Friday, 11 October 2013

USEFUL KNOWLEDGE.

. . . . . . the species of instruction sought to be imposed upon the rising generation of Van Diemen's Land, whereby they were to be informed in all noble arts and sciences—imbued with the love of literature and animated in the pursuit of virtue and fame, so that in after life they might conduce to relieve the character of the colony of the foul aspersions cast upon it, and best vindicate its reputation by their own worth.
If low-bred arts—vulgar pride of purse—an addiction to mean insinuations and suspicion—a revengeful and malignant disposition—a proneness to insult and outrage all honourable feeling—and an equal readiness to retire beneath the cover of some vow, in vile imitation of the vilest part of O'Connell's character— if these are to be our claims upon the regard of the people of England, and to rescue our reputation from unmerited obloquy, then let us have a college modelled accordingly, for we can find Professors, and to the colonial youth we may say,
Hœ tibi stint artes—si qua fata aspera rumpas.
Tu Marcellus eris.
 These are your accomplishments, and if you live you will be a worthy offshoot of a penal colony, and redeem the fallen character of your country by the sacrifice of your own ; but if your object is to train up the child in the way he should go, and to imbue him with the habits and feelings, not alone of the scholar but the gentleman, and to teach him that when emancipated out of the thraldom of a narrow circle, and thrown upon the world, it is not an allegiance to cunning and low pursuits that will be exacted of him, but a different measure of obedience altogether, for he will find that no wealth will ever redeem the forfeiture of honour or honourable feeling, and that society is so constituted in England that a University reputation follows a man through life.

. . . . . . Our youth will, we trust, in the new College, learn better to appreciate such logic as some of our modern instances afford, and which look like the pettifogging dregs of a penal colony. A feeble outcry has been raised against it as being aristocratic in its constitution, as if the shopocracy cannot far better afford to educate their children at an expensive rate, than either the settlers or public officers whom they live upon. We certainly wish to see it so far aristocratic as that it will be the means of creating, not a vulgar aristocracy of wealth, but an aristocracy of thought and an elevation of sentiment, and an honourable emulation amongst young men. We subjoin an extract from Fraser's Magazine, wherein the London University is glanced at. This emporium of genius was lately held up to view as something worthy of our exalted ambition.

* * * * * *
The substantive knowledge is by no means used in the peculiar connection indicated by the heading, in that catholic and comprehending sense which primarily belonged to it. The ethics, and the morale, and the religion that regulate the one and gave their colour and crystallization to the other, are all understood by the patentees to be excluded. Anything pertaining to the cultivation of the heart or conduct, it would be regarded as an insult to introduce. It means the knowledge of locomotive engines; the gradients of railroads; the pressure and generation of sham political economy ; fiscal, municipal and other kindred sorts of finance. 
It regards him as worthy of a doctor's degree who can with the greatest speed run a railroad through lovely landscapes, wide-spread panoramas, hoary ruins, and venerable mementoes of departed ages—who can construct a station-house from the ruins of an ancient abbey, sleepers from Shakspeare's mulberry tree or the royal oak, and collect fuel for the furnaces from the charcoal foundations of the Temple of Ephesus. If a savan can save 3s., even at the risk of demoralizing the age in which he lives,—reduce taxation by one farthing a-head, even though he should so weaken navy and army that the weakest continental armament might overpower both together—that man is a very Adam Smith—a Malthus ; or if there be any other name as sweet, useful knowledge means any process which, in the least time, and with the least trouble, can produce the largest pecuniary results. It is incense offered on the altar of Mammon. Its proper representative genius is a fat, pursy personage, with inexpressibles nature rebels against, bald pate and inky doublet, sitting at a table or writing-desk, forging out of his boiling wits, with adjacent paste and scissors, an article or treatise for Dr. Lardner's Encyclopædia ; over which he evinces at intervals, and displays twitches in the nerves of his cheeks as he anticipates, with prophetic certainty, the fearful drubbing about to be administered to him in Fraser's Magazine. The whole man is a thing of shreds and patches. Around him are gutted pamphlets, ex-paragraphed newspapers, and similar mines, out of which the scissors have removed, with discriminating precision, the cream and the interest. The genius of the useful knowledge mongers would rather see a mechanics' institute than a Christian temple or cathedral, a treatise on botany rather than a Bible ; and the British Association for the advancement of science he prefers to Paradise itself. If all the chimney-sweeps could jabber philosophy, the dustmen chemistry, the milkmaids hydrostatics, and the coalheavers mineralogy, he would believe more than millennial days had come, and that the human race had attained perfection. Homer's Illiad and Paradise Lost he would use to light his study fire ; St. Paul's Cathedral would be a lumber room, and Westminster Abbey a depository for cranks, and cogs, and broken machinery ; ancient MSS. of the Bible would be subjected to a process of cleansing, and made available for useful knowledge diplomas ; and those of the classics might be converted into useful bindings for Dr. Lardner's works. Virgil, Horace, Æchylus, Euripides, Scott, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, must all be displaced from the high niches on which Genius has placed them ; and these must be filled by Jeremy Bentham, M'Culloch, Mills, Ricardo, &c. &c, the favourites of useful knowledge.

It is, by the by, one of the finest blunders of the age to originate a University of London ; and this apart from any objection to the principles on which it may be founded, or the philosophy it is to teach. London has been for centuries, and now is, in a distinctive and peculiar sense, a University,—the University of the world. If we wish to examine ancient manuscripts, and to explore the writings of past ages, we retire to the sequestered halls of Oxford and of Cambridge. If, on the other hand, we desire to collate men, we come to London, the great Metropolitan University. Any jumbling of the two will neutralize the good of either. It is as absurd to bring a University to London, as it would be to bring London to Oxford.
The experiment sprung from the genius of the useful knowledge spirits ; and the result shows the accuracy of what we have stated,—salary-less professors, empty class-rooms; and the whole concern a mere hospital, or theatre for anatomical lectures and dissections, enlivened by occasional flashes of animal magnetism ; and the whole deserted by Christianity, are the toadlings of that magnificent conception, University College. And King's College, notwithstanding its vast superiority in principle, in constitution, and in patronage, is either chiefly a medical school, or, what it should be, a higher preparatory grammar or public school, for the Universities. 

 The Courier 20 October 1840,

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