Page images


In the Chateau de Versailles, as the visitor is led on from one gallery of paintings and sculpture to another, he discovers that he is steadily following the course of French History across the stretch of centuries. Each room comprises a chapter, each group a section, each single piece of art a paragraph. The steadier movements of French life are indicated by a succession of ordinary paintings and sculptures,-portraits of the monarchs, busts of the philosophers, representations of death in the palace or of coronations in the cathedral. When this regular movement is broken up by a revolution, a great battle, or the coming in of a new dynasty, there the artist has put in an imposing picture, which, by its great size, its gorgeous coloring and its suggestive character, at once arrests the attention, impresses the heart, and writes the illuminated story on the memory. These great masterpieces are the successive headlands which the French nation has thrown out upon public observation ;—or the cataracts in the stream of its life which compel the traveller to linger and listen and meditate. And in this significant, unique and impressive method Horace Vernet has told the story of France to the peasant who had no time, nor money, nor taste, for ordinary libraries, and imparted new vividness to the impressions on the mind of the most laborious and diligent student.

Now almost precisely what Vernet has done with French History, and done for the ordinary peasant and the hurried traveller, the teacher, in every sphere which he occupies, is set to do with his varied knowledge, and for the various and successive classes of his pupils. The implements used are different, but the aim and the method are almost precisely the same. The painter employs his pigments and brushes; the teacher uses words and vocal expression. Colors are the alphabet of one instructor; tones are chiefly resorted to by the other. But both alike are seeking to embody their inward thoughts, conceptions and emotions. Both are endeavoring to unfold ideas. Both are seeking to present to another mind the image of what is within themselves. And so both are artists, working in the true sphere of art. And as the painter is to be estimated according to the character of his conceptions and the vividness with which he sets them forth on the canvas, so the teacher is to be judged by the real wealth inherent in his knowledge and ideas, and by the distinctness with which he presents them before his pupils. The teacher must instruct by means of pictures no less than the painter ; and his success as an artist is dependent mostly on the same conditions as those which indicate the road along which the student at Florence or Rome must walk to triumph. It is the fruit of study —the ultimate reward of much and long-continued and patient effort. A high aim and the zeal of labor make


its parentage. Words are pictures of ideas, as a photograph is the picture of a face. And these pictures are always presented to the mind. A word on a printed page carries the image of the idea to the mind through the avenue of sight; a word spoken carries the picture to the mind through the avenue of hearing ; but in both cases the idea is hung up at last in the same gallery. Modern printing involves the same principles as the ancient basreliefs of Assyria, the rudest inscriptions in the Roman Catacombs, or the still more recent picture-writing of Mexico. The range of representative ideas has been enlarged, the methods have been simplified, and the facilities for rapid execution have been increased ; but the same great law underlies the whole.

Nor are the verbal symbols of ideas wholly arbitrary. The thought and the word,—the thing and the representative,-have often marked and obvious correspondences. There is something more than accident in the consent to employ certain words as the significates of certain notions or things. The matter is not wholly explained when we say that men have agreed to employ a given word as the significate of a given thought. There are often reasons,—obvious reasons, too,—why they have thus agreed. And, in multitudes of cases, where the reason is not obvious, we may be sure it existed.

No one can fail to perceive how strikingly such words as the following suggest, and how naturally they would be suggested by, the very objects and mental states which they denote ;—viz., hiss, crash, screech, thunder, drawl, jingle, roar, drum, sing, lullaby, clatter, glide, quick, &c. The very words themselves, as we hear them pronounced, carry their meaning very largely to the

ear of a foreigner. Nearly all the words employed to denote purely mental states or processes, exhibit, by reference to their original use and etymology, the reason for their present use, and glow with the distinctness of their meaning. So much has been done by recent writers to direct attention to this feature in language that there is little need of dwelling on it. A single and familiar example may be found in the word educate, whose etymology and history make it denote the leading out of the various powers of the mind, that were lying latent, concealed and inefficient, to disciplined activity and conquest; just as a military commander takes the untrained citizens of a state, organizes, drills, harmonizes and inspires them, and then marches them to the overthrow of enemies and the deliverance of a groaning state. That simple word educate is really such a complete picture of military organization, discipline and conquest. And yet it

may be that many teachers have used it a thousand times without making their pupils discover more than the smallest fraction of its meaning, and, indeed, without discovering it themselves. Though it be such a thrilling picture, hanging always before them, they see nothing more than the letters which spell its subject; as a strolling plodder through the galleries of Hampton Court might discover nothing but “Paul preaching at Athens,” “Elymas the Sorcerer,” &c., against the corresponding numbers on his catalogue, as he stood before the immortal Cartoons of Raffaelle. And what is true of this word educate is true of a very great portion of the large class of words to which it belongs, used with the same freedom, and yet never brought forth from the mist by study.

Phrases that involve comparison or carry a metaphor often possess a high wealth of picturesqueness, and are full of suggestive

power. The development of this wealth, and the employment of this power measure, with considerable accuracy, the genius and eminence of poets. Children,—who are generally poets by instinct,-fill their speech with such picture-making words. The most vivid objects alone impress them, and their verbal pigments are distinguished for their bright colors. With them the objects described are " white as snow,sweet as honey,"

cored as blood," bright as the sun,big as a house;" the pain bites, a cough is naughty, sleepiness is to feel lazy. How often in after years do we acquire what we call accuracy, at the expense of vividness and force!

Words, then, are simple pictures, or single features in a complex picture, or so many pigments of varying hue which the teacher-artist is to employ in representing his knowledge and ideas to his pupils. True enough, no genuine teacher will, or can, wholly confine himself to mere words in giving instruction. The same word will mean much or little, one thing or another, and awaken variant mental moods in the pupil, according to the tone in which it is spoken. It is said of Channing that he would utter the word immortality so as to draw tears from half his audience. Words naturally implying reproof may carry a compliment; and a verbal prohibition is often a mental license. A negative answer is sometimes justly interpreted affirmatively; and a terrible threat now and then lurks in the irony of an apparent permission. And how a teacher's face, lit up with enthusiasm, will make a common sentence overflow with eloquence, and the dryest solution in mathematics is delicious with flavored jucies when the expounder is on fire with zeal! A mere look will sometimes so reveal the sadness and yearning of a teacher's heart, that the wayward boy whom punishments only made defiant, breaks down in penitence, like Peter beneath the glance of the Messiah. Whatever pictures, or helps to picture, the teacher's spirit to the pupil's apprehension, is an element of influence, and surely contributes to the final result.

From what has been said it is obvious that, other things being equal, the success of a teacher will generally be measured by his power of vivid representation ;-always taking it for granted that his pictures are accurate copies rather than striking caricatures. He who thoroughly understands the office of words, and compels them to magnify that office; who perceives their exact and implied meaning, and forever holds them up when and where all their contents will be obvious to his pupils; who reproduces his own ideas with such definiteness of outline and vividness of coloring that every feature is forced upon the notice of the observer ;-he will not labor in vain nor spend his strength for naught.

To the question,-How is this power to be gained and exer

cised ? there is room for only the briefest answer; and this even must take, like the rest of this essay, the form of simple Hunts.

First of all, a teacher needs accurate conceptions. He can clearly portray only what he clearly sees. He can explain only what he really understands. If his own ideas are in the mist, he ohnnot put them into the bright sunshine for another eye. If he has only half mastered a subject, he will put his pupil in contact with it only to bring him a defeat. If twilight makes the oriġinal dusty, the copy-picture will be dark with the shadows of night.

This accuracy and clearness of thought may be somewhat owing: to peculiar mental endowment,—to the strength and activity of imagination,—to the training which has been received, and to other circumstances which were determined ab extra. But this is by no means the only or the adequate explanation. Some minds consent to abide in a perpetual fog. When the eyes have been opened sufficiently to “see men as trees walking," there is contentment; and so the healing stops half way to the cure. Every man knows some things thoroughly. And a strong, practical resolution to know whatever is possible in the same way, would scatter the mist from many a half-hidden idea, as a north-western breeze scatters the mists of Newfoundland and uncovers the bold headlands of Cape Race. A natural animation of manner, and an enthusiasm which takes fire with as little friction as phosphorus, are valuable traits, without doubt; but a clear, piercing vision is far better. Indeed such definite conceptions fill manner with animation, and constitute the soil from which a genuine enthusiasm springs.

A ready command of language is certainly of great service. And yet that natural “ gift of gab” which so many covet, and

which such marvels are attributed, is a thing rarely found, ad; when it is, it is apt to be greatly overestimated. The old maximi that "the orator is born, not made," as usually interpreted, carries 'a falsehood with it. The accurate and fitting and skilful use of speech is always a laborious attainment. A man who never waited for a word is a man who takes an immense number of wrong ones: The language of a perpetual talker is


« PreviousContinue »