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For the Literary Magazine.

on classical learning.

I AM sorry to find that sensible
and well meaning persons of both
sexes have been influenced by the
arguments or the authority of Mr.
Godwin. I say of Godwin, for I
have not seen the same sentiments
in any other writer. He advises
parents to give their sons a classical
education, because, says he “they
can never certainly foresee the fu-
ture destination and propensities of
their children.” This argument is
very weak and inconclusive.

He might better recommend the
languages of Italy, France, and Ger-
many, because their sons may pos-
sibly visit those countries. What
humane and prudent parents would
require their sons to pore over
Greek and Latin, during six or se-
ven of the best years of their lives,
without any specific object in view?
In the English grammar schools,
boys generally study Latin and
Greek seven or ten years, before
they can be admitted into college.

If a boy be intended for trade or
business, a classical education will
be injurious to him. It is a common

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observation in England, that men,
who have been educated at the uni-
versity, seldom make as active, ex-
pert, and successful merchants or
tradesmen as those who have served
an early apprenticeship, and have
been regularly bred to business. In-
stances of this nature have occurred
in our own country. Habits of in-
dolence, or of studious industry, are
formed at college, which are inimi-
cal to the mechanical processes of
trade, and to the activity and bustle
of a man of business. If young men,
of a liberal education, have a pro-
pensity for science or literature,
they often neglect their necessary
business to gratify their taste for
learning. The dull uniformity and
confinement of a shop or accounting
room, are irksome to men of genius
and studious minds.

Mr. Locke, who was well ac-
quainted with the Greek and Roman
languages, and able to appreciate
their value and utility, opposes Mr.
Godwin's opinions. “Children,”
says he, “are made to spend their
precious time uneasily in Latin, who,
after they are once gone from
schools, are never to have more to
do with it, as long as they live. Can
there be any thing more ridiculous
than that a father should waste his
own money, and his son's time, in
setting him to learn the Roman
language, when, at the same time,
he designs him for a trade, wherein
he, having no use of Latin, fails not
not to forget that little which he
brought from school, and which it is
ten to one he abhors for the ill usage
it procured him?”

We shall find, upon enquiry, that
Mr. Locke's observations are strictly
true. How few can read a page of
Latin, after they have been absent
from college two or three years!
Men of a liberal education, who are
engaged in trade or business, find
the superficial knowledge of Latin
and Greek, which they acquired at
school, entirely useless, and there-
fore take no pains to retain it.—
They regret the loss of the time and
money which they have expended

in such vain pursuits. Formerly, it
was considered an accomplishment
to be able to repeat a sentiment in
Greek or Latin, even in the com-
pany of ladies; but now such pe-
dantic nonsense is banished from the
conversation of polite society.

The following anecdote of Dr.
Priestley is authentic, and can be
confirmed by the testimony of living
witnesses:

In March, 1802, an acquaintance
of Dr. Priestley offered to lend him
some recent poetical translations of
certain Greek and Roman poets.
The doctor declined the offer, and
replied, that a man of his age ought
to be better employed than in read-
ing translations of Greek and Ro-
man poets. Struck with the singu-
larity of this answer, by a man who
was conversant with the writings of
the ancients and moderns, his friend
then asked him, whether he thought
the time and labour usually employ-
ed in learning Greek and Latin
were compensated by any advan-
tages to be derived from the know-
ledge of those languages? The doc-
tor answered, no, and the conversa-
tion ended.

The relation of this anecdote
brings to my recollection an inte-
resting anecdote of that prince of
classical scholars, the celebrated M.
Brunck, editor of Aristophanes, So-
phocles, Anacreon, Virgil, Plautus,
Terence, and various other Greek
and Latin classics, who died at
Strasburgh, June 12, 1803. See his
Life, by J. G. Schweighauser.

“Long before the termination of
his career, while in the full posses-
sion of his mental and and corporeal
energies, Mr. Brunck could not en-
dure to hear a word spoken concer-
ning Greek. He took no interest
in the discovery of a manuscript of
Aristophanes, which confirmed ma-
ny of his boldest conjectures. My
father could never induce him to
read a very beautiful eulogy, com-
posed for him by a German profes-
sor, at a time when a false report of
his death had been propagated in
Germany. I read nothing but tra-

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vels, said he to me, to prepare my-
self for that journey which I shall
doubtless soon undertake.”

These anecdotes prove the low
estimation in which those two great
men held classical learning. And,
in fact, we find that men, who
have mispent much time in study of
the profane and fabulous writings of
the ancients, generally lament the
irreparable loss which they have
sustained.

Dr. Lowth, late bishop of London,
was better acquainted with the He-
brew, Greek, Latin, and English
languages than most men of the age.
He wrote an English Grammar for
the use of his countrymen, and ad-
vises all persons concerned in the
education of youth, to make a gram-
matical knowledge of their maternal
language the basis of the study of
foreign languages.

“A competent grammatical know-
ledge of our own language,” says he,
“is the true foundation upon which
all literature, properly so called,
should be raised. If this method
were adopted in our schools, chil-
dren would have some notion of what
they were going about, when they
should enter into the Latin Gram-
mar, and would hardly be engaged
so many years as they now are, in
that most irksom and difficult part
of literature, with so much labour of
the memory, and with so little as-
sistance of the understanding.”

Lowth produces numerous instan-
ces, from the best English writers,
to prove that the knowledge of La-
tin and Greek does not enable a
man to write his own language.

“It has been the custom of our
nation, for persons of the middle and
lower ranks of life, who design their
children for trades and manufac-
tures, to send them to the Latin and
Greek schools. There they wear
out four or five years of time in
learning a number of strange words,
that will be of very little use to them
in all the following affairs of their
station. When they leave the school,
they usually forget what they have
learned, and the chief advantage
they gain by it is to spell and pro-

nounce hard words better when they
meet them in English; whereas this
skill of spelling might be attained in
a far shorter time, and at an easier
rate, by other methods, and much of
life might be saved and improved to
better purposes. It is a thing of far
greater value and importance that
youth should be perfectly well skill-
ed in reading, writing, and speaking
their native tongue in a proper, a
polite, and graceful manner, than in
toiling among foreign languages. It
is of more worth and advantage to
gentlemen and ladies to have an ex-
act knowledge of what is decent,
just, and elegant in English, than to
be a critic in foreign tongues; and,
in order to obtain this accomplish-
ment, they should frequently con-
verse with those persons and books
which are esteemed polite and ele-
gant in their kind. Even tradesmen
and the actors in common life should,
in my opinion, in their younger
years, learn geography and astrono-
my, instead of vainly wearing out
seven years of drudgery in Greek
and Latin.” —Watts on the Mind.

If the authority of men who have
distinguished themselves by the use-
fulness of their lives and writings
can have any influence in counte-
racting and exploding old prejudices,
the inefficacy of a classical educa-
tion must be manifest. Most of the
advantages which the advocates for
the languages and learning of the
ancients propose exist only in their
own imaginations, or perhaps in old
book written soon after the revival
of literature, and in the infancy of
modern learning and civilization.