Wednesday, March 19, 1712. Steele.
Maxima debetur pueris reverentia.
The following Letters, written by two very considerate Correspondents, both under twenty Years of Age, are very good Arguments of the Necessity of taking into Consideration the many Incidents which affect the Education of Youth.
I have long expected, that in the Course of your Observations upon the several Parts of human Life, you would one time or other fall upon a Subject, which, since you have not, I take the liberty to recommend to you. What I mean, is the Patronage of young modest Men to such as are able to countenance and introduce them into the World. For want of such Assistances, a Youth of Merit languishes in Obscurity or Poverty, when his Circumstances are low, and runs into Riot and Excess when his Fortunes are plentiful. I cannot make my self better understood, than by sending you an History of my self, which I shall desire you to insert in your Paper, it being the only Way I have of expressing my Gratitude for the highest Obligations imaginable.
I am the Son of a Merchant of the City of London, who, by many Losses, was reduced from a very luxuriant Trade and Credit to very narrow Circumstances, in Comparison to that his former Abundance. This took away the Vigour of his Mind, and all manner of Attention to a Fortune, which he now thought desperate; insomuch that he died without a Will, having before buried my Mother in the midst of his other Misfortunes. I was sixteen Years of Age when I lost my Father; and an Estate of L200 a Year came into my Possession, without Friend or Guardian to instruct me in the Management or Enjoyment of it. The natural Consequence of this was, (though I wanted no Director, and soon had Fellows who found me out for a smart young Gentleman, and led me into all the Debaucheries of which I was capable) that my Companions and I could not well be supplied without my running in Debt, which I did very frankly, till I was arrested, and conveyed with a Guard strong enough for the most desperate Assassine, to a Bayliff’s House, where I lay four Days, surrounded with very merry, but not very agreeable Company. As soon as I had extricated my self from this shameful Confinement, I reflected upon it with so much Horror, that I deserted all my old Acquaintance, and took Chambers in an Inn of Court, with a Resolution to study the Law with all possible Application. But I trifled away a whole Year in looking over a thousand Intricacies, without Friend to apply to in any Case of Doubt; so that I only lived there among Men, as little Children are sent to School before they are capable of Improvement, only to be out of harms way. In the midst of this State of Suspence, not knowing how to dispose of my self, I was sought for by a Relation of mine, who, upon observing a good Inclination in me, used me with great Familiarity, and carried me to his Seat in the Country. When I came there, he introduced me to all the good Company in the County; and the great Obligation I have to him for this kind Notice and Residence with him ever since, has made so strong an Impression upon me, that he has an Authority of a Father over me, founded upon the Love of a Brother. I have a good Study of Books, a good Stable of Horses always at my command; and tho I am not now quite eighteen Years of Age, familiar Converse on his Part, and a strong Inclination to exert my self on mine, have had an effect upon me that makes me acceptable wherever I go. Thus, Mr. SPECTATOR, by this Gentleman’s Favour and Patronage, it is my own fault if I am not wiser and richer every day I live. I speak this as well by subscribing the initial Letters of my Name to thank him, as to incite others to an Imitation of his Virtue. It would be a worthy Work to shew what great Charities are to be done without Expence, and how many noble Actions are lost, out of Inadvertency in Persons capable of performing them, if they were put in mind of it. If a Gentleman of Figure in a County would make his Family a Pattern of Sobriety, good Sense, and Breeding, and would kindly endeavour to influence the Education and growing Prospects of the younger Gentry about him, I am apt to believe it would save him a great deal of stale Beer on a publick Occasion, and render him the Leader of his Country from their Gratitude to him, instead of being a Slave to their Riots and Tumults in order to be made their Representative. The same thing might be recommended to all who have made any Progress in any Parts of Knowledge, or arrived at any Degree in a Profession; others may gain Preferments and Fortunes from their Patrons, but I have, I hope, receiv’d from mine good Habits and Virtues. I repeat to you, Sir, my Request to print this, in return for all the Evil an helpless Orphan shall ever escape, and all the Good he shall receive in this Life; both which are wholly owing to this Gentleman’s Favour to,
Your most obedient humble Servant,