תמונות בעמוד

about fourteen years since. He was then engaged in a subordinate capacity as copyist and messenger. Of the forms and practice of law he knew nothing, but be resolved on becoming acquainted with them. He read, and inquired, and observed everything that seemed likely to help him. In the course of a few years he had amassed so much theoretical and practical knowledge, and had become so useful to his employers, that they admitted him as articled clerk, paying the fees themselves. On the expiration of his term he was received into partnership, and he is now rising to a high place in the profession. This case bas hundreds of parallels in so far as the starting point is concerned, but how many are there who sink into antomata and drudges, unwillingly and mechanically doing mere mill-horse work! My friend's hours at first were long-from nine till eight-and his duties fatiguing ; yet by a wise economy of “the gold dust of time," as Young terms it, and by judiciously making his private studies bear upon the end in view, he became deeply versed in cases, and reports, and judgments, and all the complex machinery of jurisprudence.

I can give another illustration of the importance of having a worthy object of ambition in guiding our mental pursuits. This has just occurred within my own observation. Two years since, a lad of seventeen was engaged as junior clerk in a large commercial house. Having some leisure, and an aptitude for the study of languages, he devoted himself principally to French and German, with the ultimate design of becoming foreign correspondent. Last month an opening of the kind presented itself; he sought it, and was appointed in preference to many other competitors. The position is one of honour and emolument, and is certain to lead to something better still. Some would say that this is one of the “tides in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, lead on to fortune ;” but this youth had prepared himself to take the tide at the flood, by wise and diligent preparation. I would earnestly advise you to be guided in your selection of studies by your ascor. tained inental aptitudes, and by the specific end of life. These will guard you from diffuseness and changeableness.

There is no royal road to knowledge. Labor omnia vincit is a sound proverb. Tutors, lectures, a good library, and cloistered cells, are very well in their place, but they cannot supply the lack of personal effort. I remember some who, when at college, were regular in their attendance at the Professor's lectures, but who in the class stood nowhere, as we used to say. And since that time they have done nothing, nor will they ever do anything, simply because they do not really work. It cannot be disguised that there is much of doworight hard toil and drudgery to be passed through ere we can say of knowledge, “It is my own.” It is not what a college makes a man, or what books make him, but what he makes himself

. Cramming, and coaching, and reading up, and similar expedients, may serve a passing emergency, but in the long run they are sure to fail. There is an essential difference between reading and study. Much that passes under the name of the latter properly belongs to the former. "It is not study to lounge on a sofa with Macaulay, and get through some fifty pages an hour. It is not study to oscillate in a rocking-chair with Gosse's “ Romance of Natural History," and to be charmed with his lively, though not always accurate, descriptions. It is not study to walk hurriedly along a public thoroughfare, perusing the lectures of Dugald Stewart, or of Dr. T. Brown, on " Mental Pnilosophy." All this, and more like this, may be pleasant reading, but this is uot study. Men delude themselves with words. Perhaps half of the so-called study is no more than reading. It involves no mental effort. It is not marked, learned, and inwardly digested. It is not assimilated, and does not become part of our mental selves. Without joining in the cry, " The former times were better than these," it is to be feared that there are very many persons whose knowledge is superficial and not solid. They attend a popular lecture, or read a sketchy article in a review, and imagine that they know all that needs to be known upon a given subject.

This suggests a discrimination between two other things that differ, viz., speed and hurry. Some men are in a continual bustle. It would appear as if they had solved the problem of perpetual motion. They eat fast, and walk fast, and read fast, and write fast, and talk fast; yet how little do they really accomplish! When you meet them, they look excited, anxious, nervous, and they have not a moment to spare. It is my misfortune to have two or three of this class among my correspondeuts. To decipher their letters is a puzzle and a loss of time. I am sometimes inclined to act as the father of the good Dr. Chalmers did. The great man's writing was 80 bad that his father used to lock up the epistles as they arrived, with their seals unbroken, and by the time that a number had accumulated the Doctor came on a visit, when his father gave them to him to read aloud. Doubtless, my friend the Editor of the British Controversialist can sympathize with me in this. It is possible for a student to be very expeditious without bustle or hurry. I have observed in some factories the quickness with which the operatives move their fingers, so quickly as to defy my best attempts to trace the process. This is the result of long habit; but the habit was formed slowly and carefully. Just so our mental organization can work speedily, yet surely, and without hurry or confusion ; but the power to work in this manner can be attained only by patient and careful attention at the outset. It is by doing a little slowly and thoroughly that you will attain the power of doing more with facility and pleasure.

It is a mistake to suppose that they effect the most in the way of self-improvement who have the most leisure. I know two brothers, equal in other respects, but one is in a Government office, where he is engaged from eleven till three ; the other is a laborious professional man, who can never call an hour his own. The former might, if he would, be an ornament to literature, and conter lasting benefits on his fellows ; but his ample leisure bas spoiled him, or rather, he has suffered it to run to waste; while the latter, by a wise economy of fragments of time, has done and is doing much that will render his name illustrious. And if you will pardon the repeated egotism, I may state that I acquired more solid knowledge before and after my daily duties in an accountant's office, where I passed two years, than I did in any other two years of my life ; and this although I was occupied for eleven hours every day.

But I must not extend these cautionary remarke, though my list is not yet exhausted. Some of the things which I had noted will be treated of when I come to the section on habire. This section, with sundry "bints ” about success, reading, health, time, and a few other matters, must be given next month, by editorial permission. Some of my unknown but friendly readers will, perhaps, do me the favour to learn from these plain and desultory remarks. Others, like silly moths, will flutter about, and at length will burn their wings, preferring to earn wisdom by painful experience. For one and all, I wish many bappy years, in the highest and best sense of the phrase ; and they will, I am sure, unite with me in wishing that this may be a prosperous year to the British Controversialist.

The Reviewer.

Essays ; Critical, Biographical, and Miscellaneous. By S. F.

WILLIAMS. London: Wm. Freeman. This work appears unprefaced. This is scarcely fair either to author or reader. It has become so much the fashion of late to republish contributions to periodicals and newspapers under the title of Essays, that one has got almost into the habit of looking upon books bearing that designation as a set of republications. Our library shelves are full of such productions, or rather reproductions, -some excellent, few bad, many good or respectable ; and we like to turn them over of an evening, because they are generally short and readable, -somewhat wordy often, and much the same as to their essential matter, but still interesting and stirring. We like, too, to observe how the light of thought falls variously upon the several subjects in which there is much sameness, according to the point of vision taken, and the capacities of the eye that looks upon it. It is a sort of practical lesson in metaphysics-ureful, entertaining, and instructiveso to read the works of our modern essayists, at once so different, so numerous, and so discursive, when compared with the elder fathers of that school of writing.

The word "essay" has lost its original signification. It was of old indicative of an attempt, an experiment, a sort of first fruit of thought. It made no pretension to finish, elaboration, or methodic form. It involved the idea of popular interest and general acceptability, and was ordinarily confined to topics relating to manners, morals, criticism, taste, and learning. Now they are often elaborate, careful, erudite, thought-weighted, and finished off. Their production has become a task for the highest minds, and the ripe original thoughts of the greatest intellects of the age come to the parlour and ihe study in the bran-new cover of some able serial. It is a venturous risk now to publish essays, the legionary throng is so varied and well recruited. The humbleness of the old meaning is now lost and gone, and the terrible reality suggested by the names of Bacon, Addison, Goldsmith, Johnson, Jeffrey, Macaulay, Hannay, Hayward, Forster, Bayne, Brimley, Brougham, Whately, &c., remains. On which horn of the dilemma must one be pinned ? Sball a lowly estimate be taken, and a judgment be sought from the idea of effort and aspiration included in the etymology of the word? or shall we swell the breeze of ambition up to its full and bellied greatness, to gain a place alongside of the noted barks who bear the freights of thought adown life's stream with an acknowledged standardness? A preface might have set this to rights ; but there is none, and so our say must be said on the book itself, and our view of it.

Taken in the old-fashioned meaning of the term-although there is nothing really antique about them except that name-as essays, attempts, endeavours, not as achievements, the volume is far more than respectable. The author, we presume, is a young man smitten with the charms of several high-minded and noble writers-Emer. son, Carlyle, Kingsley, Thackeray, &c., and somewhat inoculated with the platitudes of Edwin Paxton Hood, the bravura style of George Gilfillan, and the invocative rhetoric of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who has published too early for his own true reputation. There is the stuff of a thinker in him, but his thoughts have, we think, been ripened by the fire of his neighbour's grapehouse rather than by their own natural heat and strength.

There are a great number of echoes in the book, and there is an unsuitable combination of mannerisms in the composition, which detracts from the pleasure of reading it, and from its real worth and artistic value. There is not, perhaps, a more painful quality in a book than a suggestiveness regarding the reading out of which it has grown, or of striking the thoughts off in quest of a Peter Schlemihl, whose shadow bas been lost, and which we think we have found. In this book the sentences have the turn, and the ideas are tbrown into moulds, which are so familiar in certain authors, as almost to bewilder the judgment, and cause a sort of hesitancy now and then in our course. This is not the result, however, of plagiarisin, but of the worshipfulness of the author's mind. He has set himself high models in some respects, and in others has allowed him self to be influenced by the lords of clap-trap. He has been far less himself than we could have wished him to be. There is pith in the core of the man, and we would have liked to see his nature groning naturally, " from within outward."

Had the book been less essentialiy able we should certainly not long have dwelt upon its demerits, but would have laid it aside with brief notire. We write with a painfully conscientious necessitv for our fault-finding, and now that it is done and over we shall all the more gladly express our sense of its merits.

The following enumeration of the sixteen essavs which the work contains will show that the subjects are more unhackneyed than is common in works of this sort :-Genius, Thackerav (in comparison with Dickens). Longfellow, Gerald Massey, Cowley, Alexander Murray (the Scottish Orientalist), George Crabbe, and Count Cavour, in the First Part, of 200, pages ; and in the Second, of 112 pages, The Intellect. The Influence of the Thinker. An Address (on Debating Societies), The Spirit of Nature, Love. War and Christianity, On the “Trent” Affair, Gloria Deo. This ample field of thought the author traverses with a quick vision and a sure step, and forms an admirable conversationist by the way. Indeed, the work is better adapted for reading aloud than perusing, as if most of the papers had been composed for delivery to the ear, not for exposure to the eye. We have read several of them aloud, and have been much pleased with their oratorical verve and roundedness. We may mention as especially speechlike the Essays on “ Cavour," “The Influence of the Thinker." “War and Christianity," and many of the paragraphs on “Gerald Massey." These have the rhetorical fulness and the elocutional brilliancy of orations, and would have taken well in the literary association or from the platform of an institute.

We welcome Mr. Williams as a man possessed of the intrinsic worth ont of which great fames are made, and counsel him to an unegotistic self-reliance-the due exercise of the innate manliness of his faculties. Should our advice be taken, we augur favourably of his career—that he will be known among the men who make their marks on other men's minds, and whose thoughts become part and parcel of their being. This will require patience, self-denial, and the heroism which endures as well as thinks, acts, plans, and flashes its purposes athwart society. A Glance at the Universe. By NICHOLAS ODGERS, Schoolmaster,

Stithians, Cornwall. Second Thousand, London: H.J. Tresidder.

This is a small book on a large subject. It is evidently the production of a shrewd and intelligent thinker; and althongh it may contain nothing very original," it will be found to be valuable in assisting young persons to form a comprehensive idea of the universe as a whole. The Book of Bible Geography of the Old and New Testaments,

alphabetically arranged. By CHABLES BAKER. London: Houlston and Wright.

We have examined this book with some rare, and do not hesitate to pronounce it to be the best Bible Geography we have seen, for popular educational purposes. It contains eight small but wellexecuted maps, and is sold for eighteenpence.

« הקודםהמשך »