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No. 353. TUESDAY, APRIL 15.
In tenui labor
Tho' low the subject, it deserves our pains.
The gentleman who obliges the world in general, and me in particular, with his thoughts upon education, has just sent me the following letter:
I take the liberty to send you a fourth letter* upon the education of youth. In my last I gave you my thoughts about some particular tasks which I conceived it might not be amiss to mix with their usual exercises, in order to give them an early seasoning of virtue; I shall in this propose some others, which I fancy might contribute to give them a right turn for the world, and ena ble them to make their way in it.
• The design of learning is, as I take it, either to render a man an agreeable companion to himself, and teach him to support solitude with pleasure, or, if he is not born to an estate, to supply that defect, and furnish him with the means of acquiring one. A person who applies himself to learning
with the first of these views, may be said to study for ornament, as he who proposes to himself the second, properly studies for use. The one does it to raise himself a fortune, the other to set off that which he is already possessed of. But as far the greater part of mankind are
See Nos. 307, 313, and 337.
included in the latter class, I shall only propose some methods at present for the service of such who expect to advance themselves in the world by their learning: in order to which, I shall premise, that many more estates have been acquired by little accomplishments than by extraordinary ones; those qualities which make the greatest figure in the eye of the world, not being always the most useful in themselves, or the most advantageous to their owners.
* The posts which require men of shining and uncommon parts to discharge them are so very few, that many a great genius goes out of the world without ever having had an opportunity to exert itself; whereas persons of ordinary endowments meet with occasions fitted to their parts and capacities every day in the common occurrences of life.
· I am acquainted with two persons who were formerly school-fellows, and have been good friends ever since. One of them was not only thought an impenetrable blockhead at school, but still maintained his reputation at the university; the other was the pride of his master, and the most celebrated person in the college of which he was a member. “The man of genius is at present buried in a country parsonage of eight score pounds a-year; while the other, with the bare abilities of a common scrivener, has got an estate of above a hundred thousand pounds.
• I fancy from what I have said it will almost appear a doubtful case to many a wealthy citizen, whether or no he ought to wish his son should be a great genius; but this I am sure of, that nothing is more absurd than to give a lad the edu
cation of one, whom nature has not fayoured with any particular marks of distinction.
The fault therefore of our grammar schools is, that every boy is pushed on to works of genius; whereas it would be far more advantageous for the greatest part of them to be taught such little practical arts and sciences as do not require any great share of parts to be master of them, and yet may come often into play during the course of a man's life.
Such are all the parts of practical geometry. I have known a man contract a friendship with a minister of state upon.cutting a dial in his window: and remember a clergyman who got one of the best benefices in the west of England, by setting a country gentleman's affairs in some method, and giving him an exact survey of his estate.
• While I am upon this subject, I can not forbear mentioning a particular which is of use in every station of life, and which methinks
every master should teach his scholars; I mean the writing of English letters. To this end, instead of perplexing them with Latin epistles, themes, and verses, there might be a punctual correspondence established between two boys, who might act in any imaginary parts of business, or be allowed sometimes to give range to their own fancies, and communicate to each other whatever trifles they thought fit, provided neither of them ever failed at the appointed time to answer his correspondent's letter.
• I believe I may venture to affirm, that the generality of boys would find themselves more advantaged by this custom, when they come to
be men, than by all the Greek and Latin their masters ean teach them in seven or eight years. “The want of it is very visible in many
learned persons, who, while they are admiring the styles of Demosthenes or Cicero, want phrases to express themselves on the most common occasions. I have seen a letter from one of these Latin orators, which would have been deservedly laughed at by a common attorney.
• Under this head of writing I can not omit accounts and short-hand, which are learned with little pains, and very properly come into the number of such arts as I have been here recommending.
You must doubtless, sir, observe, that I have hitherto chiefly insisted upon these things for such boys as do not appear to have any thing extraordinary in their natural talents, and consequently are not qualified for the finer parts of learning; yet I believe I might carry this matter still further, and venture to assert, that a lad of gènius has sometimes occasion for these little acquirements, to be as it were the forerunners of his parts, and to introduce him into the world.
• History is full of examples of persons, who, though they have had the largest abilities, have been obliged to insinuate themselves into the favour of great men by these trivial accomplishments; as the complete gentleman, in some of our modern comedies, makes his first advances to his mistress under the disguise of a painter or a dancing-master.
• The difference is that in a lad of genius these are only so many accomplishments, which in another are essentials; the one diverts himself with
them, the other works at them. In short, I look upon a great genius, with these little additions, in the same light as I regard the grand seignior, who is obliged, by an express command in the Alcoran, to learn and practise some handicraft trade: though I need not have gone
my instance farther than Germany, where several enaperors have voluntarily done the same thing. Leopold the last worked in wood; and I have heard there are several handicraft works of his making to be seen at Vienna, so neatly turned, that the best joiner in Europe might safely own them, without any disgrace to his profession.
I would not be thought by any thing I have said, to be against improving a boy's genius to the utmost pitch it can be carried. What I would endeavour to show in this essay is, that there may be methods taken to make learning advantageous even to the meanest capacities.
• I am, sir,
No. 354. WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16.
-Cum magnis vertutibus affers
discourses describe ed most sorts of women in their distinct and pro-,