1905 Fredericton Encaenia
Address in Praise of Founders
Delivered by: Clawson, William Hall
"In Praise of the Founders By William Hall Clawson, '00. Prof. of English and French at U. N. B." The University Monthly (May-June 1905): 222-233. ( UA Case 71)
The idea of a provincial university for New Brunswick originated with the Loyalists. On February 12th, 1800, seventeen years after their landing at St. John, The College of New Brunswick was founded and incorporated by provincial charter. But the real founder of the University was Sir Howard Douglas. Soldier, sailor, statesman and author, an able governor, a brave and upright Christian gentleman, he stamped upon the province the impress of his personality. He is best remembered for his road-building and his prompt energetic assistance of the sufferers in the Miramichi fire of 1825. But the accomplishment of his public life in which he took most pride was the establishment of King's College. It was through his efforts in the face of powerful opposition that the charter of the College of New Brunswick, then little more than a grammar school, was surrendered to the crown ; and that the king accepted this surrender and immediately granted a royal charter incorporating the institution under the name of King's College. To him also we owe the annual grant of 2500 pounds with which the college was then endowed ; and it was under his personal supervision that the present building was constructed by the Royal Engineers. This building was formally opened by Sir Howard, the first chancellor, on January 1st, 1829.
Thirty years later King's College was the subject of serious investigation and discussion by the Provincial Assembly. Owing to its rigidly denomination attitude, the College had grown unpopular and a movement was set on foot for its abolition. A commission consisting of J. H. Grey, Egerton Ryerson, J. W. Dawson, J. S. Saunders and James Brown was appointed to investigate the condition of the college. This commission recommended that the institution should be made undenominational and should be hereafter known as the University of New Brunswick. In 1859 a bill, embodying these recommendations was laid before the House of Assembly, and after considerable opposition, passed by a vote of 21 to 13. The twenty-one men who voted yea and the commissioners who made the recommendations may also be regarded as founders of the University.
Having paid to the memory of these distinguished men our annual tribute of honor and praise let us consider in some of their phases, the purpose and the methods of a university training, the present attainments of our university and its immediate needs and prospects.
"A University training," says Newman, "is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end: it aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspiration, at giving enlargement and sobriety to the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political power and refining the intercourse of private life. It is the education which gives a man a clear, conscious view of his own opinions and judgements, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant. It prepares him to fill any post with credit, and to master any subject with facility."
After this admirable statement of the purpose of a University Newman goes on to discuss the studies and the methods by which this purpose may be realized. This transformation of society, this development of the individual cannot be obtained by the transmission to the student of a mass of knowledge. It is true that the popular idea of a university is a place where lectures and examinations are held on every conceivable subject. But the true method of a university course is not to communicate a mass of knowledge but to train and enlarge the mind by bringing it into contact with new truths ; to accustom the student to trace the relation of parts to the whole, of effects to their cause ; to develop in other words the philosophical temper.
This true conception of the value and methods of a university education, expressed by Newman in his lectures on "The Idea of a University" was somewhat obscured by the scientific and material progress of the latter part of the 19th century. Practical utility was set forward as the only worthy end of university instruction and all studies whose primary object was culture were put on the defensive. The study of literature and particularly Greek and Latin literature as an important part of a general training was vigorously attacked ; and the prophecy was made that in the education of the future the universal emphasis would be placed upon science.
Matthew Arnold answered Thomas Henry Huxley, one of the most brilliant exponents of this theory, in his famous American lecture on literature and science. Huxley had asserted that science rather than literature should be the chief part of a general education. Arnold took direct issue with him on this point. He maintained that human life was built up of four powers--the power of conduct, the power of intellect and knowledge, the power of beauty and the power of social life and manners. He claimed that the beauty of science contributed to the development only of the power of intellect and knowledge and that long experience has shown that the study of literature develops not only this power but also the power of conduct, the power of beauty and the power of social life. He concluded that while the average student should acquire "as much science as he could conveniently carry" he should continue to give a large portion of his time to the study of literature.
Arnold was not frightened by the brilliancy and popularity of his opponents and their arguments. He trusted to the constitution of human nature and felt no concern for the future of the studies that he loved. He prophesied that there wold be a period in which the study of literature would be neglected and the school or college curriculum overcrowded with scientific, technical and "practical" subjects; but that in the end, men would be recalled by the needs of their nature to the study of literature.
Within twenty years this prophecy has been fulfilled. There is a pronounced reaction from multiplied courses and elective systems to the traditional subjects of instruction. The study of Latin and Greek even when made elective, shows a decided increase, and never before has such interest been manifested in modern literature. The hostility to literature is by no means beaten ; but it is driven from its strongest entrenchments and the rest of the battle will be a series of skirmishes.
We may therefore reasonably assume the permanent position of literature in a university education. We pass on to consider what languages, what works and what methods constitute and adequate literary training.
I. Latin and, if possible, Greek should form the groundwork of such a training for the following reasons:
1. The study of the close-knit periodic Latin and the flexible and many-sided Greek gives the best attainable preparation for any language or literature-study. It encourages minute exactness and precision in the comprehension and use of words, a quickened interest in meaning and derivation and a heightened instinct for grammatical correctness and literary form.
2. Modern European literature is full of mythological and historical references, imitations and borrowings of matter and tricks of style from the Greek and Latin classics. The great French and English writers thought and worked in an atmosphere pervaded by Greek and Latin. These languages formed the basis of their education and the models of their style. To appreciate therefore that great body of English works like Milton's "Lycidas" or "Paradise Lost," Pope's "Satires" and Shelley's "Adonais" which take Greek or Latin authors as their models, without some acquaintance with those models, is hardly possible.
3. Greek and Latin are more universal in their appeal than any other languages. It is absurd to relegate them as "dead languages" to an insignificant corner in the scheme of education. Few humans things are more alive than the languages and literatures of Greece and Rome. Greek literature is the consummate and final expression of the purest human reason. Latin literature records the achievements of that people which impose on Europe its language and forms of government, which disseminated the Greek culture and the Christian gospel, which impressed its civilization on the southern peoples and its ideal of disciplined organization on the church. Greek which the classical scholar can easily understand is still spoken by the descendants of the men of Marathon. Latin is the tongue common to scientists, lawyers, physicians, and the clergy of the Roman Catholic church. Such languages are of fresh and perennial interest.
4. Lastly, Greek and Latin are unsurpassed for the beauty of their literary style. The symmetry of Greek art, its harmonious relation of parts to the whole is a perpetual delight to man's sense of beauty. In its clearness, brightness and directness, Greek furnishes us in abundance with examples of the "grand style simple." Latin is equally rich in the "grand style severe"--the style of intense compression "which says things in an allusive, brief, almost haughty way, as if the poet's mind were charged with so many and such grave matters that he would not deign to treat any one of them explicitly." No student can expect to acquire a practiced ear for style or a skilful hand for composing it without some knowledge of these two great models.
That the University of New Brunswick provides classical instruction of a high quality and maintains the study of Greek and Latin in its true position, was signally proved a few weeks ago. Our last year's graduate in honor classics was then appointed to a fellowship in the University of Chicago. The reason given for her appointment by Professor Shorey of the Classical Department was that her course of classical study had been more extensive and more thorough than that of any other applicant. He added that many of these applicants were graduates of the University of Chicago and that some had been pursuing advanced study there.
II. An extremely important part of a literary training is the study of English literature.
In the old days this study was not made a formal part of the University curriculum. The emphasis was entirely upon Latin and Greek and the student was left to appreciate modern literature for himself. But the labors of scholars have so widened the field that the establishment of chairs and courses in English literature has proved of lasting benefit.
The methods of teaching literature are so varied, and the element of the teacher's personality is so important a factor in their success, that a dogmatic statement of them is almost impossible. We may, however, divide them roughly into the lecture and the recitation method.
Lectures on literature should be direct, concrete and well illustrated. They should present a vivid picture of the conditions of society under which a literature arose, they should show the connection between literature and history; they should describe the lives of literary men in a picturesque, attractive way; they should point out clearly the main currents of religion, thought, art, and science which underlie literary movements; they should never criticize without examples. A good lecture also pre-supposes enthusiasm, careful preparation and good listeners.
Perhaps in the recitation method success is easier. A work is selected--one of Shakespeare's plays, for example, and read slowly in class by the instructor or the students in turn, while the meaning of the language, its literary excellence and kindred points are brought out by question and answer or by comment. This system, which admits of infinite variations is especially valuable when the instructor is a man of strong individuality, high culture and wide reading. His apt illustrations and illuminating criticisms open to the student wide vistas of literary attainment and enable him to read the best literature with ease and pleasure.
Professor Stockley was particularly successful in this method of teaching. No student of his will ever forget the charm of his lectures. The informal, almost conversational tone ; the absence of rigid system ; the appreciative reading ; the apt illustration ; the wealth of literary knowledge shown by many citations from English and continental literature ; the knowledge of men and affairs ; the keen judgment ; the philosophic detachment and the air of other-worldliness that pervaded his words are but partial explanations of the attractiveness of his personality. Every earnest student who listened to him for four years, went away with a new conception of the worth and meaning of literature.
After the conducting of lectures and recitations we have to consider the assignment of passages to be learned by heart. On the importance of this work Professor Stockley would often insist. He believed that the storing the memory with the best poetry was essential to the formation of a delicate taste ; and it was his frequent advice to his honor students that they should learn the whole of Palgrave's "Golden Treasury" by heart. If few can adopt this "counsel of perfection" all may, during their college course acquire lines of the best poetry which will recur to them in after years with perpetual charm.
Of all arrangements of courses and reading, that arrangement is preferable which gives the student during his four year's course a connected idea of development and progress of English literature. The earlier works of course without special study of Anglo-Saxon and middle English can be presented only through translations. but the story of the old English and their epic poetry, of their hero-king Alfred and his literary labors and of the effect of the Norman conquest on their language may be presented in lectures in an interesting way.
The language of Chaucer presents comparatively few difficulties and the student's survey of English literature should certainly impress the reading of some of the Canterbury Tales. In Chaucer the student will find a realistic portrayal of the knights, clergy, merchants and laborers of the brilliant, stirring, half-mediaeval, half-modern fourteenth century. What is more, he will find in him a delightful story-teller, a consummate artist and a lovable character.
The age of Chaucer marks the beginning of two great European movements, the Revival of Learning and the Reformation. The essential points of their development must be explained before we reach "the spacious halls of great Elizabeth". Here though dazzled by the excess of brightness we have no difficulty in choosing four writers whom a general course may in no wise omit,
"Spencer moving through his clouded heaven
With the moon's beauty and the moon's soft pace."
should be sparingly presented. His highly-elaborated artistic form, his love of allegory, his exalted and ideal mingling of Phatonism and Christianity attract only the few.
But Shakespeare speaks to all. "Wide, placid, far-seeing" as the sun he shines with mild equable radiance on the whole of human life ' and there is no man whom in some way he does not appeal. Two plays each year will present some of the greatest features of his many-sided genius.
Bacon is valuable for the weighty conciseness of his style and for the vigour and breadth of his intellect. His essays are models of strong, terse expression and clear thought.
Milton, more than any other English writer has the quality of lofty and sustained earnestness. This quality united to the organ-like harmonies of his verse, the richness and delicacy of his colouring and the classic finish of his workmanship makes him our second great English poet.
"The eighteenth century" which literary historians illogically but conveniently assume to begin in 1000, is above all characterized in literature by common sense united to strict form. These qualities, coming into contact with the sociable, rationalistic French spirit, produced a great literature. Their union with the independent imaginative English genius was less happy. But we could ill spare the ringing strength of Dryden, the polished grace of Pope, the ease, deftness and sympathy of Addison and Steele, the savage vigour of Swift, the weighty sententiousness of Johnson, the winning artlessness of Goldsmith and the profound political philosophy of Burke.
The Romantic Revival begins in the flood-tide of the 18th century with the poetry of Thomson, Collins and Gray, followed by Cowper and Burns. Then came the names of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Scott, Byron, Shelly and Keats suggesting all the stir and ferment of Revolutionary Europe and all the glow of the new enthusiasm for nature, "local color" and the middle ages.
In the Victorian period, to which we are introduced by the works of Thomas Carlyle the interest centers upon questions of economics, of science, of philosophy, and of religion. Carlyle contrasts the economic conditions of Past and Present. Ruskin works out he relations of art and mortality, Arnold insists that poetry must be a criticism of life, Tennyson and Browning speculate on life with varying though hopeful conclusions. Thus at the close of our survey we find literature in close union with other branches of human thought, and giving final proof of its value.
III. But the appreciation of good literature is merely one object of a literary education. The ability to express one's thoughts with clearness, elegance and force is of equal importance. Without careful training in rhetoric and composition, a literary course degenerates into mere careless unprofitable reading. "Reading maketh a full man," says Bacon, "conference a ready man ; and writing, an exact man." And it is the student's first duty to be exact. Now exactness of thought and expression can be obtained only by constant practice in writing under the unwearied supervision and correction of the instructor.
Let me instance briefly the department of composition and rhetoric at Harvard University as an example of what may be accomplished in this connection.
A course in English composition and rhetoric is made obligatory for all Freshmen. The class of about 500 is divided into six sections, each of which is sub-divided into three or more parts. An instructor has charge of each section and an assistant of each part. Besides a thorough training in the theory and principles of composition imparted by lectures and text-books, the students obtain daily practice. A short theme must be written and submitted each day, a longer theme each fortnight, and one long theme during the year. These themes after criticism and personal conference with the assistant, are returned to the students to be re-written if necessary.
From this course and others more advanced has resulted such skill and precision in writing as to give a distinctive position to "Harvard English" and the founder of the system, Professor A. S. Hill, and to set up Harvard methods as an example for others to follow.
The system of daily themes is more than we could expect here ; but if the professor of English could give all his time to that subject it would be perfectly possible to have weekly or fortnightly themes and conferences in the Freshmen year instead of one or two themes a term as at present. The result would be an elevation of the whole standard of college work. Under the stimulus of revision and conference students would make greater efforts towards accuracy ; individualistic spelling and chaotic grammar would cease to be so lamentably common ; the University Monthly would more readily procure contributions ; the literary courses would be better appreciated ; and the addition of a course in argument and debating would aid the students in the Intercollegiate Debates.
IV. The reasons for the inclusion in a literary training of French and German are as strong as ever. France is no longer the leading power of Europe, her language is to some extent giving place to English as a medium of international communication and it may be that her national greatness is declining. But she remains the centre of European ideas. The thoughts of Europe must still come to France for expression. With ten centuries of a glorious past behind her she still offers to the world her gifts of with, good sense and a clear limpid style. Her rival, the meditative and romantic Germany of the middle ages with her feudal barons and enchanted forests, has become the great, practical industrious well-armed German empire. Under the lead of fearlessly independent thinkers she has outstripped the world in the thoroughness of her technical training and in the laborious minuteness and brilliant successes of her scientific investigation.
The aim of instruction in a modern language in a general course should be neither proficiency in speech nor in composition. Such proficiency can scarcely be attained in the two or three hours a week for four years. It takes two years of continuous residence in France or Germany to learn to speak French or German without having first read a good deal. Conversation and composition should be studied therefore, not to an end, namely the ability to read French or German without translation.
It is best to begin college work with bright modern books full of entertaining description and incident. These must be supplemented by a modicum of grammar that the principles of the language may be intelligently grasped; composition gives the student a mastery over their practical application; and conversation is unequalled for giving the sense of attainment and of familiarity with the language. When about two years have been spent in this work, and the student can read the language with ease and knows something of the country and people, it is time for him to begin on the great classics and not before. By the end of his senior year there is no reason why the students should not have typical works of Corneille, Moliere, Racine, Bossuet, Chateaubriand, Hugo and George Sand ; or of Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Uhland and Heine ; and have obtained some definite idea of the literary movements and personal association for which these names stand.
Having concluded our discussion of the contents and methods of a literary training and congratulated ourselves that the University has creditably upheld that ideal, let us consider very briefly some of the other subjects of the ideal University course and what our University has accomplished in them.
With literature the student needs philosophy, to trace order and system beneath its impulsive and concrete forms of expression. Without philosophy an education has no coherent force, but sinks into an inert mass of information. Philosophy connects, solidifies and arranges our diversified knowledge and shows the beauty, harmony and design which run through the universe and the mind of man.
Modern history should not be neglected in a University course. A young country like ours needs the stimulus of historical study to rouse and heighten national feeling. The study of history greatly helps the study of literature by imparting the sense of reality, and of ordered progress, It would greatly strengthen the arts course of the University if the present excellent department of economics were supplemented by the creation of a chair in history.
Without its courses in pure and applied science, the university of the twentieth century would have no right to exist. Not only is a knowledge of the principles of science necessary for the modern man, but its acquirement is of the highest value as a mental training. The exuberant variety and the orderly course of the universe as seen in such studies as mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy and geology are powerful agents for the enlargement and tranquilizing of the mind.
The presence in a university of a strong technical school is a source of great advantage. It unites the studious atmosphere of the class-room with the practical spirit of modern life and prevents the university in its striving for mental culture, from getting out of touch with the world's work. It brings from a wide area large numbers of bright earnest students whose presence and work increase the influence and prestige of the university.
Our engineering school is yet young, but it has stimulated the works of all departments ; it has doubled the number of students in attendance, and it has proved itself one of the greatest forces for the University's advancement.
I shall now offer a few suggestions on the last point, namely, how work of our University may be further extended and strengthened ; and I shall group my suggestions under the headings of teachers and books. For indeed these two elements rather than buildings or equipment are the essentials of a university. Universities arose, as Carlyle reminds us, out of the gathering of thousands of students to hear a great teacher such as Abelard. Since the invention of printing the true university is a collection of books. Whatever else is neglects the university cannot afford to economise in these two essentials.
There are many ways in which the teaching staff of our University might be strengthened. But omitting much that we should like to see and confining ourselves to what is both reasonable and possible we mention our most urgent needs. In the scientific department a professor of chemistry should be at once appointed. Only the most fortunate chance brought us the services of Mr. John Brittain this year and under present arrangements his assistance can be but temporary. It is unworthy of our province that so important a subject as chemistry should so long be left unprovided for in its own university.
If the attendance increases at the present rate it will soon be necessary to separate the chair of English from that of French and create a Chair of Modern Languages. It will of course be always possible for one man to conduct all the lectures. But if the amount of written work is to be kept up to the standard just outlined no one man will be equal to the task of correction, conference and revision and of maintaining at the same time the scholarship of his lectures. The division of the work between two men would insure splendid English, French and German instruction for years to come. The appointment of a professor of modern history would also greatly strengthen the arts course.
Turning to the subject of books, we find that the endowment of the college library is most urgently needed. At present, the sum available for additions to the whole library is $100 per annum. This means that for the purpose of supplying his department with the newest records of research and of adding to a slender list of books of reference each professor receives yearly the munificent sum of $14.28. How is it possible to maintain a high standard of scholarship and thoroughness of instruction when a man must depend for the tools of his trade on such a beggarly pittance?
We realize perfectly the obstacle which have prevented the government from increasing the annual grant. We are grateful to the Premier for his kind words in the Budget speech and we hope that his good purposes towards us many be realized. Meanwhile let all friends of the University strengthen his hands by a campaign of education against popular indifference and prejudice.
To all such friends and especially to the graduates of the University we appeal to rally around our old Alma Mater. She has reached a crisis in her history. Today she has had the lead ; should she now let her rivals catch up to her she would never recover it. Pending on increase of the provincial grant, let alumni and sympathizers unite in a movement to increase the endowment by private means. Harvard University with all her great resources finds that she cannot keep her professors and calls on her alumni for two million dollars. And she will get it. If our graduates gave in such a spirit of enthusiasm our wants would soon be supplied. In what nobler way could a native of New Brunswick perpetuate his memory than by founding in the provincial university a professorial chair which should forever bear his name? And might not a number of our graduates unite to establish a permanent library fund?
Members of the Senior Class, who are about to pass from these sheltered halls into the "wide, wide world" never cease to plan and work for Alma Mater. Keep up your organization as a class and be ready to do your part towards aiding her in time of need. Remember and be grateful for the work and play you have enjoyed here, the friendships you have formed, the training you have received. Resolve now that with God's help you will live up to your highest ideals. "The latest Gospel in this world is, Know thy work and do it" and "Work while it is called today, for the night cometh when no man can work." To cheer your way listen to the music of Goethe's grand Road-song translated by Carlyle for the encouragement of all English workers ;
The future hides in it
Gladness and sorrow,
We press still thorow,
Nought that abides in it
And solemn before us,
Veiled, the dark Portal,
Goal of all mortal;
Stars silent rest o'er us,
Graves under us silent!
While earnest thou gazest,
Comes boding of terror,
Comes phantasm and error
Perplexes the bravest
With doubt and misgiving.
But heard are the Voices,
Heard are the Sages,
The Worlds and the Ages ;
"Choose well; your choice is
Brief and yet endless;
Here eyes do regard you
In Eternity's stillness;
Here is all fullness,
Ye brave, to reward you;
Work, and despair not."
Addresses may be reproduced for research purposes only. Publication in whole or in part requires written permission from the author.