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perfect species of literature of which we are speaking, the influence exerted, is not to the exclusion or at the expense of that of other excellent species, such as the classic, for example, but in coincidence and harmony with it. It is therefore an unfavorable sign in relation to the character of a mode of thought, or a school in letters, if the mind, during one particular period in its history, and especially if it is an unripe one, become so absorbed in it as to be dead to all other forms. A reaction must come eventually, and the favorite author will become as intensely repulsive, as he was once intensely attractive.

But the influence of the literature under consideration, is eminently catholic and liberalizing. The mental tendency produced by the study of it, does not in the least unfit the student for a genial appreciation of other forms. Nay, we affirm that it is one of the very best preservatives against narrowness in criticism, and bigotry in literary feeling. The calm, self-possessed, thoughtful spirit, which reigns in Eng. lish literature, taken as a whole, tends to extirpate all exclusive sympathies, and to render the intellectual affinities more comprehensive and far-reaching. Whenever we meet a mind, one of the deep bases of whose culture has been laid in a thorough apprehension and genial admiration of Eng. lish thought in its best forms, we meet one of enlarged and catholic views of literature generally. Such an one is far better qualified to sit in judgment upon a false and exaggerated mode of thinking, than he who is fully involved in it can be. The admiration which he feels towards a dazzling school or author, is far more correct, because it is far more moderate and intelligent, than that of a servile disciple. He is not blind to its faults, and therefore best knows the actual worth of its excellences.

And more than all, and better than all, the style of thinking produced by the study of the literature in question, is essentially permanent in its character. By this, is not meant, that it is a stiff and rigidly fixed style, incompatible with mental freedom; a style that is a mechanical, rather than a vital process, and keeps the thinker constantly


running in his old ruts. The style is permanent, in the sense of being broad enough, and calm enough, to make room for all the modifications that may be introduced into it by the growing culture of the student, without changing or deranging the ground-work. The mind has not been committed, so to speak, to intensity of any sort, to any violent manner, but is impartial, grave, and judicial, in its tone and temper. Hence it is not compelled, in order to change at all in its style of thought or expression, to change altogether, and take on some entirely new form of intensity or mental violence, thus going through a round of particular and transient manners, or rather mannerisms, but never acquiring any one permanent and standard style. For it is noticeable, that a constant hankering after the most intense and striking form is destructive of all true form. An inteltellectual restlessness is produced in this way, that keeps the mind in a ceaseless chase after the novel and the startling, in neither of which can it ever find permanent satisfaction and rest.

The truth of these remarks may be seen by a reference to the style of the modern journalism. The journal must be striking and brilliant, or it is nothing. That repose and reserve of manner, which appears in the treatise, in the methodical, organized product that makes a positive addition to the sum of human knowledge, is death to the journal. Hence the journalist must be ever on the alert for forms of expression, and turns of periods, and peculiarities of manner, that will make a sensation in distinction from an impression. He is compelled to lead an intense, excited, unnatural intel. lectual existence, and to find ever new, and ever changing forms for it. But how little of standard style, of finished, noble form, is there in the current journal literature! There is not mental repose long enough to allow the mind to settle into one permanent manner. The production of fixed form, the crystallization, is prevented by the perpetual jar and agitation.

Such then, we conceive, is the influence of English studies upon the style of thinking. They induce a calm, grave, sincere, profound, exhaustive, and commanding manner of mind. And inasmuch as it is the great end of education to enable the mind to think its very best thought, and to express it in its very best manner, the great worth of this litera. ture for educational purposes becomes apparent. It is a powerful organ and instrument of culture. It is to be recommended to the modern student, as an extremely influential means of bringing out into full action his best capacity. If there be any literature that can stir, and stimulate, and educe, while at the same time it nurtures and enriches, it is the English. And it is, whatever may be our theory on the matter, the literature to which we betake ourselves when we wish to feed our mind with sweet and wholesome food; when we wish to have its best powers roused; when we wish to think for our own satisfaction, or to give out thought for others. If we are scholarly now, we keep Milton, and Shakspeare, and Chaucer, and Bacon, and Hooker, by us; and if we shall continue to be scholars, these minds will continue to mould and educate our minds. For this literature is home-bred, and, apart from its intrinsic excellence, speaks in our own tongue, and addresses our own nationality, and our own individuality. To feel its influence, we need only to keep a healthy English spirit, and a sound English heart within us; we have but to open our mouths and draw in the fresh bracing element and atmosphere we were born for.

III. In our discussion thus far, we have devoted almost exclusive attention to the elder English writers; and it might, perhaps, be inferred that we would discard the productions of the later authors, and do them injustice. This would be a mistaken inference; for, although we believe that, if a line were drawn between the literature preceding, and that succeeding, Milton, the weightier and more precious portion would lie on the further side of it, we would not say one word that could possibly lead to the neglect of any portion of a literature that we desire to have studied as a sum-total. From his contemporaneous position, and immediate relation to it, however, the modern will not be likely to undervalue modern English authorship ; while, on the other hand, there is much need of effort and urgency to prevent him from remaining as ignorant of Chaucer, and Gower, and even of Spenser, as if, instead of being the “ wells of English undefiled,” they belonged to a foreign literature. The purpose, therefore, of the remainder of this Article will be, to give some practical directions respecting the best method of pursuing English Studies philologically and critically.

(1) One principal reason why the language and literature of England, which really forms the connecting link between the student and the great modern world into which he is soon to enter and become a constituent part, has exerted so little comparative influence in the system of public instruction, and in connection with the classical, mathematical, and philosophical discipline, lies in the fact that it has not been made the subject of etymological study and philological analysis. No language, no literature, as we remarked in the outset, can exert a thoroughly educating power, unless the mind works its way into it by the study of its individual words and radicals ; unless its force and life are felt through the slow process of decomposing and recombining its rudimental elements. The first practical recommendation therefore is this: Select an old English author, from a period so remote that his language and style shall be so strange and unknown, as to require close glossarial and grammatical study in order to a bare understanding of him. The common error is, to select a writer, Milton or Shakspeare, for example, so near to our own age as to require but little study of this sort in order to reach his general meaning. But in reality, such authors as these should be studied, only after a preparatory discipline of the sort we are recommending. The wonders of their English style can be appreciated only by one who has analyzed the language in its roots, and has acquired a knowledge of its history; only by one who has traced words up to their origin, and down again, through all their changes and uses; only by one who has studied the various styles of thinking to be found in the literature as a VOL. XIII. No. 50.


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whole, and knows, in some good degree, all the various types and manners the national mind has taken on. For these great masters are highly national in their literary character, and their productions contain the concentrated essence of the general English mind and heart, and the general English culture. In order to their profound apprehension, a very extensive knowledge of English literature is required; and the truly philosophic study of them cannot be commenced even, without much previous preparation. The student must, then, select Chaucer to start with. He must go back of the prolific and somewhat familiar sixteenth century, across the almost totally sterile and barren fifteenth century, and plant himself in the very heart of the fourteenth. In this way he will have put a gulf between his present knowledge of English and that knowledge which he proposes to acquire, over which he cannot pass without some more earnest and thorough study than is implied in an easy and passive perusal of a form of English like that of Shakspeare or Spenser. He will be made aware that the Englishman of 1350 used a form of English that is, to a great extent, unintelligible to the Englishman of 1850 ; and yet a form which thorough philological study will show is not so wholly different from that employed by himself, as he might imagine in his present ig. norance of it. Increasing acquaintance with it will evince that, after all, it is genuine, hearty, idiomatic English, and has a most close and vital affinity with the best portion of his own vocabulary, and with the raciest, heartiest trains of thought in his own mind.

An additional reason for selecting Chaucer is found in the fact that, in his works, the English language first appears in a tolerably fixed form. Previous to Chaucer it had been passing through those intermediate stages which marked the transition from the pure Saxon to the English proper. Hence the literature of the nation may be said to have sprung into existence with him. For Layamon's translation of Wace, the metrical Chronicles of Robert of Gloucester and Robert Mannying, and the Vision of Piers Plowman,—the principal productions that mark the progress of the language


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