The president had made all his exertions to "preach" imitation, but now, he said "nothing that could lead you to the imitation of any living master". I don't understand it.
I would wish you to forget where you are, and who it is that speaks to you. I only direct you to higher models and better advisers. We can teach you here but very little; you are henceforth to be your own teachers. Do this justice, however, to the English Academy, to bear in mind, that in this place you contracted no narrow habits, no false ideas, nothing that could lead you to the imitation of any living master, who may be the fashionable darling of the day. As you have not been taught to flatter us, do not learn to flatter yourselves. We have endeavoured to lead you to the admiration of nothing but what is truly admirable. If you choose inferior patterns, or if you make your own FORMER works, your patterns for your LATTER, it is your own fault.
1. i sure hope you're reading that for an assignment, because that's some pretty dense, archaic, formal writing to be reading for fun
2. i think he's saying something along the lines of 'you have to learn the rules before you can break the rules' or 'learn everything you can from those who came before, and then from this foundation, strike out on your own'
imitation is for when they are in school to learn the basics, then they move beyond that after graduation
school necessarily can only teach you what has been done before, to go beyond that you must be your own teacher.
notice the 'you are HENCEFORTH to be your own teachers', now that we have taught you the foundation, go forth and build upon it
imitation is a good thing to learn the basics. imitation is a great tool to give you the foundation. imitation is a necessary step. don't look down on imitation as a teaching tool
but imitation is a tool, not the final goal. We teach you imitation to prepare you to go out and forge your own identity. Now that you have graduated, take what you learned from imitating others and go further. The ultimate point of us teaching you how to imitate others is not so you can slavisly imitate them for the rest of your career, but so you can learn from their experiences. The old Newton quote, "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants"
during school- imitation = good
after school- imitation = bad