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REMARKS

ON THE

UTILITY

OF

CLASSICAL LEARNING.

Written in the year 1769.

Ego multos homines excellenti animo ac virtute fuisse, et sipe doctrina, naturæ ipsius habitu prope divino, per seipsos et moderatos, et graves, extitisse fateor. Etiam illud adjungo, sæpius ad laudem atque virtutem naturam sine doctrina, quam sine natura valuisse doctrinam. Atque idem ego contendo, cum ad naturam eximiam atque illustrem accesserit ratio quædam conformatioque doctrinæ, tum illud nescio quid præclarum ae singulare solere existere.Quod si non hic tantus fructus ostenderetur, et si ex his studiis delectatio sola peteretur; tamen, ut opinor, hanc animi remissionem humanissimam ac liberatissimam judicaretis.Hæc studia adolescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis perfugium ac solatium præbent, delectant domi, non impediunt foris, pernoctant nobiscum, peregri. Dantur, rusticantur.

Cicero pro Archia, cap.7.

REMARKS

ON THE

UTILITY

OF

CLASSICAL LEARNING.

THE calumniators of the Greek and Roman learning have not been few in these latter times. Perrault, La Motte, and Terrason, arraigned the taste of the ancients; and Des Cartes and Malebranche affected to despise their philosophy. Yet it seemed to be allowed in general, that the study of the classick authors was a necessary part of polite education. This, however, has of late been not only questioned, but denied: and it has been said, that every thing worth preserving of ancient literature might be more easily transmitted, both to us and to posterity, through the channel of the modern languages, than through that of the Greek and Latin. On this subject, several slight essays have been written; the authors of which seem to think, that the human mind, being now

arrived at muturity, may safely be left to itself; and that the classick authors, those great instructors of former times, are become an incumbrance to the more sprightly genius of the present.

« For who, that is an adept in the philosophy “ of Locke and Newton, can have any need of “ Aristotle? What useful precept of the Socra“ tick school has been overlooked by modern “ moralists? Is not geometry as fairly, and as “ fully displayed in the French and English 6 tongues, as in the unknown dialects of Archi“ medes, Apollonius, and Euclid? Why have re« course to Demosthenes and Cicero, for exam“ ples in an art, which Massillon, Bourdaloue, 6 and the French academicians, (to say nothing “ of the orators of our own country) have carried " to perfection? Are we not taught by Voltaire " and his editors, who, though ignorant of Greek, « are well read in madame Dacier's translations, " that Tasso is a better poet than Homer; and « that the sixth and seventh cantos of the Hen« riade are alone more valuable than the whole « Iliad?* What dramatick poet of antiquity is to “ be compared with the immortal Shakspeare? « what satirist with Pope, who to all the fire and « elevation of Juvenal, joins the wit, the taste,

* See Le Vicende della Literatura, pag. 166.

" and sententious morality, of Horace? As to 66 criticism: is there in Aristotle, Dionysius, « Cicero, Quintilian, or Longinus, any thing that “ is not more philosophically explained, and bet« ter illustrated by examples, in the writings of “ Dacier, Rollin, Fenelon, Dryden, and Addison? « And then, how debasing to an ingenuous mind “ is the drudgery and discipline of our publick « schools! That the best days of youth should be “ embittered by confinement, amidst the gloom “ of solitude, or under the scourge of tyranny; « and all for no purpose, but that the memory 46 may be loaded with the words of two languages “that have been dead upwards of a thousand “ years: is it not an absurdity too gross to admit “ of exaggeration? To see a youth of spirit hang. “ing over a musty folio, his cheek pale with 66 watching, his brow furrowed with untimely “ wrinkles, his health gone, and every power of “ the soul enervated with anxiety, and stupified 6 with poring upon trifles; what blood boils not 66 with indignation, what heart melts not with sor“ row! And then the pedant, just broken loose “ from his cell, bristling all o'er with Greek, and “ puff’d with pride, as Boileau says; his head “ so full of words, that no room is left for ideas;

“ his accomplishments so highly prized by him: 6 self, as to be intolerable to others; ignorant of

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