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A PHILOSOPHICAL SURVEY OF EDUCATION:
OR, MORAL ARCHITECTURE.*
BY SIR HENRY WOTTON.
THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY TO THE KING.
May it please your Majesty—I need no other motive to dedicate this discourse, which followeth, unto your Majesty, than the very subject itself, so properly pertaining to your sovereign goodness: for thereby you are Pater Patria. And it is none of the least attributes wherewith God hath blessed both your royal person and your people, that you are so. On the other side, for mine own undertaking thereof, I had need say more. I am old and childless; and though I were a father of many, I could leave them nothing, either in fortune or in example. But having long since put forth a slight pamphlet about the Elements of Architecture, which yet hath been entertained with some pardon among my friends, I was encouraged, even at this age, to essay how I could build a Man; for there is a moral, as well as a natural or artificial compilement, and of better materials: which truly I have cemented together rather in the plain Tuscan (as our VITRUVIUS termeth it) than in the Corinthian form. Howsoever, if your Majesty be graciously pleased to approve any part of it, who are so excellent a judge in all kind of structure, I shall much glory in mine own endeavor. If otherwise, I will be one of the first myself that shall pull it in pieces, and condemn it to rubbage and ruin. And so, wishing your Majesty (as to the best of kings) a longer life than any of the soundest works of nature or art, I ever rest,
Your Majesty's most devoted poor subject and servant,
A SURVEY OF EDUCATION.
THIS TREATISE (well may it now proceed) having since the first conception thereof, been often traversed with other thoughts-yea, and sometimes utterly forsaken-I have of late resumed again, out of hope (the common flatterer) to find at least some indulgent interpretation of my pains; especially in an honest endeavor of such public consequence as this is above all other. For if any shall think Education (because it is conversant about children) to be but a private and domestic duty, he will run some danger, in my opinion, to have been ignorantly bred himself. Certain it is, that anciently the best composed estates did commit this care more to the magistrate than to the parent; and certain likewise, that the best authors have chosen rather to handle it in their politics, than in their economics. As both writers and rulers well knowing what a stream and influence it hath into government. So great indeed, and so diffusive, that albeit good laws
* Reprinted from the Third Edition of Reliquiæ Wottoniana. London, 1072.
have been reputed always the nerves or ligaments of human society, yet are they (be it spoken with the peace of those grave professors) no way comparable in their effects to the rules of good nurture; for it is in civil, as it is in natural plantations, where young tender trees (though subject to the injuries of air, and in danger even of their own flexibility) would yet little want any after-underproppings and shoarings, if they were at first well fastened in the root.
Now my present labor will (as I foresee) consist of these pieces:
First, There must proceed a way how to discern the natural capacities and inclinations of children.
Secondly, Next must ensue the culture and furnishment of the mind.
Thirdly, The moulding of behavior, and decent forms.
Fourthly, The tempering of affections.
Fifthly, The quickening and exciting of observations and practical judgment. Sixthly, and the last in order, but the principal in value, being that which must knit and consolidate all the rest, is the timely instilling of conscientious principles and seeds of religion.
These six branches will, as I conceive, embrace the whole business; through which I shall run in as many several chapters or sections. But before I launch from the shores, let me resolve a main question which may be cast in my way: whether there be indeed such an infallible efficacy, as I suppose, in the care of nurture and first production; for if that supposal should fail us, all our anchorage were loose, and we should but wander in a wide sea.
Plutarch, I remember to the same purpose, in the first of his Tractates, which place this subject well deserved, endeavoreth by sundry similitudes, wherein that man had a prompt and luxurious fancy, to show us the force of Education; all which, in sooth, might have been well forborne, had be but known what our own countrymen have of late time disclosed among their magnetical experiments. There they tell us, that a rod or bar of iron having stood long in a window, or elsewhere, being thence taken, and by the help of a cork or the like thing being balanced in water, or in any other liquid substance where it may have a free mobility, will bewray a kind of unquietude and discontentment till it attain the former position. Now it is pretty to note, how in this natural theorem is involved a moral conclusion of direct moment to the point we have in hand.
For if such an unpliant and stubborn mineral as iron is above any other, will acquire by mere continuance a secret appetite, and (as I may term it) an habitual inclination to the site it held before, then how much more may we hope, through the very same means, (education being nothing else but a constant plight and inurement,) to induce by custom good habits into a reasonable creature? And so, having a little smoothed my passage, I may now go on to the chapters.
1. TOUCHING THE SEARCH OF NATURAL CAPACITIES AND INCLINATIONS.
Of the two things propounded in this chapter, I must begin with capacities : for the manurement of wits is like that of soils, where before either the pains of tilling, or the charge of sowing, men use to consider what the mould will bear, heath or grain. Now this, peradventure at the first view, may seem in children a very slight and obvious inquiry; that age being so open and so free, and yet void of all art to disguise or dissemble either their appetites or their defects. Notwithstanding, we see it every day and every where subject to much error; partly by a very pardonable facility in the parents themselves, to over-prize their own
children, while they behold them through the vapors of affection, which alter the appearance, as all things seem bigger in misty mornings. Nay, even stran gers, and the most disinterested persons, are yet, I know not how, commonly inclined to a favorable conceit of little ones; so cheap a thing it is to bestow nothing but hope. There is likewise on the other side, as often failing by an undervaluation; for, in divers children, their ingenerate and seminal powers (as I may term them) lie deep, and are of slow disclosure; no otherwise than in certain vegetables, which are long before they shoot up and appear, and yet afterwards both of good and great increase; which may serve to excite care, and to prevent despair in parents: for if their child be not such a speedy spreader and brancher, like the vine, yet perchance he may prove proles tarde crescentis olive, and yield, though with a little longer expectation, as useful and more sober fruit than the other. And, I must confess, I take some delight in these kind of comparisons; remembering well what I have often heard my truly noble and most dear nephew, Sir Edmund Bacon, say, out of his exquisite contemplations and philosophical practice: that Nature surely (if she be well studied) is the best moralist, and hath much good counsel hidden in her bosom.
Now here then will lie the whole business, to set down beforehand certain signatures of hopefulness, or characters, (as I will rather call them, because that word hath gotten already some entertainment among us,) whereby may be timely descried what the child will prove in probability. These characters must necessarily be either impressed in the outward person, like stamps of nature, or must otherwise be taken from some emergent act of his mind; wherein of the former sort:
The first is that which first incurreth into sight; namely, the child's color or complexion, (as we vulgarly term it,) and thence perchance some judgment of the predominant humor.
The next is the structure and conformation of the limbs.
And the third is a certain spirituous resultance from the other two, which makes the countenance.
The second kind of these characters (which are rather mental than personal) be of such variety (because minds are more active than bodies) that I purpose, for the plainest delivery, to resolve all my gatherings touching both kinds into a rhapsody of several observations; for I dare not give them the authoritative title of aphorisms, which yet, when I shall have mustered them, if their own strength be considered rather in troop than singly, as they say, by pole, may perchance make a reasonable moral prognostic.
There are in the course of human life, from our cradles upward, certain periods or degrees of change, commonly (as the ancients have noted) every seven years, whereof the two first septenaries, and half of the third, or thereabouts, I will call the obsequious age, apt to imbibe all manner of impressions; which time of the suppleness of obedience is to be plied by parents, before the stiffness of will come on too fast.
There is no complexion, or composition in children, either privileged from bad proof, or prejudiced from good. Always I except prodigious forms, and mere natural impotencies, which are unmanageable in toto genere, and no more to be cultivated than the sands of Arabia,
More ordinary imperfections and distortions of the body in figure, are so far from excluding all hope, that we usually see them attended with some notable compensation one way or other, whereof our own time hath produced with us no slight example in a great minister of state, and many other.
I am yet willing to grant, that generally in nature the best outward shapes are also the likeliest to be consociated with good inward faculties; for this conclusion hath somewhat from the Divine Light: since God himself made this great world (whereof man is the little model) of such harmonious beauty in all the parts, to be the receptacle of his perfectest creature.
Touching such conjectures as depend on the complexions of children: albeit I make no question but all kinds of wits and capacities may be found under all tinctures and integuments; yet I will particularly describe one or two with some preference, though without prejudice of the rest.
The first shall be a palish clearness, evenly and smoothly spread, not over-thin and washy, but of a pretty solid consistence; from which equal distribution of the phlegmatic humor, which is the proper allay of fervent blood, I am wont to hope (where I see it) will flow a future quietude and serenitude in the affections, and a discreet sweetness and moderation in the manners; not so quick perchance of conceit, as slow to passion, and commonly less inventive than judicious; howsoever, for the most part, proving very plausible, insinuant, and fortunate men.
The other is, the pure sanguine melancholic tincture, wherein I would wish five parts of the first to three of the second; that so there may be the greater portion of that which must illuminate and enrich the fancy, and yet no scant of the other, to fix and determine the judgment; for surely the right natural definition of a wise habit is nothing else but a plentifulness and promptness in the storehouse of the mind, of clear imaginations well fixed.
Marcilius Ficinus (the deep Florentine Platonic) increaseth these proportions, requiring eight to two in the foresaid humors, and withal adding two more of pure choler. But of that I shall speak more among the inward motions, purposely here forbearing it, where I only contemplate the superficial appearance.
In the outward frame and fabric of the body, which is the next object after complexion, an erect and forward stature, a large breast, neat and pliant joints, and the like, may be good significants of health, of strength, or agility, but are very foreign arguments of wit. I will therefore only say somewhat of the head and eye, as far as may conduce to my present scope.
The head in a child I wish great and round, which is the capablest figure, and the freest from all restraint and compression of the parts; for since in the section of bodies we find man, of all sensible creatures, to have the fullest brain to his proportion, and that it was so provided by the Supreme Wisdom, for the lodging of the intellective faculties, it must needs be a silent character of hope, when, in the economical providence of nature, (as I may term it,) there is good store of roomage and receipt where those powers are stowed: as commonly we may think husbanding men to foresee their own plenty, who prepare beforehand large barns and granaries. Yet Thucydides (anciently one of the excellentest wits in the learnedst part of the world) seems (if Marcellinus in his fife have well described him) to have been somewhat taper-headed, as many of the Genoesers are at this day in common observation, who yet be a people of singular sagacity: yea, I call not impertinently to mind, that one of my time in Venice had wit enough to become the civil head of that grave republic, who yet for the littleness
of his own natural head was surnamed Il Donato Testolina. But the obtrusion of such particular instances as these are unsufficient to disauthorize a note grounded upon the final intervention of nature.
The eye in children (which commonly let them roll at pleasure) is of curious observation, especially in point of discovery; for it loveth, or hateth, before we can discern the heart; it consenteth, or denieth, before the tongue; it resolveth, or runneth away, before the feet: nay, we shall often mark in it a dullness, or apprehensiveness, even before the understanding. In short, it betrayeth in a manner the whole state of the mind, and letteth out all our fancies and passions as it were by a window. I shall therefore require in that organ, without poetical conceits, (as far as may concern my purpose, be the color what it will,) only a settled vivacity, not wandering, nor stupid; yet, I must confess, I have known a number of dull-sighted, very sharp-witted men.
The truth is, that if in these external marks, or signatures, there be any cer tainty, it must be taken from that which I have formerly called the total result · ance by which, what I mean, I shall more properly explain in the third section, when I come to handle the general air of the person and carriage. I will now hasten to those more solid and conclusive characters, which, as I have said, are emergent from the mind, and which oftentimes do start out of children when themselves least think of it; for, let me tell you, nature is proditorious,
And first I must begin with a strange note: that a child will have tantum ingenii quantum ire; that is, in my construction, as much wit as he hath waywardness. This rule we have cited by a very learned man,* somewhere out of Seneca, and exemplified by Angelus Politianus, (none of the meanest critics,) who, writing the life of Pietro de Medici, concludeth, that he was likely to prove a wise man, because he was a froward boy. Truly I have been many times tempted to wonder, notwithstanding the value of these authors, how so disordinate a passion, seated in the heart and boiling in the blood, could betoken a good constitution of the brain, which, above any other, is, or should be, the coldest part. But because all sudden motions must necessarily imply a quick apprehension of the first stirring cause, and that the dullest of other creatures are the latest offended, I am content for the present to yield it some credit.
We have another, somewhat of the same mould, from Quintilian, (whom I have ever thought, since any use of my poor judgment, both the elegantest and soundest of all the Roman pens,) that a child will have tantum ingenii quantum memoria. This, I must confess, will bear a stronger consequence of hope; for memory is not only considerable as it is in itself a good retention, but likewise as it is an infallible argument of good attention-a point of no small value in that age which a fair orange or a red apple will divert.
There is yet another in the same writer, and in the same place, where he handleth this very theme-How to descry capacities: that parents should mark whether their children be naturally apt to imitate; wherewith certainly all fine fancies are caught, and some little less than ravished. And we have a tradition of Quintilian himself, that when he saw any well-expressed image of grief, either in picture or sculpture, he would usually weep; for, being a teacher of oratory in school, he was perhaps affected with a passionate piece of art, as with a kind of mute eloquence. True it is indeed, which a great mastert hath long before taught us, that man is of all creatures the most mimical, as a kind of near adjunct
† Aristotle in Rhetoricis.