Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 1/Mr. Justice Raymond West, C.S., M.A., F.R.G.S. (Twenty-First Convocation)
(By Mr. Justice (now Sir) R. West.).
Gentlemen of the Senate,—It was the intention of His Excellency the Governor to preside at this Convocation as Chancellor of the University. You know too well the calamitous events which have devolved on me a function which I can but, very imperfectly perform. We miss to-day and every day a gracious presence which diffused a benign and kindly influence wherever it appeared. I feel that I but express the universal sympathy when I give these few words of sorrowing commemoration to a loss which has been felt as a personal misfortune in each household of our community and must for long cast a shade of sadness over every public ceremony. Amongst the labours of the year the chief undoubtedly is the general re-casting of the Bye-laws of the University. In this work the Senate at large has taken its full share. It bears its share of the responsibility. The Bye-laws will, I trust, ere long be sanctioned by the Government, and then it will be your part, gentlemen, first by a careful study of the Bye-laws, and then by a wise and consistent administration of them, to make the Senate a pattern of what a deliberative body should be—courteous, candid, fair in argument, tolerant, business-like, free from cant, and free from faction. The swift succession of events must bring many important questions before you. I shall probably have no voice in their decision, but I shall feel some pride when I find that they are discussed and disposed of to the honour of the University under rules for the framing of which I have myself in a measure to answer. The other principal events of the academical year have been brought before us in the report just read by the Registrar. The number of candidates for the higher instruction continues as large as could be expected; the number of failures to pass the examinations is greater than can be desirable. Many youths I believe stand for the Matriculation Examination just, as they say, to "try their luck," but this endeavour to get through examinations on the lowest possible terms cannot but exercise a rather demoralizing influence. In the interests of the University and of sound scholarship we must hope that a somewhat stricter discrimination will gradually be used by school-masters in giving their pupils the qualifying certificates. The defects I have noticed are most conspicuous in the case of the private schools. The number of candidates from these schools steadily increases, which is in itself a very gratifying fact; but the proportion of passes is miserably low, showing how great room there is for improvement in the matter and the method of their teaching.
It is perhaps due in no small measure to the system to which Weed out dull boys. I have adverted that so many students fail in the further examinations requisite for obtaining their degrees. In the Previous Examination this year only about one-fourth of the candidates passed, and even from an institution like the Deccan College, only fourteen candidates out of seventy were successful. In the First Examination for the B.A. degree the results were more satisfactory, but still less than half the candidates passed. In the Second Examination for this degree the successful candidates were about two-sevenths of the whole,—a small proportion I cannot but think, considering the known ability and zeal of the Professors in the several colleges. The truth seems to be partly that preliminary training is defective, and partly that youths of inferior abilities, who are not likely ever to be successful students, are not weeded out with sufficiently rigorous kindness. The aptitude for scholarship is not universal, and disappointment must often result from setting naturally dull boys to tasks which call for at least an average measure of intellectual acuteness.
In the professional examinations, or at least in those for Medicine and Engineering, the proportion of successful candidates has been much larger. The teaching must be deemed highly effective, and the students having a well-defined and limited course set before them, achieve it remarkably well. Native society must gain largely by the accessions of accomplished professional men whom it now annually receives from this and the sister institutions. The supply is in such cases likely to create or increase the want, and there is an almost unlimited field opening before those especially who adopt the medical profession, as old prejudices fade away, and sufferers relieved from pain spread confidence in the science which has restored them.
You have heard, gentlemen, I am sure, with pleasure of the recognition by the University of the College at Baroda. It is thus not only at Poona or Ahmedabad within our own territories, but at places like Kolhapur and Baroda, that the University makes its presence felt, and determines the general scheme of instruction. Great results must in the end follow from this wide diffusion of the means of advanced education. The system is as yet in its infancy, but it is while young that an institution, like a human being, receives most readily a permanent impress of disposition and tendency. We must rejoice, therefore, that the college at Baroda has secured the services of men of real distinction in attainments and character. In Gujarat, as much as anywhere, we find the precocity, receptiveness, and mobility of the Hindu mind. Able and high-minded teachers may mould such materials to noble uses. On us it devolves to aid them and all similarly situated by our sympathy and our discipline. The responsibilities of the University in this respect are daily growing; but the faculties have hitherto known well where good workers were to be found, and the Syndicate, filled as it has been, will, I doubt not, deal successfully with every task that is thrown upon it, so far at any rate as University arrangements can suffice for the exigencies to which time must inevitably give birth.
The limitation by which candidates for Matriculation were Abolition of a limitation. formerly required to be sixteen years of age has in the past year been abolished. There are, no doubt, some branches of study for which a certain maturity apart from mere cleverness or scholarship is desirable. On this account different views may be taken of the expediency, in the abstract, of the change that has been made; but its practical justification lies in the fact that the old rule could not be maintained without a risk, or even certainty, of evasions which placed the really conscientious candidates at a disadvantage. The examination for Matriculation is of a kind that will generally exclude boys who are unprepared to benefit by a College course; and the example of some of the most eminent Englishmen shows that no harm, to say the least, arises in most cases from a reasonable indulgence to precocity. A year too soon at college is better than a year too long at school, and the choice rests virtually between these alternatives. Of the candidates under sixteen who have this year presented themselves, it is to be observed that a much larger than the average proportion have passed the examination.
While the path of the diligent student has thus been made Bombay's stream of generosity. smoother and instruction has been placed at his door, the positive encouragements held out to him have once more been increased. Not a year has passed since this University began to work, but some generous gift has added to its resources. The hall in which we are assembled—admirable in all respects save its acoustic properties; the neighbouring library with its noble tower—soon now to be furnished with its clock and peal of bells—and an increasing group of scholarships and other prizes—all these are testimonies to the interest felt in learning by the community of Western India, and of its confidence in the system of this University. This year Mr. Varjivandas Madhavdas comes forward with a gift of Rs. 5,000 to endow a scholarship to be held by a student proceeding from the first to the second examination for the degree of Bachelor of Arts. The donor desires that the scholarship may bear his name, and I know no more truly respectable mode by which a wealthy man can bring the correlation of forces into play in turning riches into fame, than by gaining a commemoration, and a blessing every year in this noble hall for his aid to the cause of enlightenment and progress. You will join me therefore, gentlemen, in a hearty acknowledgment of the bounty of Mr. Varjivandas Madhavdas. You will by-and-bye give effect to his intentions, and you will share my hope that the stream of generosity by which we have so Jargely benefited will continue to flow in undiminished volume in the years to come. Our library has this year been enriched by the collection made in honour of our late Vice-Chancellor. Its capacious shelves, however, still afford room for many other volumes, and if generosity is anywhere seeking an outlet or a worthy purpose at this moment, I venture to suggest that one may be found in adding to the treasures from which generation after generation of ardent scholars will, we may hope, draw instruction and encouragement.
The number of students who have succeeded in obtaining Advantages of the University system. degrees this year in Arts and Law is rather smaller than usual. The credit is all the greater to those who have passed the ordeal, while those who have been sent back to study for another year, will probably one day bless the necessity to which they have to bend, in going through a further course of tuition. Without drawing invidious comparisons I will say that I think there are special advantages in the system of teaching which the Bombay University enforces. The student must not only prepare himself for examinations, but he must attend stated courses of lectures in approved institutions. This implies residence in the neighbourhood, and a severance in many instances from embarrassing associates and associations, enabling him to devote his mind with more complete abandonment to the work set before it and to distinctly academical influences. He is subjected to a prolonged intellectual discipline and learns to bend his mind to the task which duty imposes, whether the inclination be present or not, and with patient attention to those minute details which are most irksome, but the mastery of which is essential to thorough and substantial scholarship either in literature or in science. Such a course of training seems to me to have great advantages over any system of mere examinations. The student does not merely cram; the examination is but an incident in his course. He abides with his learning, takes in its influence in every mood, and at an impressionable age is imbued with the best thoughts of the greatest men under the guidance of teachers who have steeped their own minds in the same sacred springs. This goes to make a manly character as well as a strong and versatile intellect; and I am proud to observe how generally institutions connected with this University have turned out men of a type combining some of the best characteristics of the West and of the East.
The paucity of candidates for science-teaching and for degrees in science was noticed by our Chancellor last year. The system of teaching is less organized, the teaching staff is less fully manned than in the older departments. There is some uncertainty, too, both as to the prospects of a degree and as to the prospects of finding employment for the graduate. What the University as such could do it has, as you have heard, been doing. B.Scs. who have in qualifying for that degree passed in such a subject as Chemistry, Botany or Zoology are exempted from it in the examination in Medicine when they seek the degree of M.D. The degree of B.Sc. has been made a gateway to the profession of the law as well as of medicine and engineering. We hope that with these practical advantages attending it the science course will soon be followed by numbers proportionate at least to the means of teaching. The questions are still sometimes put—and to the students and their friends they are of momentous importance—of what really is science-teaching, and what part it can play in the liberal education which is the proper object of a University. Definition of a liberal education. But when we say "liberal," apart, at any rate, of the right answer is suggested by the interrogation. A liberal education, as a great science-teacher has said, aims at "the making of men;" it is not to be "diverted into a process of manufacturing human tools wonderfully adroit in the exercise of some technical industry, but good for nothing else." It must equally in the sphere of science as of literature enlarge the mind, give it an organizing power and a philosophic habit by which each new acquirement is measured in relation to the whole, and made to take its place in a system. It must give a love of knowledge for its own sake, and the loftiness and independence of character which extensive knowledge should produce. Advantages of scientific culture. But more especially a truly scientific culture furnishes the mind not only with a mastery of the main facts of outward nature and a readiness to conform to her laws and so turn them to human uses, but with a method of inquiry, a mode of facing the facts of the universe which cannot be acquired in any other way so well. The science student duly disciplined takes all nature for his province. To his trained perceptions there is nothing common or unclean, no creature is unworthy of investigation by a man which has been deemed worthy of existence by God. He sees as others cannot see the prevalence of law amongst the infinite variety of phenomena, and evolution working to its ends in ordered harmony through millions of years. The mind thus trained is borne without an effort along the main current of progressive thought. It has a rich store of ideas in which to bathe each new problem in manifold lights; and as the various activities of the human mind are intimately connected, sciences repay to literature in its analysis the debt of inspiration by which its own infant energies were first awakened to consciousness and exercise.
I cannot justify these observations by their novelty. The Learning not a mere source of pelf. same things have been said before and with all the requisite effects. The worth and dignity of scientific pursuits in not in itself any longer a subject of controversy. My purpose has been rather to call the attention of my younger hearers to the spirit in which those of them who are choosing a career based on science ought to prepare for it and to pursue it. It should not be looked on as a mere source of pelf. Their best energies should not be solely concentrated on what pays best. Gain and getting on are not to be disdained; the effort to win them calls forth in many men resources of energy and skill and patience which improve their moral being all through life; it brings men, too, into contact with actual, inexorable facts, and so adds effectively to their knowledge of the world in which they are placed and of their own relations to it. But what I wish to insist on is this, that no man of science should allow his pursuits and aims to descend to the level of mere unmitigated money-getting; still less, if possible, should he be satisfied with a rule-of-thumb performance of mere journey-work. In the practice of his profession, if he has one, he should preserve a habit of referring details to general principles and of testing principles by details. He should establish link after link of connexion between those ideas which lie at the basis of his own craft, or his own line of investigation, and the general mass and movement of human thought. Thus from technical accomplishment he may advance to a true philosophy of his subject, and add his contribution to the final adjustment of human thoughts and human life to the realities of things.
A contrast very dishonouring to science and to studies such as this The practical vs. theoretical man. University favours is sometimes drawn The practical between what is called the practical man and the theoretical man. I trust none of our students will ever allow themselves to be drawn away by shallow criticism of this kind from an earnest pursuit of sound theory. It is this which must lie at the basis of a really competent practice. That eminent man of science, Sir W. Grove, has vigorously denounced the exaltation of the purely practical man as he is called. If there be one species of cant more destestable than another, it is that which eulogises what is called the practical man as contra-distinguished from the scientific. If by practical man is meant one who, having a mind well stored with scientific and general information, has his knowledge chastened and his theoretic temerity subdued by varied experience, nothing can be better; but if, as is commonly meant by the phrase, a practical man means one whose knowledge is derived from habits or traditional system, such a man has no resources to meet unusual circumstances; such a man has no plasticity; he kills a man according to rule, and consoles himself, like Moliere's doctor, by the reflection that 'a dead man is only a dead man, but that a deviation from received practice is an injury to the whole profession.' If a profession is to be advanced in usefulness, dignity and public appreciation, it must be nurtured by fresh and stimulating thought. Immobility is in these days a comparative retrogression, and the gentlemen who, after a training in science, betake themselves to one of the professional courses will, I trust, recognize and keep hold on the means of making their careers not only immediately useful, but a source of self-culture, of permanent improvement to science, and of blessing to mankind.
An obstacle of a serious kind to the adoption of a scientific course Faculty of Observation. arises from the defective elementary teaching of the schools. The faculty of observation is hardly at all cultivated, and a student beginning to work at science in a college has still to master the rudimentary notions which ought to have been familiar to him from early childhood. Steps have lately been taken, I understand, to improve the means and appliances in the Government schools for teaching rudimentary mechanics, but the teachers themselves need teaching how to teach. They need still more a living interest in the facts of outward nature. Where this exists, the common incidents of every-day life can be made the basis of an humble, but really useful, scientific teaching; the faculties can be trained to quick and accurate instead of hazy and defective perceptions; and reasoning on the right way of doing a great many familiar acts opens the way to an habitual estimation of forces and relations, an habitual reduction of new cases under known principles, which as far as it goes is a scientific turn of mind. Much, it is obvious, may be done, as much remains to be done in this direction. The gathered inertia of centuries has to be overcome. But, now that a start has been made, I trust that Indian students will take a forward and honourable place in the ranks of scientific learners and even of original investigators. India presents in many ways an inviting field for scientific research in which home-born seekers after truth must have a great advantage over foreigners. Some men there are already amongst us who without the advantages—too slender as these are—which the colleges now afford, have gained distinction in the field of natural science, and who in converse with nature enjoy a serenity of mind which is the chief element of happiness. If we turn our thoughts to such a man as our illustrious Darwin, or to many a one less eminent than he, we cannot but recognize the superiority to conventions and external circumstances which Lucretius has celebrated as the highest fruit of knowledge. This fruit is equally accessible to any student of those whom I see about me if he will but rise to the true level of his calling and follow his great masters not only in their assiduity of toil but in their moral elevation, and their ardent readiness to welcome and diffuse the truth.
Now, gentlemen of the younger generation, as I have dwelt so long on science as an instrument of culture, you would not Value of literary training. readily forgive me if I enlarged still further on the special advantages of a literary training. The subject is an interesting one, and there are, as I think, many misconceptions about it which it would be worth while to investigate. I may perhaps find some occasion for laying my views on this topic before the University, but let it suffice for the present to point out with what admirable precision literature is taught; that its contents are the best products of the most gifted minds; that it is everywhere concerned with the acts and the emotions that are distinctively human; that it has largely formed the character of the society we have to join; and that of necessity it is greatly supplemented by the experience of ordinary life. Here, surely, are the elements of a training which, mixed with active exercise in what is acquired, goes to form a real education, one in which high faculties are trained to high perfection, and the heart is enriched as well as the head. But literature is more than this. Some of you remember Macaulay's touching lines after his defeat at Edinburgh. The Queen of learning and meditation visits her votary in a dream and tells him of all she will bestow which no envy of fortune and no folly of the crowd can take away. She was the comforter of Bacon in disgrace, of Clarendon in sickness, of Raleigh in his lonely cell. She
"liglited Milton's darkness with the blaze
"Of the bright ranks that guard the eternal throne."
To you if you will be her disciples, she will be as to him, a helpful friend, a faithful mistress, and a bounteous queen. Be not, however, like that would-be Christian of the early time who would not put away his wealth for his convictions. Our blessings have their price, and learning sheds her choicest boons only on him who offers the purest sacrifice. Sordid arts and the astuteness of low practice will in most cases serve your worldly purposes better; but seeking fortune in this fashion you make learning a mean drudge instead of an honoured companion, and her divinity perishes in a servile air. Reject base ways, and in good fortune or in bad she will pour treasures of joy or consolation into your lap. You may then truly—
"With an unforced smile,
"See riches, baubles, flatterers pass away."
And having made your mastery of your calling secure beyond cavil, you may enjoy your slender gains in a companionship and with a spirit which any Croesus might envy. Take your love for literature with you through life. There will be dark hours when you will need it, and, fortune favouring, there will be bright ones to which it alone can give the chastened lustre of dignity of thought, of taste, and of refinement. Now, do not suppose, young graduates, that I have propounded any Utopian scheme or invited you to a task beyond human capacity. You are called on for no Strive to conquer fate. resignation, no submission to the higher powers, but what some good men and many gentle women practice every day. Nor am I an apostle of mere quietism. The certainty of resources and consolations in reserve ought indeed to give you boldness and pertinacity in action. It is no part of the scheme of Providence that we should feebly bow to fate, whimpering at our ill luck instead of striving to conquer it. Your science, your literature, should be a source then of energy as well as fortitude. They should enrich your action as well as your thought, and everywhere teach you the lesson of modest faith and perseverance, You must all have learned in your several lines of study the immense value of sustained and vivid attention. You must have come to appreciate the task which he undertakes who resolves to be even a faithful learner, much more a teacher of any important branch of human knowledge. You have found that clever as you were in the circle of your relatives, in the class of your school, or the quarter of your town, there were many other boys growing up at the same time at least as clever as yourselves and forming a crowd of competitors compared with the few places of fame and of emolument available as the meed of intellectual distinction. This, too, you must have learned that toil and tenacity of purpose exercised in any field for which you are not unfitted by positive defects achieve in the long run far more than the desultory efforts even of a brilliant ability. Our Maker, as Burke says, has imposed nothing on us as a duty which it is beyond our capacity to do or to know. What is obligatory is feasible, and in the development of every science we find its leading principles reduced by degrees to simple propositions within the grasp of the ordinary intellect, as though to favour the greatest number with an increasing insight into the mysteries of matter and of mind. There is always something great attainable, yet always something as great in reserve. So the education of the human race is planned—the humblest in ability takes his share in it, and, as things are arranged, a sufficient share if he but modestly acknowledges his need and accepts a low place at the banquet to which all are invited. For some of you the words "Friend, come up higher" will in due time sound : be patient and await the summons. Have fortitude even to await it in vain. Your labours are not therefore thrown away. Knowledge and the sense of duty done bear in themselves their own reward; and you have in some sort reaped the fruits of others' toil dedicated for centuries to the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate. The teachers under whom you have studied have been the interpreters between the world and you of what would else have been a mere confusion of tongues or a chaos of unrelated facts.
You must have seen by what small accretions of knowledge Duties of Graduates. the way has been prepared for the greatest triumphs of human genius. On you it devolves in turn to be the interpreters to your countrymen of the European learning and moral energy by which their national being may be renovated. On you it devolves to repay your debt to learning by adding some gain of observation or of thought to its expanding store. If you cannot discover you can verify; if you cannot originate "the thoughts that breathe and words that burn," you can illustrate them; you can enforce them; and in this Eastern land, the ancient nursery of Civilization, you can help to form the intellectual soil from which new growths of wisdom, happiness and beauty are to spring up in the time to come.