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DURING the last few years a great and important change has been effected in many of the old Grammar Schools in the kingdom. A growing feeling obtained that they were inadequate to meet the demands and requirements of the present day, so long as their course of study was confined to classical literature. In consequence of this, instruction in English language has been introduced into many of them, and far greater numbers have been thereby enabled to share the blessings these venerable establishments were intended to disperse abroad. Another class of schools has also arisen in large and important towns. I allude to the Diocesan Classical, and Commercial schools. The old establishments were founded as seminaries of sound learning and religious education, and the new ones were raised upon the same foundation ; both being intended to rear the children of the Church of England in the pure faith and practice of Church of England men, and so to make obedient children, loyal subjects, honest Churchmen, and
good Christians. My own opinion is, that this was wise and salutary measure, and that the fears which were felt, lest classical studies should be thereby impeded, were groundless. There can be no question that scholars, who are conversant with the analogy of language, and who have been in the habit of reducing compound words to their primitive elements, are better qualified to teach our own tongue than others, who have not been accustomed to those habits of strict accuracy, which verbal criticism cannot fail to impart. Nor can it be doubted by those who have experience in the matter, that our own language may be made the handmaid of classical studies, and a powerful instrument for bringing the mind into a healthy state of discipline. A reading lesson implies more than attention to pauses, accent, and pronunciation, although these are of unquestionable importance. It implies a thorough examination of every difficult word, and an accurate investigation of the changes produced by affixes and prefixes. To take only the forms of the compounds from duco, we have from
Now, it is impossible to examine words in this manner (whether they are of Greek or Latin origin) without giving a lesson at the same time in those languages, and accustoming the scholar to strict habits of thought. With a black board, lessons of this character may be given to a class, however large; and, with a master devoted to his work, no lesson will be too difficult for those who know the veriest elements of Latin and Greek.
In consequence of this change a new kind of reading-book has been called for; one, which, whilst it should not be inferior in literary merit to other class-books, should contain some strictly religious lessons for the use of Christian boys. It might at first sight appear, that good principled histories would to a certain extent, supply this desideratum. Such, however, is not the case. My own experience in connection with large educational establishments (as well as that of other masters with whom I have corresponded), leads me to conclude that the use of histories as reading-books, is, to say the least, highly injudicious. History should be studied with as much precision and exactness as Geography, Science, or Classics. The students of history should be taught to trace the rise and fall of nations—to scrutinize the characters and principles of those who have gone before-to see in the past the traces of God's superintending providence, and so to learn
that righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. But the instant that historical works come into daily use, as mere readingbooks, these grand objects are lost sight of; the interest of the scholar invariably. flags; and the knowledge of bare facts, is, in most cases, all that is acquired.
A class-book must contain variety, and be of such a nature that the powers of thought and imagination may be cultivated and developed. To secure this has been my great object and desire in the present work; and, though the subjects have been arranged under their several heads, it is not intended that they should be read in order. This arrangement has been adopted to facilitate the labours of the master, by enabling him to vary the lessons daily, or as he may think fit. In the selection some old favourites have been retained, for fear of incurring the censure of my young readers, if pieces, in which many have delighted in former days, were withheld from them.
My thanks are due to my friend, the Rev. H. Thompson, who has contributed the beautiful poem on the “Convolvulus Major,” and through whose kindness I received the charming ballad, “Danish Margaret” I am also indebted to another friend for the “School Boy's Christmas Song."
I can only hope that the present effort will meet