The Library of Original Sources, Vol 5


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On the Education of Children

I never yet saw that father who, let his son be ever so decrepit or scald-pated, would not own him; not but that, unless he were totally besotted and blinded with his paternal affection, he does not well enough discern his defects; but because, notwithstanding all faults, he is still his. Just so it is with me. I see better than any other that these things I write are but the idle whimsies of a man that has only nibbled upon the outward crust of learning in his nonage, and only retained a general and formless image of it, a little snatch of every thing, and nothing of the whole a la Francoice; for I know, in general, that there is a science of physic, a science of law, four parts in mathematics, and I have a general notion what all these aim at; and, peradventure, I know too what the sciences in general pretend unto, in order to the service of human life; but to dive farther than that, and to have cudgelled my brains in the study of Aristotle, the monarch of all our modern learning, or particularly addicted myself to any one science, I have never done it; neither is there any one art of which I am able to draw the first lineaments; insomuch that there is not a boy of the lowest form in a school that may not pretend to be wiser than I, who am not able to pose him in his first lesson, which, if I am at any time forced upon, I am necessitated in my own defence to ask him some universal questions, such as may serve to try his natural understanding; a lesson as strange and unknown to him as his is to me.

I never seriously settled myself to the reading of any book of solid learning, but Plutarch and Seneca; and there, like the Danaides, I eternally fill, and it as constantly runs out; something of which drops upon this paper, but very little or nothing stays behind with me. History is my delight, as to reading, or else poetry, for which I have, I confess, a particular kindness and esteem; for, as Cleanthes said, as the voice, forced through the narrow passage of a trumpet, comes out more forcible and shrill; so, methinks, a sentence couched in the harmony of verse, darts more briskly upon the understanding, and strikes both my ear and apprehension with a smarter and more pleasing power. As to the natural parts I have, of which this is the specimen, I findthem to bow under the burthen; my fancy and judgment do but grope in the dark, tripping and stumbling in their way, and when I have gone as far as I can, I am in no degree satisfied, for I discover still a new and greater extent of land before me, but with troubled and imperfect sight, and wrapt up in clouds that I am not able to penetrate. And taking upon me to write indifferently of whatever comes into my head, and therein making use of nothing but my own proper and natural means, if I happened, as I often do, accidentally to meet in any good author the same heads and common places upon which I have attempted to write (as I did but lately in Plutarch’s Discourse of the Force of the Imagination), to see myself so weak and miserable, so heavy and sleepy, in comparison with those better writers, I at once pity and despise myself. Yet do I flatter and please myself with this, that my opinions have often the honour and good fortune to tally with theirs, and that I follow in the same paths, though at a very great distance, saying, they are quite right; I am farther satisfied to find that I have a quality, which every one is not blest withal, which is to discern the vast difference betwixt them and me; and notwithstanding all that, suffer my own ideas, poor as they are, to run on in their career, without mending or plastering up the defects that this comparison has laid open to my own view. And in truth a man had need of a good strong back to keep pace with these people. The indiscreet scribblers of our time, who, amongst their laborious nothings, insert whole sections, paragraphs, and pages, out of ancient authors, with a design by that means to do honour to their own writings, do quite contrary; for the infinite dissimilitude of ornaments renders the complexions of their own compositions so pale, sallow, and deformed, that they lose much more than they get.

The philosophers, Chrysippus and Epicurus, were, in this, of two quite contrary humours; for the first did not only in his books mix the passages and sayings of other authors, but entire pieces, and in one, the whole Medea of Euripides; which gave Apollodorus occasion to say "that should a man pick out of his writings all that was none of his, he would leave nothing but blank paper;" whereas, Epicurus, quite contrary, in three hundred volumes that he left behind him, has not so much as one quotation.

A case in point occurred the other day: I was reading a French book, where, after I had a long time been dragging over a great many words, so dull, so insipid, so void of all wit or common sense that,indeed, they were only words, after a long and tedious travel I came, at last, to meet with a piece that was lofty, rich, and elevated to the very clouds. Now had I found either the declivity easy, or the ascent more sloping, there had been some excuse; but it was so perpendicular a precipice, and so wholly cut off from the rest of the work, that by the first words I found myself flying into the other world, and thence discovered the vale whence I came, so deep and low that I had never since the heart to descend into it any more. If I should set out my discourses with such rich spoils as these, the plagiarism would too manifestly discover the imperfection of my own writing. To reprehend the fault in others that I am guilty of myself, appears to me no more unreasonable than to condemn, as I often do, those of others in myself. They are to be every where reproved, and ought to have no sanctuary allowed them. I know very well how impudently I myself, at every turn, attempt to equal myself to my thefts, and go hand in hand with them, not without a daring hope of deceiving the eyes of my reader from discerning the difference; but, withal, it is as much by the benefit of my application that I hope to do it as by that of my invention, or any force of my own. Besides, I do not offer to contend with the whole body of these old champions, nor hand to hand with any of them; ’tis only by flights and little light skirmishes that I engage them; I do not grapple with them, but try their strength only, and never engage so far as I make a show to do. If I could hold them in play I were a brave fellow; for I never attack them but where they are strongest. To cover a man’s self, as I have seen some do, with another man’s armour, so as not to discover so much as their fingers’ ends; to carry on his design, as it is not hard for a man that has any thing of a scholar in him, in an ordinary subject, to do, under old inventions, patched up here and there; and then to endeavour to conceal the theft, and to make it pass for his own, is, first, injustice and meanness of spirit in whoever does it; who, having nothing in them of their own fit to procure them a reputation, endeavour to do it by attempting to impose things upon the world in their own name, which they have really no manner of title to; and then a ridiculous folly to content themselves with acquiring the ignorant approbation of the vulgar by such a pitiful cheat, at the price, at the same time, of discovering their insufficiency to men of understanding, the only persons whose praise is worth any thing, who will soon smell out and trace them under their borrowed crest. For my own part there is nothing I would notsooner do than that; I quote others only in order the better to express myself. In this I do not, in the least, glance at the composers of centos, who declare themselves for such; of which sort of writers I have, in my time, seen many very ingenious, particularly one, under the name of Capilupus, besides the ancients. These are really men of wit, and that make it appear they are so, both by that and other ways of writing; as, for example, Lipsius, in that learned and laborious contexture of his politics.

Be this how it will, and how inconsiderable soever these essays of mine may be, I will ingenuously confess I never intended to conceal them, any more than my old, bald, grizzled portrait before them, where the painter has presented you not with a perfect face, but with the resemblance of mine. For these are my own particular opinions and fancies, and I deliver them for no other but only what I myself believe, and not what others are to believe, neither have I any other end in this writing but only to discover myself, who shall, peradventure, be another thing to-morrow, if I chance to meet any book or friend to convince me in the mean time. I have no authority to be believed, neither do I desire it, being too conscious of my own inerudition to be able to instruct others.

A friend of mine then, having heard the preceding chapter, the other day, told me that I should have enlarged a little more upon the education of children. Now, madam, were my abilities equal to the subject, I could not possibly employ them better than in presenting them to the little gentleman that threatens you shortly with a happy birth, and your friends are in daily hopes of (you are too generous to begin otherwise than with a male); for having had so great a hand in your marriage, I have a sort of right and interest in the greatness and prosperity of all that shall proceed from it; besides, as you have been so long in possession of a title to the best of my services, I am obliged to desire the honour and advantage of every thing that concerns you. But, in truth, all I understand, as to this particular, is only this, that the greatest and most important difficulty of human science is the nurture and education of children. For, as in agriculture, all that precedes planting, as also planting itself, is certain, plain, and easy; but, after that which is planted takes life and shoots up, there is a great deal more to be done, and much more difficulty to be got over to cultivate and bring it to perfection; so it is with men; it is no hard matter to plant them, but after they are born then begins the trouble, solicitude, and care, to train and bring them up. The symptoms of theirinclinations at that tender age are so slight and obscure, and the promises so uncertain and fallacious, that it is very hard to establish any solid judgment or conjecture upon them. Look at Cimon, for example, and Themistocles, and a thousand others, whose manhood has given the lie to the ill-promise of their early youth. Bears’ cubs and puppies discover their natural inclination; but men, so soon as they are grown up, immediately applying themselves to certain habits, engaging themselves in certain opinions, and conforming themselves to particular laws and customs, do easily change, or, at least, disguise, their true and real disposition. And yet it is hard to force the propensity of nature; whence it comes to pass that, for not having chosen the right course, a man throws away very great pains, and consumes great part of his time in training up children to things for which, by their natural aversion, they are totally unfit. In this difficulty, nevertheless, I am clearly of opinion that they ought to be elemented in the best and most advantageous studies, without taking too much notice of, or being too superstitious in, those light prognostics we too often conceive of them in their tender years; to which Plato, in his Republic, gives, methinks, too much authority.

But, madam, learning is doubtless a very great ornament, and a thing of marvellous use, especially to persons raised to that degree of fortune in which you are placed; and, in truth, in persons of mean and low condition, it cannot perform its true and genuine office, being naturally more prompt to assist in the conduct of war, in the government of a people, and in negotiating leagues with princes and foreign nations, than in forming a syllogism in logic, in pleading a process in law, or in prescribing a dose of pills in physic. Wherefore, madam, believing you will not omit this so necessary embellishment in the training of your posterity, yourself having tasted the delights of it, and being of a learned extraction (for we yet have the writings of the ancient Counts of Foix, from whom my lord, your husband, and yourself are both descended, and Monsieur Francis de Candale, your uncle, does, every day, oblige the world with others, which will extend the knowledge of this quality in your family to many succeeding ages,) I will, upon this occasion, presume to acquaint you with one particular fancy of my own, contrary to the common method, which is all I am able to contribute to your service in this matter.

The charge of the tutor you shall provide for your son, upon the choice of whom depends the whole success of his education, has several other great branches which, however, I shall not touch upon, as beingunable to add any thing of moment to the common rules; and also in this, wherein I take upon me to advise, he may follow it so far as it shall appear rational and conducing to the end in view. For a boy of quality then, who pretends to letters, not upon the account of profit (for so mean an object as that is unworthy of the grace and favour of the muses; and, moreover, has reference to others), nor so much for outward ornament, as for his own proper and peculiar use, and to furnish and enrich himself within, having rather a desire to come out an accomplished gentleman than a mere learned man; for such a one, I say, I would have his friends solicitous to find him out a tutor who has rather an elegant than a learned head, though both, if such a person can be found; but, however, to prefer manners and judgment before reading, and that this man should pursue the exercise of his charge after a new model.

’Tis the custom of schoolmasters to be eternally thundering in their pupils’ ears, as they were pouring into a funnel, whilst the business of these is only to repeat what the others have said before. Now I would have a tutor to correct this error; and that, at the very first outset, he should, according to the capacity he has to deal with, put it to the test, permitting his pupil himself to taste and relish things, and of himself to choose and discern them, sometimes opening the way to him, and sometimes making him break the ice himself; that is, I would not have him alone to invent and speak, but that he should also hear his pupil speak in turn. Socrates, and, since him, Arcesilaus, made first their scholars speak, and then spoke to them. Obest plerunque iis qui liscere volunt auctoritas eorum qui docent. "The authority of those who teach is very often an impediment to those who desire to learn." The tutor should make his pupil, like a young horse, trot before him, that he may judge of his going, and how much he is to abate of his own speed to accommodate himself to the vigour and capacity of the other. For want of which due proportion we spoil all; yet to know how to adjust it, and to keep within an exact and due measure, is one of the hardest things I know, and ’tis the effect of a strong and well-tempered mind to know how to condescend to his puerile motions and to govern and direct them. I walk firmer and more secure up hill than before.

Such as, according to our common way of teaching, undertake, with one and the same lesson, and the same measure of direction, to instruct several boys of so differing and unequal capacities, need not wonder if, in a multitude of scholars, there are not found above twoor three who bring away any good account of their time and discipline. Let the master not only examine him about the bare words of his lesson, but also as to the sense and meaning of them, and let him judge of the profit he has made, not by the testimony of his memory, but by that of his understanding. Let him make him put what he hath learned into a hundred several forms, and accommodate it to so many several subjects, to see if he yet rightly comprehend it, and has made it his own; taking instruction by his progress from the institutions of Plato. ’Tis a sign of crudity and indigestion to throw up what we have eaten in the same condition it was swallowed down; the stomach has not preformed its office unless it hath altered the form and condition of what was committed to it to concoct. Our minds work only upon trust, being bound and compelled to follow the appetite of another’s fancy; enslaved and captive under the authority of another’s instruction, we have been so subjected to the trammels that we have no free nor natural pace of our own, our own vigour and liberty is extinct and gone. Nunquam tutelae suae fiunt. "They are never out of wardship."

I was privately at Pisa carried to see a very honest man, but so great an Aristotelian that his invariable dogma was "That the touch stone and square ot all solid imagination and all truth was an absolute conformity to Aristotle’s doctrine, and that all besides was nothing but inanity and chimera; for that he had seen all and said all." A position that having been a little too broadly and maliciously interpreted, brought him into and long kept him in great trouble in the Inquisition at Rome.

Let the tutor make his pupil examine and thoroughly sift every thing he reads, and lodge nothing in his head upon simple authority and upon trust. Let Aristotle’s Principles be no more principles to him than those of Epicurus and the stoics; let the diversity of opinions be propounded to, and laid before, him, he will himself choose, if he be able; if not, he will remain in doubt.

"I love sometimes to doubt as well as know."

For if he embrace the opinions of Xenophon and Plato, by the exercise of his reason they will no more be theirs, but become his own. Who follows another, follows nothing, finds nothing, nay, seeks nothing. Non sumus sub rege; sibi quisque se vindicet. "We are not under a king; let every one dispose of himself." Let him, at least, know that he does know. ’Tis for him to imbibe their knowledge, but not toadopt their dogmas; and no matter if he forgets where he had his learning, provided he knows how to apply it to his own use; truth and reason are common to every one, and are no more his who spoke them first than his who spake them after. ’Tis no more according to Plato than according to me, since both he and I equally see and understand in the same manner. Bees cull their several sweets from this flower and that blossom, here and there where they find them, but themselves after make the honey which is all and purely their own, and no longer thyme and marjoram; so the several fragments the pupil borrows from others he will transform and blend together to compile a work that shall be absolutely his own; that is to say, his judgment, which his instruction, labour, and study should alone tend to form. He is not obliged to discover whence he had his materials, but only to produce what he has done with them. Men that live upon rapine and borrowing, readily parade their purchases and buildings to every one, but do not proclaim how they came by the money. We do not see the fees and perquisites of a gentleman of the long robe; but we see the noble alliances wherewith he fortifies himself and his family, and the titles and honours he has obtained for him and his. No man accounts to the public for his revenue; but every one makes a show of his purchases, and is content the world should know his good condition.

The advantages of our study are to become better and wiser. ’Tis says Epicharmus, the understanding that sees and hears, the understanding that improves every thing, that orders every thing, and that acts, rules, and reigns. All other faculties are blind and deaf, and without soul; and certainly we render it timorous and servile in not allowing it the liberty and privilege to do any thing of itself. Who ever asked his pupil what he thought of grammar and rhetoric, or of such and such and such a sentence of Cicero. Our pedagogues stick them full feathered in our memories, and there establish them like oracles, of which the very letters and syllables are the substance of the thing. To know by rote is no knowledge, ’tis no more than only to retain what one has intrusted to his memory. That which a man rightly knows and understands he is the free disposer of at his own full liberty, without any regard to the author from whom he had it, or fumbling over the leaves of his book. A mere bookish learning is a poor stock to go upon; though it may serve for some kind of ornament, there is yet no foundation for any superstructure to be built upon it, according to the opinion of Plato, who says that constancy, faith, and sincerity, are the true philosophy; and the other sciences, that aredirected to other ends, are but cozenage. I could wish to know whether Le Paluel or Pompey, famous dancing-masters of my time, could have taught us to cut capers by only seeing them do it, without stirring from our places, as these men pretend to inform our understandings, without ever setting them to work; or whether we could learn to ride, handle a pike, touch a lute, or sing, without practice, as these attempt to make us judge and speak well, without exercising us in judging or speaking. Now while we are in our apprenticeship to learning, whatsoever presents itself before us is a book worth attending to. An arch trick of a page, a blunder of a servant, or a jest at a table, are so many new subjects.

And for this very reason acquaintance with the world is of very great use, and travel into foreign countries of singular advantage; not to bring back (as most of our young Monsieurs do) an account only of how many paces Santa Rotonda is in circuit; or of the richness of Signiora Livia’s attire; or, as some others, how much Nero’s face, in a statue in such an old ruin, is longer and broader than that made for him in such an old medal; but to be able to give an account of the humours, manners, customs, and laws of those nations where he has been. And, that we may whet and sharpen our wits, by rubbing them upon those of others, I would that a boy should be sent abroad very young, and, in order to kill two birds with one stone, into those neighbouring nations whose language differs most from our own, and to which, if it be not formed betimes, the tongue will be grown too stiff to bend.

’Tis the general opinion of all, that children should not be brought up in their parents’ lap. Their natural affection is apt to make the most discreet of them all so over-fond that they can neither find in their hearts to give them due correction for the faults they commit, nor suffer them to be brought up in those hardships and hazards they ought to be. They would not endure to see them return all dust and sweat from their exercise, to drink cold water when they are hot, or see them mount an unruly horse, or take a foil in hand against a rough fencer, or so much as to discharge a carbine. And yet there is no remedy; whoever will have a boy to be good for any thing when he comes to be a man, must by no means spare him when young, and must very often transgress the rules of physic:—

"He must sharp cold and scorching heat despise,
And most tempt danger where most danger lies."

It is not enough to fortify his soul, you are also to make his sinewsstrong; for the soul will be oppressed, if not assisted by the body, and would have too hard a task to discharge two offices alone. I know very well how much mine groans under the disadvantage of a body so tender and delicate that eternally leans and presses upon her; and often in my reading perceive that our masters, in their writings, make examples pass for magnanimity and fortitude of mind, which really have more to do with toughness of skin and hardness of bones.

I have seen men, women, and children, born of so hard and insensible a constitution of body that sound cudgelling has been less to them than a flirt with a finger would have been to me, and that would neither cry out, nor wince at a good swinging beating; when wrestlers counterfeit the philosophers in patience, it is rather strength of nerves than stoutness of heart. Now to be inured to labour is to be able to endure pain. Labor callum obducit dolori. "Labour supplies pain with a certain callosity that hardens it to the blow." A boy must be broken in by the pain and hardship of severe exercise, to inure him to the pain and hardship of dislocations, colics, cauteries, and even a imprisonment and the rack itself, for he may come, by misfortune, to be reduced to the worst of these, which (as this world goes) sometimes befall the good as well as the bad. As for proof, in our present civil war, whoever draws his sword against the laws threatens all honest men with the whip and the halter.

And, moreover, by living at home, the authority of this tutor, which ought to be sovereign over the boy he has received into his charge, is often checked, interrupted, and hindered by the presence of parents; to which may also be added, that the respect the whole family pay him, as their master’s son, and the knowledge he has of the estate and greatness he is heir to, are, in my opinion, no small inconvenience at these tender years.

In one’s converse with the world, I have often observed this vice, that instead of gathering observations from others, we make it our whole business to give them our own, and are more concerned how to expose and set out our own commodities than how to acquire new. Silence and modesty are very advantageous qualities in conversation, and one should therefore train up the boy to be sparing, and a good husband of what he knows, when once acquired; and to forbear taking exceptions at, or reproving every idle saying, or ridiculous story, spoken or told in his presence; for it is a great rudeness to controvert every thing that is not agreeable to our own palate. Let him be satisfied with correcting himself, and not seem to condemn every thing inanother he would not do himself, nor dispute against common customs. Licet sapere sine pompa, sine invidia. "Let him be wise without assumption and without envy." Let him avoid this pedagoguish and uncivil fashion, his childish ambition of coveting to appear something better and greater than other people, proving himself in reality something less; and as though finding fault were a proof of genius, seeking to found a special reputation thereon. For, as it becomes none but great poets to make use of the poetic license, so it is intolerable that any but men of great and illustrious souls should be privileged above the authority of custom. Si quid Socrates et Aristippus contra morern et consuetudinem fecerunt, idem sibi ne arbitretur licere: magnis enim illi et divinis bonis licentiam assequebantur. "If Socrates and Aristippus have transgressed the rules of custom, let him not imagine that he is licensed to do the same; for it was by great and sovereign virtues that they obtained this privilege." Let him be instructed not to engage in discourse, or dispute but with a champion worthy of him, and even there, not to make use of all the little subtleties that may serve his purpose; but only such as may best serve him upon that occasion. Let him be taught to be nice in the choice of his reasons, to see they are pertinent, and to affect brevity; above all, let him be lessoned to acquiesce and submit to truth as soon as ever he shall discover it, whether in his opponent’s argument, or upon better consideration of his own; for he should never be preferred to the chair for a mere clatter of words and syllogisms, nor be engaged to any argument whatever, than as he shall in his own judgment approve it; nor be bound to that trade, where the liberty of recantation, and getting off upon better thoughts, are to be sold for ready money. Neque, ut omnia quae praescripta et imperata sint defendat, necessitate ulla cogitur. "Neither is there any necessity or obligation upon him at all, that he should defend all things that are recommended to and enjoined him."

If his tutor be of my humour, he will form his will to be a very good and loyal subject to his prince, very affectionate to his person, and very stout in his quarrel; but withal, he will cool in him the desire of having any other tie to his service than public duty; because, besides several other inconveniences, that are inconsistent with the liberty every honest man ought to have, a man’s judgment being bribed and prepossessed by these particular obligations and favours, is either blinded and less free to exercise its function, or shall be blemished either with ingratitude or indiscretion. A man that is purely a courtier can neitherhave power nor wit to speak or think otherwise than favourably of a master, who, amongst so many thousands of other subjects, has picked out him with him own hand, to nourish and advance him. This favour, and the profit flowing from it, must needs, and not without some show of reason, corrupt his freedom of speaking, and dazzle him. And we commonly see these people speak in another kind of phrase than is ordinarily spoken by the rest of the nation, and are not much to be believed in such matters.

Let conscience and virtue be eminently manifest in his speech, and have only reason for their guide. Make him understand that to acknowledge the error he shall discover in his own argument, though only found out by himself, it is an effect of judgment and sincerity, which are the principal things he is to seek after. That obstinacy and contention are common qualities, most appearing in and best becoming a mean soul. That to recollect and correct himself, and to forsake a bad arguments in the heights and heat of dispute, are great and rare philosophical qualities. Let him be directed, being in company, to have his eye and ear in every corner of the room; for I find that the places of greatest honour are commonly possessed by men that have least in them, and that the greatest fortunes are not always accompanied with the ablest parts. I have been present, when, whilst they at the upper end of the table have been only commending the beauty of the arras, or the flavour of the wine, many fine things have been lost or thrown away at the lower end of the table. Let him examine every man’s talent; a peasant, a bricklayer, or any casual passenger, a man may learn something from every one of these in their several capacities, and something will be picked out of their discourse, whereof some use may be made at one time or another; nay, even the folly and weakness of others will contribute to his instruction. By observing the graces and manners of all he sees, he will create to himself an emulation of the good, and a contempt of the bad.

Let an honest curiosity be planted in him to inquire after every thing, and whatever there is of singular and rare near the place where he shall reside, let him go and see it; a fine house, a fountain, an eminent man, the place where a battle was anciently fought, the passage of Csar or of Charlemaigne,

"What lands are frozen, what are parched, explore,
And what wind bears us to the Italian shore."

Let him inquire into the manners, revenues, and alliances ofprinces, things in themselves very pleasant to learn and very useful to know. In thus conversing with men, I mean, and principally, those who only live in the records of history; let him, by reading those books, converse with the great and heroic souls of better ages. It is an idle study, I confess, to those who choose to make it so, by doing it after a negligent manner; but to those also who choose to make it so, by care and observation, it is a study of inestimable fruit and value; and the only one, as Plato reports, the Lacedemonians reserved to themselves. What profit shall he not reap, as to the business of men, by reading the lives of Plutarch. But, withal, let my tutor remember to what end his instructions are principally directed, and that he do not so much imprint in his pupil’s memory the date of the ruin of Carthage, as the manners of Hannibal and Scipio; nor so much where Marcellus died as why it was unworthy of his duty that he died there. Let him read history, not as an amusing narrative, but as a discipline of the judgment. ’Tis this study to which, in my opinion, of all others, we apply ourselves with the most differing and uncertain measures. I have read an hundred things in Livy, that another has not, or not taken notice of, at least; and Plutarch has read a hundred more than I could find, or than peradventure the author ever writ. To some it is merely a grammar-study; to others, the very anatomy of philosophy, by which the most secret and abstruse parts of our human nature are penetrated into. There are in Plutarch many long discourses very worthy to be carefully read and observed, for he is, in my opinion, of all other, the greatest master in that kind of writing; but withal, there are a thousand others which he has only touched and glanced upon, where he only points with his finger to direct us which way we may go if we will, and contents himself sometimes with only giving one brisk hint on the nicest article of the question, whence we are to grope out the rest; as, for example, where he says, "That the inhabitants of Asia came to be vassals to one only, for not having been able to pronounce one syllable, which is no." Which saying of his gave perhaps matter and occasion to Boetius to write his "Voluntary Servitude." Even this, but to see him pick out a light action in a man’s life, or a word that does not seem to be of any such importance, is itself a whole discourse. It is a pity that men of understanding should so immoderately affect brevity; no doubt but their reputation is the better for it; but in the mean time we are the worse. Plutarch had rather we should applaud his judgment than commend his knowledge, and had rather leave us with an appetite to read more, than glutted with that we have already read. Heknew very well that a man may say too much even upon the best subjects, and that Alexandrides did justly reproach him who made very elegant, but too long, speeches to the Ephori, when he said, "O stranger! thou speakest the things thou oughtest to speak, but not after the manner thou shouldest speak them." Such as have lean and spare bodies stuff themselves out with clothes; so they who are defective in matter endeavour to make amends with words.

Human understanding is marvellously enlightened by daily conversation with men, for we are otherwise in ourselves stupid and dull, and have our sight limited to the length of our own noses. One asking Socrates of what country he was, he did not make answer, "Of Athens," but, "Of the world;" having an imagination rich and expansive, he embraced the whole world for his country, and extended his society, his friendship, and his knowledge, to all mankind; not as we do, who look no farther than our feet. When the vines of our village are nipped with the frost, the parish-priest presently concludes that the indignation of God is gone out against all the human race, and that the cannibals have already got the pip. Who is it that, seeing these civil wars of ours, does not cry out, That the machine of the whole world is upsetting, and that the day of judgment is at hand! without considering that many worse things have been seen, and that, in the mean time, people are very merry in ten thousand other parts of the earth, notwithstanding. For my part, considering the license and impunity that always attend such commotions, I wonder they are so moderate, and that there is no more mischief done. To him that feels the hailstones patter about his ears, the whole hemisphere appears to be in storm and tempest; like the ridiculous Savoyard, who said very gravely, "That if that simple king of France had managed well he might in time have come to be steward of the household to the duke his master." The fellow could not, in his shallow imagination, conceive that there could be any thing greater than a Duke of Savoy. And, in truth, we are all of us insensibly in this error, an error of very pernicious consequence. But whoever shall represent to his fancy, as in a picture, that great image of our mother nature, portrayed in her full majesty and lustre; whoever in her face shall read so general and so constant a variety, whoever shall observe himself in that figure, and not himself but a whole kingdom, no bigger than the least touch of a pencil, in comparison of the whole, that man alone is able to value things according to their true estimate and grandeur.

This great world, which some do yet multiply as several speciesunder one genus, is the mirror wherein we are to behold ourselves, to be able to know ourselves as we ought to do. In short, I would have this to be the book my young gentleman should study with the most attention; for so many humours, so many sects, so many judgments, opinions, laws, and customs, teach us to judge aright of our own, and inform our understanding to discover its imperfection and natural infirmity, which is no trivial lesson. So many mutations of states and kingdoms, and so many turns and revolutions of public fortune, will make us wise enough to make no great wonder of our own. So many great names, so many famous victories and conquests drowned and swallowed in oblivion, render our hopes ridiculous of eternizing our names by the taking of half a score light horse, or a paltry turret, which only derives its memory from its ruin. The pride and arrogance of so many foreign pomps and ceremonies, the inflated majesty of so many courts and grandeurs, accustom and fortify our sight, without winking, to behold and endure the lustre of our own. So many millions of men buried before us, encourage us not to fear to go seek such good company in the other world, and so of all the rest. Pythagoras was wont to say, that our life resembled the great and populous assembly of the Olympic Games: some exercise the body for glory, others carry merchandise to sell for profit; there are also some, and those none of the worst sort, who pursue no other advantage than only to look on, and to consider how and why every thing is done, and to be inactive spectators of the lives of other men, thereby the better to judge of and regulate their own.

As examples, all the instruction couched in philosophical discourses may be taken, to which all human actions, as to their best rule, ought to be especially directed; where a man shall be taught to know,

"Think what we are, and for what ends design’d;
How we may best through life’s long mazes wind;
What we should wish for how we may discern
The bounds of wealth, and its true uses learn;
How fix the portion which we ought to give
To friends, relations, country—how to live
As fits our station; and how best pursue
What God has placed us in this world to do;"

what it is to know, and what to be ignorant; what ought to be the end and design of study; what valour, temperance, and justice are; the difference betwixt ambition and avarice, servitude and subjection;licentiousness and liberty; by what token a man may know true and solid content; how far death, pain, and disgrace are to be feared,

"And what thou may’st avoid, and what must undergo."

By what secret springs we move, and the reason of our various irresolutions. For, methinks, the first doctrine with which one should season his understanding ought to be that which regulates his manners and his sense; that teaches him to know himself, and how both well to die and well to live. Amongst the liberal sciences, let us begin with that which makes us free; not that they do not all serve in some measure, to the instruction and use of life, as all other things in some sort, also do; but let us make choice of that which directly and professedly serves to that end. If we were once able to restrain the offices of human life within their just and natural limits, we should find that most of the sciences in use are of no great use to us, and, even in those that are, that there are many very unnecessary cavities and dilations which we had better let alone, and, following Socrates’ direction, limit the course of our studies to those of real utility:

          "Dare to be wise; and now
     Begin: the man who has it in his power
     To practice virtue, who puts off the hour,
     Waits, like the clown, to see the brook run low
     Which onward flows, and will for ever flow."
’Tis a great foolery to teach our children      "What influence Pisces and fierce Leo have,
     Or Capricornus in the Hesperian wave."

The knowledge of the stars and the motion of the eighth sphere before their own.

     "How swift the seven sisters’ motions are,
     Or the dull churls how slow, what need I care."

Anaximenes, writing to Pythagoras, "To what purpose," said he, "should I trouble myself in searching out the secrets of the stars, having death or slavery continually before my eyes?" (For the kings of Persia were at that time preparing to invade his country.) Every one ought to say the same: "Being assailed, as I am, by ambition, avarice, temerity, and superstition, and having within so many other enemies of life, shall I go cudgel my brains about the world’s revolutions?"

After having taught our pupil what will make him more wise and good, you may then show him the elements of logic, physic, geometry, and rhetoric; and the science which he shall then himself most incline to, his judgment being, beforehand, formed and fit to choose, he will quickly make his own. The way of instructing him ought to be, sometimes by discourse, and sometimes by reading; sometimes his governor shall put the author himself, which he shall think most proper for him, into his hands, and sometimes only the marrow and substance of it; and if the governor himself be not conversant enough in books to turn to all the fine discourses the book contains, there may some man of letters be joined to him, that, upon every occasion shall supply him with what he desires and stands in need of, to recommend to his pupil. And who can doubt but that this way of teaching is much more easy and natural than that of Gaza? In which the precepts are so intricate, and so harsh, and the words so vain, empty, and insignificant, that there is no hold on them; nothing that quickens and elevates the wit and fancy; whereas, here the mind has what to feed upon and to digest. This fruit, therefore, is not only, without comparison, much finer, but will also be much more early ripe.

’Tis a thousand pities that matters should be at such a pass, in this age of ours, that philosophy, even with men of understanding, should be looked upon as a vain and fantastic name, a thing of no use, no value, either in opinion or effect; and I think ’tis these miserable egotisms, by taking possession of the avenues unto it, are the cause. People are much to blame to represent it to children as a thing of so difficult access, and with such a frowning, grim, and formidable aspect. Who is it has disguised it thus with this false, pale, and hideous countenance? There is nothing more airy, more gay, more frolic, I had like to have said, more wanton. She preaches nothing but feasting and jollity; a melancholy, thoughtful, look, shows that she does not inhabit there. Demetrius, the grammarian, finding in the Temple of Delphos, a knot of philosophers set chattering together, said to them, "Either I am much deceived, or, by your cheerful and pleasant countenance, you are engaged in no very deep discourse." To which one of them, Heracleon, the Megarean, replied, "’Tis for such as puzzle their brains about inquiring whether the future tense of the verb ballo be spelt with a double l, or that hunt after the derivation of the comparatives cheiron, beltian, and the superlatives cheiriston, belliston, to knit their brows whilst discoursing of their science; but as to philosophical discourses they always amuse and cheer up those that treat of them, andnever deject them, or make them sad."

     ——"For still we find
The face the unerring index of the mind,
And as this feels or fancies joys or woes,
That pales with anguish, or with rapture glows."

The soul that entertains philosophy ought by its necessarily healthy condition, to render the body healthful too; she ought to make her tranquillity and satisfaction shine, so as to appear without, and her contentment ought to fashion the outward behaviour to her own mould, and consequently to fortify it with a graceful confidence, an active and joyous carriage, and a serene and contented countenance. The most certain sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness; her state is like that of things in the regions above the moon, always clear and serene. ’Tis Baroco and Barilipton that render their disciples so dirty and ill-favoured, and not she; they do not so much as know her but by hearsay. ’Tis she that calms and appeases the storms and tempests of the soul, and who teaches famines and fevers to laugh and sing; and this not by certain imaginary epicycles, but by natural and manifest reasons. She has virtue for her end; which is not, as the schoolmen say, situate upon the summit of a steep, rugged, and inaccessible precipice. Such as have approached her find it, quite the contrary, to be seated in a fair, fruitful, and flourishing plain, whence she easily discovers all things below her; but to which any one may arrive if he know the way, through shady, green, and sweet-scented walks and avenues, by a pleasant, easy, and smooth descent, like that of the celestial arches. ’Tis for not having frequented this supreme, this beautiful, triumphant, and amiable, this equally delicious and courageous virtue, this so professed and implacable enemy to anxiety, sorrow, fear, and constraint, who, having nature for her guide, has fortune and pleasure for her companions, that they have gone according to their own weak imagination, and created this ridiculous, this sorrowful, querulous, despiteful, threatening, terrible image of it, and placed it upon a solitary rock amongst thorns and brambles, and made of it a hobgoblin to frighten people from daring to approach it.

But the tutor that I would have, knowing it to be his duty to possess his pupil with as much or more affection, than reverence, to virtue, will be able to inform him that the poets have evermore accommodated themselves to the public humour, and make him sensible that the gods have planted far more toil in the avenues of the cabinets of Venus,than in those of Minerva. And when he shall once find him begin to apprehend he shall represent to him a Bradamante or an Angelica for a mistress; a natural, active, generous, not masculine, but manly beauty, in comparison of soft, delicate, artificial, simpering, and affected charms; the one in the habit of an heroic youth with a glittering helmet on her brow; the other tricked up in curls and ribbons, like a silly minx; he will then judge his love to be brave and manly, if he finds him choose quite contrary to that effeminate shepherd of Phrygia.

Such a tutor will make a pupil to digest this new lesson, that the height and value of true virtue consists in the facility, utility, and pleasure of its exercise; so far from difficulty that boys as well as men, and the innocent as well as the subtle, may make it their own; and ’tis by order and good conduct, not by force, that it is to be acquired. Socrates, her first favourite, is so averse to all manner of violence as totally to throw it aside, to slip into the more natural facility of her own progress. s the nursing-mother of all human pleasures, who, in rendering them just, renders them also pure and permanent; in moderating them, keeps them in breath and appetite; in interdicting those which she herself refuses, whets our desire to those which she allows; and, like a kind and liberal mother, abundantly allows all that nature requires, even to satiety, if not to lassitude; unless we choose to say that the regimen that stops the toper’s hand before he has drunk himself drunk, the glutton’s before he has eaten to a surfeit, and the wencher’s career before he needs a surgeon, is an enemy to pleasure. If the ordinary fortune fail her, she does without her, or frames another, wholly her own, not so fickle and unsteady. She can be rich, potent, and wise, and knows how to lie upon a soft and perfumed couch. She loves life, beauty, glory, and health; but her proper and peculiar office is to know how regularly to make use of all these good things, and how to part with them without concern; an office much more noble than troublesome, and without which the whole course of life is unnatural, turbulent, and deformed; and there it is indeed that men may justly represent those monsters upon rocks and precipices. If this pupil shall happen to be of so cross and contrary a disposition that he had rather hear an idle tale than the true narrative of some noble expedition or some wise and learned discourse; who at the beat of a drum, that excites the youthful ardor of his companions, leaves that to follow another that calls to a morice-dance or the bears; and who would not wish nor find it more delightful to return all over dust victorious from a battle than from tennis or a ball, with the prize ofthose exercises; I see no other remedy but that he be bound apprentice in some good town to learn to make minced-pies, though he were the son of a duke; according to Plato’s precept, "That children are to be placed out in life, not according to the condition of the father, but according to their own capacities."

Since philosophy is that which instructs us to live, and that infancy has there its lessons as well as other ages, why is it not communicated to children betimes?

"The clay is moist and soft; now, now make haste,
And form the vessel, for the wheel turns fast."

They begin to teach us to live when we have almost done living. A hundred students have got the pox before they have come to read Aristotle’s Lecture on Temperance. Cicero said that, though he should live two men’s ages, he should never find leisure to study the lyric poets; and I find the Sophists yet more deplorably unprofitable. The boy we would train has a great deal less time to spare; he owes but the first fifteen or sixteen years of his life to his tutor, the remainder is due to action; therefore let us employ that short time in necessary instruction. Away with your crabbed logical subtleties; they are abuses, things by which our lives can never be amended. Take me the plain discourses of philosophy, learn first how rightly to choose, and then rightly to apply them; they are more easy to be understood than one of Boccaccio’s novels; a child from nurse is much more capable of them than of learning to read or to write. Philosophy has discourses equally proper for childhood as for old age.

I am of Plutarch’s mind, that Aristotle did not so much trouble his great disciple with the knack of forming syllogisms, or with the elements of geometry, as with infusing into him good precepts concerning valour, prowess, magnanimity, temperance, and the contempt of fear; and with this ammunition sent him, whilst yet a boy, with no more than 30,000 foot, 4,000 horse, and but 42,000 crowns, to subjugate the empire of the whole earth. As for the other arts and sciences, Alexander, he says, highly indeed commended their excellence, and had them in very great honour and esteem, but was not ravished with them to that degree as to be tempted to effect the practice of them in his own person.

"Seek then, both old and young, from truths like these,
That certain aim which life’s last cares may ease."

Epicurus, in the beginning of his letter to Meniceus, says that neither the youngest should refuse to philosophize, nor the eldest grow weary of it. And who does otherwise seem tacitly to imply that either the time of living happily is not yet come, or that it is already past. Yet, for all that, I would not have this pupil of ours imprisoned and made a slave to his book; nor would I have him given up to the morose and melancholic humour of a sour, ill-natured pedant. I would not have his spirit cowed and subdued by applying him to the rack and tormenting him, as some do, fourteen or fifteen hours a day, and so make a packhorse of him. Neither should I think it good when, by reason of a solitary and melancholy complexion, he is discovered to be too much addicted to his book, to nourish that humour in him, for that renders him unfit for civil conversation, and diverts him from better employments. And how many have I seen in my time totally brutified by an immoderate thirst after knowledge! Carneades was so besotted with it that he would not find time so much as to comb his head or pare his nails. Neither would I have his generous temper spoiled and corrupted by the incivility and barbarity of that of another. French wisdom was anciently turned into a proverb, "Early, but of no continuance;" and in truth we yet see that nothing can be more ingenuous and pretty than the children of France; but they ordinarily deceive the hope and expectation that have been conceived of them, and, grown up to be men, have nothing extraordinary or worth taking notice of. I have heard men of good understanding say these colleges of ours, to which we send our young people (and of which we have but too many), make them such animals as they are.

But to our young friend, a closet, a garden, the table, his bed, solitude, and company, morning and evening, all hours shall be the same, and all places to him a study; for philosophy, who, as the formatrix of judgment and manners, shall be his principal lesson, has that privilege to have a hand in everything. The orator Isocrates being at a feast entreated to speak of his art, all the company were satisfied with and commended his answer. "It is not now a time," said Isocrates, "to do what I can do; and that which it is now time to do I cannot do." For to make orations and rhetorical disputes in a company met together to laugh and make good cheer had been very unseasonable and improper, and as much might be said of all the other sciences. But as to philosophy, that part of it at least that treats of man, and of his offices and duties, it has been the joint opinion of all wise men that, out of respect to the sweetness of herconversation, she is ever to be admitted in all sports and entertainments. And Plato having invited her to his feast, we see after how gentle and obliging a manner, accommodated both to time and place, she entertained the company, though in a discourse of the sublimest and most salutary nature.

"It profits poor and rich alike; and when
Neglected, t’ old and young is hurtful then."

By which method of instruction, my young pupil will be much more and better employed than those of the college are. But as the steps we take in walking to and fro in a gallery, though three times as many, do not tire a man so much as those we employ in a formal journey; so our lesson, concurring as it were accidentally, without any set obligation of time or place, and falling naturally in with every action, will insensibly insinuate itself. Our very exercises and recreations, running, wrestling, music, dancing, hunting, riding, and fencing, will prove to be a good part of our study. I would have his outward behaviour and mien, and the disposition of his limbs, formed at the same time with his mind. It is not a soul, it is not a body, that we are training up; it is a man, and we ought not to divide him into two parts; and, as Plato says, we are not to fashion one without the other, but make them draw together like two horses harnessed to a coach. By which saying of his, does he not seem to allow more time for, and to take more care of, exercises for the body, and to believe that the mind in a good proportion does her business at the same time too?

As to the rest, this method of education ought to be carried on with a firm gentleness, quite contrary to the practice of our pedants, who instead of tempting and alluring children to letters, present nothing before them but rods and ferules, horror and cruelty. Away with this violence! away with this compulsion! than which, I certainly believe nothing more dulls and degenerates a well-born nature. If you you would have him fear shame and chastisement, do not harden him to them. Inure him to heat and cold, to wind and sun, and to dangers that he ought to despise. Wake him from all effeminacy in clothes and lodging, eating and drinking; accustom him to every thing, that he may not be a Sir Paris, a carpet-knight, but a sinewy, hardy, and vigorous young man. I have ever, from a child to the age wherein I now am, been of this opinion, and am still constant to it. But, amongst other things, the strict government of most of our colleges has always displeased me, and peradventure they might have erred lessperniciously on the indulgent side. They are mere jails, where imprisoned youths are taught to be debauched, by being punished for it before they are so. Do but come in when they are about their lesson, and you shall hear nothing but the outcries of boys under execution, and the thundering of pedagogues, drunk with fury. A very pretty way this to tempt these tender and timorous souls to love their book! leading them on with a furious countenance, and a rod in hand! a wretched and pernicious way! besides what Quintilian has very well observed, that this insolent authority is often attended by very dangerous consequences, and particularly our way of chastising. How much more decent would it be to see their classes strewed with leaves and flowers, than with bloody stumps of birch! Were it left to my ordering, I should paint the school with pictures of joy and gladness, Flora and the Graces, as the philosopher Speusippus did his; that where their profits is they might there have their pleasure too. Such viands as are proper and wholesome for children should be seasoned with sugar, and such as are dangerous to them with gall. It is admirable to see how solicitous Plato is in his laws for the gayety and diversion of the youth of his city, and how he enlarges upon their races, sports, songs, leaps, and dances; of which he says that antiquity has given the ordering and patronage to the gods themselves, to Apollo, Minerva, and the Muses. He insists upon a thousand precepts for exercise; but as to the lettered sciences says very little, and only seems particularly to recommend poetry upon the account of music.

All singularity in our manners and condition should be avoided, as obnoxious to society. Who is not astonished at so strange a constitution as that of Demophoon, steward to Alexander the Great, who sweated in the shade, and shivered in the sun? I have seen those who have run from the smell of an apple with greater precipitation than from a harquebuss shot; others are afraid of a mouse; others vomit at the sight of a cream; others at seeing a bed shaken; and there was Germanicus, who could neither endure the sight nor the crowing of a cock. There may, peradventure, be some occult cause for these aversions in these cases; but certainly, in my opinion, a man might conquer them, if he took them in time. Precept has in this wrought so effectually upon me, though not without some endeavour on my part, I confess, that, beer excepted, my appetite accommodates itself indifferently to all sorts of diet.

Young bodies are supple; one should therefore in that age bend and ply them to all fashions and customs; and, provided a man canrestrain the appetite and the will within limits, let a young man be rendered fit for all nations and all companies, even to debauchery and excess, if occasion be; that is, where he shall do it out of complaisance to the customs of a place. Let him be able to do every thing, but love to do nothing but what is good. The philosophers themselves do not justify Calisthenes for forfeiting the favour of his master, Alexander the Great, by refusing to pledge him a cup of wine. Let him laugh, carouse, and debauch with his prince; nay, I would have him, even in his debauches, excel his companions in ability and rigour, so that he may not give over doing it either through defect of power or knowledge how to do it, but for want of will. Multum interest, utrum peccare aliquis nolit, aut nesciat. "There is a vast difference betwixt forbearing to sin, and not knowing how to sin." I thought I passed a compliment upon a lord, as free from these excesses as any man in France, by asking him, before a great deal of good company, how many times in his life he had got drunk in Germany, in the time of his being there about his majesty’s affairs; which he also took as it was intended, and made answer, three times; and withal, told us the whole story of his bouts. I know some who, for want of this faculty, have been put to great inconvenience in negotiating with that nation. I have often with great admiration reflected upon the wonderful constitution of Alcibiades, who so easily could transform himself to so various fashions, without any prejudice to his health; one while out-doing the Persian pomp and luxury, and another the Lacedemonian austerity and frugalty; as temperate in Sparta as voluptuous in Ionia.

"Old Aristippus every dress became,
In every state and circumstance the same."

I would have my pupil to be such a one,

"But that a man whom patience taught to wear
A coat that’s patched, should ever learn to bear
A changed life with decency and grace,
May justly, I confess, our wonder raise."

These are my lessons, and he who puts them in practice shall reap more advantage than he who has had them read to him only, and only knows them. If you see him, you hear him; if you hear him, you see him. "The gods forbid," says one in Plato, "that to philosophize should be only to read a great many books, and to learn the arts." Hanc amplissimam omnium artium bene vivendi disciplinam vitâ magisquam litteris persequuti sunt. "They have more illustrated and improved this discipline of living well, which of all arts is the greatest, by their lives, than by their reading." Leo, prince of the Phlasians, asking Heraclides Ponticus of what art or science he made profession; "I know," said he, "neither art nor science, but I am a philosopher." One reproaching Diogenes that, being ignorant, he should pretend to philosphy; "I, therefore," answered he, "pretend to it with so much the more reason." Hegesias entreated that he would read a certain book to him. "You are an amusing person," said he, "you who choose those figs that are true and natural, and not those that are painted, why do you not also choose exercises which are natural and true, rather than those written?"

A man should not so much repeat his lesson as practise it; let him repeat it in his actions. We shall discover if there be in him prudence, by his undertakings; if goodness and justice, by his deportment; if grace and justice, by his speaking; if firmness, by his sickness; if modesty, by his recreations; temperance, by his pleasures; order, by the management of his affairs; and indifference, by his palate, whether what he eats or drinks be flesh or fish, wine or water. Qui disciplinam suam non ostentationem scientise, sed legem vitae putet; quique obtemperet ipse sibi, et decretis pareat. "Who considers his own discipline, not as a vain ostentation of science, but as a law and rule of life; and who obeys his own decrees, and observes that regimen he has prescribed to himself." The conduct of our lives is the true mirror of our doctrine. Zeuzidamus, to one who asked him why the Lacedemonians did not commit their constitutions of chivalry to writing, and deliver them to their young men to read, made answer that it was because they would inure them to action and not to words. With such a one compare, after fifteen or sixteen years’ study, one of our college Latinists, who has thrown away so much time in nothing but learning to speak. The world is nothing but babble; and I never yet saw that man who did not rather prate too much than speak too little; and yet half of our lives is lost this way. We are kept four or five years to learn words only, and to take them together into phrases; as many more to put larger masses of these into four or five parts; and other five years, at least, to learn succinctly to mix and interweave them after some subtle and intricate manner. Let us leave such work to those who make it their trade.

Going one day to Orleans, I met, in the plain, on this side Clery, two pedants travelling to Bourdeaux, about fifty paces distant fromone another; and, a good way farther behind them, I saw a troop of horses with a gentleman at the head of them, the late Monsieur le Compte de la Rouchefoucault. One of my people inquired of the foremost of these Domines who that gentleman was that came after him; he, not having seen the train that followed after, and thinking my man meant his companion, pleasantly answered, "He is not a gentleman; he is a grammarian, and I am a logician." Now, we, on the contrary, who do not here seek to breed a grammarian or a logician, but a gentleman, let us leave them to throw away their time at their own fancy; our business lies elsewhere. Let but our pupil be well furnished with things, words will follow but too fast; he will pull them after him, if they do not come voluntarily. I have observed some to make excuses that they cannot express themselves, and pretend to have their fancies full of a great many very fine things, which yet, for want of eloquence, they cannot bring out; a mere shift and nothing else. Will you know what I think of it? I think they are nothing but shadows of some imperfect images and conceptions that they know not what to make of within, nor consequently how to bring out; they do not yet themselves understand what they would be at, and if you but observe how they haggle and stammer upon the point of parturition, you will soon conclude that their labour is not in delivery, but in conception, and that they are but licking their formless embryo. For my part I hold, and Socrates is positive in it, that whoever has in his mind a vivid and clear idea, will express it well enough in one way or other; and if he dumb, by signs.

"When once a thing conceiv’d is in the wit,
Words soon present themselves to utter it."

And as another, as poetically, says in prose, Cure res animum occupavere, verba ambiunt. "When things are once formed in the fancy, words offer themselves." And this other, Ips res verba rapiunt. "The things themselves force words to express them." He knows nothing of ablative, conjunctive, substantive, or grammar, no more than his lackey or a fishwife of the Petit-Pont; and these yet will give you your fill of talk, if you will hear them, and, peradventure, shall trip as little in their language as the best masters of art in France. He knows no rhetoric, nor how, in a preface, to bribe the benevolence of the courteous reader; neither does he care, nor is it very necessary he should know it. Indeed all this fine sort of painting is easily obscured by the lustre of a simple truth; these fine ingenious flourishesserve only to amuse the vulgar, of themselves incapable of more solid and nutritive diet, as Aper does very evidently demonstrate in Tacitus. The ambassadors of Samos, prepared with a long oration, came to Cleomenes, King of Sparta, to incite him to war against the tyrant Polycrates; he, after he had heard their harangue with great gravity and patience, gave them this short answer: "As to the exordium I remember it not, nor consequently the middle of your speech, and as to your conclusion, I will not do what you desire." A very pretty answer this, methinks, and a pack of learned orators no doubt finally gravelled! And what did this other say? The Athenians were to choose one of two architects for a great building they designed; the first, a pert affected fellow, offered his service in a long premeditated discourse upon the subject, and his oratory inclined the voices of the people in his favour; but the other had his say in three words, "Lords of Athens, what this man hath said, I will do." When Cicero was in the height and heat of his eloquence, many were struck with admiration; but Cato did only laugh at it, saying, "We have a pleasant Consul." Let it go before, or come after, a good sentence, a thing well said is always in season; if it neither suit well with what went before, nor has any very close coherence with what follows after, it is good in itself. I am none of those who think that good rhyme makes a good poem. Let the writer make short long, and long short, if he will, ’tis no great matter; if there be invention, and that the wit and judgment have well performed their office, I will say, here’s a good poet, but an ill rhymer.

"He rallied with a gay and easy air,
But rude his numbers, and his style severe."

Let a man, says Horace, divest his work of all measures:

"Let tense and mood, and words be all misplaced,
Those last that should be first, those first the last;
Though all things be thus shuffled out of frame,
You’ll find the poet’s fragments not to blame."

He will never the more forfeit his praise; the pieces will he fine by themselves. Menander’s answer had this meaning, who, being reproved by a friend, the time drawing on at which he had promised a comedy, that he had not yet put his hand to it, "It is ready," said he, "all but the verses." Having contrived the subject and disposed thescenes in his head, he took little care for the rest. Since Ronsard and Du Bellay have given reputation to our French poetry, every little dabbler swells his words as high, and makes his cadences very near as harmonious, as they. Plus sonat, quam valet. "More sound than sense." There were never so many poetasters as now; but though they find it no hard matter to rhyme nearly as well as their masters, they yet fall altogether short of the rich descriptions of the one, and the delicate invention of the other.

But will become of our young gentleman if he be attacked with the sophistic subtility of some syllogism? "A Westphalia ham makes a man drink, drink quenches thirst, therefore a Westphalia ham quenches thirst." Why, let him laugh at it, and it will be more discretion to do so than to go about to answer it, or let him borrow this pleasant evasion from Aristippus; why should I trouble myself to untie that which, bound as it is, gives me so much trouble? A person offering at this dialectic juggling against Cleanthes, Chrysippus took him short, saying, "Reserve these baubles to play with children, and do not by such foolcries divert the serious thoughts of a man of years." If these ridiculous subtleties, Contorta et aculeata sophismata, "Perplexed and crabbed sophisms," are designed to possess him with an untruth, they are then dangerous; but if they remain without effect and only make him laugh, I do not see why a man need to be fortified against them. There are some so ridiculous as to go a mile out of their way to hook in a fine word. Aut qui non verba rebus aptant, sed res extrinsecus arcessunt quibus verba conveniant. "Who do not fit words to the subject, but seek out things quite from the purpose to fit those words they are so enamoured of." And, as another says, Qui alicujus verbi decore placentis, vocentur ad id quod non proposuerant scribere. "Who, by their fondness of some fine sounding word, are tempted to something they had no intention to treat of." I, for my part, rather bring in a fine sentence by head and shoulders to fit my purpose than divert my designs to hunt after a sentence. ’Tis for words to serve and to follow us; and let Gascon come in play where French will not do. I would have things so possess the imagination of him that hears that he should have something else to do than to think of words. The way of speaking that I love is natural and plain, as well in writing as speaking, and a sinewy and significant way of expressing one’s self, short and pithy, and not so elegant and artificial as prompt and vehement.

The language which strikes the mind will please it."

Rather hard than harsh, free from affectation; irregular, incontinuous, and bold, where every piece makes up an entire body; not like a pedant, a preacher, or a pleader, but rather a soldierlike style, as Suetonius calls that of Julius Csar; and yet I see no reason why he should call it so.

I have been ready enough to imitate the negligent garb which is observable among the young men of our time, to wear my cloak on one shoulder, my bonnet on one side, and one stocking in something more disorder than the other, which seems to express a kind of manly disdain of those exotic ornaments, and a contempt of art; but I find that negligence of even greater use in the form of speaking. All affectation, particularly in the French gayety and freedom, is ungraceful in a courtier, and in a monarchy every gentleman ought to be fashioned according to the court model; for which reason an easy and natural negligence does well. I like not a piece of stuff where the knots and seams are to been seen, and as little do I like, in a fine proportioned man to be able to tell all the bones and veins. Qu veritati operam dat oratio, incomposita sit et simplex. Quis accuratè loquitur, nisi qui vult putidè loqui? "Let the language that is dedicated to truth be plain and unaffected. For who studies to speak quaintly and accurately that does not, at the same time, design to perplex his auditory?" That eloquence prejudices the subject it would advance which wholly attracts us to itself. And as, in our outward habit, ’tis a ridiculous effeminacy to distinguish ourselves by a particular and unpractised garb or fashion; so, in language, to study new phrases, and to affect words that are not of current use, proceeds from a childish and scholastic ambition. As for me, may I never use any other language than what is understood in the markets of Paris! Aristophanes, the grammarian, was quite out, when he reprehended Epicurus for this plain way of delivering himself, and that the end and design of his oratory was only perspicuity of speech. The imitation of words by its own facility, immediately disperses itself through a whole people. But the imitation of invention and judgment in applying those words is of a slower progress. The generality of readers, when they find a like robe, very mistakingly imagine they have the same body inside it, but force and sinews are not to be borrowed, though the attire may. Most of those I converse with speak the same language I here write; but whether they think the same thoughts I cannot say. TheAthenians, says Plato, study length and elegance of speaking; the Lacedemonians affect brevity; and those of Crete aim more at fecundity of conception than fertility of speech, and these are the best. Zenon used to say that he had two sorts of disciples, one that he called philologos, curious to learn things, and these were his favourites; the other, logophilos, that cared for nothing but words. Not but that proper speaking is a very good and commendable quality; but ’tis not so excellent and so necessary as some would make it; and I am scandalized that our whole life should be spenting in nothing else. I would first understand my own language and that of my neighbours, with whom most of my business and conversation lies.

No doubt but Greek and Latin are very great ornaments and of great use, but we buy them too dear. I will here mention one way which also has been experimented in my own person, by which they are to be had cheaper than in the usual mode, and such may make use of it as will. My late father having made the most precise inquiry that any man can possibly make amongst men of the greatest learning and judgment, of an exact method of education, was by them cautioned of the inconvenience then in use, and informed that the tedious time we applied to the learning of the languages of those people who, themselves had them for nothing, was the sole cause we could not arrive to the grandeur of soul and perfection of knowledge of the ancient Greeks and Romans; I do not, however, believe that to be the only cause; the expedient my father, however, found out for this was that, in my infancy, and before I began to speak, he committed me to the care of a German (who since died a famous physician in France), totally ignorant of our language, but very fluent and a great critic in Latin. This man, whom he had sent for out of his own country, and whom he entertained, at a very great salary, for this only end, had me continually with him. To whom there were also joined two others of the same nation, but of inferior learning, to attend me, and sometimes to relieve him; who all of them conversed with me in no other language but Latin. As to the rest of his family, it was an inviolable rule that neither himself, nor my mother, nor man, nor maid, should speak any thing, in my company, but such Latin words as every one had learnt to gabble with me. It is not to be imagined how great an advantage this proved to the whole family; my father and my mother, by this means, learning Latin enough to understand it perfectly well, and to speak it to such a degree as was sufficient for any necessary use; as also those of the servants did who were most frequently with me.To be short, we did Latin it at such a rate that it overflowed to all the neighbouring villages, where there yet remain, and have established themselves by custom, several Latin appellations of artisans and their tools. As for myself, I was above six years of age before I understood either French or Perigordin any more than Arabic, and without art, book, grammar, or precept, whipping, or the expense of a tear, had by that time learned to speak as pure Latin as my master himself. If, for example, they were to give me a theme after the College fashion, they gave it to others in French, but to me they gave it in the worst Latin, to turn it into that which was pure and good; and Nicholas Grouchy, who wrote a book de Comitiis Romanorum; William Guerente, who has written a Commentary upon Aristotle; George Buchanan, that great Scotch Poet, and Marc Antony Muret, whom both France and Italy have acknowledged for the best orator of his time, my domestic tutors, have all of them often told me that I had in my infancy that language so very fluent and ready that they were afraid to enter into discourse with me. Buchanan, whom I since saw attending the late Mareschal de Brissac, than told me that he was about to write a Treatise of Education, the example of which he intended to take from mine, for he was then tutor to that Count de Brissac, who afterwards proved so valiant and so brave a gentleman.

As to Greek, of which I have but little smattering, my father also designed to have taught it me by art, but in a new way, and as a sort of sport; tossing out declensions to and fro, after the matter of those who, by certain games, at tables and chess, learn geometry and arithmethic; for he, amongst other rules, had been advised to make me relish science and duty by an unforced will, and of my own voluntary motion, and to educate my soul in all liberty and delight, without any severity or constraint. Which he was an observer of to such a degree, even of superstition, that some being of opinion it troubles and disturbs the brains of children suddenly to wake them in the morning, and to snatch them violently and over-hastily from sleep (wherein they are much more profoundly involved than we), he only caused me to be waked by the sound of some musical instrument, and was never unprovided of a musician for that purpose. By which example you may judge of the rest, this alone being sufficient to recommend both the prudence and affection of so good a father; who, therefore, is not to be blamed if he did not reap the fruits answerable to so excellent a culture. Of which, two things were the cause: first, a sterile and improper soil; for though I was of a strong and healthfulconstitution, and of a disposition tolerably gentle and tractable, yet I was, withal, so heavy, idle, and sluggish, that they could not rouse me even to any exercise of recreation, nor get me out to play. What I saw, I saw clear enough, and under this lazy complexion, nourished a bold imagination, and opinions above my age. I had a slothful wit, that would go no faster than it was led, a slow understanding, a languishing invention, and, above all, an incredible defect of memory; so that it is no wonder if, from all these, nothing considerable could be extracted. Secondly, like those who, impatient of a long and steady cure, submit to all sorts of prescriptions and receipts, the good man being extremely timorous of any way failing in a thing he had so wholly set his heart upon, suffered himself, at last, to be overruled by the common opinion, which always follows the lead of what has gone on before, like cranes; and falling with the method of the time, having no longer about him those persons he had brought out of Italy, and who had given him his first models of education about him, he sent me, at six years of age, to the College of Guienne, at that time, the best and most flourishing in France. And there it was not possible to add any thing to the care he had to provide me the most able tutors, with all other circumstances of education, reserving also several particular rules contrary to the college practice; but so it was that, with all these precautions, it was a college still. My Latin immediately grew corrupt, and, by discontinuance, I have since lost all manner of use of it; and so this new plan of education served me to no other end than only, at my first coming, to prefer me to the first forms; for at thirteen years old, when I left the college, I had gone through my whole course, as they call it, and, in truth, without any manner of improvement, than I can honestly brag of, in all this time.

The first thing that gave me any taste of books was the pleasure I took in reading the fables of Ovid’s Metamorphoses; and with them I was so taken that, being but seven or eight years old, I would steal from all other diversions to read them, both by reason that this was my own natural language, the easiest book that I was acquainted with, and for the subject the most accommodated to the capacity of my age; for as for Lancelot du Lake, Amadis de Gaul, Huon of Bourdeaux, and such trumpery, which children are most delighted with, I had never so much as heard their names, no more than I yet know what they contain; so exact was the discipline wherein I was brought up. This made me think the less of the other lessons prescribed me; and here it was infinitely to my advantage to have to do with anunderstanding tutor, who was wise enough to connive at this and other truantries of the same nature; for by this means I ran through Virgil’s Æneids, and then Terence, and then Plautus, and some Italian comedies, allured by the pleasure of the subject; whereas had he been so foolish as to have taken me off his diversion, I do really believe I had brought nothing away from the college but a hatred of books, as almost all our young gentlemen do. But he carried himself very discreetly in that business, seeming to take no notice, and heightened my appetite by allowing me only such time for this reading as I could I steal from my regular studies. For the chief things my father expected from them to whom he had delivered me for education was affability of manners and good humour; and, to say the truth, my temper had no other vice but sloth and want of mettle. The fear was not that I should do ill, but that I should do nothing. Nobody suspected that I should be wicked, but most thought I should be useless; they foresaw idleness, but no malice in my nature; and I find it falls out accordingly. The complaints I hear of myself are these: "He is idle, cold in the offices of friendship and relationship, and remiss in those of the public; he is too particular, he is too proud." The most injurious do not say, "Why has he taken such a thing?—why has he not paid such a one?" But "Why does he part with nothing?—why does he not give?" And I should take it for a favour that men would expect from me no greater effects of supererogation than these. But they are unjust to exact from me what I do not owe, far more rigorously than they exact from others that which they do owe; and in condemning me to it they efface the gratification of the act, and deprive me of the gratitude that would be due to me upon such a bounty; whereas the active benefit ought to be of so much the greater value from my hands, by how much I am not passive that way at all. I can the more freely dispose of my fortune the more it is mine, and of myself the more I am my own. Nevertheless, if I were good at setting out my own actions, I could peradventure very well repel these reproaches, and could give some to understand that they are not so much offended that I do not enough, as that I am able to do a great deal more than I do.

Yet for all this heavy disposition of mine, my mind, when retired into itself, was not altogether idle nor wholly deprived of solid inquiry nor of certain and clear judgments about those objects it could comprehend, and could also without any helps digest them; but, amongst other things, I do really believe it had been totally impossible to havemade it to submit my violence and force. Shall I here acquaint you with one faculty of my youth? I had great boldness and assurance of countenance, and to that a flexibility of voice and gesture to any part I undertook to act; for before

"I had hardly entered on my twelfth year,"

I played the chief parts in the Latin tragedies of Buchanan, Guerente, and Muret, that were acted in our college of Guienne with very great form; wherein Andreas Goveanus, our principal, as in all other parts of his undertaking, was, without comparison, the best of that employment in France, and I was looked upon as one of his chief actors. ’Tis an exercise that I do not disapprove in young people of condition, and I have since seen our princes, after the example of the ancients, perform such parts in person well and commendably; and it was moreover allowed to persons of the greatest quality to profess and make a trade of it in Greece. Aristoni tragico actori rem aperit: huic et genus et fortuna honesta erant; nec ars, quia nihil talc apud Grcos pudori est, ea deformabat. "He imparted this affair to Aristo the tragedian, a man of a good family and fortune, which nevertheless did neither of them receive any blemish by that profession, nothing of that kind being reputed a disparagement in Greece." I have always taxed those with impertinence who condemn these entertainments, and those with injustice who refuse to admit such comedians as are worth seeing into our towns, and grudge the people that public diversion. A sensible plan of government takes care to assemble its citizens not only to the solemn duties of devotion, but also to sports and spectacles. They find society and friendship augmented by it; and besides, can there possibly be afforded a more orderly diversion than what is performed in the sight of every one, and very often in the presence of the supreme magistrate himself? I, for my part, think it desirable that the prince should sometimes gratify his people at his own expense, with paternal kindness as it were, and that in great and popular cities there should be theatres erected for such entertainments, if but to divert them from worse and more private actions.

To return to my subject; there is nothing like alluring the appetite and affection, otherwise you make nothing but so many asses laden with books, and by virtue of the lash give them their pocket full of learning to keep; whereas, to do well, you should not only lodge it with them, but make them espouse it.


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Chicago: "On the Education of Children," The Library of Original Sources, Vol 5 in The Library of Original Sources, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University Research Extension Co., 1907), 200–212. Original Sources, accessed February 6, 2023,

MLA: . "On the Education of Children." The Library of Original Sources, Vol 5, in The Library of Original Sources, edited by Oliver J. Thatcher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, University Research Extension Co., 1907, pp. 200–212. Original Sources. 6 Feb. 2023.

Harvard: , 'On the Education of Children' in The Library of Original Sources, Vol 5. cited in 1907, The Library of Original Sources, ed. , University Research Extension Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pp.200–212. Original Sources, retrieved 6 February 2023, from