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[220] Hopkins derived nearly all from his Calvinistic tradition and from his reading. His works refer explicitly to an exceedingly large number of authors. But the success with which, as a teacher, he caused his pupils to wheel his ideas into action, is surely originality enough. Those ideas, if not themselves a liberal education, gave to the education of hundreds its coherence, articulation, and aim. The winged word of his pupil James A. Garfield, variously reported, asserts that the essence of a college is a student at one end of a log and Mark Hopkins at the other.

Literary quality was only a by-product of a mind thus primarily engaged in forming character. Hopkins's prose is exceedingly uneven. Probably nothing in it was obscure when he spoke it aloud with his own significant intonations; but as a text for the eye it abounds in pitfalls. Yet he so reiterated, developed, illustrated, and enforced his ideas as to produce a total effect of lucidity. He has moments, too, of eloquence and charm.

From the Edwardean tradition Hopkins received the concept of universal benevolence, the dogmatic side of which interested him, however, much less than its usefulness as a basis of ethics. From his very early essay on The connection between taste and morals down to his latest volume on The scriptural idea of man, he so used it. In his mind it coincided fruitfully with the Aristotelian notion of a scale of things in which each lower member is the condition of a higher; the State, for instance, in which the best life for the citizen is conditioned upon the existence of slaves. Hopkins combined these or kindred ideas into a scale of forces and beings each member of which had a worth higher than that of the one upon which it was conditioned. Thus he established at once a series of ethical values and a series of physical phenomena, each built upon all the preceding and all leading up to the highest, which took up all the lower, and benevolence toward which was the basis of morals. As early as 1857 Hopkins's baccalaureate sermon, The higher and the lower good ,explained gravity as conditioning cohesion, cohesion as conditioning chemical affinity, and so on up through regularity of form, organic life, sensitive life, rational life, and moral life. Thenceforward this conception reappeared in all his more important works.

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