Imágenes de páginas

of learning. Such evils are unknown under the immovable forms and regulations which characterise the constitution of the English universities. It is naturally felt to be the interest of those to whom is committed the government of a commonwealth, where everything tends to the furtherance of intellectual improvement, and where so many religious and scientific edifices perpetually recall to mind the goodly purposes to which the spot is dedicated, that external peace and good order should be maintained. The means of upholding this enviable state exist in abundance; whereas, in the German universities, they are but scantily provided. Küttner, who lived a long time in England, and particularly in Oxford, assures us that disorderly conduct, arising out of the association of the students with the lower classes, broils with mechanics and others, and assaults upon the townsmen, are quite unknown; and that, if any disturbance arise from inebriety, it is always laughed at, but never magnified into an affair productive of public commotions.' The respective factions of the Whigs and Tories may have their partizans, but these are found rather among the graduates than the younger class of students. The greatest statesman of his day, William Pitt, who became Chancellor of the Exchequer at the age of two and twenty years, followed no vocation but that of learning and science when an under-graduate.


In the straightforward conduct of the executive, and the undeviating enforcement of the statutes, the Vice-chancellor, whose office is but annual, is powerfully supported by the Proctors, who are his immediate assistants, and responsible to the whole university for the maintenance of the public peace. It is such a system as this, of which the value is so sensibly felt by the most estimable portion of the students whilst, on the contrary, that very portion, in our universities, is too often trodden under foot by the insolence of those who prefer tumult to study, and are permitted, if not encouraged, to disturb the even current of academical pursuits. Whether the austerity of the English system breeds a slavish spirit, weakens self-confidence, and obstructs the free development of the noblest of human powers,' as some persons have thought fit to insinuate, I shall leave every one to determine for himself. Where, I would ask them, does thought roam more unshackled, or the tongue deliver its expression with bolder energy? Still, an intelligent German writer has not remarked, without some show of reason, that although we frequently see sound scholars sent forth from the monastic institutions of the English, we more frequently see them produce morose and untoward subjects; and it must be

admitted that, if the student of a German university be not too much depressed by his necessities, and be sufficiently versed in the art of self-government, he leads a freer and blithsomer existence, and will reckon the years of his matriculation among the fairest of his earthly career. But, will it be alleged that a truly free and liberal spirit in after life is most discernible in that class which, during their academical course, have had nothing but the cry of liberty between their lips? Do we not, when following many an academical hero into the labyrinth of social life, find him the most humble, spiritless, and dependent of his class? Do we not often see those who, in the days of their juvenile impetuosity and enthusiasm, indulged in visionary schemes of freedom, which can never coexist with social order, exercise the most unfeeling and relentless tyranny over their dependents? This, at least, is certain, that, so long as academical laws do not impose narrow and vexatious restraints on the vivacious minds of youth, and so long as they do not convert their natural liveliness (across even the excess of which scintillations of a generous spirit may be discovered) into a statutory crime, they cannot prove a galling yoke to any human being who is seriously devoted to the cause of learning and morality. It is indeed most true-and the example of the most inexorable of republican governments may be our warrant for the assertion that it is only under the protection of laws, which admit of no departure from them either to the right hand or the left, that genuine freedom can ripen to maturity.

The extraordinary fermentation which has been engendered by the commotions of the last forty years, has given currency to ideas which, if well digested and judiciously applied, may produce a noble harvest. They have already eradicated much that was corrupt. The years of youth, however, are the years rather of power than reflexion; and power becomes a perilous element, unless confined by rule and measure. For this reason, many a regulation may evince a provident wisdom on the part of the legislative power in Germany which is quite uncalled for in England. Let us hope that those who possess the ears of sovereigns may not instil into their minds a want of confidence towards the rising generation. The youth who is not utterly debased and lost possesses, on the whole, an inherent disposition to follow the right path. Industry is his best shield against aberration from it; and other follies will be corrected by nearer acquaintance with the school of life. Every day's experience teaches us that he may greatly err; but, at the same time, that from those who beguile and bedim his early ways a heavier account will be exacted.

ON THE METHOD OF TEACHING FRENCH IN ENGLAND. If we are asked for what purpose is the French language studied in England, the answer, we should imagine, is plain: -it is for the purpose of understanding the language either written or spoken, and of speaking it ourselves with tolerable ease. But is the attempt generally successful? We think not; and there are good reasons why it should not be successful, which we shall endeavour to point out, while at the same time we suggest some remedy for the evil. We might say increasing evil, because, during the war, emigration secured us a number of teachers, who, if their method of instruction was not always the best, still understood their language, and were well acquainted with its literature. But now we are often compelled to have recourse to teachers of inferior education and acquirements, whose deficiency in the exact knowledge of their own language and literature is not, in general, compensated by any improvement in their methods of teaching. Besides this, there are but few good elementary books for teaching the French language. All these are serious obstacles in the way of improvement; and we shall, therefore, say a few more words on this subject before we explain our notions about improved methods.

Our two ancient universities have hitherto enjoyed the almost exclusive privilege of imposing on the country their own system of education. In their academic course they have, perhaps, wisely limited the objects of pursuit, thinking that what the English youth lose in variety of knowledge, is more than counterbalanced by the solidity of their acquirements in particular branches. Hence it happens that, while classical learning and mathematical science are pursued with ardour proportionate to the rewards held out, many branches of knowledge, some highly useful and others indispensable, remain without encouragement, and are consequently neglected. This is the case with modern languages. There are many young men, who yearly leave our universities as graduates, who are not able to translate, even with tolerable accuracy, an ordinary French author. The university system has its effect on the schools, and particularly the great schools, which are but so many hotbeds, in which young plants are raised, in due time to be transplanted to the fields of Alma Mater. In many of the great public schools, French is not a necessary part of the course of education; in some it is hardly tolerated; and in private schools in general it is taught in a most inefficient manner. As a proof of this,

how many, we may ask, leave school, after learning French for some years, utterly unable either to speak French or even understand it when spoken? Let us enumerate some of the more prominent parts of the way in which the learning of French is made a job of; for that is the word which most accurately expresses the fact. Sometimes the head of an establishment will charge each pupil from four to six guineas per annum for French, giving the teacher a much smaller sum; in other cases, the French teacher is also an usher, with a small salary, and the master gets French out of him for almost nothing, though he does not fail to make the pupil pay pretty dear for the commodity. This usher, who is often considered little better than an upper servant, is frequently a person of a very limited education, who has had little experience in the difficult art of teaching. He is despised by the boys, who can sometimes readily discover his defects, especially if he should be ignorant of Latin, which is so generally taught in our schools; and he is treated with little respect by the master, who imposes his daily duties, without being able to judge of the manner in which they are performed for it should be remarked that a great many schoolmasters know very little of French, and some are entirely ignorant of it, and therefore unable to judge, even in the slightest degree, of a French teacher's capabilities. But even supposing that the French master is a well-educated gentleman (for such we sometimes see), he is so fettered by the routine imposed on him, that his scholars can reap but little benefit from his instruction. The schoolmaster himself has no method of teaching French; for, as we have remarked, he generally possesses only a very superficial knowledge of the language and still less of the literature. If he should happen to know something of the language, the greater part of it is due to the accident of having travelled in France, and the rest to a bad traditional method of teaching which he continues in his school. In addition to all this, the time allowed for teaching French is seldom if ever sufficient for the purpose; and as it is considered inferior in importance to the ordinary business of the school, the pupils often only turn it into ridicule, and, by a natural transition, the person, also, who is employed to teach it. Another great objection to the present system is this-the pupil while he is learning French, or supposed to be learning it, is not acquiring any knowledge of France or French history and literature. He spends all his time in learning some detached phrases about rain and fine weather, and other subjects appropriate to the climate; and these are often refashioned into something that passes

under the name of exercises. To conjugate French verbs by rote is another part of the system. When a French book is read, it is generally one printed in London, and therefore full of errors in orthography and accentuation, though the right understanding of the latter is of the highest importance. But what do these books generally contain? Nothing but extracts of trifling passages in prose and verse, scraped together from every quarter, without any taste in the selection. or useful information in the matter. And even should the extracts be good, we maintain that a language cannot be learned so well by small extracts from different authors, as by studying carefully some one book, which shall interest and instruct the pupil by the matter it contains, as well as by its style and general character.

In many schools, it is true, they do use a single book, but that book is Telemachus, a sort of epic poem, without doubt excellent in its kind, but the least adapted for teaching French of any work that we could name. Telemachus is, of all books that we are acquainted with, the least consonant with the idiom of the French language, and offers to the learner the least store of pure genuine Gallicisms. Its monotonous

superabundance of style soon tires the pupil, who finds only fatiguingly beautiful sentiment, and a number of facts strung together into a story, apparently for no other purpose but to introduce a series of sermons or moral discourses. It is not from such books as these that we choose to learn a modern language when we are old enough to be our own instructors. We take some book that treats of an interesting subjectsome geographical description of the country-some historical sketch of it-or some work that treats of an art or science, which we make our own particular study. A similar plan ought to be followed in teaching French in our schools. Though there may be no books of the kind, to which we have alluded, that are perfectly faultless, yet there are some which will answer the purpose tolerably well, till the demand for text-books of that description shall create a supply of new and better books. This is a point on which we would insist most strongly, that, while a pupil is learning the French language, he should use such books as will give him correct information on the geography of France, its political history, and the biography of those men who have most contributed to form a national literature. Some information of this kind may be supplied, in the present want of suitable books, by the master giving lectures in the French language to the more advanced pupils, and requiring them to take down his words as they are pronounced. In this way they acquire a

« AnteriorContinuar »