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Title: Address of William Bingham Lynch to the Dialectic Society, [between 1855 and 1859]: Electronic Edition.
Author: Lynch, William Bingham
Funding from the University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Bari Helms
Images scanned by Stephanie Adamson
Text encoded by Caitlin R. Donnelly
First Edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: ca. 24K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-01-19, Caitlin R. Donnelly finished TEI/XML encoding.
Title of collection: Records of the Dialectic Society (#40152), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Address of William Bingham Lynch to the Dialectic Society, [between 1855 and 1859]
Author: William Bingham Lynch
Description: 10 pages, 10 page images
Note: Call number 40152 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Address of William Bingham Lynch to the Dialectic Society, [between 1855 and 1859]
Lynch, William Bingham

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The relative importance of a branch of education is determined by its tendency to promote the great objects of all education — the storing of the mind with useful knowledge, & the development & culture of the intellectual & moral faculties. Does the study of the Ancient Classics, then, contribute its proportion to the attainment of these objects?
All the important knowledge that we receive here & throughout life is communicated to us through the medium of language, — of words rightly put together. An accurate knowledge of the rules, principles, & powers of written & vocal speech lies at the foundation of all advancement, intellectual & moral; it is indispensable. He, who would express exactly what he means & comprehend exactly what others mean, must have a complete knowledge of the infinite minutiae of the machinery by which ideas are conveyed. This knowledge is not a spontaneous growth, but is obtained only by assiduous & long continued application; every day of a long life time may add to its

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store; it admits of indefinite increase; but labor, toil is its watchword; well-directed, systematic labor is indispensable to success. No study requires a more constant & active exertion of the mind; no study opens more channels to pour their rich stores into the mind; no other study brings so actively into exercise all the faculties of the mind. And why? simply because the study of language is the study of the fabric which the mind has built, has built for her dwelling place, & adorned with all the strength, beauty, & symetry, which her vast powers could command. In all its parts it exhibits the handiwork of the mind; the skill & wisdom of the builders are every where displayed. Through the vast dimensions of this palace-like building the mind moves with ease & grace; a passage is opened direct to every point in the huge structure. A knowledge of all the apartments & intricate passages of this building is a knowledge of language. And how is this knowledge obtained? Evidently by the dilligent study of the great principles of language, — princi — which pervade all language, for every

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tongue or different branch of language obeys the same great laws. These laws are exhibited most clearly in the best specimens of language & can there be studied to the best advantage. To this all will agree. Then the course for the student evidently is to apply himself unremittingly to the study of authors whose writings furnish these best specimens of composition — language which possesses the essential properties of correctness, conciseness, force of expression & beauty of style. All will recommend the careful study of our finest English Classics — Shakespeare, Scott, Milton, Addison, Pope, Young, Gibbon — Hume; because these authors afford us language of great beauty & strength. But learned men are almost unanimous in asserting that the great principles of language are never thoroughly mastered untill those purest of all tongues Greek & Latin are acquired. Let us consider this as an assertion perhaps too broad & not well maintained; but certain it is, that, if we are in

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search of the most perfect models of language, we will not find them outside of the Greek & Latin tongues. No one who has the least correct acquaintance with these languages will for a moment doubt this. Then certainly no student will stagger at the difficulty he may meet with in acquiring these languages, when they & they alone, present him with what he is in search of; & especially since the very difficulty in mastering them is a recommendation to their study. The solving of an abstruse problem in mathematics is not a more seaching exercise of the mind than the solving of many difficult passages in the Latin & Greek authors. All the excellences of language are incorporated in these noble dialects; they are precise & copious in their idioms; rich & expressive in their vocabulary; happy in their collocation; clear & comprehensive in their structure. Greek & Latin writers present us with examples of the most exquisite beauty of thought & expression, united with inimitable

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simplicity; they convey their meaning with a brevity, a clearness, & a force which have never been equaled. Then surely, if it is desirable for the student to become acquainted with language as an instrument of thought, & if it is desirable for this purpose to select the best specimens of language, he will not more certainly secure the desired end than by the selection & study of the ancient Classics; in every particular they meet his wants.
And besides every advantage, which a knowledge of a foreign language furnishes is furnished by a knowledge of the Latin & Greek languages; & very sure it is that an acquaintance with a language diferent from our vernacular, is a stand-point from which we view to the best advantage our own language; there are beauties in language which reveal themselves to the observer from this point, of which observers from all other points must remain forever in profound ignorance. On becoming

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acquainted with a foreign language we enter a scene where objects are entirely new to us; new phenomena in language present themselves; we have the advantage of comparison by which the beauties of both languages are more clearly seen & appreciated; the taste is cultivated; our perception is quickened; we discriminate more wisely; we are enabled to discover the defects as well as the beauties in our vernacular. So that of the two great objects of education — the one the discipline of the mind is attained the highest degree & in the most pleasing & attractive manner; the other — the acquiring of useful knowledge is most signally accomplished; a knowledge is obtained without which all other knowledge is beyond our reach, with which the loftiest eminence in literature & science may be attained; — a knowledge I say of language of its laws & principles, of its beauties & power. And let no one say that a translation answers the purpose; even if the translation were perfect, it can

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not afford the mental discipline. But no competent judge ever imagined that a translation & especially a translation of an ancient Classic gave an adequate idea of the original. The facts it is true may be exhibited in our tongue; but their native exquisite beauties can never be expressed in another language, & must therefore be hidden treasure to all except those who can hold communion with the original writer in his own tongue.
But if this knowledge of language is obtained simply by an acquaintance with a foreign language, why, it may be asked, do we prefer the Ancient Classics to the many classic modern languages? We answer — if it is necessary to study a different language or languages from our own to understand thoroughly the essential principles & powers of our vernacular tongue, certainly it is wise to select the purest & most perfect languages in our reach; & it is acknowledged without a blush by every nation kindred &

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tongue that the Latin & Greek languages are the most perfect instruments of thought the world has ever produced. The peculiar circumstances of geographical situation, climate, government, war, of intercourse with other nations & among themselves all conspired most happily to the development of these languages. In them Language has made her mightiest efforts, producing inimitable strength & beauty of style; &, as if wearied by the exertion, overawed by the arduousness of the accomplished task, content with her triumphant success, she steadily refuses to stir herself to similar exertions. They are the standard by which we measure all excellence; the magnifier through which we see the huge dimensions & countless numbers of the imperfections in our vernacular tongue, the panacea which removes them & gives to our language comparative health & vigor & beauty. The eloquent appeals of the Greek & Roman orators, as long as time lasts, will not only engage the admiration

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of the world, but be considered models, an approximation to whose excellence will be the highest achievement of modern language. The sublime touching thrilling strains of the Classic poets will ever find the sympathizing heart, the bosom hearing with emotion, the soul elastic to their divine touch. As long as elegance & beauty of style, conciseness, directness, clearness & force of expression shall be admired & studied, so long will the writings of the Latins & Greeks be invaluable to the orator the historian & the poet; so long will they remain the teachers — the dispensers — of all that is beautiful harmonious chaste & attractive in language. And it is asked are they worthy of the attention they receive in our colleges. As well might it be asked is the food which supplies bone & strength to the animal frame worthy of the labor men undergo to procure it. Starvation & death is not more certainly a consequence upon total abstinence from food than

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that a mortal wound would be given to the cause of education by abandoning the study of Greek & Latin languages. Thwarted be every attempt to expell the ancient Classics from our colleges! May a second attack not be ominous of a second return into the darkness & ignorance of the Middle Ages! May Classic Literature never again be confined to the cloister to a crafty priesthood giving them such an ascendancy over the minds of their fellow men that they shall again enslave the world! Or if the Classics are abandoned, let her alumni no longer respect their Alma Mater! Let her not then perpetuate the folly & falsehood of issuing diplomas!