Page:Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras.djvu/538

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1888.-'’Lieut-Colonel W.Hughes Hallet.

to do thoroughly everything which you undertake it is plain that you must not undertake too much, and here comes opposing counsel. There is a maxim often quoted with approbation and held up for general guidance, "Know something of every-thing and everything of something," but I venture to think it a most dangerous piece of advice, especially to young men, even allowing that it is not meant to be taken literally. It has a fine antithetical ring, and is just the sort of phrase to catch the ear, but it will not bear scrutiny. No man, however gifted, can in these days know something of everything, and the attempt to do so will certainly result in knowing nothing of anything. The prodigy thrives in fiction no doubt. The muscular hero, who carelessly crumples up the fire irons with the finger and thumb of his left hand, is matched by the intellectual hero, who is ready at any moment to correct a bishop in a quotation from the less known patriotic writings or to give the details of the population of Turkestan according to the latest census. But he does not exist in fact. Then Bacon is held up as an example. Well it is not wise for a youth to start in life with the notion of rivalling Bacon. Ambition is a good spur, but like other spurs the inexperienced will find it safer when of moderate length. And after all what does Bacon's case prove? He was perhaps the most marvellous genius that ever lived. Perhaps no other man has mastered so large a share of the learning of his own age. But the times have marched. Discoveries, inventions, the accumulated labours of students, have immensely enlarged the field of learning. The area of possible human knowledge, the area of knowledge which it is open to one man to acquire, increases year by year—and it increases not in arithmetical progression, but in geometrical. He who could take all knowledge to be his province at the end of the 16th century would find that province occupy but a small corner of the map at the end of the 19th. If I persist in driving this nail home it is to save you from a very fatal error. Try a simple test. Take three subjects at haphazard from different branches of study—say, Hydraulics, Spanish Literature, the Botany of South America—and ask the best educated man of your acquaintance, not actually engaged in teaching these subjects, to pass an elementary examination in them. Yet here are only three, and all tolerably familiar. Instead of three take three hundred—double three hundred and then treble that—where will the man be who tries to know some-thing of all? That way madness lies.

To criticize is ever easier than to create, and while it is one thing to warn you against undertaking more than a reasonable