If you

tempting and alluring children to letters by apt and gentle ways, do, in truth, present nothing before them but rods and ferules, horror and cruelty. Away with this violence! away with this compulsion ! than which nothing, I certainly believe, more dulls and generates a well-descended nature. would have the pupil alive to shame and chastisement, do not harden him to them. ... The strict government of most of our colleges has even more displeased me; and peradventure they might have erred less perniciously on the indulgent side. The school is the true house of correction of imprisoned youth. . . . Do but come in, when they are about their lesson, and you shall hear nothing but the outcries of boys under execution, with the thundering noise of their pedagogues, drunk with fury, to make up the concert. A very pretty way this to tempt these tender and timorous souls to love their book—with a furious countenance and a rod in hand! A cursed and pernicious way of proceeding! ... How much more decent would it be to see their classes strewn with green leaves and fine flowers, than with the bloody stunips of birch and willows! Were it left to my ordering, I would paint the school with the pictures of Joy and Gladness, Flora and the Graces, that where the profit of the pupils is, there might their pleasure also be."

We are all of Montaigne's opinion nowadays; for he did not forbid punishment or coercion, in some form or other, when all other means failed. Extrema in extremis. He merely protested against the scholastic tyranny of his time (and we may say of all time, as may be learned from almost every writer on education for the last 2000 years)—a tyranny still existing, and till lately prevalent. Slave-driver and schoolmaster were almost convertible terms. The school and the rod were ideas of inseparable association. Samuel Butler calls "whipping"

“ Virtue's governess,
Tutoress of arts and sciences."

“Oh! ye" (says Byron)“who teach the ingenuous youth of nations,

Holland, France, England, Germany, and Spain,

pray ye flog them upon all occasions :
It mends the morals ; never mind the pain."

Thomas Hood, again, in looking back on his school-days, recalls chiefly his floggings; and yet his pleasant humour can call up some sentimental regret :

“Ay, though the very birch's smart

Should mark those hours again,
I'd kiss the rod, and be resigned
Beneath the stroke, and even find

Some sugar in the cane." The subject, however, is too serious for jocular treatment. Before Montaigne's day, and long after it, the brutality of schoolmasters was such as to leave an almost indelible stain on the profession. The whole body should make an annual pilgrimage of penitence for the sins of their predecessors. Schoolmasters are now beginning to understand that it is only by balanced temper and by sound method that they can dispense with physical motives, and out of the more or less contemptible “dominie” of the past, evolve the educator of the future. In no other way certainly can they make good their claim to that social position which they, often too morbidly, claim. A mere castigator puerorum has no claim to anything save his wages, which should be the minimum for which he can be hired.

Montaigne's educational views were defective, certainly, though in substance and in their main purpose sound. The defects, as before observed, may be traced to his own upbringing and character. Everything with him is too easy. Wisdom's ways, alas ! are not always ways of pleasantness, nor are her paths always those of peace. The easy and harmonious way of life of Montaigne is for a few fortunate souls only. We have to train our boys to work hard, to will vigorously, to be much in earnest, to have a high sense of duty. Such qualities do not come by wishing. By intellectual and moral discipline,

by inducing him to do what may be disagreeable, by requiring obedience, by enforcement of law, we have to mould our British boy. For all this kind of work Montaigne has little to teach us; but we can learn much from him, and we part from the wise and kindly Frenchman with gratitude, and affection.


To one taking a survey of the history of education it is interesting to note that Montaigne was brought up in a Humanistic school taught by men who stood high in Europe as Humanists, and yet he has nothing but hard words for the system. When Montaigne was at school, Humanism in education was at high tide north of the Alps. We may learn from him that the revival was restricted in its aims and not wholly successful. As I have said elsewhere: a simpler grammar than that popular in previous centuries and the substitution of classical Latin authors for bad Latin and a little Greek sums up the revival so far as all save a few schools were concerned. They still had much to learn from Quintilian, of whom Montaigne sometimes reminds us. An important advance had been made, but containing in it the seeds of relapse. For even with an improved grammar, abstract rules and the study of words for their own sake would still hold sway, and when the freshness of the new movement had worn off the inevitable result would be the restoration of the rule and the whip. The only true and permanent reform of education must comprehend not only a reform of Method but a school of Method at our universities. The need of a method well thought out was felt as we have seen by Ascham, but it was not till Bacon arose that method on a scientific basis became possible.


FROM 1600 A.D.

« ForrigeFortsett »