Abbildungen der Seite

invigorating sorrow, he finds himself in turn overpowered by the unyielding violence of forces yet unmastered ! To his kindly heart all are alike, rich and poor, learned and ignorant; for he knows that in the eye of the Master whom he strives to resemble there are no shades of distinction recognised. He is thankful that however humble his attainments, there are others to whose good he may contribute; and he is proud to think of the bright intelligencies with whom, in following earnestly out his vocation, he has identified his destinies.


HORACE, Book iv. Ode xii.
Now vernal breezes from the West,
That soothe the ocean's stormy breast,

On the swelling canvas blow:
The meadows now are crisp no more,
The rolling streams no longer roar,

Turgid with the winter snow.
The sad bird builds her dwelling-place,

Bemoaning hapless Itys' fate-
Eternal shame of Cecrop's race!

With his own blood, the mother's hate

Avenged her on her lecherous mate.
Stretch'd on the green grass, from the reed

The shepherds pour sweet melodies-
Watch the fat sheep that round them feed,

And praise the God that loves to see
The flocks and hills of Arcadie.

Virgil, the season makes us thirst,

Come, quaff my rare Calenian wine;
But listen to my terms, for first,

Client of youths of noble line,

A box of perfume must be mine.
For that small gift, a jar which lies

In the Sulpitian stores to-day-
Mighty to make new hopes arisc,

Mighty to wash all woes away

My share to thee shall duly pay.
Then, if to these delights you haste,

Come quickly with that gift of thine;
I don't intend that you should taste,

Without a price, my sparkling wine,

Like guest in wealthier house than mine.
Come, then, your gains awhile suspend:

Think, while you may, how soon the fire

May blaze around your funeral pyre;
'Tis sometimes wisdom to unbend,
And graver hours with pleasure blend.



[ocr errors]

GENIUS and talent are terms in constant use, and pretty accurately understood in their general, but not- —we venture to affirm- in their particular and distinctive meaning. They are commonly supposed to be opposite, nay, by some incompatible; whereas they are closely related—are, in fact, but different modifications of the same original force. To every man is originally given ability to acquire, though varying in intensity of power, and capacity to retain, though differing in measure. Whether genius or talent will be the result depends upon the manner of the subjective process of thinking. The man of genius takes the forces in things and thoughts, and transfuses them into his own original force—the only independent gift of Nature—and seems by the process to be altogether independent of her aid. He too, however, must conquer and acquire. The ultimate difference results from the different use made of such acquisitions. The talented man uses them as aids and auxiliaries that help him—they do not become part of himself—they are still objective, but he can now control them, and make them do effective work. The man of genius absorbs them into himself, and thus together they become an undivided force, that, with a mighty power, seemingly born of a divine intuitional conception, produces, almost at command of will, masterstrokes of effect. Thus it is talent manæuvres well by laborious combinations, but genius flashes forth her conceptions like a creator. They stand upon the same original ground, however, and we are persuaded that education has much, very much, to do with the results that all feel are so widely different in character and value. Our fashionable mode of education, whose forte is acquisition, tends to make men of talent. Our men of genius are those who have escaped its power, or who have rebelled, and adopted the natural mode of original independent thinking. They, too, are becoming schoolmasters, and forming schools likely to breed more true men.

The contrast between the two modes is well seen in this book of Mr Miller's. This history of his life shows the true process of educating, so far as it can be analysed by human ability. To reach the many, some of our great educators have thrown their speculations into the agreeable form of fiction; but these, to interest as intense as fiction, add the permanent satisfaction of being linked to realities. The interest of story will carry with it a more telling conviction of the necessity of a more natural education, than, formal though it may be, equally sound didactic treatises. He tells us honestly what schools he attended with profit, and who were his genuine schoolmasters, and, as we think, elicits facts and establishes principles that have been sadly overlooked by the guardians and guides of our

* My Schools and Schoolmasters ; or the Story of my Education. By Hugh Miller. Fifth Edition. Edinburgh : Johnstone & Hunter.

youth. His uncles—the harness-maker in particular—seem to have been men of the right stamp, who had the wisdom to respect the divine characters of individuality and self-action, which so beautifully tend to fit man to take an independent self-reliant position in society. Our common mode, it is to be feared, tends rather to crush or stultify both reason and heart, and so twist or cramp the will, that vice or stupidity follows as a natural consequence. Mr Miller had the good fortune to evade this, partly through circumstances, and partly through force of will, generated by an early habit of reflective thinking, for which he has to thank very much those uncles of his. We must not forget, however, that his father, though seldom at home, and cut off when he was as yet very young, exercised a primary and definite influence upon his mind. His father's manly character and perilous calling, with all its changeful incidents, seem to have deeply impressed him with daring and sensibilityqualities though so opposite in character, frequently found in higher natures, His father's tragic fate seems to have deepened into a habitual flow that feeling wbich is ever a characteristic trait of an ingenuous mind. Early sorrow brought early reflection, thus beautifully described by Mr Miller himself :

“I remember I used to go wandering disconsolately about the harbour at this season, to examine the vessels which had come in during the night; and that I oftener than once set my mother a-crying, by asking her why the shipmasters, who, when my father was alive, used to stroke my head, and slip half

my pockets, never now took any notice of me, or gave me anything? She well knew that the shipmasters - not an ungenerous class of men-bad simply failed to recognise their old comrade's child ; but the question was only too suggestive, notwithstanding, of both her own loss and mine. I used, too, to climb, day after day, a grassy protuberance of the old-coast line, immediately behind my mother's house, that commands a wide reach of the Moray Frith, and to look wistfully out, long after every one else had ceased to hope, for the sloop with the two strips of white and the two square top-sails. But months and years passed by, and the strips of white and the square top-sails I never saw."

As Mr Miller grew up, an intense passion for rambling and air-castle building took possession of him, which often led him into scrapes, and what boys term “fixes"—such as the robbery of the orchard and the doo-cot cave adventure-enterprises whicli did more to form his character than the pitiful learning and discipline of the village school, which he seems to remember with any but grateful feelings. His description of the school is vivid and picturesque

"The building in which we met was a low, long, straw-thatched cottage, open from gable to gable, with a mud floor below, and an unlathed roof above; and stretching along the naked rafters, which, when the master chanced to be absent for a few minutes, gave noble exercise in climbing, there used frequently to lie a helm, or oar, or boathook, or even a foresail—the spoil of some hapless peat-boat from the opposite side of the Frith. The Highland boatmen of Ross had o arried on a trade in peats for ages with the Saxons of the town ; and as every boat owed a long-derived perquisite of twenty peats to the grammar school

, and as payment was at times foolishly refused, the party of boys conmissioned by the master to exact it almost always succeeded, either by force or stratagem, in securing and bringing alorg with them, in behalf of the institution, some spar, or sail, or piece of rigging, which, until redeemed by special

pence into

treaty, and the payment of the peats, was stowed up over the rafters. These peat expeditions, which were intensely popular in the school, gave noble exercise to th faculties. It was always a great matter to see, just as the school met, some observant boy appear, cap in hand before the master, and intimate the fact of an arrival at the shore by the simple words, 'Peat-boat, sir.' The master would then proceed to name a party, more or less numerous, according to the exigency; but it seemed to be matter of pretty correct calculation that, in the cases in which the peat claim was disputed, it required about twenty boys to bring home the twenty peats, or, lacking these, the compensatory sail or spar. There were certain ill-conditioned boatmen who almost always resisted, and who delighted to tell us-invariably, too, in very bad English-that our perquisite was properly the hanginan's perquisite,* made over to us because we were like him; not seeing-blockheads that they were!—that the very admission established in full the rectitude of our claim, and gave to us, amid our dire perils and faithful contendings, the strengthening consciousness of a just quarrel. In dealing with these recusants, we used ordinarily to divide our forces into two bodies, the larger portion of the party filling their pockets with stones, and ranging themselves on some point of vantage, such as the pier-head ; and the smaller stealing down as near the boat as possible, and mixing themselves up with the purchasers of the peats. We then, after due warning given, opened fire upon the boatmen; and, when the pebbles were hopping about them like hail-stones, the boys below commonly succeeded in securing, under cover of the fire, the desired boathook or var. And snch were the ordinary circumstances and details of this piece of Spartan education; of which a townsman has told me he was strongly reminded when boarding, on one occasion, under cover of a well-sustained discharge of musketry, the vessel of an enemy that had been stranded on the shores of Berbice."

His sketch of the schoolmaster and his discipline would be found, we doubt not, to fit many even yet—in the main, we mean, of course, for such things as cock-fighting have now become obsoletethough it is to be feared as much mental wrong as ever is perpetrated there, where, equally as at home, action should be free and independent, and obedience should be dictated by love. It is sometimes, however, very difficult to determine, in a question of school discipline, whether master or pupil is to blame--of which the following the termination of his school career, is an example. Both scem to have been culpable :

“The class to which I now belonged read an English lesson every afternoon, and had its rounds of spelling; and in these last I acquitted myself but ill, partly from the circumstance that I spelt only indifferently, but still more from the further circumstance, that, retaining strongly fixed in my memory the broad Scotch pronunciation acquired at the dames' school, I had to carry on in my mind the double process of at once spelling the required word, and of translating the old sounds of the letters of which it was composed, into the modern ones. Nor had I been taught to break the words into syllables ; and so, when required one evening, to spell the word “awful," with much deliberation-for I had to translate, as I went on, the letters a-w and u—I spelt it word for word, without break or pause, as a-w-f-u-l. "No,' said the master, ‘a-w, aw, f-u-l, awful; spell again.' This seemed preposterous spelling. It was sticking in an a, as I thought, into the middle of the word, where, I was sure, no a had a right to be; and so I spelt it as at first. The master recompensed my supposed contumacy with a sharp cut athwart the ears with his tâwse; and again demanding the spelling of the word, I yet again spelt it as at first. But on receiving a second cut, I refused to spell it any more; and, determined on

• There may have been truth in the allegation ; at least the hangman of Inverness enjoyed, from time irumemorial, a similar perquisite-a peat out of every creel brought to the burghi market.

[ocr errors]

overcoming my obstinacy, he laid hold of me, and attempted throwing me down. As wrestling had, however, been one of our favourite Marcus' Cave exercises, and as few lads of my inches wrestled better than I, the master, though a tall and tolerably robust fellow, found the feat considerably more difficult than he could have supposed. We swayed from side to side of the school-room, now backwards, now forwards, and for a full minute it seemed to be rather a moot point on which side the victory was to incline. At length, however, I was tripped over a form; and as the master had to deal with me, not as master usually deals with pupil, but as one combatant deals with another, whom be has to beat into subinission, I was mauled in a way that filled me with aches and bruises for a full month thereafter. I greatly fear that, had I met the fellow on a lonely road five years subsequent to our encounter, when I had become strong enough to raise breast high the 'great lifting stone of the Dropping Cave,' he would have caught as sound a thrashing as he ever gave to little boy or girl in his life; but all I could do at this time was to take down my cap from off the pin, when the affair had ended, and march straight out of school. And thus terminated my school education.”

Having now to make choice of a calling, he chose that of a mason, because it appeared to favour the prosecution of his darling pursuits, science and literature, a passion for which seems to have grown with his growth. He now entered what he claims as pre-eminently the “best and noblest of all schools save the Christian one, in which honest labour is the teacher-in which the ability of being useful is imparted, and the spirit of independence communicated, and the habit of persevering effort acquired; and which is more moral than the schools in which only philosophy is taught, and greatly more happy than the schools which profess to teach only the art of enjoyment." Ay,—very true in the abstract theory, but there is tyranny and despotism, too, in the practical school of Toil. How few genuine apprentices, and how many slaves of toil there are ! Physical labour gives a healthy tone to the mental system, but too often the protracted strain upon the physical powers drains the animal spirits that sustain the active flow of thought. The working classes, however, are rapidly advancing themselves, and have already taken a very definite position in the social scale. Their hours of toil are shortened, and the power of their intelligence increased, and these, mainly, as it should be, by honest, independent efforts of their own.

Your machine-made man looks upon the majesty of things, and beholds an opaque mass of matter. Your true self-acting man looks upon the same opaque mass, and transfigures it into most meaning forms of truth and beauty. Mr Miller possessed this happy power that sweetened and endeared his weary hours of labour :

“A taste for the beauties of natural scenery is of itself a never-failing spring of delight; and there was scarce a day in which I wrought in the open air, during this period, in which I did not experience its soothing and exhilarating influence. Well has it been said by the poet Keates, that “a thing of beauty is a joy for ever.' I owed much to the upper reaches of the Cromarty Frith, as seen, when we sat down to our mid-day meal, from the gorge of the quarry, with their numerous rippling currents, that in the calm resembled streamlets winding through a meadow, and their distant gray promontories tipped with villages that brightened in the sunshine; while, pale in the background, the mighty hills, still streaked with snow, rose high over bay and promontory, and gave dignity and power to the scene.”


« ZurückWeiter »