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CHAPTER XII.

JOHN MILTON, THE CLASSICAL

ENCYCLOPAEDIST.

(d. 1674.)

WHEN we reflect that Milton was not only a Great Poet-one of the greatest—but also the most learned and accomplished man of his time, we naturally approach his Tractate with profound respect and in the anticipation of much instruction. Our expectations, it must be confessed, are at first disappointed. For we are entitled to expect not only philosophic grasp but also practical guidance from a man of genius who happened to be also himself a teacher and for a long time kept a boys' school in Aldersgate Street. On a closer acquaintance with the book, however, we find much more in it than is obvious in a first reading.

Rabelais and Montaigne had first moved in the direction of the realistic in education, but by the real, Montaigne meant studying what was said by eminent writers as opposed to mere words and grammatical rules. He held that the languages might be taught as they were taught to himself, conversationally, and that the true end of education was not learning, in the linguistic, or any other sense; but wisdom. Rabelais advocated,

1 Born 1608: died 1674. Tractate' on Education, published in 1644, and a second edition 1673 at the end of the second edition of the minor poems.

in addition to this, realistic instruction in its usual sense. Milton also, nearly 100 years after, wrote in the same sense, but he was largely influenced by the educational movements which had preceded him under Ratke and which were even then represented by Comenius. He directly refers indeed to Comenius's works in a somewhat sneering way in the beginning of his Tractate. “To tell you,” he says, " what I have benefited herein among old renowned authors, I shall spare; and to search what many modern Januas and Didactics, more than ever I shall read, have projected, my inclination leads me not." The reference is manifestly to Comenius's Janua Linguarum Reserata and to the Magna Didactica, in which Comenius lays down his principles; or it may be to the Didactics of Ratke. But no man, not even a Milton, however he may ignore the originators of ideas, can keep himself outside the influence of the ideas themselves, if they are in the air.

Let us first of all bear in mind that Milton's Treatise is only a very condensed and brief statement, written at the request of his friend Hartlib, the devoted follower of Comenius, ard that it reads more like a summary of opinions to be afterwards elaborated than a complete treatise. It is because of the almost negligent structure of the Essay and the condensed and pregnant character of the style—"a few observations which have flower'd off and are as it were the burnishing of many studious and contemplative years "—that it demands close attention if it is to be thoroughly appreciated.

Milton was to a certain modified extent a Realist and Encyclopaedist like Comenius, but in essential respects different. For he was a realist who sought the study of reality, in so far as realism entered into his system, in the ancients, whereas Comenius sought for the study of reality as modern science presented it, including the ancients or abridgments works, only in so far as they were necessary and accessory. In another essential respect Milton differed from Comenius,

He had not in view the education of the people as a whole. He thought only of the few—“our nobler and our gentle youth "—those who had time for prolonged study.

Both writers, however, were alike in disregarding mere words_language and literary expression--as in themselves containing the elements of knowledge and discipline during the juvenile or primary period of education.

Oratory, poetry, all art in language, were certainly recognized by both (as they are by all realists whom it is worth our while to consider), but only as the ornament and finish of education and as belonging to the period of adolescence. The peculiar discipline of mind given by the comparison of a modern with an ancient tongue is not even alluded to by either Milton or Comenius. This was largely due to the prevalent method or no-method of teaching which justified Milton in calling the studies of schools and universities “ an asinine feast of sow-thistles and brambles,” and again, “meer words or such things chiefly as were better unlearnt."

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THE END OF EDUCATION.

Milton's first proposition is thus laid down :

“The end then of Learning is to repair the ruines of our first Parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the meerest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection. But because our understanding cannot in this body found it self but on sensible things, nor arrive so clearly to the knowledge of God and things invisible, as by orderly conning over the visible and inferior creature, the same method is necessarily to be follow'd in all discreet teaching. And seeing every Nation affords not experience and tradition enough for all kind of Learning, therefore we are chiefly taught the Languages of those people who have at any time

1.

2.

been most industrious after Wisdom; so that Language is but the Instrument conveying to us things usefull to be known. And though a Linguist should pride himself to have all the Tongues that Babel cleft the world into, yet, if he have not studied the solid things in them as well as the Words & Lexicons, he were nothing so much to be esteem'd a learned man, as any Yeoman or Tradesman competently wise in his Mother Dialect only."

Now in this passage we have several propositions which it is worth our while to disentangle that we may clearly comprehend Milton's view of the End of Education.'

The aim of Education is the knowledge of God and likeness to God.

Likeness to God we attain by possessing our souls of true Virtue and by the Heavenly Grace of Faith.

3. Knowledge of God we attain by the study of the visible things of God.

4. Teaching, then, has for its aim this knowledge.

5. Language is merely an instrument or vehicle for the knowledge of things.

6. The knowledge of all the languages in the world, without a knowledge of the solid things regarding which they treat, leaves a man less “ learned” than any farmer or tradesman who knows only his own vernacular, but, in and through that, has a competent knowledge of things.

Milton also tells us in another part of his Essay that he considers that to be “a compleat and generous education which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully and magnanimously all the offices, both private and public, of Peace and War." With this large and noble aim all will heartily concur. cannot pass without remark the assumption contained in the larger statement of the aim of education. We do not admit that the knowledge of language is not a knowledge of things. We would, on the contrary, maintain that language, apart from the general argumentum of a writer, is a thing—a thing intel

But we

lectual and a thing moral. And further in these days, when language extends itself into the science of comparative philology, it is also a thing scientific.

I shall not dwell on this however, because I wish rather to expound Milton's views than to criticize them. It is enough that I emphasize the above aspect of Milton's doctrine, as it is with him fundamental and explains much that follows.

Too much time, he says, is spent in acquiring a knowledge of Greek and Latin. We spend seven or eight years in acquiring what might be acquired in one—especially if we would stop the absurd practice of the “forcing the empty wits of children to write Theams, Verses and Orations, which are the acts of ripest judgment and the final work of a head fill'd by long reading and observing.” Another objection to the practice is that the boys are under the necessity of "using such language as they have, thus barbarizing against the Latin and Greek Idiom with their untutored Anglicisms odious to be read.”

We may now pass from the general aim of education to the detail of Milton's scheme, merely premising that he had in view boys from 12 to 21 years of age, that is to say, the secondary and university periods of instruction.

THE MATERIALS AND ORDER OF EDUCATION.

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Secondary School Stage. Milton's opinion is that after the boys have acquired the accidence and the “chief and necessary rules” they should have “some chosen short book lessoned thoroughly to them," with a view to praxis of the accidence and syntax. Arithmetic and Geometry are to be learned at “some other hour of the day, even playing as the old manner was.”

The pupils, now we may presume thirteen years old, were next immediately to proceed to the study of things in Latin and

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