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BY WILLIAM HAZLITT.
IGNORANCE OF THE LEARNED. learned reader to lay down his book and think for
himself. He clings to it for his intellectual support;
and his dread of being left to himself is like the hor" For the more languages a man can speak,
ror of a vacuum. He can only breathe a learned His talent has but sprung the greater leak :
atmosphere, as other men breathe common air. He And, for the industry he has spent upon't,
is a borrower of sense. He has no ideas of his own, Must full as much some other
and must live on those of other people. The habit The Hebrew, Chaldee, and the Syriac,
of supplying our ideas from foreign sources - enfee. Do, like their letters, set men's reason back,
bles all internal strength of thought,' as a course of And turn their wits that strive to understand it
dram-drinking destroys the tone of the stomach. (Like those that write the characters) left handed. The faculties of the mind, when not exerted, or Yet he that is but able to express
when cramped by custom and authority, become No sense at all in several languages,
listless, torpid, and unfit for the purposes of thought Will pass for learneder than he that's known
or action. Can we wonder at the languor and lassi. To speak the strongest reason in his own."
tude wbich is thus produced by a life of learned The Author of Hudibras.
sloth and ignorance; by poring over lines and syl. The description of persons who have the fewest lables that excite little more idea or interest than ideas of all others are mere authors and readers. It is if they were the characters of an unknown tongue, better to be able neither to read nor write than to be till the eye closes on vacancy, and the book able to do nothing else. A lounger who is ordinarily drops from the feeble hand! I would rather be a seen with a book in his hạnd, is (we may be almost a wood-cutter, or the meanest hind, that all day sure) equally without the power or inclination to at. s. sweats in the eye of Phæbus, and at night sleeps in tend either to what passes around him, or in his own Elysium,” than wear out my life so, 'twixt dream. mind. Such a one may be said to carry his under. ing and awake. The learned author differs from the standing about with him in his pocket, or to leave learned student in this, that the one transcribes what it at home on his library shelves. He is afraid of the other reads. The learned are mere literary venturing on any train of reasoning, or of striking drudges. If you set them upon original composition, out any observation that is not mechanically sug. their heads turn, they know not where they are. gested to him by passing his eyes over certain legi. The indefatigable readers of books are like the everble characters; shrinks from the fatigue of thought, lasting copiers of pictures, who, when they attempt which, for want of practice, becomes insupportable to do any thing of their own, find they want an eye to him; and sits down contented with an endless quick enough, a band steady enough, and colours wearisome succession of words and half-formed bright enough, to trace the living form of nature. images, which fill the void of the mind, and conti. Any one who has passed through the regular granually efface one another. Learning is, in too many dations of a classical education, and is not made a cases, but a foil to common sense; a substitute for fool by it, may consider himself as having had a true knowledge. Books are less often made use of very narrow escape. It is an old remark, that boys as “spectacles" to look at nature with, than as who shine at school do not make the greatest figure blinds to keep out its strong light and shifting scene when they grow up and come out into the world. ry from weak eyes and indolent dispositions. The The things, in fact, which a boy is set to learn at book-worm wraps himself up in his web of verbal school, and on which his success depends, are things generalities, and sees only the glimmering shadows which do not require the exercise either of the highof things reflected from the minds of others. Nature est or the most useful faculties of the mind. Memoputs him out. The impressions of real objects, ry (and that of the lowest kind) is the chief faculty stripped of the disguises of words and voluminous called into play, in conning over and repeating lesround-about descriptions, are blows that stagger sons by rote in grammar, in languages, in geography, him; their variety distracts, their rapidity exhausts arithmetic, &c., so that he who has the most of this him; and he turns from the bustle, the noise and technical memory, with the least turn for other glare and whirling motion of the world about him things, which have a stronger and more natural (which he has not an eye to follow in its fantastic claim upon his childish attention, will make the changes, nor an understanding to reduce to fixed most forward school-boy. The jargon containing principles) to the quiet monotony of the dead lan. the definitions of the parts of speech, the rules for guages, and the less startling and more intelligible casting up an account, or the inflections of a Greek combinations of the letters of the alphabet. It is verb, can have no attraction to the tyro of ten years well, it is perfectly well. « Leave me to my re-old, except as they are imposed as a task upon him pose" is the motto of the sleeping and the dead. by others, or from his feeling the want of sufficient You might as well ask the paralytic to leap from his relish or amusement in other things. A lad with a chair and throw away his crutch, or, without a mira- sickly constitution, and no very active mind, who cle, to “ take up his bed and walk," as expect the can just retain what is pointed out to bim, and has
neither sagacity to distinguish nor spirit to enjoy for not of men or things. He thinks and cares nothing himself, will generally be at the head of his form. about his next-door neighbours, but he is deeply An idler at school, on the other hand, is one who read in the tribes and castes of the Hindoos and Cal. has high health and spirits, who has the free use of muc Tartars. Hecan hardly find his way into the his limbs, with all his wits about him, who feels next street, though he is acquainted with the exact the circulation of his blood and the motion of his dimensions of Constantinople and Pekin. He does heart, who is ready to laugh and cry in a breath, not know whether his oldest acquaintance is a knave and who had rather chase a ball or a butterfly, feel for a fool, but he can. pronounce a pompous lecture the open air in his face, look at the fields or the on all the principal characters in history. He cansky, follow a winding path, or enter with eagerness not tell whether an object is black or white, round into all the little conflicts and interests of his ac- or square, and yet he is a professed master of the quaintances and friends, than doze over a musty laws of optics and the rules of perspective. He spelling book, repeat barbarous distichs after his knows as much of what he talks about, as a blind master, sit so many hours pinioned to a writing-desk, man does of colours. He cannot give a satisfactory and receive his reward for the loss of time and plea- answer to the plainest question, nor is he ever in the sure in paltry prize-medals at Christmas and Mid-right in any one of his opinions, upon any one mat
There is indeed a degree of stupidity ter of fact that really comes before him, and yet he which prevents children from learning the usual gives himself out for an infallible judge on all those lessons, or ever arriving at these puny academic points of which it is impossible that he or any other honours. But what passes for stupidity is much person living should know anything but by conjecoftener a want of interest, of a sufficient motive to ture. He is expert in all the dead and most of the fix the attention, and force a reluctant application to living languages; but he can neither speak his own the dry and unmeaning pursuits of school-learning. fluently, nor write it correctly. A person of this The best capacities are as much above this drudgery, class, the second Greek scholar of his day, undertook as the dullest are beneath it. Our men of the great to point out several solecisms in Milton's Latin est genius have not been most distinguished for their style; and in his own performance there is hardly a acquirements at school or at the university. sentence of common Engligh. Such was Dr. “ Th' enthusiast Fancy was a truant ever."
Such is Dr.
Such was not Porson. He was Gray and Collins were among the instances of this an exception that confirmed the general rule,-a man wayward disposition. Such persons do not think so that, by uniting talents and knowledge with learnhighly of the advantages, nor can they submit their ing, made the distinction between them more strikimaginations so servilely to the trammels of stricting and palpable. scholastic discipline. There is a certain kind and A mere scholar, who knows nothing but books, degree of intellect in which words take root, but into must be ignorant even of them. « Books do not which things have not power to penetrate. A me- teach the use of books." How should he know anydiocrity of talent, with a certain slenderness of thing of a work, who knows nothing of the subject moral constitution, is the soil that produces the most of it? The learned pedant is conversant with books brilliant specimens of successful prize-essayists and only as they are made of other books, and those Greek epigrammatists. It should not be forgotten, again of others, without end. He parrots those who that the most equivocal character among modern poli- have parroted others. He can translate the same word ticians was the eleverest boy at Eton.
into ten different languages, but he knows nothing Learning is the knowledge of that which is not gene of the thing which it means in any one of them. He rally known to others, and which we can only derive stuffs his head with authorities built on authorities, at second-hand from books, or other artificial sources. with quotations quoted from quotations, while he The knowledge of that which is before us or about locks up his senses, his understanding, and his heart. us, which appeals to our experience, passions and He is unacquainted with the maxims and manners pursuits, to the bosoms and businesses of men, is of the world; he is to seek in the characters of indi. not learning.' Learning is the knowledge of that viduals. He sees no beauty in the face of nature or which none but the learned know. He is the most of art. To him " the mighty world of eye and ear" learned man who knows the most of what is farthest is hid; and “ knowledge,” except at one entrance, removed from common life and actual observation, «quite shut out." His pride takes part with his that is of the least practical utility, and least liable ignorance; and his self-importance rises with the to be brought to the test of experience, and that, number of things of which he does not know the having been handed down through the greatest number value, and which he therefore despises as unworthy of intermediate stages, is the most full of uncertainty, of his notice.' He knows nothing of pictures;—of difficulties, and contradictions. It is seeing with the the colouring of Titian, the grace of Raphael, the eyes of others, hearing with their ears, and pinning purity of Domenichino, the corregiescity of Corregour faith on their understandings. The learned man gio, the learning of Poussin, the airs of Guido, the prides himself in the knowledge of names and dates, I taste of the Caracci, or the grand contour of Michael
Angelo,” of all those glories of the Italian and miracy stand, is confined to a very small compass; to their cles of the Flemish school, which have filled the eyes daily affairs and experience; to what they have an of mankind with delight, and to the study and imi opportunity to know, and motives to study or practation of which thousands have in vain devoted their tise. The rest is affectation and imposture. The lives. These are to him as if they had never been, common people have the use of their limbs; for they a mere dead letter, a by-word; and no wonder: for live by their labour or skill. They understand he neither sees nor understands their prototypes in their own business, and the characters of those they nature. A print of Ruben's Watering-place, or have to deal with; for it is necessary that they Claude's Enchanted Castle, may be hanging on the should. They have eloquence to express their paswalls of his room for months without his once per- sions, and wit at will to express their contempt and ceiving them; and if you point them out to him, he provoke laughter. Their natural use of speech is will turn away from them. The language of nature not hung up in monumental mockery, in an obsolete or of art (which is another nature) is one that he language; nor is their sense of what is ludicrous, or does not understand. He repeats indeed the names readiness at finding out allusions to express it, buried of A pelles and Phidias, because they are to be found in collections of Anas. You will hear more good in classic authors, and boasts of their works as pro- things on the outside of a stage-coach from London digies, because they no longer exist; or when he to Oxford, than if you were to pass a twelvemonth sees the finest remains of Grecian art actually before with the Undergraduates or Heads of Colleges of that him in the Elgin marbles, takes no other interest in famous university; and more home truths are to be them than as they lead to a learned dispute, and learnt from listening to a noisy debate in an ale-house, (which is the same thing) a quarrel about the mean than from attending to a formal one in the House ing of a Greek particle. He is equally ignorant of of Commons. An elderly country gentlewoman will music; he « knows no touch of it," from the strains often know more of character, and be able to illusof the all-accomplished Mozart to the shepherd's trate it by more amusing anecdotes taken from the pipe upon the mountain. His ears are nailed to his history of what has been said, done, and gossiped in books; and deadened with the sound of the Greek a country town for the last fifty years, than the best and Latin tongues, and the din and smithery of school blue-stocking of the age will be able to glean from learning. Does he know anything more of poetry? that sort of learning which consists in an acquaintHe knows the number of feet in a verse, and of acts ance with all the novels and satirical poems publishin a play : but of the soul or spirit he knows nothing. ed in the same period. People in towns, indeed, are He can turn a Greek ode into English, or a Latin woefully deficient in a knowledge of character, which epigram into Greek verse, but whether either is they see only in the bust, not as a whole-length. worth the trouble, he leaves to the critics. Does People in the country not only know all that has he understand the act and practiqne part of life" happened to a man, but trace his virtues or vices, as better than “ the theorique ?" No. He knows no as they do his features, in their descent through liberal or mechanic art; no trade or occupation; no several generations, and solve some contradiction in game of skill or chance. Learning “has no skill his behaviour by a cross in the breed, half a century in surgery,” in agriculture, in building, in working ago. The learned know nothing of the matter, in wood or in iron; it cannot make any instrument either in town or country. Above all, the mass of of labour, or use it when made; it cannot handle the society have common sense, which the learned in all plough or the spade, or the chisel or the hammer ; ages want. The vulgar are in the right when they it knows nothing of hunting or hawking, fishing or judge for themselves; they are wrong when they shooting, of horses or dogs, of fencing or dancing, or trust to their blind guides. The celebrated noncudgel-playing, or bowls, or cards, or tennis, or conformist divine, Baxter, was almost stoned to anything else. The learned professor of all arts and death by the good women of Kidderminster, for sciences cannot reduce any one of them to practice, asserting from the pulpit that “ hell was paved with though he may contribute an account of them to an infants' skulls;” but by the force of argument, and Encyclopædia. He has not the use of his hands or of learned quotations from the Fathers, the reverend of his feet; he can neither run, nor walk, nor swim; preacher at length prevailed over the scruples of his and he considers all those who actually understand congregation, and over reason and humanity. and can exercise any of those arts of body or mind, Such is the use which has been made of human as vulgar and mechanical men;-though to know learning. The labourers in this vineyard seem as if almost any one of them in perfection requires long it was their object to confound all common sense, time and practice, with powers originally fitted, and and the distinctions of good and evil, by means of a turn of mind particularly devoted to them. It does traditional maxims and preconceived notions, taken not require more than this to enable the learned can- upon trust, and increasing in absurdity with increase didate to arrive, by painful study, at a Doctor's de- of age. They pile hypothesis on hypothesis, moungree and a fellowship, and to eat, drink, and sleep tain-high, till it is impossible to come at the plain the rest of his life!
truth on any question. They see things not as they The thing is plain. All that men really under-'are, but as they find them in books; and «wink and
BY WILLIAM J. PA BODIE.
shut their apprehensions up,” in order that they may GO FORTH INTO THE FIELDS.
Go forth into the fields, in maintaining contradictions, and rendering non- Ye dwellers in the city's troubled mart ! sense sacred. There is no dogma, however fierce or Go forth and know the influence nature yields, foolish, to which these persons have not set their
To soothe the wearied heart. seals, and tried to impose on the understandings of their followers, as the will of Heaven, clothed with Leave ye the feverish strife, all the terrors and sanctions of religion. How little The jostling, eager, self-devoted throng ;has the human understanding been directed to find Ten thousand voices, waked anew to life, out the true and useful! How much ingenuity has Call you with sweetest song. been thrown away in the defence of creeds and systems! How much time and talents have been wasted Hark!-- from each fresh clad bough, in theological controversy, in law, in politics, in Or blissful soaring the golden air, verbal criticism, in judicial astrology, and in finding Glad birds, with joyous music, bid you now out the art of making yold! What actual benefit do we To Spring's loved haunts repair. reap from the writings of a Laud or a Whitgift, or of Bishop Bull or Bishop Waterland, or Prideaux' Con. The silvery-gleaming rills nections, or Beausobre, or Calmet, or St. Augustine, Lure, with soft murmurs, from the grassy lea, or Puffendorf, or Vattel, or from the more literal but Or, gaily dancing down the sunny hills, equally learned and unprofitable labours of Scaliger,
Call loudly in their glee ! Cardan, and Scioppius? How many grains of sense are there in their thousand folio or quarto volumes? With breath all odorous from her blossomy chase,
And the young wanton breeze, What would the world lose, if they were committed to In voice low whispering 'mong the embowering trees, the flames to-morrow? Or are they not already “gone
Woos you to her embrace. to the vault of all the Capulets ?”. Yet all these were oracles in their time, and would have scoffed at you Go-breathe the air of heaven, or me, at common sense and human nature, for dif- Where violets meekly smile upon your way; fering with them. It is our turn to laugh now. Or on some pine-crowned summit, tempest-riven,
To conclude this subject. The most sensible peo- Your wandering footsteps stay. ple to be met with in society are men of business and of the world, who argue from what they see and
Seek ye the solemn wood, know, instead of spinning.cobweb distinctions of Whose giant trunks a verdant roof uprear, what things ought to be. Women have often more of And listen while the roar of some far flood what is called good sense than men.
They have Thrills the young leaves with sear ! fewer pretensions ; are less implicated in theories;
Stand by the tranquil lake, and judge of objects more from their immediate and Sleeping ʼmid rocky banks abrupt and high, involuntary impression on the mind, and, therefore, Save when the wild-bird's wing its surface break, more truly and naturally. They cannot reason
Chequering the mirrored sky;wrong; for they do not reason at all. They do not think or speak by rule; and they have in general And if within your breast more eloquence and wit, as well as sense, on that Hallowed to nature's touch, one chord remain ; account. By their wit, sense, and eloquence toge- If aught save worldly honors find you blest, ther, they generally contrive to govern their hus. Or hope of sordid gainbands. Their style, when they write to their friends, (not for the booksellers,) is better than that of most
A strange delight shall thrill, authors. Uneducated people have most exuberance
A quiet joy brood o'er you like a dove; of invention, and the greatest freedom from prejudice. Earth's placid beanty shall your bosom fill, Shakespear's was evidently an uneducated mind,
Stirring its depths with love. both in the freshness of his imagination, and in the
0, in the calm, still hours, variety of his views; as Milton's was scholastic, in The holy sabbath hours, when sleeps the air, the texture both of his thoughts and feelings. Shake And heaven, and earth, decked with her beauteous spear had not been accustomed to write themes at
flowers, school in favour of virtue or against vice. To this
Lie hushed in breathless prayer; we owe the unaffected, but healthy tone of his dramatic morality. If we wish to know the force of Pass ye the proud fane by, human genius, we should read Shakespear. If we | The vaulted aisles, by flaunting folly trou, wish to see the insignificance of human learning, we And, 'neath the temple of the uplisted sky, may study his commentators.
Go forth and worship God!