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cultivation of the Hebrew language, is the importance of the treasures, which it unfolds. The venerable books written in Hebrew are indeed highly curious and instructive, apart from religious considerations. The historian, the geographer, the chronologer, the antiquarian, the naturalist, the poet, the orator, the legislator, the observer of human nature in its original simplicity, of the sources, whence nations sprang, of society in its earliest stage, and of ancient eastern manners in their only genuine representation, will here find their researches amply rewarded, no less, than the Divine, who raises his eye to the adorable ways of Providence, in the religious and civil history of mankind." H.
REMARKS ON CLASSICAL LEARNING.
The present age is distinguished by a peculiar freedom of thought and action. At no period of the world have the opinions of antiquity met with less veneration ; in no one, have systems, supported by prescriptive arguments alone, been more violently assailed, or more generally exploded. Despising the long-frequented paths of their ancestors, the present gerieration boldly strive to open new avenues to the temple of knowledge ; and, if we cannot become wise by our own exertions, we seem determined not to fall short of wisdom by adopting the ignorance of our forefathers. That proud despotism of opinion, which claimed unconditional submission to its dictates, because, during a long period of ignorance and barbarism, no one had the hardihood to contradict them, is now humbled in the dust. The ipse dixit of the pretended sage can no longer command implicit obedience ; and systems of philosophy are not estimated by the extent or duration of their reign, but as they are conformable to truth and reason.
While we view with pleasure a prospect, which, on the whole, cannot be unfavorable to improvement, and, repelling with indignation the impositions of antiquity, assert our right to think on all subjects, as our own reason shall direct, let us beware of despising what is useful, merely because it is ancient ; and, in our zeal to throw away the dross of antiquity, let us not foolishly reject its rich and valuable ore.
Among those established opinions, which the wantonness of literary infidelity has lately assailed, is the general belief of the utility of Classical Learning. The high esteem, in which our ancestors held these studies, is well known. A knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages was with them an indispensable part of education, and exclusively dignified with the name of learning. The ancients were supposed to have reached the summit of excellence, and to have left nothing to future genius, but to admire and imitate them. the other hand, some late authors hold them deserving of contempt and ridicule. They represent the classics as useless, and the acquisition of the learned languages as a heavy and intolerable burthen, imposed upon the youth of the present
of custom. Thus prone are mankind to extremes, while truth is commonly found in the middle path.
While we hear with contempt the assertions of those classical enthusiasts, who endeavor to persuade us, that the Greeks and Romans have preoccupied every eminence in science, and that the celestial fire, which burnt so brightly in a TULLY, warms not, with equal ardor, the bosom of modern genius ; we listen, with similar incredulity, to those, who, with so much modesty, inform us, that mankind have hitherto been in an error, which it was reserved for them to dispel. They trace all the applause, which the ancients have received, to the prejudices of education, and the affectation of learning ; and would fain have us believe, that the great men of modern days, who recommend, with so much earnestness, the study of the classics, are led to this by the chagrin of acknowledging, that they have spent much time and labor in useless studies ; and are desirous to conceal their own devia
age, by the
tion from truth, by inducing posterity to follow them in the paths of error.
It is not easy to hear with temper such slanderous insinuations ; but our honest indignation is repressed by the reflection, that they are the last subterfuge of expiring folly ; and though from the ignorant they may conceal the deficiency of better arguments, they cannot bring serious conviction ; nor injure the cause of Classical Learning with the sensible and ingenuous.
We shall take a view of the rise and progress of Classical Learning ; of the objections raised against it; and of the advantages, which may reasonably be expected to result from the cultivation of the learned languages. Such a view, if we mistake not, will abundantly justify us in defending the affirmative of the question
When the empire of Rome was destroyed by the northern nations, the works of her illustrious sons were soon neglected, and lay buried in the dust of monastic libraries. All useful literature was forgotten ; and those dreadful times of barbarism have, by general consent, obtained the just and emphatic name of “The dark ages.” With the 15th century began the dawn of intellect. The best Roman authors were then read and admired. We may however date the revival of classical learning from the destruction of Constantinople ; when the most learned Greeks took refuge in Italy, and introduced their inimitable language to general notice. The progress of letters was rapidly accelerated by the invention of printing ; and the sun of science, rising in majestic splendor, warmed and enlightened Europe.
The study of the Greek and Latin languages continued to monopolize the attention of learned men, till the beginning of the sixteenth century, when it became one very efficient cause of the Reformation. This may seem a hazardous assertion; but it is nevertheless true. It was not until the Scriptures and early apologists for christianity were studied in their original tongues, that the impositions and forgeries of the church of Rome could be detected. The Reformers applied to the sacred writings that skill in language and criticism, which they had acquired in the study of profane authors. TULLT and ARISTOTLE refuted the errors of Romish usurpation ; and, as teachers of philosophy and logic, became precursors of true christianity.
From that period the classics have been studied with diligence ; they have been our models in poetry, in history, and in eloquence. The learned of all countries have concurred in recommending them, as the preceptors of our childhood, and the companions of our maturer years. They have been admired and imitated by such writers as MILTON, FENELON, and Pope; and rapturously praised by such critics as AddiSON, HARRIS, and JOHNSON.
An universal language hath long been a favorite cbject with the learned. It is agreed that a medium, in which philosophers of all nations might converse, and communicate their thoughts by epistolary correspondence, would contribute much to the advancement of letters. National animosities will prevent the adoption of any modern tongue ; and, were it once introduced, the continual fluctuation of language would soon render it useless. Why then not adopt the Latin as an universal language? It is copious and simple, it is easily acquired, and its pronunciation and inflexions are regulated by the classics of the Augustan period. Discoveries in philosophy will undoubtedly render some new words necessary; these may however be accommodated to the idiom of the language ; and any objection drawn from this inconvenience will be equally applicable to every other tongue. But it is idle to reason, when experience has already decided. The Latin has been the language of the learned world for more than two centuries ; with what utility we need not say ; but may affirm, without fear of being charged with absurdity, that the invention of printing, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, scarcely contributed more to the advancement of literature, than the general diffusion of the Latin tongue.
Those times were certainly favorable to learning, when ERASMUS could converse and coro
respond with all the princes, nobles, and literati of Europe, in this single language.
Though the disease be not perhaps past remedy, we have in a great degree lost this advantage.
The evil seems to have arisen from the French writers of the age of LEWIS XIV, who entertained the idea of making their own an universal language. The literary and political glory of France seemed to justify their hopes, which in the event were disappointed. Whatever may be the merit of the French tongue, the great difficulty of pronouncing and writing it with tolerable propriety, will prevent its becoming a medium of general intercourse.
In taking notice of the objections, which are usually made to a classical education, it is unnecessary to advert to those, which are drawn from the absurdity of studying the dead languages, to the exclusion of other useful branches of sci
We are not bound to defend the folly of schools and universities. If it be shewn that a competent knowledge of the classics may be gained without prejudice, and even with advantage to other studies, our object will be attained.
We frequently hear objections in the following terms; « To confine a boy in the grammar school during six or eight years, principally engaged in a close attention to the dead languages, is an egregious waste of that time, which might be more usefully bestowed. You have filled his ear with words, while he is destitute of real knowledge.” It is painful to hear, and tiresome to refute such palpable misrepresentation. In what manner can the early years of life be better employed, than in gaining a knowledge of ancient history and geography, a love of chaste composition and elegant poetry, an acquaintance with the rules of just criticism, an admiration of noble and illustrious characters, and a habit of patient and laborious study ? Let not the acquisition of the learned languages be injuriously represented, as demandingthfe attention of a whole life. In common with all useful knowledge, they require application ; but regular and close attention to the classics will soon enable any one to read