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Title: Talks on Teaching Literature
Author: Bates, Arlo
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Talks on Teaching Literature" ***

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Transcriber's Notes: Words in italics in the original are surrounded by
_underscores_. A row of asterisks represents a thought break. Ellipses
match the original. A complete list of corrections as well as other
notes follows the text.

                           TALKS ON TEACHING


                              ARLO BATES

               [Illustration: Riverside Press colophon]

                          BOSTON AND NEW YORK
                     HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
                    The Riverside Press, Cambridge

                     COPYRIGHT 1906 BY ARLO BATES

                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

                       _Published October 1906_

These Talks are founded upon lectures delivered before the Summer
School of the University of Illinois in June, 1905. The interest which
was shown in the subject and in the views expressed encouraged me to
state rather more elaborately and in book form what I felt in regard to
a matter which is certainly of great importance, and concerning which
so many teachers are in doubt. I wish here to express my obligation to
Assistant-Professor Henry G. Pearson, who has very kindly gone over the
manuscript, and to whom I am indebted for suggestions of great value.


        I. THE PROBLEM                               1

       II. THE CONDITIONS                           11

      III. SOME DIFFICULTIES                        28

       IV. OTHER OBSTACLES                          39

        V. FOUNDATIONS OF WORK                      61

       VI. PRELIMINARY WORK                         74


     VIII. AN ILLUSTRATION                          96

       IX. EDUCATIONAL                             109

        X. EXAMINATIONAL                           121

       XI. THE STUDY OF PROSE                      136

      XII. THE STUDY OF THE NOVEL                  152

     XIII. THE STUDY OF _MACBETH_                  165

      XIV. CRITICISM                               193

       XV. LITERARY WORKMANSHIP                    207

      XVI. LITERARY BIOGRAPHY                      222

     XVII. VOLUNTARY READING                       227

    XVIII. IN GENERAL                              237

           INDEX                                   245




Few earnest teachers of literature have escaped those black moments
when it seems perfectly evident that the one thing sure in connection
with the whole business is that literature cannot be taught. If they
are of sensitive conscience they are likely to have wondered at times
whether it is honest to go on pretending to give instruction in a
branch in which instruction was so obviously impossible. The more
they consider, the more evident it is that if a pupil really learns
anything _in_ literature,—as distinguished from learning _about_
literature,—he does it himself; and they cannot fail to see that as
an art literature necessarily partakes of the nature of all art, the
quality of being inexpressible and unexplainable in any language except
its own.

The root of whatever difficulty exists in fulfilling the requirements
of modern courses of training which have to do with literature is just
this fact. Any art, as has been said often and often, exists simply and
solely because it embodies and conveys what can be adequately expressed
in no other form. A picture or a melody, a statue or a poem, gives
delight and inspiration by qualities which could belong to nothing
else. To teach painting or music or literature is at best to talk about
these qualities. Words cannot express what the work or art expresses,
or the work itself would be superfluous; and the teacher of literature
is therefore apparently confronted with the task of endeavoring to
impart what language itself cannot say.

So stated the proposition seems self-contradictory and absurd. Indeed
it too often happens that in actual practice it is so. Teachers weary
their very souls in necessarily fruitless endeavors to achieve the
impossible, and fail in their work because they have not clearly
apprehended what they could effect and what they should endeavor to
effect. In any instruction it is of great importance to recognize
natural and inevitable limitations, and nowhere is this more true than
in any teaching which has to do with the fine arts. In other branches
failure to perceive the natural restrictions of the subject limits the
efficiency of the teacher; in the arts it not only utterly vitiates all
work, but it gives students a fundamentally wrong conception of the
very nature of that with which they are dealing.

In most studies the teacher has to do chiefly with the understanding,
or, to put it more exactly, with the intellect of the pupil. In dealing
with literature he must reckon constantly with the emotions also. If
he cannot arouse the feelings and the imaginations of his students,
he does not succeed in his work. Not only is this difficult in itself,
but it calls for an emotional condition in the instructor which is
not easily combined with the didactic mood required by teaching; a
condition, moreover, which begets a sensitiveness to results much
more keen than any disappointment likely to be excited by failure to
carry a class triumphantly through a lesson in arithmetic or history.
This sensitiveness constantly brings discouragement, and this in turn
leads to renewed failure. In work which requires the happiest mood
on the part of the teacher and the freest play of the imagination,
the consciousness of any lack of success increases the difficulty a
hundredfold. The teacher who is able by sheer force of determination to
manage the stupidities of a dull algebra class, may fail signally in
the attempt to make the same force carry him through an unappreciated
exercise in "Macbeth." It is true that no teaching is effective unless
the interest as well as the attention of the pupils is enlisted;
but whereas in other branches this is a condition, in the case of
literature it is a prime essential.

The teaching of literature, moreover, is less than useless if it is
not educational as distinguished from examinational. It is greatly to
be regretted that necessity compels the holding of examinations at
all in a subject of which the worth is to be measured strictly by the
extent to which it inspires the imagination and develops the character
of the student. Any system of examinations is likely to be at best a
makeshift made inevitable by existing conditions, and it is rendered
tolerable only where teachers—often at the expense, under present
school methods, of a stress of body and of soul to be appreciated
only by those who have taught—are able to mingle a certain amount of
education with the grinding drill of routine work. Examination papers
hardly touch and can hardly show the results of literary training which
are the only excuse for the presence of this branch in the school
curriculum. Every faithful worker who is trying to do what is best for
the children while fulfilling the requirements of the official powers
above him is face to face with the fact that the tabulated returns of
intermediates and finals do not in the least represent his best or most
laboriously achieved success.

Under these conditions it is not strange that so many teachers are at a
loss to know what they are expected to do or what they should attempt
to do. If the teachers in the secondary schools of this country were
brought together into some Palace of Truth where absolute honesty was
forced upon them, it would be interesting and perhaps saddening to
find how few could confidently assert that they have clear and logical
ideas in regard to the teaching of literature. They would all be able
to say that they dealt with certain specified books because such work
is a prominent part of the school requirement; and many would, unless
restrained by the truth-compelling power of their environment, add
vague phrases about broadening the minds of the children. A pitiful
number would be forced to confess that they had no clear conception of
what they were to do beyond loading up the memories of the luckless
young folk with certain dead information about books to be unloaded at
the next examination, and there left forever. Too often "broadening the
mind" of the young is simple flattening it out by the dead weight of
lifeless and worthless fact.

This uncertainty in regard to what they are to do and how they are
to do it is constantly evident in the complaints and inquiries of
teachers. "How would you teach 'Macbeth'?" one asked me. "Do you think
the sources of the plot should be thoroughly mastered?" Another wrote
me that she had always tried to make the moral lesson of "Silas Marner"
as clear and strong as possible, but that one of her boys had called
her attention to the fact that no question on such a matter had ever
appeared in the college entrance examination papers, and that she did
not know what to do. A third said frankly that she could never see
what there was in literature to teach, so she just took the questions
suggested by a text-book and confined her attention to them. If these
seem extreme cases, it is chiefly because they are put into words.
Certainly the number of instructors who are virtually in the position
of the third teacher is by no means small.

Even the editors of "school classics" are sometimes found to be no more
enlightened than those they profess to aid, and not infrequently seem
more anxious to have the appearance of doing a scholarly piece of work
than one fitted for actual use. The devices they recommend for fixing
the attention and enlightening the darkness of children in literary
study are numerous; but not infrequently they are either ludicrous or
pathetic. A striking example is that conspicuously futile method, the
use of symbolic diagrams. The attempt to represent the poetry, the
pathos, the passion of "The Merchant of Venice" or "Romeo and Juliet"
by a diagram like a proposition in geometry seems to me not only the
height of absurdity, but not a little profane. I have examined these
cryptic combinations of lines, tangents, triangles, and circles,
with more bewilderment than comprehension, I confess; generally with
irritation; and always with the profound conviction that they could
hardly be surpassed as a means of producing confusion worse confounded
in the mind of any child whatever. Other schemes are only less wild,
and while excellent and helpful text-books are not wanting, not a
few show evidence that the writers were as little sure of what they
were trying to effect, or of how it were best effected, as the most
bewildered teacher who might unadvisedly come to them for enlightenment.

Instruction in literature as it exists to-day in the common schools of
this country is almost always painstaking and conscientious; but it is
by no means always intelligent. The teachers who resort to diagrams are
sincerely in earnest, and no less faithful are those who at the expense
of most exhausting labor are dragging classes through the morass of
questions suggested by the least desirable of school editions of
college requirements. They dose their pupils with notes as Mrs. Squeers
dosed the poor wretches at Dotheboys Hall with brimstone and treacle.
The result is much the same in both cases.

    "Oh! Nonsense," rejoined Mrs. Squeers. . . . "They have
    brimstone and treacle, partly because if they hadn't something
    or other in the way of medicine they'd be always . . . giving a
    world of trouble, and partly because it spoils their appetites,
    and comes cheaper than breakfast and dinner."

Certainly any child, no matter how great his natural appetite for
literature, must find the desire greatly diminished after a dose of
text-book notes.

The difficulties of teachers in handling this branch of instruction
have been increased by the system under which work must be carried
on. The tremendous problem of educating children in masses has yet
to be solved, and it is at least doubtful if it can be worked out
successfully without a very substantial diminution of the requirements
now insisted upon. Certainly it is hardly conceivable that with the
curriculum as crowded as it is at present any teacher could do much
in the common schools with the teaching of literature. The pedagogic
committees who have fixed the college entrance requirements, moreover,
seem to have acted largely along conventional lines. In the third
place the spirit of the time is out of sympathy with art, and the
variety and insistence of outside calls on the attention and interest
of the children make demands so great as to leave the mind dull to
finer impressions. To the boy eager over football, the circus, and
the automobile race he is to see when school is out, even an inspired
teacher may talk in vain about Dr. Primrose, Lady Macbeth, or any other
of the immortals. Ears accustomed to the strident measures of the
modern street-song are not easily beguiled by the music of Milton, and
yet the teacher of to-day is expected to persuade his flock that they
should prefer "L'Allegro" to the vulgar but rollicking "rag-time" comic
songs of dime-museum and alley. Under circumstances so adverse, it is
not to be wondered at that teachers are not only discouraged but often

What happens in many cases is sufficiently well shown by this extract
from a freshman composition, in which the writer frankly gives an
account of his training in English literature in a high school not
twenty-five miles from Boston:

    Very special attention was paid to the instruction of the
    classics as to what the examinations require. As closely as
    possible the faculty determine the scope of the examinations,
    and the class is drilled in that work especially. Examination
    papers are procured for several years back, and are given
    to the students as regular high school examinations, and
    as samples of the kind of questions to be expected. The
    instructors notice especial questions that are often repeated
    in examination papers, warn the pupils of them, and even go so
    far as to estimate when the question will be used again. I have
    heard in the classroom, "This question was given three years
    ago, and it is about due again. They ask it every three or four

Another boy wrote, in the same set of themes, that he had taken the
examination in the autumn, and added:

    On the June examinations I noticed that there was nothing about
    Milton, so I studied Milton with heart and soul.

Here we find stated plainly what everybody connected with teaching
knows to be common, and indeed what under the present system is almost
inevitable. I know of many schools of no inconsiderable standing where
in all branches old examination papers, if not used as the text-books,
are at least the actual guide to all work done in the last year of
fitting for college. This is perhaps only human, and it is easy to
understand; but it certainly is not education, and of that fact both
students and teachers are entirely well aware. All this I say with
no intention of blaming anybody for what is the result of difficult
conditions. It is not well, however, to ignore what is perfectly well
known, and what is one of the important difficulties of the situation.

The problem, then, which confronts the teacher in the secondary school
is twofold. He has to decide in the first place what the teaching of
literature can and should legitimately accomplish, and in the second,
by what means this may most surely and effectively be done. In a word,
although work in this line has been going on multitudinously and
confusedly for years, we are yet far from sufficiently definite ideas
why and how literature should be taught to children.



The inclusion of literature in the list of common school studies,
however the original intent may have been lost sight of, was
undoubtedly made in the interest of general culture. It is not certain
that those who put it in had definite conceptions of methods or
results, but unquestionably their idea was to aid the development of
the children's minds by helping them to appreciate and to assimilate
thoughts of nobility and of beauty, and by fostering a love for
literature which should lead them to go on acquiring these from the
masterpieces. How clear and well defined in the minds of educators
this idea was it is needless to inquire. It is enough that it was
undoubtedly sincere, and that it was founded on a genuine faith in the
broadening and elevating influence of art.

The importance of literature as a means of mental development used to
be taken for granted. Our fathers and grandfathers had for the classics
a reverence which the rising generation looks back to as a phase of
antiquated superstition, hardly more reasonable than the worship of
sacred wells or a belief in goblins. So much stress is now laid
upon the tangible and the material as the only genuine values, that
everything less obvious is discredited. The tendency is to take only
direct results into consideration; and influences which serve rather to
elevate character than to aid in money-getting are at best looked upon
with toleration.

That sense of mankind, however, which depends upon the perception of
the few, and which in the long run forms the opinion of society in
spite of everything, holds still to the importance of literature in any
intelligent scheme of education. The popular disbelief makes enormously
difficult the work of the teacher, but the force of the conviction
of the wise minority keeps this branch in the schools. The sincere
teacher, therefore, naturally tries to analyze effects, and to discern
possibilities, in order to discover upon what facts the belief in the
educational value of the study of literature properly rests.

The most obvious reasons for the study of literature may be quickly
disposed of. It is well for a student to be reasonably familiar with
the history of literature, with the names and periods of great writers.
This adds to his chances of appearing to advantage in the world,
and especially in that portion of society where he can least afford
to be at a disadvantage. He is provided with facts about books and
authors quite as much to protect him from the ill effects of appearing
ignorant as for any direct influence this knowledge will have on his
mind. Whatever the tendency of the times to undervalue in daily
life acquaintance with the more refined side of human knowledge, the
fact remains that to betray ignorance in these lines may bring real
harm to a person's social standing. Every one recognizes that among
educated people a lad is better able to make his way if he does not
confound the age of Shakespeare with that of Browning, and if he is
able to distinguish between Edmund Spenser and Herbert Spencer. Such
information may not be specially vital, but it is worth possessing.

Considerations of this sort, however, are evidently not of weight
enough to account for the place of the study in the schools, and still
less to excuse the amount of time and attention bestowed upon it. The
same line of reasoning would defend the introduction of dancing, because

    Those move easiest who have learned to dance.

More important and more far-reaching reasons must be found to satisfy
the teacher, and to hearten him for the severe labor of working with
class after class in the effort, not always successful, of arousing
interest and enthusiasm over the writings which go by the name of
English Classics. Some of these I may specify briefly. To deal with
them exhaustively would take a book in itself, and would leave no room
for the consideration of methods.

A careful and intelligent study of masterpieces of prose or verse,
the teacher soon perceives, must develop greatly the student's sense
of the value of words. This is not the highest function of this work,
but it is by no means one to be despised. Literary study affords
opportunities for training of this sort which are not to be found
elsewhere; and a sensitiveness to word-values is with a child the
beginning of wisdom.

Children too often acquire and adults follow the habit of accepting
words instead of ideas. A genuine appreciation of the worth of language
is after all the chief outward sign of the distinction between the wise
man and the dullard. One is content to receive speech as sterling coin,
and the other perceives that words are but counters. If students could
but appreciate the difference between apprehending and comprehending
what they are taught, between learning words and assimilating ideas,
the intellectual millennium would be at hand. Children need to learn
that the sentence is after all only the envelope, only the vehicle for
the thought. Everybody agrees to this theoretically, but practically
the fact is generally ignored. The child is father to the man in
nothing else more surely than in the trait of accepting in perfect good
faith empty words as complete and satisfactory in themselves. The habit
of being content with phrases once bred into a child can be eradicated
by nothing short of severe intellectual surgery.

To say that words are received as sufficient in themselves and not as
conveying ideas sounds like a paradox; but there are few of us who
may not at once make a personal application and find an illustration
in the common phrases and formulas of our life. Perhaps none of us
are free from the fault of sometimes substituting empty phrases for
vital rules of conduct. The most simple and the most tremendous
facts of human life are often known only as lifeless statements
rather than realized as vibrant truths. With children the language
of text-book or classroom is so likely to be repeated by rote and
remembered mechanically that constant vigilance on the part of the
teacher can hardly overcome the evil. Force the boy who on the college
entrance examination paper writes fluently that "Milton is the poet
of sublimity" to try to define, even to himself, what the statement
means, and the result is confusion. He meant nothing. He had the words,
but they had never conveyed to him a thought. Language should be the
servant of the mind, but never was servant that so constantly and so
successfully usurped the place of master.

Children must be taught, and taught not simply by precept but by
experience, to realize that the value of the word lies solely in its
efficiency as a vehicle of thought. They must learn to appreciate as
well as to know mechanically that language is to be estimated by its
effect in communicating the idea, and that to be satisfied with words
for themselves is obvious folly. For enforcing this fact literature is
especially valuable. It is hardly possible in even the most superficial
work on a play of Shakespeare, for instance, for the reader to fail
to perceive how the idea burns through the word, how wide is the
difference between the mere apprehension of the language and the
comprehension of the poet's meaning. In the study of great poetry the
impossibility of resting satisfied with anything short of the ideas is
so strongly brought out that it cannot be ignored or forgotten; and in
this way pupils are impressed with the value of words.

This sensitiveness to the value of words in general is closely coupled
with an appreciation of the force of words in particular, of what may
be called word-values. The power of appreciating that a word is merely
a messenger bringing an idea, is naturally connected with the ability
to distinguish with exactness the nature and the value of the thought
which the messenger presents. To feel the need of knowing clearly and
surely the thought expressed inevitably leads to precision and delicacy
in distinguishing the significance and force of language. When once a
child appreciates the difference between the accepting of what he reads
vaguely or mechanically and the getting from it its full meaning, he
is eager to have it all; he finds delight in the intellectual exercise
of searching out each hidden suggestion and in the sense of possession
which belongs to achieving the thought of the master. It is not to be
expected that our pupils shall be able to receive in its full richness
the deepest thought of the poets, but they none the less find delight
in possessing it to the extent of their abilities. The point is too
obvious to need expansion; but every instructor will recognize its
great importance.

Obvious as is this importance of the sense of the value of words and
a sensitiveness to word-values, it is not infrequently overlooked.
Teachers see the need of a knowledge of the meaning of terms and
phrases in a particular selection without stopping to think of the
prime value of the principle involved, or indeed that a general
principle is involved at all. Still more often they fail to perceive
all that logically follows. In exact, vital realization of the full
force of language lies the secret of sharing the wisdom of the ages. If
students can be trained to penetrate through the word of the printed
page to the thought, they are brought into communication with the
master-minds of the race. It is not learning to read in the common,
primary acceptation of the term that opens for the young the thought
of the race; but learning to read in the higher and deeper sense of
receiving the word only as a symbol behind and beyond which the thought
lies concealed from the ordinary and superficial reader.

Most of all is it the business of the young to learn about life.
Whatever does not tend, directly or indirectly, to make the child
better acquainted with the world he has come into, with how he must
and how he should bear himself under its complex conditions, is of
small value as far as education goes. Of rules for conduct he is given
plenty as to matters of morality and of religion. Moral laws and
religious precepts are good, and could they accomplish all that is
sometimes expected of them, life would quickly be a different matter,
and teachers would find themselves living in an earthly paradise.
Unhappily these excellent maxims effect in actual life far less than
is to be desired. Not infrequently the urchin who has been stuffed
with moral admonitions as a doll with sawdust shows in his conduct
no regard for them other than a fine zeal in scorning them. Children
are seldom much affected by explicit directions in regard to conduct.
They must be reached by indirection, and they are moulded less by what
they recognize as intentionally wise views of life than by those which
they receive unconsciously. The more just these unrecognized ideas
of themselves and of the world are, the greater is the chance that
they will develop a character well balanced and well adjusted to the
conditions of human life.

Children live in a world largely made up of half-perceptions, of
misunderstandings, and of dreams; a world pathetically full of guesses.
They must depend largely upon appearances, and constantly confound
what seems with what really is. They learn but slowly, however, to
shape their beliefs or their emotions by conventionality. They do not
easily acquire the vice of accepting shams because some authority has
endorsed these. All of us are likely to have had queerly uncomfortable
moments when we have found ourselves confounded and reproved by
the unflinching honesty of the child; and we have been forced to
confess, at least to ourselves, that much of our admiration is mere
affectation, many of our professions unadulterated truckling to some
authority in which after all we have little real faith. Children are
naturally too unsophisticated for self-deception of this sort. They
confound substance and shadow, but they do it in good faith and with
no affectations. They are therefore at the place where they most need
sound and sure help to apprehend and to comprehend those things which
their elders call the realities of life.

What human nature and human life are like is learned most quickly
and most surely from the best literature. The outward, the evident
conditions of society and of humanity may perhaps be best obtained by
children from the events of every-day existence; but in all that goes
deeper the wisdom of great writers is the surest guide.

On the face of it such a proposition may not seem self-evident,
and to not a few teachers it is likely to appear a little absurd.
Children, it is evident, learn the realities of life by living. They
perceive physical truth by the persuasive force of actual experience:
by tumbling down and bumping their precious noses; by unmistakably
impressive contact with the fist of a pugnacious school-fellow; by
being hungry or uncomfortably stuffed with Thanksgiving turkey; by
heat and by cold, by sweets or by sours, by hardness or by softness.
Certainly through such means as these the child gains knowledge and
develops mentally; but the process is inevitably slow. Most of all
is the growth in the youthful mind of general deductions and the
perception of underlying principles extremely gradual. He does not
learn quickly enough that certain lines of conduct are likely to lead
to unfortunate ends. Even when this is grasped, he has not come to
appreciate what human laws underlie the whole matter; nor is he in the
least likely to realize them so fully as to shape by them his conduct
in the steadily more and more complicated affairs of life.

The small boy learns the wisdom of moderation from the stomach-ache
which follows too much plum-pudding or too many green apples—if the
pain is often enough repeated. The matter, however, is apt to present
itself to his mind as a sort of tacit bargain between himself and Fate:
so many green apples, so much stomach-ache; so much self-indulgence and
so much pain, and the account is balanced. Life is not so simple as
this; and that Fate does not make bargains so direct is learned from
experience so gradually as often to be learned too late. To tell this
to a child is of very little effect; for even if he believes it with
his childish intelligence, he can hardly feel the intimate links which
bind all humanity together, and make him subject to the same conditions
that rule his elders and instructors.

The phrase "realities of life," moreover, includes not only
sensible—that is, material—facts and conditions, but the more subtle
things of inner existence. A hundred persons are able to gather facts,
while very few are capable of drawing from them adequate conclusions
or of perceiving how one truth bears upon another. A very moderate
degree of intelligence is required for analysis as compared to that
necessary for synthesis. The power "to put two and two together," as
the common phrase has it, grows slowly in the mind of a child. Within
a limited range children appreciate that one fact is somehow joined to
another; and indeed the education which life gives consists chiefly in
expanding this perception. The connection between touching a hot coal
and being burned brings home the plain physical relations early. The
connection between disobedience and unpleasant consequences will be
borne in upon the youthful consciousness according to the sharpness
of discipline by which it is enforced; and so on to the end of the
chapter. To perceive a relation and to appreciate what that relation
is are, however, different matters. The understanding of the nature
of breaking rules and suffering in consequence involves a perception
of underlying principle, and some comprehension of the real nature of
these principles.

The part which literature may play in giving children, and for that
matter their elders, a vivid perception of moral laws is shown by the
use which has been made of fables and moral tales. The parables of
Scripture illustrate the point. Of the habit of making literature
directly a vehicle for moral instruction by the drawing of morals I
shall have something to say later; but the extent to which this has
been done at least serves here to make clearer what we mean by saying
that in this study the child learns general principles and their
relation. The small child, for instance, who is told in tender years
that ingeniously virtuous fable which relates the heroic doings of
little George Washington and his immortal hatchet, gets some idea of a
connection between virtue and joy in the abstract. A notion faint, but
none the less genuine, remains in his mind that some real connection
exists between truth and desirability; and the same sort of thing holds
true in cases where the teaching is less directly didactic.

The directly didactic is likely to be most in evidence in the training
of children, and so affords convenient illustration of the illuminating
effect of literature on young minds. Despite the fact that I disbelieve
in reading into any tale or poem a moral which is not expressly put
there by the author, and that I hold more strongly yet to the belief
that the most marked and most lasting effects of imaginative work are
indirect, I am not without a perception of the value at a certain stage
of human development of the direct moral of the fable and the improving
tale. A small lad of ten within the range of my observation, upon whom
had been lavished an abundance, and perhaps even a superabundance, of
moral precept, astonished and disconcerted his mother by remarking
with delightful naïveté that he had at school been reading "The Little
Merchant," in Miss Edgeworth's "Parents' Assistant," and that from it
he had learned how mean and foolish it is to lie. "But, my dear boy,"
the mother cried in dismay, "I've been telling you that ever since
you were born!" "Oh, well," responded the lad, with the unconsciously
brutal frankness of his years, "but that never interested me." The
obvious moral teaching that had made no impression when offered as a
bare precept had been effective to him when presented as an appeal to
his feeling.

Through imaginative literature abstract truths are made to have for
the child a reality which is given to them by the experiences of daily
life only by the slowest of degrees. Children rarely generalize,
except in matters of personal feeling and in the regions of general
misapprehension. A child easily receives the fact of the moment for a
truth of all time: if he is miserable, for instance, he is very apt to
feel that he must always be in that doleful condition; but this is in
no real sense a generalization. It is more than half self-deception.
Any child, however, who has been thrilled by a single line of
imaginative poetry has—even if unconsciously—come into direct touch
with a wide and humanly universal truth.

Especially and essentially is this to be said of truth which has to do
with human feeling, the universal truth of the emotions. The man or
the woman into whom the school-boy or girl is to grow will in shaping
life be guided chiefly by the feelings. Whether the ordinary mortal
lives well or ill, basely or nobly, dully or vividly, is practically
determined by what he feels. However much the convictions have to do
in ordering conduct, feeling has more, and conviction itself is with
most mortals inseparably bound up with the emotions. The highest office
of education is to develop the emotions highly and nobly; and it is no
less essential to the intellectual than to the moral well-being of the
child that he be bred to feel as deeply and as wholesomely as possible.
Every teacher knows that in dealing with children the ultimate appeal
is to their feelings. If a crisis arises in school-life it is to the
emotions that the matter is inevitably referred, whether the instructor
likes this or not, and whether the appeal is made openly or is indirect
and tacit. Teaching must deal with the sentiments as well as with the
understanding. That no other means of training and properly developing
the feelings of youth is so efficient as literature seems to me a
proposition too self-evident to need further comment.

Enthusiasm is so closely connected with the cultivation and training
of the emotions that it is not easy to draw a line between them. While
there is certainly no need to enlarge here upon the worth of enthusiasm
in education or in life, or upon literature as a means of arousing it,
it is worth while to emphasize the extent to which the mind of youth
may be affected by enthusiasm. The effects are naturally often so
indirect or intangible as not to be easily measured, but often, too,
they are direct and practical. Some years ago in a country school in
eastern Maine was still paramount the old-time Greenleaf's "Arithmetic"
which we elders remember with mixed feelings. The law of education
in those days, when children were still expected to do things which
were mapped out for them and to follow a course of study whether it
chanced to please their individual fancy or not, enforced the mastering
of everything in the text-book, even to sundry weird processes with
queer names such as "Alligation Alternate" and the like. The teacher
of this particular school, a plucky morsel of New England womanhood,
not much bigger than a chickadee, set herself resolutely to carry
through the arithmetic a class of farmer lads, better at the plow than
in mathematics. What happened she told me twenty-five years ago, and
I am still able to call up the vision of the air half of defiance,
half of amusement with which she said: "The boys were in a perfectly
hopeless muddle. I had explained and explained, until I wished I could
either cry like a woman or be a man and swear! The third day I had
an inspiration. In the very middle of the recitation, I told them to
shut up their books, and I cleaned every mark of the lesson off of
the blackboard. Then without a word of explanation I began to tell
them a little about the pamphlet Sir Walter Raleigh wrote about the
'Revenge;' and then I began to recite Tennyson's ballad—which was new
then. I was wrought up to the very top-notch anyway, and I just gave
that ballad for all there was in me. They were dazed a minute, and
then they pricked up their ears, their eyes began to shine, and I had
them. We kindled each other, and by the time I got through the tears
were running down my cheeks for simple excitement. When I got to the
end, you could just feel the hush. Then I told them to go outdoors and
snow-ball for ten minutes, and then to come in and conquer that lesson.
They were great, rough farmer boys, you understand; but the moment they
were outside, they gave a cheer, just to express things they couldn't
have put into words. When they came in they were alive to the ends of
their fingers, and we went over that old Alligation with a perfect
rush." This sort of thing would not be possible anywhere outside of the
old-fashioned country school, but it is a capital illustration of the
way in which poetry may stir the enthusiasm.

More valuable still, because at once deeper and most lasting, is the
effect of literature in nourishing imagination. The real progress which
children make in education—the assimilation of the knowledge which
they receive—depends largely upon this power. In many branches of
study this is easily evident. What a child actually knows of geography
or of history obviously depends upon the extent to which his mind is
able to make real places or events remote in space or in time. The
same is true of those studies where the fact is not so evident; and it
is hardly too much to say that the advance of any student in higher
education is measured by the development of his imagination.

The teacher of literature in the secondary schools, then, is to
consider that although his work is primarily done as a part of the
school requirement, he need not be without some clear and deliberate
intention in regard to the permanent effect upon the education and
so upon the character of the pupil. He may treat the getting of his
charges through the examinations as a purely secondary matter; a
matter, moreover, which is practically sure to be accomplished if the
greater and better purposes of the study have been secured. Besides a
general knowledge of literary history, the student should gain from
his training in the secondary school a vivid sense of the importance
and value of words; an appreciation of word-values as shown in actual
use by the masters; should increase in knowledge of life, and as it
were gain experience vicariously, so as to advance in perception of
intellectual and moral values; should be advanced in the control of
the feelings; in enthusiasm; and in the development of that noblest of
faculties, the imagination.



To deal clearly with the work of teaching, it is first of all essential
to deal frankly. In order that suggestions in regard to instruction
in literature may be of practical value, we must be entirely honest
in admitting and in facing whatever difficulties lie in the way and
whatever limitations are imposed by the conditions under which the work
is done.

As things are at present arranged, an instructor, it seems not unjust
to say, must decide how far he is able to mingle genuine education with
the routine work which the system imposes upon him. If he has not the
power to settle this question, or if he is lacking in the disposition
to propose the question to himself, his labor is inevitably confined
chiefly to routine. His students are turned out examination-perfect,
it may be, but with minds as fatally cramped and checked as the feet
of a Chinese lady. If literature has a high and important function in
education, the teacher must consider deeply both what that function is
and how he is best to develop it.

The failure on the part of instructors to do this makes much of the
work done in the secondary grades so mechanical as to be of the
smallest possible use so far as the expansion of the mind and of
the character of children is concerned. For a pupil in the lower
grades the first purpose of any and of all school-work should be
to teach him to use his mind,—to think. The actual acquirement of
facts is of importance really slight as compared to the value of
this. If at twelve he knows how to read and to write, is sound on the
multiplication-table, is familiar with the outlines of grammar and the
broadest divisions of geography, yet is accustomed to think for himself
in regard to the facts which he perceives from life or receives from
books, he may be regarded as admirably well on in the education which
he is to gain from the schools. Indeed, if he have learned to think,
he is excellently started even if he have accomplished nothing further
than simply to read and to write.

In these years of child-life the study of literature can legitimately
have but two objects: it may and should minister to the delight of
youth, that so the taste for good books be fostered and as it were
inbred; and it should nourish the power of thinking. Whatever is beyond
this has no place in the lower grades, and personally I am entirely
free to say that much that is now called "the study of literature" is
the sort of elaborate work which belongs in the college or nowhere.
Few students are qualified to "study"—as the term is commonly
interpreted—literature until they are advanced further than the boys
and girls admitted to our high schools; further, indeed, than many who
are allowed to enter the universities. The great majority of those who
grind laboriously through the college entrance requirements in English
are utterly unequal to the work and get from it little of value and a
good deal of harm.

What should be done in the lower grades, and usually all that can
with profit be attempted in the secondary schools anywhere, is to
cultivate in the children a love of literature and some appreciation
of it: appreciation intelligent, I mean, but not analytic. I would
have the secondary schools do little with the history of authors,
less with the criticism of style, and have no more explanation of
difficulties of language and of structure than is necessary for the
student's enjoyment. In a time when the draughts made by daily life
upon the attention of the young are so tremendous, when the pressure
of the more immediately practical branches of instruction is so great,
to add drudgery in connection with literature seems to me completely
futile and doubly wrong. The supreme test of success in whatever work
in literature is done in schools of the secondary grades should be,
according to my conviction, whether it has given delight, has fostered
a love of whatever is best in imaginative writings and in life.

The natural abilities of children differ widely, and perhaps more
difference still is made by the home influences in which they pass
their earliest years. What should be done in the nursery can never be
fully made up in the school, and what should be breathed in from an
atmosphere of cultivation can never be imparted by instruction. It is
manifestly impossible to interest all in the artistic side of life to
the same extent, just as it is idle to hope to teach all to draw with
equal skill. This does not alter the direction of effort. The teacher
must recognize and accept natural limitations, but not on that account
be satisfied with aiming at less admirable results.

Whatever are the conditions, it is possible to do something to
foster a love of what is really good in literature, and to avoid the
substitution of formal drill in the history of authors, the study of
conundrums concerning the sources of plots, the meaning of obsolete
words, and like pedantic pedagogics, for the friendly and vital study
of what should be a warm, live topic. If young folk can be made really
to care for good books, not only is substantial and lasting good
gained, but most that is now attempted is more surely secured. William
Blake declares that the truth can never be told so as to be understood
and not be believed. In the same way it may be said that if children
can be trained to recognize the characteristics of good literature,
they are sure, in nine cases out of ten at least, to care for it.

This is the work which properly belongs to the secondary schools; and
it is quite as much as they can be expected to do even up to the close
of the high school course. I am personally unable to see what good
is accomplished by taking any body of school-children that ever came
under my own observation,—and the question must be judged by personal
experience,—and drilling them in such matters as the following. I have
taken these notes almost at random from approved school editions of the
classics, and they seem to me to be fairly representative.

    Some striking resemblances in the incantation scenes in
    "Macbeth" and Middleton's "Witch" have led to a somewhat
    generally accepted belief that Thomas Middleton was answerable
    for the alleged un-Shakespearean portions of "Macbeth."

           *       *       *       *       *

    Shakespeare's indebtedness in "Midsummer's Night's Dream" to
    "Il Percone" admits of no dispute.

    The incident of a Jew whetting his knife like Shylock occurs in
    a Latin play, "Machiavellus," performed at St. John's College,
    Cambridge, at Christmas, 1597.

The opening note in a popular edition of "Silas Marner" is a comment
upon this passage:

    The questionable sound of Silas's loom, so unlike the natural,
    cheerful trotting of the winnowing-machine, or the simple
    rhythm of the flail, had a half-fearful fascination for the
    Raveloe boys.

The note reads as follows:

    The hand-loom, once found in every village and hamlet, was
    controlled by the action of the feet on the treadles, and
    worked by the hands. A figure representing the parts may
    be found in "Johnson's Cyclopædia." The longer article on
    "Weaving" in the "Encyclopædia Britannica" may also be
    consulted. The rattle of the loom was in direct contrast
    to the "cheerful trotting" of the winnowing-machine—an
    old-fashioned hand-machine for separating the chaff from the
    grain by means of wind produced by revolving fans. The flail,
    still in common use for threshing grain by hand, consists of a
    wooden staff or handle, hung on a club called a swiple, so as
    to turn easily.

If the end of the study of fiction is the acquirement of dry facts,
this note may pass. I have purposely selected an example which is not
worse than the average, and which may perhaps be supposed to have an
excuse in the consideration that so many readers may be ignorant of all
the contrivances mentioned; but can any person with a sense of humor
suppose that a real boy is to get any proper enjoyment out of a story
when he is at the outset asked to consult a couple of cyclopædias, and
is interrupted in his reading by comments of this sort? The real point
of the passage, moreover,—the literary significance,—the fact that
the boys of Raveloe heard the winnowing-machine and threshing-flail
daily, and so were attracted by the novelty of Marner's weaving, with
the use of this by George Eliot to emphasize the weaver's isolation in
the neighborhood, is left utterly unnoticed.

Were it worth while, I could give from text-books in general use
examples more unsatisfactory than these; but this is a fair sample of
the things which are administered to pupils in the name of literary
study. The students are not interested in these details; and I am
inclined to believe that most of the teachers who mistakenly feel
obliged to drill classes in them could not honestly say that they
themselves care a fig for such barren facts. It is no wonder that out
of the school course young folk so often get the notion that literature
is dull. In a recent entrance paper a boy wrote as follows:

    I could never understand why so much time has to be given in
    school to old books just because they have been known a long
    time. It would be better if we could have given the time to
    something useful.

He said what many boys feel, and what not a few of them have thought
out frankly to themselves, although perhaps few would express it so
squarely. If the study of literature means no more than is represented
by work on notes and the history of books and authors, I most fully
agree with him.

Some of the books at present included in the college entrance
requirement, it must be added, lend themselves too much to
unintelligent pedantry. Undoubtedly much thought has been given to the
selection, although perhaps less sympathetic consideration of child
nature. The result is not in all cases satisfactory. To foster a taste
for poetry a teacher may, it is true, do much with "Julius Cæsar,"
but I have yet to see the class of undergraduates with which I should
personally hope to arouse enthusiasm with "L'Allegro," "Il Penseroso,"
"Lycidas," or "Comus." I may be simply confessing my own limitations,
but I should think all of these poems, magnificent in themselves,
hardly fitted for the boys and girls who are found in our public
schools. I have extracted from more than one teacher a confession of
entire inability to take pleasure in the Milton which they assure their
pupils is beautiful; and while this is an arraignment of instructors
rather than of the works, it is significant of the attitude the honest
minds of children are likely to take.

By way of making things worse, scholars are drilled in Macaulay's
"Milton."[35:1] The inclusion of this essay, the product of the
author's 'prentice hand, is most lamentable. The philistinism of
Macaulay is here rampant; and the one thing which students are sure
to get from the essay is the conception that poetry is the product
of barbarism, to be outgrown and cast aside when civilization is
sufficiently advanced. Again and again in entrance examinations and
in second-year notebooks, I have found this idea expressed. It is not
only the one thing which survives out of the essay, but is often the
one conviction in regard to literature which has survived examinations
as the result of the study of the entire entrance requirement. In the
entrance paper of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for last
year (1905), I had put a question in regard to the difference between
poetry and prose. From the replies I have taken a few of the many
echoes from the study of the "Milton."

    Macaulay claims that the uncivilized alone care for poetry.

    I agree with Macaulay that prose is the product of
    civilization, . . . while poetry was the way the ancients
    expressed themselves.

    Poetry is not being written nearly so much now as in the Dark
    Ages, simply because men are learning to treat subjects in

    Macaulay says that the writer of a great poem must have a
    certain unsoundness of mind, and Carlyle makes the statement
    that to be a great poet a man must first be as a little child.
    If these opinions are just, one would think poetry could not be
    regarded as of a quality equal to prose works.

    Poetry came first in the lapse of time, and as people grew more
    civilized, as their education grew higher, they wrote in prose.

Obviously these extracts hardly do justice to the views of Macaulay,
but it is evidently absurd to try to interest pupils in poetry when
they are getting from one of the works selected "for careful study" the
idea that the poet is a semi-madman practicing one of the habits of a
half-civilized race![36:1]

Fortunately much of the reading is better, although in effect the books
are sometimes limited by the difficulty of keeping the interest of
children up for the long poem. The inclusion in the list of "Elaine"
and "The Lady of the Lake" of course presupposes on the part of the
pupil familiarity in the lower grades with lyrics and brief narrative
poems; and in many cases this may be sufficient. Most pupils will be
sure to care for "The Ancient Mariner," many for "The Princess;" and
any wholesome boy, with ordinary intelligence, should be interested in
"Ivanhoe" and "Macbeth."

As things stand, however, the teacher is forced to deal largely with
books which almost compel formal and pedantic treatment. Burke's
"Speech on Conciliation," admirable as it is in its place and way,
will hardly give to a young student an insight into literature or a
taste for imaginative work. The normal, average lad is likely, it
seems to me, to be bored by "Silas Marner," or at least very mildly
interested; and I confess frankly my inability to understand how
youthful enthusiasm is to be aroused or more than youthful tolerance
secured for Irving's "Life of Goldsmith" or Macaulay's "Life of
Johnson." Plenty of pupils are docile enough to allow themselves to be
led placidly through these works, and indeed to submit to any volume
imposed by school regulations; but what the teacher is endeavoring to
do is to convince the young readers that books entitled to the name
"literature" are really of more worth and interest than the newspaper,
the detective story, the sensational novel, or the dime-theatre song.
It is perhaps not possible to find among the English Classics works
well adapted to such use,—although I refuse to believe it,—but I do
at least feel that the present entrance-requirement list does not lend
itself readily, to say the least, to the task of the teacher who aims
at developing an intelligent and loving appreciation of literature.

The list of obstacles which beset the way of a teacher of literature
might easily be lengthened; but these seem chief. They are
discouraging; but they exist. They must be faced and overcome, and
nothing is gained by ignoring them. The successful teacher, like the
successful general, is he who most clearly examines difficulties, and
best succeeds in devising means by which they may be vanquished.


[35:1] Since this was written this essay has been removed from the
list, but the effects of it are still with us, as it was used for all
classes entering college before 1906. I leave this comment, however,
because of its important bearing on a point which I wish to bring up

[36:1] See page 212.



The difficulties set down in the last chapter exist in the conditions
under which teachers must work. They should be recognized, to the end
that they may be as far as possible overcome. They can be done away
with only by the slow and gradual changing of public opinion and the
re-forming of pedagogic intelligence. For the present they are to be
reckoned with as inevitable limitations.

Another class of obstacles to the ideal result of the teaching of
literature exists largely in the application of the modern system or in
the method of the individual teacher. These may to a great extent be
done away with by a proper understanding of conditions, a just estimate
of what may be accomplished, and a wise choice of the means of doing
this. Teachers must take things as they find them, but the ultimate
result of work depends to a great extent upon how they take them. If
they must often accept unfortunate conditions, they may at least reduce
to a minimum whatever is uneffective in their own method.

The most serious defects which depend largely upon individual teaching
are four. The first is the danger, already alluded to, of teaching
children _about_ literature; the second is that of making too great a
demand upon the child; the third is the common habit of endeavoring to
reach the enthusiasm of the pupil through the reason, instead of aiming
at the reason through the enthusiasm; and the fourth is—to speak
boldly—the possible incapacity of the teacher for this particular work.

The first of these is the most widespread. It is so natural to bring
forward facts concerning the history of writers and of books, it is
indeed so impossible to avoid this entirely; to induce students to
repeat glibly what some critic has written about authors and their
works is so easy, that this insensibly and almost inevitably tends
to make up the bulk of instruction. Every incompetent teacher takes
refuge in such formal drill. The history of literature is concrete;
it is easily tabulated; and it is naturally accepted by children as
being exactly in line with the work which properly belongs to other
studies with which they are acquainted. If a child is set to treat
literature just as he has treated history or mathematics, the process
will appeal to him as logical and easily to be mastered. He will find
no incongruity in applying the same method to "Macbeth" and to the list
of Presidents or to the multiplication-table; and however well or ill
he succeed in memorizing what is given him, he will feel the ease of
working in accustomed lines. Names and dates may be learned by rote,
old entrance-paper questions are tangible things, and thus examinations
come to mean annual offerings of childish brains. To teach literature
requires sympathy and imagination: the history of literature requires
only perseverance. Much that in school reports is set down as the study
of masterpieces is in reality only a mixture of courses in biography
and history, more or less spiced with gossip.

The second danger, that of making too great a demand upon the child,
is one which, to some extent, besets all school work to-day, but which
seems to be especially great and especially disastrous in the case
of the study we are considering. Often the nature of the questions
asked shows one form of this demand in a way that is nothing less
than preposterous. Children in secondary schools are required to have
original ideas in regard to the character of Lady Macbeth; to define
the workings of the mind of Shylock; to produce personal opinions
in the discussion of the madness of Hamlet. Children whose highest
acquirements in English composition do not and cannot reach beyond the
plainest expository statement of simple facts and ideas, are coolly
requested to discriminate between the style of "Il Penseroso" and
that of "L'Allegro," and to show how each is adapted to the purpose
of the poet. If they were allowed to write from the point of view of
a child, the matter would be bad enough; but no teacher who sets such
a task would be satisfied with anything properly belonging to the
child-mind. It is probably safe to be tolerably certain that no teacher
ever gave out this sort of a question who could without cribbing from
the critics perform satisfactorily the task laid upon the unfortunate

I have before me a pamphlet entitled "Suggestions for Teachers of
English Classics in the High Schools." It is not a gracious task to
find fault with a fellow worker and a fellow writer in the same line in
which I am myself offering suggestions, and I therefore simply put it
to the common sense of teachers what the effect upon the average high
school pupil would be if he were confronted with questions such as are
included in the proposed outline for the study of "Evangeline." The
author of the pamphlet directs that these points are to be used "after
some power of analysis has been developed."

    The language.

        Relative proportion of English and Latin.
        Archaic element, proportion and use.
        Weight of the style; presentative and symbolic words.
        Emotional element; experimental significance of terms.
        Picture-element; prevailing character of figures of

    The structure.


            Poetic uses of words; archaisms, poetic forms.
            Poetic uses of parts of speech, parse.[42:1]
            Poetic constructions and inversions, analyze.


            Number and character of metrical "feet."
            Accent and quantity, the spondee.
            Scan selected lines, compare with classic
            Compare hexameter with other verse-forms.
            Character of rhyme, compare with other poems.
            Presence and use of alliteration.


            Examine for lightness and speed; trochee, dactyl,
            Examine for dignity; iambus, monosyllables.
            Number of syllables in individual lines.
            Character of consonants; stopped, unstopped,
            Character of vowels; back, front, round, harsh.
            Correspondence of sound to sense.

It would be interesting, and perhaps somewhat humiliating, for each
one of us who are teachers to take a list of the questions we have set
for examinations in literature and with perfect honesty tell ourselves
how many of them we could ourselves answer with any originality, and
how many it is fair to suppose that our students could write about
with any ideas except those gathered from teacher or text-book. With
the pressure of a doubtful system and of unintelligent custom always
upon us, few of us, it is to be feared, would escape without a sore

When I speak of a school-boy or a school-girl as writing with
"originality," I do not mean anything profound. I am not so deluded as
to suppose this originality will take the form of startlingly novel
discoveries in regard to the significance of work or the intention of
authors. I only mean that what the boy or girl writes shall be written
because he or she really thinks it, and that each idea, no matter if
it be obvious and crude, shall have some trace of individuality which
will indicate that it has passed through the mind of the particular
pupil who expresses it. This, I believe, is what should chiefly concern
the maker of examination-papers. He should especially aim at giving
students an opportunity of showing personal opinions and convictions.

No one who has looked over files of examination-papers is likely to
deny that we are most of us likely to be betrayed into asking of our
classes absurd things in the line of criticism. It is all very well
to remember the scriptural phrase about the high character of some of
the utterances of babes and sucklings; but this is hardly sufficient
warrant for insisting that our school-children shall babble in
philosophy and chatter in criticism. The honest truth is that we are
constantly demanding of pupils things that we could for the most part
do but very poorly ourselves. The unfortunate youngsters who should
be solacing themselves with fairy-tales or with stories of adventure
as their taste happens to be, are being dragged through "The Vicar of
Wakefield,"—an exquisite book, which I doubt if one person in fifty
can read to-day with proper appreciation and delight until he is at
least twenty-five. They are being asked to write themes about Lady
Macbeth,—and if they were really frank, and wrote their own real
thoughts, if they considered her from the point of view of the children
they are, where is the teacher who would not feel obliged to return
the theme as a failure? Those instructors who recognized that it was
of real worth because genuine would also realize that it would be
impossible when tried by the modern standard of examinations.

How far individual teachers go in demanding from children what the
youthful mind cannot be fairly expected to give will depend upon
the personal equation of the instructor. In too many cases the
entrance-examinations set a standard which in the fitting-schools may
not safely be ignored, but which is fatal to all original thinking.
Perhaps the worst form of this is the wrenching from the student what
are supposed to be criticisms upon artistic form or content. A hint of
the teaching which is intended to lead up to this has been given in
the topics suggested in connection with the study of "Evangeline" on
page 42. The "outline" from which those are quoted goes on to give the
following questions:

    Of what literary spirit is "Evangeline" the expression?

    What is the author's thought-habit as shown in the poem?

    What is the place of this poem in the development of verse?

I am perhaps a little uncharitable to these queries because I am, I
confess, entirely unable to answer them myself; but I am also sure that
no child in the stage of mental development belonging to the secondary
schools would have any clear and reasonable idea even of what they
mean. The example is an extreme one, but it has more parallels than
would seem possible.

The formulation of views on æsthetics, whether in regard to workmanship
or to motive, is utterly beyond the range of any mental condition the
teacher in secondary schools has a right to assume or to expect. All
that can happen is that the student who is asked to answer æsthetic
conundrums will reproduce, in form more or less distorted according
to the parrot-like fidelity of his memory, views he has heard without
understanding them. Any teacher of common sense knows this, and any
teacher of independent mind will refuse to be bullied by manuals or by
entrance-examination papers into inflicting tasks of this sort upon his

In any branch many students either go on blunderingly or fail
altogether through sheer ignorance of how to study. In the case of
literature perhaps more fail through this cause than through all others
combined. A robust, honest, and not unintelligent lad, who is fairly
well disposed toward school work, but whose real interests are in
outdoor life and active sport, who is intellectually interested only
in the obviously practical side of knowledge, is set down to "study" a
play of Shakespeare's. He is disposed to do it well, if not from any
vital interest in the matter, at least from a general habit of being
faithful in his work and a healthful instinct to do a thing thoroughly
if he undertakes it at all. He is at the outset puzzled to know what is
expected of him. In arithmetic or algebra he has had definite tasks,
and success has been in direct proportion to the diligence with which
he has followed a course definitely marked out. Now he casts about for
a rule of procedure. He can understand that he is expected to learn
the meaning of unusual or obsolete words, that he is to make himself
acquainted with the story so that he may be able to answer any of the
conundrums which adorn ingeniously the puzzle department of examination
papers. These things he does, but he is too sensible not to know that
if this is all there is to the study of literature the game is not
worth the candle. He cannot help feeling that the time thus employed
might be put to a better use; he is probably bored; and as he is sure
to know that he is bored, he is likely to conceive a contempt for
literature which is none the less deep and none the less permanent for
not being put into words. He very likely comes to believe, with the
inevitable tendency of youth to make its own feelings the criteria
by which to judge all the world, that everybody is really bored by
literature, if only, for some inscrutable reason, people did not feel
it necessary to shroud the matter in so much humbug. Talk about the
beauty of Shakespeare, about the greatness of his poetry, the wonders
of literary art, come to affect him as cant pure and simple. He puts
this to himself plainly or not according to his temperament; but the
feeling is in his mind, showing at every turn to one wise enough to
discern. Now and then a boy is born with the taste and appreciation of
poetry, and of course even in these days, when a literary atmosphere in
the home is unhappily so rare, an occasional student appears from time
to time who has been taught to care for poetry where every child should
learn to love it, in the nursery. On the whole, however, the average
school-boy really cares little or nothing for literature, and in his
secret heart is entirely convinced that nobody else cares either.

Not knowing how to "study" literature, then, and feeling that in
literature is nothing to study which is of consequence, the pupil is
in no position to make even a reasonable beginning. He cannot even
approach literature in any proper attitude unless he can be made to
care for it; unless he can be so interested that he ceases to feel the
profession of admiration for the Shakespeare he is asked to work upon
to be necessarily cant and affectation. Perhaps the hardest part of the
task set before the teacher is to bring the pupil into a frame of mind
where he can properly study poetry and to give him some insight into
what such study may and should mean.

How this is to be accomplished I cannot pretend fully to say. In
speaking of what I may call "inspirational" training in literature
I shall try to answer the question to some extent; and here I may at
least point out that the situation is from the first utterly hopeless
if the teacher is in the same state of mind as the pupil. If the
instructor is able to see no method of studying literature other than
mechanical drudgery over form, the looking-up of words, verification
of dates, dissection of plot, and so on, it is idle to hope that he
will be able to aid the class to anything better than this dry-as-dust
plodding. The teacher may at least learn what at its best the "study"
is. He may or may not have the power of inciting those under him to
enthusiasm, but he may at least show them that something is possible
beyond the mechanical treatment of the masterpieces of art.

A writer in the (Chicago) "Dial" states admirably the attitude of great
masses of students in saying:

    There are many people, young people in particular, who, with
    the best will in the world, cannot understand why it is that
    men make such a fuss about literature, and who are honestly
    puzzled by the praises bestowed upon the great literary
    artists. They would like to join in sympathetic appreciation
    of the masters, and they have an abundant store of gratitude
    and reverence to lavish upon objects that approve themselves as
    worthy; but just what there is in Shakespeare and Wordsworth
    and Tennyson to call for such seeming extravagance of eulogy
    remains a dark mystery. Such people are apt in their moments of
    revolt to set it all down to a sort of critical conspiracy,
    and to consider those who voice the conventional literary
    estimates as chargeable with an irritating kind of hypocrisy.
    They cannot see for the life of them why the books of the hour,
    with their timeliness, their cleverness, their sentimental or
    sensational interest, should be held of no serious account by
    the real lovers of literature, while the dull babblers of a
    bygone age are exalted to the skies by these same devotees of
    the art of letters. . . . Some young people never recover from
    the condition of open revolt into which they are thrown by the
    injudicious methods of our education.

Out of his own experience and appreciation the teacher must be able to
show the pupil some method of studying literature which shall in the
measure of the student's individual capacity lead to a conception of
what literature is and wherein lies its importance. Until this can be
done, nothing has been effected which is of any real or lasting value.

The third defect which I have mentioned I have put in a phrase which
may at first seem somewhat cryptic. What is meant by the attempt to
reach the enthusiasm of the child through the reason may not be at once
apparent. Yet the thing is simple. It is not difficult to lead children
to think, and to think deeply, of things which have touched their
feeling. If once their emotions are aroused, they will go actively
forward in every investigation of which their minds are capable,
and with whatever degree of appreciation they are equal to. A child
cannot, however, be reasoned into any vital admiration. The extent to
which an adult is to be touched emotionally by argument is extremely
limited. Few travelers, for instance, are able really to respond when
an officious verger or care-taker points out some historic spot, and
after glibly relating some event in his professional patter, ends with
a look which says almost more plainly than words: "Stand just here,
and thrill! Sixpence a thrill, please." Yet this is very much what is
expected of children. The teacher takes a famous book, laboriously
recounts its merits, its fame, its beauties, and then tacitly commands
the children: "Think of that, and thrill! One credit for every thrill."
It is true that the verger demands a fee and the teacher promises a
reward, but the result is the same. Do the children thrill? Is there a
conscientious teacher who has tried this method who has not with bitter
disappointment realized that the students have come out of the course
with nothing save a few poor facts and disfigured conventional opinions
which they reserve for examinations as they might save battered pennies
for the contribution-box? They have been personally conducted through
a course of literature. They come out of it in much the same condition
as return home the personally conducted through foreign art-galleries
who say: "Yes, I must have seen the 'Mona Lisa,' if it's in the Louvre.
I saw all the pictures there, you know." The chief difference is that
children are generally incapable, outside of examination-papers, of
pretending an enthusiasm which they do not feel.

One thing which is indisputable is that children know when they are
bored. Many adults become so proficient in the art of self-deception
as to be able to cheat themselves into thinking they are at the height
of enjoyment because they are doing what they consider to be the
proper thing; when in simple truth their only pleasure must lie in the
gratification of a futile vanity. Of children this is seldom true;
or, if it is true, it extends only to the fictions practiced by their
own childish world. If they have conventions, these differ from the
conventions of their elders, and they do not fool themselves with a
show of enjoyment when the reality is wanting. If they are wearied by a
book, the fact that it is a masterpiece does not in the least console
them. They may be forced by teachers to read or to study it, and to
say on examination-papers that it is beautiful; yet they not only know
they are not pleased, but to each other they are generally ready to
acknowledge it with perfect frankness.

The need of saying this in the present connection is that it is not
possible really to convince children they are enjoying the writing of
themes about Mrs. Primrose, or about Silas Marner and Effie, or on
the character of Lady Macbeth, unless they are vitally interested.
I am far from being so modern as to think that pupils should not be
asked to do anything which they do not wish to do; but I am radical
enough to believe that no other good which may be accomplished by the
study of literature in any other way can compensate for making good
books wearisome. The idea that literature is something to be vaguely
respected but not to be read for enjoyment is already sufficiently
prevalent; and rather than see it more widespread, I would have all the
so-called teaching of literature in the secondary schools abolished

The last point which I mentioned as likely to diminish the value of
teaching is that it so often demands of teachers more than can be
surely or safely counted on in the way of fitness. This I do not mean
to dwell upon, nor is it my purpose to draw up a bill of arraignment
against my craft. I wish simply to comment that one essential, a prime
essential, in the teaching of literature is the power of imaginative
enthusiasm on the part of the teacher. This would be recognized if the
subject of instruction were any other of the fine arts. If teachers
were required to train school-children in the symphonies of Beethoven
or in the pictures of Titian, everybody would realize that some
special aptitude on the part of the instructor was requisite. Every
normal school or college graduate is set to teach the masterpieces of
Shakespeare or of Milton, and the fact that the poetry is as completely
a work of art as is symphony or picture, and that what holds true of
one as the product of artistic imagination must hold true of the other,
is quietly and even unconsciously ignored.

No amount of study will create in a teacher the artistic imagination in
its highest sense, although much may be done in the way of developing
artistic perception; but at least self-improvement may go far in the
nourishing of the important quality of self-honesty. An instructor
must learn to deal fairly with himself. He must be strong enough to
acknowledge to himself fearlessly if he is not able to care for some
work that is ranked as an artistic masterpiece. He must be willing to
say unflinchingly to himself that he cannot do justice to this work or
to that, because he is not in sympathy with it, or because he lacks any
experience which would give him a key to its mood and meaning.

One thing seems to me to be entirely above dispute in this delicate
inquiry: that it is idle to hope to impart to children what we have
not learned ourselves; and it follows that the first necessity is to
appreciate our shortcomings. I ask only for the same sort of honesty
which would by common consent be essential in teaching the more humble
branches. A teacher who could not solve quadratic equations would
manifestly be an ill instructor in algebra. By the same token it is
evident that a teacher who cannot enter into the heart of a poem, who
does not understand the mood of a play, who has not a real enthusiasm
for literature, is not fitted to help children to a comprehension and
an appreciation of these. Neither is the power to rehearse the praises
and phrases of critics or commentators a sufficient qualification for
teaching. In an examination-paper at the Institute of Technology a boy
recently wrote with admirable frankness and directness:

    I confess that while I like Shakespeare, I like other poets
    better, and while my teachers have told me that he was the
    greatest writer, they never seemed to know why.

The boy unconsciously implies a most important fact, namely, that if
a teacher does not know why a poet is great, it is not only difficult
to convince the pupil of the reality of his claims, but also is it
impossible to disguise from the clever scholars the real ignorance
of the instructor. As well try to warm children by a description of
a fire as to endeavor to awake in them admiration and pleasure by
parrot-phrases, no matter how glibly or effectively repeated. They are
aroused only by the contagion of genuine feeling; they are moved only
by finding that the teacher is first genuinely moved himself.

It is bad enough when an instructor repeats unemotionally what he has
unemotionally acquired about arithmetic or geography. Pupils will
receive mechanically whatever is mechanically imparted; and in even
the most purely intellectual branches such training can at best only
distend the mind of the child without nourishing it. When it comes to
a study which is presented as of value precisely because it kindles
feeling, the absurdity becomes nothing less than monstrous.

Any child of ordinary intelligence comes sooner or later to perceive,
whether he reasons it out or not, that much of the literature presented
to him is not in the least worth the bother of study if it is to
be taken merely on its face-value. If "The Vicar of Wakefield" or
"Silas Marner" is to be read simply for the plot, either book might
be swept out of existence to-morrow and the world be little poorer.
A conscientious teacher will at least be honest with himself in
determining how much more than the obvious and often slight face-value
he is enabling his class to perceive.

An ordinary modern school-boy unconsciously but inevitably measures
the values of the books presented to him by the news of the day and
the facts of life as he sees it. If he is not made to feel that books
represent something more than a statement of outward fact or of
fiction, he is too clear-headed not to see that they are of little
real worth, and with the pitiless candor of youth he is too honest not
to acknowledge this to himself. Young people are apt to credit their
elders with enormous power of pretending. The conventionalities of
life, those arrangements which adults recognize as necessary to the
comfort and even to the continuance of society, are not infrequently
regarded by the young as rank hypocrisy. The same is true of any tastes
which they cannot share. Again and again I have come upon the feeling
among students that the respect for literature professed by their
elders was only one of the many shams of which adult life appears to
children to be so largely made up.

From the purely intellectual side of the matter, moreover, the youth
is right in feeling that there is nothing so remarkable in play or
poem as to justify the enthusiasm which he is told he should feel. If
he sees only what I have called the face-value, he would be a dunce
if he did not imagine an absurdity in the estimate at which the works
of great artists are held. He is precisely in the position of the man
who judges the great painting by its realistic fidelity to details,
and logically, from his point of view, ranks a well-defined photograph
above "The Night Watch" or the Dresden "Madonna." There is more thrill
and more emotion for the boy in the poorest newspaper account of a game
of football than in the greatest play of Shakespeare's,—unless the lad
has really got into the spirit of the poetry.

If nothing is to be taken into account but the intellectual content
of literature, the child is therefore perfectly right, and doubly so
from his own point of view. Regarded as a mere statement of fact it
is to be expected that the average modern boy will find "Macbeth" far
less exciting and absorbing than an account of a football match or of
President Roosevelt's spectacular hunting. If we expect the lad to
believe without contention and without mental reservation that the work
of literature is really of more importance and interest than these
articles of the newspaper or the magazine, we are forced to depend upon
the qualities which distinguish poetry as art. If books are to be used
only as glove-stretchers to expand mechanically the minds of the young,
it is better to throw aside the works of the masters, and to come down
frankly to able expositions of literal fact, stirring and absorbing.

It must be always borne in mind, moreover, that little permanent result
is produced except by what the pupil does for himself. The teacher is
there to encourage, to stimulate, to direct; but the real work is done
in the brain of the student. This limits what may wisely be attempted
in the line of instruction. What the teacher is able to lead the pupil
to discover or to think out for himself is within the limit of sound
and valuable work. With every class, and—what makes the problem much
more difficult—with every boy or girl in the class, the capacity will
vary. The signs, moreover, by which we determine how far a child is
thinking for himself, instead of more or less consciously mimicking
the mind of the master, are all well-nigh intangible, and must be
watched for with the nicest discernment. Often the teacher is obliged
to help the class or the individual as we help little children playing
at guessing-games with "Now you are hot," or "Now you are cold;" but
just as the game is a failure if the child has in the end to be told
outright the answer to the conundrum, so the instruction is a failure
if the student does not make his own discovery of the meaning and worth
of poem or play. The moment the instructor finds himself forced to do
the thinking for his class in any branch of study, he may be sure that
he has overstepped the boundary of real work, or at least that he has
been going too rapidly for his pupils to keep pace with him. This
is even likely to be true when he is obliged to do the phrasing, the
putting of the thought into word. He cannot profitably go farther at
that time. In another way, at another time, he may be able to bring
the class over the difficulty; but he is doing them an injury and not
a benefit, if he go on to do for them the thinking, or that realizing
of thought which belongs to putting thought into word. He is then not
educating, but "cramming." It is his duty to encourage, to assist, but
never to do himself what to be of value must be the actual work of the
learner himself.

All this is evident enough in those branches where results are definite
and concrete, like the learning of the multiplication-table or of the
facts of geography. It is equally true in subjects where reasoning is
essential, like algebra or syntax. Most of all, if not most evidently,
is it vitally true in any connection where are involved the feelings
and anything of the nature of appreciation of artistic values. We
evidently cannot do the children's memorizing for them; but no more
can we do for them their reasoning; and least of all is it possible
to manufacture for them their likings and their dislikings, their
appreciations and their enthusiasms. To tell children what feelings
they should have over a given piece of literature produces about the
same effect as an adjuration to stop growing so fast or a request that
they change the color of their eyes.

In any emotional as in any intellectual experience, intensity
and completeness must ultimately depend upon the capacity and the
temperament of the individual concerned. It is useless to hope that a
dull, stolid, unimaginative boy will have either the same appreciation
or the same enjoyment of art as his fellow of fine organization and
sensitive temperament. The personal limitation must be accepted, just
as is accepted the impossibility of making some youths proficient in
geometry or physics. It may be necessary under our present system—and
if so the fact is not to the credit of existing conditions—to present
the dull pupil with a set of ideas which he may use in examinations.
The proceeding would be not unlike providing the dead with an obolus by
way of fare across the Styx; and certainly in no proper sense could be
considered education. Difficult as it may be, the pupil must be made to
think and to feel for himself, or the work is naught.

Perhaps the tendency to try to do for the student what he should
accomplish for himself is the most general and the most serious of
all the errors into which teachers are likely to fall. The temptation
is so great, however, and the conditions so favorable to this sort of
mistake, that it is not possible to mete out to instructors who fall
into it an amount of blame at all equal to the gravity of the offense.


[42:1] I am unable to resist the temptation to call attention to the
intimation that the writer perceives some relation between poetry and
parsing. It would be interesting if he had developed this.



The foundation of any understanding or appreciation of literature is
manifestly the power of reading it intelligently. A truth so obvious
might seem to be taken for granted and to need no saying; but any
one who has dealt with entrance examination-papers is aware how
many students get to the close of their fitting-school life without
having acquired the power of reading with anything even approaching
intelligence. Primary as it may sound, I cannot help emphasizing as
the foundation of all study of literature the training of students in
reading, pure and simple.

The practical value of simple reading aloud seems to me to have been
too often overlooked by teachers of literature. Teachers read to their
pupils, and this is or should be of great importance; but the thing of
which I am now speaking is the reading of the students to the teacher
and to the class. In the first place a student cannot read aloud
without making evident the degree of his intelligent comprehension of
what he is reading. He must show how much he understands and how he
understands it.

The queer freaks in misinterpretation which come out in the reading
of pupils are often discouraging enough, but they are amusing and
enlightening. Any teacher can furnish absurd illustrations, and it is
not safe to assume of even apparently simple passages that the child
understands them until he has proved it by intelligent reading aloud.
The attention which oral reading is at present receiving is one of the
encouraging signs of the times, and cannot but do much to forward the
work of the teacher of literature.

Of so much importance is it, however, that the first impression of
a class be good, that the instructor must be sure either to find a
reasonably good reader among the pupils for the first rendering or must
give it himself. In plays this is hardly wise or practicable; but here
the parts are easily assigned beforehand, and the pride of the students
made a help in securing good results. In any work a class should be
made to understand that the first thing to do in studying a piece of
literature is to learn to read it aloud intelligently and as if it were
the personal utterance of the reader.

In dealing with a class it is often a saving of time and an easy method
of avoiding the effects of individual shyness to have the pupils read
in concert. In dealing with short pieces of verse this is, moreover,
a means of getting all the class into the spirit of the piece. The
method lacks, of course, in nicety; but it is in many cases practically

Above everything the teacher must be sure, before any attempt is
made to do anything further, that the pupil has a clear understanding
at least of the language of what he reads. My own experience with
boys who come from secondary schools even of good grade has shown me
that they not infrequently display an extraordinary incapability of
getting from the sentences and phrases of literature the most plain
and obvious meaning, especially in the case of verse; while as to
unusual expressions they are constantly at sea. On a recent entrance
examination-paper I had put, as a test of this very power, the lines
from "Macbeth:"

    And with some sweet oblivious antidote
    Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff.

The play is one which they had studied carefully at school, and they
were asked to explain the force in these lines of "oblivious." Here are
some of the replies:

    "Oblivious," used in this quotation, means that the person
    speaking was not particular as to the kind of antidote that was

    A remedy that would not expose the lady to public suspicion.

    The word "oblivious" implies a soothing cure, which will heal
    without arousing the senses.

    An antidote applied in a forgetful way, or unknown to the

    "Oblivious" here means some antidote that would put Lady
    Macbeth to sleep while the doctor removed the cause of the

    "Oblivious antidote" means one that is very pleasing.

    The word "oblivious" is beautifully used here. Macbeth wishes
    the doctor to administer to Lady Macbeth some antidote which
    will cure her of her fatal [_sic_] illness, but which will not
    at all be any bitter medicine.

    "Oblivious" here means relieving.

    "Oblivious" means some remedy the doctor had forgotten, but
    might remember if he thought hard enough.

Of course many of the replies were sensible and sound, but those hardly
better than these were discouragingly numerous.

In my own second-year work, in which the students have had all the
fitting-school training and the freshman drill besides, I am not
infrequently confounded by the inability of students to understand the
meaning of words which one uses as a matter of course. The statement
that Raleigh secretly married a Lady in Waiting, for instance,
reappeared in a note-book in the assertion that Sir Walter ran away
with Queen Elizabeth's waiting-maid; and a remark about something which
took place at Holland House brought out the unbelievable perversion
that the event happened "in a Dutch tavern." Personally I have never
discovered how far beyond words of one syllable a lecturer to students
may safely go in any assurance that his language will be understood by
all the members of his class; but this is one of the things which must
be decided if teaching is to be effective.

It must always be remembered that the vocabulary of literature is to
some extent different from that employed in the ordinary business of
life. The student is confronted with a set of terms which he seldom
or never uses in common speech; he must learn to appreciate fine
distinctions in the use of language; he must receive from words a
precision and a force of meaning, a richness of suggestion, which is
to be appreciated only by special and specific training. It will be
instructive for the teacher to take any ordinary high-school class, for
instance, and examine how far each member gets a complete and lucid
notion of what Burke meant in the opening sentence of the "Speech on

    I hope, Sir, that notwithstanding the austerity of the Chair,
    your good nature will incline you to some degree of indulgence
    toward human frailty.

An instructor is apt to assume that the intent of a passage such as
this is entirely clear, yet I apprehend that not one high-school pupil
in twenty gets the real force of this unaided.

If this example seems in its diction too remote from every-day speech
to be a fair example, the teacher may try the experiment with the
sentence in "Books" in which Emerson speaks of volumes that are

    So medicinal, so stringent, so revolutionary, so authoritative.

Every word is of common, habitual use, but most young people would be
well-nigh helpless when confronted with them in this passage.

The use in literature of allusion, of figures, of striking and unusual
employment of words, must become familiar to the student before he
is in a condition to deal with literature easily and with full
intelligence. The process must be almost like that of learning to read
in a foreign tongue. For a teacher to ignore this fact is to take the
position of a professor in Italian or Spanish who begins the reading
of his pupils not with words and simple sentences, but with intricate
prose and verse.

It must be remembered, moreover, that if the diction of literature
is removed from the daily experience of the pupil, the ideas and the
sentiments of literature are yet more widely apart from it. Literature
must deal largely with abstract thoughts and ideas, expressed or
implied; it is necessarily concerned with sentiments more elevated or
more profound than those with which life makes the young familiar. They
must be educated to take the point of view of the author, to rise to
the mental plane of a great writer as far as they are capable of so
doing. Until they can in some measure accomplish this, they are not
even capable of reading the literature they are supposed to study.

Fortunately it is with reading literature as it is with reading foreign
tongues. Often the context, the general tone, the spirit, will carry
us over passages in which there is much that is not clear to our exact
knowledge. Children are constantly able to get from a story or a poem
much more than would seem possible to their ignorance of the language
of literature. They are helped by truth to life even when they are far
from realizing what they are receiving; so that it would be manifestly
unjust to assume that the measure of a child's profit in a given case
is to be gauged too nicely by his acquaintance with the words, the
phrases, the tropes, the suggestions in which the author has conveyed
it. The fact remains, however, that in attempting to do anything
effective in the way of instruction the teacher has first of all to
train his pupil in the language of literature.

The student, having learned to read the work which is to be studied,
must approach it through some personal experience. The teacher who is
endeavoring to assist him must therefore discover what in the child's
range of knowledge may best serve as a point of departure. In all
education, no less than in formal argument, a start can be made only
from a point of agreement, from something as evident to the student as
it is to the instructor. Consciously or unconsciously every teacher
acts upon this principle, from the early lessons in addition which
begin with the obvious agreement produced by the sight of the blocks
or apples or beads which are before the child. In literature, too, the
fact is commonly acted upon, if not so universally formulated. If young
pupils are having "The Village Blacksmith" read to them, the teacher
instinctively starts with the fact that they may have seen a blacksmith
at work at his forge. The difficulty is that teachers who naturally do
this in simple poems fail to see that the same principle holds good of
literature of a higher order, and that the more complex the problem,
the greater the need of being sure of this beginning with some actual

With this finding some safe and substantial foundation in the pupil's
own experience is connected the necessity of speaking of literature,
as of anything else one tries to teach, in the language of the class
addressed. Of all that we say to our pupils very little if any of all
our careful wisdom really impresses them or remains in their minds
except that portion which we have managed to phrase in terms of their
language and so to put that it appeals to emotions of their own young
lives. They can have no conception of the characters in fiction or
poetry except in so far as they are able to consider these shadows as
moving in their own world. They should be told to make up their minds
about Lady Macbeth, or Robin Hood, or Dr. Primrose as if these were
persons of their own community about whom they had learned the facts
set forth in the books read. They cannot completely realize this, but
they get hold of the fictitious character only so far as they are able
to do it. They will at least come to have a conception that people they
see in the flesh and those they meet in literature are of the same
stuff fundamentally, and should be judged by the same laws. They will
receive the benefit, moreover, whether they realize it or not, of being
helped by fiction to understand real life, and they will be in the
right way of judging books by experience.

The principle of speaking to pupils only in the language of their own
experience is of universal application, but it is to be applied with
common sense. Nothing is more unfortunate in teaching than to have
pupils feel that they are being talked down to or that too great an
effort is being made to bring instruction to their level. A friend
once told me of a professor who in the days of the first period of
tennis enthusiasm in this country made so great an effort to take all
his illustrations from the game that the class regarded the matter a
standing joke. Yet if care be exercised it is not difficult to mix
with the childish, the familiar, and the commonplace, the dignified,
the unusual, and the suggestive. Starting with a daily experience the
teacher may go on to states of the same emotion which are far greater
and higher than can have come into the actual life of the child, but
which are imaginatively intelligible and possible because although they
differ in degree they are the same in kind. Nothing is lost of the
dignity of a play of Shakespeare's dealing with ambition if the teacher
starts with ambition to be at the head of the school, to lead the
baseball nine, or to excel in any sport; but from this the child should
be led on through whatever instances he may know in history, and in
the end made to feel that the ambition of Macbeth is an emotion he has
felt, even though it is that emotion carried to its highest terms. So
the small and the great are linked together, and the use of the little
does not appear undignified because it has been a stepping-stone to the

The aim in teaching literature is to make it a part of the student's
intimate and actual life; a warm, human, personal matter, and not a
thing taken up formally and laid aside as soon as outside pressure is
removed. To this end is the appeal made to the pupil's experience,
and to this end is he allowed to make his own estimates, to formulate
his own likes and dislikes. Any teacher, it must be remembered, is
for the scholar in the position of a special pleader. The student
regards it as part of the pedagogic duty to praise whatever is taught,
and instinctively distrusts commendation which he feels may be only
formal and official. He forms his own opinion independently or from
the judgment of his peers,—the conclusions of his classmates. He
may repeat glibly for purposes of recitation or of examination the
criticisms of the teacher, but he is likely to be little influenced
by them unless they are confirmed by the voice of his fellows and his
own taste. If young people do not reason this out, they are never
uninfluenced by it; and this condition of things must be accepted by
the teacher.

It follows that it is practically never wise to praise a book
beforehand. The proper position in presenting to the class any work for
study is that it is something which the class are to read together with
a view of discovering what it is like. Of course the teacher assumes
that it has merit or it would not be taken up, but he also assumes
that individually the members of the class may or may not care for it.
The logical and safe method is to set the students to see if they
can discover why good judges have regarded the work as of merit. The
teacher should say in effect: "I do not know whether you will care for
this or not; but I hope you will be able to see what there is in it to
have made it notable."

When the study of poem or play is practically over, when the pupils
have done all that can be reasonably expected of them in the way of
independent judgment, the teacher may show as many reasons for praising
it as he feels the pupils will understand. He must, however, be honest
in letting them like it or not. He must recognize that it is better
for a lad honestly to be bored by every masterpiece of literature
in existence than to stultify his mind by the reception of merely
conventional opinions got by rote.

Much the same thing might be said of the drawing of a moral, except
that it is not easy to speak with patience of those often well-meaning
but gravely mistaken pedagogues who seem bound to impress upon
their scholars that literature is didactic. In so far as a book is
deliberately didactic, it is not literature. It may be artistic in
spite of its enforcing a deliberate lesson, but never because of this.
My own instinct would be, and I am consistent enough to make it pretty
generally my practice, to conceal from a class as well as I can any
deliberate drawing of morals into which a writer of genius may have
fallen. It is like the fault of a friend, and is to be screened from
the public as far as honesty will permit. Certainly it should never be
paraded before the young, who will not reason about the matter, but are
too wholesome by nature and too near to primitive human conditions not
to distrust an offering of intellectual jelly which obviously contains
a moral pill.

Morals are as a rule drawn by teachers who feel that they must teach
something, and something tangible. They themselves lack the conception
of any office of art higher than moralizing, and they deal with
literature accordingly. They are unable to appreciate the fact that the
most effective influence which can be brought to bear upon the human
mind is never the direct teaching of the preacher or the moralizer,
but the indirect instruction of events and emotions. Personally I have
sufficient modesty, moreover, to make me hesitate to assume that I can
judge better than a master artist how far it is well to go in drawing
a moral. If the man of genius has chosen not to point to a deliberate
lesson, I am far from feeling inclined to take the ground that I know
better, and that the sermon should be there. When Shakespeare, or
Coleridge, or Browning feels that a vivid transcript of life should
be left to work out its own effect, far from me be the presumption to
consider the poet wrong, or to try to piece out his magnificent work
with trite moralizing.

The tendency to abuse children with morals is as vicious as it
is widespread. It is perhaps not unconnected with the idea that
instruction and improvement must alike come through means not in
themselves enjoyable. It is the principle upon which an old New
England country wife rates the efficacy of a drug by its bitterness.
We all find it hard to realize that as far as literature, at least, is
concerned, the good it does is to be measured rather by the pleasure
it gives. If the children entirely and intelligently delight in it, we
need bother about no morals, we need—as far as the question of its
value in the training of the child's mind goes—have no concern about
examinations. Art is the ministry of joy, and literature is art or it
is the most futile and foolish thing ever introduced into the training
of the young.



It will not always do to plunge at once into a given piece of
literature, for often a certain amount of preliminary work is needed
to prepare the mind of the pupil to receive the effect intended by the
author. For convenience I should divide the teaching of literature into
four stages:


The division is of course arbitrary, but it is after all one which
comes naturally enough in actual work. One division will not
infrequently pass into another, and no one could be so foolish as
to suppose literature is to be taught by a cut and dried mechanical
process of any sort. The division is convenient, however, at least for
purposes of discussion; and no argument should be needed to prove that
in many cases the pupil cannot even read intelligently the literature
he is supposed to study until he has had some preparatory instruction.

The vocabulary of any particular work must first be taken into account.
We do not ask a child to read a poem until we suppose him to have by
every-day use become familiar with the common words it contains. We
should remember that the poet in writing has assumed that the reader is
equally familiar with any less common words which may be used. It is
certainly not to be held that the writer intends that in the middle of
a flowing line or at a point where the emotion is at its highest, the
reader shall be bothered by ignorance of the meaning of a term; that
he shall be obliged to turn to notes to look up definitions, shall be
plunged into a puddle of derivations, allied meanings, and parallel
passages such as are so often prepared by the ingenious editors of
school texts. These things are well enough in their place and way; but
no author ever intended his work to be read by any such process, and
since literature depends so largely on the production of a mood, such
interruptions are nothing less than fatal to the effect.

I remember as a boy sitting at the feet of an elder sister who was
reading to me in English from a French text. At the very climax of
the tale, when the heroine was being pursued down a wild ravine by a
bandit, the reader came to an adjective which she could not translate.
With true New England conscientiousness she began to look it up in
the dictionary; but I could not bear the delay. I caught the lexicon
out of her hands, and without having even seen the French or knowing
a syllable of that language, cried out: "Oh, I know that word! It
means 'blood-boltered.' Did he catch her?" She abandoned the search,
and in all the horror of the picturesque Shakespearean epithet the
bandit dashed on, to be encountered by the hero at the next turn of
the romantic ravine. I had at the moment, so far as I can remember,
no consideration of the exact truth of my statement. I simply could
not bear that the emotion of the crisis should be interrupted by that
bothersome search for an exact equivalent. The term 'blood-boltered'
fitted the situation admirably, and I thrust it in, so that we might
hurry forward on the rushing current of excitement. This, as I
understand it, is the fashion in which children should take literature.
Few occasions, perhaps, are likely to call for epithets so lurid as
that in which Macbeth described the ghost of Banquo, but the spirit of
the thing read should so carry the reader forward that he cannot endure

When work must be done with glossary and notes in order that the
text may be easily and properly understood, this should be taken as
straightforward preliminary study. It should be made as agreeable
as possible, but agreeable for and in itself. When I say agreeable
for itself, I mean without especial reference to the text for which
preparation is being made. The history of words, the growth and
modification of meanings, the peculiarities and relations of speech,
may always be made attractive to an intelligent class; and since here
and throughout all study of literature students are to be made to do
as much of the actual work as possible, this part is simple.

The amount of time given to such learning of the vocabulary might
at first seem to be an objection to the method. In the first place,
however, there is an actual economy of time in doing all this at first
and at once, thus getting it out of the way, and saving the waste
of constant interruptions in going over the text; in the second, it
affords a means of making this portion of the work actually interesting
in itself and valuable for its relation to the study of language in
general; and in the third place it both fixes meanings in mind and
allows the reading of the author with some sense of the effect he
designed to give by the words he employed.

It is hardly necessary to say that in this matter of taking up the
vocabulary beforehand many teachers, perhaps even most teachers, will
not agree with me. The other side of the question is very well put in
a leaflet by Miss Mary E. Litchfield, published by the New England
Association of Teachers in English:

    My pupils, I find, can work longer and harder on "Macbeth" and
    "Hamlet," with constantly increasing interest, than on any
    other masterpieces suited to school use. Just because these
    dramas are so stimulating, the pupils have the patience to
    struggle with the difficulties of the text. In general they
    feel only a languid interest in word-puzzles such as delight
    the student of language; for instance, the expression, "He
    doesn't know a hawk from a handsaw," might fail to arouse their
    curiosity. But when Hamlet says: "I am but mad north-north
    west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw,"
    they are on the alert; they really care to know what he means
    and why he has used this peculiar expression. Thus word-study
    which might be mere drudgery is rendered interesting by the
    human element in the play—the element which, in my opinion,
    should always be kept well in the foreground.

A large number of teachers, many of them, very likely, of experience
greater than mine, will agree with this view. I am not able to do so
because I believe we should know the language before we try to read;
but I at least hold that the first principle in any successful teaching
is that a teacher shall follow the method which he finds best adapted
to his own temperament. For the instructor who is convinced that the
habit of taking up difficulties of language as they are met in actual
reading, to take them up then is perhaps the only effective way of
doing things. It seems to me, however, a little like sacrificing the
literature to a desire to make teaching the vocabulary easier. It is
very likely a simpler way of arousing interest in difficulties of
language; but in teaching literature the elucidation of obscure words
and phrases is of interest or value simply for the sake of the effect
of the text, and I hold that to this effect, and to this effect as a
whole, everything else should be subordinate. Each teacher must decide
for himself what is the proper method, but I insist that no author
ever wrote sincerely without assuming that his vocabulary was familiar
to his audience beforehand. Certainly I am not able to feel that it
is wise to interrupt any first reading with anything save perhaps the
briefest possible explanations, comments that are so short as not to
break the flow of the work as a whole.

The first reading of a narrative of any sort, it may surely be said,
is chiefly a matter of making the reader, and especially the childish
reader, acquainted with the story. Since little real study can be
accomplished while interest is concentrated on the plot, it may be wise
for the teacher to have a first reading without any more attention to
the difficulties of vocabulary than is absolutely needed to make the
story intelligible, and then to have the difficulties learned before
a second and more intelligent going over of the work as a whole. Each
teacher must decide a point of this sort according to individual
judgment and the character of the class.

In all the lower grades of school work whatever literature is given to
the children should be in diction and in phrasing so simple that very
little of this sort of preliminary work need be done. So long as what
is selected has real literary excellence it can hardly be too simple.
We constantly forget, it seems to me, how simple is the world of
children. Dr. John Brown, dear and wise soul, has justly said:

    Children are long in seeing, or at least in looking at what is
    above them; they like the ground, and its flowers and stones,
    its "red sodgers" and lady-birds, and all its queer things;
    _their world is about three feet high_, and they are more often
    stooping than gazing up.

It does not follow that children are to be fed on that sort of
water-gruel which is so often vended as "juvenile literature." They
should be given the best, the work of real writers; but of this the
simplest should be chosen, and in dealing with it the children should
not be bothered with thoughts and ideas which are over their heads.
They live, it must be remembered, in a "world about three feet high,"
mentally as well as physically.

In preliminary work the first object is to remove whatever obstacles
might hinder ease and smoothness of progress in reading. Beside having
all obscure terms understood, it is well to call attention to some of
the most striking and beautiful passages in the book or poem which
is to be read. They should be taken up as detached quotations, and
the pupils made to discover or to see how and why each is good. The
pleasure of coming upon them when the text is read helps in itself; it
diminishes the strain upon the mind of the student in the effort of
comprehension, and it doubles the effect of the portions chosen. My
idea is that many fine passages may be treated almost as a part of the
vocabulary of the text; their meaning and force may be made so evident
and so attractive that when the complete play or poem is taken up a
knowledge of these bits helps greatly in securing a strong effect of
the work as a whole.

We teachers too often ignore, it is to be feared, the strain it is
to the young to understand and to feel at the same time. We fail to
recognize, indeed, how difficult it is for them—or for any one—to
_feel_ while the attention is taxed to take in the meaning of a thing;
so that in literary study we are likely to demand the impossible, the
responsiveness of the emotions while all the force of the child's mind
is concentrated upon the effort to comprehend. Whatever may be done
legitimately to lessen this stress is most desirable. The preparation
of the vocabulary, the elucidation of obscure passages obviously aids
in this; but so does the pointing out of beauties. Instead of being
bothered in the midst of the effort to take in a poem or a play as a
whole and being harassed by the need of mastering details of diction or
phrasing, the student has a pleasant sense of self-confidence in coming
upon obscure matters already conquered; and in the same way receives
both pleasure and a feeling of mastery in recognizing beauties already

The preliminary work, besides this study of any difficulties of
vocabulary, should include whatever is needful in making clear any
difference between the point of view of the work studied and that of
the child's ordinary life.

In "The Merchant of Venice," for instance, it is necessary to make
clear the fact that the play was written for an audience to which
usury was an intolerable crime and a Jew a creature to be thoroughly
detested. The Jew-baiting of recent years in Europe helps to make
this intelligible. The point must be made, because otherwise Antonio
appears like a cad and Jessica inexcusable. The story is easily brought
home to the school-boy, moreover, by its close relation to the simplest

The two facts that Antonio has incurred the hatred of Shylock through
his kindness to persons in trouble and that he comes within the
range of danger through raising money to aid his friend Bassanio are
so closely allied to universal human feelings and universal human
experience that it is only needful to be sure these points are clearly
perceived to have the sympathies of the class thoroughly awakened. All
this is so obvious that it is hardly necessary to say it except for the
sake of not omitting what is of so much real importance. Every teacher
understands this and acts upon it.

To include this in the preliminary work may seem a contradiction of
a previous statement that it is not wise to tell children what they
are expected to get from any given book. The two matters are entirely
distinct. What should be done is really that sort of giving of the
point of view which we so commonly and so naturally exercise in telling
an anecdote in conversation. "Of all conceited men I ever met," we say,
"Tom Brandywine was the worst. Why, once I saw him"—and so on for
the story which is thus declared to be an exposition of overweening
vanity. "See," we say to the class in effect, "you must have felt sorry
to see some kindly, honest fellow cheated just because he was too
honest to suspect the sneak that cheated him. Here is the story of a
great, splendid, honest Moor, a noble general and a fine leader, who
was utterly ruined and brought to his death in just that way." This is
not drawing a moral, and it seems to me entirely legitimate aid to the
student. It is less doing anything for them that they could and should
do than it is directing them so that they may advance more quickly and
in the right direction.

This indication of the general direction in which the mind should move
in considering a work is closely connected with what might be called
establishing the proper point of departure. This is neither more nor
less than fixing the fact of common experience in the life of the pupil
at which it seems safe and wise to begin. What has been said about
the way in which a teacher calls upon the experience of the pupils to
bring home the picture of the Village Blacksmith at his forge is an
indication of what is here meant. In teaching history to-day, with
a somewhat older grade of pupils than would be reading that poem of
Longfellow's, an instructor naturally makes vivid the Massacre of St.
Bartholomew by comparison with the reports of Jewish massacres in our
own time; and in the same line the fact that it is so short a time
since the King of Servia was assassinated, or that the present Sultan
of Turkey cemented on his crown with the blood of his brothers, may
be made to assist a class to take the point of view necessary for the
realization of the tragedy in "Macbeth." I have already spoken[83:1]
of the humbler, but perhaps even more vital way in which the vice of
ambition that is so strong a motive power in that tragedy is to be
understood by starting from the rivalry in sports, since from this so
surely intelligible emotion the mind of the boy is easily led on to the
ambition which burns to rule a kingdom. It is wise not to be afraid of
the simple. If the poem to be studied is "The Ancient Mariner," it is
well to discover what is the strangest situation in which any member of
the class has ever found himself. After inciting the rest of the pupils
to imagine what must be one's feelings in such circumstances, it is not
difficult to lead them on to understand the declaration of Coleridge
that he tried to show how a man would feel if the supernatural were

For natural, wholesome-minded children it is not in the least necessary
to take pains to reconcile them to the supernatural. To the normal
child the line between the actual and the unreal does not exist
until this has been drilled into him by adult teaching, conscious
or unconscious. The normal condition of youth is that which accepts
a fairy as simply and as unquestioningly as it accepts a tree or a
cow. Certainly it is true that children are in general ready enough
for what they would call "make-believe," that stage of half-conscious
self-deception which lies between the blessed imaginative faith of
unsophisticated childhood and the more skeptical attitude of those who
have discovered that "there isn't any Santa Claus." For all younger
classes nothing more is likely to be necessary than to assume that the
wonderful will be accepted.

When occasion arises to justify the marvellous, the teacher may always
call attention to the fact that in poems like "The Ancient Mariner,"
or "Comus," or "Macbeth" the supernatural is a part of the hypothesis.
To connect with this the pupil's conception of the part the hypothesis
plays in a proposition in geometry is at once to help to connect one
branch of study with another, always a desirable thing in education,
and to aid them in understanding why and how they are to accept the
wonders of the story entirely without question. The impossible is part
of the proposition, and this they must be made to feel before they can
be at ease with their author or get at all the proper point of view.

The aim of literature is to arouse emotion, but we live in a realistic
age, and the youth of the present is not given to the emotional.
Youth, moreover, instinctively conceals feeling, and the lads in our
school-classes to-day are in their outside lives and indeed in most of
their school-work called upon to be as hard-headed and as unemotional
as possible. They are likely to feel that emotion is weak, that to be
moved is effeminate. They will shy at any statement that they should
feel what they read. The notion of conceiving an hypothesis helps just
here. A boy will accept—not entirely reasoning the thing out, but
really making of it an excuse to himself for being moved—the idea that
if the hypothesis were true he might feel deeply, although he assures
himself that as it is he is actually stable in a manly indifference.
The aim of the teacher is to awake feeling, but not to speak of it; to
touch the class as deeply as possible, yet not to seem aware, or at
least not to show that he is aware that the students are touched.

In this as in all treatment of literature, any connection with the
actual life of the pupil is of the greatest value. It seems to justify
emotion, and it gives to the work of imagination a certain solidity.
Without reasoning the thing out fully, a boy of the present day is
likely to judge the importance of anything presented to him at school
by what he can see of its direct bearing upon his future work, and
especially by its relations to the material side of life. This is even
measurably true of children so young that they might be supposed still
to be ignorant of the realism of the time and of the practical side of
existence. The teacher best evades this danger by starting directly
from some thought or fact in the child's present life and from this
leading him on to the mood of the work of literature which is under

Here and everywhere I feel the danger of seeming to be recommending
mechanical processes for that which no mechanical process can reach. If
the teacher has a sympathetic love for literature, he will understand
that I do not and cannot mean anything of the sort; if he has not
that sympathy, he cannot treat literature otherwise than in a machine
fashion, no matter what is said. It sometimes seems that it is hardly
logical to expect every teacher to be an instructor in literature any
more than it would be to ask every teacher to take classes in music and
painting. Art requires not only knowledge but temperament; both master
and pupil must have a responsiveness to the imaginative, or little can
be accomplished. Since the exigencies of our present system, however,
require that so large a proportion of teachers shall make the attempt,
I am simply endeavoring to give practical hints which may aid in the
work; but I wish to keep plainly evident the fact that nowhere do I
mean to imply a patent process, a mechanical method, or anything which
is of value except as it is applied with a full comprehension that the
chief thing, the thing to which any method is to be at need completely
sacrificed, is to awaken appreciation and enthusiasm, to quicken the
imagination of the student, and to develop whatever natural powers he
may have for the enjoying and the loving of good books.[87:1]


[83:1] Page 69.

[87:1] While this volume was in press a writer in the _Monthly Review_
(London) has remarked: "I fail to see how a literary sense can be
cultivated until a firm foundation of knowledge has been laid whereon
to build, and I tremble to think of the result of an enforced diet of
'The Canterbury Tales,' 'The Faerie Queen,' and 'Marmion' upon a class
as yet ignorant of the elements of English composition."



The term "inspirational," which I have used as indicating the second
division of the teaching of literature, is a somewhat absurdly large
word for what is the most simple and natural part of the whole dealing
with books which goes on between teacher and pupil. It is a term,
however, which expresses pretty well what is or should be the exact
character of the study at its best. The chief effect of literature
should be to inspire, and by "inspirational," as applied to teaching, I
mean that presentation of literature which best secures this end.

Put in simpler terms the whole matter might be expressed by saying that
the most important office of literature in the school as in life is to
minister to delight and to enthusiasm; and whoever is familiar with the
limited extent to which the required training in college requirements
or in prescribed courses fulfils this office will realize the need
which exists for the emphasizing of this view of the matter. Literature
is made a gymnasium for the training of the intellect or a treadmill
for the exercise of the memory, but it is too seldom that delight which
it must be to accomplish its highest uses.

That the secondary schools should be chiefly concerned with this phase
of literature seems to me a truth so obvious and so indisputable that
I can see only with astonishment that it is so generally ignored. In
the lower grades, it is true, something is done in the way of letting
children enjoy literature without bothering about didactic meanings,
history of authors, philological instances, critical manipulations, and
all the devices with which later the masterpieces of genius are turned
into bugbears; but even here too many teachers feel an innate craving
to draw morals and to make poetry instructive. They seem to forget
that as children themselves they skipped the moral when they read a
story, or at best received it as an uninteresting necessity, like the
core of an apple, to be discarded when from it had been gleaned all
the sweets of the tale. Nothing is more amazing than the extent to
which all we teachers, in varying degrees, but universally, even to the
best of us, go on dealing with a sort of imaginary child which from
our own experience we know never did and never could exist. The first
great secret of all teaching is to recognize that we must deal with our
pupils as if we were dealing with our own selves at their age. If we
can accomplish this, we shall not bore them with dull moralizings under
the pretext that we are introducing them to the delights of literature.

Where a class has to be dealt with, the work in any branch must be
adapted to the average mind, and not to the understanding of the
individual; so that in school many things are impossible which at
home, or in individual training, are not difficult. It is not hard, I
believe, to interest even the average modern boy, distracted by the
multiplicity of current impressions, in the best literature, provided
he may be taken alone and competently handled. Almost any wholesome and
sane lad may at times be found to be indifferent in class to the plays
of Shakespeare, for instance; yet I believe few healthy and fairly
intelligent boys of from ten to fifteen could resist the fascination of
the plays if these were read with them by a competent person at proper
times, and without the dilution of mental perception which necessarily
comes with the presence of classmates. Be this, however, as it may,
the teacher must be content with arousing as well as he can the spirit
of the class as a whole. Some one or two of the cleverest pupils will
lead, and may seem to represent the spirit of all; but even they are
not what they would be alone, and in any case the instructor must not
devote himself to the most clever while the rest of the pupils are

It follows that in the choice of pieces to be read to students the
first thing to be considered is that these shall be effective in a
broad sense so that they will appeal to the average intelligence and
taste of a given class easily and naturally. They must first of all
have that strong appeal to general human emotion which will insure a
ready response from youth not well developed æsthetically and rendered
less sensitive by being massed with other students in a class. Such
a selection is not easy, and it involves the careful study of what
may be termed the individuality of any given group of pupils; but it
seems to me to be at once one of the most obvious and one of the most
important of the points which should be considered in the beginning of
any attempt to create in school a real enjoyment in literature.

A danger which naturally presents itself at the very outset is the
likelihood of forgetting that the possession of this easy and obvious
interest is not a sufficient reason why a work should be presented to a
class. It too often happens that the desire of arousing and interesting
pupils leads teachers to bring forward things that are sensational and
have little if any further recommendation. Doubtless Dr. Johnson was
right when he declared that "you have done a great thing when you have
brought a boy to have entertainment from a book;" yet after all the
teacher is not advancing in his task and may be doing positive harm
if he sacrifice too much to the desire to be instantly and strongly
pleasing. Flashy and unworthy books are so pressed upon the reading
public at the present day that especial care is needed to avoid
fostering the tendency to receive them in place of literature.

It is not my purpose to give lists of selections, for in the first
place it has been done over and over, notably in such a collection as
the admirable "Heart of Oak" series; and in the second no selection
can be held to be equally adapted to different classes or to have
real value unless it has been made with a view to the actual needs of
a definite body of pupils. Pupils must be interested, yet the things
chosen to arouse their interest should be those which have not only the
superficial qualities which make an instant appeal, but possess also
those more lasting merits essential to genuine literature.

In the lower grades it is generally, I believe, possible for the
teacher to control the choice of selections put before students,
although even here this is not always the case. If errors of selection
are made, however, they are largely due to inability to judge wisely
and to a too great deference to general literary taste. A teacher
must remember that two points are absolutely essential to any good
teaching of literature: first, that the selection be suited to the
possibilities of the individual class; second, that the teacher be
qualified so to use and present the selection as to make it effective.
Many conscientious teachers take poems which they know are regarded
as of high merit, and which have been used with advantage by other
instructors, yet which they individually, from temperament or from
training, are utterly inadequate to handle. They either lack the
insight and delight in the pieces which are essential if the pupils
are to be kindled, or are deficient in power so to present their own
appreciation and enjoyment that these appeal to the children.

For illustration of one of the ways in which a child may be led into
the heart of a poem I have chosen "The Tiger," by William Blake.
This belongs to the class of literature constantly taken for use with
children because it is reputed to be beautiful, yet which constantly
fails in its appeal to a class. It is to me one of the most wonderful
lyrics in the language, yet I doubt if it would ever have occurred to
me to use it in our common schools, and certainly I should never have
dreamed that it was to be presented to children in the lower grades.
I do not know with what success teachers in general may have used it,
but in one or two Boston schools with which I happen to be fairly
well acquainted the effect is pretty justly represented by the mental
attitude of the small lad spoken of in the next chapter. The extent to
which children acquiesce in a sort of mechanical compliance in what to
them are the vagaries of their elders in the matter of literature can
hardly be exaggerated. Doubtless they often unconsciously gain much
of which they do not dream in the way of the development of taste and
perception, but too often the whole of the instruction given along
æsthetic lines slides over them without producing any permanent effect
of appreciable value.

Of course I do not contend that children are not advancing unless they
know it. Early training in literature may often be of the highest value
without definite consciousness on the part of the child. Self-analysis
is no more to be expected here than anywhere else in the early stages
of training. The child does not in the least comprehend, for instance,
that the ditties of Mother Goose, meaningless jingles as they are,
are educating his sense of rhythm; he does not understand that his
imaginative powers are being nourished by the fairy-tale, the normal
mental food for a certain stage of the development of the individual as
it is the natural and inevitable product of a corresponding stage in
the development of the race. So long as a child has genuine interest
in a poem or a tale he is getting something from it, but he does not
concern himself to consider anything beyond present enjoyment. In the
earlier stages at least, and for that matter at any stage, the thing
to be secured is interest; and instruction in the lower school grades
should be confined to what is actually needed to make children enjoy a
given piece. Anything beyond this may wisely be deferred.

In many of the lower grades it is now the fashion to have children
act out poems. The method is spoken of with satisfaction by teachers
who have tried it. I know nothing of it by experience, but should
suppose it might be good if not carried too far. Children are naturally
histrionic, and advantage may be taken of this fact to stimulate their
imagination and to quicken their responsiveness to literature, if
seriousness and sincerity are not forgotten.

In this early work it does not seem to me that much can wisely be done
in the study of metrical effects. Indeed, I have serious doubts whether
much in the way of the examination of the technique of poetry properly
has place anywhere in preparatory schools. The child, however, should
be trained gradually to notice metrical effects, by having attention
called to passages which are especially musical or impressive. By
beginning with ringing and strongly marked verse and leading on to
effects more delicate the teacher may do much in this line.

I have called this early work "inspirational" because it should be
directed to making literature a pleasure and an inspiration. The word,
clumsy as it may seem, does express the real function of art, and the
only function which may with any profit be considered in the earlier
stages of the "study" of literature. The object is to make the children
care for good books; to show them that poetry has a meaning for them;
and to awaken in them—although they will be far from understanding the
fact—a sensitiveness to ideals. The child will not be aware that he
is being given higher views of life, that he is being trained to some
perception of nobler aims and possibilities greater than are presented
by common experiences; but this is what is really being accomplished.
Any training which opens the eyes to the finer side of life is in the
best and truest sense inspiration; and it should be the distinct aim
of the teacher to see to it that whatever else may happen, in the
lower grades or in the higher, this chief function of the teaching of
literature shall not be lost sight of or neglected.



To attempt to give a concrete illustration of the method in which any
teaching is to be carried on is in a way to try for the impossible.
Every class and every pupil must be treated according to the especial
nature of the case and the personal equation of the teacher. I perhaps
expose myself to the danger of seeming egotistic if I insert here an
experience of my own, and, what is of more consequence, I may possibly
obscure the very points I am endeavoring to make clear. As well as I
can, however, I shall set down an actual talk, in the hope that it
may afford some hint of the way in which even difficult pieces of
literature may be made to appeal to a child. Of course this is not in
the least meant as a model, but solely and simply as an illustration.

I once asked a fine little fellow of eight what he was doing at school.
He answered—because this happened to be the task which at the moment
was most pressing—that he was committing to memory William Blake's

"Do you like it?" I asked.

"Oh, we don't have to like it," he responded with careless frankness,
"we just have to learn it."

The form of his reply appealed to one's sense of humor, and I wondered
how many of my own students in literature might have given answers not
dissimilar in spirit, had they not outgrown the delicious candor which
belongs to the first decade of a lad's life. The afternoon chanced to
be rainy and at my disposal. I was curious to see what I could do with
this combination of Blake and small boy, and I made the experiment.
I should not have chosen the poem for one so young; but it is real,
compact of noble imagination, the boy was evidently genuine, and a real
poem must have something for any sincere reader even if he be a child.

The following report of our talk was not written down at the time,
and makes no pretense of being literal. It does represent, so far
as I can judge, with substantial accuracy what passed between the
straightforward lad and myself. Too deliberate and too diffuse to have
taken place in a school-room, it yet gives, on an extended scale,
what I believe is the true method of "teaching literature" in all the
secondary-school work. I do not claim to have originated or to have
discovered the method; but I hope that I may be able to make clearer
to some teachers how children may be helped to do their own thinking
and thus brought to a vital and delighted enjoyment of the masterpieces
they study.

I began to repeat aloud the opening lines of the poem.

"Why," said the boy, "do you know that? Did you have to learn it at
school when you were little like me?"

"I'm not sure when I did learn it," I answered; "I've known it for a
good while; but I didn't just learn it. I like it."

I repeated the whole poem, purposely refraining from giving it very
great force, even in the supreme symphonic outburst of the magnificent
fifth stanza:

    Tiger, tiger, burning bright
      In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
      Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    In what distant deeps or skies
      Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
    On what wings dare he aspire?
      What the hand dare seize the fire?

    And what shoulder and what art
      Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
    And, when thy heart began to beat,
      What dread hand formed thy dread feet?

    What the hammer? what the chain?
      In what furnace was thy brain?
    What the anvil? what dread grasp
      Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

    When the stars threw down their spears,
      And watered heaven with their tears,
    Did he smile His work to see?
      Did he who made the lamb make thee?

"It sounds rather pretty," I commented, as carelessly as possible.

"Yes, I suppose so," he assented colorlessly, looking at me rather

He was a shrewd little mortal, and he had been so often told at school
that he should like this and that for which in reality he did not
care a button that he was on his guard. I made a casual remark about
something entirely unrelated to the subject. It was well that the lad
should not feel that he was being instructed. Then in a manner as
natural and easy as I could make it I asked:

"Did you ever see a tiger?"

"Oh, yes; I've seen lots of them at the circus. Tom Bently never went
to but one circus, but I've been to four."

"What does a tiger look like?" I went on, ignoring the irrelevant.

"He's a fierce-looking thing! Didn't you ever see one?"

"Yes, I've seen them, but I wondered if they looked the same to you as
they do to me."

"Why, how do they look to you?"

"I asked you first. It's only fair for you to say first."

"Well," the small boy said, with a fine show of being determined to
play fair, "I think they look like great big, big, big cats. Did you
think that?"

"That's exactly what I should have said. They really are a sort of cat,
you know. Did you ever see a keeper stir them up?"

"Oh, yes, sir; and they snarled like anything, and licked their lips
just like this!"

He gave a highly gratifying imitation, and then added vivaciously: "If
I were the keeper, I'd keep stirring them up all the time. They did
look so mad!"

"And they opened and shut their eyes slowly," I suggested, "as if
they'd like to get hold of their keeper."

"Yes; and their eyes were just like green fire."

"'Burning bright,'" I quoted; and then without giving the boy time to
suspect that he was being led on, I asked at once: "Did you ever see a
cat's eyes in the dark?"

"Oh, I saw our cat once last summer, when we were in the country, under
a rosebush after dark, when Dick and I got out of the window after we'd
gone to bed. She just scared me; her eyes were just like little green
lanterns. Dick said they were like little bicycle lamps."

"If it had been a tiger under a bush in the night,—'in the forests of
the night,'—"

"Oh," interrupted the boy with the eagerness of a discoverer, "is that
what it means! Did he see a tiger in the night under a bush? A real,
truly tiger, all loose? I'd have run away."

"I don't know if he ever saw one," I answered. "I rather think he
saw a tiger or a picture of one, or thought of one, and then got to
thinking how it must seem to come across one in the woods; when one was
travelling, say, in the East where tigers live wild. If you came upon
one in the forest in the dark, what do you think would be the first
thing that would tell you a tiger was near?"

"I'd hear him."

"Did you ever hear a cat moving about?"

"No," the boy said doubtfully. "Aunt Katie says Spot doesn't make any
more noise than a sunbeam. Could a sunbeam make a noise?"

"She meant that Spot didn't make any. You'd never hear a tiger coming,
for it's a kind of cat, and moves without sound. You wouldn't know that

"I'd see him."

"In the night? You couldn't see him."

"Yes, I could! Yes, I could!" he cried triumphantly. "I'd see his eyes
just like green fire."

I had interested the lad and taken him far enough to feel sure he would
follow me if I helped him on a little faster. I was ready to use clear
suggestion when I felt that he would respond to it as if the thought
were his own.

"Well," I said, "don't you see that this is just what the man who wrote
the poem meant? He got to thinking how the tiger would look in the
night to anybody that came on him in the forest and saw those eyes like
green fires shining at him out of the jungle. Don't you suppose you or
I would think they were pretty big fires if we saw them, and knew there
was a tiger behind them?"

"I guess we should! Wooh! Do you suppose Bruno'd run?"

Bruno was a small and silky water-spaniel, a charming beast in his
way, but not especially welcome at this point of the conversation.

"Very likely;" I slid over the subject. "The man knew that he would
have a feeling how big and strong that tiger must be: and it gave him
a shock to think what a fearful thing the beast would be there in the
dark, with all the warm, damp smells of the plants in the air, and the
strange noises. It would almost take away his breath to think what a
mighty Being it must have taken to make anything so awful as a tiger."

"Yes," the lad said so quietly that I let him think a little. He had
snuggled up against my knee and laid hold of my fingers, and I knew
some sense of the matter was working in him. After a moment or two I
asked him if he could repeat the first verse of the poem as if he were
the man who thought of the tiger in the jungle there, with fierce eyes
shining out of the dark, and who had so clear an idea of the mighty
creature that he couldn't help thinking what a wonderful thing it was
that it could be created. The boy fixed his eyes on mine as if he were
getting moved and half-consciously desired to be assured that I was
utterly serious and sympathetic; and in his clear childish voice he
repeated in a way that had really something of a thrill in it:

    "Tiger, tiger, burning bright
       In the forests of the night,
     What immortal hand or eye
       Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"

"If a traveller were in the jungle in the dark night," I went on after
a word of praise for his recitation, "I suppose he couldn't see much
around him, the trees would be so thick. He'd have to look up to the
sky to see anything but the tiger's eyes."

"He'd see the stars there," the boy observed, just as I had hoped he
would. "I've seen stars through the trees. I was out in the woods long
after dark once."

"Were you really? The man must have thought the stars looked like the
eyes, as if when the animal was made the Creator went to the sky itself
for that fire. Think of a Being that could rise to the very stars and
take their light in His hand."

"Ouf!" the small man cried naïvely. "I shouldn't want to take fire in
my hand!"

"The writer of the poem was thinking what a wonderful Being He must be
that could do it; but that if He could make a creature like the tiger,
He would be able to do anything."

The boy reflected a moment, and then, with a frank look, asked: "Did
the fire in a tiger's eyes really come out of the stars?"

"I don't think that the poem means that it really did," was my answer.
"I think it means that when the poet thought how wonderful a tiger is,
with the life and the fierceness shining like a flame in his eyes,
and how we cannot tell where that fire came from, and that the stars
overhead were scarcely brighter, it seemed as if that was where the
green light came from. He was trying to say how wonderful and terrible
it was to him,—especially when he thought of coming upon the beast all
alone in the forest in the night with nobody near to defend him."

The boy was silent, and thinking hard. He had evidently not yet clearly
grasped all the idea.

"But God didn't make a tiger on an anvil and put pieces of stars in for
eyes," he objected.

"You told me yesterday that Bruno swims like a duck. He doesn't really,
for a duck goes on the top of the water."

"Oh, but I meant that Bruno goes as fast as a duck."

"And you wanted me to know how well he swims, I suppose."

"Why, of course. Bruno can swim twice as fast as Tom Talcott's dog."

"You said that about the duck to make me know what a wonderful swimmer
Bruno is, and the man who wrote the poem wanted you when you read it to
feel how wonderful the tiger seemed to him; its eyes as if they were of
fire brought from the stars, its strength so great that it seemed as if
his muscles had been beaten out on an anvil from red-hot steel by some
Being mighty enough to do something no man could begin to do. The poem
doesn't mean that a tiger was really made in this way; but it does mean
that when you think of the strength and fearfulness of the creature,
able to carry off a man or even a horse in its jaws, this is the best
way to give an idea of how terrible the animal seemed."

The boy accepted this, and so we came to the fifth verse. The range
of ideas here is so much beyond the mind of any child that it was
necessary to suggest most of them, to go very slowly, and in the end
to be content with a childishly inadequate notion of the magnificent
conception. I gave frankly a suggestion of the creation of all the
animals at the beginning, and of how the angels might have stood around
like stars, watching full of interest and of kindness. The boy was
easily made to feel as if he had seen the making of the deer and the
lamb and the horse, and of how the angels might see in one or another
of the animals a help or a friend to man.

"Then suppose," I said, "that the angels should see God make the great
tiger, royal and terrible. What would they see?"

"Oh, a great fierce thing," the lad returned. "Do you suppose he'd jump
right at the deer and the lambs?"

"He would make the angels think how he could. How different from the
other animals he'd be."

"Yes, he'd have big, big, sharp teeth, and he'd lash his tail, and he'd
put out his claws. Do you suppose he'd sharpen his claws the way Muff
does on the leather chairs?"

"Very likely he would," I said. "At any rate the angels would think
how the other animals would be torn to pieces if the tiger got hold of
them; and they would think of what would happen to men. Perhaps they
would imagine some poor Hindu woman, with her baby on her back going
through a path in the jungle, and how the tiger might leap out suddenly
and tear them both to pieces. The angels couldn't understand how God
could bear to make any animal so cruel, or how He could be willing to
have anything so wicked in the world. They would be so sorry for all
the suffering that was to come that they would throw down their spears
and not be able to keep back the tears."

"But angels wouldn't have spears, would they?"

I went to a shelf of the library in which we were talking and took down
a volume in which I found a picture of St. Michael in full armor.

"It is like the fire from the stars," I said. "Of course nobody ever
saw an angel to know how he would look, but to show how strong and
powerful an angel might be, a good many men that make pictures have
painted them like knights."

"But men that had spears wouldn't cry; I shouldn't think angels would."

"Even the strongest men cry sometimes, my boy; only it has to be
something tremendous to make them. A thing that would make the angels
'water heaven with their tears' must be something so terrible that you
couldn't tell how sad it was."

"Well, anyway, I'd rather be a tiger than a lamb," he proclaimed rather

"Very likely," I assented, "but I think you'd rather have a lamb come
after Baby Lou than a tiger."

"Oh, I wouldn't want a tiger to get Baby Lou!" he cried with a tremor.

"I suppose that is the way the angels might feel at the idea of the
tiger's killing anybody," I rejoined.

With a lad somewhat older one would have gone on to develop the
thought that to the watching angels the tiger, leaping out fierce
and bloodthirsty from the hand of the Creator, would be like the
incarnation of evil, and that in their weeping was represented all the
sorrowful problem of the existence of evil in the Universe; but this on
the present occasion I did not touch upon.

"So the angels," I went on, "couldn't keep back their tears; but what
did God do?"

"Why, He smiled!" the boy answered, evidently with astonishment at the
thought which now for the first time came home to him. "I shouldn't
think He'd have smiled."

"When you were so disappointed the other day because the carriage was
broken and you couldn't go over to the lake in it, do you remember that
Uncle Jo laughed?"

"Oh, he knew we could go in his automobile."

"He knew."

"Yes, he knew," began the boy, "and so—" He stopped, and looked at me
with a sudden soberness. "What did God know?" he asked seriously.

"He must have known that somehow everything was right, don't you think?
He knew why He had made the tiger, just as He knew why He had made the
lamb, and so He could see that everything would be as it should be in
the end."


The boy was speechless in face of the eternal problem, as so many
greater and wiser have been before him. It seemed to me that we had
done quite enough for once, so I broke off the talk with a suggestion
that we try the boy's favorite game. That was the end of the matter for
the time, but in the library of the lad's father the copy of Blake is
so befingered at the page on which "The Tiger" is printed that it is
evident that the boy, with the soiled fingers of his age, has turned it
often. How much he made out of the talk I cannot pretend to say, but at
least he came to love the poem.

I said at the start that I do not give the conversation, which is
actual, as a sample, but as an illustration. The poem called for more
leading on of the pupil than would many, for as Blake is one of the
most imaginative of English writers, his conceptions are the more
subtle and profound. A class, moreover, cannot be treated always with
the same deliberation as that which is natural in the case of a single
child; but the essential principle, I believe, is the same everywhere.



Educational in the broadest sense must anything be which is
inspirational; for to interest the child in literature, to make him
enter into it as into a charming heritage, is more truly to educate
him than would be any pedantic or formal instruction whatever. I have
used the term specifically, however, as a convenient word by which
to designate that form of instruction which is more deliberately
and formally an effort to make clear what literature may be held to
teach. To regard any work of art as directly and didactically teaching
anything is perhaps to fail in so far to treat it as art; but the
point which such a consideration raises is too deep for our present
inquiry, and may be disregarded except in the case of unintelligent
attempts to make every tale or poem embody and convey a set moral. To
endeavor to aid pupils to perceive fully the relation of what they read
to themselves and to the society in which they live is part of the
legitimate work of the teacher of literature. In a word, while the term
is perhaps not the best, I have used the word educational to designate
such study as is directed to helping the student to gain from books a
wider knowledge of life and human nature.

It is not my idea that in actual practice a formal division is
to be made, and still less that what I have called inspirational
consideration of literature is ever to be discontinued. In the growth
of a child's mind comes naturally a simple and unreflecting pleasure
in literature, beginning, as has been said, with unsophisticated
delight in the marked rhythms of Mother Goose or in the wholesome joy
of the fairy-story. To this is gradually added an equally unreflecting
absorption of certain ideas concerning life, which by slow degrees
gives place to reflection conscious and deliberate. The delight and the
unconscious yielding to the influence of the work of art remain, and to
the end they are more effective than any deliberate and conscious ideas
can be. Nothing that we teach our pupils about a poem can compare in
influence with what they absorb without realizing what they are doing.
One of the great dangers of this whole matter is that we shall hurry
them from an instinctive to a cultivated attitude toward literature;
that we shall replace natural and healthful pleasure by laborious and
conscientious study. In dealing with any piece of real literature the
wise method, it seems to me, is to take it up first for the absolute,
straightforward emotional enjoyment.[110:1] It is of very little use
to study any work which the children have not first come to care for.
After they see why a piece is worth while from the point of view of
pleasure, then study may go further and consider what is the core of
the work intellectually and emotionally.

In speaking of treating literature educationally I do not refer to
that sort of instruction which so generally and unfortunately takes
the place of the true study of masterpieces. The history of a poem or
a drama, the biography of authors, and all work of this sort should
in any case be kept subordinate and should generally, I believe,
come after the student has at least a tolerable idea and a fair
appreciation of the writings themselves. What is important and what I
mean by the educational treatment of literature is the development of
those general truths concerning human nature and human feeling which
form the tangible thought of a play or poem. The line of distinction
between this and the less tangible ideas which are conveyed by form,
by melody, by suggestion,—the ideas, in short, which are the secret
of the inspirational effect of a work,—cannot be sharply drawn. Many
of the tangible ideas will have been obvious in the reading of which
the recognized purpose has been mere delight and inspiration; and on
the other hand the two classes of ideas are so closely interwoven that
it is not possible, even were it advisable, to separate them entirely.
It is possible, however, after the pupil has come to take pleasure in
a work,—though it should never be attempted sooner,—to go on to the
deliberate study of the intellectual content, and to take up broad and
general truths.

One way of preparing a class for the work which is now to be done
is to speak to them of literature as a sort of high kind of algebra;
to let them see, that is, how the distinction between the great mass
of reading-matter and what is fairly to be called literature is not
unlike the difference with which they are familiar in mathematics
between arithmetic and the higher grade of work which comes after. The
newspaper, the text-book, the history, the scientific treatise all
deal with the concrete, just as arithmetic has to do with absolute
quantities. In the mental development of the pupil the time comes when
he is considered sufficiently advanced to go on from the handling of
concrete things to the dealing with the abstract. When he is able to
understand the relation between the sum paid for one bushel of wheat
and the amount needed to purchase fifty, he may be advanced to the lore
of general formulæ, and be made to understand how _x_ may represent
any price and _y_ any number of bushels. In the same way from reading
in a newspaper the story of the assassination of the late King of
Servia, the concrete case, he may go on to read "Macbeth," wherein
Duncan represents any monarch of given character, and Macbeth not a
particular, actual, concrete assassin, but a murderer of a sort, a
type, the general or abstract character. The student has gone on from
the particular to the general; from the concrete to the abstract; from
the arithmetic of human nature to its algebra.

A similar comparison between history and poetry is on the same grounds
easily to be made between the history lesson and the chronicle plays
of Shakespeare. The student who in his nursery days started out with
the instinctive question in regard to the fairy-tale: "Is it true?"
begins to perceive the difference between literal and essential truth.
He perceives that verity in literature is not simple and obvious
fidelity to the specific fact or event; he learns to appreciate that
the truth of art, like the truth of algebra, lies in its accuracy
in representing truth in the abstract: he comes to appreciate the
narrowness of the nursery question, which asked only for the literal
fact, and he begins to comprehend something of the symbolic.

An excellent illustration for practical use is a poem like "How they
Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix." Any live, wholesome boy is
sure to tingle with the swing and fervor of the verse, the sense of
the open air, the excitement, the doubt, the hope, the joyful climax.
It is easy to lead the class on to consider how exhilarating such an
experience would be, and to go on from this to point out that the
poem does not describe a literal, actual occurrence; but that it is a
generalized expression of the zest and exhilaration of a superb, all
but impossible ride, with the added excitement of being responsible for
the freedom or even the lives of the folk of a whole city.

The first feeling of the class on learning that such a ride was not
taken is sure to be one of disappointment. It is better to meet
this frankly, and to compensate for it by arousing interest in the
embodiment of abstract feeling. One great source of the lack of
interest in literature at the present time is that the material,
practical character of the age makes it difficult for the general
reader to respect anything but the concrete fact. Literature is apt to
present itself to the hard-headed young fellow of the public school
as a lot of make-believe stuff, and therefore at best a matter of
rather frivolous amusement. The surest way of correcting this common
attitude of mind is to nourish the appreciation of what fact in art
really means; to cultivate a clear perception of how a poem or a tale
may be the truest thing in the world, although dealing with imaginary
personages and with incidents which never happened.[114:1]

As an illustration of the sense in which literature is a sort of
algebra of human feeling somewhat more remote from the ordinary life
of a child may be taken another poem of Browning's, "The Lost Leader."
My experience is that most youth of the school age start out by being
able to make little or nothing of this. By a little talk, however,
beginning perhaps as simply as with the way in which a lad feels when
a school-fellow he had faith in has failed in a crisis, has for some
personal advantage gone over to the other party in a school election,
or of how the class would feel if some teacher who had been with the
students in some effort to obtain an extension of privilege to which
the scholars felt themselves to be honestly entitled had for his
own purposes swung over to the opposite side, the whole thing may be
brought home. The boys may be led on to imagine what are the feelings
of a youth eager for the cause of freedom and the uplifting of man,
when one whom he has looked to as a leader, one in whom he has had
absolute faith, deserts the rank for honors or for money. Once the
young minds are on the right track it is by no means impossible to
bring them to see pretty clearly that in the poem is not the question
of a particular man or a particular cause; but that Browning is dealing
with a universal expression of the pain that would come to any man, to
any one of them, in believing that the leader who had been most trusted
and revered had in reality been unworthy, and had betrayed the cause
his followers believed he would gladly die to defend.

These two examples from Browning I have taken almost at random, and
not because they are unusual in this respect, for this quality is the
universal property of all real literature, and indeed is one of the
tests by which real literature is to be identified. Any selection which
it is worth while to give students at all must have this relation which
I have called "algebraic," but of which the true name is imaginative;
and it is certainly one of the important parts of anything which in a
high sense is properly to be called "teaching" literature to make the
scholars realize and appreciate this.

The next step is more difficult because far more subtle; and I confess
frankly that it is all but impossible to propose methods by which
formal instruction may deal with it. The aim of literature is largely
the attempt to produce a mood. The prime aim of the poet is to induce
in the reader a state of feeling which will lead inevitably to the
reception of whatever he offers in the same mood in which he offers
it. In the simplest cases no instruction is needed, for even with
school-boys a ringing metre, to take a simple and obvious example,
has somewhat the same effect as the dashing swing of martial music;
whoever comes under its influence falls insensibly into the frame of
mind in which the ideas of the verse should be received. The thoughts
are accepted in the exhilarated spirit in which they were written, and
the effects of the metre are as great or greater than the influence of
the literal meaning. It is a commonplace to call attention to the part
which the melody of poetry or the rhythm of prose plays in the effect,
but how to aid pupils to a responsiveness to this language of form is
not the least of the problems of the teacher.

The means by which an author establishes or communicates his mood
do not always appeal to the young. Indeed, beyond a certain limited
extent they appeal to most adults only after careful cultivation in the
understanding of art-language. It is as idle to suppose that literature
appeals to everybody and without æsthetic education as it is to suppose
that sculpture or music will surely meet with a response everywhere.
Nobody expects Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" or Bach's "Passion Music"
to arouse enthusiasm in accidentally assorted school-children, yet to
all the pupils in a mixed public school are offered the parallel works
of Shakespeare and Milton. Unless a class is made up of boys or girls
with unusual aptitude or wisely and carefully trained to responsiveness
to metrical effect, it seems hardly less idle to offer them "Comus" or
"Lycidas" than it would be to expect them to enjoy a classic concert.
The language of form in the higher range of literature is to them an
unknown tongue.

Children are likely to be susceptible to marked metrical effects, as
witness their love of "Mother Goose;" but to the more delicate music
of verse they are often largely or completely insensitive. A musical
ear is not, it is probable, to be created, but it is certainly possible
to develop the metrical sense. Children who are born with good native
responsiveness to rhythm often are so badly trained or so neglected
as to seem to have none, and it is part of the office of instruction
to call out whatever powers lie in them latent. This is largely
accomplished by the sort of use of literature which I have called
"inspirational." In the ideal home-training children are so taken
on from the rhymes of the nursery to more advanced literature that
development of the rhythmical sense is continuous and inevitable; but
one of the things which every school-teacher knows best is that this
sort of home-training is rare and the work must be done in the class.
The substitute is a poor one, but it has at least some degree of the
universal human responsiveness to rhythm to appeal to.

Another difficulty is that children have to learn the verbal language
of literature. Much of the atmosphere of a poem, for instance, is
likely to be produced by suggestion, by the mention of legend or
tale or hero, when the reader must find in previous knowledge and
association a key to what is intended. All this is likely to be
largely or entirely lost on children; and yet this is often the
very quintessence of what the author tries to convey. Children are
constantly at the same disadvantage in understanding literature that
they are in comprehending life. They have not gathered the associations
or experienced the emotions which make so large a part of the language
of great writers. All this renders it difficult for the instructor to
be sure that his class has any inkling even of the mood in which a
piece is intended; yet he must first of all be sure that as far as is
possible he has put them, each pupil according to his character and
acquirements, in touch with the spirit of the work to be studied.

This cannot be done entirely. We cannot hope that a lad of a dozen
years will enter into all the emotions, all the passions of the great
poets. He may, however, be absorbingly interested and thrilled by
"Macbeth," or the "Tempest," or the "Merchant of Venice." He does not
get from these plays all that his elders might get, any more than he
would perceive the full meaning and passion of a tremendous situation
in real life; but he does get some portion of the message, some
perception of the deeps and heights of human nature. Even if he find no
more than simple, unreasoning enjoyment, he is gaining unconsciously,
and he is obviously nourishing a love for good literature.

The question of what is thoroughness in school study of literature
is of much importance, and it is of no less difficulty. Certainly
it is not merely the mastery of technical obscurities of language,
the solving of philological puzzles, or the careful examination of
historical facts. Thoroughness in these things, as has already been
said, may be exactness in learning about literature, but not in the
study of literature itself. Consideration of the average acquirements
of pupils in secondary schools makes it fairly evident, it seems to
me, that the study of technique in any of its phases cannot in these
classes be carried very far without the danger of its degenerating into
the most lifeless formalism; and perhaps in nothing else is the tact
and judgment of the teacher so well shown as in the decision how far it
is wise to carry study along particular lines. I have never encountered
a class even in my college work which I could have set to the subjects
recommended in a book for teachers of literature which advises drilling
the students of the high school on the relations in the plays of
Shakespeare "of metre to character," whatever that may mean. Neither
should I set them to distinguish, as is advised by another text-book,
between "the kinds of imagination employed: (_a_) Modifying; (_b_)
Reconstructive; (_c_) Poetical: creative, imperative, or associative."
I could not, indeed, do much with such subjects, from the simple fact
that I do not myself know what such questions mean, and still less
could I answer them. Each instructor, however, must decide for himself,
and with every class decide anew. No fixed standard can be established,
but each case must be settled on its own merits.


[110:1] The vocabulary, of course, being known before the text is

[114:1] See page 221.



Examinations are at present held to be an essential part of the
machinery of education, and whether we do or do not believe this to
be true, we are as teachers forced to accept them. Especially is it
incumbent on teachers in the secondary schools to pay much attention to
accustoming pupils to these ordeals and to preparing them to go through
them unscathed. Many instructors, as has been said already, become so
completely the slaves to this process that they confine their efforts
to it entirely, and few are able to prevent its taking undue importance
in their work and in the minds of their pupils.

The general principle should be kept in mind that no examination is of
real value for itself in the training of youth, and that to study for
it directly and explicitly is fatal to all the higher uses of the study
of literature or of anything else. Tests of proficiency and advancement
are necessary, but they should be regarded as tests, and no pains
should be spared to impress upon every student the fact that beyond
this office of measuring attainment they are of no value whatever.

Examinations exist, however, and nothing which can be done directly is
likely to remove from the minds of sub-freshmen the notion that they
study literature largely if not solely for the sake of being able to
struggle successfully with the difficulties of entrance papers. The
only means of combating this idea is the indirect method of making
the study interesting in and for itself; of nourishing a love for
great writings and fostering appreciation of masterpieces. It may be
added, moreover, that this is also the surest way of securing ease and
proficiency on just those lines in which it is the ambition of pedantic
teachers to have their pupils excel. Classes are more effectively
trained for college tests by teaching them to think, to examine for
themselves, to have real responsiveness and feeling for literature,
than they can possibly be by any drill along formal lines. Here as
pretty generally in life the indirect is the surest.

More is done in the way of preparation for any rational examination,
I believe, by training youth to recognize good literature and to
realize what makes it good, than by any amount of deliberate drill of
especially prescribed works or laborious following out of the lines
indicated by old examination-papers. Much of this is effected by what
has been spoken of as inspirational teaching, the simple training
of children to have real enjoyment of the best. In the lower grades
of school this is all that can be profitably attempted. Before the
student leaves the secondary school, however, he should be able for
himself to make in a general way an application of the principles which
underlie literary distinctions. He should be able broadly to recognize
the qualities which belong to the best work. He should be able from
personal experience to appreciate the force of the remarks of De

    What is it that we mean by literature? Popularly, and amongst
    the thoughtless, it is held to include everything that is
    printed in a book. Little logic is required to disturb this
    definition. The most thoughtless person is easily made aware
    that in the idea of literature one essential element is some
    relation to a general and common interest of man, so that what
    applies only to a local or professional or merely personal
    interest, even though presenting itself in the shape of a book,
    will not belong to literature. . . . Men have so little
    reflected on the higher functions of literature as to
    find it a paradox if one should describe it as a mean or
    subordinate purpose of books to give information. But this is
    a paradox only in the sense which makes it honorable to be
    paradoxical. . . . What do you learn from "Paradise Lost"?
    Nothing at all. What do you learn from a cookery-book?
    Something new, something you did not know before, in
    every paragraph. But would you therefore put the wretched
    cookery-book on a higher level of estimation than the divine
    poem? What you owe to Milton is not any knowledge, of which a
    million separate items are still but a million of advancing
    steps on the same earthly level; what you owe is power, that
    is, exercise and expansion to your own latent capacity of
    sympathy with the infinite, where each pulse and each separate
    influx is a step upward, a step ascending as upon a Jacob's
    ladder from earth to mysterious altitudes above the earth.
    All the steps of knowledge, from first to last, carry you
    further on the same plane, but could never raise you one foot
    above your ancient level of earth; whereas the very first step
    in power is a flight, is an ascending movement into another
    element where earth is forgotten.—"The Poetry of Pope."

If a boy or girl has any vital and personal perception of the truth
which is here so eloquently set forth, this perception affords a
certain criterion by which to judge whatever work comes to hand. It
will also give both the inclination and the power to judge rightly, so
that anything which an examination-paper may legitimately ask is in so
far within the scope of ordinary thought.

I have ventured, in another chapter, to give some idea of the way
in which I think such a work as "Macbeth" might be treated in
the secondary school. I wish to emphasize the fact that it is an
illustration and not a model. It is the way in which I should do it;
but the teaching of literature, I repeat, is naught if it is not marked
by the personality of the teacher. Of the results to be aimed at one
need not be in doubt; concerning the methods there are and there should
be as many opinions as there are sound and individual instructors. This
illustration I have included because it may serve as a sort of diagram
to make plain things which can only clumsily be presented otherwise,
and because I hope that it may be suggestive even to teachers who
differ widely from this exact method.

What is aimed at in this manner of treating the play is primarily
the enjoyment of the pupil, secondarily the broadening of his
mind, and thirdly the training of his powers for the examinations
inevitably lying in wait for him. It may seem contradictory that I
put pleasure first and yet would begin with straightforward drill on
the vocabulary. Such training, however, is preparatory to the taking
up of literature, I believe it necessary to the best results, and
I have already said that to my mind no need exists for making this
dull. Even if it be looked upon as simple drudgery, however, I should
not shirk it. Children should be taught that they are to meet hard
work pluckily. They cannot evade the multiplication-table without
subsequent inconvenience, and the sooner they realize that this is true
in principle all through life, the better for them. Their enjoyment,
moreover, will be tenfold greater if they earn it by sturdy work.

It would be well, I believe, if all teachers in the secondary
schools who are in the habit of concerning themselves largely with
examinations and of allowing the minds of those under them to become
fixed on these could realize that readers of blue-books are sure to
be favorably impressed by two things: by the expression of thoughts
obviously individual, and by the evidence of clear thinking. If these
two qualities characterize an examination-book, the chances of its
passing muster are so large that exact formal knowledge counts for
little in comparison. All teachers who are intelligently in earnest
try to put as little stress on examinations as is possible under
existing conditions, but not all keep clearly in mind the fact that
the best remedy for possible harm is the cultivation of the student's

The question of written work in preparation for entrance tests is
a difficult one, and it is one which has been largely answered by
the papers set by the colleges. It is natural that teachers who are
entirely aware that their own reputations will largely depend upon the
success of the candidates they send up should endeavor to train their
classes in the especial line of writing which seems best to suit the
ideas of examiners. The principle of selection is not, it seems to me,
a sound one, but it is inevitable. The one thing which may be done is
to make the topics selected as human and as personal as possible: to
insist that the boy or girl who is writing of Lady Macbeth or Hamlet
shall make the strongest effort possible to realize the character as
a real being; shall as far as possible take the attitude of writing
concerning some actual person about whom are known the facts set down
in the play. This is less difficult than it sounds, and while it is
never entirely possible for a child to realize Lady Macbeth as if she
were a neighbor, most children can go much farther in this direction
than is generally appreciated.

Themes retelling the plot of novel or play are seldom satisfactory.
Satisfactorily to summarize the story of a work of any length requires
more literary grasp than can possibly be expected in a secondary
school. It is far better to set the wits of children to work to fill up
gaps of time in the stories as they are originally written; to imagine
what Macbeth and his wife had said to each other before he goes to the
chamber of Duncan in the second act, for instance, or the talk between
Silas Marner and Eppie after the visit in which Godfrey Cass disclosed
himself as the girl's father. These are not easy subjects, and it is
not to be expected that the grade of work produced will be high, but it
is at least likely to be original and genuine.

Description is a snare into which it is easy for teacher or pupil
to fall. It generally means the more or less conscious imitation of
passages from the reading, or a sort of crazy-quilt of scraps in which
sentences of the author are clumsily pieced together. In the highest
grades good work may sometimes be obtained by asking pupils to describe
the setting of a scene in a play, but this is far too difficult for
most classes.

Examination of character, of situations, or of motives affords the best
opportunity for written work in connection with literary study. To make
literary study subordinate to the practice of composition is manifestly
wrong, yet in many schools this is done in practice even if it is not
justified in theory. Children should be taught to write by other means
than by themes in connection with the masterpieces of literature. The
old cry against using "Paradise Lost," and the soliloquies of Hamlet
as exercises in parsing might well be repeated with added emphasis of
the modern fashion of making Shakespeare and Milton mere adjuncts to a
course in composition. The written work is, of course, to be corrected
where it is faulty, but its chief purpose should never be anything
outside of the better understanding and appreciation of the authors

In a brief, sensible pamphlet on "Methods of Teaching of Novels" May
Estelle Cook remarks:

    There is another point which I should like to make for the
    study of character, though with some hesitation, since there
    is room for great difference of opinion about it. It is this:
    that the study of character leads directly to the exercise of
    the moral instinct. Whether we like it or not, it is true that
    the school-boy—even the boy, and much more the girl—will
    raise the question, "Is it right?" and "Is it wrong?" and
    that we must either answer or ignore these questions. My own
    feeling about it is that this irrepressible moral instinct
    was included by Providence partly for the purpose of making a
    special diversion in favor of the English teacher. . . . A boy
    will read scenes in "Macbeth" through a dozen times for the
    sake of deciding whether Macbeth or Lady Macbeth was chiefly
    responsible for the murder of Duncan, when he will read them
    only once for the story; and this extra zeal is not so much
    because he wants to satisfy a craving for facts, as because he
    enjoys fixing praise or blame. . . . My experience with the Sir
    Roger de Coverley papers has been that the class failed to get
    any imaginative grasp of them until I frankly appealed to the
    moral instinct by asking, "What did Addison mean to teach in
    this paper?" "Did the Eighteenth Century need that lesson?" and
    "Do we still need it?" By that process the class have finally
    reached a grasp of Sir Roger which has given them fortitude to
    write a theme on "Sir Roger at an Afternoon Tea."

My own definition of imagination is evidently not that of the writer,
and I am not able to agree that this appeal to the moral instinct
develops anything other than an intellectual understanding; but that
point is unimportant here. The thing which is to be noted is that
on the moral side children may be able to think intelligently and
individually in regard to the characters and the situations of the
plays and the novels read. The teacher, in choosing such subjects for
written work, must, of course, be careful to avoid topics which have
already been considered in the book itself. In a novel by George Eliot,
for instance, all possible moral issues are likely to be so discussed
and rediscussed by the novelist as to leave little room for the
thought of the reader to exercise itself independently; but in all the
plays of Shakespeare, and in the fiction of most of the masters, the
opportunities are ample.

The supreme test of any subject which is to be given to students in
their written work is whether it is one upon which it is reasonable
to suppose they can and will have thought which is individual and
therefore original. If it were necessary to make nice distinctions
between that which is and that which is not legitimately part of the
study of literature as an art, one must go much further than this. The
writing of themes, however, is part of the examinational side of the
work; the main thing is to be sure that it is not dwelt upon more
than is necessary, and that it is within the range of the personal
experience of the student. If teachers feel compelled to set their
classes to write formal and lifeless themes on pedantic topics such
as too often appear in examination-papers, they will do well to keep
in mind that this is not the study of literature, but a stultifying
process which lessens the power of appreciation and replaces
intelligent comprehension by mechanical imitation.

       *       *       *       *       *

In connection with the subject of this chapter I may mention a
device which may not be without practical value in secondary-school
examinations. It affords a means of discovering how well the student
is succeeding in grasping general principles and in making actual
application of them; while at the same time it should impress upon him
the fact that he is not studying merely a series of required readings,
but the nature and qualities of literature.

On an examination-paper in second-year English at the Institute of
Technology was put this test:

    It is assumed that the student has never read the following
    extract. State what seem its excellent points (_a_) of
    workmanship; (_b_) of thought; (_c_) of imagination.

To this was added a brief extract from some standard author.

The opening statement was made in order that the class should
understand the selection to be not from any required reading, but from
some work presumably entirely unfamiliar. The points of excellence only
were asked for in order to fix attention on merits; and indirectly
to strengthen, so far as might be, the perception of the importance
of looking in literature for merits rather than for defects. It is
undoubtedly proper that scholars should be able to perceive defects,
but this power is best trained by educating them to be sensitive and
responsive to excellencies.[131:1]

The necessities of time made it impossible to put upon the papers of
which I am speaking extracts of much length, and the class were told
that not much was expected in comment upon the thought expressed.
The purpose of the question, that of seeing how intelligently they
were able to apply such principles as they had learned, was also
frankly put. They were warned against generalities and statements
unsupported. Then they were left to their own devices. The results
were all suggestive, and of course were of widely varying degrees of
merit. A few samples may be given, chosen, I confess, from those more
interesting. On one paper were the opening lines of the second book of
"Paradise Lost."

    High on a throne of royal state, which far
    Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
    Or where the gorgeous east with richest hand
    Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,
    Satan exalted sat.

Among the comments were these:

    Of the workmanship of this selection we may say that it is
    good. The selection of words is especially forcible. "Gorgeous
    east" and "richest hand" are extremely so. But what I consider
    a fine use of a word is the word "barbaric." Here we can see
    the early inhabitants of the uncivilized rich countries of the
    east; the inhabitants ignorant of the value of their wealth,
    throwing it around as we would the pebbles on a beach. The
    thought and the imagination are good. We can see before us the
    vividly portrayed picture. There sits Satan high above his
    surrounding in such rich and dazzling magnificence that it
    outshines even the richest kings of the richest part of the

           *       *       *       *       *

    The best point of the workmanship consists in placing the
    description first and not completing the thought until the last
    line; thus keeping the reader in suspense, and causing careful
    attention to be put on all the sentence. The words "high,"
    "throne," "royal," and "exalted" combine to bring out the
    thought of Satan's majesty. The thought of unbounded wealth is
    brought out by the use of the word "showers" in the third line.
    The author is able to give us a much more vivid idea of the
    magnificence of the throne by letting us construct the throne
    to suit ourselves than by giving a detailed description and
    leaving nothing to the imagination. Even the materials are only
    suggested, the whole idea being one of unbounded wealth and

           *       *       *       *       *

    The choice of words is one of the best points in the
    workmanship of the quotation. The arrangement also adds
    emphasis. All the descriptions of the throne are so vivid that
    the mind is deeply impressed by the splendor and richness of
    the throne. The "gorgeous east" is very expressive of wealth
    and beauty. With this arrangement of words the piece becomes
    very striking and the choice of the strongest words is shown
    too in touch with the whole sentence. Whereas on the other hand
    if any other arrangement had been used much of the force of
    these words would have been lost. The thought of the extract
    is to describe the great wealth and beauty with which Satan is
    surrounded. The writer must have a very vivid imagination to
    describe such a scene of wealth and beauty. The first word,
    "High," appeals directly to the imagination and immediately
    gives the impression of power.

These answers were written by boys who had not been called upon to do
anything of the sort before, and while their inadequacy is evident
enough, they are genuine, and are sound as far as they go. Of course,
after such a test, the first business of the teacher is to go over the
selection and to show how he would himself have answered the question.
The class is then ready to appreciate qualities which might be recited
to them in vain before they have set their minds to the problem. In
the examples I have given no one has touched, for instance, upon the
suggestiveness of the words "Ormus" and "Ind," but very little is
needed to make them see this after they have had the passage in an

A couple of examples dealing with the first two stanzas of Byron's
"Destruction of Sennacherib" may be given by way of showing how a
different selection was treated.

    The first thing I noticed in reading the extract was the
    perfect rhythm. You cannot read the extract without wanting
    to say it aloud. Then the choice of words struck me: "The
    _sheen_ of their spears;" "when summer is _green_." It is hard
    for me to distinguish workmanship, thought, and imagination.
    I cannot tell whether the words and metaphors used in the
    extract were the result of deliberate choice and of long
    thought; but I strongly suspect that he saw the whole thing in
    his imagination, and the words just came to him. It is hard
    to understand how anything that reads so smoothly could have
    been written with labor. The strongest point of the extract
    seems to be its richness in illustration: "The Assyrian came
    down like the wolf on the fold." No long, detailed description
    could explain better the wildness of such an attack, the sudden
    swoop of some half-barbaric horde, striking suddenly, and then
    disappearing into the night. "The sheen of the spears was like
    stars on the sea." The flash from a spear would be just such a
    gleam as the reflected star from the crest of a wave, visible
    for a moment and then gone.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Some of its excellent points of workmanship are melody and
    selection of words. The melody is excellent. It has a soothing
    effect when read aloud, and there is not a place where
    one would hesitate in regard to the accenting of words. I
    believe the melody is so good that a person only knowing the
    pronunciation of the first line could almost read the rest
    of it correctly because the sound of each line is so closely
    connected with that of all other lines. The selection of words
    is very good. There is not a place where a substitution could
    be made which would improve the meaning, sense, or melody. The
    extract shows great thought. In the last paragraph especially
    where the Assyrians are compared to the leaves of summer and
    in autumn. No better thought could bring out more clearly how
    badly the host was defeated. In the first paragraph it also
    compares the Assyrians to a wolf coming down upon a fold.
    This again gives a definite idea, and seems to point out how
    confident they were of victory. The imagination is very vivid.
    You can almost think you were on the field and that all the
    events were taking place before you.

I have copied these partly to emphasize the point that it is idle to
expect too much, and partly to illustrate the form in which genuine
perception is likely to work out upon a school examination-paper. These
have not been chosen as the best papers written, but each is good
because each shows sincere opinion.

This sort of question is of course in the line of what is constantly
done in class, but it is after all a different thing when it is made
to emphasize the idea that an examination is a test of the power to
appreciate literature instead of an exercise of memory.


[131:1] See page 205.



Method in teaching is properly the adaptation of the personality of
a given teacher to the personality of a given class. It cannot be
defined by hard and fast rules, and the only value in presenting such
illustrations as the following is that they may afford hints which
teachers will be able with advantage to develop in terms of their own
individuality. The way that is wise in one is never to be set down as
the way best for another; and here as elsewhere I offer not a model
but simply an illustration. If it suggest, it has fulfilled a better
purpose than if it were taken blindly as a rigid guide.

My own feeling would be that classes in literature should be provided
with nothing but the bare text, without notes of any kind unless with
a glossary of terms not to be found in available books of reference.
In the matter of looking up difficulties the books of reference in the
school library should be used; and if the school has no library beyond
the dictionary, I should still hold to my opinion. The vocabulary may
be very largely worked out with any fairly comprehensive dictionary,
and what cannot be discovered in this way is better taken _viva voce_
in recitation than swallowed from notes without even the trouble of
asking. Much will be done, moreover, by the not unhealthy spirit of
emulation which is sure to exist where the pupils are set to use their
wits and to report the result in class. They will remember much better;
and, what in general education is of the very first importance, they
will have admirable practice in the use of books of reference. Many
difficulties must be explained by the teacher; but this, I insist, is
better than the following of notes, a habit which is sure to degenerate
into lifeless memorizing. The model text for school use would be
cut in those few passages not suited for the school-room, would be
clearly printed, and would be as free as possible from any outside
matter whatever. In the case of poetry the ideal method would be to
keep the text out of the hands of the student altogether until all
work necessary to the mastering of the vocabulary had been done: but
in practice such voluntary reading as a pupil chose to do beforehand
would do no harm other than possibly to distract his attention from
the learning of the meaning of words and phrases. In prose he will
generally be in a key which allows the interruption of a pause for
looking up words without much injury to the effect of the work.

The study of prose is of course directed by the same principles as that
of poetry, but the application is in school-work somewhat modified
in details. In the first place the vocabulary of any prose used
in the schools is not likely to contain obsolete words such as are
found in Shakespeare, and in the second place the length of a novel
forbids its being read aloud in class in its entirety. I have taken my
illustrations chiefly from books included in the College Requirements,
because these books are the ones with which the majority of teachers
are obliged to work. The Sir Roger de Coverley papers are sure to
be taken up in any school-room where literature is studied to-day,
and Burke "On Conciliation" is one of the inevitable obstacles in
the way of every boy who wishes to enter college. Whatever the work,
however, the important thing is that each pupil shall understand, shall
appreciate, and shall connect what he reads with his own life.

The order in which different works are taken up in class is a matter
of much moment. No rules can be given arbitrarily to govern the
arrangement of the readings, since much depends upon the individual
class to be dealt with. On general principles, for instance, it might
seem that Burke's "Speech," as being the least imaginative of the
prescribed work, might well come first; but on the other hand, the
argument demands intellectual capacity and maturity which will often
require that it be not put before a given group of scholars until they
have had all the training they can gain from the other requirements.
A teacher can hardly afford to have any rule in the whole treatment
of literature which is not so flexible that it may be modified or
disregarded entirely when circumstances require. The ideal method,
perhaps, would be to give a class first a few short pieces as tests,
and then to arrange their longer work upon the basis of the result.

If the "Speech" is to be taken up first or last, it must be preceded by
a clear understanding of the history of the conditions with which Burke
dealt. This knowledge should have been obtained in the history class,
and the use of facts obtained in another branch affords one of the
opportunities for doing that useful thing which should be kept always
in sight, the enforcing of the fact that all education is one, although
for convenience of handling necessarily divided into various branches.
If the class has not had the requisite instruction in history, the
teacher of English is forced to pause and supply the deficiency, as
it is hopeless to try to go on without it. The argument of Burke is
pretty tough work for any class of high-school students, and without
familiarity with the circumstances which called it forth is utterly

The vocabulary of Burke contains few words which need to be studied
beforehand, and indeed it is perhaps better to treat the speech as
so far a logical rather than an imaginative work that without other
preparation than a thorough mastery of the circumstances under which
it was delivered and of the political issues with which it dealt the
class may be given the text directly. In the first reading the thing
to be insured is the intelligent comprehension of the language and of
the argument. In the first half-dozen paragraphs, for instance, such
passages as these must be made perfectly clear:

    I hope, Sir, that notwithstanding the austerity of the Chair,
    your good nature will incline you to some degree of indulgence
    toward human frailty.

    The grand penal bill.

    Returned to us from the other House.

    We are not at all embarrassed (unless we please to make
    ourselves so) by any incongruous mixture of coercion and

    From being blown about by every wind of fashionable doctrine.

This is clear enough in meaning, but the class should notice the
suggestion of the biblical phrase which insinuates that a good deal of
the political fluctuation which has complicated the question of the
treatment of the colonies has been like the hysterical instability of
those who run after every fresh eccentricity offered in the name of

    I really did not think it safe or manly to have fresh
    principles to seek upon every fresh mail that should arrive
    from America.

    It is in your equity to judge.

    Parliament, having an enlarged view of objects.

    A situation which I will not miscall, which I dare not name.

    That the public tribunal (never too indulgent to a long and
    unsuccessful opposition) would now scrutinize our conduct with
    unusual severity.

    We must produce our hand.

    Somewhat disreputably.

The whole oration is studded with passages such as these, and it is
the habit of too many instructors to expect the student to depend upon
notes for the solution of such difficulties. I have already indicated
that I believe this to be an unwise and weakening process; and in a
political document of this sort a drill for elucidating difficulties
may well be undertaken when in an imaginative work more latitude may be
allowed in the way of sliding over them.

The reading of the speech as a whole could hardly be attempted with any
profit until the class has mastered its technicalities and its logic.
The oration differs in this from more imaginative literature. Here it
is not only proper but necessary to make analysis part of the first

The class should for itself make a summary of the speech as it goes
forward. For each paragraph should be devised a single sentence which
gives clearly and concisely the thought, so that at the conclusion a
complete skeleton shall have been made. Each student should make these
sentences for himself as part of his preparation of a lesson, and from
a comparison in the class the final form may be selected. Some of the
school editions do this admirably, but one of two things seems to me
indisputable: either the "Speech" is too difficult for students to
handle or they should make their own summaries. To do this part of the
work for them is to deprive the study of its most valuable element.
The best justification such a selection can have for its inclusion
in the list of required books is that it may fairly be used for this
careful analytical work without prejudice to the effect of the piece as
a whole. In other words, no objection exists to treating this especial
selection first from the purely intellectual point of view. To consider
a play of Shakespeare first intellectually would seem to me utterly
wrong; but this argument of Burke is intentionally addressed to the
reason rather than to the imagination, and would therefore logically be
so read.

Beside the mere interpretation of difficult passages, the pupil should
be made to discern and to weigh the value and effect of the admirable
sentences in which the orator has condensed whole trains of logic.

    The concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear.

    A wise and salutary neglect.

    The power of refusal, the first of all revenues.

    The voluntary flow of heaped-up plenty.

    All government—indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment,
    every virtue and every prudent act—is founded on compromise
    and barter.

The study of phrases of this sort is admirable training for the
reasoning faculties of the scholar, it educates the powers of reading,
and it may be made a continuous lesson in the nature and value of
literary technique. Of this study of literary workmanship I shall speak
later; here it is sufficient to point the necessity at once and the
advantage of dwelling on these vital thoughts so admirably expressed.

By the time the oration has been gone through with, and a summary of
each paragraph made in the class, a skeleton is ready from which the
argument may be considered as a whole. In some schools students will be
able to criticise from an historical point of view, and any intelligent
boy to whom the oration is given for study should be able to judge of
the logic of the plea.

If the "Speech" is to justify its claim to being literature in the
higher sense, however, it is not possible to stop with the intellectual
study. The question of what constitutes literature is better taken up,
it seems to me, near the end of the course of secondary work, if it is
to come in at all; but preparation for dealing with that question must
come all along the line. When Burke has been studied for his political
meanings, his argument summed up and examined, the intellectual force
of the parts and of the whole sufficiently considered, then it is
necessary to look at the imaginative qualities of the work.

I would never set children to examine any piece of prose or verse for
any qualities until I was sure they understood what they are to look
for. If they are to examine the oration for imaginative passages,
they must first know clearly what an imaginative passage is. Here the
previous training of the class is to be reckoned with. Some classes
must be taught the significance of the term "imaginative" by having
the passages pointed out to them and then analyzed; others are so far
advanced as to be able to discover them. The thing I wish to emphasize
is that when the simply intellectual study has progressed far enough,
the imaginative must follow. Passages which may be used here are such
as these:

    My plan . . . does not propose to fill your lobby with
    squabbling colony agents, who will require the interposition
    of your mace at every instant to keep peace among them. It
    does not institute a magnificent auction of finance, where
    captivated provinces come to general ransom by bidding against
    each other, until you knock down the hammer, and determine a
    proportion of payments beyond all powers of algebra to equalize
    and settle.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Such is the strength with which population shoots in that part
    of the world, that, state the numbers as high as we will,
    whilst the dispute continues, the exaggeration ends.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Look at the manner in which the people of New England have of
    late carried on the whale fishery. Whilst we follow them among
    the tumbling mountains of ice, and behold them penetrating into
    the deepest frozen recesses of Hudson Bay and Davis Strait,
    whilst we are looking for them beneath the Arctic Circle, we
    hear that they have pierced into the opposite region of polar
    cold, that they are at the antipodes and engaged under the
    frozen Serpent of the south. Falkland Island, which seemed
    too remote and romantic an object for the grasp of national
    ambition, is but a stage and resting-place in the progress of
    their victorious industry. Nor is the equinoctial heat more
    discouraging to them than the accumulated winter of both poles.
    We know that while some of them draw the line and strike the
    harpoon on the coast of Africa, others run the longitude and
    pursue their gigantic game along the coast of Brazil. No sea
    but is vexed by their fisheries. No climate that is not witness
    of their toils.

           *       *       *       *       *

    A people who are still, as it were, but in the gristle, and not
    yet hardened into the bone of manhood.

Passages of this sort are frequent in the speech, and it is not
difficult to make the pupils not only recognize them, but appreciate
the quality which distinguishes them from the matter-of-fact statements
of figures, statistics, or other necessary information.

A step further is to make the class see how the imagination shows in a
passage like the famous sentence:

    I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a
    whole people.

These dozen or so words may profitably be made the subject for an
entire lesson, and if this seem a proportionately extravagant amount
of time to give to a single line, I can only say that to do one thing
thoroughly is not only better than to do a score superficially, but in
the long run it is economy of time as well. If the class can be led to
discuss the meaning of the phrase, and the principles upon which Burke
rested the argument which is behind this superb proposition, not only
will the hour have been well spent in developing the ideas of the
students, but the whole oration will be wonderfully illuminated. When
to this is added an adequate understanding of the imaginative grasp
which seizes the personality of a whole nation, perceives its majesty,
its sovereignty, and the impossibility of arraigning it before the bar
like a criminal, the student is getting the best that the study of the
oration can give him.

Written work should be kept within the limits of the capability of
the individual pupil to think intelligently. Perhaps the best means
of enforcing upon a class the vigor of Burke's style at once and the
completeness of the oration as a whole is that of requiring from each
an expression, as clear and as exact as possible, of just what the
orator wished to effect, and an estimate, as critical as the pupil is
capable of making, of how the means employed were especially adapted
to carry out his purpose. Such work will be useless if the teacher
does the reasoning, but much may be elicited by skilful leading in
recitation, and after the scholars have done all that they can do, the
instructor may add his comment.

After the "Speech on Conciliation" may reasonably come, if the required
list of readings is being followed, the "Sir Roger de Coverley Papers."
Here one deals with work more deliberately imaginative. Preparation
for taking up these essays should begin with a brief account of the
"Spectator" and of the circumstances under which they were written. The
less elaborate this is the better, so long as it serves the purpose of
giving the class some notion of the point of view; and indeed it is to
be doubted whether as a matter of fact any great harm would be done if
even this were omitted. What is needed is to interest the class in the
work, and facts about times and circumstances seldom effect much real
good in this study.

The vocabulary will give little trouble. It is well to be sure that
the readers understand beforehand such words as may be rather remote
from daily speech. In the account of the club (March 2, 1710-11),
for instance, the list given out for test might include such terms
as these: baronet, country-dance, shire, humor, modes, Soho-square,
quarter-sessions, game-act. In the first paragraph, from which these
words are taken, are also two or three phrases which should be familiar
before the reading is undertaken: "never dressed afterward," "in
his merry humors," "rather beloved than esteemed," and "justice of
the quorum." The historical allusions, as represented by the names
Lord Rochester, Sir George Etherege, and Dawson, go also into this
preliminary study.

The paper should be first read as a whole, with no other interruption
than may come in the form of questions from the class. The teacher
should make no effort at anything here but intelligent reading. Then
the paper may be given out for careful study; the form of this may be
varied at the pleasure of the teacher and the needs of the class. The
presentation of character is the point to be most strongly brought
out, and this must be done delicately but as completely as possible.
The "De Coverley Papers" necessarily seem to the modern youth extremely
remote from actual life as he knows it, and the majority of Institute
students with whom I have talked admit that they found Addison very
quiet, or, in their own phrase, "slow." The characters are accordingly
apt to appear to them dim and unreal; to be hardly more alive than the
figures on an ancient tapestry. This feeling cannot be wholly overcome,
especially in the limited time which is at the command of the teacher
of school literature, yet whatever vividness of impression a reader
of the essays gets is directly proportional to the extent to which
Sir Roger and his friends emerge from the land of shadows, and seem
to the boys and girls genuine flesh and blood. The chief care of the
instructor in dealing with these papers, the aim to which everything
else should be subordinated, is to encourage and to develop the sense
of reality. The little touches by which the personality of the old
knight is shown must be dwelt upon as each appears; and in the end a
summary of these may be made as a means of stating briefly but clearly
Sir Roger's character. Constantly, too, by means homely enough to
be clearly and easily intelligible to the class, must each of these
passages be connected with the personal experiences of the children.
In the essay generally headed "Sir Roger at Home," for instance, the
author remarks:

    Sir Roger, who is very well acquainted with my humor, lets me
    rise and go to bed when I please; dine at his own table, or in
    my chamber, as I think fit; sit still, and say nothing, without
    bidding me be merry.

The whole situation, that of a notable man's visit to a country
squire, is utterly foreign to the pupil's probable experience. He can,
however, be made to recall occasions in which he has been considered
and his wishes consulted. He may or may not as a guest have tested
different forms of hospitality, but he easily decides how under given
circumstances he would wish to be treated. From this he is without
difficulty led to an appreciation of the consideration with which Sir
Roger was intent not upon his own wishes or the ease of his household,
but upon the pleasure of his guest. Few boys or girls can have come to
the school age without understanding what a drawback to good spirits
it is to be told to be merry, and they can appreciate the common sense
of the knight in thinking of this, and his tact in not bothering his
guest. The same thoughtful kindness is shown in the way Sir Roger
protected his lion from sightseers. Incidentally the point may be made
in passing that Addison humorously took this means of impressing on the
reader of the "Spectator" the importance of the supposed writer.

The best preparation a teacher can make for dealing with these
essays is to get clearly into his own mind the personality, the
characteristics, even the outward appearance of each of the characters
dealt with. It is impossible to make these quiet and delicately drawn
pictures real and alive unless we have for them a genuine love and a
sense of acquaintance; and I know of no method by which in practical
work this can be communicated except by the vivifying of such passages
as that quoted above.

Each student should bring to the class a statement of what he regards
as the chief thought in each paper as it comes up,—not the moral of
the paper, but the chief end which the writer seems to have in view,
the thought which most strongly strikes the reader. These opinions
should be talked over in class, and from them one produced which at
least the majority of the class are willing to accept. No pupil,
however, should be discouraged from holding to his own original
proposition, or from adopting a view at variance with that of the

Always if possible,—and personally I should make it possible, even at
the sacrifice of other things,—the paper should last of all be read
as a whole without interruption. The fact should always be kept before
the minds of the pupils that the essay is not a collection of detached
facts or thoughts, but that it is a whole, and that it can fairly be
received only in its entirety.

       *       *       *       *       *

To stretch out illustrations of the teaching of particular books would
only be tedious, and I trust I have done enough to make evident what I
believe should be the spirit of work done in the "studying" of prose
in the secondary schools. The matter is of comparative simplicity as
contrasted with the handling of poetry; and I have therefore reserved
most of my space for the latter. No one knows better than I that any
formal method is fatal to real and vital work; and what I have written
has been largely inspired by a knowledge that many instructors are at a
loss to formulate any rational method at all, while others, I am forced
sorrowfully to add, seem never even to have perceived that any method
is possible.



Whatever may be the entrance requirements and whatever the prescribed
course in the way of fiction, I should begin the study of the novel
with a modern book. To hold the attention of the majority of modern
children long enough for them to form any adequate idea of the quality
and characteristics of any work of the length of an ordinary novel,
long enough for them to gain an idea which conceives of the work
as a whole and not as a collection of detached scenes and scraps,
is sufficiently difficult in any case. It should not be made more
difficult by selecting as a text a book requiring effort in the
understanding of vocabulary, point of view, setting, and the rest.
"Ivanhoe" is good in its place, but it is not adapted to use as first
aid to the untrained. It is probable that a class after sufficient
experience in fiction may be able to handle "Silas Marner," and it is
apparently fated by the powers that be that they must struggle with
"The Vicar of Wakefield;" but they certainly need preliminary practice
before they are set to grapple with those fictions so remote from
their daily lives. They should begin with something as near their own
world as possible; and "Treasure Island," the scene laid in the land
of boyhood's imaginings, is an excellent example of the sort of story
which may well be used to introduce them to the serious consideration
of this branch of literature.

A little preliminary talk may well precede the actual reading. The
teacher should be sure that the class has a fair idea of what piracy
is,—a matter generally of little difficulty,—and of the social
conditions under which the tale begins. The actual geography of the
romance need not be considered much, although students lose nothing if
they are trained to the habit of knowing accurately the location of
such real places as are named in any story; but the imaginary geography
of the tale, the topography of the island, should be well mastered.
Beyond this, the teacher should have prepared a list of words to be
learned before any reading is done. This should include all those in
the first assignment that are likely to bother the child in the first
going over of the text. In the opening chapter, for instance, such
words as these:

    Buccaneer (title of Part I).
    Capstan bars.
    Dry Tortugas.
    Spanish Main.

In this chapter are a couple of allusions to the costume of the time,
but as they are intelligible only when taken as sentences they may be
left for the reading in class:

    One of the cocks of his hat having fallen down.

    The neat, bright doctor, with his powder as white as snow.

When the class comes together the vocabulary is to be taken up as a
solid and distinct task, and after that is disposed of, the text may
follow. It is generally impossible to give the time to the reading
aloud of an entire novel; but I am inclined to believe that at least
the opening chapters, the portion of the story which must be most
deliberately considered if the young reader is to go on with the tale
in full possession of the atmosphere and the characters as they are
introduced, should always be thus taken up. The portions assigned
for each lesson must be brief at first, but may wisely increase as
the interest grows and familiarity with personages and situations is

The first chapter, then, having been read aloud, the class may make a
list of the characters introduced: Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, the
old pirate not yet named, the father, the "I" who is telling the story.
The seaman who brings the chest and the neighbors are obviously of no
permanent importance.

Of these characters the class should give orally so much of an
impression as they have obtained from this chapter. This is simple with
the buccaneer, fairly easy in regard to Dr. Livesey and the inn-keeper,
but more difficult in the case of the boy. The paragraph beginning:

    How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you—

and the opening sentence of the following paragraph:

    But though I was so terrified by the idea of the seafaring man
    with one leg, I was far less afraid of the captain himself than
    anybody else who knew him—

give admirable material for class discussion. The first should appeal
to the children, who must be made to understand that to Jim Hawkins the
one-legged seafaring man was not a mere idea, but an actual personage
for whom he was set to watch, and of whom even the terrible old Billy
Bones was mortally afraid. The second at once illustrates how the
unknown was more frightful to the lad than the veritable flesh and
blood pirate; and it shows also by excellent contrast how terrifying
the buccaneer was to the frequenters of the inn.

For the second chapter the vocabulary would for most classes include
such words as


The expressions which should be made clear in class would include:

    Cleared the hilt of his cutlass.
    Showed a wonderfully clean pair of heels.
    Fouled the tap.
    Stake my wig.
    Open a vein.

This chapter has a number of delicate touches which should be brought
to the notice of the class; such as the lump in the throat of Black
Dog while he waited for the pirate in moral terror; his clever excuse
for having the door left open apparently that he might be sure Jim was
not listening, but in reality that he might have a way of escape in
case of danger; the picture of the gallows in the tattooing.

The characters of Billy Bones and Jim are added to in the chapter,
and that of the doctor made more clear. The touch by which the boy is
made to feel compassion for the pirate when Bones turns so ghastly at
the sight of Black Dog is one which should not be missed. The story,
too, begins to develop, and the youthful reader must be unusually
insensitive if he does not speculate upon the past of Bones and upon
the relation of the pirate with Black Dog.

It is not necessary to go on with this sort of analysis, for the method
I am detailing must be essentially that of most teachers. If the points
mentioned seem to some over-minute, I can only say that since the
aim is to teach children how to handle fiction, the task of training
them to be intelligently careful in their reading is of the first
importance. There is no risk of making them finical or too minutely
observant. This is moreover the _study_ of a novel, and it should be
more careful than reading is supposed to be. It is morally certain
that any child will fall below the standard set, and it is therefore
necessary to have the standard as high as it can be without tiring or
confusing the children.

When the book has been gone through in this way comes the important
question of dealing with it as a whole. It would hardly be wise to ask
children directly what they think of a book as a complete work; and yet
that is the thing at which the teacher wishes to arrive. The way has
been prepared by the study of character and the discussion of incident
throughout. In the end the subject of character as it is seen from the
beginning of the tale to the close may easily lead the way to making
up some estimate of the book as a unit. First, do the persons in the
romance act consistently; second, do the incidents follow along so that
they seem really to have happened. These questions will at first have a
tendency to bewilder young readers, who are likely to accept anything
in a romance as if it were true, and to have no judgment beyond the
matter whether the book does or does not interest them. It is not to
be expected that they will go very deep or be very broad in their
dealing with such points in the case of a first novel, but they can
make a beginning. They cannot in the book in question go far in what is
the natural third question concerning a book as a whole: Does it show
clearly and truly the development of character under the circumstances
of the story. Jim Hawkins is at the end of the book manifestly older
and more manly than at the start, as shown, for instance, by his
refusal to break his word to Silver when the doctor talks with him
over the stockade and urges him to come away with him. With the other
characters it is more the bringing out of traits already existing than
the developing of new ones. John Silver is of course by far the most
masterly figure in the book—although the student should be allowed
to have his own idea in regard to this. Indeed, one of the ways in
which he judges and should judge a book as a whole is by deciding what
personage in it is, all things considered and the story taken all
through, most clearly and sharply defined. The class should be able to
see and to appreciate how the tale as it progresses brings to light one
phase after another of the amazing character of Silver, up to his pluck
at the moment when the treasure-seekers discover that the gold has been
taken away from the cache and to his humble attitude toward the Squire
when the cave of Ben Gunn is reached.

Lastly, perhaps,—for I do not insist upon the order in which these
points should be taken up, but only give them in the sequence which to
me seems likely to be most natural and effective,—the class should
be brought to appreciate the construction of the book. This involves
obviously the way in which the author weaves together incidents so that
each shall have a part in the general scheme; but it also involves the
way in which he brings out the part that the individual traits and
character of the persons in the story had in leading up to the end. In
"Treasure Island," for instance, it is easy to show how one thing leads
to another, and how out of the chain no link could be taken without
breaking the continuity. This should not be impressed upon the class,
however, as a matter of invention on the part of the author. Children
know that the book is a fiction, but they prefer to ignore this. It is
not well to make the fact part of the instruction. The way to handle
this is to dwell upon the skill with which he has arranged particulars,
and passed in his narrative from one party to another so as to have
each incident clear. Pupils may be reminded of how easy it is to mix
the details of a story so as to confuse the hearer or the reader, and
thus may be made to appreciate to some degree the cleverness of the
workmanship which so distinguishes the work of Stevenson.

More subtle in a way and yet not beyond the comprehension of the
school-boy is the part which character plays in shaping events and
moulding the story. The restlessness and the curiosity of Jim, from
the adventure of the apple-barrel to the saving of the ship, are
essentials in the tale; and equally the diabolical cleverness and
_unscrupulousness_ of Silver shape the events of the story from
beginning to end.

One more illustration may be taken from the novel which is so generally
included in high-school English, Scott's "Ivanhoe." Here it is
necessary to prepare for the story by the acquirement of a certain
amount of history. It is perhaps as well to take the first five[159:1]
paragraphs of the opening chapter as a preliminary lesson, and to
treat it as history pure and simple. In preparation for this lesson the
following vocabulary should be mastered:

    Dragon of Wantley.
    Wars of the Roses.
    Inferior gentry, or franklins.
    The Conquest.
    Duke William of Normandy.
    Battle of Hastings.
    Laws of the chase.
    Classical languages.

A few other expressions, such as "petty kings," should be looked after
in the reading, lest the class get a false impression. The geography of
the river Don and of Doncaster may be passed over; but it is perhaps
better, especially in this historical preliminary, to require full
accuracy in this particular. To my thinking all this should be looked
up by the students, and never taken from notes appended to the text.

The five paragraphs in which Scott gives the historic background
should be taken frankly as a piece of work out of which the class is
to make as clear a conception of the period of the tale as possible.
The pupils should use their common sense and their intelligence in
studying it, getting all out of it that they can get. Then it should
be read aloud in the class, and carefully gone over. The aim should be
to have understood as clearly as possible what were the political and
the social conditions of the time when the events of the romance are
represented as taking place. Such other historic personages as enter
into the story without being mentioned in this preliminary sketch
should be brought into this exposition. Thus when King Richard and
Prince John and Robin Hood the semi-historic come upon the stage the
student will be prepared for the effect which the novelist intended,
and will have, moreover, that pleasure which a young reader always
feels in finding himself equal to an occasion.

This preliminary work being accomplished, the rest of the book will
probably have to be largely assigned for home reading. The opening
chapters, however, and the most striking scenes must certainly be read
aloud in class. A sufficient portion for a lesson will be assigned each
day. A list of words for that portion will be given out with it to be
learned first. No teacher will suppose, I fancy, that in every case a
student will master the vocabulary before he reads the selection, but
the principle is sound and the words would at least be all taken up in
class before any reading is done. Students should be told to read the
selection aloud at home, and should come to the class acquainted with
the meaning and significance of each passage, or prepared to ask about

At the beginning of the novel, when the reader is learning the
situation and the characters concerned, the assignments must be shorter
than in the latter part of the book, when these things are understood
and the current of the tale runs more swiftly. The remainder of the
first chapter, from the paragraph beginning "The sun was setting" is
quite enough for a first instalment. The following words make up the
preliminary vocabulary:

    Rites of druidical superstition.

The method of treating the fiction itself has been sufficiently
indicated in the previous illustration from "Treasure Island," but may
be briefly touched upon. In this chapter of "Ivanhoe" are introduced
two characters. Both are described at some length, but in the case of
both important touches here and there add to the impression. Gurth is
said at the beginning to be stern and sad, and in the talk the reasons
come out.

    "The mother of mischief confound the Ranger of the forest, that
    cuts the foreclaws off our dogs, and makes them unfit for their

    "Little is left us but the air we breathe, and that appears
    to have been reserved with much hesitation, solely for the
    purpose of enabling us to endure the tasks they lay upon our

We have a proof of his impulsiveness in the dangerous freedom with
which he speaks to Wamba, and of how daring this is we are made aware
when the jester says to him:

    "I know thou thinkest me a fool, or thou wouldst not be so
    rash in putting thy head into my mouth. One word to Reginald
    Front-de-Bœuf . . . thou wouldst waver on one of these trees
    as a terror to all evil speakers against dignities."

Of the superstition of Gurth we have proof by his fear at the mention
of the fairies.

    "Wilt thou talk of such things while a terrible storm of
    thunder and lightning is raging within a few miles of us?"

Here is a fairly satisfactory portrait of Gurth, although other traits
of character are developed as the book goes forward. At the end of
the novel the attention of the class may be directed to the skilful
way in which at the very start Scott has struck in the words of Gurth
the keynote of the oppression of the Normans and the hatred for them
in the hearts of the Saxons; but a point of this sort should not be
anticipated. It will tell for more if it is left until it has had its
full effect and its place as a part of the whole romance may be clearly

       *       *       *       *       *

One last word I cannot bring myself to omit. I have said elsewhere that
I disbelieve in the drawing of morals, and at the risk of repetition I
wish to emphasize this in connection with fiction. The temptation here
is especially strong. It is so easy to draw a moral from any tale ever
written that two classes of teachers, those morally over-conscientious
and those ignorantly inept, are almost sure to insist that their
classes shall drag a moral lesson out of every story. The habit seems
to me thoroughly vicious. It is proper to make the character of the
persons in the novel as vivid as possible. The villain may be made
as hateful to God and to man as the testimony of the author will in
any way allow; but when that is done the children should be left to
draw their own morals. They should not even be allowed to know that
the teacher is aware that a moral may be drawn, and still less should
they be asked to discover one. If they draw a moral themselves or ask
questions about one, this is well, so long as they are sincere and
spontaneous. If they are left entirely to themselves in this they will
in a healthy natural fashion get from the story such moral instruction
as they are capable of profiting by, and they will not be put into that
antagonistic attitude which human nature inevitably takes when it is
preached to.


[159:1] Five in the original. Some school editions, for what reason I
do not know, omit paragraph five, which begins: "This state of things I
have thought it necessary to premise."



How I conceive the study of poetry may be managed in school-work I have
already indicated somewhat fully, but one concrete example is often
worth a dozen abstract statements. In the literary work of almost every
high school is now included the study of at least one Shakespearean
play, and as "Macbeth" is so generally selected as the one to be first
taken up, I have chosen that as an illustration.

The study of any play, as I have said, should begin with a requirement
that the class master the vocabulary. The pupils should be made to
understand that the need of doing this is precisely the same as the
need of learning common speech for the sake of comprehending the talk
of every-day life, or of mastering the vocabulary of French before
going to the theatre to hear a play in that language. The scholars
should be told frankly that this will not be particularly easy work,
but that it is to be taken in the same spirit that one learned the
multiplication-table. No harm can come of letting the class expect this
part of the work to be full harder than it really is, and at least it
is well to have students understand that they are expected to labor to
fit themselves for the enjoyment of literature.

In this preparation the aim is to make it possible for the readers
to go on with the text without important interruptions. This purpose
determines what words and passages shall be taken up. Some difficulties
may safely and wisely be left for the second reading of the play, and
as it is well in these days not to expect too much of the industry
of youth, the teacher will do well to keep the list of words to be
mastered as short as may be. The whole play should be prepared for
before any of it is read, but I give only examples from the first act.
I should suggest—each teacher to vary the list at his pleasure—that
in the first act the following words should be dealt with. The numbers
of the lines are those of the Temple Edition.

_Alarum._ This occurs in the stage-directions of scene ii. The class
will see at once that it differs from "alarm," and can be made to
appreciate how from the strong rolling of the _r_—"alarr'm" came to
this form. That the latter form is now used in the sense of a warning
sound, and especially in the sense of a sound of trumpet or drum to
announce the coming of a military body or the escort of importance
affords a good example of the manner in which synonyms are established
in the language. A quotation or two may help to fix the word in mind:

    Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings—"Richard III,"
    _i_, 1.

    And when she speaks, is it not an alarum to love?—"Othello,"
    _ii_, 3.

    The dread alarum should make the earth quake to its
    centre.—Hawthorne, "Old Manse."

_Kerns and gallowglasses_, _ii_, 13. It may be enough to give simply
the fact that the first of these uncouth words means light-armed and
the second heavy-armed Irish troops. If the teacher likes, however, he
may add a brief mention of the passage from Barnabie Riche:

    The _Galloglas_ succeedeth the Horseman, and hee is commonly
    armed with a skull,[167:1] a shirt of maile, and a _Galloglas_
    axe; his service in the field is neither good against horsemen,
    nor able to endure an encounter of pikes, yet the Irish do
    make great account of them. The _Kerne_ of Ireland are next in
    request, the very drosse and scum of the countrey, a generation
    of villaines not worthy to live: these be they that live by
    robbing and spoiling the poor countreyman, that maketh him
    many times to buy bread to give unto them, though he want
    for himself and his poore children. These are they that are
    ready to run out with every rebell, and these are the very
    hags of hell, fit for nothing but for the gallows.—_New Irish

_Thane_, _ii_, 45. This word may be made interesting by its close
connection with the Anglo-Saxon. _Thegan_ was originally a servant,
then technically the king's servant, and so an Anglo-Saxon nobleman and
one of the king's more immediate warriors.

_Bellona_, _ii_, 54. The mythological allusion is of course easy to

_Composition_, _ii_, 59. This I would include in the list chiefly to
emphasize how often a little common sense will solve what at first
sight seems a difficulty of language. "Craves composition" is so easily
connected with "composing difficulties" or any similar phrase that an
intelligent pupil can see the point if he is only alive to the force of

_Aroint_, _iii_, 6. It will interest most scholars to learn that this
word—except for modern imitations—is found only in Shakespeare,
and in him but twice, both times in the phrase "Aroint thee, witch"
(the second instance, "Lear," _iii_, 4). They will be at least amused
by the possibility of its being derived from a dialect word given
in the Cheshire proverb quoted by an old author named Ray in 1693,
and probably in use in the time of Shakespeare: "'Rynt you, witch,'
quoth Bessie Locket to her mother;" and in the speculation whether
the dramatist himself made the word. The curious derivation of the
term from rauntree or rantry, the old form of rowan, or mountain-ash,
is sure to appeal to children who have seen the rowan ripening its
red berries. The mountain-ash, or the "quicken," as it is called in
Ireland, is one of the most famous trees in Irish tradition, and is
sacred to the "Gentle People," the fairies. It was of old regarded as a
sure defence against witches, and the theory of some scholars is that
the original form of the exclamation given by Shakespeare was "I've a
rauntree, witch," "I've a rowan-tree, witch." All that it is necessary
for the reader to know is that the word is evidently a warning to the
witch to depart; but there can be no objection to introducing into
this preliminary study of the vocabulary matter which is likely to
arrest attention and to fix meanings in the mind.

_Rump-fed ronyon_, _iii_, 6. It is hardly worth while to do more with
this than to have it understood that "ronyon" is a term of contempt,
meaning scabby or something of the sort, and that "rump-fed," while it
may refer to the fact that kidneys, rumps, and scraps were perquisites
of the cook or given to beggars, probably indicates nothing more than a
plump, over-fed woman.

_Pent-house lid_, _iii_, 20. A pent-house is from the dictionary found
to be a sloping roof projecting from a wall over a door or window; and
from this to the comparison with the eyebrow is an easy step. That the
simile was common in the sixteenth century may be shown by numerous
quotations, as, for instance, the passage in Thomas Decker's "Gull's
Horne-book," 1609:

    The two eyes are the glasse windows, at which light disperses
    itself into every roome, having goodlie pent-houses of hair to
    overshadow them.

In the second chapter of "Ivanhoe":

    Had there not lurked under the pent-house of his eye that sly
    epicurean twinkle.

And so on down to our own time, when Tennyson, in "Merlin and Vivian,"

    He dragged his eyebrow bushes down, and made
    A snowy pent-house for his hollow eyes.

_Insane root_, _iii_, 84. In Plutarch's "Lives," which in the famous
translation of North was familiar to Shakespeare and from which he took
material for his plays, we are told that the soldiers of Anthony in the
Parthian war were forced by lack of provisions to "taste of roots that
were never eaten before; among which was one that killed them, and made
them out of their wits." Any intelligent student would be likely to
understand the force of this phrase from the context, but it is well to
speak of it beforehand to avoid distraction of the attention in reading.

_Coign_, _vi_, 7. "Jutty," from our common use of the verb "to jut,"
carries its own meaning, and the use of the word "coign" in this
passage is given in the "Century Dictionary."

_Sewer_, _vii_, _stage-directions_. The derivation and the meaning are
also given in the "Century Dictionary," with illustrative quotations.

So far for single words which would be likely to bother the ordinary
student in reading. The list might be extended by individual teachers
to fit individual cases, and such words included as choppy, _iii_, 44;
blasted, _iii_, 77; procreant, _vi_, 8; harbinger, _iv_, 45; flourish,
_iv_, _end_; martlet, _vi_, 4; God 'ield, _vi_, 13; trammel up, _vii_,
3; limbec, _vii_, 67. It is well, however, not to make the list longer
than is absolute necessary; and as the vocabulary of the whole play is
to be taken up, it is better to trust to the general intelligence of
the class as far as possible.


These doubtful or obsolete words having been mastered by the class,
and the lines in which they occur used as illustrations of their use,
the next matter is to take up obscure passages. These may be blind
from unusual use of familiar words or from some other cause. Where
the difficulty is a matter of diction it is hardly worth while to
make further division into groups, and in the first act the following
passages may be given to the students to study out for themselves if
possible, or to have explained by the teacher if necessary:

    Say to the king _the knowledge of the broil_
    As thou did leave it.—_ii_, 6.

           *       *       *       *       *

    For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—
    _Disdaining fortune_, with his brandished steel
    Which smoked with _bloody execution_,
    Like _valour's minion_ carved out his passage
    Till he faced the slave;
    Which ne'er shook hands, nor bid farewell to him,
    Till he _unseam'd him from the nave to chaps_,
    And fix'd his head upon our battlements.—_ii_, 16-23.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,
    Or _memorize another Golgotha_,
    I cannot tell.—_ii_, 39-41.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Till that _Bellona's bridegroom, lapp'd in proof,
    Confronted him with self-comparisons,
    Point against point rebellious_, arm 'gainst arm,
    Curbing his lavish spirit.—_ii_, 54-57.

           *       *       *       *       *

    He shall live a man _forbid_.—_iii_, 21.

           *       *       *       *       *

    The weird sisters, hand in hand,
    _Posters_ of the sea and land.—_iii_, 32, 33.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Art not without ambition, but without
    _The illness should attend it_.—_v_, 20-21.

           *       *       *       *       *

    All that impedes thee from the _golden round_
    That fate and _metaphysical aid_ doth seem
    To have thee crowned withal.—_v_, 30-31.

           *       *       *       *       *

                               To _beguile_ the time
    Look like the time.—_vi_, 63.

           *       *       *       *       *

    —Those honors deep and broad wherewith
    Your majesty loads our house: for those of old
    And the late dignities heap'd up to them
    We rest your _hermits_.—_vi_, 16-20.

           *       *       *       *       *

                                This Duncan
    Hath borne his _faculties_ so meek.—_vii_, 16-17.

           *       *       *       *       *

    What cannot you and I perform upon
    The unguarded Duncan? what not put upon
    His _spongy_ officers, who shall bear the guilt
    Of our great _quell_.—_vii_, 69-72.

This list again may be made longer or shorter, with the same proviso
as before, that it be not unnecessarily distended. Phrases like
"craves composition" and "insane root," which I have put into the
first section, may be grouped here if it seems better. I have not felt
it needful to indicate the way in which the meaning of these obscure
passages is to be brought out, for the method would be essentially the
same as that taken to interest the class in the vocabulary of detached


Passages possibly obscure from the thought may for the most part be
left for the later study of the play in detail. A few of them it is
well to take up for the simple purpose of training the student in
poetic language, and some need to be understood for the sake of the
first general effect. In the first act of "Macbeth" the passages which
it is actually necessary to examine are few, but the list may be made
long or short at the pleasure of the teacher. The following may serve
as examples:

    The merciless Macdonwald—
    Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
    The multiplying villainies of nature
    Do swarm upon him.—_ii_, 9-12.

           *       *       *       *       *

    As whence the sun 'gins his reflection
    Shipwrecking storms and direful thunders break,
    So from that spring whence comfort seem'd to come
    Discomfort swells.—_ii_, 25-28.

           *       *       *       *       *

    But thither in a sieve I'll sail,
    And like a rat without a tail,
    I'll do, I'll do and I'll do.—_iii_, 8-10.

This passage is a good example of what may be passed over in the first
reading, yet which if understood adds greatly to the force of the
effect. If the scholar knows that according to the old superstition a
witch could take the form of an animal but could be identified by the
fact that the tail was wanting, the idea of the hag's flying through
the air on the wind to the tempest-tossed vessel bound for Aleppo,
and on it taking the form of a tailless rat to gnaw, and gnaw, and
gnaw till the ship springs a leak, is sure to appeal to the youthful

    My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,
    Shakes so my single state of man that function
    Is smothered in surmise, and nothing is
    But what is not.—_iii_, 139-142.

This is one of those passages which is sure to puzzle the ordinary
school-boy, although a little help will enable him to understand it,
and to see how natural under the circumstances is the state of mind
which it paints. The murder is as yet only imagined (fantastical),
and yet the thought of it so shakes Macbeth's individual (single)
consciousness (state of man) that the ordinary functions of the mind
are lost in confused surmises of what may come as the consequences of
the deed; until to his excited fancy nothing seems real (is) but what
the dreadful surmise paints, although that does not yet exist.

                Your servants ever
    Have theirs, themselves, and what is theirs, in compt
    To make their audit to your highness' pleasure,
    Still to return your own.—_vi_, 25-28.

           *       *       *       *       *

                His two chamberlains
    Will I with wine and wassail so convince,
    That memory, the warder of the brain,
    Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
    A limbec only.—_vii_, 63-67.

The whole of Macbeth's soliloquy at the beginning of scene _vii_ is a
case in point. It may be taken up here, but to my thinking is better
treated after the class is familiar with the circumstances under which
it is spoken.


The taking up of especially striking passages beforehand may be omitted
altogether, although what I consider the possible advantages I have
already indicated.[175:1] Perhaps the better plan is to do this after
the first reading of the play, and before the second reading prepares
the way for detailed study. The sort of passage I have in mind is
indicated by the following examples:

    If you can look into the seeds of time,
    And say which grain will grow and which will not.—_iii_, 58-59.

The attention of the pupils may be called to the especial force and
fitness of the image. The impossibility of telling from the appearance
of a seed whether it will grow or what will spring from it makes very
striking this comparison of events to them, so unable are we to say
which of these "seeds of time" will produce important results and which
will show no more growth than a seed unsprouting.

    _Dun._ This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
           Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
           Unto our gentle senses.

    _Ban._                         This guest of summer,
           The temple-haunting martlet, does approve
           By his loved mansionry that the heaven's breath
           Smells wooingly here.—_vi_, 1-7.

This is not only charming as poetry, but it is excellent as a help to
train the class to appreciative reading by attention to significant
details. "Nimbly,"—with a light, quick motion,—the air "recommends
itself,"—comes upon us in a way which makes us appreciate its
goodness,—unto our "gentle,"—delicate, capable of perceiving subtle
qualities,—senses. In the reply of Banquo the use of "guest," one
favored and invited, of "temple-haunting," conveying the idea of one
frequenting places consecrated and revered, of "loved mansionry,"
dwellings which the eye loves to recognize, all help to strengthen the
impression, and to give the feeling to the mind which we might have
from watching the flight of the slim, glossy swallows flitting about
their nests.

It is not necessary to multiply examples, since each teacher will
have his personal preferences for striking passages; and since many
will probably prefer to leave this whole matter to be taken up in the


The first reading of a play, whether it come before or after the
mastering of the vocabulary, should be unbroken except by the pauses
necessary between consecutive recitations, and must above everything be
clear and intelligible. In all but the most exceptional circumstances
it should be done by the teacher, the class following the text in
books of their own. No teacher who cannot read well has any business
to attempt to teach literature at all, for reading aloud is the most
effective of all means to be used in the study. This does not mean that
the reading should be over-dramatic, and still less that it should be
what is popularly known as "elocutionary;" but it does mean that it
shall be agreeable, intelligent, and sympathetic. The teacher must
both understand and feel the work, and must be trained to convey both
comprehension and emotion through the voice. The pupils will from a
first reading get chiefly the plot, but they may also be unconsciously
prepared for the more important knowledge of character which is
naturally the next step in the process of studying the drama.

As preparation for the first reading of "Macbeth" little is needed in
the way of general explanation. The discussion of the supernatural
element, of the responsibility of the characters, and of the central
thought of the play, may safely be left for later study. Young people
will respond to the direct story, and it is not unwise to let the
plot produce its full effect as simple narrative. It is well to state
beforehand how it comes that the kingship does not necessarily go by
immediate descent, and so to make it evident how Macbeth secured the
throne; it may be well also to comment briefly on the state of society
in which crime was more possible than now; but beyond this the play may
be left to tell its own tale.

In this first reading the teacher will do well to indicate such points
of stage-setting as are not evident, and such stage "business" as is
necessary to the understanding of the scene. It is as well, however,
not to give too much stress to this. To follow the play of emotions
is with children instinctive, and this they will do without dwelling
on the details of the scene too closely in a material sense. At least
a very little aid will be sufficient at this stage. In a subsequent
reading these matters may be more fully brought out, although I am
convinced that even then it is easy to overdo the insisting upon aids
to visualization.

What may be done and should not be omitted is the interspersion in
passing of comments so brief that they do not interrupt, yet which
throw light upon meanings which might otherwise be likely to pass
unnoticed. Nothing should be touched upon in this way which is so
complicated as to require more than a word or two to make it plain.
What I mean is illustrated by these examples:

    I come Graymalkin.
    Paddock calls.—_i_, 9, 10.

The voice in reading conveys the idea that the witches speak to
familiar spirits in the air, but it is well to state that fact

    What, can the devil speak true?—_iii_, 107.

Banquo thinks instantly of the word of the witches,

    Glamis, and thane of Cawdor, etc.—_iii_, 111-119.

In these lines and in 126-147, it is of so much importance that the
distinction between the asides and the direct speech be appreciated
that it may be well to call attention to the changes.

    Cousins, a word, I pray you.—_iii_, 126.

Banquo draws the others aside, probably to tell them of the prediction
by the witches of the news they have brought, and this gives Macbeth a
moment by himself to think of the strangeness of it.

    Think upon what hath chanced.—_iii_, 153.

This is said, of course, to Banquo.

    We will establish our estate upon
    Our eldest son, Malcolm.—_iv_, 37.

Here the conditions of succession already spoken of may be alluded
to, and the fact noted that if Macbeth had entertained any hopes of
succeeding Duncan legitimately, these were now dispelled.

    And when goes hence?—_v_, 60.

The sinister suggestion of this may well be emphasized by calling
attention to it.

    By your leave, hostess.—_vi_, 31.

With these words Duncan, who has taken the hand of Lady Macbeth, turns
to lead her in.


Once the play has been read as a whole the way has been prepared for
more careful attention to details. For each recitation the parts should
be assigned beforehand for oral reading, three or four pupils being
assigned to each part so that in a long scene opportunity is given for
bringing a number of the students to their feet.[180:1] It is well
to prepare for this second reading by selecting the central motive of
the play, and having the class discuss it. In the case of "Macbeth" it
is easy to select ambition as the main thread. In some plays a single
passion or emotion is not so easily detached, but it is generally
needful to remember that if children are to be impressed and are to
see things clearly, they must be dealt with simply; so that even at
the expense of slighting for the time being some of the strands it is
well to keep to the principle of naming one and holding to it with
straightforwardness until the work is tolerably familiar.

The children should be made to say—not to write, for contagion of
ideas is of the greatest importance here—what they understand by
ambition, how far they have noticed it in others, and perhaps how far
felt it themselves. A wise teacher should have little difficulty in
making such a talk personal enough to enforce the idea without letting
it become too intimate. It can be brought out that the test of ambition
is the extent of the sacrifices one is willing to make to gratify
it. The ambition already spoken of to excel in class, to be at the
head of the school baseball nine or football team, to be popular with
friends, and so on for the common ambitions of life may seem trifling,
but it belongs to the language of the child's life. Here and there
the teacher finds pupils who might seize the conception of ambition
without starting so near the rudiments, but most need it; I am unable
to see how any can be hurt by it. It is much more difficult to get a
conception vividly into the minds of twenty pupils together than it is
to impress the same thing upon a hundred separately, and I should never
feel that I could afford to neglect the humblest means which might be
serviceable. The talk, moreover, does not stop here. It is to be led on
to what the boys and girls would wish to be in the world; and from this
to historic instances of what men have done to gratify their ambitions.
The assassination of the late King of Servia is still so recent as
to seem much more real than murders farther back in history, and it
lends itself well to the effort to make vital the tragedy that is
being studied. I am not for an instant urging that literature shall be
treated in too realistic a manner, as I hope to show before I conclude;
but I do not feel that there is any fear of making it too real to the
boys and girls with whom one must deal to-day in our schools.

It is perhaps well, too, that some comment should be made at this stage
on the supernatural element. A class is likely to have had geometry by
the time it has come to the study of Shakespeare, and most children can
with very little difficulty be made to understand that in "Macbeth"
and "The Ancient Mariner" the existence of the supernatural is the
hypothesis upon which the work proceeds. When this is understood it is
not amiss to develop the idea that Shakespeare perhaps introduced the
witches as a way of showing how evil thoughts and desires spring up in
the heart. The class will easily see that the ideas of ambition, of
the possibility of gaining the crown, which little by little grew in
the heart of Macbeth can be better shown to an audience by putting the
words into the mouths of the witches than by means of soliloquies. This
giving of reasons why the dramatist does one thing or another should
not be pressed too far and should be touched upon with caution. It is
often better to let a detail go unremarked than to run the risk of
confusing the mind of the pupil. The witches, however, are almost sure
to be remarked upon, and they must be considered frankly.

In this second reading such obscure passages as have been glided over
before are to be taken into consideration. If the pupils have, as
they should have, texts unencumbered with notes, they may be given a
scene or two at a time, and told to use their wits in elucidating the
difficulties. Often they show surprising intelligence in this line,
and the bestowal of praise where it is deserved is one of the most
effective as well as one of the pleasantest parts of the whole process.
What they cannot elucidate alone, they may be if possible helped to
work out in class, or, if this fails, may be told outright. If they
have tried to arrive at the true meaning, they are in a condition when
an explanation will have its best and fullest effect.

Passages in the first act of "Macbeth" which I have thus far passed
over deliberately, to the end that the pupil be not bothered over too
many difficulties at once, are such as these:

    Fair is foul, and foul is fair,—_i_, 11.

    Where the Norweyan banners flout the sky
    And fan our people cold.—_ii_, 49, 50.

    Nor would we deign him burial of his men
    Till he disbursed, at Saint Colme's inch.—_ii_, 59, 60.

    Ten thousand dollars.—_ii_, 62.

If, as is likely to be the case, the greater part or all of the class
have passed the word "dollars" without notice, that fact serves to
illustrate the need of care in reading. That they should pass it,
moreover, illustrates also how the anachronism might pass unnoticed
in Shakespeare's time, when historical accuracy was the last thing
about which a playwright bothered his head. The teacher may well here
refer back to the idea of considering literature as the algebra of the
emotions, and remind the class that as the poet was not endeavoring
to write history or to tell what happened in a concrete instance, but
only to represent the abstract principle of such a situation as that in
which Macbeth and his wife were involved, a departure from historical
accuracy is of no importance so long as it does not disturb the effect
on the mind of the audience or reader.

    No more that thane of Cawdor shall receive
    Our bosom interest.—_ii_, 63, 64.

    I'll give thee a wind.—_iii_, 11.

The supposed power of the witches to control the winds and the
superstitions of the sailors about buying favorable weather from them
may be taken up in the first reading; but it seems better to leave it
for the time when the effect of the play as a whole has been secured,
and the interruption will be less objectionable.

    His wonders and his praises do contend
    Which should be thine or his: silenced with that.—_iii_, 63.

    That, trusted home.—_iii_, 120.

    Poor and single business.—_vi_, 16.

    Like the poor cat i' the adage.—_vii_, 45.

It is not necessary to continue this list. Its length is decided by the
one fixed principle to which is no exception: it is too long the moment
the teacher fails to hold the interest of the class in the work which
is being done. No amount of information acquired or skill in passing
examinations can compensate for the harm done by associating the plays
of Shakespeare in the minds of the student with the idea of dulness or

Textual explanation, however, is of small importance as compared to an
intelligent grasp of the office and effect of each incident and each
scene in the development of the story and of the characters of the
actors in the tragedy. At the end of each scene, or for that matter
at any point which seems well to the instructor, the students should
in this second reading be called upon to comment orally on what has
been done in the play and what has been shown. I have much more faith
in the genuineness of what a boy says on his feet in the class room
than in what he may write at home. A teacher with the gentlest hint may
at once stop humbug and conventionality when it is spoken, but when
stock phrases, conventional opinions, views imperfectly remembered or
consciously borrowed from somebody's notes have been neatly copied out
in a theme, no amount of red ink corrects the evil that has been done.
The important thing is to get an appreciation, no matter how limited or
imperfect it may be, which is yet genuine and intelligent.

With the matter of disputed readings, I may say in parenthesis, the
teacher in the secondary school has no more to do than to answer doubts
which may arise in the minds of the pupils. Personally I should offer
to the consideration of the class the conjectural reading of the line

    Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself.—_vii_, 27.
    Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps its selle (saddle);

because it seems to me so plausible and because it is likely to commend
itself. For the most part, however, I should let sleeping dogs lie, and
if nobody noticed the possible confusion of the text, I would not risk
confusion of mind by calling attention to it.

The personal opinions of the class upon the actions and the acts of
the characters are not difficult to get at in this way, and often will
be the more fully shaped and more clearly thought out if the pupil is
constrained to defend an unpopular view. I am not introducing anything
new, for this sort of discussion is carried on by every intelligent
teacher; it is mentioned here only for the sake of completeness in the
process of treating a play in the class-room.


It may seem superfluous to some teachers to end the study as it began,
by a complete, uninterrupted reading of the whole. It is possible that
sometimes it would weary a class already weary of going over the same
ground; but if so the class has been on the wrong tack throughout. I
make the suggestion, however, in confidence that the effect will be
good, and that the students will enjoy this review. Whether the reading
is done by teacher or pupils depends somewhat upon circumstances; but
it should certainly be by the pupils if possible.


I have carefully and intentionally omitted all mention of the study of
the sources of the plot, the probable date of the play, and things of
that sort which interest thorough Shakespearean scholars, and which
are the chosen subjects of pedantic formalists. Metrical effects and
subtilties are beyond any pupils I have ever encountered in secondary
schools. I do not believe that students in the secondary schools should
be troubled with any study of this sort. The teacher should of course
be prepared briefly to answer any questions of this nature which are
put, and to show the pupils where in books of reference information
may be found. The great principle is, however, to include in the study
nothing which does not enhance the impression of the play as a work of
imaginative literature, and to omit everything which can possibly be
spared without endangering this general effect.

The danger of overshadowing literary study with irrelevant information
is great and constant. The amount of special knowledge which a child
must acquire to appreciate a play of Shakespeare's is unhappily large
in any case; and the constant aim of the teacher should be to reduce
this to a minimum. It is far better that a pupil go through the work
with imaginative delight and fail to get the exact meaning of half
the obscure passages than that he be bored and wearied by an exact
explanation of all of them at the expense of the inspiration of the
work as a whole. My painful doubts of the wisdom of our present scheme
of insisting upon the study of literature in the common schools arises
largely from the unhappy necessity of having so much explained and
the too common lack of courage to do a sufficient amount of judicious
ignoring of difficulties.


I cannot shirk entirely, as I should be glad to do, the question of
written work on the play we have been considering.[188:1] It is a
thousand pities that children must be required to write anything about
"Macbeth" when they have read it; but it is evident that under existing
conditions they will be required to produce something on paper. In
regard to this I must repeat that they should never be asked to write
as exercises in composition. Everything that a child writes is, in
one sense, a rhetorical exercise, but the teacher should impress it
upon the class that here the chief aim is to get an expression of the
child's thought. The more completely the children can be made to feel
that this is not a "composition," but a statement of impressions, of
personal tastes, and of opinions, the better.

What subjects are suited for written work is a matter which must be
decided by each teacher according to the dispositions, the knowledge,
the aptitude shown by the scholars in a particular class. It will
inevitably be influenced largely by examination-papers; and in the
face of the lists of subjects provided by these it is idle to offer
any particular suggestions. In general the test of a subject, so far
as real benefit is concerned, is whether it is one upon which the
student may fairly be expected to be able to feel and to reason in
terms of his own experience. A subject is suited to his needs so long,
and so long only, as he is able to consider it as a matter which might
concern him personally. He may think crudely and he must of course
think inadequately; but he should at least think sincerely and without
regard to what somebody else has thought before him. He should be
original in the sense that he is putting down his own impressions, is
writing thoughts which have not been gathered from books, but have been
come at by considering the play in the light of whatever knowledge he
personally has of life and human nature.

Much may depend, it is worth remarking, upon the way a subject for
theme-work is given out. Phrases count greatly in all human affairs,
but especially in the development of children. Adults are supposed
to understand words so readily as to be free from the danger of
receiving wrong impressions from phraseology which is unfamiliar; but
whether this be true or not, certain it is that the young are often
bewildered by words and queerly affected by turns of language. The same
theme-subject may be hopelessly incomprehensible or at least unhappily
remote when stated in one way, while in another wording it is entirely
possible. The first essential is to make clear beyond all possibility
of doubt what is required, and this is to be accomplished only by using
language which the student understands. The teacher must here as in
all instruction keep constantly in mind that language that is clear
and familiar to him may be nothing less than cryptic to the class. I
remember a lad in a country school who was hopelessly bewildered when
confronted with the subject given out by his teacher: "What Character
in this Book Appeals to You Most, and on what Grounds?" yet who wrote
easily enough a very respectable theme when I said: "She only wants
you to pick out the person in the book you like best, and tell why you
like him." "Oh, is that all?" he said at first incredulously. "But that
isn't saying anything about grounds." The incident, absurd as it is, is
really typical.

I have usually found that the word "compare" will reduce most students
to mere memories, as they strive almost mechanically to reproduce
things set down in the notes of text-books. Nothing is more common than
subjects like "Compare the Characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth,"
"Compare 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso,'" and so on. The result is
generally a statement of the criticisms of the characters or works
mentioned, a statement which is a poor rehash of notes, but has of real
comparison no trace. The comparison calls for analytical powers far
beyond anything pupils are likely to have developed; and when a boy
asked me not so very long ago what a teacher expected of him when he
had been required to compare Sir Roger de Coverley and Will Honeycomb
I was forced to reply that I was utterly unable even to conjecture. I
regard the frequent appearance of theme-subjects of this sort in the
secondary schools with mingled envy and wonder: envy for the teachers
who apparently possess the power to elicit satisfactory work on these
lines, and wonder that the power to do this work seems so completely
to disappear when the pupil leaves the secondary schools.

To comment on the subjects which have actually stood upon entrance
examinations in the last half-dozen years would in the first place
be invidious, in the second would expose me to an unpleasant danger
of seeming to challenge attention to papers for which I have been
personally responsible, and in the third place would do no possible
good. A teacher with common sense can make the application of the
general principles I have stated if he choose; and he will at least
minimize the unfortunate necessity of making the written work a
preparation for examinations.


Memorizing is perhaps best done in connection with the last reading
of the play, but that is a mere detail. Students should be encouraged
to commit to memory the finest passages, and should be given an
opportunity of repeating them in the class with as much intelligent
effectiveness as possible. They should not, of course, be encouraged
or allowed to rant or to "spout" Shakespeare; but the teacher should
insist that at least lines be recited so that the meaning is brought
out clearly, and he should encourage the speaker to give each passage
as if it were being spoken as the expression of a distinct personal

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .

As I said at the beginning of this chapter, I have not endeavored to
provide a model, but merely for the sake of suggestiveness to offer an
illustration. This is at least one way in which the study of a play
may be taken up in the secondary school. Whether it is the best way
for a given case is another matter; and I must at the risk of tiresome
iteration add that here as everywhere the highest function of the
teacher is to discover what is the best possible method not for the
world in general, but for the particular class to be dealt with at the


[167:1] A metal covering for the head: a helmet.

[175:1] Page 80.

[180:1] Personally I would never have a pupil recite except on his feet.

[188:1] See chapter xi.



What should be used in the way of tests of the knowledge of pupils is a
puzzling question for any teacher. Like any other pedagogically natural
and necessary inquiry, it can be answered only with a repetition of the
caution that no set of hard and fast rules will apply to all schools or
to all classes. Students themselves, however, would often be perplexed
if they were not given definite tasks to perform, definite questions to
answer, definite facts to memorize. In acquiring the vocabulary needed
for the reading of a play both teacher and pupil feel with satisfaction
that legitimate because tangible work is being done; and for either
it is hard to appreciate the fact that the essential thing in the
study of literature is too intangible to be tested or measured by
specific standards. In what I have called the inspirational treatment
of literature both are likely to feel as if a vacation is being taken
from real work, since the impression is general that the only method of
keeping within the limits of useful educational progress is dependent
upon the accomplishing of concrete tasks.

The need of fitting students for examinations is generally allowed in
practice to answer the question what shall be done. I have already
said that I have personally little faith in the ultimate value of
much of the drill thus imposed, and it is hardly to be supposed that
any intelligent teacher could be satisfied to let matters rest here.
Certainly a pupil who graduates from the high school should have some
power of criticising intelligently any book which comes into his hands,
and of forming estimates of diction, general form, and to a less extent
even of style. His criticism is necessarily incomplete; but it should
be genuine and sound as far as it goes. Such a result is not dependent
upon the power of passing examinations, but is chiefly secured by
precisely that training in appreciation which is least formal and may
easily appear farthest from practice in criticism.

Some actual and definite criticism, however, is legitimately a part of
the school-work; and concerning this certain things present themselves
to my mind as obvious. In the first place criticism is of no value, but
rather is harmful, if it fails to be genuine. From this follows the
deduction that no criticism can profitably be required until the child
is old enough to form an opinion, and that at no stage should comments
be asked which are beyond the child's intellectual development. In the
early stages criticism is necessarily genuine in proportion as it is
personal; and it must have become entirely easy and natural before it
can safely be made at all theoretic.

In the early stages of the use of literature in education, as has
been said already, the aim is to help the child to enjoy, and to
understand so that enjoyment may be inevitable. This should normally be
done in the home, but since in a large number of cases in the common
schools the effects of home training in literature are so lamentably
wanting, the teacher must in most cases undertake to begin at the very
beginning. So far as criticism goes, the early stages are of course
merely the rudimentary likings or dislikings, and the encouragement
of expression of such tastes. Following this comes naturally the
putting into word of reasons for preferences. This must be done with
simplicity, in the homeliest and most unconventional manner, and above
all with no hint to the child that he is doing anything so large as to
"criticise." It is precisely at this stage that children are most in
danger of contracting the habit of repeating parrot-like the opinions
of their elders. All of us have to begin life by receiving the views of
adults, and we are all—except in the rare instances of extraordinary
geniuses, who need not be much considered here—eager to conceal lack
of knowledge by glib repetitions of the ideas of others. To force young
pupils to give opinions when they have none of their own to give is to
repeat the mistake which Wordsworth notes in his "Lesson for Fathers."
The child in the poem unthinkingly declared that he preferred his new
home to the old. His father insists upon a reason, and the poor little
fellow, having none, is forced into the lie:

    "At Kilve there is no weathercock,
     And that's the reason why."

In the lower grades the thing which may well and wisely be done is to
accustom the children to literature and to literary language. If pupils
come to the upper grades and show that this has not been done, the
teacher still has it to do, just as he must teach them the alphabet or
the multiplication-table if they arrive without the knowledge of these
essentials to advanced work. This is the only safe foundation upon
which work may rest, and although to acquire it consumes the time which
should be put on more elaborate study, that study cannot be soundly
done until the rudimentary preparation is well mastered. Criticism must
be postponed until the pupil is prepared for it.

Criticism, whenever it come, must begin simply, and it must be
connected with the actual life and experience of the child. We are
constantly endangering success in teaching by being unwilling to stop
at the limits of the possible. Boys and girls will be frank about what
they read if they are once really convinced that frankness is what is
expected and desired. They are constantly, if not always consciously,
on the watch for what the teacher wishes them to say. Whatever
encourages them to think for themselves and to state that thought
unaffectedly and freely is what is educationally valuable, and this

Opinions concerning characters in tales perhaps do as well as anything
for the beginning of criticism in classes. A teacher may say to a
pupil: "Suppose you had known Silas Marner, what would you have thought
of him?" The child is easily led to perceive the difference between
seeing or knowing such a man in real life, with its limited chances
of any knowledge of character, of the past history of the weaver, of
his secret thoughts, or of his feelings, and knowing him from the book
which gives all these details so fully. The question then becomes:
"Suppose you had in some way found out about him all that the novel
tells, what would you have felt?" The teacher will easily detect and
should with the gentlest firmness and the firmest gentleness suppress
any conventional answers. The young girl who with glib conventionality
declares that Silas was a noble character whom she pities because of
the way in which he was misunderstood may be questioned whether if
she had lived in Raveloe she would have seen more than the homely,
unsocial stranger, and whether, even had she known all that was
concealed under his homely life, she could have held out against his
general unpopularity. She is forced to think when she is asked whether
among those who live around her may not be men and women whose lives
are as pathetic and as misjudged as was that of the weaver. Children
have ideas about the personages in the stories they hear or read, and
it is only necessary to encourage, in each pupil according to his
temperament, first the formulating of these clearly and then the frank
stating of them.

In all this sort of criticism one thing which should be sedulously
avoided is any appearance of drawing a moral. Deliberately to draw a
moral is almost inevitably to defeat any lesson which the tale might
enforce if it is left to make its own effect. The point to be aimed at
here is not to turn the story into a sermon, but to make it as close
to the individual life of the child as is possible. The difference is
in essence that between being told a thing and experiencing it. Once
this relation is established, the child feels an emotional share in the
matter such as can be created by no amount of sermonizing. It may be
doubted if any genuine child ever drew a moral spontaneously, and in
all this work spontaneity is the beginning of wisdom.

After the pupil has come to have some notion, more or less clear
according to his own mental development, of what the personages in a
story or a play are like, he easily goes on to determine the relation
of one event to another, the interrelation between the separate parts
of the work. He should be able to tell in a general way at least what
influence one character has upon another, and of the responsibility of
each in the events of the narrative.

These opinions should as much as possible be put into speech before
being written. The subject should be talked out, however, in a manner
so sincere and straightforward as to make conventionality impossible.
Students must be held rigorously to honest and simple expression of
real beliefs and feelings. In every class, and perhaps especially
among girls, are likely to be some who will surely repeat conventional
phrases. Children pick up set phrases with surprising ease, and will
offer them whenever they have reason to believe such counterfeit will
be received instead of real coin. These shams are easily recognized,
and they should be mercilessly dealt with, almost anything except
sarcasm, that weapon which is forbidden to the teacher, being
legitimate against such cant. The student who repeats a set phrase
is usually effectually disposed of by a request to explain, to make
clear, and to prove; so that the habit of meaningless repetition cannot
grow unless the teacher is insensitive to it. The genuine ideas of the
pupils may be developed and put into word in the class, and afterwards
the writing out will involve getting them into order and logical

It may be objected that by this process each scholar will borrow ideas
from what he hears said in the class. This is in reality no serious
drawback to the method. If the individuals are trained to think for
themselves, each will judge the views which are presented in class, and
will make them his own by shaping and modifying them. In any case the
danger of a student's getting too many ideas is not large, and those
he gets from his peers, his classmates, are much more likely to appeal
to him and to remain in his mind than any which he culls from books.
The notions will sometimes be crude, but they will be so corrected and
discussed in recitation that they cannot be essentially false.

Any criticism which is received from pupils, whether spoken or written,
must first of all be intelligent. Sound common sense is the only safe
basis for any comment, and the higher the grade of a work of literature
imaginatively the more easy is it to treat it in a common-sense spirit.
Pupils should be made to feel not only that they have a right to any
opinion of their own on what they read, but that they are expected
to have one; and that this opinion may be of any nature whatever,
so long as they can justify it by sound reasons. Still farther than
this, they should be allowed freely to cherish tastes for which they
cannot give formal justification—provided they can show a reasonable
appreciation of the real qualities of the work they like or dislike.
In the higher regions of imaginative work the power of analysis of the
most able critic may fail; and it is manifestly idle to expect from
school-children exhaustive criticism of high things which yet they may
feel deeply.

Since it is of so much importance that all comment and criticism shall
be sincere, care must be taken to keep work within limits which make
sincerity possible. Students must not be required to perform tasks
which are in the nature of things impossible. To push beyond dealing
with comparatively simple matters in a frank and direct manner, is
inevitably to encourage the use of conventional phrases and to replace
sincerity with cant.

A nice question connects itself with the determination of how much it
is proper and wise to require of children: it is how much farther it
is well to call upon them to criticise literature than we should ask
them to comment on life. We need to know what we are doing, and though
an examination of the character and motives of a criminal in a book
is not the same thing as would be this sort of criticism applied to a
flesh and blood neighbor, the two processes are the same in essence.
The better the teacher succeeds in arousing the imagination of the
pupil, moreover, the more closely the two approach. We should be sure
that we are doing well in requiring of the young, who would not and
should not be encouraged to dwell on actual crime and suffering, that
they produce original opinions upon these things as represented in

It is of course to be allowed that no teaching can make fictions vital
and real in exactly the same way as is that which is known actually to
have happened. An imaginative child vitalizes the story which touches
him, but does not bring it home to himself as he would occurrences
within the circle of his own experience. It may be urged that by
encouraging him to analyze sin in the comparatively remote world of
fancy we give him a chance to perceive its moral hatefulness without
that distrust of his fellows which might come if he were forced to
learn the lesson from the harsher happenings of life; and that in books
the knowledge of character and circumstance is so much fuller than it
is likely to be in experience that he is able to see more clearly.
The fact remains, however, that we should hardly expect or desire a
lucid and reasonable estimate of the late King and Queen of Servia
from the school-children who are being made to write laborious reams
on the motives and the character of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth; that we
should be shocked at finding boys and girls considering in real life
occurrences like the seduction of Olivia Primrose, or suspicions like
those Gareth entertained of Lynette. We certainly cannot afford to
be prurient, or to confine the young to goody-goody books. They may
generally be safely trusted, it seems to me, to read any tale or poem
of first-class merit, although its subject were as painful as that of
"Œdipus." They will receive it as they receive facts of life told
by a wholesome-minded person, often with very little real perception
of the darkest and most sinister side. It will be as it was with young
Copperfield when he read Fielding's masterpiece and took delight in
the hero, "a child's Tom Jones, a harmless creature." When it comes to
the discussion of motives, of character, of black events in fiction,
the case is different. The child is forced to take a new attitude; to
accumulate the opinions of his elders, to view life from their more
sophisticated point of view; and inevitably to receive a fresh, and not
always a desirable insight into evil. I am not inclined to dogmatize on
this point, and touch upon it chiefly for the sake of suggesting that
teachers may do well to keep it a little in mind. Each case, it seems
to me, must be decided upon its own merit, and I at least have no
arbitrary rules to lay down. Of one thing, however, I am sure, and that
is that whatever is taken up at all should be treated with absolute and
fearless frankness.

All criticism of diction, style, or whatever belongs to literary
workmanship necessarily comes late. In the secondary schools I believe
very little can profitably be done in this line at all. Of this I
shall speak later in connection with the study of workmanship, but
here I may say that I suppose most teachers to recognize the obvious
absurdity of such questions about metres and metrical effects as are
given on page 43. That they should be gravely proposed in a book of
advice is indication that somebody believes in them; but any class
of students with which I have ever had to deal would be reduced to
mechanical repetition of cant conventionality by the bare sight of such

One thing which is of importance is the need of encouraging pupils to
judge of any work as a whole. It is so much easier to deal with details
than with a complete work that constantly students leave schools where
the training is in many respects excellent, and have gained no ability
to go beyond the examination of particulars. The far more important
power of estimating a book or a play from its total effect has not been
cultivated. No teacher should forget that the ability to deal fairly
with a whole is of as much more value than any facility in minute
criticism as that whole is greater than any of its parts.

This does not mean that a student can well summarize everything he
reads or that he may wisely attempt it. It does imply that at least his
attention shall have been directed over and over to the great fact that
the study of details is not the study of a masterpiece; that he shall
have been required to judge a book or a play, so far as he is able, as
a whole work and with reference to its entire effect. In talking with
undergraduates even about short works, pieces no longer than a single
essay of Steele or a simple lyric, I constantly find that they are apt
to have no conception whatever that they could or should do anything
but pick out minute details. I ask what it amounts to as a whole, how
it justifies itself, or what is its value as a complete poem or essay,
and they seem utterly unable to see what I am driving at. The painful
attempt to find out what I wish them to say so entirely occupies their
minds as to render them incapable of using whatever power of judgment
they may possess. Not long ago one boy said to me: "I didn't know it
made any difference what the poem was about if you could pick out
things in it." "What do you suppose it was written for?" I asked. A
look of painful bewilderment came into his face, and he answered that
he supposed some folks liked to write that way. I inquired whether he
would test a bridge—he was an engineering student—by picking out bits
without seeing how the parts held together and how strong it was as
a whole, and he returned with puzzled frankness: "But a bridge has a
use." "Very good," was what I assured him, "and so does a poem. Can't
you appreciate that mankind has not been keeping poems from generation
to generation without finding out if they really are useless? Any work
of literature that is really good must be of value as a whole, and
you have not got hold of it until you are able to see what it is for
as a single thing, a complete unit." The fact is so evident that it
seems almost absurd to mention it in a book intended for teachers, but
scores of boys come yearly from the fitting-schools who prove how often
the fact is ignored,—ignored, very likely, because it is taken for
granted, but no less ignored with seriously ill effects.

In general, criticism in the secondary schools should have to do only
with the good points of work. Unless a pupil himself shows that he
perceives shortcomings in what is read, it is on the whole the place
of the instructor to keep the attention of the class fixed on merits,
while defects are ignored. This is not to be interpreted as meaning
that any weakness should ever be allowed to pass for a merit; or as
indicating that it is ever wise to shirk a difficulty. Any intelligent
pupil, for instance, should see for himself that the metaphors are
sadly and inexcusably mixed in the passage:

    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them.

It is necessary to meet this knowledge frankly, and to show him how it
is that Shakespeare can be so great in spite of faults like this. It is
the inclination of childhood to feel that a man must be perfect to be
great, but even at the cost of encountering the difficulty of such a
faith the truth must be told. In general, however, it is as well not to
go out of the way to enforce the doctrine of human fallibility, and the
youthful mind is best nourished by being fed on what is good, rather
than by being taught to perceive what is bad.

When a pupil is asked to put into words the reason why a piece is
written, he should be required to answer by a complete sentence, a
properly phrased assertion. He is not unlikely to begin by giving
a single term, an incomplete and tentative phrase, or at best a
fragmentary statement. For the sake of the clearness of his own
idea and of the habit of accurate thinking, he should be encouraged
and expected to make the idea clear and the statement finished.
Student-criticism, as I have said perhaps often enough already, cannot
in the nature of things be either profound or exhaustive, but it should
be intelligent and well defined as far as it goes.



The appreciation of literary workmanship dawns very slowly on the
child's mind. In the secondary schools not much can be accomplished
in the way of making students feel the niceties of literary art;
but something should be done to enforce the nature and the worth of
technique. Much that touches the undergraduate's feelings he cannot
analyze, and should never in any work of the secondary schools be
asked to criticise. He should, however, if he is to be systematically
trained in the study of masterpieces, have knowledge enough of the
qualities which distinguish them from lesser work to perceive on what
their claims to superiority are founded. Children so naturally and
so generally feel that distinctions which do not appeal to them are
arbitrary, and it is of so much importance to guard against any feeling
of this sort in the case of literature, that it is worth while to be
at some pains to make distinctions perceptible, even if they may not
always be made entirely clear.

One of the tests of rank in civilization is appreciation of
workmanship. The savage knows nothing of mechanics beyond the power
of a lever in prying up a rock, the action of a bowstring, or crude
facts of this sort. A machine to him is not only incomprehensible,
but supernatural: a locomotive is a fire-devil, and a loom or a
printing-press, should he see one, a useful spirit. At the other end of
the scale of appreciation of mechanical appliances is the inventor who
devises or the trained engineer who understands the most complicated
engines of modern ingenuity. Somewhere between stands any one of
us,—the ordinary pupil presumably far above the savage, but far below
the expert. In the appreciation of the art of the painter, at the
bottom of the scale is the bushman who can look at the clever painting
of a man and not know what it represents, and at the top the great
painters of the world and those who can best enter into the spirit of
their productions. In this scale again each of us stands somewhere; the
average school-boy is unhappily likely to be so far down as to take
delight in the colored illustrations of the Sunday newspapers and to
be utterly indifferent to a Titian or a Rembrandt. In comprehension
of the value and effect of language, the same principle obtains. The
scale extends from the savage tribes with a vocabulary of but a few
hundred words for the entire speech of the race and no power of making
combinations beyond the simplest, to the cultivated nations with
perhaps a couple of hundred thousand words and the art of producing the
highest forms of prose and of poetry. The scale is a long one, and its
development has taken uncounted ages; but somewhere in the line each
individual has his place. The degree of the civilization of a race is
unerringly determined by its command of the written word; the mental
rank of the individual is no less certainly fixed by his power of using
and of comprehending human speech.

This general truth is easily brought home to young people by reminding
them how they began their knowledge of language with the acquirement of
single words and went on to appreciate how much more may be expressed
by word-combinations. After the infantile "give" came in turn "p'ease
give" and "please give me a drink." From such stages each of them has
gone on learning. They have constantly increased their vocabulary,
their knowledge of the value of words, of word-arrangement, and of
sentence-construction. Gradually by practical experience they have
gained some appreciation of all those points which make up the sum of
instruction in classes in composition. They now need to be shown that
literary appreciation is the extension of this knowledge along the same
lines; that it is the means of advancing toward a higher place in that
scale which extends from the ignorant savage to the sages. They may in
this way be brought to a conception of literary technique as a matter
connected with the process of perception which they have been carrying
on from childhood.

How value in all workmanship is to be judged by the effects produced is
admirably illustrated by machinery, but it is hardly less evident in
the case of language. The simpler forms of sentence come to be used by
the child in place of single disconnected words because with sentences
he can do more in the way of communicating his ideas and obtaining what
he desires. To illustrate more complicated forms of language we have
only to remind the child how carefully he orders his speech when he is
endeavoring to coax a favor from an unwilling friend or a reluctant
parent. The child feels himself clever just in proportion as he is
able so to frame his plea that it secures his end. He may be reminded
that he selects most carefully the terms which suggest such things and
ideas as favor his wish and avoids any that might hint at possible
objections. Out of these homely, universal experiences of childhood it
is possible to build up in the mind of the pupil a very fair notion of
the nature and the use of literary workmanship; a notion, moreover,
which is at once sound in principle and entirely adequate as a working

Teaching consists principally in helping pupils to extend ideas
which they have received from daily life. In this matter of literary
workmanship, for instance, it means showing them that they have,
without being especially conscious of the fact, a responsiveness
to well-turned forms of speech and to skilful use of words. They
may perhaps be made to appreciate this with especial vividness by
having their attention called to the pleasure they take in clever or
apt sayings from their fellows or from joking speeches. This form
of illustration must, it is true, be used with discretion. It is
always difficult to lead the mind of a child from the concrete to
the general. Not a few children—and children, too, of considerable
intelligence—are not unlikely, if jesting remarks are instanced, to
conclude that good literary workmanship means something amusing. With
due care, however, a class may be led to see how the same quality
of apt presentation in word which pleases them in the sayings of
schoolmates is what, carried farther, is the foundation of literary

Concrete examples of thoughts so well expressed that they have come to
be almost part of common speech are abundant. The crisp, dry phrases of
Pope lend themselves admirably as illustration, they are so neat, so
compact, and, it may be added, so free from delicate sentiment which
might be blurred in the handling.

    Order is heaven's first law.
    An honest man's the noblest work of God.

The class can supply examples in most cases, and be pleased with itself
for being able to do so. The finer instances from greater writers may
be led up to, the epigrams of Emerson, the imaginative phrases of
Shakespeare; and so on to longer examples, with illustrations from the
rolling paragraphs of Macaulay, the panoplied prose of De Quincey,
and after that from lyrics and passages in blank verse. Thus much
may be done in the way of instruction in technique fairly early in
high-school work. With it or after it at a proper interval should
follow instruction in regard at least to the mechanical differences
between prose and poetry and what they mean. I have mentioned
earlier[212:1] the impression students often bring from the reading
of Macaulay's "Milton." The remarks there quoted are selected from
answers to a question of an entrance paper in regard to the difference
in form and in quality between prose and poetry. Others from the same
examination show yet more strikingly the general haziness of conception
in the minds of the candidates:

    In prose words are thrown together in a way to make good sense
    and to form good English. Poetry is the grouping of words into
    a metric [_sic_] system.

    Poetry is often written in rhyme, while prose is expressed in

    Poetry is the name given to writing that is written in verse
    form. One does not as a rule get the meaning of things when
    they are written in verse form.

    Prose may be verse when dealt with by such an author as
    Shakespeare or Milton, but prose usually consists of words
    arranged in sentences and paragraphs without any special order.

    Poetry is used as a pastime, and as such is all right.

    Between good blank verse and prose there is not much difference
    except in the form of wording in which it is put upon the page.

    For me, the difference between prose and poetry is this: Prose
    does not rhyme and poetry does. Under such a definition, all
    literature not poetry must be prose. Therefore Shakespeare's
    works are prose.

The illustrations might be much extended, but these will show the
confusion which existed in the minds of boys who had been painfully
drilled in the college entrance requirements. I have not selected
the examples for their absurdity, although in a melancholy way they
are droll enough; but I have meant them to illustrate the confusion
which existed in the minds of a large number of the candidates at that
particular examination of what makes the vital difference between prose
and poetry. It is not my contention that teachers in the secondary
schools are to go into minute details in regard to poetic form; but I
do believe that it is idle to talk about the rank of a writer as a poet
or of the beauty of Shakespeare's verse to students who do not know the
difference between verse and prose.

I may be allowed to remark in passing that to my mind the influence of
the theories of Macaulay's "Milton" alluded to above illustrates the
difference in effect of that which appeals to the personal experience
and feelings of boys and that which they are forced to receive without
such inward interpretation. The boys who were trained in the "Milton"
were trained also in Carlyle's "Burns." The Carlyle, with its eloquent
appreciation of the office of the poet, the seer to whom has been given
"a gift of vision," had apparently left no trace upon their minds. They
had, however, been forced, too often unwilling, over numerous pages of
what they were assured was poetry of the highest quality, yet which to
them was unintelligible and wearisome. When Macaulay declared that
poetry was a relic of barbarism they seized upon the theory eagerly
because it justified their own feelings, because it coincided with
their own impressions; and thenceforth they doubtless held complacently
to their faith in the obsolete uselessness of verse, fortified by so
high an authority.

In the whole body of papers in the examination from which I have been
quoting very few gave the impression that the writer had a clear
conception that somehow, even if he could not express it, a vital
difference exists between poetry and prose. The greater number of
the boys seemed to think that rhyme made the distinction, or that
distortion of sentences was the leading characteristic. Not one
teacher in a score had succeeded in impressing upon his pupils the
fundamental truth that the only excuse poetry can have for existing
is that it fulfils an office impossible for prose. Yet nothing which
can properly be called the study of poetry can be done until this
prime fact is recognized with entire clearness. Beyond the entirely
unanalytical enjoyment of verse, the native responsiveness to rhythm,
and the uncritical pleasure with which one learns to love literature
and to seek it as a means of pleasure, the first, the most primary, the
absolutely indispensable fact to be thoroughly impressed on a young
student is that poetry uses form as a part, and an essential part, of
its language. The boy must be made to understand that just as he tries
by his tone, by his manner, by his smile, to produce in his hearers
the mood in which he wishes them to receive what he has to say, so the
poet by his melody, by the form of his verse, by his ringing rhythms or
long, melting cadences, by his rhyme or his pauses, is endeavoring to
interpret the ideas he expresses as surely as he is by the statements
he makes. The truth which the teacher knows, that not infrequently the
metrical effect is really of more value and significance than the ideas
stated, is naturally for the most part too deep for the comprehension
of pupils at this stage. It would only confuse a class to go so far as
this; but if we are to "study" poetry, we must have at least a working
definition of what poetry is, and one which shall commend itself to the
children with whom we are working.

As a mere suggestion which may be of practical use to some teachers, I
would call attention to what may be done by comparing certain pieces of
prose with the poems which have grown out of them. I know of nothing
better for this use than Tennyson's "Ballad of the Revenge" and the
prose version of Sir Walter Raleigh from which it is taken. In many
parts the language is almost identical,—but with the differences
between robust prose and a stirring lyric. The teacher who can make a
class see what the distinction is, what the ballad accomplishes that
Raleigh has not attempted, will have made clear by concrete example
what poetry does and why it is written. Another example is Byron's
"Destruction of Sennacherib" compared with the original version of the
incident as given in the Bible.

It may seem to some teachers that I am going rather deep, but to such I
should simply propound the question what they understand by the study
of poetry. The natural error of the untrained mind is to regard the
intellectual content of a poem as its reason for being, and to foster
such an error as this is to make forever improbable if not impossible
any intelligent or genuine insight into poetry whatever. If we are
not to protect children against this mistake, fatal as it is to any
perception of the real province and nature of poetic art, what do we
expect to accomplish in all the extensive attention which is under the
present system devoted to the works of the masters?

That so many boys failed to answer satisfactorily in this matter of
distinguishing between prose and poetry is of course not conclusive
evidence either of general ignorance or of conscious fault on the part
of instructors. Boys often fail in attempts to state distinctions
about which they are yet reasonably clear in their minds, and it may
well be that many who gave absurd replies would have no difficulty in
discriminating between verse and prose,—at least when verse fulfilled
the specification of the candidate who wrote:

    A jagged appearance is the main form-characteristic of blank
    verse. Each sentence is a separate line, and every other
    sentence is indented about a quarter of an inch.

It would be interesting to present to pupils who have finished the
study of the college requirements half a dozen brief selections, some
prose and some poetry, but all printed in solid paragraphs. The number
of students who could accurately and confidently distinguish in every
case would be a not unfair test of the extent to which the distinction
is understood.

Teachers probably fail to make this matter clear because they not
unnaturally assume that of course any intelligent lad in his teens
must know the distinction between prose and poetry. Natural as such an
assumption may be, however, it is often—indeed, I am tempted to say
generally—wrong. The chief business of the modern teacher is after
all the instructing of pupils in things which they would naturally be
supposed to know already. It is certainly safer never to assume in
any grade that a student knows anything whatever until he has given
absolute proof. The weakest points in the education of the modern
student are certainly those which are continually taken for granted.

One of the most serious obstacles in the way of bringing young people
to understand technical excellence and to appreciate literary value is
the difficulty of having school-work done with proper deliberation. It
is doubtful if any process in education can profitably be hurried; it
is certain that nothing of worth can be done in the study of literature
which is not conducted in a leisurely manner. The first care of an
instructor in this delicate and difficult branch must be to insure a
genial atmosphere: an atmosphere of tranquillity and of serenity. No
matter how tall a heap of prescribed books may block the way to the
end of the school year, each masterpiece that is dealt with should be
treated with deference and an amount of time proportioned not to its
number of pages but to the speed with which the class can assimilate
its worth and beauty. If worst comes to worst, I would have a teacher
say honestly to his pupils: "We have taken up almost all of the term
by treating what we have studied as literature instead of huddling
through it as a mechanical task. For the sake of examinations we are
forced to crowd the other books in. The process is not fair to them or
to you; so do not make the mistake of supposing that this is the proper
way of treating real books." Children who have been properly trained
will understand the situation and will appreciate the justice of the

In this connection is of interest the remark of an undergraduate
who said that he obtained his first impression of style and of the
effectiveness of words from translating. "I suppose the truth is,"
he explained with intelligence, "that in English I never read slowly
enough to get anything more than the story or what was said. When I was
grubbing things out line by line and word by word I at last got an idea
of what my teachers had meant when they talked about the effect of the
choice of words." Many of us can look back to the days when we learned
grammar from Latin rather than from English, although we had been over
much the same thing in our own tongue. In the foreign language we had
to go deliberately and we had to apply the principles we learned. Only
when the student is treating literature so slowly and thoroughly that
these conditions are reproduced does he come to any comprehension of
style or indeed of the real value of literature.

Readers of all ages naturally and normally read anything the first
time for the intellectual content: for the story, for the information,
for that meaning, in short, which is the appeal to the intellectual
comprehension. The great majority are entirely satisfied to go no
farther. They do not, indeed, perceive the reason for going farther;
and they are too often left in ignorance of the fact that they have
entirely missed the qualities which entitle what they have read to be
considered literature in the higher sense.

In this they are often encouraged, moreover, by the unhappy practice
of making paraphrases. The paraphrasing of masterpieces is to me
nothing less than a sacrilege. It degrades the work of art in the mind
of the child, and contradicts the fundamental principle that poetry
exists solely because it expresses what cannot be adequately said in
any other way. A paraphrase bears the same relation to a lyric, for
instance, that a drop of soapy water does to the iridescent bubble
of which it was once the film. The old cry against the selection of
passages from Milton for exercises in parsing should be repeated with
triple force against the use of literature as material for children to
translate from the words of the poet into their own feeble phraseology.
The parsing was by far the lesser evil. It is often necessary to have
an oral explanation of difficult passages; but this should be always
expressly presented as simply a means to help the child to get at
the real significance of a lyric, a sort of ladder to climb by. Any
paraphrasing and explaining should be carefully held to its place as an
inadequate and unfortunate necessity. The class should never be allowed
to think that any paraphrase really represents a poet, or that it is to
be regarded in any light but that of apologetic tolerance.

In this matter of workmanship, as everywhere else in the process of
dealing with literature, much depends upon the character of the class.
Much must always be left unaccomplished, and much is always wisely
left even unattempted. Often the teacher must go farther in individual
cases than would naturally have been the case in a given grade
because questions will be asked which lead on. It is often necessary,
for instance, to explain that the crowding forward of events made
unavoidable by stage conditions is not a violation of truth, but a
conforming to the truth of art. A lad will object that things could not
move forward so rapidly, and it is then wise to show him that dramatic
truth does not include faithfulness to time, but may condense the
events of days into an hour so long as it is true to human nature and
to the effects those events would have had if occurring at intervals
however great. Again children will object in a tale that the incidents
are not likely to have happened; and it is then necessary to make clear
the distinction between probability and possibility, and how fiction
may deal with either. These matters, however, are to be left to the
intelligence of the individual instructor. If he cannot manage them
wisely without advice, he cannot do it with arbitrary rules.

For a last word on the matter of training students in the appreciation
of literary form and workmanship I should offer a warning against
attempting too much. Something is certainly unavoidable, but of
minutiæ it is well to exercise what Burke calls "a wise and salutary
neglect." Literary language must be learned or all intelligent work is
utterly impossible; since form is an important element in all artistic
language, it is not possible to ignore this. The extent to which work
can and should go in the study of form in a given class is one of the
matters which the instructor has to decide; and when he has decided it
he must resolutely refuse to allow himself to be unhappy because in the
great realm of literature are so many noble tracts of which he has not
even hinted to his class the existence. If he has done the lesser work
well he has at least put his students in a condition to do the greater
for themselves; if he had attempted more he might have accomplished


[212:1] Page 36.



How far the biography of authors shall be a part of the school-work is
a question which deserves attention. I began these talks by calling
attention to the fact that it is so much easier to teach details
about the life of a writer than it is to train the youthful mind to a
true appreciation of literature itself. Teachers naturally and almost
unconsciously fall into the habit of over-emphasizing this division of
the history of literature, and questions about the lives of authors are
dangerously easy to formulate for recitation or for examination-paper.
Nothing, however, should be allowed to obscure the idea that the work
and not the worker is the thing with which study should be concerned;
and everybody would agree that in theory the limit to biographical
inquiry in secondary-school study is the extent to which a knowledge of
an author's career or personality aids to the understanding of what he
has written.

To say this, however, is much like restating the question. Like a good
deal that passes for argument, it only puts the problem in other words;
for we are at once confronted with the doubt how far a pupil in the
secondary school is likely to be helped by knowing about the facts of
a writer's life. At the beginning of the "Spectator" Addison remarks:

    I have observed that a reader seldom peruses a book with
    pleasure, till he knows whether the writer of it be a black
    or a fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married or
    a bachelor, with other particulars of the like nature, that
    conduce very much to the right understanding of an author.

I may frankly confess that this is so entirely untrue of myself that
I am perhaps not a fair judge for others. Since it is to me a matter
almost of indifference who wrote a book, where or when he lived, what
he was and what he did, I have not perhaps estimated rightly the
effect of biography on children. I am firm in my belief, however, that
for making literature more clear, more vivid, more attractive, the
effect of a knowledge of the author's life is with children apt to be
practically nothing. If they are interested in a book, they may on that
account like to know something of the man who wrote it, but I have yet
to find a student who really cared for a piece of literature because he
had been made to learn facts about the author. That a book was written
in a given age will account to him for fashions of thought strange
to-day, but he is seldom able to carry such analysis beyond the most
general idea.

In regard to helping scholars in the secondary schools to understand
a given piece of literature by instructing them about the personality
of the writer, I am quite as skeptical. It may be that one lad in a
hundred may come to a better appreciation of a book from what he knows
of the temperament of the author. It is possible to point this out in
occasional striking instances. If a boy read "A Modest Proposal," a
teacher naturally calls attention to the character of Swift as having
determined the ferocious form which this plea for humanity has taken;
in dealing with "The Journal of the Plague Year" it is inevitable that
the instructor speak of the journalistic tendency of Defoe, which led
him to write on topics which were at the moment before the public. In
either case the result is not important in the sense of going much
beyond what the student may be made to feel without any mention of the
writer or the writer's peculiarities.

It is very easy to delude ourselves into feeling that we are being
helpful when in reality we are simply being pedagogic. If our pupils
were so far advanced as to be able to perceive the subtle relations
between character and literature, between the nature of a writer and
the interpretation we are to put upon what he has written, they would
in most cases be better fitted to instruct us than to receive any
instruction we are able to furnish. It is sometimes well to give pupils
things which we are aware they cannot grasp; to show them the existence
of lines of thought which they are not yet qualified to carry out.
Our aim in this is to broaden their perceptions, and to direct them
toward truths which later they may investigate for themselves. In the
secondary schools, however, very little of this sort can be profitably
done in connection with anything so complex and subtle as the relation
of the character of an author to his work. Young people must take
literature at its face value, so to say, and in teaching them to do
this is more than room for all the energies a teacher in these grades
can bring to bear.

The history of literature, its development, its relations to the
evolution of human thought, should all be as far as possible familiar
to the teacher; and no instructor with knowledge and enthusiasm is
likely to ignore any of these in dealing with masterpieces. They must
all, however, be brought forward with care, for it is easy to overwhelm
the mind of the young, especially in an age like the present when a
child goes to school with attention already strained by the imperative
and insistent calls of daily life. Students on leaving the high school
should be familiar with the place in the centuries of authors they have
especially studied, and of the score or so of writers most important
in English literature from Chaucer down. With the exact details of
biography they need not have been concerned. If they have had curiosity
enough to look these up as a matter of individual interest, it is
well, although I am not sure that anything is gained by encouraging
this research. To know of Shakespeare, of Chaucer, and of Milton, for
instance, what may be put into a dozen lines; and of lesser writers to
have proportionate information, seems to me ample. The work and not the
worker is of importance; the book and not the author; the poem and not
the poet.

Many teachers will not agree with me in giving to the personality and
the biographies of writers so small a place. Every man must judge by
his own experience, and I can only say that every year I deal with
classes in literature I find myself deliberately giving less attention
to the history of literature. I have insisted already upon the danger
that such study shall take the place of the consideration of literature
itself, and I have now attempted to reënforce that thought by stating
definitely what it seems to me wise to attempt in the secondary
schools. I do not desire to be dogmatic, however, and here as elsewhere
the conclusion of the whole matter is that while the question of the
wisdom of giving extended instruction in literary history or biography
is to be carefully considered, each instructor must frame the answer
according to personal experience and the individual needs of any given



No teacher who is really concerned with the development of the pupil's
mind can afford to ignore outside influences. Indeed, even were a
teacher conceivable who, consciously or unconsciously, cared only to
drag scholars over the prescribed course, he would yet be forced to
take into account the effect of every-day life and circumstance, and
under existing conditions every teacher is sure to find that he is to
a great extent obliged to do the work of the home in all that relates
to the æsthetic training of a large number of children. In teaching
literature it is not only wise but it is easy to discover and to a
large extent to influence whatever reading pupils do of their own will
outside of the required work.

Thoroughly to accomplish all that a teacher desires, or even all that
is often expected of him, would be possible only to the gods; and it
is evident enough that no instructor can exercise complete parental
supervision over all the life of the pupils under him. Certain things
in the training of the young are accomplished at home or go forever
undone. Perhaps the most serious difficulty in this whole complicated
business of education is that the schoolmaster is so largely called
upon to undo what is done outside the schoolroom. He may at least be
thankful that in the matter of reading he is dealing with something
tangible, something in which so many of his flock may with skilful
management be influenced.

In a leaflet published under the auspices of the New England
Association of Teachers of English, "The Voluntary Reading of High
School Scholars," Professor W. C. Bronson, of Brown University,
comments on the fact that the mind of the young person is likely to
perceive little relation between the literature administered at school
and the books voluntarily read outside. He says:

    Many of our high-school youth are leading a double life in
    things literary: in the class-room Doctor Jekyll studies the
    lofty idealism of "Comus" or "Paradise Lost;" outside, Mr.
    Hyde revels in the yellow journalism and the flashy novel; and
    in many cases Doctor Jekyll does not even realize that he has
    changed into another and lower being.

The difficulty in making boys and girls realize a connection between
school-work and actual life is familiar to every teacher. I am
personally convinced that one reason for this—although obviously not
the only one—is the modern tendency to diminish the sense of value and
necessity by too much yielding to the inclination of the child. Coaxing
along the line of the least resistance is sure to produce an effective
even if hardly conscious indifference, which is far less healthy than
the temper of mind bred by insistence upon progress along the line
of duty. Be that as it may, however, the modern scholar generally
regards school as one thing and life as practically another. Books read
in the class-room, books studied, discussed as a part of formal and
required work, are felt to be remote from daily existence and almost as
something a bit unreal. They may be even enjoyed, and yet seem to the
illogical youthful mind as having a certain adult quality which sets
them apart from any vital connection with the life of youth. It is not
uncommon, I believe, for a boy to like a book in his private capacity,
reading it for simple and unaffected pleasure, and yet to feel it
almost a duty to be bored by the same book when it comes up as a part
of the work of the school-room.

Very likely a hint of the explanation of the whole matter is to be
found in this last fact. In the first place the work of the schoolroom,
however gently administered, represents compulsion, and we have
trained the rising generation to feel that compulsion is a thing to
be abhorred. Perhaps nothing could ever make school-work the same
as the life which is voluntary and spontaneous; but modern methods
have generally not succeeded in minimizing this difficulty. In the
second place, teachers are too often uncareful or unable to soften the
differences between reading without responsibility of thoroughness
and reading with the consciousness that class-room questionings may
lie beyond. Almost any child has the power of treating a book or a
poem as a friend when he reads for pleasure and of regarding the same
book as an enemy when it becomes a lesson. The thing is normal and not
unhealthy; but it is to be reckoned with and counteracted.

Professor Bronson, in his brief discussion of the matter, goes on to
remark that where the Jekyll and Hyde attitude of mind exists—which to
some degree, I believe, would be in every pupil—

    The first task of the teacher is to make the pupil fully
    realize it and to urge upon him the necessity of discrimination
    in his voluntary reading. For this purpose ridicule of trashy
    books by name and praise of good books, with reasons why they
    are good, may well fill the part of a recitation period, now
    and then, even though the routine work suffer a little. For the
    same purpose, it is very desirable that more of the best modern
    literature be made a part of the English course, especially
    in the earlier years, when the pupil's taste is forming, for
    it is easier to bring such works into close relation with his
    voluntary reading. The teacher of English may also consider
    himself recreant if he does not give his class advice about
    the reading of magazines and instructions how to read the

With the spirit of this I agree entirely. The letter does not seem
to me entirely satisfactory. I have learned to be a little afraid
of ridicule as a means of affecting the minds of the young in any
direction. It is the easiest of methods, but no less is it the one
which requires the most prudence and delicacy. It is the one which is
most surely open to the error of the point of view. If the teacher
tries to lessen the inclination of pupils for specific books by
ridicule, he can do no good unless he is able to make the class feel
that these books are ridiculous not only according to the standards of
the teacher but according to the standard of the child. To prove that
from the instructor's point of view a book is poor and silly amounts
to little if the work really appeals to the young. No more is effected
than would be accomplished if the teacher told lusty lads that to him
playing ball seemed a foolish form of amusement. They appreciate at
once that he is speaking from a point of view which is not theirs and
which they have no wish to share. He must be able to make it evident
that the book in question, with its attractions, which he must frankly
acknowledge, is poor when judged by standards which the pupils feel to
be true and which belong to the sphere of boyhood.

I confess with contrition that in my zeal for good literature I have in
earlier days spoken contemptuously of popular and trashy books which
I had reason to think my boys probably enjoyed and admired. I believe
I was wrong. Now I do not hesitate to say what I think about any book
when a student asks me, but I make it a rule never in class to attack
specific books or authors for anything but viciousness, and that
question is hardly likely to arise in the secondary schools. I cannot
afford to run the risk of alienating the sympathies of my pupils,
and of arousing a feeling that my point of view is so far removed
from theirs that they cannot trust my opinions to be sympathetic.
The normal attitude of the child toward the adult is likely enough
to be that of believing "grown-ups" to be so far from understanding
what children really care for as to be entirely untrustworthy in the
selection of reading. The child disregards or distrusts the judgments
of his elders not on abstract grounds, but merely from an instinctive
feeling that adults do not look at things from his point of view. I
always fear lest by an unwise condemnation of a book which a lad has
enjoyed I may be strengthening this perfectly natural and inevitably
stubborn conviction.

The first and most important means of influencing outside reading
is by impressing upon the child's mind the idea that he is studying
literature chiefly for the sake of reading to himself and for himself.
About this should be no doubt or uncertainty. No child should for
a moment be allowed to suppose that such dealing with books as is
possible in the school-room can be chiefly for its own sake, can be
so much an end as a means. To allow him to suppose that the few works
he goes over can be held adequately to represent the great literary
treasures of the race, or that he can be supposed to do more than to
learn how to deal with literature for himself, is at once to make
instruction in this branch more an injury than a benefit. It would
be no more reasonable than to allow him to think that he learns the
multiplication-table for the sake of his school "sums" rather than
that he may have an effective tool to help him in the practical affairs
of life.

To influence outside work of any sort is difficult, especially in
city schools where the pupils are subject to so many distractions.
The teacher is generally obliged to make his effort in this direction
almost entirely individual, treating no two scholars exactly in the
same way, and he is not infrequently obliged to employ a considerable
amount of shrewdness in the process. "When I wish to talk to John Smith
about his reading," a clever teacher said in my hearing, "I send to him
to see me about his spelling, or his handwriting, or anything to give
an excuse for a chat. Then I bring in the thing I am aiming at as if by
accident." The number of instructors possessed of the adroitness, the
time, and the patience for this sort of finesse is probably not large;
but much may be done by words dropped apparently by chance, if only the
instructor has the matter earnestly at heart.

How far the relation of books in the required reading to books read
voluntarily may profitably be insisted upon in class must depend
largely upon the particular pupils involved. Every teacher will
certainly do well to find out what his students are reading outside,
if they are reading anything, and he should then consider what use to
make of his knowledge. The very fact that he concerns himself about
the matter will call the attention of the class to the fact that a
connection exists; and that it is real enough to be worth heeding.
Any wise teacher will find an advantage in having indications of the
natural tastes and inclinations of those he is trying to train, and to
know what the boys and girls really like to read will often correct a
tendency to speak of the required readings in a tone that is outside
the range of the sympathies of the scholars. If he knows that the girls
are fond of weeping over "The Broken Heart of the Barmaid," that the
boys revel in "The Bloody Boot-jack," that both find "Mrs. Pigs of the
Potato-patch" exquisitely amusing, he sees at once that he must be
cautious in dwelling on the pathos of "Evangeline," the romance of "The
Flight of a Tartar Tribe," or the humor of Charles Lamb. Children fed
on intellectual viands so coarse would find real literature insipid,
and must be trained with frank acceptance of that fact.

To say that teachers may also often do something in the way of arousing
parents to do their part in guiding the reading of children is to go
somewhat outside of my field. The public asks so much of teachers
already that any hint of labor in the homes of pupils seems—and
in many cases would be—nothing less than the suggestion of an
impossibility. If I were to urge the matter, I should do it purely on
the ground that teachers may sometimes greatly lessen the difficulty
of the task they undertake in the school-room by a little judicious
labor in the home. In the public schools to-day many children, perhaps
even a majority, come from homes wherein no literary standard is
apparent, and where for the most part none exists. They are being given
a training which their parents did not have, and they feel themselves
better able to direct their elders in things intellectual than their
fathers and mothers are to advise them. In these cases, certainly very
numerous, the teacher must accept the inevitable, and do what he can by
inducing his pupils to talk with him about their outside reading. Where
parents are more cultivated, much may often be effected by the simple
request or suggestion that the young folk be supervised a little in the
choice of books. The teacher must of course use tact in doing anything
in this line, especially in those cases where such a request is most
needed. Parents who pay least attention to such matters are especially
likely to resent interference with their prerogative of neglecting
their children, though they may generally be reached by the flattery
of a carefully phrased request for coöperation. Few things are more
delicate to handle than neglected duties, and the fathers and mothers
who shirk all responsibility for the mental training of their offspring
must be approached as if they jealously tried to leave nothing in this
line for any teacher to do.

The most common fault of young people to-day in connection with reading
is the neglect of books altogether or the devouring of fiction of a
poor quality. To urge boys and girls to read good books or to admonish
them to avoid poor ones is seldom likely to effect much. Such direct
and general appeal is sure to seem to them part of the teacher's
professional routine work, and not to alter their inclinations or to
make any especial difference with their practice. Children are led
to care for good reading only by being made acquainted with books
that appeal to them; and they are protected against poor or injurious
reading only by being given a taste for what is better.

This summing-up of the situation is easily made, but how to make
children acquainted in a vital and pleasant fashion with good books and
how to cultivate the taste is really the whole problem which we are
studying. This is the aim and the substance of all genuine teaching
of literature, and everything in these talks is an attempt to help
toward an answer. When the problem of voluntary reading has been
satisfactorily solved the work of the teacher is practically done,
for the pupil is sure to go forward in the right direction whether he
is led or not. All that treatment of literature which for convenience
I have called "inspirational" is directly in the line of developing
and raising the taste of young readers, and beyond this I do not see
that specific rules can be given. Personal influence is after all
what tells, and the most that can be done here is to call attention
to the fact that in so far as a teacher can influence and direct the
voluntary reading of a pupil he has secured a most efficient aid to his
school-work in literature.



Throughout these talks I have tried to deal with the teaching of
literature in practical fashion, not letting theory lead me to forget
the conditions actually existing. To consider an ideal state of things
might be interesting, but it would hardly help the teacher bothered
by the difficulties of every-day school-work. I have intended always
to keep well within the field of ordinary experience, and to make
suggestions applicable to average teaching. How well I have succeeded
can be judged better by teachers than by me; but I wish in closing
to insist that at least I believe that what I have said is every-day
common sense.

I have throughout assumed always that no teacher worthy of the name
can be content with merely formal or conventional results, but will be
determined that pupils shall be brought to some understanding of what
literature really is and of why it is worthy of serious attention—to
some appreciation, in a word, of literature as an art. If an instructor
could be satisfied with fitting boys and girls for examinations,
nothing could be simpler or easier; but I am sure that I am right in
believing that our public-school teachers are eagerly anxious to
make of this study all that is possible in the line of developing and
ennobling their pupils.

Every earnest teacher knows that literature cannot be taught by
arbitrary methods. The handling of classes studying the masterpieces
of genius must be shaped by the knowledge and the inspiration of the
individual teacher or it is naught. Neither I nor another may give a
receipt for strengthening the imagination, for instilling taste, for
arousing enthusiasm. All that any book of this sort can effect, and all
that I have endeavored to do, is to protest against methods that are
formal and deadening, to offer suggestions which may—even if only by
disagreement—help to make definite the teacher's individual ideas, and
to warn against dangers which beset the path of all of us to whom is
committed the high office of teaching this noble art.

The idea which I have hoped most strongly to enforce is the possibility
of arousing in children, even in those bred without refining or
intellectual influences, an appreciation of the spirit and the
teachings of the great writers, a love for good books which may
lead them to go on with the study after they have passed beyond the
school-room. The best literature is so essentially human, it so truly
and so irresistibly appeals to natural instincts and interests, that
for its appreciation nothing is needed but that it be understood. To
produce and to cultivate such understanding should be, I believe, the
chief aim of any course in literature.

The understanding and the appreciation must of course vary according
to the temperament and the responsiveness of the child. Miracles are
not to be expected. No teacher need suppose that the street Arab and
the newsboy will lie down with Browning and rise up with Chaucer; that
Sally and Molly will give up chewing gum for Shakespeare, or that Tom,
Dick, and Harry will prefer Wordsworth to football. In his own way and
to his own degree, however, each child will enjoy whatever literature
he has comprehended. As far as he can be made to care for anything not
directly personal or appealing to the senses, he may be made to care
for this. Nature has taken care of the matter of fitting children to
understand and to love literature as it has prepared them to desire
life. To bring the young into appreciation of the best that has been
thought and recorded by man, there is but one way: make them familiar
with it.

It is a mistake to suppose, moreover, that an especial sort of books is
needed for children. A selection there should be, and it is manifestly
necessary to exercise common sense in choice of works for study. A
class that will be deeply interested in "Macbeth" would be simply
puzzled and bored by "Troilus and Cressida." Childish games for the
intellect there may be, as there are childish amusements for the body;
but so far as serious training is concerned there is neither adult
literature nor juvenile literature, but simply literature.

The range of the mind of a child is limited, and the experience
demanded for the simplest comprehension of a work may be necessarily
beyond the possible reach of child life.[240:1] The limitations of
youth have, however, and should have, the same effect in literature as
in life. They restrict the comprehension and the appreciation of the
facts of existence, and equally they restrict the comprehension and
the appreciation of the facts in what is read. The impressions which
the child takes from what he sees or from what he reads are not those
of his elders, although this is less generally true of emotions than
of facts. The important point is that the impressions shall be vital
and wholesome, and above all else that they be true with the actual
verity of human experience. We all commit errors in the conclusions we
draw from life; and children will make mistakes in the lessons they
draw from books. Books which are wise and sane, however, will sooner or
later correct any misconceptions they beget, just as life in time makes
clear the false conclusions which life itself has produced.

I have spoken more or less about the enjoyment of this study by
children, and it is difficult if not impossible to conceive that if
a class is rightly handled most children will not find the work a
pleasure. It is necessary, however, to be a little on our guard in the
practical application of the principle that children get nothing out
of literature unless they enjoy it. They certainly cannot enjoy it
unless they get something out of it; but it will hardly do to make the
enjoyment of a class too entirely the test by which to decide what work
the class shall do. Pupils should be stimulated to solid effort in the
way of application and concentration, and I have already pointed out
that in mastering the difficulties of literary language they should
be made to do whatever drudgery is needed, whether they are inclined
to it or not. They cannot, moreover, read with intelligence anything
with real thought in it, until they have learned concentration of mind.
Children, like their elders, value most what has cost something to
attain, and facile enjoyment may mean after-indifference.

The contagion of enthusiasm is one of the means by which children are
most surely induced to put forth their best efforts to understand and
to assimilate. If the teacher is genuinely enthusiastic in his love
for a masterpiece, even if this be something that might seem to be
over the heads of the children, he arouses them in a way impossible
of attainment by any other means. A boy once said to me with that
shrewdness which is characteristic of youth, "My teacher didn't
like that book, and we all knew it by the way she praised it." Sham
enthusiasm does not deceive children; but they are always impressed by
the genuine, and no influence is more powerful.

The most serious obstacle which teachers of literature to-day meet
with, I am inclined to think, is the difficulty children have in
seizing abstract ideas.[241:1] So long as study and instruction are
confined to the concrete and the particular the pupil works with
good will and intelligence. The moment the boundary is crossed into
the region of the general, he becomes confused, baffled, and unable
to follow. The algebra of life is too much for the brain which is
accustomed to deal only with definite values. What is evidently needed
all along the line is the cultivation of the reasoning powers in the
ability to deal with abstract thought. Personally I believe that this
could be best secured by the simplification of the work in the lower
grades, and by the introduction of thorough courses in English grammar
and the old-fashioned mental arithmetic. If some forty per cent. of
the present curriculum could be suppressed altogether, and then ten
per cent. of the time gained given to these two admirable branches,
the results of training in the lower grades, I am convinced, would
show an enormous improvement. I may be wrong in this, and in any case
we must deal with things as they exist; and the teacher of literature
must accept the fact that he has largely to train his class in breadth
of thinking. He will be able to deal with generalizations only so far
as he is assured that his students will grasp them, and this will
generally mean so far as he is able to teach them to deal with this
class of ideas.

       *       *       *       *       *

This book has stretched beyond the limits which in the beginning were
set for it, and in the end the one thing of which I am most conscious
is of having accomplished the emphasizing of the difficulties of the
branch of work with which it is concerned. If I have done nothing more
than that, I have discouraged where I meant to help; and I can only
hope that at least between the lines if not in the actual statements
may be found by the earnest and hard-working teachers of the land—that
class too little appreciated and worthy so much honor—hints which will
make easier and more effective their dealing with this most important
and most difficult requirement of the modern curriculum.


[240:1] See pages 68-70.

[241:1] See page 112.


    Abilities of children differ, 30, 60.

    Abstract ideas, 23, 112-115.

    Acting out poems, 94.

    Addison, _De Coverley Papers_, 128, 138, 146-150;
      _Spectator_, 146, 223.

    Analysis _vs._ synthesis, 21.

    Art, literature an, 53;
      not to be translated into words, 2;
      purpose of, 1, 73.

    Bach, _Passion Music_, 116.

    Beethoven, 53;
      _Ninth Symphony_, 116.

    Biography, literary, 222-226.

    Blake, William, quoted, 31;
      _The Tiger_, 93, 96-108.

    Bronson, W. C., _Voluntary Reading_, 228, 230.

    Brown, Dr. John, quoted, 79.

    Browning, 72, 115, 239;
      _How they Brought the Good News_, 113;
      _The Lost Leader_, 114.

    Burke, 221;
      _Speech on Conciliation_, 37, 65, 138-146.

    Byron, _Destruction of Sennacherib_, 133, 215.

    Carlyle, _Burns_, 213.

    Chaucer, 225, 239.

    Children, abilities differ, 30, 60;
      at disadvantage, 118;
      comply mechanically, 93;
      conceal feeling, 85;
      do not know how to study, 46-48;
      know when bored, 52;
      learn life by living, 19;
      must be taught in own language, 68;
      must do own work, 58;
      must form estimates, 70;
      not affected by preaching, 18;
      puzzled by literature, 49;
      responsive to metrical effects, 117;
      skip morals, 89;
      their world, 18, 79;
      too much demanded of, 45;
      understand only through personal experience, 15, 67.

    Coleridge, 72;
      _Ancient Mariner_, 37, 84, 85, 181.

    College entrance requirements, 8, 30, 138, 213;
      books, 34-38;
      editors of, 6.

    Conventionality, how met, 197.

    Cook, May Estelle, _Methods of Teaching Novels_, 128.

    "Cramming," 59.

    Criticism, 193-206;
      asked of pupils, 44;
      of trashy books, 231;
      must take pupil's point of view, 231.

    Decker, quoted, 169.

    Defoe, _Journal of the Plague Year_, 224.

    Deliberation in work necessary, 217.

    Description, how written by pupils, 127.

    De Quincey, 211;
      definition of literature, 123;
      _Flight of a Tartar Tribe_, 234.

    Diagrams, futility of, 6.

    Dickens, quoted, 7, 202.

    Didactic literature, 22, 109.

    Edgeworth, Maria, _Parents' Assistant_, 23.

    Eliot, George, 129;
      _Silas Marner_, 5, 32, 37, 56, 127, 152, 197.

    Emerson, 211;
      quoted, 65.

    Emotion, aim of literature to arouse, 85;
      in literature, 2, 90;
      the motive power, 24.

    Enthusiasm, connected with culture, 24;
      contagious, 241;
      necessary in teaching, 55;
      justification of, 57;
      reason to be reached through, 40, 50.

    _Evangeline_, 234;
      questions on, 42, 43, 45.

    Examinational teaching, 74, 121-135.

    Examinations, 28, 44, 70, 184;
      an Institute paper, 130-135;
      best prepared for by broad teaching, 122;
      boy's view of, 8, 9;
      danger of, 40;
      entrance, 35, 45;
      inevitable, 121;
      necessarily a makeshift, 4;
      not the aim in teaching, 28, 73;
      study for, 121-130;
      valuable only as tests, 121;
      what counts in, 125;
      what examinations should test, 44.

    Fables, truth of, 21.

    Fielding, _Tom Jones_, 202.

    Goldsmith, _Vicar of Wakefield_, 44, 56, 152.

    Hawthorne, quoted, 167.

    _Heart of Oak Series_, 91.

    Honesty essential in teaching, 54.

    Illustrations, care in using, 211.

    _Il Percone_, 32.

    Imagination essential in study of literature, 3;
      not created but developed, 53;
      nourished by literature, 26.

    Inspirational use of literature, 74, 88-95, 117, 236.

    Irving, _Life of Goldsmith_, 37.

    _Ivanhoe_, 37, 152;
      quoted, 169;
      study of, 159-163.

    Johnson, Samuel, quoted, 91.

    "Juvenile" literature, 80.

    Lamb, Charles, 234.

    Language of literature, 63-67, 118;
      of pupils, 64, 68-70;
      value judged by effect, 209.

    Life, "realities of," 20.

    Limitations, inevitable, 46-48;
      must be accepted, 31, 196;
      youthful, 240.

    Litchfield, Mary E., quoted, 77.

    Literature, a Fine Art, 53;
      aim of, 85;
      algebraic, 112;
      approached through personal experience, 67, 69;
      deals with abstract ideas, 67;
      difficulty in teaching, 28-38;
      defined by De Quincey, 123;
      essentially human, 238;
      history of, 40, 222;
      "juvenile," 80, 239;
      language of, 63-67, 118;
      measured by life, 56;
      must be connected with life, 68;
      must be taught in language of learner, 68;
      not didactic, 22, 109;
      not taught by arbitrary methods, 238;
      nourishes imagination, 26;
      pupils indifferent to, 48;
      relation to life, 110;
      reproduces mood, 116;
      symbolic, 113;
      truth in, 112-114;
      vocabulary of, 74;
      why included in school course, 11-27.
      _See_ Study of Literature; Teaching of Literature; Literary

    Literary appreciation, may be unconscious, 93.

    Literary workmanship, 207-221.

    Longfellow, 83;
      _Evangeline_, 42, 43, 45.

    Macaulay, 211, 214;
      _Life of Johnson_, 37;
      _Milton_, 35, 36, 212, 213.

    _Macbeth_, 3, 5, 37, 40, 57, 69, 76, 77, 83, 85, 118, 124, 202;
      false explanations of words in, 63;
      Miss Cook on, 128;
      note on, 32;
      study of, 165-192.

    _Machiavellus_, 32.

    Memorizing, 191.

    _Merchant of Venice_, 6, 81, 118.

    Metrical effects, 116;
      beyond ordinary students, 186;
      children susceptible to, 117;
      in _Evangeline_, 43;
      relation to character, 119;
      study of, 94;
      _vs._ intellectual content, 216.

    Middleton, _Witch_, 32.

    Milton, 15, 53, 117, 220, 225;
      _Comus_, 34, 85, 117, 228;
      _Il Penseroso_, 34, 41, 190;
      _L'Allegro_, 34, 41, 190;
      _Lycidas_, 34, 117;
      _Paradise Lost_, 123, 127, 131, 228.

    _Milton_, Macaulay's, 35, 36, 212, 213.

    Moral, drawn by children, 129;
      not to be drawn by teacher, 71-73, 163, 164, 198;
      skipped by children, 89.

    North, _Plutarch's Lives_, 170.

    Notes, 75, 136;
      to be studied first, 76.

    Novel, study of, 152-164.

    _Œdipus_, 202.

    Oral recitation, 180, 184, 198.

    Originality in children, 43.

    Parables, truth of, 21-22.

    Paraphrases, 219.

    Plutarch, 170.

    Poetry, compared with prose, 211-217;
      nature of, 215.

    Point of departure, 83, 143.

    Point of view, 82, 149, 180.

    Pope, quoted, 211.

    Praise, not to be given beforehand, 70;
      when wise, 71.

    Prose, compared with poetry, 212-217.

    Quicken tree, 168.

    Raleigh, 25, 26, 64, 215.

    Raphael, _Dresden Madonna_, 57.

    Ray, 168.

    Reading, aloud, 61, 154, 177;
      final, of play, 186;
      first, of play, 176-179;
      in concert, 62;
      intelligent, basis of study, 61-67;
      second, of play, 179-186;
      voluntary, 227-236.

    Readings, disputed, 185.

    Reference, books of, 136, 137.

    Rembrandt, 208;
      _The Night Watch_, 57.

    Riche, Barnabie, quoted, 167.

    Ridicule, danger of, 230.

    Roosevelt, President, 57.

    Sarcasm, forbidden, 199.

    Scott, _Ivanhoe_, 37, 152, 159-163, 169;
      _Lady of the Lake_, 37.

    Shakespeare, 13, 16, 46, 47, 48, 49, 53, 57, 69, 72, 90, 117, 119,
          129, 142, 168, 170, 181, 183, 184, 186, 187, 191, 206, 211,
          212, 213, 225, 239;
      _Hamlet_, 77, 127;
      ill-judged notes on, 32;
      _Julius Cæsar_, 34;
      _Lear_, 168;
      _Macbeth_, 3, 5, 32, 37, 40, 57, 63, 69, 76, 77, 83, 85, 118, 128,
          165-192, 202, 239;
      _Merchant of Venice_, 6, 81, 118;
      _Midsummer Night's Dream_, 32;
      _Othello_, 83, 167;
      quoted, 205;
      reason of greatness unexplained, 55;
      _Richard III_, 166;
      _Romeo and Juliet_, 6;
      _Tempest_, 118;
      _Troilus and Cressida_, 239.

    _Silas Marner_, 5, 37, 56, 127, 152, 197;
      note on, 32.

    _Sir Roger de Coverley Papers_, 128, 138;
      study of, 146-150.

    _Speech on Conciliation_, 37, 65;
      study of, 138-146.

    Stevenson, _Treasure Island_, 152-159.

    Swift, _A Modest Proposal_, 224.

    Study of literature, in lower grades, 30;
      must be deliberate, 217;
      not study about literature, 40;
      not study of notes, 34;
      object of, 27, 29, 31;
      obstacles to to-day, 39-60;
      overweighted with details, 187;
      puzzling to students, 47, 48;
      test of success in, 30;
      used as gymnasium, 88.

    Summary, not a criticism, 204.

    Supernatural, the, 84;
      in _Macbeth_, 181;
      in _The Ancient Mariner_, 181.

    Superstition, about witch, 173;
      about quicken tree, 168.

    Synthesis _vs._ analysis, 21.

    Teacher asks too much, 41-46;
      ignores strain on pupil, 80;
      must have clear ideas, 27, 49, 149;
      must take things as they are, 39;
      not clear as to object, 49;
      not equal to demands, 53-60;
      obliged to do work of home, 227;
      to lead, not to drive, 58.

    Teaching, helping to extend ideas, 210;
      method in, 136, 224.

    Teaching of literature, aim of, 11-27, 69-70, 236;
      cannot be done by rule, 86, 138;
      choice of selections in, 90-92;
      confused methods, 6;
      deals with emotion, 2;
      educational, 3, 74, 109-120;
      examinational, 3, 74, 121-135;
      fine passages taken up in, 80;
      importance of reading aloud in, 61;
      inspirational, 49, 74, 88-95, 117;
      must be adapted to average mind, 89;
      preliminary, 74-87;
      uncertainty in, 1-10;
      written work in, 126.

    Technique, instruction in. _See_ Workmanship, literary.

    Tennyson, 49;
      _Elaine_, 37;
      _Merlin and Vivian_, 170;
      _Princess_, 37;
      _Revenge_, 26, 215.

    Text, 136;
      model, 137.

    Thoroughness, 119.

    Titian, 53, 208.

    Translating, effect of, 218.

    _Treasure Island_, study of, 152-159.

    Truth in literature, 112-114.

    _Vicar of Wakefield_, 44, 56, 152.

    Vocabulary, growth of, 209;
      Miss Litchfield's view, 77;
      of Burke's _Speech_, 139;
      of _Ivanhoe_, 160, 162;
      of _Macbeth_, 165-171;
      of prose, 137;
      of _Sir Roger de Coverley_, 147;
      of _Treasure Island_, 153, 155;
      study of, 76-79, 125, 193;
      to be learned first, 74, 110, n.;
      to be learned from reference-books, 76.

    Washington, George, 22.

    Words, value of, 16.

    Word-values, 17.

    Wordsworth, 49, 239;
      _Lesson for Fathers_, 195.

    Workmanship, literary, 207-221.

    Written work, 126-130;
      comparison in, 190;
      description in, 127;
      in study of _Macbeth_, 187-191;
      supreme test in, 129.

                          The Riverside Press

          _Electrotyped and printed by H. O. Houghton & Co._

                     _Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A._


Variations in spelling and hyphenation remain as in the original.

The following corrections have been made to the original text:

    Page 165: XIII[original has "XII"]

    Page 174: gnaw till the ship springs a leak[original has

    Page 245, under "Examinations": best prepared for by broad
    teaching, 122;[original has a comma]

    Page 247: Teaching of literature, aim of, 11-27,
    69-70,[original has a semi-colon] 236

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