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For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my Maker would soon take me away.
I have formerly read, with great satisfaction, your papers about idols,* and the behaviour of gentlemen in those coffee-houses where women officiate; and impatiently waited to see you take India and China shops into consideration: but since
you have passed us over in silence, either that you have not as yet thought us worth your notice, or that the grievances we lie under have escaped your discerning eye, I must make my complaints to you; and am encouraged to do it, because you seem a little at leisure at this
present writing. I am, dear sir, one of the top chinawomen about town; and, though I say it, keep as good things, and receive as fine company as any of this end of the town, let the other be who she will: in short, I am in a fair way to be easy, were it not for a club of female rakes, who, under pretence of taking their innocent rambles, forsooth, and diverting the spleen, seldom fail to plague me twice or thrice a day to cheapen tea, or buy a screen; what else should they mean? as they often repeat it. These rakes are your idle ladies of fashion, who having nothing to do, employ themselves in tumbling over my ware. One of these no-customers (for by the way they seldom or never buy any thing) calls for a set of tea-dishes, another for a basin, a third for my best
green tea, and even to the punch-bowl, there's scarce a piece in my shop but must be
* See Nos. 73, 79, 87, 155.
displaced, and the whole agreeable architecture disordered; so that I can compare them to nothing but to the night-goblins that take a pleasure to overturn the disposition of plates and dishes in the kitchens of your housewifely maids. Well, after all this racket and clutter, this is too dear, that is their aversion; another thing is charming, hut not wanted: the ladies are cured of the spleen, but I am not a shilling the better of it. Lord! what signifies one poor pot of tea, considering the trouble they put me to? Vapours, Mr. Spec'ator, are terrible things; for though I am not possessed by them myself, I suffer more from them than if I were. Now I must beg you to admonish all such day-goblins to make fewer visits, or to be less troublesome when they come to one's shop; and to convince them that we honest shop-keepers have something better to do than to cure folks of the vapours gratis. A young son of mine, a school-boy, is my secretary; so I hope you will make allowances. • I am, sir
Your constant reader,
“REBECCA, the distressed. March the 22d. STEELE.
6 And very
No. 337. THURSDAY, MARCH 27.
Fingit equum tenerâ docilem cervice magister,
I HAVE lately received a third letter from the gentleman who has already given the public two essays upon education. As his thoughts seem to be very just and new upon this subject, I shall communicate them to the reader. (Nos. 307, 313.)
• If I had not been hindered by some extraordinary business, I should have sent you sooner my further thoughts upon education. You may please to remember, that in my last letter I endeavoured to give the best reasons that could be urged in favour of a private or public education. Upon the whole, it may perhaps be thought that I seemed rather'inclined to the latter, though at the same time I confessed, that virtue, which ought to be our first and principal care, was more usually acquired in the former.
I intend, therefore, in this letter, to offer at methods by which I conceive boys might be made to improve in virtue as they advance in letters.
• I know that in most of our public schools vice is punished and discouraged whenever it is found out; but this is far from being sufficient,
unless our youth are at the same time taught to form a right judgment of things, and to know what is properly virtue.
• To this end, whenever they read the lives and actions of such men as have been famous in their generation, it should not be thought enough to make them barely understand so many Greek or Latin sentences, but they should be asked their opinion of such an action or saying, and obliged to give their reasons why they take it to be good or bad. By this means they would insensibly arrive at proper notions of courage, temperance, honour, and justice.
. There must be great care taken how the example of any particular person is recommended to them in gross: instead of which, they ought to be taught wherein such a man, though great in some respects, was weak and faulty in others. For want of this caution, a boy is often so dazzled with the lustre of a great character, that he confounds its beauties with its blemishes, and looks even upon the faulty parts of it with an eye of admiration.
• I have often wondered how Alexander, who was naturally of a generous and merciful disposition, came to be guilty of so barbarous an action as that of dragging the governor of a town after his chariot. "I know this is generally ascribed to his passion for Homer; but I lately met with a passage in Plutarch, which, if I am not very much mistaken, still gives us a clearer light into the motives of this action. Plutarch tells us, that Alexander in his youth had a master named Lysimachus, who, though he was a man destitute of all politeness, ingratiated himself both
with Philip and his pupil, and became the second man at court, by calling the king Peleus, the prince Achilles, and himself Phønix. It is no wonder if Alexander, having been thus used not only to admire, but to personate Achilles, should think it glorious to imitate him in this piece of cruelty and extravagance.
To carry this thought yet further, I shall submit it to your consideration, whether, instead of a theme or copy of verses, which are the usual exercises, as they are called in the school phrase, it would not be more proper that a boy should be tasked once or twice a week, to write down his opinion of such persons and things as occur to him in his reading; that he should descant upon the actions of Turnus or Æneas, show wherein they excelled or where defective, censure or approve any particular action, observe how it might have been carried to a greater degree of perfection, and how it exceeded or fell short of another. He might at the same time mark what was moral in any speech, and how far it agreed with the character of the person speaking. This exercise would soon strengthen his judgment in what is blameable or praiseworthy, and give him an early seasoning of morality.
• Next to those examples which may be met with in books, I very much approve Horace's way of sitting before youth the infamous or honourable characters of their contemporaries: that poet tells us, this was the method his father made use of to incline him to any particular virtue, or give him an aversion to any particular vice. * If,” says Horace, “my father advised me to live within bounds, and be contented with the