ページの画像
PDF
ePub

as I have observed already, are necessary and subservient to them.

Even the knowledge of rhetoric itself is of great use in reading a well-written history, as many of the chief beauties thereof would otherwise be lost and untasted. And if this was not the case, yet still, methinks, history and agriculture should be placed last, in order to send youth abroad into the world, warm (if I may so express it) from those studies which their own interests and the service of their country will generally require them chiefly to cultivate.

The next thing to be spoken of is the public exercises of these classes; for the Miranians are fully convinced of the great advantages of bringing youth early to speak in public, and therefore have set all the Saturdays of the year wholly apart for this purpose.

Upon these days, the masters, scholars, and as many of the citizens as please to attend, being assembled in the chapel after morning prayers; one of the students in the first or Greek class appears as respondent with an opponent or interrogator from the third class. The latter pitches upon any Greek author, which the respondent has read during the course of the year in his class, and prescribes a passage in it to be rendered into English extempore. This the respondent does, pointing out the author's beauties, clearing up his obscurities and difficulties, and giving an account of the case, tense, mood, derivation, construction, &c. of every word. The opponent takes care to set him right where he errs, and gives him an opportunity, by proper interrogations, to display his skill and improvements to the

best advantage. The master of that class to which the opponent belongs, superintends these exercises, and may interfere with his assistance if there should be occasion. But this seldom happens.

After these, one of the second class appears as respondent, with an opponent from the 4th, who endeavours to impugna thesis given out and defended by the other. Then he changes the subject, and interrogates him concerning his skill in such branches of the mathematics as he (the respondent) has learned in his class.

In the next place, a respondent appears from the third class with an opponent from the fifth. The method of exercise the same as above. The subject ethics and physics.

Besides bearing a part, as interrogators, in the foregoing exercises, the fourth and fifth classes have an exercise of declamation peculiar to themselves. First one of the youth in the class of rhetoric delivers a speech with proper grace and action on any philosophical subject, or on the nature, rules and advantages of eloquence and poetry, which are the studies of the present year.

Lastly, one of the fifth or highest class delivers an oration, framed according to the exact rules of rhetoric, upon any civil topic that is, or may be, disputed with regard to the interest of their country. And such harrangues I have often known to be of very public service, not only when delivered, but when thought worthy of being published. Sometimes too their subject is the usefulness of history and agriculture; the pleasures of retirement, or any

moral topic. Thus when there are not above twenty boys in each class, every boy in the three lower classes appears in public twice a year, and those of the two higher classes four times. There are exercises of the same kind in the higher classes of the academy and mechanic's school. And, in the Latin school, there are quarterly examinations, and proper rewards distributed to excite emulation. ..

There is one thing peculiar to the Miranians in these exercises, which I had almost forgot to mention; viz. that they are most commonly in the English tongue. No people are more careful than they to teach youth to translate Latin readily, as may appear in the course of the foregoing studies, where every author is read in the original: but, when this is attained, they aim at nothing more. They are sensible, that there is a great difference between being able to explain a classic author extempore, and being able to write with as much purity as that author. Almost any person may attain to the first; but only a few have attained to the perfection of writing pure classic Latin, unmixed with barbarisms and foreign idioms, since it became a dead language.

They do not however deny, but learned men, render their works more universally useful, may write in the Latin tongue, though they cannot write with classic elegance and purity. But they greatly condemn the practice of neglecting the mothertongue, and embarrassing a young student, by obliging him to speak or compose in a dead language. While he is hunting after words to convey his ideas, he is continually on the rack; one half of his senti

to

1

ments, one half of the sprightly sallies of fancy which would otherwise shine through his compositions, must escape his memory before he can find language to express them. The consciousness of speaking improperly, often barbarously, must damp his ardour, and restrain him from delivering himself with that becoming ease and confidence, that grace of voice and action, that propriety and harmony, which he could not fail of, by applying that time and pains to composition in the English tongue, which is often without success given to the Latin. Besides, my countrymen seem to think it in some sort dishonourable to declaim only in a foreign tongue, before an English audience. In particular, my friend, continued Evander, very gaily, to speak in Latin, we think, would be an affront to our ladies, who often honour us with their presence on those occasions. Yet still, to shew that it is not for want of ability to speak in Latin that this method is in general discontinued, there are always some Latin orations and disputations at the anniversary commencements, and on other private occasions.

There are likewise masters in the college for teaching the French, Italian, Spanish and German tongues, at private hours; and a fencing master, who, besides the use of the sword, teaches the military exercise. There is, lastly, a dancing-master, whom I should have mentioned first; as this art is learned by the boys when very young, viz. in the lowest classes of the Latin and mechanic's school. None of the youth, however, are obliged, by the statutes of the college, to attend these masters; and if they

do attend them, it must be before they are entered into the fourth or rhetorical class, because they will not suffer any thing to interfere with the duties of the two higher classes; which, as you will remember, consist chiefly in reading and writing in private.

The students in these two classes are esteemed men; and it is reckoned shameful for them to be ignorant of dancing, fencing, and modern languages till that time. None of these masters are included in the institution, in any other thing, but that the governors or trustees, upon any complaint that their characters are bad, and their example dangerous, may deprive them of the benefit of teaching the youth; a punishment great enough. For, though they have no salaries from the public, yet as each of them has generally thrice the number of boys that are in any of the classes, their income is nothing inferior to the income of the masters that are upon the establishment. And the college also gives such of them, as behave well, a handsome gratuity yearly; as a testimony of their being willing to encourage the acquisition of all polite arts, and manly exercises among

the youth.

Here Evander paused, as if in expectation of some remarks from me upon the excellency of the institution he had given me an account of. I told him, that as far as he had yet proceeded, I greatly approved of it: but that I thought the study of religion, without which no scheme of education could be of advantage to the state, or private persons, did not sufficiently enter into his account; and that if the Mira. nians did nothing more this way than he had spoken

« 前へ次へ »