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expressing this, we have above observed. It is as peculiar and different, in several countries of the world, as their languages; and, therefore, if it be rightly considered, rules and discourses, made to children about it, are as useless and impertinent, as it would be, now and then, to give a rule or two of the Spanish tongue, to one that converses only with Englishmen. Be as busy as you please with discourses of civility to your son; such as is his company, such will be his
A plowman of your neighborhood, that has never been out of his parish, read what lectures you please to him, will be as soon in his language, as his carriage, a courtier; that is, in neither will be more polite, than those he uses to converse with: and, therefore, of this no other care can be taken, till he be of an age to have a tutor put to him, who must not fail to be a well-bred ·
And, in good earnest, if I were to speak my mind freely, so children do nothing out of obstinacy, pride, and ill-nature, it is no great matter how they - put off their hats, or make legs. If you can teach them to love and respect
other people, they will, as their age requires find ways to express it accepta· bly to every one, according to the fashions they have been used to: and as to their notions, and carriage of their bodies, a dancing.master, as has been said, when it is fit, will teach them what is most becoming. In the mean time, when they are young, people expect not that children should be over-mindful of these ceremonies; carelessness is allowed to that age, and becomes them as well as compliments do grown people: or, at least, if some very nice people will think it a fault, I am sure it is a fault that should be overlooked, and left to time, a tutor, and conversation, to cure: and, therefore, I think it not worth your while to have your son, (as I often see children are,) molested or chid about it; but where there is pride, or ill-nature, appearing in his carriage, there he must be persuaded, or shamed out of it.
INTERRUPTION. Though children when little, should not be much perplexed with rules and ceremonious parts of breeding; yet there is a sort of unmannerliness very apt to grow up with young people, if not early restrained; and that is a forwardness to interrupt others that are speaking, and to stop them with some contradiction. Whether the custom of disputing, and the reputation of parts, and learning usually given to it, as if it were the only standard and evidence of knowledge, make young men so forward to watch occasions to correct others in their discourse, and not to slip any opportunity of showing their talents; so it is, that I have found scholars most blamed in this point. There can not be a greater rudeness, than to interrupt another in the current of his discourse; for, if there be not impertinent folly in answering a man before we know what he will say, yet it is a plain declaration, that we are weary to hear him talk any longer, and have a disesteem of what he says; which we, judging not fit to entertain the company, desire them to give audience to us, who have something to produce worth their attention. This shows a very great disrespect, and can not but be offensive; and yet, this is what almost all interruption constantly carries with it. To which, if there be added, as is usual, a correcting of any mistake, or a contradiction of what has been said, it is a mark of yet greater pride and self-conceitedness, when we thus intrude ourselves for teachers, and take upon us, either to set another right in his story, or show the mistakes of his judgment.
I do not say this, that I think there should be no difference of opinions in
conversation, nor opposition in men's discourses: this would be to take away the greatest advantage of society, and the improvements that are to be made by ingenious company, where the light is to be got from the opposite arguings of men of parts, showing the different sides of things, and their various aspects and probabilities, would be quite lost, if every one were obliged to assent to, and say after the first speaker. It is not the owning one's dissent from another that I speak against, but the manner of doing it. Young men should be taught not to be forward to interpose their opinions, unless asked, or when others have done, and are silent; and then only by way of inquiry, not instruction. The positive asserting, and the magisterial air, should be avoided; and when a general pause of the whole company affords an opportunity, they may modestly put in their question as learners.
This becoming decency will not cloud their parts, nor weaken the strength of their reason; but bespeak the more favorable attention, and give what they say the greater advantage. An ill argument, or ordinary observation, thus introduced, with some civil preface of deference and respect to the opinions of others, will procure them more credit and esteem, than the sharpest wit, or profoundest science, with a rough, insolent, and noisy management; which always shocks the hearers, and leaves an ill opinion of the man, though he get the better of it in the argument.
This, therefore, should be carefully watched in young people, stopped in the beginning, and the contrary habit introduced in all their conversation: and the rather, because forwardness to talk, frequent interruptions in arguing, and loud wrangling, are too often observable amongst grown people, even of rank amongst
The Indians, whom we call barbarous, observe much more decency and civility in their discourses and conversation, giving one another a fair silent hearing, till they have quite done; and then answering them calmly, and without noise or passion. And if it be not so in this civilized part of the world, we must impute it to a neglect in education, which has not yet reformed this ancient piece of barbarity amongst us. Was it not, think you, an entertaining spectacle, to see two ladies of quality accidentally seated on the opposite sides of a room, set round with company, fall into a dispute, and grow so eager in it, that in the heat of their controversy, edging by degrees their chairs forwards, they were in a little time got up close to one another in the middle of the room; where they for a good while managed the dispute as fiercely as two game-cocks in the pit, without minding or taking any notice of the circle, which could not all the while forbear smiling ? This I was told by a person of quality, who was present at the combat, and did not omit to reflect upon the indecencies, that warmth in dispute often runs people into; which, since custom makes too frequent, education should take the more care of. There is nobody but condemns this in others, though they overlook it in themselves: and many who are sensible of it in themselves, and resolve against it, can not get rid of an ill custom, which neglect in their education has suffered to settle into an habit.
140. What has been above said concerning company, would, perhaps, if it were well reflected on, give us a larger prospect, and let us see how much farther its influence reaches. It is not the modes of civility alone, that are imprinted by conversation; the tincture of company sinks deeper than the outside; and possibly, if a true estimate were made of the morality and religions of the world, we should find, that the far greater part of mankind received even those opinions and ceremonies they would die for, rather from the fashions of their countries, and the constant practice of those about them, than from any conviction of their reasons. I mention this only to let you see of what moment I think company is to your son in all the parts of his life, and, therefore, how much that one part is to be weighed and provided for, it being of greater force to work upon him than all you can do besides.
LEARNING. 141. You will wonaer, perhaps, that I put learning last, especially if I tell you I think it the least part. This may seem strange in the mouth of a book. ish man: and this making usually the chief, if not only bustle and stir about children, this being almost that alone which is thought on, when people talk of education, makes it the greater paradox. When I consider what ado is made about a little Latin and Greek, how many years are spent in it, and what a noise and business it makes to no purpose, I can hardly forbear thinking, that the parents of children still live in fear of the school-master's rod, which they look on as the only instrument of education; as if a language or two were its whole business. How else is it possible, that a child should be chained to the oar seven, eight, or ten of the best years of his life, to get a language or two, which I think might be had at a great deal cheaper rate of pains and time, and be learned almost in playing ?
Forgive me, therefore, if I say, I can not with patience think, that a young gentleman should be put into the herd, and be driven with the whip and scourge, as if he were to run the gauntlet through the several classes, "ad capiendum ingenii cultum.” “What then, say you, would you not have him write and read ? Shall he be more ignorant than the clerk of our parish, who takes Hopkins and Sternhold for the best poets in the world, whom yet he makes worse than they are, by his ill reading ?” Not so, not so fast, I beseech you. Reading, and writing, and learning, I allow to be necessary, but yet not the chief business. I imagine you would think him a very foolish fellow, that should not value a virtuous, or a wise man, infinitely before a great scholar. Not but that I think learning a great help to both, in well disposed minds ; but yet it must be confessed also, that in others not so disposed, it helps them only to be the more foolish, or worse men. I say this, that, when you consider of the breeding of your son, and are looking out for a school-master, or a tutor, you would not have, (as is usual,) Latin and logic only in your thoughts. Learning must be had, but in the second place as subservient only to greater qualities. Seek out somebody, that may know how discreetly to frame his manners: place him in hands, where you may, as much as possible, secure his innocence, clierish and nurse up the good, and gently correct and weed out any bad inclinations, and sottle in him good habits. This is the main point; and this being provided for, learning may be had into the bargain; and that, as I think, at a very easy rate; by methods that may be thought on.
142. When he can talk, it is time he should begin to learn to read. But an to this, give me leave here to inculcate again what is very apt to be forgotter
viz., that a great care is to be taken, that it be never made as a business to him, nor he look on it as a task. We naturally, as I said, even from our cradles, love liberty, and have, therefore, an aversion to many things, for no other reason, but because they are enjoined us. I have always had a fancy, that learning might be made a play and recreation to children; and that they might be brought to desire to be taught, if it were proposed to them as a thing of honor, credit, delight, and recreation, or as a reward for doing something else, and if they were never chid or corrected for the neglect of it. That which confirms me in this opinion is, that amongst the Portuguese, it is so much a fashion and emulation amongst their children to learn to read and write, that they can not hinder them from it: they will learn it one from another, and are as intent on it as if it were forbid them. I remember, that being at a friend's house, whose younger son, a child in coats, was not easily brought to his book, (being taught to read at home by his mother;) I advised to try another way than requiring it of him as his duty. We therefore, in a discourse on purpose amongst ourselves, in his hearing, but without taking any notice of him, declared, that it was the privilege and advantage of heirs and elder brothers, to be scholars; that this made them fine gentlemen, and beloved by every body: and that for younger brothers, it was a favor to admit them to breeding; to be tauglit to read and write was more than came to their share; they might be ignorant bumpkins and clowns, if they pleased. This so wrought upon the child, that afterwards he desired to be taught; would come himself to his mother to learn; and would not let his maid be quiet, till she heard him his lesson. I doubt not but some way like this night be taken with other children; and, when their tempers are found, some thoughts be instilled into them, that might set them upon desiring of learning themselves, and make them seek it, as another sort of play or recreation. But then, as I said before, it must never be imposed as a task, nor made a trouble to them. There may be dice and playthings, with the letters on them, to teach children the alphabet by playing; and twenty other ways may be found, suitable to their particular tempers, to make this kind of learning a sport to them.
143. Thus children may be cozened into a knowledge of the letters; be taught to read, without perceiving it to be any thing but a sport, and play themselves into that which others are whipped for. Children should not have any thing like work, or serious, laid on them; neither their minds nor bodies will bear it. It injures their healths; and their being forced and tied down to their books, in an age at enmity with all such restraint, has, I doubt not, been the reason why a great many have hated books and learning all their lives after: it is like a surfeit, that leaves an aversion, bebind not to be removed.
144. I have therefore thought, that if playthings were fitted to this purpose, as they are usually to none, contrivances might be made to teach children to read, whilst they thought they were only playing. For example ; What if an ivory-ball were made like that of the royal oak lottery, with thirty-two sides, or rather of twenty-four or twenty-five sides; and upon several of those sides pasted on an A, upon several others B, on others C, on others D? I would have you begin with but these four letters, or perhaps only two at first; and when he is perfect in them, then add another; and so on, till each side having one letter, there be on it the whole alphabet. This I would have others play with before him, it being as good a sort of play to lay a stake who shall first throwy an A or B, as who upon dice shall throw six or seren. This being a play nhwngst you, tempt him not to it, lest you make it business; for I would not have him understand it is any thing but a play of older people, and I doubt not but he will take to it of himself. And that he may have the more reason to think it is a play, that he is sometimes in favor admitted to; when the play is done, the ball should be laid up safe out of his reach, that so it may not, by his having it in his keeping at any time, grow stale to him.
145. To keep up his eagerness to it, let him think it a game belonging to those above him: and when by this means he knows the letters, by changing them into syllables, he may learn to read, without knowing how he did so, and never have any chiding or trouble about it, nor fall out with books, because of the hard usage and vexation they have caused him. Children, if you observo them, take abundance of pains to learn several games, which, if they should be enjoined them, they would abhor as a task, and business. I know a person of great quality, (more yet to be honored for his learning and virtue, than for his rank and high place,) who, by pasting on the six vowels, (for in our language Y is one,) on the six sides of a die, and the remaining eighteen consonants on the sides of three other dice, has made this a play for his children, that he shall win, who at one cast, throws most words on these four dice; whereby his eldest son, yet in coats, has played himself into spelling, with great eagerness, and without once having been chid for it, or forced to it.
146. I have seen little girls exercise whole hours together, and take abundance of pains to be expert at dibstones, as they call it. Whilst I have been looking on, I have thought it wanted only some good contrivance to make them employ all that industry about something that might be more useful to them; and methinks it is only the fault and negligence of elder people, that it is not so. Children are much less apt to be idle than men; and men are to be blamed, if some part of that busy humor be not turned to useful things; which might be made usually as delightful to them as those they are employed in, if men would be but half so forward to lead the way, as these little apes would be to follow. I imagine some wise Portuguese heretofore began this fashion amongst the children of his country, where I have been told, as I said, it is impossible to hinder the children from learning to read and write: and in some parts of France they teach one another to sing and dance from the cradle.
147. The letters pasted upon the sides of the dice, or polygon, were best to be of the size of those of the folio Bible to begin with, and none of them capital letters;
when once he can read what is printed in such letters, he will not long be ignorant of the great ones: and in the beginning he should not be perplexed with variety. With this die also, you might have a play just like the royal-oak, which would be another variety; and play for cherries or apples, &c.
148. Besides these, twenty other plays might be invented, depending on letters, which those, who like this way, may easily contrive, and get made to this use, if they will. But the four dice above mentioned I think so easy and useful, that it will be hard to find any better, and there will be scarce need of any other.
149. Thus much for learning to read, which let him never be driven to, nor chid for; cheat him into it if you can, but make it not a business for him. It is better it be a year later before he can read, than that he should this way get an aversion to learning. If you have any contests with him, let it be in matters of moment, of truth, and good-nature; but lay no task on him about A BG