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Preface To The Preceptor, Containing A General Plan Of Education
by [?]

The title has already declared, that these volumes are particularly intended for the use of schools, and, therefore, it has been the care of the authors to explain the several sciences, of which they have treated, in the most familiar manner; for the mind, used only to common expressions, and inaccurate ideas, does not suddenly conform itself to scholastick modes of reasoning, or conceive the nice distinctions of a subtile philosophy, and may be properly initiated in speculative studies by an introduction like this, in which the grossness of vulgar conception is avoided, without the observation of metaphysical exactness. It is observed, that in the course of the natural world no change is instantaneous, but all its vicissitudes are gradual and slow; the motions of intellect proceed in the like imperceptible progression, and proper degrees of transition from one study to another are, therefore, necessary; but let it not be charged upon the writers of this book, that they intended to exhibit more than the dawn of knowledge, or pretended to raise in the mind any nobler product than the blossoms of science, which more powerful institutions may ripen into fruit.

For this reason it must not be expected, that in the following pages should be found a complete circle of the sciences; or that any authors, now deservedly esteemed, should be rejected to make way for what is here offered. It was intended by the means of these precepts, not to deck the mind with ornaments, but to protect it from nakedness; not to enrich it with affluence, but to supply it with necessaries. The inquiry, therefore, was not what degrees of knowledge are desirable, but what are in most stations of life indispensably required; and the choice was determined, not by the splendour of any part of literature, but by the extent of its use, and the inconvenience which its neglect was likely to produce.

1. The prevalence of this consideration appears in the first part, which is appropriated to the humble purposes of teaching to read, and speak, and write letters; an attempt of little magnificence, but in which no man needs to blush for having employed his time, if honour be estimated by use. For precepts of this kind, however neglected, extend their importance as far as men are found who communicate their thoughts one to another; they are equally useful to the highest and the lowest; they may often contribute to make ignorance less inelegant; and may it not be observed, that they are frequently wanted for the embellishment even of learning?

In order to show the proper use of this part, which consists of various exemplifications of such differences of style as require correspondent diversities of pronunciation, it will be proper to inform the scholar, that there are, in general, three forms of style, each of which demands its particular mode of elocution: the familiar, the solemn, and the pathetick. That in the familiar, he that reads is only to talk with a paper in his hand, and to indulge himself in all the lighter liberties of voice, as when he reads the common articles of a newspaper, or a cursory letter of intelligence or business. That the solemn style, such as that of a serious narrative, exacts an uniform steadiness of speech, equal, clear, and calm. That for the pathetick, such as an animated oration, it is necessary the voice be regulated by the sense, varying and rising with the passions. These rules, which are the most general, admit a great number of subordinate observations, which must be particularly adapted to every scholar; for it is observable, that though very few read well, yet every man errs in a different way. But let one remark never be omitted: inculcate strongly to every scholar the danger of copying the voice of another; an attempt which, though it has been often repeated, is always unsuccessful.

The importance of writing letters with propriety, justly claims to be considered with care, since, next to the power of pleasing with his presence, every man would wish to be able to give delight at a distance. This great art should be diligently taught, the rather, because of those letters which are most useful, and by which the general business of life is transacted, there are no examples easily to be found. It seems the general fault of those who undertake this part of education, that they propose for the exercise of their scholars, occasions which rarely happen; such as congratulations and condolences, and neglect those without which life cannot proceed. It is possible to pass many years without the necessity of writing panegyricks or epithalamiums; but every man has frequent occasion to state a contract, or demand a debt, or make a narrative of some minute incidents of common life. On these subjects, therefore, young persons should be taught to think justly, and write clearly, neatly, and succinctly, lest they come from school into the world without any acquaintance with common affairs, and stand idle spectators of mankind, in expectation that some great event will give them an opportunity to exert their rhetorick.