« PreviousContinue »
talk and stories, and had strong personal and local attachments. A writer might have greater parts than either of them, and not produce half their effect, just for want of their peculiar disposition. And we may be perfectly sure of one thing, that the kind of man utterly unfit for biography is the model' clever man,' full of the enlightened epoch' notions, so fashionable just now. The whole moral being of such a man would have to be changed before he could loyally picture, at once in its majesty and its simplicity, a great character of the past. Fulke Greville's romantic friendship, Izaak Walton's old-fashioned tenderness, are out of his range. But there will be no high things done in biography till we learn to revive that gentle old spirit, and apply it in forms suitable to our own age. Talent alone never produced a great Life,' and never will. The Agricola ' ends in a burst of passionate affection like a choral wail. Johnson's Life of Savage' is full of his friendship for the unlucky reprobate whose society had cheered his solitude and poverty in his early London days.
Hoping, however, that the truths here expressed may one day bear literary fruit, what else may we learn in biography from Plutarch's example? His method of writing lives in 'parallels' it would be very difficult to imitate, though that feature of his plan should not be abandoned without reluctance. His copious employment of detail there is a growing disposition to appreciate, to an extent which we perceive is already producing a reaction. Ever since the 'Waverley Novels' appeared there has been a set in favour of a dramatic and picturesque treatment of history. There was nothing new in the tendency, as the superiority of the older over the newer translations of Plutarch, in such respect, might alone serve to convince us. The feeling for reality and completeness in literary art is, of course, substantially sound. Let us, by all means, have past ages reproduced with all their circumstances and conditions if possible, not only their principles and ideas and actions, but manners, costume, furniture, and ornaments. Let the classic man sacrifice in his garland, and the feudal man hear mass in his mail. On all this, it is, in the present temper of the reading world, superfluous to insist. But let us bear in mind also, that Plutarch never overdoes it, and yet that it may be overdone. It is not the deepest fact about the seventeenth century that people wore steeple-hats, and went out to fight in buff jerkins, though such details assist one in getting familiar with things more important.
Again, we may learn from Plutarch that good biographies are not necessarily long. Nine or ten of his go conveniently into an octavo volume. This merit he shared with the ancients generally. The Agricola' is a pretty little pamphlet. The
'Cæsars,' in Suetonius, are as portable as a handful of their coins. Now, this is a mighty advantage, for a good book that is short, will be read far oftener than a good book that is long. Our own earlier Lives'-those, for instance, which Wordsworth calls 'Satellites burning in a lucid ring
Around meek Walton's heavenly memory,'
are of moderate as well as graceful proportions. The bulk of Middleton's 'Cicero' is accounted for by the extent of the subject. Johnson is uniformly reasonable; his Milton' occupies eighty-five and his Dryden' a hundred and eighteen pages. But it would not be difficult to point to 'Lives' of men as inferior to Milton or Dryden as the biographers themselves to Johnson, filling six and ten times the space.
But, after all, Plutarch will be read by thousands who care nothing for the art of biography, and to whom critical disquisitions on the subject can be little attractive. It is time to return to them, before bidding him farewell. There is now no danger of his influence being otherwise than good. The 'classical republican' is extinct, or, where he survives, begins, we suspect, to see that there were nobler things in antiquity than the dagger of Brutus. We now learn from classical history just the opposite lessons to those which it was once thought to teach; while the revolutionary movement in Europe has thrown off the toga, finally, and sticks to the blouse, which is its more appropriate garment. On the other hand, a growing sense among the best English youth of the value of our history as the basis of our political liberties prevents us from apprehending any spurious classicism from the influence of the ancients. Much as there is to learn from the Greeks and Romans, their special influence is not likely to disturb the minds of statesmen and potentates again. Meanwhile, the charm of Plutarch as a writer remains unbroken. He will be read for many an age, under the influence of that 'nature' which makes Greek and Roman 'kin' to Englishman and Scot. Many a reader will secretly ask himself what heliving in a brighter light of knowledge-ought to be, when antique heathens' and 'pagans' could live and die like Plutarch's men. Nor will he forget to thank the memory of the wise, kind-hearted old biographer himself.
Plutarch, we repeat, will be read, and read, we think, among ourselves, for the future, in the version of Mr. Clough. We have given that version our cordial praise before, and shall only add that it is brought before the world in a way which fits it admirably for general use. The print is clear and large; the paper good; and there are excellent and copious indexes.
ART. VII.-1. Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the State of Popular Education in England. London,
2. Communications from E. Chadwick, Esq., C.B., respecting HalfTime, and Military and Naval Drill, and on the Time and Cost of Popular Education on a Large and on a Small Scale. 1861.
3. A Letter to N. W. Senior, Esq., Explanatory of Communications, &c. By Edwin Chadwick, Esq., C.B. 1861.
4. Suggestions on Popular Education. By Nassau W. Senior, London, 1861.
5. Sunshine in the Workhouse. By Mrs. G. W. Sheppard. London, 1861.
6. The Workhouse Orphan. By the Author of A Plea for the Helpless.' London, 1861.
7. On Girls' Industrial Training. By Rev. J. P. Norris, late Fellow of Sion College, Cambridge, and one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools. London, 1860.
8. Two Letters on Girls' Schools, and on the Training of Working Women. By Mrs. Austen. London, 1857.
9. The Claims of Ragged Schools to Pecuniary Educational Aid from the Annual Parliamentary Grant, as an integral part of the Educational Movement of the Country. By Mary Carpenter. London and Bristol.
10. Report on the Education of Destitute Children. July, 1861.
N dealing with the question of popular education, our legislators and philanthropists are sorely puzzled to lay down any theory of the duties of the State as to the education of its subjects which is applicable to our anomalous system, combined as it is of voluntary effort, private charity, and public aid.
Mr. Senior, by an ascending climax of 'Resolutions,' arrives at the proposition that education is as much the right of the infant as bread, and that if the State is unable to compel the parent to give either the one or the other, it must constitute itself in loco parentis,' and perform the duty which it has failed to enforce. But instead of deducing from these broad premises their legitimate conclusion that the State is bound to provide all the necessary machinery of coercion and of education, he contents himself with the narrow inference that the State is bound to aid private charity in providing the sum that is not obtainable from the parent.'* He doubtless gives the reader credit for
'Suggestions,' p. 2.
appreciating the resistances which make fact and theory at variance. To compel education would require a power which the law scarcely claims, and an amount of interference which is repugnant to the feelings, and hardly compatible with the institutions of the country. At all events, the House of Commons has positively declared itself against compulsory education, and any perceptible approach to it is resisted. The result is a complication of anomalies. The Government, in advance of popular feeling, forces its way in promoting education as it can, rather than as it would; and in making its encroachments, as they may be called rather than advances, it has not always regarded consistency, nor even justice. As occasion serves from time to time, it imposes previous education as a condition on the employment of children in certain trades; glad to weaken opposition by attacking the manufacturers in detail, and careless how much the trade so restricted suffers by competition in the labour-market with trades where no restriction is imposed; and when at last, by making education compulsory on all trades, this injustice shall have been removed, the absurdity will yet remain, that the child who is willing to work for his bread with his hands is forbidden to do so till he has qualified himself by intellectual cultivation, while he whose parents are content to 'mar him with idleness,' is
'free as Nature first made man, When wild in woods the noble savage ran,'
and now in streets the ignoble savage runs. To save the credit of the Legislature it has been suggested that the relation between employer and employed is a public one, which the State may regulate, while that between parent and child is a private one, with which it does not care to meddle. The distinction is scarcely sound, and was probably an after-thought. On whom presses the double burden of educating the child and of losing its earnings but on its parent or guardian? The plain truth was, the Legislature found it could get at the employer without raising a formidable outcry, and without much cost or difficulty. The parent it could not reach without a degree of despotism it could not exercise, and an organization of schools and police which it does not possess.
The expenses of popular education in this country are mainly defrayed by private charity, the most gigantic effort ever made by private charity to perform a public duty. But the State, through the agency of a Committee of Privy Council, contributes its aid on condition of the fulfilment of certain requirements; and thus it exercises an indirect control over the national education hardly
less complete than would be conferred by the avowed direction of the whole scheme. One principal objection to this plan is that it throws too much of the burden on the willing horse, a difficulty which constantly presents itself in working the system, and which threatens its ultimate failure when we arrive at the point when the willing horse can no longer be found, or is unable to do all the work that is required of him. Yet with all its defects the present is the only scheme which could have been introduced into our free, tolerant, dissentient, and jealous country, or, being introduced, could have been worked at all. It has grown up gradually, the creation of circumstances, and has adapted itself to them; like some tree self-sown on a rock, whose misshapen but healthy roots bear the impress of the fissures from whence they spring. It has unquestionably done much good: whether it has done all the good it might have done, and whether any change in its constitution or machinery is desirable, remains to be considered. The Report of the Royal Commission which was appointed to inquire into the state of popular education, brings the whole subject before the bar of public opinion. The mass of evidence which the Commission has collected in its three years' labours gives the fullest and most important information on the subject of education ever presented to the public, and the Report, coupled with the able volume of 'Suggestions' by Mr. Senior, who differed on some important points from his colleagues, puts us in possession of all that the Commissioners singly and collectively have to suggest for the advancement of national education. The subject is too vast and too various to be fairly dealt with in such space as we can now allot to it. For the present we propose to confine our attention to the training of pauper children, and the matters more immediately connected with it; a portion of the system which most urgently calls for reform, and which can without disadvantage be considered separately from the The suggestions of the Commissioners on this point are such as may be and ought to be carried into effect with the least possible delay, and independently of any other changes that may be thought advisable.
Of children to whom the denomination of paupers legally belongs, as being wholly or in part supported by parochial aid, there were in 1859, according to the Poor-law Report of that year, upwards of 336,500, and of these nearly 45,000 were inmates of the workhouse, and therefore completely within the paternal and absolute control of the State. But, unhappily in the education of pauper children the new Poor-law has signally failed. The blame, indeed, cannot fairly be imputed to the framers of the measure. The Poor-Law Amendment Act is the