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of late. To make men herd in gregarious flocks of like-minded, similar-positioned, same-professioned men ; to frown upon independence of feeling, thought, or action; to scowl upor self-assertion ; to treasure up the wrath of church or club against the man who does not mouth the same shibboleth-religious, artistic, literary, or professional-are all so many pegs to fasten down human life to sameness of pattern, and to turn them out in a like fashion. There is no provision in our daily existence for great men-men of intense convictions, personality, and force-men
"Strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield," — to out-face fashion, and out-brave the low cunning of the times. Modest worth is not recognized ; it must grow immodest by tooting for the world's notice—in fact, cease to be
worth-before the recognition of the age can be acquired.
Besides all this, there are several other principles, each one of which tends to make“ an age of general intellectual culture unfavourable to the development of great men."
“ Experience is not transmissible,” and hence all requires to be done by oneself. One has, therefore, to exhaust a large proportion of personal power and effort to bring himself up to the foremost mark, and it is only what is done after that that counts for greatness. The excess of the leap beyond that of others is all that is credited to the winner ; the majority, not the whole sum of votes, is calculated when we tell the victor in an election contest. Simi. larly, it is only so far as a man excels the foremost of the mediocrities out of whom he flings himself, that he is reckoned great. The more, therefore, the forefront advances, the less spring there is left in the energies of the soul to carry it beyond others. Hence the difficulty increases with the diffusion of culture.
“When there is no difference in men's worths,
Titles are jests.” It is beyond debate that a great deal of show goes on in the world, and that that show is often mistaken for reality. The average man plies his task, and is lauded as a great one by those who feel that they also are in need of a little of the Sam Slick ointment so common in this age of shams; and how seldom it is that the world becomes wise enough to discover and confess its error, and say,
“ Till now I knew thee not;
But mads me that I ever thought thee fair"! In the case of a Dean Paul, a Robson, a Sadleir, or an Andrews, it does occur ; but in how many cases do inefficient men pass as efficient, and men seared against all improvement hold seats of office! Every instance of such a sort bars the way for some more deserving, abler, greater man ; shuts up an avenue to progress; closes up one of the influences of life; and turns off the steam of Hope from some engine-like mind, which could carry away the train of the world after it, to new and more splendid activities and profits.
The more widely spread culture is, the fewer fields lie open to the labourer who would endeavour to try a new crop ; possibilities are lessened, and discouragements become effective. The efforts of the human mind are limited, and every new success achieved leaves less for others to accomplish. Thus, each life that is spent in the effecting of anything new, diminishes the whole sum of the accomplishable, and, in proportion, is unfavourable to the attainment of greatness,-if greatness be the quality by which men do other and better works than the ordinary run of men can effect. We cannot see one single argument in the negative of this question. We think it must be decidedly a one-sided debate. We cannot conceive it possible that any one can assert the contrary of the thesis that an age of general intellectual culture is unfavourable to the development of great men.
It is not easy to open the debate on the negative side of this question. The position is 80 essentially defensive as almost wholly to preclude us from using any positive argument in its support. Our legitimate work being, therefore, to repel the attacks of opponents, we propose shortly to state those arguments in favour of the affirmative side which appear most obvious and weighty, and then to examine what they are really worth. In adopting this course we, no doubt, lay ourselves open to the cavil of resting the strength of our position on no better basis than a victory over enemies of our own creation, but the nature of the question admits of no present alternative.
The supporters of the affirmative side must argue either (1) from some tendency inherent in the nature of general intellectual culture, or (2) from facts. Like the scientific agriculturist on the one hand, they must, as the result of an analysis, announce that certain ground cannot possibly nourish and develop certain plants, in respect that it is destitute of the very elements which these plants require, or that it possesses positively injurious properties; or, like the practical farmer, on the other hand, they must point to the stunted crops grown out of it as evidence of the unsuitableness of the soil.
I. Their first, or let us call it their à priori argument, may be of this nature. In an age of general intellectual culture there are certain conventional modes of thought, certain grooves along which the mind runs, certain well-worn channels in which intelligence flows. The social element in human nature, the imitative tendency in man, works with great vigour in the sphere of education. By the recognized authority of teachers, and the less obtrusive, though not less powerful influence of companions, intellectual energy is developed only in several determinate directions. Mind is moulded to some pre-existing, prescribed pattern. The man is turned, as it were, out of an intellectual lathe, beautifully symmetrical, no doubt, but slavishly like his neighbour, destitute of any originality or force of character. Accustomed to confine his wanderings to a region fenced in by precedent and authority, he shrinks from orerleaping conventional bounds; and if somehow he does get out where no authority can help him, but where he must personally grapple with the great problems of the universe, his courage fails him, he shudders at his temerity, and hurries back to the company of his friends and advisers. In short, general intellectual culture militates against independent thinking, which is the root of all real greatness.
Now, we are by no means prepared to assert that this argument is utterly deroid of weight. On the contrary, we freely acknow. ledge that here, as in many other departments of the natural economy, the individual is to a certain extent sacrificed to the general good. The licence of savage independence or utter anarchy is, doubtless, more absolute than the freedom of citizens in a well. governed state. But is there not, in a state of society under law, a compensating advantage infinitely overweighing the limited sacrifice of natural rights which each citizen must make? Assuredly there is. He would be a very fool who should take so partial a view of this subject as to lament the existence of laws, courts, police, &c., branding them as restraints on his natural birthright of freedom, and sighing for
“ The good old law, the simple plan,
And those should keep who can.” So it is in the case under discussion. The beneficial tendencies of general intellectual culture far outnumber those which are prejudicial. Frequent intercourse with well-cultivated minds subserves higher ends than merely to rub off the corners of individual character till a regular symmetry is attained. “ As iron sharpeneth iron, so doth a man the countenance of his friend.” It cannot be affirmed that an age of general intellectual culture does not possess, equally with any other period, great men in posse. Nay, further, we must take it for granted, that the proportion of potentially great men is the same in all ages. The present question, viewed in relation to this fact, is, whether an age of general intellectual culture is unfavourable to the development of this possible into actual greatness. Now, no law is more clearly ascertained than this, that the development of any power, physical or mental, is in proportion to the exercise to which it has been subjected. The more protracted and vigorous that exercise has been, the greater is the actual energy which the power is capable of exerting. Supposing that there have been many “mute, inglorious Miltons,” their silence and obscurity must have resulted solely from a defective education, i.e., a neglect to draw out into energetic exercise the powers which were latent in them. Here, then, we reach the root of the matter, and the question virtually is, What state of society affords the best intellectual gymnasium? To this question there can be but one answer. An age when there is ready access to all the stores of learning, ancient and modern; when an inquiring spirit is actively working in all departments of knowledge; when mind does not stagnate under the dull, narcotic influence of an intellectual monopoly ; but when each man is striving, and at the same time co-operating, with his fellow-man in the pursuit of truth,-in such an age the ardent student bas his energies stimulated by a healthy rivalry, his powers whetted, and his errors corrected, by daily contact with minds stored with erudition, and wrought to the highest polish by the unremitting study of a lifetime. Such an age is fitted to animate all to the highest degree of assiduity in their work of self-development; and that such a training will not seriously affect any really valuable idiosyncrasy is abundantly proved by the state of opinion among the thinkers of the present day: In no period of the world's history has manly independence of thought been more strikingly manifested. Authority cannot now command belief, but every thought, principle, and opinion must be brought to the bar of reason and experience, and confirmed or rejected by the decision of that tribunal. We do not here commit ourselves to an approval of the daring and rash speculation which is so prevalent, but we adduce the fact of its existence, as showing that the general culture of the age has not tended to destroy the independent thinking of individual, original minds.
But the phrase, “ general intellectual culture," is susceptible of a double interpretation, and the question may, in consequence of this ambiguity, be discussed on different argu nts. We have considered the term "general" as applicable to men, but we may, without violating any rule of grammatical construction, view it as applicable to the different mental faculties. In the former case the particulars which compose the general are individual minds ; in the latter they are the different faculties of a single mind. It is thought, however, that the affirmative advocates would have, according to this latter reading, no standing-ground; for their contention would virtually be a contention for a partial and onesided education. Under colour of such an ambiguous, well-sounding phrase as “the universal must be superficial,” they would seek to maintain that it was best to foster any special natural talent which the individual might possess, at the expense of all his other powers. They would introduce into the sphere of intellectual activity the principle of the division of labour, have each man to confine himself to that species of mental work alone for which nature appears to them or himself to have specially adapted him. But no one will say that he who runs round and round in such a contracted sphere as this is worthy the name of great. He who would be truly great must acquire a catholicity of development. The most effective training for this is to investigate science, philosophy, politics, art, religion; to go out into the world, study society in its various classes, examine opinions and prejudices, and thus have the mind freed from narrowness, intolerance, and egotism, by the salutary influence of a liberal education.
II. Coming now to the argument à posteriori, the argument from facts, Where, it may be asked, are the great men of this your 80-called
age of general intellectual culture. There is no lack of literati, doctors, professors, colleges, scientific societies, literary institutes, &c., but where are the great men? One here and there may, perhaps, possess a doubtful claim to greatness, but these are few, and their claims are very dubious. Pitt, Goethe, Humboldt, Davy, Brougham, Scott, Coleridge, Cousin, Hamilton, Macaulaythese, and such as these, perhaps, are stars of the first magnitude in your firmament; but how dim their radiance, how tiny their twinkle, alongside of the clear, full blaze of
“ The great of old,
Our spirits from their urns"!
How comes it that in an age of general intellectual culture we can find none such as these ?
Now, there are several considerations which must be taken into account in estimating the force of this argument. In the first place, the contrast is unfair, inasmuch as the long era from the earliest dawn of history down through the Middle or Dark Ages, till a comparatively recent period, say 700 B.c. to 1760 A.D., is put against the limited time, some threescore years and ten, which can be called an age of general intellectual culture. In the second place, we are not in a position rightly to determine the relative merits of ancient and contemporary celebrities. The respect which real merit at all times commands is raised by antiquity into veneration, and the faults and shortcomings which qualify the esteem of contemporaries are suffered to sink into oblivion, and form no, or at least a very slightly esteemed, element in the judgment of posterity. No man is a hero to his valet. We, like the valet, know too much about our heroes. They frequently manifest to our eyes their mere humanity, the many frailties incident to it, and we judge of them accordingly. “A prophet hath no honour in his own country," nor, it may be added, in his own age. In the third place, allowance must be made for the difference in the average standard of intellectual development. Of two mountains equally raised above the level of the sea, that one
will appear the higher which rises from the less elevated plain. Supposing the average intellectual development in the time of Queen Elizabeth to be = 10, that of the pre