Immagini della pagina

human brain was not designed to be a mere dictionary, and therefore, that, unless there be some purpose of attaining further knowledge by this means, and leisure to carry out that purpose, it is mere waste of time and mental power to learn the sound and form of a foreign tongue.

It is a great pleasure to find how soon we are able to feel the untranslatable beauties of a new language, and the delight of reading and being able fully to appreciate one work of genius in the original is, to many minds, a full compensation for all the labor undergone to attain it. In order to do this, however, we must be able to enter into the spirit of the language, to distinguish its peculiarities, and feel its nationality as well as its beauties; but how far short of this do our fair linguists stop, who are satisfied with a school-room perusal of Racine, or Schiller, or Tasso! The remark of a valuable writer of our own day upon the careless study of the ancient languages, applies equally to the modern:-"He who forgets that language is but the sign and vehicle of thought, and, while studying the word, knows little of the sentiment, who learns the measure, the garb, and the fashion of ancient song, without looking to its living soul, or feeling its inspiration, is not one jot better than a traveller in classic land, who sees its crumbling temples, and numbers with arithmetical precision their steps and pillars, but thinks not of their beauty, their design, or the living sculpture on their walls, - - or who counts the stones on the Appian Way, instead of gazing on the monuments of the Eternal City.” As, in studying the literature of our own country, different writers and periods should be compared, and the influence of political or religious changes be traced out; so, when possessing a knowledge of several languages, we should compare the works of genius in each with our own and others; watch the effect of national character and institutions, and examine the periods when the literature of one country has acted powerfully upon that of another; whence that influence arose, and how it ceased. These, and many other points, are of the greatest in


Sedgwick on the Studies of Cambridge.

[ocr errors]

terest; and when the knowledge of different languages is used in this manner, it truly enlarges the mind, and is a source of great and refined enjoyment.

But, we must again ask, is it with any such purpose as this that so many years of female education are devoted to poring over grammars and dictionaries? If so, why are the ancient languages so generally forsaken for the modern? Is it because Homer and Demosthenes are eclipsed by modern orators and poets, that women remain contentedly ignorant of their beauties? It certainly appears incontestable, that if the object of this favorite pursuit were to make acquaintance with the great productions of genius, with the various forms of the beautiful which human language can express, those languages in which the intellect of man has achieved the sublimest triumphs would not be uniformly neglected. But that no such aim is thought of is already sufficiently proved by the common ignorance of our own literature, found among those who spend so much time in learning foreign languages. When Englishwomen think it so essential to be able to read French plays and Italian or German poetry, and yet are content to know but little of Shakspeare and Milton, and nothing of Spenser and Dryden, we need not hes itate to say that the knowledge sought is rather for purposes of vanity, or in obedience to fashion, than from any sincere desire of extending or improving their range of information.

We do not overlook the advantage, in these days of almost universal travel, of being able to speak the language of the country we are passing through; but this is, after all, a secondary object, and does not deserve the great sacrifices that are made to obtain it. A familiar knowledge of French is indeed really valuable, as it may generally serve as a medium of communication with the upper classes of every country in Europe. We should, from that consideration, among many others of more importance, urge the study of it on all who have the means and leisure to pursue it without the neglect of any thing more essential. Our remarks, we must repeat, are not intended to undervalue the acquisition of languages, but only to show that it is unduly considered whenever it is viewed as an ob

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

of ther

the obed

with the s
the bea

ages in wa

iumphs w

is thong

rance of much time:

a think it's

or Gera kspeare

eed not be

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

ject in itself, and not as a means of attaining some further purpose.

The time and labor devoted generally to this study, and to historical reading, have induced us to overstep, in speaking of them, the limit we had proposed, of mentioning only things essential; for, in order really to discern the latter, it becomes sometimes necessary to explain the grounds why others, which have, by long custom, been placed among them, do not deserve the distinction. When we speak, then, of essential studies, we mean those which no person, who has leisure and means, is justified in neglecting; and we have limited them to such as are necessary for the due training of the reason, for self-knowledge and the proper exercise of influence over others, for command of language in our native tongue, and for knowledge of the great interests which agitate society, and affect every thing we hold dear. Other subjects of great importance we have not mentioned, as not falling under that category; yet, it is impossible in these days for any person, pretending to education, not to be acquainted with the great outlines of science. Ignorance of the leading facts of astronomy and geology, for instance, is now what ignorance of geography and arithmetic would have been in a former generation. To be content to know nothing of the great laws of nature, while man is daily, by his knowledge of them, moving her unseen forces to do his bidding, baffling the elements, and speeding the lightning as his messenger, argues an insensibility to all but the common detail of life, which we hardly expect to find in the educated classes.

The results of science, which we see around us in so many things that have become indispensable to our daily use, must rouse the attention of any observing mind; and when interest is awakened to those subjects, the magnificence of science opens a world of new delight, in which the harmony of mighty forces and the calm grandeur of immutable laws kindle emotions, which belong not to earthly views and interests. There is repose and an elevating influence in such contemplations : the presence of the Invisible, the reality of a Divine wisdom, are more felt when we rise from the history of human suffer

ings, and wickedness, and discord, to the history of the universe, in which this earth occupies so small a space; from the study of man's poor works to the contemplation of His who stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth, and gave to myriads of worlds the laws which regulate their motions. The power of kindling such thoughts and emotions is sufficient recommendation of any study.

Some persons may be inclined to think we still include too much among essentials, and that many women cannot be expected to study all that we have recommended.

We reply, that

some may not have the means, but very few will be found not
to have the capacity. For we have not proposed any profound
or difficult inquiries, we have not expected a deep study of
mathematics or moral philosophy, or literature or history,
either of which is the labor of a lifetime, but only a sufficient
acquaintance with each to answer certain definite purposes;
a slight, not a superficial knowledge. This distinction is very
important the latter, as the name implies, skims the surface
only, knows names and facts and forms; the former is limited,
but sound as far as it goes; it is a secure groundwork, built on
the knowledge of principles, on clear and accurate perceptions,
and remains a ready foundation for future learning. The one,
however varied, can do no more than store the memory with
particulars, or enrich the fancy with a certain number of images;
the other, however limited in extent, though confined to one or
two subjects only, will produce fruit in the mind, clearing its
perceptions, and increasing its power both of reflection and


It is for this reason that we say a slight knowledge of what we have named essential studies will answer the practical purposes for which we have urged them; and in this, at least, there is nothing to alarm the most diffident. They require no expensive masters, no unusual command of books, no residence in foreign countries, nor any of the other advantages which render fashionable accomplishments so difficult of attainment to persons of narrow income. It would be amusing to hear daily of so many persons going abroad, for the mere purpose, as

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


on is ver

e surt

is limbed

built a


The one

mory with Images

Co one r

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

not be e





they say, of educating their daughters cheaply, when all the
means of sound mental training are within their reach at
home, with no expense at all, if it were not a melancholy
proof how generally the real purpose of education is forgotten

Beyond the few subjects we have classed as essential, spreads
the wide field of knowledge, in which individual capacity or
inclination must decide our choice; all we desire for women is,
that the latter should be free; unfettered by the prejudices.
which so long cramped their minds, and have worked such in-
calculable mischief. There are, no doubt, certain subjects,
of which anatomy is, perhaps, the best instance, which, for
obvious reasons, are unfit for a woman's study; but, except
where such positive reasons make a clear and rational distinc-
tion, it is equally false and ridiculous to speak of one study
being more feminine, or knowledge of one language more fit-
ting, than that of another, or of a folio denoting more pedantry
than a diamond edition. Pedantry, it should be remembered,
is a defect of the mind, not an appendage to certain modes of
learning; a mere form of vanity, which shows itself equally in
the most frivolous accomplishments whenever the display of
some unusual acquisition can attract admiration or astonish-
ment. Let the mind be wholly unshackled, and if led by the
love of knowledge, and chastened by a constant remembrance
of the real high aims of self-training, its choice can fall only
upon good.

The dread which has pursued women hitherto, the spectre
which has scared them from the paths of knowledge, has been
the fear of incurring the ridicule or censure of men for at-
tempts too long considered as unfeminine. We believe this
fear to be vain in the present day. Not that all such censure
or ridicule is at an end, for while folly and conceit endure,
fools and coxcombs will shelter their own frivolity by encour-
aging the frivolity of women, and the ignorant will fear the
spread of knowledge, lest they should be shamed out of their
ignorance; but we speak from experience, when we declare
our conviction, that men of sense and cultivated understand-

[ocr errors]
« IndietroContinua »