I believe that while it may grow—and grow infinitely—with increase of learning, the grace of a liberal education, like the grace of Christianity, is so catholic a thing—so absolutely above being trafficked, retailed, apportioned, among `stations in life’—that the humblest child may claim it by indefeasible right, having a soul.
Further, I believe that Humanism is, or should he, no decorative appanage, purchased late in the process of education, within the means of a few: but a quality, rather, which should, and can, condition all teaching, from a child’s first lesson in Reading: that its unmistakable hall-mark can be impressed upon the earliest task set in an Elementary School.
I am not preaching red Radicalism in this: I am not telling you that Jack is as good as his master: if he were, he would be a great deal better; for he would understand Homer (say) as well as his master, the child of parents who could afford to have him taught Greek. As Greek is commonly taught, I regret to say, whether they have learnt it or not makes a distressingly small difference to most boys’ appreciation of Homer. Still it does make a vast difference to some, and should make a vast difference to all. And yet, if you will read the passage in Kinglake’s “Eoethen” in which he tells—in words that find their echo in many a reader’s memory—of his boyish passion for Homer—and if you will note that the boy imbibed his passion, after all, through the conduit of Pope’s translation—you will acknowledge that, for the human boy, admission to much of the glory of Homer’s realm does not depend upon such mastery as a boy of fifteen or sixteen possesses over the original. But let me quote you a few sentences:
I, too, loved Homer, but not with a scholar’s love. The most humble and pious among women was yet so proud a mother that she could teach her first-born son no Watts’s hymns, no collects for the day; she could teach him in earliest childhood no less than this—to find a home in his saddle, and to love old Homer, and all that old Homer sung. True it is, that the Greek was ingeniously rendered into English, the English of Pope even, but not even a mesh like that can screen an earnest child from the fire of Homer’s battles.
I pored over the “Odyssey” as over a story-book, hoping and fearing for the hero whom yet I partly scorned. But the “Iliad”—line by line I clasped it to my brain with reverence as