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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

XIV. Education

§ 34. Essays on a liberal education

The ground taken by Mill in reference to literature and science is that occupied by the nine distinguished writers who, under the editorship of Frederic William Farrar, published in 1867, Essays on a liberal education. Henry Sidgwick, senior classic in 1859, writing on the theory of classical education dismisses, as sophistical, many of the stock contentions in its favour; he is particularly severe when commenting on the assertions of “the enthusiast, Mr. Thring.” Sidgwick urges that the ancient authors are fine educational instruments just because their work is literature, and, on that ground, it is reasonable to employ, for a like purpose, the literature of modern tongues. He admits the claim of natural science to its place in modern education, favours the reform of methods of teaching Latin and Greek, and, in particular, would remove “verses” from among compulsory studies, a contention to which the editor, Farrar, devotes his own essay. After the senior classic, the senior wrangler: James Maurice Wilson contributes a weighty and temperately written essay on behalf of science, which is the more convincing since it illustrates, with some detail, the serious work which boys may undertake, even when they give only two hours a week to it. John Wesley Hales, in an essay on the teaching of English, urged that a child’s first notions of grammar should be derived from study of the vernacular, a rule very generally accepted at the present time. Sir John Seeley (then professor of Latin at University college, London), writing on liberal education in universities, confined himself to defects in the tutorial system of the colleges, to the baneful effects of examinations and of the exaggerated importance attached to “triposes” and “schools.” He suggested, as remedies, the alphabetical arrangement of all “honours” lists, the institution of intercollegiate lectures and a greater readiness on the part of colleges to admit members of other societies to fellowships—matters of organisation now generally in operation.