Abbildungen der Seite

tury, when every Arabian capital was the centre of authorship and the deadening influence of Mohammedanism alone was able to arrest its rapid growth! What a fund of invaluable knowledge is afforded as we trace the history of Grecian authorship to the Periclean age, or that of Rome to the Augustan, or that of Italy to the days of Petrarch! The full examination of any one period in a classic literature, such as that of Calderon, in Spain, or of Corneille, in France, or of Schiller, in Germany, would be sufficient in itself to repay the diligence of any ingenuous student and inspire him to extend his researches to other countries and periods. Such a survey would embrace all related and tributary topics-ethical and religious, political and social, commercial and practical, educational and ästhetic-in fine, all actual and possible forms of human activity.

So vast has such a province become as it opens up to the advance of the student, and so necessary the narrowing of general discussions to special limits, that the exhaustive knowledge of any one great author is now considered quite sufficient to engage and reward the labors of a lifetime. It is thus that, in Germany, separate chairs have been founded in the universities to interpret the mind and art of Goethe. The same is true of Dante, in the schools of Italy, and of Shakespeare and Milton, in England. Even lesser names than these, as Schiller and Tasso and Pope and Browning, have served to engross the best thought and time of their respective students. The fact that what we now call Shakespeariana, Miltoniana and Coleridgeiana demand separate sections of our libraries to contain them will afford an instance of that rapid multiplication of material that has resulted from an ever more exhaustive study of any one celebrated author.

Such, in part, is the claim of these studies on the score of knowledge secured, so that from the practical point of view, as well as from the pleasurable, such lines of activity must be viewed as most desirable. The well-read man is he who is fully conversant with such a volume of authorship as this ; who may be said so to have examined and mastered it, that he has it at his disposal. Such a study is the only basis of accurate and wide-reaching scholarship in letters. Such students feel at home in the libraries of the world, in Athens, in Rome, in Florence and Cordova, in Paris and Weimar, in London and Edinburgn--in the great literary capitals of the ancient and modern world. Whatever else they may or may not know, they feel acquainted with the best minds of the race and with their best mental work as expressed in literary form. Such knowledge is more than mere knowledge. It is a satisfaction and an inspiration, and places us in sympathy with the deepest and purest impulses of the race.

III. We pass to an additional claim in-Literary Culture. More is meant by this than what Bacon includes in his statement-"Studies serve for ornament.” Principal Shairp, in his instructive treatise on, “Culture and Religion,” calls attention to the three accepted or historical schools of culture—The Ethical, as represented by the Christian church; The Scientific, as represented, especially, by Mr. Huxley, and, The Literary, as best expressed in the person and writings of Mr. Arnold. It is to this third type of culture that we now refer, and, while keeping in view the writings of Mr. Arnold, we shall not feel bound to follow him in all his assertions.

We may note, at the outset, that there is such a thing or product, in a man's personality, as culture ; distinct, on the one hand, from mere intellect, and, on the other, froin merely practical ability. It is difficult, if not impossible, to define it, save by eliminating from it what is not to be confounded with it. It is a something in addition to mere knowledge or learning, though congenial to it and one of its normal results. It is a something in which taste as a faculty and feeling is prominent over every other related power ; in which there is ability evinced to discern the presence and quality of the beautiful in nature and art and to enjoy it when discerned. Its effect, wherever fully operative, is to soften and subdue the nature of man. It gives what the artists call tone to character. It is synonymous with refinement of spirit and bearing, with that nice regard to the amenities and proprieties which always serves to charm us when it is naturally expressed. More than this, it is a growth, and not a something suddenly secured from without ; the expression of a man's innermost nature and habit, as germane to his being as the light is to the eye or fragrance to the flower.

As to the forms it may assume, there are substantially but two.

There is what we designate, General Culture, the normal offspring and evidence of converse with truth in its varied phases and with men of intelligence. Civilization, as we understand the term, is, in part, its cause, and, in part, its effect; so that we expect to find it modified or conspicuous in proportion to the average or conspicuous place of people in the scale of general enlightenment. In this sense, European culture, as nationally expressed, is in advance of Asiatic. The culture of the Greeks was, thus, superior to that of Rome or any other related people. The Hebrews as a nation ·lacked it, as do the modern Germans, in comparison with the French. North Europeans, as a class, are inferior, at this point, to South Europeans, and England, by reason of age and environment, is superior to America.

Included in these general influences favorable to general culture there is, in the case of any individual, all that is meant by his educational advantages, the surroundings of home and society and life that so vitally affect him ; companionship with the scholarly and refined ; freedom of access to that great world of natural beauty that lies before every man of common discernment and to that ever-widening world of artistic beauty accessible, in our day, to all who are inclined to avail themselves of it.

We are speaking, however, of Literary Culture, and this, it must be emphasized, is the direct result of literary studies as distinct from any other existing form. Scientific studies will not impart it. They tend, in fact, to modify it; if not, indeed, to reduce it to its minimum measure. Philosophical studies, on their intellectual side, will not materially induce it. They are too didactic, technical and speculative to foster its growth. Mere linguistic studies, as an examination of hidden roots and grammatical forms, will not procure it. Even studies in plastic and pictorial art, as a specific branch of intellectual work, will not necessarily induce it. Recognized authorities in science, philosophy, philology and art may be signally devoid of literary taste, as they have been, as a matter of fact, devoid of it. Copernicus and Galileo, as physicists, had nothing of it. Sir Wm. Hamilton, as a psychologist, had but little of it, while the brothers Grimm, in common with most of the great philologists of Germany, make no approach to its possession. The presence of any form of mere mental ability or scholarly acquirement does not secure it. It must be grounded in literary taste, study, habit, and purpose; must be the special product of the study of style in authorship: a study of diction and structure : of qualities

« ZurückWeiter »