페이지 이미지
[ocr errors]

still greater dignity and splendour at Oxford, and there would be grander living sources of instruction.

Talking of the education of children, Boswell asked him what he thought was best to teach first. JOHNSON. “Sir, it is no matter what you teach them first, any more than what leg you shall put into your breeches first : sir, you may stand disputing which is best to put in first, but in the mean time your breech is bare, Sir, while you are considering which of the two things you should teach your child first, another boy has learned them both.".

Going in a boat from the Temple to Greenwich, Boswell asked Dr. Johnson if he really thought a knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages an essential requisite to a good education, JOHNSON. "Most certainly, sir; for those who know them have a very great advantage over those who do not. Nay, sir, it is wonderful what a difference learning makes upon people even in the common intercourse of life, which does not appear to be much connected with it.” BOSWELL. “ And yet people go through the world very well, and carry on the business of life to good advantage, without learning." JOHNSON.

Why, sir, that may be true in cases where lcarning cannot possibly be of any use; for instance, this boy rows us as well without learning, as if he could sing the song of Orpheus to the Argonauts, who were the first sailors.". He then called to the boy, “What would you give, my lad, to know about the Argonauts ?” “Sir," said the boy, “ I would give what I have.” Johnson was much pleased with his answer, and we gave him a double fare. Dr. Johnson then turning to Boswell, said, “ Sir, a de

sire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind; and every human being, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to give all that he has to get knowledge.”

He said of Garrick : “ He has not Latin enough. He finds out the Latin by the meaning rather than the meaning by the Latin."

He once remarked he had known several good scholars among the Irish gentlemen, but scarcely any of them correct in quantity. He extended the same observation to Scotland.

Of a schoolmaster of his acquaintance, a native of Scotland, he said, “He has a great deal of good about him; but he is also very defective in some respects. His inner part is good, but his outer part is mighty awkward. You in Scotland do not attain that nice critical skill in languages which we get in our schools in England. I would not put a boy to him, whom I inteuded for a man of learning: but for the sons of citizens, who are to learn a little, get good morals, and then go to trade, he may do

very well.”

Boswell once asked him whether a person, whose name he had then forgotten, studied hard ; he answered, “ No, sir, I do not believe he studied hard. I never knew a man who studied hard. I conclude, indeed, from the effects, that some men have studied hard, as Bentley and Clarke.”.

He obsei ved, “idleness is a disease that must be combated; but I would not advise a rigid adherence to a particular plan of study. I myself have never persisted in any plan for two days together. A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good. A

young man should read five hours in a day, and so may acquire a great deal of knowledge.”

He said, “ for general improvement, a man should read whatever his immediate inclination prompts him to ; though to be sure, if a man has a science to learn, he must regularly and resolutely advance. What we read with inclination makes a stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention, so there is but half to be employed on what we read. I read Fielding's Amelia through, without stopping.* If a man begins to read in the middle of a book, and feels an inclination to go on, let him not quit it to go to the beginning. He may perhaps not feel again the inclination.”

Of application, he remarked, “ Sir, in my early years I read very hard. It is a sad reflection, but a true one, that I knew almost as much at eighteen as I do now.f My judgment, to be sure, was not so good ; but I had all the facts. I remember very well, when I was at Oxford, an old gentleman said

• Johnson appears to have been particularly pleased with the character of the heroine of this novel. “ His attention to veracity,” says Mrs. Piozzi, “ was without equal or ex. ample; and when I mentioned Clarissa as a perfect character, On the contrary,' said he, you may observe there is always something which she prefers to truth.' Fielding's Amelia was the most pleasing heroine of all the romances,' he said, “but that vile broken nose, never cured, ruined the sale of perhaps the only book, which being printed off (published) betimes one, inorning, a new edition was called for before night.'”—Anecdotes, p. 221.

ť His great period of study was from the age of twelve to that of eighteen, as he told Mr. Langton, who gave me this information.Malone.

to me, 'Young man, ply your book diligently, and acquire a stock of knowledge ; for when years come upon you, you will find that poring upon books will be but an irksoine task.” Aud, on another occa. sion, “Much may be done if a man puts his whole mind to a particular object : by so doing, sir Fletcher Norton has made himself the great lawyer he is allowed to be."

A schoolmaster in Scotland was, by a court of inferior jurisdiction, deprived of his office, for being somewhat severe in the chastisement of his scholars. The court of session, considering it to be dangerous to the interest of learniug and education to lessen the dignity of teachers, and make them afraid of too indulgent parents, instigated by the complaints. of their children, restored him. His enemies appealed to the house of lords, though the salary was only twenty pounds a year.

Mr. Boswell was the schoolmaster's counsel on the occasion, and wrote to Dr. Johuson on the subject. On his arrival in London, the doctor received him with a hearty welcome; saying, “ I am glad you are come upon such an errand :" alluding to the cause of the schoolmaster. BosweLL. “I hope, sir, he will be in no danger. It is a very delicate matter to interfere between a master and his schoa lars : nor do I see how you can fix the degree of severity that a master may use." JOHNSON. “Why, sir, till you can fix the degree of obstinacy and negligence of the scholars, you cannot fix the degree of severity of the master. Severity must be continued till obstinacy be subdued, and negligence be cured." On a subsequent day he dictated the following arguments on the subject.

The charge is, that he has used immoderate and cruel correction. Correction, in itself, is not cruel : children, being not reasonable, can be governed only by fear. To impress this fear, is therefore one of the first duties of those who have the care of children. It is the duty of a parent, and has never been thought inconsistent with parental tenderness. It is the duty of a master, who is in his highest exaltation when he is loco parentis. Yet, as good things become evil by excess, correction, by being immoderate, may become cruel. But when is correction immoderate ? When it is more frequent or more severe than is required ad monendum et docendum, for reformation and instruction. No severity is cruel, which obstinacy makes necessary; for the greatest cruelty would be, to desist, and leave the scholar too careless for instruction, and too much hardened for reproof. Locke, in his trea. tise of Education, mentions a mother, with applause, who whipped an infant eight times before she had subdued it; for had she stopped at the serenth act of correction, her daughter, says he, would have been ruined. The degrees of obstinacy in young minds are very different : as different must be the degrees of persevering severity. A stubborn scholar must be corrected till he is subdued. The discipline of a school is military. There must be either unbounded licence or absolute authority. The master who punishes, not only consults the future happi. ness of him who is the immediate subject of correction, but he propagates obedience through the whole school; aud establishes regularity by exemplary justice. The victorious obstinacy of a single boy would make his future endeavours of reformation

« 이전계속 »