliffe, &c., respectively.

  28. See Account of St. Mark's School, Windsor, below, p. 55,
  29. Dawes's 'Suggestive Hints on Secular Instruction,' p. 167.