Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

complete romances, that leave me, when the son, but because not to do it is, to our deep book is closed, as one might be on a waste consciousness, inartistic and untrue to our plain at midnight, abandoned by his conduc- judgment of life as it goes on. Thackeray tor, and without a lantern. I am tired of ac- used to say that all his talent was in his eyes; companying people for hours through disaster meaning that he was only an observer and reand perplexity and misunderstanding, only to porter of what he saw, and not a Providence see them lost in a thick mist at last. I am to rectify human affairs. The great artist unweary of going to funerals, which are not my dervalued his genius. He reported what he funerals however chatty and amusing the un- saw as Raphael and Murillo reported what dertaker may be. I confess that I should like they saw. With his touch of genius he asto see again the lovely heroine, the sweet signed to everything its true value, moving us woman, capable of a great passion and a great to tenderness, to pity, to scorn, to righteous sacrifice; and I do not object if the novelist indignation, to sympathy with humanity. I tries her to the verge of endurance, in agonies of find in him the highest art, and not that indiffermind and in perils, subjecting her to wasting ence to the great facts and deep currents and sicknesses even, if he only brings her out at destinies of human life, that want of enthusithe end in a blissful compensation of her asm and sympathy, which has got the name troubles, and endued with a new and sweeter of “art for art's sake.” Literary fiction is a charm. No doubt it is better for us all, and barren product if it wants sympathy and love better art, that in the novel of society the for men. “Art for art's sake" is a good dedestiny should be decided by character. What fensible phrase, if our definition of art inan artistic and righteous consummation it is cludes the ideal, and not otherwise. when we meet the shrewd and wicked old I do not know how it has come about that Baroness Bernstein at Continental gaming- in so large a proportion of recent fiction it is tables, and feel that there was no other logical held to be artistic to look almost altogether upend for the wordly and fascinating Beatrix of on the shady and the seamy side of life, giving Henry Esmond! It is one of the great privi- to this view the name of “realism;" to select leges of fiction to right the wrongs of life, to the disagreeable, the vicious, the unwholedo justice to the deserving and the vicious. It some; to give us for our companions, in our is wholesome for us to contemplate the justice, hours of leisure and relaxation, only the silly even if we do not often see it in society. It and the weak-minded woman, the fast and is true that hypocrisy and vulgar self-seeking slangy girl, the intrigante and the “shady"— often succeed in life, occupying high places, to borrow the language of the society she and make their exit in the pageantry of hon- seeks—the hero of irresolution, the prig, the ored obsequies. Yet always the man is con- vulgar, and the vicious; to serve us only with scious of the hollowness of his triumph, and the foibles of the fashionable, the low tone of the world takes a pretty accurate measure of the gay, the gilded riffraff of our social state; it. It is the privilege of the novelist, without to drag us forever along the dizzy, half-fracintroducing into such a career what is called tured precipice of the seventh commandment; disaster, to satisfy our innate love of justice to bring us into relations only with the sordid by letting us see the true nature of such pros- and the common; to force us to sup with unperity. The unscrupulous man amasses wholesome company on misery and sensuouswealth, lives in luxury and splendor and dies ness, iņ tales so utterly unpleasant that we in the odor of respectability. His poor and are ready to welcome any disaster as a relief; honest neighbor, whom he has wronged and and then-the latest and finest touch of moddefrauded, lives in misery, and dies in disap- ern art—to leave the whole weltering mass in pointment and penury. The novelist cannot a chaos, without conclusion and without posreverse the facts without such a shock to our sible issue. experience as shall destroy for us the artistic And this is called a picture of real life! value of his fiction, and bring upon his work Heavens! Is it true that in England, where a the deserved reproach of indiscriminately “re- great proportion of the fiction we describe warding the good and punishing the bad." and loathe is produced; is it true that in our But we have a right to ask that he shall New England society there is nothing but reveal the real heart and character of this frivolity, sordidness, decay of purity and passing show of life; for not to do this, to con- faith, ignoble ambition and ignoble living? Is tent himself merely with exterior appear- there no charm in social life—no self-sacrifice, ances, is for the majority of his readers to devotion, courage to stem materialistic condiefface the lines between virtue and vice. And tions, and live above them? Are there no we ask this not for the sake of the moral les- noble women, sensible, beautiful, winning, prejudice against nover has taken all the chemic source of culture. ACCO

with the grace that all the world loves, albeit seems impossible to check the flow of them, with the feminine weaknesses that make all now that so much capital is invested in this the world hope? Is there no manliness left? industry; but I think that healthy public senAre there no homes where the tempter does timent is beginning to recognize the truth not live with the tempted in a mush of senti- that the excessive reading of this class of mental affinity? Or is it, in fact, more artistic literature by the young is weakening to the to ignore all these, and paint only the feeble mind, besides being a serious hindrance to and the repulsive in our social state? The study and to attention to the literature that feeble, the sordid, and the repulsive in our has substance. social state nobody denies, nor does anybody deny the exceeding cleverness with which our THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AS A SOURCE OF CULTURE. social disorders are reproduced in fiction by a few masters of their art; but is it not time Two important considerations emphasize that it should be considered good art to show the significance of the elementary school as a something of the clean and bright side? source of culture. The first is the fact that

This is pre-eminently the age of the novel. the elements of literary and artistic culture The development of variety of fiction since may be instilled at a very early age. The the days of Scott and Cooper is prodigious. second overwhelmingly important consideraThe prejudice against novel-reading is quite tion is that for the great majority of students, broken down, since fiction has taken all the elementary school is the only possible fields for its province; everybody reads novels. scholastic source of culture. According to the Three-quarters of the books taken from the last report of the United States Commissioner circulating library are stories; they make up of Education, of the 15,530, 268 persons athalf the library of the Sunday-schools. If a tending some institution of learning during writer has anything to say, or thinks he has, 1893-'94, all but 623,990 were found in the he knows that he can most certainly reach the elementary schools. The fact that more than ear of the public by the medium of a story. 95 per cent. of all pupils and students never So we have novels for children; novels re- come under the influence of any scholastic inligious, scientific, historical, archæological, stitution other than the elementary school, psychological, pathological, total abstinence; indicates that the culture function of the elenovels of travel of adventure and exploration; mentary school is an exceedingly important novels domestic, and the perpetual spawn of quesion. books called novels of society. Not only is It is to be maintained, therefore, that the everything turned into a story, real or so- elements of literary and artistic culture may called, but there must be a story in every be instilled in childhood. It is a mistake only thing. The stump-speaker holds his audience recently recognized as such by the greater by well-worn stories; the preacher wakes up number of elementary school teachers to ashis congregation by a graphic narrative; and sume that young persons from 6 to 14 years the Sunday-school teacher leads his children of age have neither the taste nor the capacity into all goodness by the entertaining path of for real literature—for those masterpieces of romance; we even had a president who gov. human genius which, because they are the erned the country nearly by anecdotes.

works of the highest creative imagination, The result of this universal demand for have a truly educative power. Recent fiction is necessarily an enormous supply, and biography in the case of those who have cared as everybody writes, without reference to to report the earliest sources of their inspiragifts, the product is mainly trash, and trash of tion for literature and art, bears witness to the a deleterious sort; for bad art in literature is powerful influence of literature in early childbad morals. I am not sure but the so-called hood. A few illustrations will suffice. The domestic, the diluted, the “goody,” namby- stories of Hans Anderson now form part of pamby, unrobust stories, which are so largely the course of literature for the fourth year in read by school-girls, young ladies and women, schools in a score of prominent cities in our do more harm than the “knowing,” audacious, country. Now, John Addington Symonds, in wicked ones, also, it is reported, read by his “Autobiography,” records the impression them, and written largely by their own sex. made upon him while a very young child by For minds enfeebled and relaxed by stories Anderson's story of “The Ugly Duckling:” lacking even intellectual fibre are in a poor “The story made a deep impression on my condition to meet the perils of life. This is mind at this time. I sympathized passionnot the place for discussing the stories written ately with the poor bird, swimming round and for the young and for the Sunday-school. It round the duck puddle. I cried convulsively

Enguish"

when he flew away to join his beautiful wide- sound books on very young minds is an imwinged, white brethren of the windy journeys portant factor in education not to be overand the lonely meads. Thousands of chil- looked by either parents or teachers. Freedren have undoubtedly done the same, for it is man, the great historian, as we are told in his a note of childhood in souls destined for ex- recent “Life and Letters," says: pression to feel solitary and debarred from "I remember reading both Roman and privileges due to them.”

English history with intense pleasure before I This incident may be paralleled by an epi- was 7 years old." sode in the present writer's own experience. A Of “Taylor's History of the Roman Emchild five years old was being entertained by pire,” Freeman says: being read to from “Pilgrim's Progress." He' “Coming to that book with a boy's first real was presently found to be crying. Upon be- ' powers of understanding I learned things beting asked why he cried, he explained that he ter worth knowing than anything I could have was so sorry that Christian had lost his roll, picked up at Eton or Harrow.” the allusion being to the incident in the third William Goodwin, in speaking of the readstage of the immortal story, where Christian, ing he did when from 12 to 15 years of age, while sleeping, drops from his bosom the roll says: which was the assurance of his life and the “The books I read with the greatest transtoken of his happy reception at the end of the port were the early volumes of the English journey.

translation of the Ancient History of Rollin. Symonds gives another instance of the ed- Few bosoms ever beat with greater ardor than ucative and determining influence of literature mine did while perusing the story of the grand during his early years:

struggle of the Greeks for independence “My sisters and I were riding one day upona against the assaults of the Persian despot. rocking-horse which stood on the landing of This scene awakened a passion within my soul the attic floor. I was holding on to the tail which will never cease with life.” of the horse. We were screaming out in This biographical testimony to the educachorus Scott's lines upon the death of Mar- tive power of real literature over childhood is mion:

especially strong and pedagogically instruc" With dying hand above his head

tive. The indications are that the foundaHe shook the fragment of his blade, And shouted "Victory.".

tions of one's literary tastes lies further back "Charge, Chester, charge; on Stanley, on," in childhood than has been imagined. Edward Were the last words of Marmion.'"

Gibbon, the historian of the “Decline and Suddenly I ceased to roar, a resolve had Fall,” says that his twelfth year was noteworthy formed itself unbidden in my mind: When I as the most propitious to the growth of his grow up I too will be an author.'”

intellectual stature. Hamerton says that in Cardinal Manning testifies to the permanent looking back over his life nothing strikes him impression made by the books he read when in as more astonishing than the rapid mental his tenth year. Before he went to school, in growth that must have taken place in the two 1816, his mother had given him a New Testa- or three years following the death of his ment:

father in his tenth year: “I remember that I devoured the Apoc- “When my father died I was simply a child, alypse, and I never, all through my life, for- tho rather a precocious one; but between two got the lake that burneth with fire and brim- and three years after that event the child had stone. That verse has kept me, like an audi become a boy with a keen taste for literature ble voice, through all my life.”

which if it had been taken advantage of by Philip Gilbert Hamerton, in his “Autobi his teachers, ought to have made his educaography," bears testimony to the educational tion a more complete success than it ever bepower of Scott's poetry over childhood:

came." "Of all the influences that had sway over It would seem conclusive that in a large me in those days in [his twelfth year] and for class of minds the years from ten to fourteen, long afterward the influence of Scott was by which in our system include the last half of far the strongest. A boy cannot make a bet- the elementary school course, are the years ter choice. Scott has the immense advantage often characterized by great intellectual awakof being always interesting, and the equally ening. It must not be inferred that this is great advantage over many exciting authors true only of the most gifted class of minds. that he never leaves an unhealthy feeling in The indications are that the general truth is the mind."

that the elementary school years are those of The attractiveness and influence of really great susceptibility to literary and esthetic in

ography," Scott's poetrces that he year] ands by whiclelementaryized by gee inferred

oftene. It m the most hat the

fluences, and that a school curriculum which be some of the main characteristics of the too much emphasizes the formal studies and elementary school of the future.—7. A. Reinarts to the exclusion of history, literature, hart in New York Independent. esthetics and natural beauty may be a great wrong to childhood.

CLASSICS IN THE GRADES.
The nature of these early culture influences
should be studied.

At this period of life lit
At this period of life lit-

[From Mary E. Burt's Literary Landmarks i erature is a revelation of a hitherto unknown That children's school-reading is a confusion world, and is decisive of the future trend of of great and small, good and bad, important thought. A word, a translucent expression and unimportant, fine and coarse, unrelated fires the imagination and awakes the inner and unassorted, is the main point under conmotions of the soul. Symonds remarks: “Our sideration. If men and women wish to read earliest memories of words, poems, works of in a topsy-turvy fashion it is their own busiart, have a great value in our psychical devel- ness; perhaps no adult can or should tell any opment.”

other adult what he ought to read; but children The above presentation sets forth the theo- at school do not do their own choosing, and retical side of the elementary school as a it is important that they learn to read in such source of culture, of acquaintance with the a way that the materials they gather shall best that has been written. How is this be- form a something entire. They have the ing realized in the elementary schools to- ability to grow a faculty" for preferring the day? How are these schools working out their better book instead of the worse. Many teachculture function? Undoubtedly the kinder- ers have proved to their own satisfaction that garten philosophy is a great influence tending young children prefer great classics to weak to leaven the whole. The elementary school reading. I have seen a hundred young people of the future resting upon the kindergarten in fifth and sixth grades spontaneously applaud, will develop along fresher and newer lines. with no prompting from any teacher, the finest The extensive pedagogic use of classical and subtlest thought in analyses of Haw

with supprestating myths, fables and folk stories, of the poems thorne's Great Stone Face and the Christmas of Tennyson, Longfellow and Wordsworth, of Banquet, where I had expected a very funny the stories of Anderson and Grimm, from the essay to win all the enthusiasm. And I know first school year onward, have but one mean that the vulgar printed matter which is thrust ing—that the elementary school, like the high by vile publishers upon innocent young people school and the college, is to be after its own cannot hold its own against the pressure of inner spirit a school of the humanities. The the great book. The masterpiece will stand almost universal introduction into the upper, against common place reading as soon as the elementary grades of whole pieces of litera- child either feels or recognizes the laws of litture and complete works of genius displacing erary art, and he is often more responsive to the fragmentary selections of the old-time those laws than are older people. Where the reader is significant of the triumph of the adult will satisfy his conscience with the asprinciple that in no stage of education does sumption that “It's all a matter of one's prithe purely formal and disciplinary constitute vate opinion whether a book is great or not" a complete curriculum. Miss Mary Burt, in a common saying among people not acher interesting study entitled "Literary Land- quainted with the laws of criticism), the child marks,” gives many instances of the effective with more open sense and a greater desire to educational use in elementary schools of epi- weigh matters will delight in applying the sodes froin Dante, Homer and other great tests given by Goethe, Lessing, Dante, and names in literature. In fact the signs of the other great thinkers who have revealed those times admit of no doubtful interpretation. The laws. Since the laws which underlie good great sin of American pedagogy—the under- painting are very much like the laws governrating of the capacity of the American child ing the worth or worthlessness of literature, a - will be expiated. The great works of cre- teacher can very easily draw the child's attenative imagination made familiar influences in tion to both sets of laws by means of photothe schoolroom, the inspirational power of graphs from good paintings. Here is a picworks of genius recognized and therefore made ture of a blind girl, sitting in a rocky cavern, known to childhood and youth, the adornment holding out a light that others coming into of the schoolroom with copies of master works the cave may not stumble. Though blind she in painting, sculpture and architecture, and is giving light to others. The child will soon the personal ownership by each pupil of a few discover that the picture is a revelation of the of the best world-famous books—these shall beauty of self-forgetfulness and care for others.

Comparing the picture with Warner's match- have gone on with the study of The Divine less story, A-Hunting of the Deer, the child Comedy than to have dropped it was sufficient will find that a story may in the same way re- proof to me that my experiment in putting veal the same beautiful sentiment, and by in- the poem before them was a satisfactory one. direct questioning he can arrive at the law Midsummer Night's Dream and Philoctetes that a work of art which reveals a noble pas- (Plumptre's translation) for seventh and eighth sion must be greater than one which reveals a grades, Lamb's The Tempest for sixth grade, mean sentiment, all other things being equal. the Antigone of Sophocles for older people, Of other studies illustrating the same law, are all interesting studies and illustrations of Enoch Arden, Chrismas Carol, The Dog of this law of structure. Amélie Rives' The Flanders, for fifth, sixth, and seventh grades, Story of Arnon is one of the most beautiful Browning's Ivan Ivanovitch and Story of Don- stories from an artistic standpoint that Amerald, Lowell's The Vision of Sir Launfal, and ican literature affords. A sixth grade class in Craddock's Floating Down Lost Creek, for Chicago during the last year gave their teacher seventh and eighth grades, are only a few of enthusiastic essays upon it, essays which bore the many beautiful studies which teachers conclusive evidence that the artistic unity of may select. The drama of Prometheus from the story had made a great impression upon Æschylus, is a magnificent study of self-sacri- them, although perhaps they had not formufice, and our practice teachers at the normal lated any rule. school, after making a study of the poem, suc- Of shorter studies whose artistic build may ceeded in the eighth grade in getting warm be less pronounced, though none the less beaudiscussions concerning the motives of the tiful, Matthew Arnold's The Forsaken Mercharacters. The study of Philoctetes in the man is to me the most exquisite. This poem seventh grade (Plumptre's translation), al. I have read and had read in sixth, seventh, though pointing an opposite sentiment, leads and eighth grades, generally with great effect. to similar reasoning Chaucer's Griselda calls I was introduced to the poem by a pupil reforth various expressions; some children re- citing it to me. It ethical is almost equal to gard the heroine as an example of self-sacri- its structural beauty. Lowell's The Legend fice, and others a specimen of stupidity. A of Brittany for private reading, Swinburne's child will take home the lesson of self-sacri- Ode to Proserpine (the cleanest and most fice, when he has discovered the beauty of it charming of his poems) and Browning's Saul by looking at it from a scientific standpoint for older people; Schiller's Veiled Statue of when he will revolt against it if it is preached Truth, Goethe's Erl King, Bryant's Ode to a at him.

Waterfowl, Holme's Chambered Nautilus, TenThe law that a work is greater whose parts nyson's Lady of Shalott, Sir Galahad, and are correctly related to each other and to the Elaine, Bryant's Thanatopsis and Death of whole is universally recognized by great crit- the Flowers, Whittier's Skipper Ireson's Ride, ics and easily demonstrated by young people. Gray's Elegy, Burns' John Barley Corn, Hood's

Plato recognized it and illustrates it in per- Eugene Aram, Drake's Culprit Fay, Scott's haps an amusing manner. Two is not two, William and Helen and The Lay of the Last he says, by virtue of its being one plus one, Minstrel, Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner, but by reason of its quality of twoness, thus Lanier's Marshes of Glynn (equal to anything showing that two may be looked at in its to- Wordsworth ever wrote), Mrs. Browning's tality rather than as separate units. Lessing Lady Geraldine, Browning's Ivan Ivanovitch, and Goethe emphasize this law. Dante's Din Herbert's Ode to Virtue, Sarah Orne Jewett's vine Comedy is the best possible illustration Caged Bird (Atlantic Monthly, vol. 59), Longof it. No one reading The Inferno or the fellow's Bell of Atri,—any of these studies for Purgatorio or Paradiso alone can make any seventh and eighth grades. just estimate of the poem, since the whole is Poems can easily be spoiled as artistic works a single concept, and a just estimate of it can by burying them in collateral reading, and by be made only by taking a bird's-eye view of it stopping very frequently to nag the child conas a totality. Something like such a view of cerning the definition of some word. Take as it may be obtained by drawing diagrams of an illustration Whittier's Barefoot Boy. each part as does Miss Rossetti in The Shadow "What is a boy? What is a blessing? Where of Dante, and studying the plan of it as given did the strawberries grow? What are pantaby her. Such studies in connection with the loons?" and so on. The child's comfort in most impressive cantos can hardly fail to show reading such a piece for totals instead of dethe unity of Dante's work. That almost every tails can be as completely spoiled by spurious pupil in an eighth grade division would rather questioning as was the musician's pleasure in

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »