Any one who has travelled much about the country of recent years must have been impressed by the growing uneasiness of mind among thoughtful men. Whether in the smoking-car, or the hotel corridor, or the college hall, everywhere, if you meet them off their guard and stripped of the optimism which we wear as a public convention, you will hear them saying in a kind of amazement. "What is to be the end of it all?" They are alarmed at the unsettlement of property and the difficulties that harass the man of moderate means in making provision for the future; they are uneasy over the breaking up of the old laws of decorum, if not of decency, and over the unrestrained pursuit of excitement at any cost; they feel vaguely that in the decay of religion the bases of society have been somehow weakened. Now, much of this sort of talk is as old as history, and has no special significance. We are prone to forget that civilization has always been a tour de force, so to speak, a little hard-won area of order and self-subordination amidst a vast wilderness of anarchy and barbarism that are continually threatening to overrun their bounds. But that is equally no reason for over-confidence. Civilization is like a ship traversing an untamed sea. It is a more complex machine in our day, with command of greater forces, and might seem correspondingly safer than in the era of sails. But fresh catastrophes have shown that the ancient perils of navigation still confront the largest vessel, when the crew loses its discipline or the officers neglect their duty; and the analogy is not without its warning.
Only a year after the sinking of the Titanic I was crossing the ocean, and it befell by chance that on the anniversary of that disaster we passed not very far from the spot where the proud ship lay buried beneath the waves. The evening was calm, and on the lee deck a dance had been hastily organized to take advantage of the benign weather. Almost alone I stood for hours at the railing on the windward side, looking out over the rippling water where the moon had laid upon it a broad street of gold. Nothing could have been more peaceful; it was as if Nature were smiling upon earth in sympathy with the strains of music and the sound of laughter that reached me at intervals from the revelling on the other deck. Yet I could not put out of my heart an apprehension of some luring treachery in this scene of beauty--and certainly the world can offer nothing more wonderfully beautiful than the moon shining from the far East over a smooth expanse of water. Was it not in such a calm as this that the unsuspecting vessel, with its gay freight of human lives, had shuddered, and gone down, forever? I seemed to behold a symbol; and there came into my mind the words we used to repeat at school, but are, I do not know just why, a little ashamed of to-day:
Thou, too, sail on, 0 Ship of State!
Sail on, 0 Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all its hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate! . . .
Something like this, perhaps, is the feeling of many men--men by no means given to morbid gusts of panic--amid a society that laughs over much in its amusement and exults in the very lust of change. Nor is their anxiety quite the same as that which has always disturbed the reflecting spectator. At other times the apprehension has been lest the combined forces of order might not be strong enough to withstand the ever-threatening inroads of those who envy barbarously and desire recklessly; whereas to-day the doubt is whether the natural champions of order themselves shall be found loyal to their trust, for they seem no longer to remember clearly the word of command that should unite them in leadership. Until they can rediscover some common ground of strength and purpose in the first principles of education and law and property and religion, we are in danger of falling a prey to the disorganizing and vulgarizing domination of ambitions which should be the servants and not the masters of society.
Certainly, in the sphere of education there is a growing belief that some radical reform is needed; and this dissatisfaction is in itself wholesome. Boys come into college with no reading and with minds unused to the very practice of study; and they leave college, too often, in the same state of nature. There are even those, inside and outside of academic halls, who protest that our higher institutions of learning simply fail to educate at all. That is slander; but in sober earnest, you will find few experienced college professors, apart from those engaged in teaching purely utilitarian or practical subjects, who are not convinced that the general relaxation is greater now than it was twenty years ago. It is of considerable significance that the two student essays which took the prizes offered by the Harvard Advocate in 1913 were both on this theme. The first of them posed the question: "How can the leadership of the intellectual rather than the athletic student be fostered?" and was virtually a sermon on a text of President Lowell's: "No one in close touch with American education has failed to notice the lack among the mass of undergraduates of keen interest in their studies, and the small regard for scholarly attainment."
Now, the Advocate prizeman has his specific remedy, and President Lowell has his, and other men propose other systems and restrictions; but the evil is too deep-seated to be reached by any superficial scheme of honours or to be charmed away by insinuating appeals. The other day Mr. William F. McCombs, chairman of the National Committee which engineered a college president into the White House, gave this advice to our academic youth: "The college man must forget--or never let it creep into his head--that he's a highbrow. If it does creep in, he's out of politics." To which one might reply in Mr. McComb's own dialect, that unless a man can make himself a force in politics (or at least in the larger life of the State) precisely by virtue of being a "highbrow," he had better spend his four golden years other-where than in college. There it is: the destiny of education is intimately bound up with the question of social leadership, and unless the college, as it used to be in the days when the religious hierarchy it created was a real power, can be made once more a breeding place for a natural aristocracy, it will inevitably degenerate into a school for mechanical apprentices or into a pleasure resort for the jeunesse doree (sc. the "gold coasters"). We must get back to a common understanding of the office of education in the construction of society and must discriminate among the subjects that may enter into the curriculum by their relative value towards this end.
A manifest condition is that education should embrace the means of discipline, for without discipline the mind will remain inefficient just as surely as the muscles of the body, without exercise, will be left flaccid. That should seem to be a self-evident truth. Now it may be possible to derive a certain amount of discipline out of any study, but it is a fact, nevertheless, which cannot be gainsaid, that some studies lend themselves to this use more readily and effectively than others. You may, for instance, if by extraordinary luck you get the perfect teacher, make English literature disciplinary by the hard manipulation of ideas; but in practice it almost inevitably happens that a course in English literature either degenerates into the dull memorizing of dates and names or, rising into the O Altitudo, evaporates in romantic gush over beautiful passages. This does not mean, of course, that no benefit may be obtained from such a study, but it does preclude English literature generally from being made the backbone, so to speak, of a sound curriculum. The same may be said of French and German. The difficulties of these tongues in themselves and the effort required of us to enter into their spirit imply some degree of intellectual gymnastics, but scarcely enough for our purpose. Of the sciences it behooves one to speak circumspectly; undoubtedly mathematics and physics, at least, demand such close attention and such firm reasoning as to render them properly a part of any disciplinary education. But there are good grounds for being sceptical of the effect of the non-mathematical sciences on the immature mind. Any one who has spent a considerable portion of his undergraduate time in a chemical laboratory, for example, as the present writer has done, and has the means of comparing the results of such elementary and pottering experimentation with the mental grip required in the humanistic courses, must feel that the real training obtained therein was almost negligible. If I may draw further from my own observation I must say frankly that, after dealing for a number of years with manuscripts prepared for publication by college professors of the various faculties, I have been forced to the conclusion that science, in itself, is likely to leave the mind in a state of relative imbecility. It is not that the writing of men who got their early drill too exclusively, or even predominantly, in the sciences lacks the graces of rhetoric--that would be comparatively a small matter--but such men in the majority of cases, even when treating subjects within their own field, show a singular inability to think clearly and consecutively, so soon as they are freed from the restraint of merely describing the process of an experiment. On the contrary, the manuscript of a classical scholar, despite the present dry-rot of philology, almost invariably gives signs of a habit of orderly and well-governed cerebration.
Here, whatever else may be lacking, is discipline. The sheer difficulty of Latin and Greek, the highly organized structure of these languages, the need of scrupulous search to find the nearest equivalents for words that differ widely in their scope of meaning from their derivatives in any modern vocabulary, the effort of lifting one's self out of the familiar rut of ideas into so foreign a world, all these things act as a tonic exercise to the brain. And it is a demonstrable fact that students of the classics do actually surpass their unclassical rivals in any field where a fair test can be made. At Princeton, for instance, Professor West has shown this superiority by tables of achievements and grades, which he has published in the Educational Review for March, 1913; and a number of letters from various parts of the country, printed in the Nation, tell the same story in striking fashion. Thus, a letter from Wesleyan (September 7, 1911) gives statistics to prove that the classical students in that university outstrip the others in obtaining all sorts of honours, commonly even honours in the sciences. Another letter (May 8, 1913) shows that of the first semester in English at the University of Nebraska the percentage of delinquents among those who entered with four years of Latin was below 7; among those who had three years of Latin and one or two of a modern language the percentage rose to 15; two years of Latin and two years of a modern language, 30 per cent; one year or less of Latin and from two to four years of a modern language, 35 per cent. And in the Nation of April 23, 1914, Professor Arthur Gordon Webster, the eminent physicist of Clark University, after speaking of the late B. O. Peiree's early drill and life-long interest in Greek and Latin, adds these significant words: "Many of us still believe that such a training makes the best possible foundation for a scientist." There is reason to think that this opinion is daily gaining ground among those who are zealous that the prestige of science should be maintained by men of the best calibre.
The disagreement in this matter would no doubt be less, were it not for an ambiguity in the meaning of the word "efficient" itself. There is a kind of efficiency in managing men, and there also is an intellectual efficiency, properly speaking, which is quite a different faculty. The former is more likely to be found in the successful engineer or business man than in the scholar of secluded habits, and because often such men of affairs received no discipline at college in the classics the argument runs that utilitarian studies are as disciplinary as the humanistic. But efficiency of this kind is not an academic product at all, and is commonly developed, and should be developed, in the school of the world. It comes from dealing with men in matters of large physical moment, and may exist with a mind utterly undisciplined in the stricter sense of the word. We have had more than one illustrious example in recent years of men capable of dominating their fellows, let us say in financial transactions, who yet, in the grasp of first principles and in the analysis of consequences, have shown themselves to be as inefficient as children.
Probably, however, few men who have had experience in education will deny the value of discipline to the classics, even though they hold that other studies, less costly from the utilitarian point of view, are equally educative in this respect. But it is further of prime importance, even if such an equality, or approach to equality, were granted, that we should select one group of studies and unite in making it the core of the curriculum for the great mass of undergraduates. It is true in education as in other matters that strength comes from union and weakness from division, and if educated men are to work together for a common end they must have a common range of ideas, with a certain solidarity in their way of looking at things. As matters actually are, the educated man feels terribly his isolation under the scattering of intellectual pursuits, yet too often lacks the courage to deny the strange popular fallacy that there is virtue in sheer variety and that somehow well-being is to be struck out from the dashing of miscellaneous interests rather than from concentration. In one of his annual reports some years ago President Eliot, of Harvard, observed from the figures of registration that the majority of students still at that time believed the best form of education for them was in the old humanistic courses, and therefore, he argued, the other courses should be fostered. There was never perhaps a more extraordinary syllogism since the argal of Shakespeare's grave-digger. I quote from memory, and may slightly misrepresent the actual statement of the influential "educationalist," but the spirit of his words, as indeed of his practice, is surely as I give it. And the working of this spirit is one of the main causes of the curious fact that scarcely any other class of men in social intercourse feel themselves, in their deeper concerns, more severed one from another than those very college professors who ought to be united in the battle for educational leadership. This estrangement is sometimes carried to an extreme almost ludicrous. I remember once in a small but advanced college the consternation that was awakened when an instructor in philosophy went to a colleague--both of them now associates in a large university--for information in a question of biology. "What business has he with such matters," said the irate biologist: "let him stick to his last, and teach philosophy--if he can!" That was a polite jest, you will say. Perhaps; but not entirely. Philosophy is indeed taught in one lecture hall, and biology in another, but of conscious effort to make of education an harmonious driving force there is next to nothing. And as the teachers, so are the taught.
Such criticism does not imply that advanced work in any of the branches of human knowledge should be curtailed; but it does demand that, as a background to the professional pursuits, there should be a common intellectual training through which all students should pass, acquiring thus a single body of ideas and images in which they could always meet as brother initiates.
We shall, then, make a long step forward when we determine that in the college, as distinguished from the university, it is better to have the great mass of men, whatever may be the waste in a few unmalleable minds, go through the discipline of a single group of studies--with, of course, a considerable freedom of choice in the outlying field. And it will probably appear in experience that the only practicable group to select is the classics, with the accompaniment of philosophy and the mathematical sciences. Latin and Greek are, at least, as disciplinary as any other subjects; and if it can be further shown that they possess a specific power of correction for the more disintegrating tendencies of the age, it ought to be clear that their value as instruments of education outweighs the service of certain other studies which may seem to be more immediately serviceable.
For it will be pretty generally agreed that efficiency of the individual scholar and unity of the scholarly class are, properly, only the means to obtain the real end of education, which is social efficiency. The only way, in fact, to make the discipline demanded by a severe curriculum and the sacrifice of particular tastes required for unity seem worth the cost, is to persuade men that the resulting form of education both meets a present and serious need of society and promises to serve those individuals who desire to obtain society's fairer honours. Mr. McCombs, speaking for the "practical" man, declares that there is no place in politics for the intellectual aristocrat. A good many of us believe that unless the very reverse of this is true, unless the educated man can somehow, by virtue of his education, make of himself a governor of the people in the larger sense, and even to some extent in the narrow political sense, unless the college can produce a hierarchy of character and intelligence which shall in due measure perform the office of the discredited oligarchy of birth, we had better make haste to divert our enormous collegiate endowments into more useful channels. And here I am glad to find confirmation of my belief in the stalwart old Boke Named the Governour, published by Sir Thomas Elyot in 1531, the first treatise on education in the English tongue and still, after all these years, one of the wisest. It is no waste of time to take account of the theory held by the humanists when study at Oxford and Cambridge was shaping itself for its long service in giving to the oligarchic government of Great Britain whatever elements it possessed of true aristocracy. Elyot's book is equally a treatise on the education of a gentleman and on the ordinance of government, for, as he says elsewhere, he wrote "to instruct men in such virtues as shall be expedient for them which shall have authority in a weal public.'' I quote from various parts of his work with some abridgment, retaining the quaint spelling of the original, and I beg the reader not to skip, however long the citation may appear:
Beholde also the ordre that god hath put generally in al his creatures, begynning at the moste inferiour or base, and assendynge upwarde; so that in euery thyng is ordre, and without ordre may be nothing stable or permanent; and it may nat be called ordre, excepte it do contayne in it degrees, high and base, accordynge to the merite or estimation of the thyng that is ordred. And therfore hit appereth that god gyueth nat to euery man like gyftes of grace, or of nature, but to some more, some lesse, as it liketh his diuine maiestie. For as moche as under-standying is the most excellent gyfte that man can receiue in his creation, it is therfore congruent, and accordynge that as one excelleth an other in that influence, as therby beinge next to the similitude of his maker, so shulde the astate of his persone be auanced in degree or place where understandynge may profite. Suche oughte to be set in a more highe place than the residue where they may se and also be sene; that by the beames of theyr excellent witte, shewed throughe the glasse of auctorite, other of inferiour understandynge may be directed to the way of vertue and commodious liuynge ....
Thus I conclude that nobilitie is nat after the vulgare opinion of men, but is only the prayse and surname of vertue; whiche the lenger it continueth in a name or lignage, the more is nobilitie extolled and meruailed at ....
If thou be a gouernour, or haste ouer other soueraygntie, knowe thy selfe. Knowe that the name of a soueraigne or ruler without actuall gouernaunce is but a shadowe, that gouernaunce standeth nat by wordes onely, but principally by acte and example; that by example of gouernours men do rise or falle in vertue or vice. Ye shall knowe all way your selfe, if for affection or motion ye do speke or do nothing unworthy the immortalitie and moste precious nature of your soule ....
In semblable maner the inferior persone or subiecte aught to consider, that all be it he in the substaunce of soule and body be equall with his superior, yet for als moche as the powars and qualities of the soule and body, with the disposition of reason, be nat in euery man equall, therfore god ordayned a diuersitie or preeminence in degrees to be amonge men for the necessary derection and preseruation of them in conformitie of lyuinge ....
Where all thynge is commune, there lacketh ordre; and where ordre lacketh, there all thynge is odiouse and uncomly.
Such is the goal which the grave Sir Thomas pointed out to the noble youth of his land at the beginning of England's greatness, and such, within the bounds of human frailty, has been the ideal even until now which the two universities have held before them. Naturally the method of training prescribed in the sixteenth century for the attainment of this goal is antiquated in some of its details, but it is no exaggeration, nevertheless, to speak of the Boke Named the Governour as the very Magna Charta of our education. The scheme of the humanist might be described in a word as a disciplining of the higher faculty of the imagination to the end that the student may behold, as it were in one sublime vision, the whole scale of being in its range from the lowest to the highest under the divine decree of order and subordination, without losing sight of the immutable veracity at the heart of all development, which "is only the praise and surname of virtue." This was no new vision, nor has it ever been quite forgotten. It was the whole meaning of religion to Hooker, from whom it passed into all that is best and least ephemeral in the Anglican Church. It was the basis, more modestly expressed, of Blackstone's conception of the British Constitution and of liberty under law. It was the kernel of Burke's theory of statecraft. It is the inspiration of the sublimer science, which accepts the hypothesis of evolution as taught by Darwin and Spencer, yet bows in reverence before the unnamed and incommensurable force lodged as a mystical purpose within the unfolding universe. It was the wisdom of that child of Statford who, building better than he knew, gave to our literature its deepest and most persistent note. If anywhere Shakespeare seems to speak from his heart and to utter his own philosophy, it is in the person of Ulysses in that strange satire of life as "still wars and lechery" which forms the theme of Troilus and Cressida. Twice in the course of the play Ulysses moralizes on the cause of human evil. Once it is in an outburst against the devastations of disorder:
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark, what discord follows! each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores,
And make a sop of all this solid globe:
Strength should be lord of imbecility,
And the rude son should strike his father dead:
Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong,
Between whose endless jar justice resides,
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite.
And, in the same spirit, the second tirade of Ulysses is charged with mockery at the vanity of the present and at man's usurpation of time as the destroyer instead of the preserver of continuity:
For time is like a fashionable host
That slightly shakes his parting guest by the hand,
And with his arms outstretch'd, as he would fly,
Grasps in the eomer: welcome ever smiles,
And farewell goes out sighing. O, let not virtue seek
Remuneration for the thing it was;
For beauty, wit,
High birth, vigour of bone, desert in service,
Love, friendship, charity, are subjects all
To envious and calumniating time.
To have made this vision of the higher imagination a true part of our self-knowledge, in such fashion that the soul is purged of envy for what is distinguished and we feel ourselves fellows with the preserving, rather than the destroying, forces of time, is to be raised into the nobility of the intellect. To hold this knowledge in a mind trained to fine efficiency and confirmed by faithful comradeship is to take one's place with the rightful governors of the people. Nor is there any narrow or invidious exclusiveness in such an aristocracy, which differs in this free hospitality from an oligarchy of artificial prescription. The more its membership is enlarged, the greater is its power and the more secure are the privileges of each individual. Yet, if not exclusive, an academic aristocracy must by its very nature be exceedingly jealous of any levelling process which would shape education to the needs of the intellectual proletariat and so diminish its own ranks. It cannot admit that, if education is once levelled downwards, the whole body of men will of themselves gradually raise the level to the higher range; for its creed declares that elevation must come from leadership rather than from self-motion of the mass. It will therefore be opposed to any scheme of studies which relaxes discipline or destroys intellectual solidarity. It will look with suspicion on any system which turns out half-educated men with the same diplomas as the fully educated, thinking that such methods of slurring differences are likely to do more harm by discouraging the ambition to attain what is distinguished than good by spreading wide a thin veneer of culture. In particular it will distrust the present huge overgrowth of courses in government and sociology, which send men into the world skilled in the machinery of statecraft and with minds sharpened to the immediate demands of special groups, but with no genuine training of the imagination and no understanding of the longer problems of humanity. It will think that the dominance of such studies is one of the causes that men leave our colleges with no hold on the past, with nothing, as Burke said, "amidst so vast a fluctuation of passions and opinions, to concentrate their thoughts, to ballast their conduct, to preserve them from being blown about by every wind of fashionable doctrine." It will set itself against any regular subjection of the "fierce spirit of liberty," which is the breath of distinction and the very charter of aristocracy, to the sullen spirit of equality, which proceeds from envy in the baser sort of democracy. It will regard the character of education and the disposition of the curriculum as a question of supreme importance; for its motto is always, abeunt studia in mores.
Now this aristocratic principle has, so to speak, its everlasting embodiment in Greek literature, from whence it was taken over into Latin and transmitted, with much mingling of foreign and even contradictory ideas, to the modern world. From Homer to the last runnings of the Hellenic spirit you will find it taught by every kind of precept and enforced by every kind of example; nor was Shakespeare writing at hazard, but under the instinctive guidance of genius, when he put his aristocratic creed into the mouth of the hero who to the end remained for the Greeks the personification of their peculiar wisdom. In no other poetry of the world is the law of distinction, as springing from a man's perception of his place in the great hierarchy of privilege and obligation from the lowest human being up to the Olympian gods, so copiously and magnificently set forth as in Pindar's Odes of Victory. And Aeschylus was the first dramatist to see with clear vision the primacy of the intellect in the law of orderly development, seemingly at variance with the divine immutable will of Fate, yet finally in mysterious accord with it. When the philosophers of the later period came to the creation of systematic ethics they had only the task of formulating what was already latent in the poets and historians of their land; and it was the recollection of the fulness of such instruction in the Nicomachean Ethics and the Platonic Dialogues, with their echo in the Officia of Cicero, as if in them were stored up all the treasures of antiquity, that raised our Sir Thomas into wondering admiration:
Lorde god, what incomparable swetnesse of wordes and mater shall he finde in the saide warkes of Plato and Cicero; wherin is ioyned grauitie with dilectation, excellent wysedome with diuine eloquence, absolute vertue with pleasure incredible, and euery place is so farced [crowded] with profitable counsaile, ioyned with honestie, that those thre bokes be almoste sufficient to make a perfecte and excellent gouernour.
There is no need to dwell on this aspect of the classics. He who cares to follow their full working in this direction, as did our English humanist, may find it exhibited in Plato's political and ethical scheme of self-development, or in Aristotle's ideal of the Golden Mean which combines magnanimity with moderation, and elevation with self-knowledge. If a single word were used to describe the character and state of life upheld by Plato and Aristotle, as spokesmen of their people, it would be eleutheria, liberty: the freedom to cultivate the higher part of a man's nature--his intellectual prerogative, his desire of truth, his refinements of taste--and to hold the baser part of himself in subjection; the freedom also, for its own perfection, and indeed for its very existence, to impose an outer conformity to, or at least respect for, the laws of this inner government on others who are themselves ungoverned. Such liberty is the ground of true distinction; it implies the opposite of an equalitarianism which reserves its honours and rewards for those who attain a bastard kind of distinction by the cunning of leadership without departing from common standards, for the demagogues, that is, who rise by flattery. But this liberty is by no means dependent on the artificial distinctions of privilege; on the contrary, it is peculiarly adapted to an age whose appointed task must be to create a natural aristocracy as a via media between an equalitarian democracy and a prescriptive oligarchy or a plutocracy. The fact is notable that, as the real hostility to the classics in the present day arises from an instinctive suspicion of them as standing in the way of a downward-levelling mediocrity, so, at other times, they have fallen under displeasure for their veto on a contrary excess. Thus, in his savage attack on the Commonwealth, to which he gave the significant title Behemoth, Hobbes lists the reading of classical history among the chief causes of the rebellion. "There were," he says, "an exceeding great number of men of the better sort, that had been so educated as that in their youth, having read the books written by famous men of the ancient Grecian and Roman commonwealths concerning their polity and great actions, in which books the popular government was extolled by that glorious name of liberty, and monarchy disgraced by the name of tyranny, they became thereby in love with their forms of government; and out of these men were chosen the greatest part of the House of Commons; or if they were not the greatest part, yet by advantage of their eloquence were always able to sway the rest." To this charge Hobbes returns again and again, even declaring that "the universities have been to this nation as the Wooden Horse was to the Trojans." And the uncompromising monarchist of the Leviathan, himself a classicist of no mean attainments, as may be known by his translation of Thucydides, was not deceived in his accusation. The tyrannicides of Athens and Rome, the Aristogeitons and Brutuses and others, were the heroes by whose example the leaders of the French Revolution were continually justifying their acts.
There Brutus starts and stares by midnight taper.
Who all the day enaets--a woollen-draper.
And again, in the years of the Risorgimento, more than one of the champions of Italian liberty went to death with those great names on their lips.
So runs the law of order and right subordination. But if the classics offer the best service to education by inculcating an aristocracy of intellectual distinction, they are equally effective in enforcing the similar lesson of time. It is a true saying of our ancient humanist that "the longer it continueth in a name or lineage, the more is nobility extolled and marvelled at." It is true because in this way our imagination is working with the great conservative law of growth. Whatever may be in theory our democratic distaste for the insignia of birth, we cannot get away from the fact that there is a certain honour of inheritance and that we instinctively pay homage to one who represents a noble name. There is nothing really illogical in this, for, as an English statesman has put it, "the past is one of the elements of our power." He is the wise democrat who, with no opposition to such a decree of Nature, endeavours to control its operation by expecting noble service where the memory of nobility abides. When, recently, Oxford bestowed its highest honour on an American, distinguished not only for his own public acts but for the great tradition embodied in his name, the Orator of the University did not omit this legitimate appeal to the imagination, singularly appropriate in its academic Latin:
... Statim succurrit animo antiqua ilia Romae condicio, cum non tam propter singulos cives quam propter singulas gentes nomen Romanum floreret. Cum enim civis alicujus et avum et proavum principes civitatis esse creatos, cum patrem legationis munus apud aulam Britannicam summa cum laude esse exsecutum cognovimus; cum denique ipsum per totum bellum stipendia equo meritum, summa pericula "Pulcra pro Liberrate" ausum .... Romanae alicujus gentis--Brutorum vel Deciorum--annales evolvere videmur, qui testimonium adhibent "fortes creari fortibus," et majorum exemplis et imaginibus nepotes ad virtutern accendi.*
Is there any man so dull of soul as not to be stirred by that enumeration of civic services zealously inherited; or is there any one so envious of the past as not to believe that such memories should be honoured in the present as an incentive to noble emulation?
Well, we cannot all of us count Presidents and Ambassadors among our ancestors, but we can, if we will, in the genealogy of the inner life enroll ourselves among the adopted sons of a family in comparison with which the Bruti and Decii of old and the Adamses of to-day are veritable new men. We can see what defence against the meaner depredations of the world may be drawn from the pride of birth, when, as it sometimes happens, the obligation of a great past is kept as a contract with the present; shall we forget to measure the enlargement and elevation of mind which ought to come to a man who has made himself the heir of the ancient Lords of Wisdom? "To one small people," as Sir Henry Maine has said, in words often quoted, "it was given to ereate the principle of Progress. That people was the Greek. Except the blind forces of Nature, nothing moves in this world which is not Greek in its origin." That is a hard saying, but scarcely exaggerated. Examine the records of our art and our science, our philosophy and the enduring element of our faith, our statecraft and our notion of liberty, and you will find that they all go back for their inspiration to that one small people, and strike their roots into the soil of Greece. What we have added, it is well to know; but he is the aristocrat of the mind who can display a diploma from the schools of the Academy and Lyceum and from the Theatre of Dionysus. What tradition of ancestral achievement in the Senate or on the field of battle shall broaden a man's outlook and elevate his will equally with the consciousness that his way of thinking and feeling has come down to him by so long and honourable a descent, or shall so confirm him in his better judgment against the ephemeral and vulgarizing solicitations of the hour? Other men are creatures of the visible moment; he is a citizen of the past and of the future. And such a charter of citizenship it is the first duty of the college to provide.
I have limited myself in these pages to a discussion of what may be called the public side of education, considering the classics in their power to mould character and to foster sound leadership in a society much given to drifting. Of the inexhaustible joy and consolation they afford to the individual, only he can have full knowledge who has made the writers of Greece and Rome his friends and counsellors through many vicissitudes of life. It is related of Sainte-Beuve, who, according to Renan, read everything and remembered everything, that one could observe a peculiar serenity on his face whenever he came down from his study after reading a book of Homer. The cost of learning the language of Homer is not small; but so are all fair things difficult, as the Greek proverb runs, and the reward in the case is precious beyond estimation.
*The honour was bestowed on the late Charles Francis Adams.