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ners are the domestic politics of us all, and no less so the domestic religion. But how are we to understand either of these without some tuition, some learning? If we understand neither, it is plain we are at the mercy any rabid writer, or eloquent and plausible speaker, who may be in the right, but who more likely is simply like Belial, able “to make the worse appear the better reason.” Hence the vulgar-meaning the common people, and so called from a Latin phrase, mobile vulgus -the moveable, easily excited, common people are peculiarly the prey of the eloquent demagogue, who, in every age, is and has been opposed to education. Hence it is that Shakespeare, a self-educated and truly wise man, makes Jack Cade hang the clerk of Chatham, with his pen and inkhorn round his neck, because he had been found teaching little boys to read. Hence the Pharisees were opposed to the Saviour, who not only opened portions of the Scriptures to the doctors, but also proclaimed it as one of the peculiar objects of His mission, and proof of His Divine calling, that the poor should have the gospel preached to them. Hence, too, many who would be only satisfied by having their own views disseminated, are against any scheme of national education : for instance, a Roman Catholic priest threatened an Irish landlord to have his schools shut up-schools in which Roman Catholic children were instructed by their own teachers in their own faith—unless those schools were put under his immediate direction. Hence, also, on the other side of the question, Mr. John Bright objects to newspapers having leading articles written in them, because these articles undoubtedly influence opinion. Now, the only cure for all this and such like tyranny, the only guard
against “my” dogmatism and “your” dogmatism, is to make people think justly and rightly upon a common principle. The result may not please you or me, but it will ennoble and enlighten the people; and the means is Education.
Let us first, however, understand what is the meaning of the word education ; for all understanding depends upon the meaning of words. Education (e, Latin, from, out of, and duco, I lead) is a leading out of ignorance, an exodus from that land of Egyptian darkness and bondage. But remember, it is a means, not an end. No man or woman is ever perfectly educated : that is, his or her education is never finished. It begins from the cradle, and ends, it is generally believed, in the grave; perhaps—and the view is a sublime one-our education then best commences when spirit is freed from the flesh. For this reason it is absurd to talk of “finishing academies "-both words being ignorantly used. Our education is never finished.
This explanation of the word education will serve to illustrate the first step to be taken in self-improvement; which is, to try, as hard as the self-teacher can, to understand every word he reads, and, as a consequence of this, to put aside all books and all writers that he cannot understand. Such books burden and fill his mind with useless lumber. Such writers themselves, too, it may be added, do not always express clearly what they wish to convey, and therefore are obscure, hidden, wordy, and dry to the humble student. When a man knows what he is writing about, he writes plainly, simply, gracefully; and the result is that, although the subject may be dry, the mind of the reader is refreshed. A clock to a savage who knows nothing SELF-EDUCATION.
of time, a thermometer to a negro who knows nothing of the measurement of heat, are simply worthless articles ; very admirable in themselves, but beyond the comprehension of the individual. As with stomachs, so with minds : a ruminating animal would be killed or starved with a plentiful supply of flesh meat; a tiger could not live upon grass. The duty of the self-educator is therefore to seize eagerly that which he does understand, and to nourish his mind with it, and to reject that which he cannot comprehend, or to defer it until he shall be more advanced, and able to master it.
Now, in some sort to make a fair beginning, the first thing is to understand the meaning of words. They are most important things ; just as bricks make a wall, so words build up a book. No man who wishes to educate himself should be without a dictionary, nor should he ever pass by a word which he does not understand. If he take this trouble, he will be far on the way of self-improvement in a very short time. Horne Tooke, in his “ Diversions of Purley” (a book which has suggested Dean Trench's "Study of Words," and Dean Alford's "Queen's English,"both of which are very amusing as well as useful books, admirable in many ways, though not perfect), says that he was made the victim in a court of law of two prepositions and a conjunction-OF, and CONCERNING, and THAT, which he maintains, and quite rightly, that the lawyers do not understand. The reason why lawyers do not understand English–the result being the misconstruction and frequent unjust miscarriage of our laws-is because, lawyers being originally priests and Normans, the laws were written in Norman-French and Latin, and the words (fatal result !) bore a different signification in
their rude jargon from that which they bear in common parlance. Nor will they, while they are allowed to hide themselves behind slang and wordiness, ever be much less than a curse, when they should be a blessing. In 1839, long after Tooke wrote, the Court of Queen's Bench, Sir F. Pollock, Mr. Justice Coleridge, the Attorney-General, Sir J. Campbell, and other learned lawyers, disputed at considerable length about the meaning of the word upon as a preposition of time, and hardly one knew whether it meant after or before. So grave a person as the Attorney-General said, “It may mean before—there can be no doubt at all !” Happily Sir F. Pollock, still alive, a very honoured old man, and learned in words, told them that, in the whole thirty meanings of the word in Johnson, it never meant before. It clearly means “after.” “Upon this being read, the Chancellor remarked,” &c. Upon this news being brought, the army marched," &c. But enough has been said with regard to this one word to show the importance of persons thoroughly mastering the meaning of every word. It is not only ridiculous to use fine words out of their sense, like Mrs. Malaprop, but it is miserably hurtful. A person, having acquired a word, and thinking it fine, may go through life using it in a foolish way, and hurting his own interests thereby, as did a worthy man, otherwise accomplished, who would use "culmination" for "calumniation," and "innuendo" for "incognito." The best way is to study words, to
masterthem, and then they will come properly to us when we want them; or to follow Cæsar's example, and avoid unaccustomed and large-swelling words as one would a rock in the sea.
Words mean things: they are living things. A man
WORDS AND THINGS. who knows how to use them has an unmeasured power: hence, in the quarrels of authors, there is much bitterness, because, knowing the value of their words, they use them so that they will cut. The “Times” once proved, from a passage in Mr. Lowe's volume of speeches, that Mr. Bright had said much more bitter things against the working man than ever Mr. Lowe had, whose words were not against the non-electors (Reformers), but against the electors, and were quite true. But Mr. Lowe is a master of his words, and they are remembered : Mr. Bright is a great orator, and his words sparkle and exhilarate, but they are too soon forgotten. Yet both these gentlemen are worth study; both are self-made men, and owe their advancement to a knowledge of words. While learning words, the student should speak slowly, weigh well what he says, and not utter the thought until it has properly suggested itself. When the thought is really present--though men, equally with women, “rattle on” often without the "ghost” of a thought-it will clothe itself in proper words; and a man may often be struck with his own eloquence. To return to Mr. Bright: it is because he really does feel and think-rightly or wrongly—that he speaks so warmly and so well.
In studying for improvement, it is important to know how to read a book; a much heavier task than many take it to be. From careless readers we have now many careless writers; but, where the book is good, it deserves to be well treated. One may take it also as a fact, that the reader really takes up a book to use it, not to gallop or to hurry through it. A man should take up a book as he would sit down to his dinnerto digest it and receive nourishment from it. It is well