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No. CCCVII. THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2.
Versate diu, quid ferre recusent,
........Often try what weight you can support, And what your shoulders are too weak to bear.
ROSCOMMON. I AM so well pleased with the following letter, that I am in hopes it will not be a disagreeable present to the public.
THOUGH I believe none of your readers more admire your agreeable manner of working up • trifles than myself, yet as your speculations are
now swelling into volumes, and will in all proba• bility pass down to future ages, methinks I would
have no single subject in them, wherein the gene• ral good of mankind is concerned, left unfinished.
• I have a long time expected with great impatience that you would enlarge upon the ordinary (mistakes which are committed in the education of
our children. I the more easily flattered myself. • that you would one time or other resume this con
sideration, because you tell us that your hundred 6 and sixty-eighth paper was only composed of a few • broken hints ; but finding myself hitherto disap
pointed, I have ventured to send you my own thoughts on this subject.
I remember Pericles, in his famous oration at the funeral of those Athenian young men who pe• rished in the Samian expedition, has a thought very o much celebrated by several ancient critics, namely, " that the loss which the commonwealth suffered by • the destruction of its youth, was like the loss which the year would suffer by the destruction of the
• spring. The prejudice which the public sustains ' from a wrong education of children, is an evil of ( the same nature, as it in a manner starves posterity, 6 and defrauds our country of those persons whr, • with due care, . might make an eminent figure in their respective posts of life. • I have seen a book written by Juan Huartes, a Spanish physician, entitled “ Examen de Ingenios," o wherein he lays it down, as one of his first posi• tions, that nothing but nature can qualify a man for
learning; and that without a proper temperament • for the particular art or science which he studies; • his utmost pains and application, assisted by the « ablest masters, will be to no purpose.
“He illustrates this by the example of Tully's son Marcus.
• Cicero, in order to accomplish his son in that • kind of learning which he designed him for, sent • him to Athens, the most celebrated academy at
that time in the world, and where a vast concourse, • out of the most polite nations, could not but furnish • the young gentleman with a multitude of great ex. amples and accidents that might insensibly have
instructed him in his designed studies : he placed • him under the care of Cratippus, who was one of the
greatest philosophers of the age; and, as if all the books which were at that time written had not been sufficient for his use, he composed others on purpose for him : notwithstanding all this, history in• forms us, that Marcus proved a mere blockhead, o and that nature, who it seems was even with the 6 son for her prodigality to the father, rendered • him incapable of improving by all the rules of elo
quence, the precepts of philosophy, his own endea(vours, and the most refined conversation in Athens. « This author therefore proposes, that there should • be certain triers or examiners appointed by the
state to inspect the genius of every particular boy,
6 and to allot him the part that is most suitable to • his natural talents.
• Plato in one of his dialogues tells us, that So' crates, who was the son of a midwife, used to say, • that as his mother, though she was very skilful in • her profession, could not deliver a woman, unless • she was first with child, so neither.could he himself ' raise knowledge out of a mind, where nature had not planted it.
Accordingly, the method this philosopher took of instructing his scholars by several interrogatories or questions, was only helping the birth, and • bringing their own thoughts to light.
• The Spanish doctor above-mentioned, as his spe• culations grow more refined, asserts that every kind
of wit has a particular science corresponding to it, 6 and in which alone it can be truly excellent. As to " those geniuses, which may seem to have an equal • aptitude for several things, he regards them as so • many unfinished pieces of nature wrought off in « haste.
" There are indeed but very few to whom nature • has been so unkind, that they are not capable of ! shining in some science or other. There is a cer• tain bias towards knowledge in every mind, which may be strengthened and improved by proper applications.
• The story of Clavius is very well known ; he was entered in a college of Jesuits, and after having • been tried at several parts of learning, was upon • the point of being dismissed as an hopeless block• head, until one of the fathers took it in his head to ( make an essay of his parts in geometry, which it " seems hit his genius so luckily, that he afterwards « became one of the greatest mathematicians of the "age. It is commonly thought that the sagacity of these fathers, in discovering the talent of a young
student, has not a little contributed to the figure « which their order has made in the world.
• How different from this mannerof education is that which prevails in our own country? Where nothing • is more usual than to see forty or fisty boys of seve• ral ages, tempers, and inclinations, ranged together • in the same class, employed upon the same authors, • and enjoined the same tasks? Whatever their na. • tural genius may be, they are all to be made poets, • historians, and orators, alike. They are all obliged • to have the same capacity, to bring in the same • tale of verse, and to furnish out the same portion • of prose. Every boy is bound to have as good a
memory as the captain of the form. To be brief, • instead of adapting studies to the particular genius • of a youth, we expect from a young man, that he • should adapt his genius to his studies. This, I must
confess, is not so much to be imputed to the in• structor, as to the parent, who will never be brought • to believe that his son is not capable of performing (as much as his neighbour's, and that he may not • make him whatever he has a mind to.
• If the present age is more laudable than those which have gone before it in any single particular, • it is in that generous care which several well dispo• sed persons have taken in the education of poor • children; and as in these charity-schools there is no • place left for the over-weening fondness of a parent, « the directors of them would make them beneficial • to the public, if they considered the precept which • I have been thus long inculcating. They might • easily, by well examining the parts of those under • their inspection, make a just distribution of them • into proper classes and divisions, and allot to them
this or that particular study, as their genius qualifies them for professions, trades, handicrafts, or ser6.vice by sea or land.
How is this kind of regulation wanting in the three great professions ?
• Dr. South complaining of persons who took upon • them holy orders, though.altogether unqualified for • the sacred function, says somewhere, that many a o man runs his head against a pulpit, who might • have done his country excellent service at the 6 plough-tail.
In like manner many a lawyer, who makes but an indifferent figure at the bar, might have made a very elegant waterman, and have shined at the · Temple-stairs, though he can get no business in (the house.
• I have known a corn-cutter, who, with a right edu(cation, would have made an excellent physician.
" To descend lower, are not our streets filled with • sagacious draymen, and politicians in liveries? We • have several taylors of six feet high, and meet with many
broad pair of shoulders that are thrown away upon a barber, when, perhaps, at the same time we see a pigmy porter reeling under a burden, who might have managed a needle with much dexterity, or have snapped his fingers with great ease to him• self and advantage to the public.
· The Spartans, though they acted with the spirit • which I am here speaking of, carried it much far(ther than what I propose : among them it was not • lawful for the father himself to bring up his chil
dren after his own fancy. As soon as they were seven years old, they were all listed in several com• panies, and disciplined by the public. The old men
were spectators of their performances, who often • raised quarrels among them, and set them at strife
with one another, that by those early discoveries they might see how their several talents lay, and - without any regard to their quality, dispose of them
accordingly for the service of the commonwealth. • By this means Sparta soon became the mistress of