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both as to variety of character and degree of power; and of attributing, therefore, too much to the influence of culture. But we would answer that the plea of natural incapacity is that under which indolence so naturally seeks shelter, that it is a safer course to reject it even too rigidly, than to allow it as a general rule, at the risk of lowering our aims and cramping our energies. Again, admitting even its full force, it is at least difficult to tell when it is legitimately urged; whereas, the precepts of self-culture are of universal application, since all are influenced by the power of habit, and capable of using that power, if they choose. Mere intellectual capacity varies more widely in different minds, yet even here the same rule holds good; since all are capable of improvement, and of a certain valuable measure of attainment. All persons cannot be good mathematicians or acute logicians, but all may learn to think and reason justly, upon such things as come within the sphere of their comprehension and action. Every man cannot confer signal benefits on the human race, he cannot choose to be a Bacon or a Newton, a leader in new paths of discovery, in new fields of science or philosophy; but every human being may add to the stock of practical good sense, which works like leaven among the masses of mankind; every human being, by the careful cultivation of natural powers, can increase his usefulness in the sphere, however humble, to which his circumstances may confine him, and may thus add to the aggregate amount of intellectual power and moral stability in his generation. While, then, we must remain ignorant of the limits of our capacity, till we have duly proved and exercised it, of this fact, at least, we are certain, -that the average of knowledge in the world, and the consequences resulting from it, both morally and mentally, would be raised to a degree beyond our calculation, were each individual mind disciplined, each moderate capacity exerted and trained, as far as nature or circumstances would allow. This conviction is sufficient to make us disregard all pleas that tend in any way to strip such a task of the character of duty.
DUTY OF CULTIVATING REASON.
GENERAL METHOD OF STUDY.
Ir is a natural consequence of the prejudice which so long condemned women to ignorance, that everything around them favours their remaining in the same state, and opposes their obtaining one of more enlightenment. At all times, doubtless, there have been individuals among them who have sought graver pursuits, and delighted in studies from which their sex was supposed to be precluded; but either these were persons of remarkable powers, or something in their early position, or their connexion with men of a more enlarged tone of mind, gave them peculiar advantages of help and instruction. In general, there has been everything to thwart and nothing to encourage in women the desire to study. The more pompous enumeration of school-room learning in the present day makes no real difference in this respect; in that chaos of laborious trifling, it would be vain to expect that the mind should be trained to any serious method of study; and, therefore, when a woman becomes convinced of the value of mental pursuits, and desires to cultivate them, she is at a loss to know how or what to begin; she is aware how superficial is all her previously acquired information, but how to learn better, and what to seek first, are points concerning which she feels perplexed and helpless. She has neither the definite practical aim of a profession which generally directs the bent of a man's studies, nor the ready-framed methods of professional education which facilitate his labour; her time and energies are wasted in seeking a method for herself, till at last she sinks back discouraged, and gives up the attempt.
These are the difficulties which early education-if it per
formed its due office-ought to provide against. If that were not neglected, the young would, at least at the period when early education closes, have learned how to learn, and for what purpose. They would have received that mental discipline which is superior to any early acquisitions of knowledge, and which prepares the mind for serious labour whenever it shall be required. Failing that needful training, all these things have to be learned at the same time that the desire of knowledge first becomes strong enough to urge us to voluntary exertion. It is not then to be wondered at, that the young mind, bewildered and overcome by the confused mass of work which lays before it, can neither understand its own wants, nor frame a method to meet them.
NECESSITY OF METHOD.
It is with an earnest desire to smooth in some measure these difficulties, that we propose to dwell, with a detail which may seem tedious to some and superfluous to others, on the consideration of the best system of study. Not, indeed, that we presume to imagine we have here laid down the best; but there are some general principles which must find place in such a system, however great its superiority in other respects; and these it has been our endeavour to point out for the guidance of the young student.
It is sufficiently evident, that method is itself a first and indispensable condition-the very soul of study. The latter is not an object in itself, but a means towards attaining a certain object; and unless there be order and system in the means employed for a given purpose, we have no more reason to suppose that they will fulfil that purpose than we have a right to expect that we shall reach
given point by wandering at random through various and diverging paths. The nice sense of proportion also which belongs to method is indispensable in study, in order that objects of trifling or minor value and interest may be kept in due subordination to those of higher importance, and that the mind be not simply stored, but well-balanced.
Method supposes a distinct purpose, a definite aim, towards which our efforts tend; our first step then must be to ascertain what is really our aim and purpose in studying; then to consider whether we have the proper means of following it out; whether our natural bent or powers of mind are such as to hold out a hope of attaining proficiency in the branch of knowledge we wish to pursue; and if so, what sacrifice of time it may be worth; whether it is compatible with such or such other occupations or necessary business that we may have on hand, and what other pursuits may be made conducive to our progress in this principal one. All these are preliminary questions before entering upon any
course of study, if we desire to follow it systematically, and not to take it up or lay it down as a mere object of amusement. These questions are such as every man is obliged to decide before entering a profession; but they are too often neglected by amateur students, and consequently, even where there is earnestness and perseverance, pursuits are too often begun without any reasonable hope of their end being attained; and time is sacrificed and money thrown away, which might have been usefully employed had a little attention been given beforehand to discover the obstacles which render success doubtful, if not impossible.
All study requires perseverance no less than method. volatility that flies from one pursuit to another, taking up a new thing without due consideration, and leaving off another at the first difficulty which occurs, and which should have been foreseen at the beginning, is a hopeless impediment to real improvement. It should also be remembered, that few things are more injurious to the mind than the habit of lightly considering objects of seriou interest, and that with regard to abandoning studies or plans o occupation, it is not their pursuit of knowledge alone, but their own resolutions, that is, the compact with their own conscience, which the capricious or the thoughtless degrade to the rank of frivolous and indifferent things.
Another essential point is, that we should not be too ambitious in our schemes, that we be content with small beginnings, and avoid dividing attention among too many objects. Few minds have sufficient power to turn, with unimpaired vigour, from one study to another; and, generally speaking, a certain number of hours given to any subject in the course of one month, are twice as valuable as the same number spread over three or four months, with the alternations of other studies. One serious object of study, therefore, is sufficient at a time for persons who cannot devote themselves entirely to mental labour, but many lighter pursuits may be resorted to, which are not without profit, while they do not distract the power of earnest attention.
In one sense, it may be said, that each separate subject demands a different mode of study; in another, that one method is applicable to all. Mathematics, for instance, or moral philosophy, history or botany, require different means of study, but certain general principles,-the principles on which depend the proper apprehension and fruition of the truths those several studies present, are alike in all. In other words, the external means, or experimental part of different studies, must vary according to the subjects they relate to; but the internal, or more properly, mental operation, depends on one common system. The principles, then, of that system are what demand our attention.
PRINCIPLES OF STUDY.
The three main points to be aimed at, in every attempt to study, are-First, Full and accurate comprehension of the subject we are engaged upon. Secondly, The formation of our own opinions respecting it; and, Thirdly, Retention. The two first relate to the attainment of truth, the latter to the mode of retaining in the mind the truths we have learned. Those who are earnest about the former will, certainly, be careful about the latter; but, on the other hand, it is common enough to cultivate memory without any care about due comprehension, or the formation of opinion. Readers who wish to store the memory for purposes with which the attainment of truth has nothing to do, neglect, in this manner, the fundamental part of study, beyond what is necessary to make their superficial knowledge intelligible to themselves and others.
1. With regard to the first point mentioned, namely, due comprehension of the subject we are engaged upon, its necessity will be readily assented to, and few will be willing to confess that they stop short of it; yet to judge by the results, we are forced to conclude, that a considerable proportion of readers are really in that lamentable condition, and have never even exerted themselves sufficiently to master the meaning of the book they read. It is not, perhaps, that they are ignorant of the signification of any word, or number of words (though it may be doubted if that also be not the case with many who are more used to the loose style of conversational language than to philosophical accuracy); but it is that they run smoothly on, with familiar words in their ears, without pausing to consider whether the connection of those words is presenting any distinct image to their minds. Or, perhaps, they catch the meaning of each separate passage, but cannot be at the trouble of examining how the proposition it contains hangs together with those which precede or follow it; and so, while understanding isolated portions, they form no general idea of the whole. They read a book, as we might gaze upon some monument of obscure ages, of which we admire the decorations and view the various divisions, but remain ignorant of its destination, and of the idea which the artist meant to embody. We may see proofs of this sort of want of comprehension in many things, not otherwise easy to be accounted for; in the rapidity, for instance, with which persons, of no great power of mind, run through works, written on intricate or abstruse subjects, and the easy decision with which they pronounce an opinion on themor in the absence of any opinion at all upon some other work which has, perhaps, brought forward novel or striking views, or even some startling paradox, which must, if perceived, have excited notice, or the evident blindness to difficulties which,