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against any important proposition in the balance of an impartial and enlightened understanding. The only effect that should be produced in us, by the reflection that we can at last by no means be secure that we have attained to a perfect result, should be to teach us a wholsome diffidence and humility, and induce us to confess that, when we have done all, we are ignorant, dim-sighted and fallible, that our best reasonings may betray, and our wisest conclusions deceive us.
OF YOUTH AND AGE.
Magna debetur pueris reverentia.
I AM more doubtful in writing the following Essay than in any of those which precede, how far I am treating of human nature generally, or to a certain degree merely recording my own feelings as an individual. I am guided however in composing it, by the principle laid down in my Preface, that the purpose of my book in each instance should be to expand some new and interesting truth, or some old truth viewed under a new aspect, which had never by any preceding writer been laid before the public.
Education, in the conception of those whose office it is to direct it, has various engines by means of which it is to be made effective, and among these are reprehension and chastisement.
The philosophy of the wisest man that ever existed, is mainly derived from the act of introspection. We look into our own bosoms, observe attentively every thing that passes there, anatomise our motives, trace step by step the operations of thought, and diligently remark the effects of external impulses upon our feelings and conduct. Philosophers, ever since the time in which Socrates
flourished, to carry back our recollections no further, have found that the minds of men in the most essential particulars are framed so far upon the same model, that the analysis of the individual may stand in general consideration for the analysis of the species. Where this principle fails, it is not easy to suggest a proceeding that shall supply the deficiency. I look into my own breast; I observe steadily and with diligence what passes there; and with all the parade of the philosophy of the human mind I can do little more than this.
In treating therefore of education in the point of view in which it has just been proposed, I turn my observation upon myself, and I proceed thus.-If I do not stand as a competent representative for the whole of my species, I suppose I may at least assume to be the representative of no inconsiderable number of them.
I find then in myself, for as long a time as I can trace backward the records of memory, a prominent vein of docility. Whatever it was proposed to teach me, that was in any degree accordant with my constitution and capacity, I was willing to learn. And this limit is sufficient for the topic I am proposing to treat. I do not intend to consider education of any other sort, than that which has something in it of a liberal and ingenuous nature. I am not here discussing the education of a peasant, an artisan, or a slave.
In addition to this vein of docility, which easily
prompted me to learn whatever was proposed for my instruction and improvement, I felt in myself a sentiment of ambition, a desire to possess the qualifications which I found to be productive of esteem, and that should enable me to excel among my contemporaries. I was ambitious to be a leader, and to be regarded by others with feelings of complacency. I had no wish to rule by brute force and compulsion; but I was desirous to govern by love, and honour, and "the cords of a man."
I do not imagine that, when I aver thus much of myself, I am bringing forward any thing unprecedented, or that multitudes of my fellow-men do not largely participate with me.
The question therefore I am considering is, through what agency, and with what engines, a youth thus disposed, and with these qualifications, is to be initiated in all liberal arts.
I will go back no further than to the commencement of the learning of Latin. All before was so easy to me, as never to have presented the idea of a task. I was immediately put into the accidence. No explanation was attempted to be given why Latin was to be of use to me, or why it was necessary to commit to memory the cases of nouns and the tenses of verbs. I know not whether this was owing to the unwillingness of my instructor to give himself the trouble, or to my supposed incapacity to apprehend the explanation. The last of these I do not admit. My docility however came to my
aid; and I did not for a moment harbour any repugnance to the doing what was required of me. At first, and unassisted in the enquiry, I felt a difficulty in supposing that the English language, all the books in my father's library, did not contain every thing that it would be necessary for me to know. In no long time however I came to experience a pleasure in turning the thoughts expressed in an unknown tongue into my own; and I speedily understood that I could never be on a level with those eminent scholars whom it was my ambition to rival, without the study of the classics.
What then were the obstacles, that should in any degree counteract my smooth and rapid progress in the studies suggested to me? I can conceive only
First, the versatility and fickleness which in a greater or less degree beset all human minds, particularly in the season of early youth. However docile we may be, and willing to learn, there will be periods, when either some other object powerfully solicits us, or satiety creeps in, and makes us wish to occupy our attention with any thing else rather than with the task prescribed us. But this is no powerful obstacle. The authority of the instructor, a grave look, and the exercise of a moderate degree of patience will easily remove it in such a probationer as we are here considering.
Another obstacle is presumption. The scholar is willing to conceive well of his own capacity. He