Classical Studies -- By: Calvin Pease
BSac 9:35 (July 1852) p. 507
It is proposed, in the following Article, to treat of Classical Studies as a means of general culture, under the three following heads:
1. Of the nature of literature generally as a source of culture;
2. Of the essential likeness and the incidental differences between the best, i.e. the classical literatures of different periods and countries; and
3. Of the bearing of classical studies upon the social and civil relations.
1. Of The Nature Of Literature Generally As A Source Of Culture
It is somewhere remarked by the late John Foster, that in respect to the generality of readers, no effect at all is produced, by the noblest works of genius, on their habits of thought, sentiments and taste; that their moral tone becomes no deeper, no mellower. It is
BSac 9:35 (July 1852) p. 508
undoubtedly true that good books are much more praised than read, and much more read than appreciated. But to say, in respect to any class of readers, that such works exert on them absolutely no cultivating influence, is stating the matter too strongly; and is rather the impatient protest of a finely sensitive mind, awake to all that is beautiful and profound in the great productions of genius, than the deliberate judgment of an accurate observer. Indeed, it could hardly be otherwise than that a mind of this highly sensitive cast, even in spite of the moderating effect of a deep and liberal culture, should notice, with indignant astonishment, the apathy with which common minds peruse passages by which it has itself been deeply moved. But the influence of literature cannot be estimated by its immediate effect upon any class of readers. The striking passages, which seem to challenge the admiration of mankind, and are treasured up in the memories and hearts of scholars, are not those which exert the most powerful influence on the world, or even on those who appreciate and admire them most. That far larger portion of a great work, which forms the basis of its sublime elevations and towering mountain summits, is not only that which determines and fixes its character, but is the source of its greatest power and most enduring influence. There can be no mountains where there are no plains to support them; no low grounds for them to tower above; and our sense of their sublimity is dependent on the measurements and comparisons to which we have become accustomed on the plain.
It is true that the more marked and striking portions of a great literary work, have the effect to induce a lofty mood; but this, from the very fact that it is a mood, must be temporary; and must, moreover, be su...
Click here to subscribe