Page:Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras.djvu/382

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89
1875.--Mr. W. A. Porter.

a voyage to the kingdom of New Atlantis — that glorious dream of Bacon's where, as we are told, they trade not for silver and gold, nor for silk and spices, but for knowledge and light. One evil of this impossible standard is that with a want of logic which is not uncommon, people are apt to conclude that because there is a large balance of alloy, there is no precious metal whatever. The failure to reach the lofty ideal being conspicuous, it is argued that the nobler elements are altogether wanting. Thus it has happened that the commonest reproach that is flung at our students is that they have no real interest in knowledge for its own sake. Let us look at this matter fairly. It is perfectly true that the hope of advancement is the original motive which sends so many boys to our schools. It is equally certain that the majority of our stu- dents have to turn their knowledge to immediate use as a means of living. But after both these admissions, which I make in the frankest manner, I emphatically deny the inference commonly made from them that there is no love of knowledge. Knowledge must be gained before it is loved, and the fact, that it is turned to purposes of utility, is no proof that it is regarded in no higher aspect. I will put a parallel case. Most men who study law or medicine do so with a view of making a living by their profession. And, as soon as they are qualified, they are ready, may I say eager, to exchange their knowledge for money. Yet no one would say that in the rank of these two great professions there is no disinterested regard for their respective pursuits. How then has it happened that the injurious opinion I am combating is so widely spread? The reason is not far to seek. The contention tor place and profit is in public and all men can see it. The effort after knowledge and self-improvement is made in retirement and known only to their associates . That every avenue to office is painfully crowded with applicants, that the doors of every court and cutchery are besieged by youths who have passed examinations is a sight plain enough to every one. But the silent and studious hour is not passed in the public eye. Thus it has happened that one particular phase which hap- pens to be prominent has been accepted for the whole character, and the voices of the few that knew better were too feeble to be heard amidst the. general chorus of depreciation. In fact, the character of our students has been painted by persons who had only a superficial acquaintance with them. And as in the absence of exact knowledge, there is plenty of room for the fancy to work, their delineators have in this instance imitated the spirit of the old geographers, who, in mapping the unknown interior of Africa, filled it with deserts. 12