Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

cated to all at once with the same exertion of the voice. I say nothing of the topics and declamations of the rhetoricians, at which, certainly, whatever be the number of the audience, each will still carry off the whole. 14.

14. For the voice of the teacher is not like a meal, which will not suffice for more than a certain number, but like the sun, which diffuses the same portion of light and heat to all. If a grammarian, too, discourses on the art of speaking, solves questions, explains matters of history, or illustrates poems, as many as shall hear him will profit by his instructions. 15.

But, it may be said, number is an obstacle to correction and explanation. Suppose that this be a disadvantage in a number (for what in general satisfies us in every respect?) we will soon compare that disadvantage with other advantages.

Yet I would not wish a boy to be sent to a place where he will be neglected. Nor should a good master encumber himself with a greater number of scholars than he can manage; and it is to be a chief object with us, also, that the master may be in every way our kind friend, and may have regard in his teaching, not so much to duty, as to affection. Thus we shall never be confounded with the multitude. 16. Nor will any master, who is in the slightest degree tinctured with literature, fail particularly to cherish that pupil in whom he shall observe application and genius, even for his own honor. But even if great schools ought to be avoided (a position to which I cannot assent, if numbers flock to a master on account of his merit), the rule is not to be carried so far that schools should be avoided altogether. It is one thing to shun schools, another to choose from them.

17. If I have now refuted the objections which are made to schools, let me next state what opinions I myself entertain. 18. First of all, let him who is to be an orator, and

who must live amidst the greatest publicity, and in the full daylight of public affairs, accustom himself, from his boyhood, not to be abashed at the sight of men, nor pine in a solitary and as it were recluse way of life. The mind requires to be constantly excited and roused, while in such retirement it either languishes, and contracts rust, as it were, in the shade, or on the other hand, becomes swollen with empty conceit, since he who compares himself to no one else, will necessarily attribute too much to his own powers. 19. Besides, when his acquirements are to be displayed in public, he is blinded at the light of the sun, and stumbles at every new object, as having learned in solitude that which is to be done in public. 20. I say nothing of friendships formed at school, which remain in full force even to old age, as if cemented with a certain religious obligation; for to have been initiated in the same studies is a not less sacred bond than to have been initiated in the same sacred rites. That sense, too, which is called common sense, where shall a young man learn when he has separated himself from society, which is natural not to men only, but even to dumb animals? Add to this, that, at home, he can learn only what is taught himself; at school, even what is taught others. 22. He will daily hear many things commended, many things corrected; the idleness of a fellow student, when reproved, will be a warning to him; the industry of any one, when commended, will be a stimulus; emulation will be excited by praise; and he will think it a disgrace to yield to his equals in age, and an honor to surpass his seniors. All these matters excite the mind; and though ambition itself be a vice, yet it is often the parent of virtues.

23. I remember a practice that was observed by my masters, not without advantage. Having divided the boys into classes, they assigned them their order in speaking in

21.

conformity to the abilities of each; and thus each stood in the higher place to declaim according as he appeared to excel in proficiency. 24. Judgments were pronounced on the performances; and great was the strife among us for distinction; but to take the lead of the class was by far the greatest honor. Nor was sentence given on our merits only once; the thirtieth day brought the vanquished an opportunity of contending again. Thus he who was most successful, did not relax, his efforts, while uneasiness incited the unsuccessful to retrieve his honor. 25. I should be inclined to maintain, as far as I can form a judgment from what I conceive in my own mind, that this method furnished stronger incitements to the study of eloquence, than the exhortations of preceptors, the watchfulness of pædagogi, or the wishes of parents.

26. But as emulation is of use to those who have made some advancement in learning, so, to those who are but beginning, and are still of tender age, to imitate their schoolfellows is more pleasant than to imitate their master, for the very reason that it is more easy; for they who are learning the first rudiments will scarcely dare to exalt themselves to the hope of attaining that eloquence which they regard as the highest; they will rather fix on what is nearest to them, as vines attached to a tree gain the top by taking hold of the lower branches first. 27. This is an observation of such truth, that it is the care even of the master himself, when he has to instruct minds that are still unformed, not (if he prefer at least the useful to the showy) to overburden the weakness of his scholars, but to moderate his strength, and to let himself down to the capacity of the learner. 28. For as narrow-necked vessels reject a great quantity of the liquid that is poured upon them, but are filled by that which flows or is poured into them by degrees, so it is for us to ascertain how much the minds of boys can

receive, since what is too much for their grasp of intellect will not enter their minds, as not being sufficiently expanded to admit it. 29. It is of advantage therefore for a boy to have school-fellows whom he may first imitate, and afterwards try to surpass.

Thus will he gradually conceive hope of higher excellence.

To these observations I shall add, that masters themselves, when they have but one pupil at a time with them, cannot feel the same degree of energy and spirit in addressing him, as when they are excited by a large number of hearers. 30. Eloquence depends in a great degree on the state of the mind, which must conceive images of objects, and transform itself, so to speak, to the nature of the things of which we discourse. Besides, the more noble and lofty a mind is, by the more powerful springs, as it were, is it moved, and accordingly is both strengthened by praise, and enlarged by effort, and is filled with joy at achieving something great. 31. But a certain secret disdain is felt at lowering the power of eloquence, acquired by so much labor, to one auditor; and the teacher is ashamed to raise his style above the level of ordinary conversation. Let any one imagine, indeed, the air of a man haranguing, or the voice of one entreating, the gesture, the pronunciation, the agitation of mind and body, the exertion, and, to mention nothing else, the fatigue, while he has but one auditor; would not he seem to be affected with something like madness? There would be no eloquence in the world, if we were to speak only with one person at a time.

CHAPTER III.

1. Let him that is skilled in teaching, ascertain first of all, when a boy is entrusted to him, his ability and disposition. The chief symptom of ability in children is memory,

of which the excellence is twofold, to receive with ease and retain with fidelity. The next symptom is imitation; for that is an indication of a teachable disposition, but with this provision, that it express merely what it is taught, and not a person's manner or walk, for instance, or whatever may be remarkable for deformity. 2. The boy who shall make it his aim to raise a laugh by his love of mimicry, will afford me no hope of good capacity; for he who is possessed of great talent will be well disposed; else I should think it not at all worse to be of a dull, than of a bad, disposition; but he who is honorably inclined will be very different from the stupid or idle. 3.

Such a pupil as I would have, will easily learn what is taught him, and will ask questions about some things, but will still rather follow than run on before. That precocious sort of talent scarcely ever comes to good fruit. 4. Such are those who do little things easily, and, impelled by impudence, show at once all that they can accomplish in such matters.

But they succeed only in what is ready to their hand; they string words together, uttering them with an intrepid countenance, not in the least discouraged by bashfulness; and do little but do it readily. 5. There is no real power behind, or any that rests on deeply fixed roots; but they are like seeds which have been scattered on the surface of the ground and shoot up prematurely, and like grass that resembles corn, and grows yellow, with empty ears, before the time of harvest. Their efforts give pleasure, as compared with their years; but their progress comes to a stand and our wonder diminishes.

6. When a tutor has observed these indications, let him next consider how the mind of his pupil is to be managed. Some boys are indolent, unless you stimulate them; some are indignant at being commanded; fear restrains some, and unnerves others; continued labor forms some; with

« PredošláPokračovať »