17 FEBRUARY 1855, Page 14



This volume of Essays contributed by members of the University of Oxford,—whose bond is not identity of opinion, or any one definite practioal object, but simply that they have all been trained by one University,—is presented to the public at a time when Oxford is attracting the hopeful regards and earnest sympathies of all Englishmen who can rise above sectarian narrowness and bitter- ness to a national and philosophic elevation of view. It depends mainly on the class of men who have contributed them, whether the national hopes, directed to Oxford and Cambridge as centres of the higher education, meet disappointment, or flower into re- joicing consciousness of a great stage of progress safely passed and secured. So far as we have read the volume,—remembering that among the contributors are found none of the names of what we

may call Oxford celebrities, unless the authors of the Outlines of Thought and the Nemesis of Faith are in some degree entitled

to be considered celebrities,—it bears testimony to a high degree of mental power, invigorated by sound training, and to a judgment and taste refined by acquaintance with the best literature. Not one of the essays falls below the average standard of our best quarterly reviews, and certainly three of them rise to the excellence of our choicest periodical papers. The three to which we specially refer, not as finding any fault with the rest, but as having carefully read these from our interest in their subjects, are "Suggestions on the best Means of Teaching English History," by J. A. Fronde; "Crime and its Excuses," by the Reverend W. Thomson ; and "Oxford Sta. dies," by the Reverend M. Pattison. Mr. Froude's essay is not only eloquence of the best kind, the utterance of a lofty and generous na- ture directing a subtile and trained intellect, but it contains a practical suggestion of, as appears to us, the highest value. After pointing out the difficulties that obstruct any one who wishes to learn English history, and still more who wishes to teach it sr- tematically, Mr. Froude advises, that at present, and for the petted from Henry the Seventh to the Restoration, the Statutes at large should form the text-book for student and teacher at the Universi- ties. The essay deserves to be generally read, and we will not lessen the temptation by offeing an epitome of his arguments : we will simply quote one of them at length, as a specimen of his mode of treatment and style.

"Once more, the course which we recommend will preserve us from another temptation into which we are greatly inclined to fall. Personality is one temptation. Theorizing is another, linen worse. More or less we have always been exposed to theorizing : we have had Catholic views and Protestant, Tory and Whig, Liberal and Conservative, out of which treo-rorxia errou ivav-rituv we have been left to gather up the truth; and no sooner have we begun to congratulate ourselves that the current in this direction is running rather less violently, than symptoms appear of a set in a fresh direction which will make our new position worse than our old. We used to have party histories, and we knew what to do with them. Now we have philosophic histories, and what we shall do with them who is able to tell ? Philosophy of Progress, Development of Humanity, Laws of the Growth of the Species,—these are the fine-sounding words which are now- a-days clamoured in our ears, as if poor mankind were a sort of a thing that grew by rules like a tree, putting out leaves at one time, flowers at another, fruit at another, then seed-time, and so on. And then it must have its roots : some considering that they are in its brain—in its knowledge, inform- ation, or acquaintance with the laws of Nature ; others placing them in its heart—in its ideas of excellence, philosophic estimate of the Deity, and so on. Of course, also, to all this there must be an opposition : there are people who disbelieve in Progress altogether, and believein just the 'opposite of that—in our corruption, decline, and approaching ruin. A view of some kind everybody just now thinks it right to have about the matter ; the ten- dency to form such view being, we believe, in accurate proportion to the ig- norance of the person forming it. The better people know things, the lees they have views about them. The thing itself is the true object of know- ledge, and the mind rests in that. Now, however easy it may be to have views of action when we only know them dimly, and views of characters when we form our conceptions of them in the shape which will beat fit into our hypothesis, it is not easy to have a view about a Statute : a statute is it- self a view—a view not of our own, but of the persons whose times we are studying respecting matters in which they had themselves to act ; and the necessity of understanding this will be found, if not wholly repressive of our speculative tendencies, yet, at least, to clip their wings very elosa to_ the quick, and confine their circuit within a far shorter radius of the fact. And in this way the difficulties will be very much obviated, arising from the dis- agreement between tutors of opposite opinions, and from the vagaries of pro- fessors ambitious of originality, or who conceive that the accurate revolution of the planets and the stability of the solar system depend upon the due acceptance of their small theological formulas. In such hands History, while it is merely a collection of facts, may be readily arranged into such a form as will say what they wish it to say,—by the omitting, that is, or throwing into shadow, all the facto that make the other way, and by a judicious use of emphasis in the distribution of the rest. But the Statutes will be far leas submissive to manipulation. An eloquent tutor may, no doubt, do something of the kind with them ; it is a pity, but it cannot be helped. But if a know- ledge of the letter of the Statutes be peremptorily insisted on, it will remain a perpetual obstacle and a perpetual corrective, like the ballast of a ship, which, though insufficient to prevent her from heeling to-the wind, yet keeps her meanwhile secure from an upset ; and, as soon as the persuasive breath has ceased to bear upon her, brings her straight upon her keel again."

"Crime and its Excuses" is an exhaustive treatment of the diflir cult question of determining the boundary-line between legal guilt and legal madness. If nothing absolutely new is advanced, the com- pleteness of treatment—so far as it can be treated without entering upon regions purely metaphysical, or purely medical—the ad- mirable good sense and humane feeling, have a better effect than any novelty. Here is the practical conclusion, steering clear of the harsh cruelty of legal pedantry on the one hand, and refusing on the other hand to surrender the interests of society to a spurious

• Oxford Essays, Conti ibuted by If embei s of the Univers:ty. Published by Parker and Son.

sentimentalism, or to a medical science that has established nothing as yet except its OWII uncertainty. "The doctrine of limited responsibility is held by every one in his daily dealings. He makes excuse for the failings of the ignorant, the infirm of purpose, the irascible ; he regards their peculiarities of temper and position as entitling them to indulgence. Is not the time approaching when such a doctrine will be admitted into the law of the land ? admitted, indeed, with the utmost caution : no sickly sentiment, no metaphysical theory, must rob society of her security against the felon. But there are cases in which cerebral disorder is clearly present, yet in which some practice known to be sinful has given to the malady its direction and consequences. A terrible case has lately shocked us—that of a mother who murdered six of her chil- dren, having been denounced by her husband for her infidelity, and dis- carded. Cerebral disease was actually present ; the woman was paralytic, I and the change in her mind after the loss of blood in the attempt to destroy ' herself was just such-as often occurs where a congested brain receives relief by hiemorrhage. But, then, the antecedents of the murder showed real criminality. Private assignations cunningly arranged, and vindictive feel- ing exhibited against her husband, were evidences of it. But there is no provision for a mixed act of this kind; and the jury would not convict, and so send the miserable woman out of the world for an act they did not un- derstand. 'We entertain the strongest conviction,' says Dr. Bucknill, that, had the jury been able to find Mrs. Brough guilty with extenuating circumstances, so as to escape capital punishment, but to insure the inflic- tion of perpetual imprisonment, they would have found that verdict.' The choice between murder, manslaughter, and insanity, to which a jury is now shut up, is not adequate to the present state of knowledge. A graduation of some sort should be attempted; the motiveless atrocity perpetrated by the acknowledged madman—the act which, from its appearance of motive, of skill in perpetration, of contrivance for escape, would be a crime but for the doubt thrown on it by the disturbed mental state of the agent—the crime perpetrated in a paroxysm of passion' which the will might have re- sisted—these are distinct grades. The first is a madness the last a crime; the second is the crime of an imperfectly free agent, and is in ascertaining this clews that we shall need all the skill and the observations of science to aid us. No fear need be entertained lest this should encourage crime. Some of the severer punishments might be modified, but the certainty of punishment would be greatly increased, because the jury could be trusted to convict ; they could not, as now, blink the evidence because the law is harsh. A few years ago, Mr. Charles Pearson proposed to bring in a bill for the regulation of the imprisonment of criminal lunatics, in which one of the provisions was, that during their detention there should be a power to impose on them hard labour. His views_, es explained by himself in a let- ter to Dr. Forbes 'Winslow, amount to a belief that there are many offenders who, if not quite sane, are not quite free from criminality. Whatever be- (lame of the hill, the same belief exists in many minds ; and some recogni- tion of limited responsibility would be a better way to meet it, than that of findings man innocent as insane and then punishing him by hard labour."

Mr. Pattison's essay is the best in many respects that we have yet read—and they count by scores—on reform of Oxford studies. Its fault is that it assumes a standard of knowledge and intellec- tual training only true of About ten per cent of the students who go up to either Oxford or Cambridge. All men practically con- versant with University life know that this constitutes the real, the at present insuperable difficulty in the way of materially ele- vating the standard of examination, or the level of college lecture- room teaching. It is well, however, to bear a standard in mind, as the aim and ideal of all our practical efforts ; and to maintain this standard is the true business and the real importance of the professoriate, pending the time when the students will come up generally prepared to profit by professorial teaching in the hands of England's profoundest scholars and thinkers. Alas! the sen- tence reads now, as regards both the majority of professors and students, more like bitter mockery than what it is, the expression of an earnest hope, which, if public opinion cared molly as much as it talks about education, would soon change into prophecy. 'What the Universities ought to do for our country, is clearly and forcibly indicated by Mr. Pattison in the following passage.

"But already we are beginning to find our wealth, population, and ma- terials, too vast for our capacities of system. We have no system in any- thing ; our affairs go on by dint of our practical sense, a stupid precedent supplying on all occasions the place of method. We are unable to organize our labour-market or our commerce, to codify our law, to administer any one department on a principle of management ; and every act of Parliament that is passed presents a laughable array of puzzling contradictions. We can build more solidly, durably, quickly, than at any former time, but we have no architecture ; we add room to room, but we cannot lay out an in- terior. All our arts of design are become mere copy legs from patterns. We lave brave and enduring soldiers, officers of resolution qnd skill, but no generalship. We have the stores and supplies of war in profusion, no ea- facitf.for organizing a commissariat. There is a corresponding deficiency in our education. We have some excellent discipline, in practical life, in public schooling, in the energy of our trade; we have no systematic educa- tion. All this is beginning to be understqpd and felt ; and there is a 'remedy. The necessary tendency of advancing civilization is to divide and subdivide the applications, as of labour, so of thought. The professions tend to split up into branches ; and skill in one becomes more and more in- compatible with skill in another. The more a subject has been explored, the more time does it take each succeeding student to follow the steps of his predecessors. To prevent the disabling effects of this specialty of pursuit, it becomes the more requisite to secure at starting a breadth of cultivation, a scientific formation of mind, a concert of the intellectual faculties. There is an organization of thought as well as of labour. What is wanted is to get this recognized as the proper remedy ; and to have it understood that this commanding superiority, this enlargement of mind, this grasp of things as they are, this clear-sightedness, sagacity, philosophical reach of mind, is to a great degree communicable by training. We, in- deed, are far from estimating this power by its applicability. Mental enlargement we know to be self-valuable, not useful ; but if it can be intro- duced to notice under colour of being useful in life, so be it, so only that it is introduced. The difficulty is to get the thing recognized at all by those who have it not. Cleverness, talent, skill, flnency, memory, all these are under- stood and rated in the market. A cultivated mind, just because it is above all price, inapt to be overlooked altogether. It argues some discernment and a considerable degree of education in a society in which such gifts are even appreciated as useful. And let it once establish itself, even under false pre- tences, such is its marvellous ascendancy, that like refined manners, it will conquer and propagate and extend itself by sympathy, by imitation,above all lir edueetton. In this subject eminently, it is true that the beginning is everything. Comprehensive intellect. is nothing in any given sphere of society, until the persons of Whom that society consists can be brought to see that each a thing exists. Once its existence understood, then, like law, or like conscience—which, indeed, is nothing but a comprehensive under- standing of moral relations—its right to judge and decide is admitted as of course. In this way it is that all diffusion of elementary education is, dis- tantly, yet eventually, a step towards the restoration of the higher."

The publisher of the Oxford Essays announces a similar volume from the sister University. Already the Journal of Philology has indicated the revival of a generous desire among the classical scholars of Cambridge and Oxford to contribute to the common stock of knowledge, and with the desire a commensurate power and fund of resources. Of course, no one at all acquainted with English literary society needs to be told that Camblidge and Ox- ford men have never ceased contributing their share to the general intellectual movements of the age ; but these more specific and formal avowals of a desire to join the discussions of the time, to add a more decided academic element to our periodical literature, deserve recognition and sympathy from all who appreciate what the influence of these institutions might be for good in our Intel- leetual development; who know that our periodical literature wants neither clearness nor brilliance, but does lamentably want sound knowledge, and sobriety of thought, and freedom from party and— worse than party—clique influences. In time, perhaps, the three publications of which we have spoken—the Oxford and the Cam- bridge Essays and the Philological Xournal—might usefully coa- lesce into one quarterly journal,, representing neither Whig nor Tory, Democrat nor Conservative, High nor Low Churchman, but that which is truly English, thoughtful, and hopeful, in all these minor divisions.