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Its ideas of infinite wifdom will be inconceivably augmented, and its curiofity fupplied with the highest gratification, when by advancing gradually in its inquiry it finds the whole vifible works of the Deity tending to produce the most beneficial purposes; and even thofe in which a fuperficial view might feem to point out irregularity, contrived upon clofer examination for ends of greater and obvious importance. Thus, by following out a digefted plan, the understanding will be improved by a fure, though an almoft imperceptible progreffion; and the mind will acquire an habit of tracing effects to their causes with juftnefs and accuracy, as foon as it is capable of forming an eftimate of the comparative value of the objects that furround it.
Among the many works to which this copious fubject hath given rife in our own country, there are few calculated to answer all the ends which it is here propofed to bring about. Derham, in his Phyfico-Theology, has indeed explained fome parts of Natural Hiftory in a very clear and fimple manner :-but his style is unhappily fo vulgar and unanimated, that we can fcarce recommend his work (though otherwife valuable and judicious) to thofe who ftudy to improve the intellectual powers by whofe influence the mind is qualified for compofition. Ray, Wefley, and fome others, who have wrote on the fame topics lie open to fimilar exceptions. The larger compilations on the other hand, either collected from books, or the refalt of the author's own obfervation and experience, are by far too abstracted and philofophical cither to improve or entertain an inexperienced reader. Happily however for our prefent purpofe, the work of an ingenious foreigner, which is elegantly tranflated into our own language, and is almoft in every body's hands, may be recommended with confidence, as having an obvious tendency to excite, as its author intended, the curiofity, and form the mind of youth. Few readers will be at a lofs to know that the work referred to is that entitled Spectacle de la Nature, and contains a general view of the works of nature carried on in that method which we have recommended as most eligible in the firft ftages of life. The propriety therefore of recommending this work as a means to effectuate
Æthereos dixere : deum namque ie per omnes
Omnia: nec morti effe locum; fed viva volare
Ibid. 1. 219.
The genius of Virgil fhines no where more confpicuously than when it is thus employed in conveying the most momentous truths to the mind from fobjects apparently Ample and unimportant. In this province of genius, beyond all others, it may be faid to deferve the denomination of creative, as the author in fome fenfe exhibits an imitation of the divine mind by friking the unexpected light of instruction from a theme which at the utmost promifes only a little tranfient entertainment, We obferve with admiration the compaís and extent of that mind which could inculcate from the little labours of infects the omniprefence and immensity of God, as the vital principle fpread through the univerfe, and the immortality of the foul which proceeds from, and mixes at death with divine effence, which could inculcate thefe doctrines with propriety, as growing out of its fubject, and naturally coaleicing with objects fo apparently incongruous and remote !'
the above mentioned purposes, must be fo obvious as to stand in need of no illustration. We fhall therefore only obferve, that the familiar ftyle of dialogue which the author hath adopted in the three firft volumes, the happy felection of his characters, and that air of philofophical negligence which is fupported through the whole, give this performance advantages in point of entertainment equal, if not fuperior, to moft others of the fame fubject t.'
The fecond volume contains obfervations,
1. On the Style of Compofition in general, its diftinguishing Properties and Defects.
2. Of fimple Compofition.
Dr. Ogilvie, in his advertisement, feems to intimate an intention to write another volume, in which it is proposed to confider this divine Art' as a means of human happiness and civilization.
Though we have here principally recommended the work of a foreign writer on the fubject of Natural Hiftory, to the perufal of young readers, there are fome English writers on this fubject, whose works may be read for the purposes above fpe. cified with utility. Befides a compendious and judicious treatife of this kind publifhed in the Preceptor, many of Dr. Hill's pieces are curious and edifying in this branch of literature; and even Wefley, though he appears not to have ftudied ele. gance of expreffion in his furvey of the works of Nature, yet has taken fuch a view of thefe as may in a great measure be fubfervient to the purposes for which this study is here recommended.'
ART. II. A Treatise on Education, in which the general Method purfued in the public Inftitutions of Europe; and particularly in thofe of England; that of Milton, Locke, Rouffeau, and Helvetius are confidered, and a more practicable and useful one propofed. By David Williams. Izmo. 3 s. 6 d. Payne, &c. 1774.
E have never met with any unexceptionable, nor, ing deed, with any very valuable treatife on education; and, poffibly, one reafon may have been, that thofe great men, who have written on the fubject, have indulged their respec tive theories, without much acquaintance with the practical paft. Locke, Milton, &c. were not preceptors of youth, and were confequently ftrangers to the effects of different applications. Thefe, like young and unexperienced phyficians, are unfafe guides to follow; and, in a cafe of fo much importance, it will be more falutary to truft to the old apothecary.
As ftrangers to Mr. Williams, we know not whether he comes under the fame predicament with the other writers on education, or whether he may not be converfant with the practical part of it; but this we may fay in his behalf, that though
his book contains many exceptionable paffages, fentiments that are infupportable, and fuppofitions that are idly founded, yet there is not wanting in his fpeculations a vein of good fenfe, and, when he deviates from the common track, he seems to march, at leaft, under the aufpices of Nature.
Poffibly he may find readers who will think the following sketches of an education merely English, fomewhat more than fpecious. If they can vindicate the credit of his book, and invalidate the general cenfure we have caft upon it, we shall not, on our parts, have the leaft objection. We have only to obferve that the cenfure we have paffed, we were under a neceffity of pronouncing, in general terms; for had we confidered minutely every exceptionable paffage, we must have written a volume larger than that which we criticised.
The sketches of education we refer to, are struck out from the conduct of PHILO, a fenfible father, who had undertaken. to educate his fon, and to make him a man of knowledge and a philofopher.'
He had thoroughly confidered the queftion concerning languages; and determined his child thould learn no language but English. I have often debated the fubject with him, and muit confefs, that in every argument he feemed to have the advantage. I never could give him a reafon why a child fhould fufpend his curiofity, and all the proper ufe of his retention, which is to treasure up ideas; and this for fo many years as he must employ in what is called learning the languages. But Philo affirmed, that the end propofed, was but very feldom anfwered; and that not one in ten, perhaps not one in twenty, of thofe who go to a grammar fchool, learn any thing which they ever put to ufe in their future lives. Their continuance then must be at leaft fo much lofs of time. He went farther, and faid that when the languages were learnt, as might be the cafe with a few, they were of no general ufe; nay, they were of ten pernicious. A man who has acquired an idea, does neither improve nor give it any advantage, by being able to name it in feveral languages. Befides the knowledge and ufe of languages is not to be acquired without the application of fome years. Those who attempt many, are therefore bunglers in all. Whereas, if they had applied themfelves to one, they would probably have used it properly and with effect; and perhaps have contributed even to its improvement.
But I have urged, "That the world has been benefited by the knowledge of languages.. The Greeks and Romans have furnished us, not only with models of fine writing, but with informations and inftructions in almost all the arts of life." Philo would fay, that he granted this, in compaffion to my want of a better argument; but defired me to give a reason, why this thould be an inducement for every man to learn their languages. This fhould be done only by a few, who might be facrificed for the public advantage; and they would furnith us with fuch tranflations as would give the fentiments of their beft authors. We should then be in pofletion of much
more than we get in the common way. For by the time we have been punished through a school, we are generally fo tired with words, that we bid adieu to all learning, and have recourse to any thing rather than a book. There are but few perfons in an age, who underftand a Greek or Latin author fo well, or can profit so much by it, as a man who reads a good tranflation with ease, and faft enough to affociate and connect his fentiments.
But I have objected," that on Philo's plan, we should be detached from the rest of the world, and ignorant of what paffed in it." He would then fay, that the want of a philofophical language was a great reproach to philofophy. The reasons that feparate nations, and form their feveral dialects, have nothing to do with the republic of letters; the members of which are the great and good men of the whole world. This fhould not only be furnished, in the manner of every community, with the common inftrument of intercourfe; but give a model of language to the reft of the world. This was the cafe, when the learning of the world was fuperftition. The language of fuperftition was Latin; and of confequence it was what might be called the philofophical language. The cafe is very different at this time. There are certain and peculiar informations to be had in Greek; others in Latin; others in English; others in Įtalian; others in French. All thefe languages are almoft equally important; and they furnish among them all the philofophical knowledge of the world. We know the time that must be taken in learning all thefe; that there are great odds against a man's fucceeding in the attempt; and that when he has, he is in poffeffion only of a medley which is to ferve the purpofes of a philofophical language. Philo therefore faid, that a better philofophical language fhould be formed; to be taught every fcholar, as Latin was formerly; or that every man fhould be confined to think in and improve his own; receiving information from other languages by means of a certain number of people, whofe employment it fhould be to tranflate. On this plan, no time would be loft. Philo was determined, however, that his child fhould lofe none; and he led him on directly to knowledge, with no other language but English.
Even in this, he did not proceed in the common method; from a full conviction that it was erroneous. Men are now become weary of wrangling about principles and fentiments which they had never formed for themfelves; but had only committed to memory in their childhood and youth. The general knowledge of the world, in the common method of teaching, could be nothing more than a quantity of prepoffeffions. Men begun where they should have ended; and taught their children doctrines of religion, and notions of God. This is the very reafon, that religion has had in general fo little influence on the morals of the world. It was made a duty and a task when it could not be underflood; and when every word relating to it, must be a burden to the memory. Children affociated difagree. able ideas to thofe words; whenever they occurred in future life, they always brought their affociates; and religion was never recollected, without the ideas of a painful task, and an unpleafant duty. Almost every fpccies of learning has had the fame fate with religion,
and on the fame account; because they have not been taught at the proper feason, and have been impofed by mere authority. Religion and learning would be delightful to a mind properly prepared to re
Philo's fon was not taught to read his bible, to learn hymns, or to repeat prayers. He was very fure, that this was the most effectual way to make him difregard, if not diflike them for his whole life. He therefore rifqued the imputation of profanenefs, and irreligion, whith bigots and enthufiafts might fix on his character, when they understood that his child did not read his bible, and was never brought to church. This was not the first time that the people had rewarded Philo's goodnefs with obloquy and ill-fame; and he bore the effects of their ignorance and uncharitablenefs with patience and good humour. He purfued the path he had entered upon, and enlarged the knowledge of his child in the moft fimple ideas; and thofe names, facts, and circumstances which are the materials of all science. He had found in his own cafe, that all poetical beauties; all philofophical and even hiftorical truths, had been merely committed to memory, and were words without meaning, till at the age of four or five and twenty, fomething like chance, or the common curiofity of reading books, led him to look into natural history. He found immediately fomething like a film drawn off from his eyes; and the things he had read affumed a meaning. He faw the truths and facts it alluded to; and the books which had been his deteftation, because they had given him fo much unprofitable mifery, he now read over again with avidity, because he could read them with a meaning. He could not however help regretting, that he must educate himself after having been educated, and withing his time to come over again, that he might reach thofe heights of fcience, which he faw before him, but which he was too late to reach. It was at this time that he perceived the ufe of his retention and power of treasuring up things, which had been in him totally milemployed. Orations; fables; and paffages of poetry are not materials for the memory: they injure inflead of helping the powers of invention. But every fact and circumftance which is to be known in the natural world, is proper article for the memory; and reafon, or imagination, may make use of it according to the genius or purpose of the poffeffor. He felt the more regret on this fubject, as he obferved that the power of retaining facts was now much leffened; and that the treafury of his mind, though improperly filled, must retain what it held; and could not be cleared out for prefent and ufeful purposes. He thought it therefore a duty upon him, to prevent this unhappiness to his child; and to be rather wanting in that deference which is given to public opinion, than in one of the most effential obligations of a parent. The reader is to obferve, that I offer the beft reafons for his conduct which I can now recollect. And I hope I fhall not injure his name, by a weak or foolish reprefentation. I do not pretend to offer him as a perfect model in any part of his conduct. He was a man who thought for himfelf; and acted up generally to his opi nions. But did not pretend to be above infirmities or milakes.