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No. 353 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 353
Tuesday, April 15, 1712. Budgell.

–In tenui labor–


The Gentleman who obliges the World in general, and me in particular, with his Thoughts upon Education, has just sent me the following Letter.


I take the Liberty to send you a fourth Letter upon the Education of Youth: In my last I gave you my Thoughts about some particular Tasks which I conceiv’d it might not be amiss to use with their usual Exercises, in order to give them an early Seasoning of Virtue; I shall in this propose some others, which I fancy might contribute to give them a right turn for the World, and enable them to make their way in it.

The Design of Learning is, as I take it, either to render a Man an agreeable Companion to himself, and teach him to support Solitude with Pleasure, or if he is not born to an Estate, to supply that Defect, and furnish him with the means of acquiring one. A Person who applies himself to Learning with the first of these Views may be said to study for Ornament, as he who proposes to himself the second, properly studies for Use. The one does it to raise himself a Fortune, the other to set off that which he is already possessed of. But as far the greater part of Mankind are included in the latter Class, I shall only propose some Methods at present for the Service of such who expect to advance themselves in the World by their Learning: In order to which, I shall premise, that many more Estates have been acquir’d by little Accomplishments than by extraordinary ones; those Qualities which make the greatest Figure in the Eye of the World, not being always the most useful in themselves, or the most advantageous to their Owners.

The Posts which require Men of shining and uncommon Parts to discharge them, are so very few, that many a great Genius goes out of the World without ever having had an opportunity to exert it self; whereas Persons of ordinary Endowments meet with Occasions fitted to their Parts and Capacities every day in the common Occurrences of Life.

I am acquainted with two Persons who were formerly School-fellows,[1] and have been good Friends ever since. One of them was not only thought an impenetrable Block-head at School, but still maintain’d his Reputation at the University; the other was the Pride of his Master, and the most celebrated Person in the College of which he was a Member. The Man of Genius is at present buried in a Country Parsonage of eightscore Pounds a year; while the other, with the bare Abilities of a common Scrivener, has got an Estate of above an hundred thousand Pounds.

I fancy from what I have said it will almost appear a doubtful Case to many a wealthy Citizen, whether or no he ought to wish his Son should be a great Genius; but this I am sure of, that nothing is more absurd than to give a Lad the Education of one, whom Nature has not favour’d with any particular Marks of Distinction.

The fault therefore of our Grammar-Schools is, that every Boy is pushed on to Works of Genius; whereas it would be far more advantageous for the greatest part of them to be taught such little practical Arts and Sciences as do not require any great share of Parts to be Master of them, and yet may come often into play during the course of a Man’s Life.

Such are all the Parts of Practical Geometry. I have known a Man contract a Friendship with a Minister of State, upon cutting a Dial in his Window; and remember a Clergyman who got one of the best Benefices in the West of England, by setting a Country Gentleman’s Affairs in some Method, and giving him an exact Survey of his Estate.