English in Schools: A Series of Essays

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Ginn., 1881 - 79 pages

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In this preface to Hamlet, Hudson justifies some of his practices in editing school editions of Shakespeare. He begins by explaining that he believes footnotes should be on every page instead of collected together as endnotes "because ample experience has assured [him] ... that whatever of explanation young students need ... is much better every way when placed directly under the eye (iii). He also thinks that footnotes should be brief, excluding "all matter but what appeared fairly needful or useful" (iii). He complains of those texts where the footnote takes up more page space than the actual Shakespearean text. Such ideas about footnotes are common yet today amongst those writing about the teaching of Shakespeare in schools. He also justifies including a body of critical notes at the end of the play; this too should be limited to only that which is most interesting and of most immediate use to young people (v). He also complains that teachers and administrators are overly preoccupied with making students be conscious of learning, that "we seem to have got stuck fast in the strange notion, that children are never learning any thin unless they are conscious of it" (viii). He argues that such an emphasis upon this consciousness of learning is unhealthy for children and particularly so in the learning of Shakespeare; he writes, "Shakespeare, above all other others, should be allowed to teach as Nature teaches, else he ought not to be used as a textbook at all" (xii). Hudson's reaction is largely one against the use of Shakespeare in the teaching of elocution, a study extremely influential in bringing Shakespeare into the curriculum some decades before Hudson, but a subject which was dying out by the time Hudson was writing. He laments that "too much time and strength are spent in mere word-mongering and lingual dissection" and that "we are now chiefly intent on educating people into talkers" (xiv). He argues that "teachers are to be found attending very disproportionately ... to questions of grammar, etymology, rhetoric, and the mere technicalities of speech; thus sticking for ever in the husk of language, instead of getting through into the kernel of matter and thought," and adds that "a constant dissecting of his words and syllable just chokes off all passage of his blood into the pupil's mind" (xiv). He concludes that it is "a sin to use him so; for such use can hardly fail to breed a distaste for him and an aversion to him" (xiv - xv). Hudson, though, was far from an early advocate for performance-based methods and certainly did not argue for teaching visual art alongside Shakespeare (though it is pertinent to point out that many of the great picture books of Shakespeare - such as Rackham's and Robinson's would not even have been published until after Hudson's time). In his rebuttal against exercises in elocution, he harshly explains that "I have never had and never will have any thing but simple exercises; the pupils reading the author under the teacher's direction, correction, and explanation" and that "it is a joint communing of teacher and pupils with the author for the time being; just that, and nothing more" (xvii). It is curious to wonder, 130 years later, whether Hudson today would approve of having his pupils stand to read, dress up, move about the room as actors might, or even to look at paintings and drawings and allow them into his classroom sanctuary of teacher, pupil, and author. 

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Page x - Rebellious passion ; for the Gods approve The depth, and not the tumult, of the soul ; A fervent, not ungovernable, love.
Page 24 - O ! they have lived long on the alms-basket of words. I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word ; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon.
Page 22 - ... idle, unwholesome, and (as I may term them) vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind of quickness and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter or goodness of quality. This kind of degenerate learning did chiefly reign amongst the schoolmen ; who having sharp and strong wits, and abundance of leisure, and small variety of reading ; but their wits being shut up in the cells of a few authors (chiefly Aristotle their dictator) as their persons were shut up in the cells...
Page vi - Love's not love When it is mingled with regards that stand Aloof from the entire point.
Page 22 - Surely, like as many substances in nature, which are solid, do putrefy and corrupt into worms ; so it is the property of good and sound knowledge, to putrefy and dissolve into a number of subtle, idle, unwholesome, and, as I may term them, vermiculate questions, which have indeed a kind of quickness, and life of spirit, but no soundness of matter, or goodness of quality.
Page 32 - I'll never Be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand, As if a man were author of himself And knew no other kin.
Page xv - Joyous as morning Thou art laughing and scorning; Thou hast a nest for thy love and thy rest, And, though little troubled with sloth, Drunken Lark! thou would'st be loth To be such a traveller as I. Happy, happy Liver, With a soul as strong as a mountain river Pouring out praise to the Almighty Giver, Joy and jollity be with us both!
Page xii - All accidents, and to the very road Which they have fashioned would confine us down, Like engines ; when will their presumption learn, That in the unreasoning progress of the world A wiser spirit is at work for us, A better eye than theirs, most prodigal Of blessings, and most studious of our good, Even in what seem our most unfruitful hours...
Page viii - Can string you names of districts, cities, towns, The whole world over, tight as beads of dew Upon a gossamer thread; he sifts, he weighs ; All things are put to question; he must live Knowing that he grows wiser every day Or else not live at all, and seeing too Each little drop of wisdom as it falls Into the dimpling cistern of his heart : For this unnatural growth the trainer blame, Pity the tree.
Page 33 - A POET! — He hath put his heart to school, Nor dares to move unpropped upon the staff Which Art hath lodged within his hand — must laugh By precept only, and shed tears by rule. Thy Art be Nature ; the live current quaff, And let the groveller sip his stagnant pool, In fear that else, when Critics grave and cool Have killed him, Scorn should write his epitaph. How does the Meadow-flower its bloom unfold ? Because the lovely little flower is free Down to its root, and, in that freedom, bold ;...

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