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EDWARD CLARKE, OF CHIPLEY, Esq.
THESE Thoughts concerning Education, which now come abroad into the world, do of right belong to you, being written several years since for your sake, and are no other than what you have already by you in my letters. I have so little varied any thing, but only the order of what was sent you at different times, and on several occasions, that the reader will easily find, in the familiarity and fashion of the style, that they were rather the private conversation of two friends, than a discourse designed for public view.
The importunity of friends is the common apology for publications men are afraid to own themselves forward to. But you know I can truly say, that if some, who having heard of these papers of mine, had not pressed to see them, and afterwards to have them printed, they had lain dormant still in that privacy they were designed for. But those whose judgment I defer much to, telling me, that they were persuaded, that this rough draught of mine might be of some use, if made more public, touched upon what will always be very prevalent with me. For I think it every man's indispensable duty, to do all the service he can to his country; and I see not what difference he puts between himself and his cattle, who lives without that thought. This subject is of so great concernment, and a right way of education is of so general advantage, that did I find my abilities answer my wishes, I should not have needed exhortations or importunities from others. . However, the meanness of these papers, and my just distrust of them, shall not keep me, by the shame of doing so little, from contributing my mite, where there is no more required of me, than my throwing it into the public receptacle. And if there be any more of their size and notions, who liked them so well, that they thought them worth printing, I may flatter myself, they will not be lost labour to every body.
I myself have been consulted of late by so many, who profess themselves at a loss how to breed their children ; and the early corruption of youth is now become so general a complaint; that he cannot be thought wholly impertinent, who brings the consideration of this matter on the stage, and offers something, if it be but to excite others, or afford matter of correction. For errours in education should be less indulged than any : these, like faults in the first concoction, that are never mended in the second or third, carry their afterwards-incorrigible taint with them, through all the parts and stations of life.
I am so far from being conceited of any thing I have here offered, that I should not be sorry, even for your sake, if some one abler and fitter for such a task, would in a just treatise of education, suited to our English gentry, rectify the mistakes I have made in this: it being much more desirable to me, that young gentiemen should be put into (that which every one ought to be solicitous about) the best way of being formed and instructed, than that my opinion should be received concerning it. You will however, in the mean time, bear me witness, that the method here proposed has had no ordinary effects upon a gentleman's son, it was not designed for. I will not say the good temper of the child did not very much contribute to it, but this I think, you and the parents are satisfied of, that a contrary usage, according to the ordinary disciplining of children, would not have mended that temper, nor have brought him to be in love with his book; to take a pleasure in learning, and to desire, as he does, to be taught more, than those about him think fit always to teach him.
But my business is not to recommend this treatise to you, whose opinion of it I know already ; nor it to the world, either by your opinion or patronage. The well educating of their children is so much the duty and concern of parents, and the welfare and prosperity of the nation so much depends on it, that I would have every one lay it seriously to heart; and after having well examined and distinguished what fancy, custom, or reason advises in the case, set his helping hand to promote every-where that way of training up youth, with regard to their several conditions, which is the easiest, shortest, and likeliest to produce virtuous, useful, and able men in their distinct callings : though that most to be taken care of, is the gentleman's calling. For if those of that rank are by their education once set right, they will quickly bring all the rest into order.
I know not whether I have done more than shown my good wishes towards it in this short discourse; such as it is the world now has it; and if there be any thing in it worth their acceptance, they owe their thanks to you for it. My affection to you gave the first rise to it, and I am pleased, that I can leave to posterity this mark of the friendship has been between us. For I know no-greater pleasure in this life, nor a better remembrance to be left behind one, than a long continued friendship, with an honest, useful, and worthy man, and lover of his country.
I am, SIR,
Your most humble
And most faithful servant,
March 7, 1690.
1. A SOUND mind in a sound body, is a short, but full description of a happy state in this world; he that has these two, has little more to wish for; and he that wants either of them, will be but little the better for any thing else. Men's happiness, or misery, is most part of their own making. He whose mind directs not wisely, will never take the right way; and he whose body is crazy and feeble, will never be able to advance in it. I confess, there are some men's constitutions of body and mind so vigorous, and well framed by nature, that they need not much assistance from others; but, by the strength of their natural genius, they are, from their cradles, carried towards what is excellent; and, by the privilege of their happy constitutions, are able to do wonders. But examples of this kind are but few; and I think I may say, that, of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education. It is that which makes the great difference in mankind.