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牛津的落跑同学 精选

已有 6343 次阅读 2011-10-28 09:11 |个人分类:随想|系统分类:人物纪事|关键词:牛津| 牛津

 

从罗马回来看《罗马帝国衰亡史》,也顺便看了几段作者Gibbon的自传(Memoirs of My Life and Writings,很小的一本书)。特别看他在牛津的14个月,原来是他自以为最懒惰也最没出息的日子。

 

不过,他回忆牛津,还是有一点儿温情,更有点儿得意洋洋,却不见踌躇满志,活脱脱一个富(且贵)二代(他祖父有钱,应该是“富三代”)进校园的情景:

 

My own introduction to the University of Oxford forms a new era in my life; and at the distance of forty years I still remember my first emotions of surprise and satisfaction. In my fifteenth year I felt myself suddenly raised from a boy to a man: the persons, whom I respected as my superiors in age and academical rank, entertained me with every mark of attention and civility; and my vanity was flattered by the velvet cap and silk gown, which distinguish a gentleman commoner from a plebeian student. A decent allowance, more money than a schoolboy had ever seen, was at my own disposal; and I might command, among the tradesmen of Oxford, an indefinite and dangerous latitude of credit. A key was delivered into my hands, which gave me the free use of a numerous and learned library; my apartment consisted of three elegant and well-furnished rooms in the new building, a stately pile, of Magdalen College; and the adjacent walks, had they been frequented by Plato's disciples, might have been compared to the Attic shade on the banks of the Ilissus. Such was the fair prospect of my entrance (April 3, 1752) into the university of Oxford. Ilissus是雅典的一条河,大概当年柏拉图的弟子们常在河边溜达,小吉同学很得意,感觉他的房间外的林荫道和那河边儿一样。】

 

接着,吉本还引用了一个主教对牛津满怀激情的感恩文字——他说他呼吸了像胡克、奇林沃斯、洛克那样的人物曾经呼吸过的空气——但吉本很怀疑那位主教未必真的那么纯洁,还指出牛津其实根本不适合大哲学家洛克……所以,小吉同学“不愿承认一种假想的恩惠以博取报恩的虚名”,他对牛津没有一点儿感激之情,也乐于学校不承认他这个不肖的弟子:

 

To the university of Oxford I acknowledge no obligation; and she will as cheerfully renounce me for a son, as I am willing to disclaim her for a mother. I spent fourteen months at Magdalen College; they proved the fourteen months the most idle and unprofitable of my whole life: the reader will pronounce between the school and the scholar; but I cannot affect to believe that Nature had disqualified me for all literary pursuits. The specious and ready excuse of my tender age, imperfect preparation, and hasty departure, may doubtless be alleged; nor do I wish to defraud such excuses of their proper weight. Yet in my sixteenth year I was not devoid of capacity or application; even my childish reading had displayed an early though blind propensity for books; and the shallow flood might have been taught to flow in a deep channel and a clear stream. In the discipline of a well-constituted academy, under the guidance of skilful and vigilant professors, I should gradually have risen from translations to originals, from the Latin to the Greek classics, from dead languages to living science: my hours would have been occupied by useful and agreeable studies, the wanderings of fancy would have been restrained, and I should have escaped the temptations of idleness, which finally precipitated my departure from Oxford.

 

在小吉看来,牛津不适合他。他需要一个well-constituted academy, 需要在skilful and vigilant professors的指引下学习,将自己的“浅水”引向“深谷的清流”(the shallow flood might have been taught to flow in a deep channel and a clear stream),从而逃避懒散的诱惑……于是,他离开了牛津。

 

达尔文也回忆说,他在剑桥的三年,“是十足地损失掉了,甚至比损失还更加糟糕。”他留下的最有趣的回忆,好像是采集甲壳虫,“再没有其他任何一种消遣,能使我有更强烈的热情、更浓厚的乐趣了。”

 

可见好学校未必适合“好人”,从好学校出来的“好人”,未必真的是那个学校“培养”的。但好学校有一个好处,就是为同学的自由成长提供好的环境——剑桥校友陈之藩先生回忆他和一个朋友对话,那朋友说,那两个老大学,“似乎把学生当成生物,让生物生长别的所谓‘大学’,似乎把学生当成矿物,让矿物定型。”我们的很多大学就是“造矿物”的作坊。

 

 

 



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