Knowledge was slowly spreading, through newspapers, journals, pamphlets, books, libraries, schools, academies, universities. News, in the seventeenth century, became a commodity bought and sold, first to bankers, then to statesmen, then to anyone. In 1711 the total circulation of British newspapers, daily or weekly, was 44,000. 15
The Journal des savants, founded in 1665, recognized that events in the world of literature and scholarship could also be news; soon it established itself as an international medium of scholars, scientists, and literary men. Within a few years it had competitors: theGiornale de’ letterati of Rome (1668), the Giornale Veneto of Venice (1671), and the Acta Eruditorum of Leipzig (1682). Bayle founded a famous review at Rotterdam in 1684, Nouvelles de la République des Lettres; and two years later Jean Le Clerc began the monthly Bibliothèque universelle; some of the most important pronouncements of Locke and Leibniz were made in these periodicals.
The circulation of books was growing rapidly. In 1701 there were 178 master booksellers in Paris, thirty-six of them printers and publishers. 16 Libraries old and new were making their treasures more widely available. In 1610 Sir Thomas Bodley obtained from the Stationers’ Company a grant whereby the Bodleian Library that he had established at Oxford (1598) was to receive a copy of every book published in England; so in 1930 it had 1,250,000 volumes. In 1617 a decree of Louis XIII ordered that two copies of every new publication in France be deposited in the Bibliothèque Royale (now Nationale) at Paris. In 1622 this collection had 6,000 volumes; in 1715, largely through the zeal of Colbert, 70,000; in 1926, 4,400,000. The Great Elector of Brandenburg founded a national library at Berlin in 1661. In that year Mazarin bequeathed his costly library of 40,000 volumes to Louis XIV and France, and in 1700 the descendants of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton deeded the Cottonian Library to the British Museum. The first English library open to the general public was opened by Thomas Tenison in London in 1695.
Education was laboring to redeem the losses it had sustained from the Religious Wars in France, the Civil War in England, and the Thirty Years’ War in Germany. Not till Lessing (1729–81) did German schools and literature regain the stature they had reached with Luther, Ulrich von Hutten, and Melanchthon two centuries before. In the interval a mediocre Latin remained the esoteric language of the literary few, while German, so lusty in Luther, became a merely plebeian instrument; and not a single writer of German rose to international repute during the long penance for a generation of fratricidal war. The German nobility, disdaining the Latin pedantry of the universities, sent their sons to Ritterakademien—knight schools—or engaged private tutors to prepare pedigreed youth for the tasks and graces of princely courts. At the other end of the social scale August Francke, the Pietist, organized at Halle his Stiftungen, charitable institutions ridiculed by cynics as “ragged schools,” where, through thirty-two years (1695–1727), he fed, clothed, and taught the children of the poor. Soon he added a Hauptschule for the secondary education of his brightest boys, and a höhere Töchterschule for his brightest girls. All these schools gave half their time to religion.
The secular spirit in Germany found voice in Christian Thomasius. We shall commemorate him later as a philosopher; here we see him as the greatest German educator of his time. Driven from his native Leipzig because of his heresies, he moved to Halle, in the rising state of Brandenburg-Prussia (1690); his lectures there led to the founding of the university; he became its most famous professor, and the protagonist in making it the first “modern” university. He laughed Scholasticism out of face, replaced Latin with German as the language of instruction, published a German magazine, introduced science courses into the curriculum, and fought for the freedom of teachers and students to think. Frederick the Great called him the father of the Aufklärung, the German Enlightenment.
Elementary education was made universal and compulsory for both sexes in the duchy of Württemberg in 1565, in the Dutch Republic in 1618, in the duchy of Weimar in 1619, in Scotland in 1696, in France in 1698, in England in 1876. The delay in England was due to the wide extension of voluntary education through private religious agencies, and to the feeling in the ruling classes that in the prevailing economic system the education of the poor was unnecessary and probably undesirable. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge began in 1699 to establish “charity schools” for poor children, chiefly to transmit Christian theology and discipline; all teachers were to be members of the Church of England, and required a license from the bishop. Bernard Mandeville, who made a stir in 1714 with his Fable of the Bees, denounced these schools as a waste of money; if parents were too poor to pay for the education of their children, he said, “it is impudence in them to aspire any further.” 17
In France every parish had to maintain an elementary school. The teacher was usually a layman, but he was chosen and controlled by the bishop, and instruction was firmly Catholic. The petites écoles of Port-Royal reached only a few selected boys. In 1684 Jean Baptiste de La Salle founded the Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes, soon to be known as the Frères Chrétiens. La Salle, an ascetic priest, made religion the pervading essence of the education which these “Christian Brothers” offered gratis to the children of the poor. Four hours a day were devoted to religious exercises; reading, writing, and arithmetic were added; but the never forgotten aim was to train loyal Catholics, and to save souls from worldly riot and everlasting hell. Flogging was found useful for these purposes. Teachers were exhorted to teach by example rather than precept. In 1685 the Christian Brothers opened what was probably the first modern institution for the training of elementary-school teachers.
Secondary education in France remained in the hands of the Jesuits, and was still the best in Christendom. Their Collegium Societatis Jesu, directly behind the Sorbonne, changed its name to Collegium Ludovici Magni, or Collège Louis-le-Grand, after the King attended a play produced there by the pupils in 1674. At the urging of Mme. de Maintenon Louis XIV in 1686 opened at St.-Cyr (three miles from Versailles) the first French boarding school for girls. Nunneries provided higher education for elite paying girls, always with the emphasis on religion. Catholic and Protestant authorities agreed in the conviction that human nature was so ill adjusted to civilized restraints that it could be molded to morality and order only through the fear of God. The attempt to educate character without the aid of religion is still in the experimental stage.
Except in the Dutch Republic, universities were now in decline, purged by victorious sects, disordered by riotous students, and dominated by barren theological disputes. In France and Germany university degrees were sold for cash. None of the great philosophers of the period, and few of the leading scientists, were on university staffs, and Hobbes, Leibniz, and Bayle all spoke of the professors with a contempt that made no allowance for public pressures upon public employees. Some new universities were opened in this period: Duisberg (1655), Durham (1657), Kiel (1665), Lund (1666), Innsbruck (1673), Halle (1694), and Breslau (1702). These were mostly small establishments, seldom having more than twenty professors or four hundred pupils. In nearly all of them the curriculum had stiffened with age, and the requirements of orthodoxy cramped students and teachers alike. Milton complained that the English universities took “from young men the use of their reason by certain charms compounded of metaphysics, miracles, traditions, and absurd scriptures”; he felt that he had misspent his years at Cambridge trying to digest “an asinine feast of sour thistles and bramble,” and other “sophistical trash.” 18 This bondage of tradition continued in Oxford and Cambridge until the example of the Royal Society, and the professorate of Newton at Trinity College (1669–1702), stirred Cambridge to give a daring prominence to science.
Poets, priests, journalists, and philosophers struggled to reinvigorate education. We have summarized Milton’s “Letter to Mr. Hartlib” (1644) on the ideal school; his prescriptions had no influence upon actual teaching. In France the most attractive contribution was Fénelon’s little Traité de l’éducation des filles (1687). Mme. de Beauvilliers had asked him to outline some principles to guide the instruction of her daughters. The priest naturally stressed the religious reinforcement of the moral code, but he deprecated the austerities and seclusion of conventual schooling; nunneries, he felt, “provided no preparation for life in the world, into which the convent graduate entered as one emerging into full daylight from a cave.” 19 He pleaded for gentle methods in teaching; education should suit itself to the nature, interests, and sensitivity of the child, rather than bend all pupils to one inflexible rule. Let us teach the way nature teaches—not by abstractions but by leading children into the middle of things; let their games and their natural interests be used as means of instruction. (Here were Rousseau’s pedagogy, and the “progressive education” of the twentieth century, expounded by a priest of the seventeenth.) Fénelon wished girls to read the classics, if possible in the original languages; they ought to learn some history, and enough law to govern an estate; but they should not meddle with science—a young woman should show a certain “modesty about science” (une pudeur sur la science). The handsome priest was sensitive to feminine charms, and did not want them clothed in algebra; he would never have understood Voltaire’s love for that professor of Newtonian mechanics, Mme. du Châtelet.
Ten years after Fénelon’s Traité, Defoe published his appeal for the higher education of women. Except in rich homes, English girls of the seventeenth century found little opportunity for secondary education. Like Esther Johnson with Jonathan Swift, they had to rely on tutors, or, like Evelyn’s favorite daughter, they had to purloin knowledge by private enterprise. Macaulay judged that “even in the highest ranks the English women of that generation [1685–1715] were decidedly worse educated than they have been at any other time since the Revival of Learning.” 20 Swift estimated that hardly one gentlewoman in a thousand was taught to read or spell; 21 but that gloomy Dean throve on exaggerations. In any case Defoe thought the neglect of feminine education a barbarous inequity. “I cannot think that God Almighty ever made women so delicate, so glorious creatures, and furnished them with such charms . . . to be only stewards of our houses, cooks, and slaves.” So he proposed for girls an academy similar to the “public” schools of England. There they should learn not merely music and dancing, but “languages, as particularly French and Italian; and I venture the injury of giving a woman more tongues than one.” They should study history, and acquire all the graces and courtesies of speech. The gallant novelist concluded that “a woman well bred and well taught, furnished with the additional accomplishments of knowledge and behavior, is a creature without comparison, . . . the finest and most delicate part of God’s creation”; and that “the man that has such a one to his portion has nothing to do but rejoice in her and be thankful.” 22
By far the best considered and most influential contribution to pedagogical theory in this age of Louis XIV was John Locke’s Some Thoughts concerning Education (1693), 23 written after the author had served several years as tutor in the family of the first Earl of Shaftesbury. Taking cues from Montaigne, the philosopher proposed that the teacher should first aim at physical health and stamina; a sound body is prerequisite to a sound mind. So his pupils are to eat a simple diet, accustom themselves to scanty clothing, hard beds, cold weather, fresh air, plenty of exercise, regular sleep, no wine or liquor, and “very little or no physick” (medicine). Second in time but first in importance is the formation of character; all education, physical and mental as well as moral, should be a discipline in virtue. And as the body is to be trained to health by hardships, so character is to be molded by inculcating self-denial in all things that run counter to mature reason. “Children should be used to submit their desires, and go without their longings, even from their very cradles”; the discipline of desire is the backbone of character. This discipline is to be made as pleasant as possible, but it is to be insisted upon throughout. Nor will single good actions suffice; the pupil must be formed by the repetition of virtuous actions into good habits; for “habits work more constantly and with greater facility than reason, which, when we have most need of it, is seldom fairly consulted, and more rarely obeyed.” Locke oscillates between Aristotle and Rousseau. He prefers a libertarian education to one that ignores the bent and individuality of the child; lessons should be made interesting, and discipline humane; but he accepts the occasional desirability of physical punishments for conscious misbehavior. Moreover, “inuring children gently to suffer some degrees of pain without shrinking is a way to gain firmness for their minds, and lay a foundation for courage and resolution in the future part of their lives.”
The education of the intellect should be a discipline in methods of thought and rigor of reasoning, not a digest of classics or a bandying of languages. French and Latin should be taught to the children at an early age, and by conversation rather than by grammar. Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic should be left to professional scholars. It would be better to give time to geography, mathematics, astronomy, and anatomy; later to ethics and law; finally to philosophy. “The business of education is not to make the young perfect in any one of the sciences, but so to open and dispose their minds as may best make them capable of any, when they shall apply themselves to it.” And as virtue is to be trained by habit, so thought is to be trained by repeated reasonings:
Nothing does this better than mathematics, which therefore, I think, should be taught to all those who have the time and opportunity, not so much to make them mathematicians as to make them reasonable creatures. . . . We are born to be, if we please, reasonable creatures, but it is use and exercise that makes us so, and we are indeed so no further than industry and application has carried us. . . . I have mentioned mathematics as a way to settle in the mind a habit of reasoning closely and in train . . .; that, having got the way of reasoning which that study naturally brings the mind to, they might be able to transfer it to other parts of knowledge as they shall have occasion. 24
Locke’s treatise was designed for a “liberal education”—i.e., one chiefly in arts, literature, and manners; it was intended to produce a gentleman—i.e., a man of “gentle” birth, who would never have to work for a living.* Its curriculum, while admitting some sciences, generally adhered to the “humanities”—the studies favored by the Renaissance humanists. It included also dancing, riding, wrestling, fencing, and even “a manual trade, nay two or three,” but as helps to health and character, not as means of livelihood. The arts were to be taught as recreations, not as professions; the young gentleman was not to take such affairs very seriously; he should enjoy poetry, but not write it except as a pastime; he should be taught to enjoy music, but not to seek proficiency on any instrument; this would take too much time, and, besides, it would put the youth into “such odd company.” So Locke’s treatise was both conservative and liberal. In its repudiation of Scholastic absorption in ancient languages, its lessened stress on religion and theology, its emphasis on health and character, and its effort to prepare well-born youth for public life and service, it pointed to the future, and had immense influence in England and America. It shared in forming the physical and moral side of education in the English “public”schools. Translated into French (1695), it went through five editions in fifty years, and gave many suggestions to Rousseau. Locke’s own pupil, the third Earl of Shaftesbury, whom we shall meet again, did credit to his teacher’s theories and character.