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that his dress was undistinguished; that he was not fit to appear at a ball or assembly, nor suffered to go to either: and it was with the utmost difficulty he became qualified for his present removal, where he may probably be further persecuted, and possibly with success, if the firmness of a very worthy governor and his own good dispositions will not preserve him. I confess I cannot but wish he may go on in the way he began; because I have a curiosity to know by so singular an experiment, whether truth, honor, justice, temperance, courage, and good sense, acquired by a school and college education, may not produce a very tolerable lad, although he should happen to fail in one or two of those accomplishments which in the general vogue are held so important to the finishing of a gentleman.
It is true, I have known an academical education to have been exploded in public assemblies; and have heard more than one or two persons of high rank declare, they could learn nothing more at Oxford and Cambridge than to drink ale and smoke tobacco; wherein I firmly believed them, and could have added some hundred examples from my own observation in one of those universities; but they all were of young heirs sent thither only for form ; either from schools where they were not suffered by their careful parents to stay above three months in the year; or from under the management of French family tutors, who yet often attended them to their college, to prevent all possibility of their improvement; but I never yet knew any one person of quality, who followed his studies at the university and carried away his just proportion of learning, that was not ready upon all occasions to celebrate and defend that course of education, and to prove a patron of learned men.
There is one circumstance in a learned education which ought to have much weight, cver with those who have no learning at all. The books read at school and college are full of incitements to virtue, and discouragements from vice, drawn from the wisest reasons, the strongest motives, and the most influencing examples. Thus
young minds are filled early with an inclination to good, and an abhorrence of evil, both which increase in them, according to the advances they make in literature; and although they may be, and too often are, drawn by the temptations of youth, and the opportunities of a large fortune, into some irregularities, when they come forward into the great world, yet it is ever with reluctance and conpunction of mind, because their bias to virtue still continues. They may stray sometimes, out of infirmity or compliance; but they will soon return to the right road, and keep it always in view. I speak
only of those excesses which are too much the attendants of youth and warmer blood; for as to the points of honor, truth, justice, and other noble gifts of the mind, wherein the temperature of the body has no concern, they are seldom or ever known to be wild.
I have engaged myself very unwarily in too copious a subject for so short a paper. The present scope I would aim at is, to prove that some proportion of human knowledge appears requisite to those who by their birth or fortune are called to the making of laws, and, in a subordinate way, to the execution of them; and that such knowledge is not to be obtained, without a miracle, under the frequent, corrupt, and sottish methods of educating those who are born to wealth or titles. For I would have it remembered that I do by no means confine these remarks to young persons of noble birth; the same errors running through all families where there is wealth enough to afford that their sons (at least the eldest) may be good for nothing. Why should my son be a scholar when it is not intended that he should live by his learning? By this rule, if what
be is commonly said be true, that “ money answers all things,” why should my son be honest, temperate, just, or charitable, since he has no intention to depend upon any of these qualities for a maintenance ?
When all is done, perhaps, upon the whole, the matter is not so bad as I would make it; and God, who works good out of evil, acting only by the ordinary course and rule of nature, permits this continual circulation of human things, for his own unsearchable ends. The father grows rich by avarice, injustice, oppression ; he is a tyrant in the neighborhood over slaves and beggars, whom he calls his tenants. Why should he desire to have qualities infused into his son which himself never possessed, or knew, or found the want of, in the acquisition of his wealth? The son, bred in sloth and idleness, becomes a spendthrift, a cully, a profligate, and goes out of the world a beggar, as his father came in : thus the former is punished for his own sins, as well as for those of the latter. The dunghill, having raised a huge mushroom of short duration, is now spread to enrich other men's lands. It is indeed of worse consequence where noble families are gone to decay; because their titles and privileges outlive their estates : and politicians tell us, that nothing is more dangerous to the public than a numerous nobility without merit or fortune. But even here God has likewise prescribed some remedy in the order of nature; so many great families coming to an end by the sloth, luxury, and abandoned lusts, which enervated their breed through every succession, producing gradually a more effeminate race wholly unfit for propagation.
HINTS TOWARD AN ESSAY ON CON.
I HAVE observed few obvious subjects to have been so seldom, or at least so slightly, handled as this; and indeed I know few su difficult to be treated as it ought, nor yet upon which there seems so much to be said.
Most things pursued by men for the happiness of public or private life, our wit or folly have so refined, that they seldom subsist but in idea; a true friend, a good marriage, a perfect form of government, with some others, require so many ingredients, so good in their several kinds, and so much niceness in mixing them, that for some thousands of years men have despaired of reducing their schemes to perfection : but in conversation it is, or might be, otherwise; for here we are only to avoid a multitude of errors, which, although a matter of some difficulty, may be in every man's power, for want of which it remains as mere an idea as the other. Therefore it seems to me, that the truest way to understand conversation, is to know the faults and errors to which it is subject, and frora thence every man to form maxims to himself whereby it may be regulated, because it requires few talents to which most men are not born, or at least may not acquire, without any great genius or study. For nature has left every man a capacity of being agreeable, though not of shining in company; and there are a hundred men sufficiently qualified for both, who, by a very few faults that they might correct in half an hour, are not so much as tolerable.
I was prompted to write my thoughts upon this subject by mere indignation, to reflect that so useful and innocent a pleasure, so fitted for every period and condition of life, and so much in all mon's power, should be so much neglected and abused.
And in this discourse it will be necessary to note those errors that are obvious, as well as others which are seldomer observed, since there are few so obvious, or acknowledged, into which most men, some time or other, are not apt to run.
For instance: nothing is more generally exploded than the folly of talking too much; yet I rarely remember to have seen five people together, where some one among them has not been predominant in that kind, to the great constraint and disgust of all the rest. But anong such as deal in multitudes of words, none are comparable to
the sober deliberate talker, who proceeds with much thought and caution, makes his preface, branches out into several digressions, finds a hint that puts him in mind of another story, which he promises to tell you when this is done; comes back regularly to his subject, cannot readily call to mind some person's name, holding his head, complains of his memory; the whole company all this while in suspense; at length says, it is no matter, and so goes on. And, to crown the business, it perhaps proves at last a story the company has heard fifty times before; or, at best, some insipid adventure of the relater.
Another general fault in conversation is that of those who affect to talk of themselves : some, without any ceremony, will run over the history of their lives; will relate the annals of their diseases, with the several symptoms and circumstances of them; will enumerate the hardships and injustice they have suffered in court, in parliament, in love, or in law. Others are more dexterous, and with great art will lie on the watch to hook in their own praise: they will call a witness to remember they always foretold what would happen in such a case, but none would believe them; they advised such a man from the beginning, and told him the consequences, just as they happened; but he would have his own way. Others make a vanity of telling their faults; they are the strangest men in the world; they cannot dissemble; they own it is a folly; they have lost abundance of advantages by it; but if you would give them the world, they cannot help it; there is something in their nature that abhors insincerity and constraint; with many other insufferable topics of the same altitude.
Of such mighty importance every man is to himself, and ready I to to think he is so to others; without once making this easy and obvious reflection, that his affairs can have no more weight with other men, than theirs have with him; and how little that is, he is sensible enough.
Where a company has met, I often have observed two persons discover, by some accident, that they were bred together at the same school or university; after which the rest are condemned to silence, and to listen while these two are refreshing each other's memory, with the arch tricks and passages of themselves and their comrades.
I know a great officer of the army who will sit for some time with a supercilious and impatient silence, full of anger and contempt for those who are talking; at length of a sudden, demanding audience, decide the matter in a short dogmatical way; then withdraw within himself again, and vouchsafe to talk no more, until his spirits circulate again to the same point.
There are some faults in conversation which none are so subject to as the men of wit, nor ever so much as when they are with each other. If they have opened their mouths without endeavoring to say a witty thing, they think it is so many words lost: it is a torment to the hearers, as much as to themselves, to see them upon the rack for invention, and in perpetual constraint, with so little success. They must do something extraordinary in order to acquit themselves, and answer their character, else the standers-by may be disappointed, and be apt to think them only like the rest of mortals. I have known two men of wit industriously brought together in order to entertain the company, where they have made a very ridiculous figure, and provided all the mirth
their own expense. I know a man of wit who is never easy but where he can be allowed to dictate and preside: he neither expects to be informed or entertained, but to display his own talents. His business is to be good company, and not good conversation ; and therefore he chooses to frequent those who are content to listen, and profess themselves his admirers. And indeed the worst conversation I ever remember to have heard in my life was that at Will's coffee-house, where the wits (as they were called) used formerly to assemble; that is to say, five or six men who had writ plays, or at least prologues, or had share in a miscellany, came thither, and entertained one another with their trifling composures, in so important an air as if they had been the noblest efforts of human nature, or that the fate of kingdoms depended on them; and they were usually attended with an humble audience of young students from the inns of court, or the universities; who, at due distance, listened to these oracles, and returned home with great contempt for their law and philosophy, their heads filled with trash, under the name of politeness, criticism, and belles lettres.
By these means the poets, for many years past, were all overrun with pedantry. For, as I take it, the word is not properly used; because pedantry is the too frequent or unseasonable obtruding our own knowledge in common discourse, and placing too great a value upon it; by which definition, men of the court, or the army, may be as guilty of pedantry as a philosopher or a divine; and it is the same vice in women, when they are over-copious upon the subject of their petticoats, or their fans, or their china. For which reason, although it be a piece of prudence, as well as good manners, to put men upon