I have limited myself in these pages to a discussion of what may be called the public side of education, considering the classics in their power to mould character and foster sound leadership in a society much given to drifting. Of the inexhaustible joy and consolation they afford to the individual, only he can have full knowledge who has made the writers of Greece and Rome his friends and counsellors through many vicissitudes of life. It is related of Sainte-Beuve, who, according to Renan, read everything and remembered everything, that one could observe a peculiar serenity on his face whenever he came down from his study after reading a book of Homer. The cost of learning the language of Homer is not small; but so are all fair things difficult, as the Greek proverb runs, and the reward in this case is precious beyond estimation.
Nor need we forget another proverb from Greece, with its spirit of “accommodation”—that the half is sometimes greater than the whole. Even a moderate acquaintance with the language, helped out by good translations (especially in such form as the Loeb Classics are now offering, with the original and the English on opposite pages), will go a surprising length towards keeping a man, amid the exactions of a professional or otherwise busy life, in possession of the heritage to which our age has grown so perilously indifferent.
A good many good judges find the world more out of joint, and moving with a more threatening rattling, than at any previous time since the French Revolution, and think that this is largely because the machine has lost too much of that regulation it used to get from the religions. Much of the regulation came from an interest in things wider than those directly revealed by sense.
Possibly a revival of such an interest may be promised by the recent indications of a range of our forces, both physical and psychic, far wider than previous experience has indicated. This leads us to invite attention to some unusual psychic phenomena evinced by persons of exceptional sensibilities not yet as well understood, or even as carefully investigated, as perhaps they deserve to be. The physical phenomena are outside of our present purpose.