« AnteriorContinuar »
when he was six years old he spoke Latin fluently, much better, indeed, than he could speak his own tongue. The whole household, indeed, became so Latinised that the domestics, and even the peasants on his father's property, began to use Latin words.
Greek was taught by the invention of a game, but it would appear without much success, for Montaigne's knowledge of Greek literature was never much more than he could obtain through a Latin medium.
He was only six years old when he was sent to the College of Guienne at Bordeaux, an institution of mark, in which the Humanistic culture must have reigned supreme, if we may judge from the names of the teachers-William Guerente the Aristotelian, Muretus the classical Latinist and rhetorician, and our own George Buchanan the historian and Latin poet. At college he lost his familiar acquaintance with colloquial Latin, but largely extended his private reading in classical authors, but this only by a breach of school rules in which he was wisely encouraged by his masters. At the early age of thirteen he had accomplished his college course, and although he afterwards studied law, it cannot be said that he had any special instruction after he was a boy outside his professional reading. Had it not been for the wise connivance of his masters which enabled him to make acquaintance with the literature of Rome, he would have brought away from college nothing but a hatred of books, as almost all our young gentlemen do. His father was satisfied with the result of his school life, for the chief things he expected from the endeavour of those to whom he had delivered me for education was affability of manners and good humour. Montaigne was, to speak the truth, idle and desultory, and he would be the first to admit it. He also complains that he had “a slothful wit that would go no faster than it was led, a languishing invention and an incredible defect of memory, so that it is no wonder,' he adds, if from all these nothing considerable could be extracted. He was incapable of sustained effort and of taking much trouble about anything. Nor could it be said that with all the leisure at his command he was ever master of any subject : he had only nibbled,' he himself says, 'on the outward crust of sciences, and had a little snatch of everything and nothing of the whole. Even of Latin he was not a master, and Scaliger speaks with contempt of his scholarship; to which, however, Montaigne never made any claim. His innumerable classical allusions and quotations were, however, the genuine fruit of his own reading ; but he read not as a grammarian or philosopher, but as a man of letters.
"I make no doubt,' he says, with his usual naïveté, 'that I oft happen to speak of things that are much better and more truly handled by those who are masters of the trade.'...Whoever will take me tripping in my ignorance will not in any way displease me ; for I should be very unwilling to become responsible to another for my writings, who am not so to myself nor satisfied with them. Whoever goes in quest of knowledge, let him fish for it where it is to be found : there is nothing I so little profess. Again, “I could wish to have a more
perfect knowledge of things, but I will not buy it so dear as it will cost. My design is to pass over easily, and not laboriously, the remainder of my life. There is nothing that I will cudgel my brains about; no, not knowledge of what price soever. ... I do not bite ,
I my nails about the difficulties I meet with in my reading, and after a charge or two I give them over. ... Continuation and a too obstinate endeavour darken, stupefy, and tire my judgment.'
The moral result was more satisfactory. Montaigne's disposition was naturally kindly, and its kindliness was further fostered by his father's affectionate upbringing. If ever there was a man distinguished for that sweet reasonableness of which we have heard not a little of late, that man was Montaigne. He had the light of culture and also its sweetness.
I have dwelt a little on Montaigne's own education and character, because they have to be taken into consideration along with the circumstances of his time to which I have already alluded, in forming a true estimate of his educational opinions. The character of the man also is itself to be regarded as, to some extent at least, the fruit of his education, and retrospectively his father's method comes up for judgment according to the saying, “By their fruits ye shall know them. It is sufficiently clear that of discipline, intellectual or moral,
' Montaigne had received none, and that his nature was one that stood in some need of it. The love that his father bore him and the gentleness of his treatment unquestionably nurtured the ingenuous spirit of the son and gave him a freedom of judgment and a fearlessness of intelligence which are among Montaigne's principal charms. His mind was not at any time oppressed with too strong a burden of duty or warped by fear. He grew up into an open-eyed, gentle, bright-souled, and sweet-blooded man, with a sound practical judgment—a wise man, if not a learned one-capable of looking at every side of a question by turns and dallying with each.
But to follow the example of Montaigne's father would not always succeed. He had a man of genius as his child and pupil, and all he did was felicitously adapted to develop the boy's natural endowments. But the system pursued did not cure the pupil's manifest defects of character. Even his natural weakness of memory, so far from being remedied, was probably increased by the father's lax treatment. Perhaps all the better for the world, it may be said. In this particular case it was so; but we have not young Montaignes to deal with. We have to discipline the intellectual and moral nature of the average boy if we would give energy of will, earnestness of purpose, power of application, and love of truth.
When Montaigne gives us his own views on the education of the young we find them to be very much a reflex of his own experience and character. Let us look at them for a little as they bear on the end of education, the materials of instruction, on method, on intellectual and moral discipline, and on punishment whereby the work of the school is usually enforced.
If we were to put in the shortest form Montaigne's idea of the end of education, we should say that it is this : that a man be trained up to the use of his own reason. "A man,' he says, “can never be wise save by his own wisdom.' •If the mind be not better disposed, if the judgment be not better settled, I had much rather my scholar had spent his time at tennis, for at least his body would by that means be in better exercise and breath. Do but observe him when he comes back from school, after fifteen or sixteen years that he has been there: there is nothing so awkward and maladroit, so unfit for company and employment; and all that you shall find he has got is, that his Latin and Greek have only made him a greater and more conceited coxcomb than when he went from home. He should bring back his soul replete with good literature, and he brings it only swelled and puffed up with vain and empty shreds and snatches of learning, and has really nothing more in him than he had before.' It is true that great men and vigorous natures overcome all this and are none the worse; but it is not enough that our education does not spoil us, it must alter us for the better.' It is not enough “to tie learning to the soul, but to work and incorporate them together; not to tincture the soul merely, but to give it a thorough and perfect dye; and if it will not take colour and meliorate its imperfect state, it were, without question, better to let it alone.' Knowledge will not ó find a man eges; its business is to guide, govern, and direct his steps, provided he have sound feet and straight legs to go upon. Neither Persia nor Sparta made much account of mere knowledge, and Rome was at its greatest in virtue and vigour before schools were much thought of. To train to valour, honesty, prudence, wisdom, justice—these were the aims of the greatest nations. As Agesilaus said when asked “what boys should learn.'
• Those things that they ought to do when they become men.'
Montaigne, then, would keep in view the end of education from the very first; and that end is to train to right reason and independent judgment, to moderation of mind, and to virtue. The cultivated and capable man of affairs, capable of managing his own business well and discharging public duties wisely, is his educated man. This is the antique idea of education, and is very much what Quintilian has in view in the training of the Good Orator.' Philosophy is the highest fruit of education—not the philosophy which has logical formulæ for its subject-matter; but philosophy which has virtue for her end. Virtue and philosophy are not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose,' but the enemies of melancholy and the friends of wisdom: they teach us how to know and make use of all good things, and how to part with them without concern.' Philosophy instructs us to live, and infancy has there its lessons as well as other ages.' We are not, however, to force to virtue and to philosophy, but to attract by showing that they alone yield happiness, and by leading the pupil to recognise their essential beauty and charm. It may be that there are youths who are inaccessible to all
No. 607 (NO. CXXVII. N. s.)
that is noble and beautiful and ingenuous in thought and action, and turn aside by preference to common pleasures. What is to be done with these? “Bind them 'prentice, says Montaigne, “in some good town to learn to make mince pies, though they were the sons of dukes;' and in a MS. emendation he recommends that the masters should strangle such youths if they can do it without witnesses !'
What now has Montaigne to say as to the materials of instruction whereby his end is to be attained ? The most difficult and most important of all humane arts is education,' he says. The differences among children increase the difficulty ; but the promise of the future is with young children so uncertain that it is better, so far as the matter of instruction goes, to give to all the elements of knowledge alike. In any case, let us begin when they are young, when the clay is moist and soft.
From the very first the lessons of philosophy in their simple and practical form can be inculcated. In philosophy Montaigne includes all that we now understand by the religious and moral, and he maintains, and rightly maintains, that a child's mind is more open to all such lessons than to reading and writing. In selecting other materials of instruction we must bear in mind that a child owes but the first fifteen or sixteen years of his life to discipline and the rest to action. Let us therefore employ that time in necessary instruction.' At every stage that which constitutes the ultimate aim of education is to appear in some form or other-philosophy, namely, which forms the judgment and conduct. This has a hand in everything. She is
a always in place, and is to be admitted to all sports and entertainments because of the sweetness of her conversation. By guiding conduct, as well as by discourse in season, this instruction is to be given and habits thus formed.' Montaigne is generally classed by educational writers as
a realist as the very founder of realism. Those who so write, write without understanding. Educational realism in our modern sense means the substitution of a knowledge of nature and of the practical work of after life for the study of language and literature and all that we include in the Humanities. Those who advocate the latter are Humanists, and are the true descendants of the Humanists of the Reformation period. All educationalists, however (except, perhaps, the majority of schoolmasters), are realists in this sense-Montaigne's sense that they desire to see reality, that is, to see the substance of fact or thought in the education of youth. Montaigne's realism opposed itself merely to verbalism, and he fought a good fight in this. But all this belongs to the past, in the region of educational theory at least. We all now seek reality; we are all opposed to verbalism. The difference now consists in this, that one school of philosophy holds by language and literature as introducing youth to the highest and best realities—the realities of feeling and thought if properly handled : the other school holds by facts, the facts of nature and of
man's triumphs over nature as yielding the highest and best realities for educational purposes. If we may make a distinction between the real Humanistic and the verbal Humanistic, there can be no doubt that Montaigne belonged to the former class, and not to the utilitarian realists of whom Mr. Spencer and Professor Bain are the best contemporary types.
Ethical training, then, in the broadest sense is the main purpose of education according to Montaigne. Virtue and wisdom sum him up. . The ordinary subjects of reading, writing, and casting accounts are of course to be taught. After this, whatever you teach, avoid words simply as words. Most modern Humanists would not go so far as Montaigne certainly in their opposition to words. They see more in them. But we must bear in mind the state of things at the time Montaigne wrote. The Humanistic revival, which was a revival in the interests of realities, was also a revival of style; and the tendency was to give prominence to art in language. This must always be the case: teachers in their daily work cannot consistently maintain from hour to hour the reality of any subject, be it language, literature, or science. The tendency inevitably is to fall back upon mechanical expedients, on the learning of rules, and on symbolism generally. It is so even with religion and morality. To the end of time the task of the true teacher who desires truly to educate will be a struggle against the dominion of words and forms, and this quite irrespectively of the subjects he may choose to make the basis of his school work. The virtues of the educational profession are all summed up in the words life, reality; but, like other virtues, they are not always easily practised.
* The world,' says Montaigne, is nothing but babble. . . . We are kept four or five years to learn nothing but words and to tack them together into clauses ; as many more to make exercises, and to divide a continued discourse into so many parts; and other five years, at least, to learn succinctly to mix and interweave them after a subtle and intricate manner. Let us leave this to the learned professors!' Words, grammar, style, or rhetoric in the larger sense as embracing all these, constituted the main end of school and college instruction in those days, and this was supplemented by logic. Montaigne held that if a man had really anything to say he could manage to say it without all this training. “Let the pupil be well furnished with things,' he says, 'words will follow but too fast.' People who pretend to have great thoughts which they cannot express are deceiving themselves; they are not labouring to bring forth, but merely licking the formless embryo of their minds. If a man has any clear conceptions
' he will express them well enough though ignorant of “ablative, conjunctive, substantive, and grammar.' “When things are once formed in the fancy, words offer themselves in muster. Ipsæ res verba rapiunt, says Cicero. “The fine flourishes of rhetoric serve only to amuse the vulgar, who are incapable of more solid and nutritive diet.' The attack on mere rhetoric in the sense of style is keen and incisive and