Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> An Oration Delivered Before the Two Societies of the South Carolina College, on the 4th of Dec., 1849 >> Page 215

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Page 215

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 215
civilization, its causes and its prospects, would fall far
short if he limited himself to filling out, however fully,
the outline I have sketched. If Galileo was led to the
study of astronomy by reading Ariosto, as he confessed
he was, how much may we not, and do we not owe to
Dante and Petrarch, to Shakspeare and Milton ? If
the inventor of the electric telegraph, and Fulton and
Leonardo were painters, what inspiration may not
have been derived from the immortal works of Raf-
faelle, and Michael Angelo ? Whatever stirs the heart,
or stimulates the imagination, will arouse the intellect
and quicken it to action ; and whoever fails to exam-
ine and estimate everything that influences to any ex-
tent the conceptions and emotions of mankind, must
fail to comprehend the problem of their progress.
It is, as I have already said, the fashion of a large
and prominent modern school to decry " the wisdom
of the ancients," and account it folly to investigate
antiquity. But, as thoroughly as the civilization of
ancient times has been destroyed, and as essentially as
it differed from our own, the debt we owe it is im-
mense ; and it would be impossible to trace to their
sources, and fully understand, ideas and institutions
familiar to our daily life, and deeply affecting our
feelings and our interests, if we should close our vista
of the past with Alaric and his barbaric followers.
The revival of letters was due in a great measure to
the renewed study of the classics. From their pages
our immediate ancestors learned to love liberty, and
we, ourselves, and our posterity in all future time, may
still gather from them deepest wisdom.
Hume said, a century ago, that no portion of modern
history was perhaps wholly new ; and Dr. Arnold has.