Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/185

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175
THE STUDY OF SOCIOLOGY

practice, the results are quite at variance with it. Not simply does the amount of service performed fail to increase in proportion to the number of servants, but frequently it decreases: fewer servants do more work and do it better.

Take, again, the relation of books to knowledge. The natural assumption is, that one who has stores of information at hand will become well informed. And yet, very generally, when a man begins to accumulate books he ceases to make much use of them. The filling of his shelves with volumes, and the filling of his brain with facts, are processes apt to go on with inverse rapidities. It is a trite remark that those who have become distinguished for their learning have often been those who had great difficulties in getting books. Here, too, the results are quite out of proportion to the appliances.

Similarly, if we go a step further in the same direction—not thinking of books as aids to information, but thinking of information as an aid to guidance. Do we find that the quantity of acquirement measures the quantity of insight? Is the amount of cardinal truth reached to be inferred from the mass of collected facts that serve as appliances for reaching it? By no means. Wisdom and information do not vary together. Though there must be data before there can be generalization, yet ungeneralized data, accumulated in excess, are impediments to generalization. When a man's knowledge is not in order, the more of it he has the greater will be his confusion of thought. When facts are not organized into faculty, the greater the mass of them the more will the mind stagger along under its burden, hampered instead of helped by its acquisitions. A student may become a very Daniel Lambert of learning, and remain utterly useless to himself and all others. Neither in this case, then, are results proportionate to appliances.

It is so, too, with discipline, and with the agencies established for discipline. Take, as an instance, the use of language. From his early days, the boy whose father can afford to give him the fashionable education, is drilled in grammar, practised in parsing, tested in detecting errors of speech. After his public-school career, during which words, their meanings, and their right applications, almost exclusively occupy him, he passes through a university where a large, and often the larger, part of his attention is still given to literary culture—models of style in prose and poetry being daily before him. So much for the preparation; now for the performance. It is notorious that commentators on the classics are among the most slovenly writers of English. Readers of Punch will remember how, years ago, the Provost and Headmaster of Eton were made to furnish food for laughter by quotations from a letter they had published. Recently the Head-master of Winchester has given us, in entire unconsciousness of its gross defects, a sample of the English which long study of language produces. If from these teachers, who are literally the select of the select, we turn to men otherwise selected, mostly out of the same highly-disciplined class