COBBETT'S ADVICE TO YOUNG MEN
And (Incidentally) to Young Women, in the Middle and Higher Ranks of Life. In a Series of Letters, Addressed to a Youth, a Bachelor, a Lover, a Husband, a Father, a Citizen, or a Subject.
(From the Edition of 1829) London Henry Frowde 1906 Oxford: Horace Hart Printer to the University
1. It is the duty, and ought to be the pleasure, of age and experience to warn and instruct youth and to come to the aid of inexperience. When sailors have discovered rocks or breakers, and have had the good luck to escape with life from amidst them, they, unless they be pirates or barbarians as well as sailors, point out the spots for the placing of buoys and of lights, in order that others may not be exposed to the danger which they have so narrowly escaped. What man of common humanity, having, by good luck, missed being engulfed in a quagmire or quicksand, will withhold from his neighbours a knowledge of the peril without which the dangerous spots are not to be approached?
2. The great effect which correct opinions and sound principles, imbibed in early life, together with the good conduct, at that age, which must naturally result from such opinions and principles; the great effect which these have on the whole course of our lives is, and must be, well known to every man of common observation. How many of us, arrived at only forty years, have to repent; nay, which of us has not to repent, or has not had to repent, that he did not, at an earlier age, possess a great stock of knowledge of that kind which has an immediate effect on our personal ease and happiness; that kind of knowledge, upon which the cheerfulness and the harmony of our homes depend!
3. It is to communicate a stock of this sort of knowledge, in particular, that this work is intended; knowledge, indeed, relative to education, to many sciences, to trade, agriculture, horticulture, law, government, and religion; knowledge relating, incidentally, to all these; but, the main object is to furnish that sort of knowledge to the young which but few men acquire until they be old, when it comes too late to be useful.
4. To communicate to others the knowledge that I possess has always been my taste and my delight; and few, who know anything of my progress through life, will be disposed to question my fitness for the task. Talk of rocks and breakers and quagmires and quicksands, who has ever escaped from amidst so many as I have! Thrown (by my own will, indeed) on the wide world at a very early age, not more than eleven or twelve years, without money to support, without friends to advise, and without book-learning to assist me; passing a few years dependent solely on my own labour for my subsistence; then becoming a common soldier and leading a military life, chiefly in foreign parts, for eight years; quitting that life after really, for me, high promotion, and with, for me, a large sum of money; marrying at an early age, going at once to France to acquire the French language, thence to America; passing eight years there, becoming bookseller and author, and taking a prominent part in all the important discussions of the interesting period from 1793 to 1799, during which there was, in that country, a continued struggle carried on between the English and the French parties; conducting myself, in the ever-active part which I took in that struggle, in such a way as to call forth marks of unequivocal approbation from the government at home; returning to England in 1800, resuming my labours here, suffering, during these twenty-nine years, two years of imprisonment, heavy fines, three years self-banishment to the other side of the Atlantic, and a total breaking of fortune, so as to be left without a bed to lie on, and, during these twenty-nine years of troubles and of punishments, writing and publishing, every week of my life, whether in exile or not, eleven weeks only excepted, a periodical paper, containing more or less of matter worthy of public attention; writing and publishing, during the same twenty-nine years, a grammar of the French and another of the English language, a work on the Economy of the Cottage, a work on Forest Trees and Woodlands, a work on Gardening, an account of America, a book of Sermons, a work on the Corn-plant, a History of the Protestant Reformation; all books of great and continued sale, and the last unquestionably the book of greatest circulation in the whole world, the Bible only excepted; having, during these same twenty-nine years of troubles and embarrassments without number, introduced into England the manufacture of Straw-plat; also several valuable trees; having introduced, during the same twenty-nine years, the cultivation of the Corn-plant, so manifestly valuable as a source of food; having, during the same period, always (whether in exile or not) sustained a shop of some size, in London; having, during the whole of the same period, never employed less, on an average, than ten persons, in some capacity or other, exclusive of printers, bookbinders, and others, connected with papers and books; and having, during these twenty-nine years of troubles, embarrassments, prisons, fines, and banishments, bred up a family of seven children to man's and woman's state.
5. If such a man be not, after he has survived and accomplished all this, qualified to give Advice to Young Men, no man is qualified for that task. There may have been natural genius: but genius alone, not all the genius in the world, could, without something more, have conducted me through these perils. During these twenty-nine years, I have had for deadly and ever-watchful foes, a government that has the collecting and distributing of sixty millions of pounds in a year, and also every soul who shares in that distribution. Until very lately, I have had, for the far greater part of the time, the whole of the press as my deadly enemy. Yet, at this moment, it will not be pretended, that there is another man in the kingdom, who has so many cordial friends. For as to the friends of ministers and the great, the friendship is towards the power, the influence; it is, in fact, towards those taxes, of which so many thousands are gaping to get at a share. And, if we could, through so thick a veil, come at the naked fact, we should find the subscription, now going on in Dublin for the purpose of erecting a monument in that city, to commemorate the good recently done, or alleged to be done, to Ireland, by the DUKE of WELLINGTON; we should find, that the subscribers have the taxes in view; and that, if the monument shall actually be raised, it ought to have selfishness, and not gratitude, engraven on its base. Nearly the same may be said with regard to all the praises that we hear bestowed on men in power. The friendship which is felt towards me is pure and disinterested: it is not founded in any hope that the parties can have, that they can ever profit from professing it: it is founded on the gratitude which they entertain for the good that I have done them; and, of this sort of friendship, and friendship so cordial, no man ever possessed a larger portion.
6. Now, mere genius will not acquire this for a man. There must be something more than genius: there must be industry: there must be perseverance: there must be, before the eyes of the nation, proofs of extraordinary exertion: people must say to themselves, 'What wise conduct must there have been in the employing of the time of this man! How sober, how sparing in diet, how early a riser, how little expensive he must have been!' These are the things, and not genius, which have caused my labours to be so incessant and so successful: and, though I do not affect to believe, that every young man, who shall read this work, will become able to perform labours of equal magnitude and importance, I do pretend, that every young man, who will attend to my advice, will become able to perform a great deal more than men generally do perform, whatever may be his situation in life; and, that he will, too, perform it with greater ease and satisfaction than he would, without the advice, be able to perform the smaller portion.
7. I have had, from thousands of young men, and men advanced in years also, letters of thanks for the great benefit which they have derived from my labours. Some have thanked me for my Grammars, some for my Cottage Economy, others for the Woodlands and the Gardener; and, in short, for every one of my works have I received letters of thanks from numerous persons, of whom I had never heard before. In many cases I have been told, that, if the parties had had my books to read some years before, the gain to them, whether in time or in other things, would have been very great. Many, and a great many, have told me, that, though long at school, and though their parents had paid for their being taught English Grammar, or French, they had, in a short time, learned more from my books, on those subjects, than they had learned, in years, from their teachers. How many gentlemen have thanked me, in the strongest terms, for my Woodlands and Gardener, observing (just as Lord Bacon had observed in his time) that they had before seen no books, on these subjects, that they could understand! But, I know not of anything that ever gave me more satisfaction than I derived from the visit of a gentleman of fortune, whom I had never heard of before, and who, about four years ago, came to thank me in person for a complete reformation, which had been worked in his son by the reading of my two SERMONS on drinking and on gaming.
8. I have, therefore, done, already, a great deal in this way: but, there is still wanting, in a compact form, a body of ADVICE such as that which I now propose to give: and in the giving of which I shall divide my matter as follows. 1. Advice addressed to a YOUTH; 2. Advice addressed to a BACHELOR; 3. Advice addressed to a LOVER; 4. To a HUSBAND; 5. To a FATHER; 6. To a CITIZEN or SUBJECT.
9. Some persons will smile, and others laugh outright, at the idea of 'Cobbett's giving advice for conducting the affairs of love.' Yes, but I was once young, and surely I may say with the poet, I forget which of them,
'Though old I am, for ladies' love unfit, The power of beauty I remember yet.'
I forget, indeed, the names of the ladies as completely, pretty nigh, as I do that of the poets; but I remember their influence, and of this influence on the conduct and in the affairs and on the condition of men, I have, and must have, been a witness all my life long. And, when we consider in how great a degree the happiness of all the remainder of a man's life depends, and always must depend, on his taste and judgment in the character of a lover, this may well be considered as the most important period of the whole term of his existence.
10. In my address to the HUSBAND, I shall, of course, introduce advice relative to the important duties of masters and servants; duties of great importance, whether considered as affecting families or as affecting the community. In my address to the CITIZEN or SUBJECT, I shall consider all the reciprocal duties of the governors and the governed, and also the duties which man owes to his neighbour. It would be tedious to attempt to lay down rules for conduct exclusively applicable to every distinct calling, profession, and condition of life; but, under the above-described heads, will be conveyed every species of advice of which I deem the utility to be unquestionable.
11. I have thus fully described the nature of my little work, and, before I enter on the first Letter, I venture to express a hope, that its good effects will be felt long after its author shall have ceased to exist.
TO A YOUTH
12. You are now arrived at that age which the law thinks sufficient to make an oath, taken by you, valid in a court of law. Let us suppose from fourteen to nearly twenty; and, reserving, for a future occasion, my remarks on your duty towards parents, let me here offer you my advice as to the means likely to contribute largely towards making you a happy man, useful to all about you, and an honour to those from whom you sprang.
13. Start, I beseech you, with a conviction firmly fixed on your mind, that you have no right to live in this world; that, being of hale body and sound mind, you have no right to any earthly existence, without doing work of some sort or other, unless you have ample fortune whereon to live clear of debt; and, that even in that case, you have no right to breed children, to be kept by others, or to be exposed to the chance of being so kept. Start with this conviction thoroughly implanted on your mind. To wish to live on the labour of others is, besides the folly of it, to contemplate a fraud at the least, and, under certain circumstances, to meditate oppression and robbery.
14. I suppose you in the middle rank of life. Happiness ought to be your great object, and it is to be found only in independence. Turn your back on Whitehall and on Somerset-House; leave the Customs and Excise to the feeble and low-minded; look not for success to favour, to partiality, to friendship, or to what is called interest: write it on your heart, that you will depend solely on your own merit and your own exertions. Think not, neither, of any of those situations where gaudy habiliments and sounding titles poorly disguise from the eyes of good sense the mortifications and the heart-ache of slaves. Answer me not by saying, that these situations 'must be filled by somebody;' for, if I were to admit the truth of the proposition, which I do not, it would remain for you to show that they are conducive to happiness, the contrary of which has been proved to me by the observation of a now pretty long life.
15. Indeed, reason tells us, that it must be thus: for that which a man owes to favour or to partiality, that same favour or partiality is constantly liable to take from him. He who lives upon anything except his own labour, is incessantly surrounded by rivals: his grand resource is that servility in which he is always liable to be surpassed. He is in daily danger of being out-bidden; his very bread depends upon caprice; and he lives in a state of uncertainty and never-ceasing fear. His is not, indeed, the dog's life, 'hunger and idleness;' but it is worse; for it is 'idleness with slavery,' the latter being the just price of the former. Slaves frequently are well fed and well clad; but slaves dare not speak; they dare not be suspected to think differently from their masters: hate his acts as much as they may; be he tyrant, be he drunkard, be he fool, or be he all three at once, they must be silent, or, nine times out of ten, affect approbation: though possessing a thousand times his knowledge, they must feign a conviction of his superior understanding; though knowing that it is they who, in fact, do all that he is paid for doing, it is destruction to them to seem as if they thought any portion of the service belonged to them! Far from me be the thought, that any youth who shall read this page would not rather perish than submit to live in a state like this! Such a state is fit only for the refuse of nature; the halt, the half-blind, the unhappy creatures whom nature has marked out for degradation.
16. And how comes it, then, that we see hale and even clever youths voluntarily bending their necks to this slavery; nay, pressing forward in eager rivalship to assume the yoke that ought to be insupportable? The cause, and the only cause, is, that the deleterious fashion of the day has created so many artificial wants, and has raised the minds of young men so much above their real rank and state of life, that they look scornfully on the employment, the fare, and the dress, that would become them; and, in order to avoid that state in which they might live free and happy, they become showy slaves.
17. The great source of independence, the French express in a precept of three words, 'Vivre de peu,' which I have always very much admired. 'To live upon little' is the great security against slavery; and this precept extends to dress and other things besides food and drink. When DOCTOR JOHNSON wrote his Dictionary, he put in the word pensioner thus: 'PENSIONER—A slave of state.' After this he himself became a pensioner! And thus, agreeably to his own definition, he lived and died 'a slave of state!' What must this man of great genius, and of great industry too, have felt at receiving this pension! Could he be so callous as not to feel a pang upon seeing his own name placed before his own degrading definition? And what could induce him to submit to this? His wants, his artificial wants, his habit of indulging in the pleasures of the table; his disregard of the precept 'Vivre de peu.' This was the cause; and, be it observed, that indulgences of this sort, while they tend to make men poor and expose them to commit mean acts, tend also to enfeeble the body, and more especially to cloud and to weaken the mind.
18. When this celebrated author wrote his Dictionary, he had not been debased by luxurious enjoyments; the rich and powerful had not caressed him into a slave; his writings then bore the stamp of truth and independence: but, having been debased by luxury, he who had, while content with plain fare, been the strenuous advocate of the rights of the people, became a strenuous advocate for taxation without representation; and, in a work under the title of 'Taxation no Tyranny,' defended, and greatly assisted to produce, that unjust and bloody war which finally severed from England that great country the United states of America, now the most powerful and dangerous rival that this kingdom ever had. The statue of Dr. JOHNSON was the first that was put into St. PAUL'S CHURCH! A signal warning to us not to look upon monuments in honour of the dead as a proof of their virtues; for here we see St. PAUL'S CHURCH holding up to the veneration of posterity a man whose own writings, together with the records of the pension list, prove him to have been 'a slave of state.'
19. Endless are the instances of men of bright parts and high spirit having been, by degrees, rendered powerless and despicable, by their imaginary wants. Seldom has there been a man with a fairer prospect of accomplishing great things and of acquiring lasting renown, than CHARLES FOX: he had great talents of the most popular sort; the times were singularly favourable to an exertion of them with success; a large part of the nation admired him and were his partisans; he had, as to the great question between him and his rival (PITT), reason and justice clearly on his side: but he had against him his squandering and luxurious habits: these made him dependent on the rich part of his partisans; made his wisdom subservient to opulent folly or selfishness; deprived his country of all the benefit that it might have derived from his talents; and, finally, sent him to the grave without a single sigh from a people, a great part of whom would, in his earlier years, have wept at his death as at a national calamity.
20. Extravagance in dress, in the haunting of play-houses, in horses, in everything else, is to be avoided, and, in youths and young men, extravagance in dress particularly. This sort of extravagance, this waste of money on the decoration of the body, arises solely from vanity, and from vanity of the most contemptible sort. It arises from the notion, that all the people in the street, for instance, will be looking at you as soon as you walk out; and that they will, in a greater or less degree, think the better of you on account of your fine dress. Never was notion more false. All the sensible people that happen to see you, will think nothing at all about you: those who are filled with the same vain notion as you are, will perceive your attempt to impose on them, and will despise you accordingly: rich people will wholly disregard you, and you will be envied and hated by those who have the same vanity that you have without the means of gratifying it. Dress should be suited to your rank and station; a surgeon or physician should not dress like a carpenter! but there is no reason why a tradesman, a merchant's clerk, or clerk of any kind, or why a shopkeeper or manufacturer, or even a merchant; no reason at all why any of these should dress in an expensive manner. It is a great mistake to suppose, that they derive any advantage from exterior decoration. Men are estimated by other men according to their capacity and willingness to be in some way or other useful; and though, with the foolish and vain part of women, fine clothes frequently do something, yet the greater part of the sex are much too penetrating to draw their conclusions solely from the outside show of a man: they look deeper, and find other criterions whereby to judge. And, after all, if the fine clothes obtain you a wife, will they bring you, in that wife, frugality, good sense, and that sort of attachment that is likely to be lasting? Natural beauty of person is quite another thing: this always has, it always will and must have, some weight even with men, and great weight with women. But this does not want to be set off by expensive clothes. Female eyes are, in such cases, very sharp: they can discover beauty though half hidden by beard and even by dirt and surrounded by rags: and, take this as a secret worth half a fortune to you, that women, however personally vain they may be themselves, despise personal vanity in men.
21. Let your dress be as cheap as may be without shabbiness; think more about the colour of your shirt than about the gloss or texture of your coat; be always as clean as your occupation will, without inconvenience, permit; but never, no, not for one moment, believe, that any human being, with sense in his skull, will love or respect you on account of your fine or costly clothes. A great misfortune of the present day is, that every one is, in his own estimate, raised above his real state of life: every one seems to think himself entitled, if not to title and great estate, at least to live without work. This mischievous, this most destructive, way of thinking has, indeed, been produced, like almost all our other evils, by the Acts of our Septennial and Unreformed Parliament. That body, by its Acts, has caused an enormous Debt to be created, and, in consequence, a prodigious sum to be raised annually in taxes. It has caused, by these means, a race of loan-mongers and stock-jobbers to arise. These carry on a species of gaming, by which some make fortunes in a day, and others, in a day, become beggars. The unfortunate gamesters, like the purchasers of blanks in a lottery, are never heard of; but the fortunate ones become companions for lords, and some of them lords themselves. We have, within these few years, seen many of these gamesters get fortunes of a quarter of a million in a few days, and then we have heard them, though notoriously amongst the lowest and basest of human creatures, called 'honourable gentlemen'! In such a state of things, who is to expect patient industry, laborious study, frugality and care; who, in such a state of things, is to expect these to be employed in pursuit of that competence which it is the laudable wish of all men to secure? Not long ago a man, who had served his time to a tradesman in London, became, instead of pursuing his trade, a stock-jobber, or gambler; and, in about two years, drove his coach-and-four, had his town house and country house, and visited, and was visited by, peers of the highest rank! A fellow-apprentice of this lucky gambler, though a tradesman in excellent business, seeing no earthly reason why he should not have his coach-and-four also, turned his stock in trade into a stake for the 'Change; but, alas! at the end of a few months, instead of being in a coach-and-four, he was in the Gazette!
22. This is one instance out of hundreds of thousands; not, indeed, exactly of the same description, but all arising from the same copious source. The words speculate and speculation have been substituted for gamble and gambling. The hatefulness of the pursuit is thus taken away; and, while taxes to the amount of more than double the whole of the rental of the kingdom; while these cause such crowds of idlers, every one of whom calls himself a gentleman, and avoids the appearance of working for his bread; while this is the case, who is to wonder, that a great part of the youth of the country, knowing themselves to be as good, as learned, and as well-bred as these gentlemen; who is to wonder, that they think, that they also ought to be considered as gentlemen? Then, the late war (also the work of the Septennial Parliament) has left us, amongst its many legacies, such swarms of titled men and women; such swarms of 'Sirs' and their 'Ladies'; men and women who, only the other day, were the fellow-apprentices, fellow-tradesmen's or farmers' sons and daughters, or indeed, the fellow-servants, of those who are now in these several states of life; the late Septennial Parliament war has left us such swarms of these, that it is no wonder that the heads of young people are turned, and that they are ashamed of that state of life to act their part well in which ought to be their delight.
23. But, though the cause of the evil is in Acts of the Septennial Parliament; though this universal desire in people to be thought to be above their station; though this arises from such acts; and, though it is no wonder that young men are thus turned from patient study and labour; though these things be undoubted, they form no reason why I should not warn you against becoming a victim to this national scourge. For, in spite of every art made use of to avoid labour, the taxes will, after all, maintain only so many idlers. We cannot all be 'knights' and 'gentlemen': there must be a large part of us, after all, to make and mend clothes and houses, and carry on trade and commerce, and, in spite of all that we can do, the far greater part of us must actually work at something; for, unless we can get at some of the taxes, we fall under the sentence of Holy Writ, 'He who will not work shall not eat.' Yet, so strong is the propensity to be thought 'gentlemen'; so general is this desire amongst the youth of this formerly laborious and unassuming nation; a nation famed for its pursuit of wealth through the channels of patience, punctuality, and integrity; a nation famed for its love of solid acquisitions and qualities, and its hatred of everything showy and false: so general is this really fraudulent desire amongst the youth of this now 'speculating' nation, that thousands upon thousands of them are, at this moment, in a state of half starvation, not so much because they are too lazy to earn their bread, as because they are too proud! And what are the consequences? Such a youth remains or becomes a burden to his parents, of whom he ought to be the comfort, if not the support. Always aspiring to something higher than he can reach, his life is a life of disappointment and of shame. If marriage befal him, it is a real affliction, involving others as well as himself. His lot is a thousand times worse than that of the common labouring pauper. Nineteen times out of twenty a premature death awaits him: and, alas! how numerous are the cases in which that death is most miserable, not to say ignominious! Stupid pride is one of the symptoms of madness. Of the two madmen mentioned in Don Quixote, one thought himself NEPTUNE, and the other JUPITER. Shakspeare agrees with CERVANTES; for, Mad Tom, in King Lear, being asked who he is, answers, 'I am a tailor run mad with pride.' How many have we heard of, who claimed relationship with noblemen and kings; while of not a few each has thought himself the Son of God! To the public journals, and to the observations of every one, nay, to the 'county-lunatic asylums' (things never heard of in England till now), I appeal for the fact of the vast and hideous increase of madness in this country; and, within these very few years, how many scores of young men, who, if their minds had been unperverted by the gambling principles of the day, had a probably long and happy life before them; who had talent, personal endowments, love of parents, love of friends, admiration of large circles; who had, in short, everything to make life desirable, and who, from mortified pride, founded on false pretensions, have put an end to their own existence!
24. As to DRUNKENNESS and GLUTTONY, generally so called, these are vices so nasty and beastly that I deem any one capable of indulging in them to be wholly unworthy of my advice; and, if any youth unhappily initiated in these odious and debasing vices should happen to read what I am now writing, I refer him to the command of God, conveyed to the Israelites by Moses, in Deuteronomy, chap. xxi. The father and mother are to take the bad son 'and bring him to the elders of the city; and they shall say to the elders, This our son will not obey our voice: he is a glutton and a drunkard. And all the men of the city shall stone him with stones, that he die.' I refer downright beastly gluttons and drunkards to this; but indulgence short, far short, of this gross and really nasty drunkenness and gluttony is to be deprecated, and that, too, with the more earnestness because it is too often looked upon as being no crime at all, and as having nothing blameable in it; nay, there are many persons who pride themselves on their refined taste in matters connected with eating and drinking: so far from being ashamed of employing their thoughts on the subject, it is their boast that they do it. St. Gregory, one of the Christian fathers, says: 'It is not the quantity or the quality of the meat, or drink, but the love of it that is condemned;' that is to say, the indulgence beyond the absolute demands of nature; the hankering after it; the neglect of some duty or other for the sake of the enjoyments of the table.
25. This love of what are called 'good eating and drinking,' if very unamiable in grown-up persons, is perfectly hateful in a youth; and, if he indulge in the propensity, he is already half ruined. To warn you against acts of fraud, robbery, and violence, is not my province; that is the business of those who make and administer the law. I am not talking to you against acts which the jailor and the hangman punish; nor against those moral offences which all men condemn; but against indulgences, which, by men in general, are deemed not only harmless, but meritorious; but which the observation of my whole life has taught me to regard as destructive to human happiness, and against which all ought to be cautioned even in their boyish days. I have been a great observer, and I can truly say, that I have never known a man, 'fond of good eating and drinking,' as it is called; that I have never known such a man (and hundreds I have known) who was worthy of respect.
26. Such indulgences are, in the first place, very expensive. The materials are costly, and the preparations still more so. What a monstrous thing, that, in order to satisfy the appetite of a man, there must be a person or two at work every day! More fuel, culinary implements, kitchen-room; what! all these merely to tickle the palate of four or five people, and especially people who can hardly pay their way! And, then, the loss of time: the time spent in pleasing the palate: it is truly horrible to behold people who ought to be at work, sitting, at the three meals, not less than three of the about fourteen hours that they are out of their beds! A youth, habituated to this sort of indulgence, cannot be valuable to any employer. Such a youth cannot be deprived of his table-enjoyments on any account: his eating and drinking form the momentous concern of his life: if business interfere with that, the business must give way. A young man, some years ago, offered himself to me, on a particular occasion, as an amanuensis, for which he appeared to be perfectly qualified. The terms were settled, and I, who wanted the job dispatched, requested him to sit down, and begin; but he, looking out of the window, whence he could see the church clock, said, somewhat hastily, 'I cannot stop now, sir, I must go to dinner.' 'Oh!' said I, 'you must go to dinner, must you! Let the dinner, which you must wait upon to-day, have your constant services, then: for you and I shall never agree.' He had told me that he was in great distress for want of employment; and yet, when relief was there before his eyes, he could forego it for the sake of getting at his eating and drinking three or four hours, perhaps, sooner than I should have thought it right for him to leave off work. Such a person cannot be sent from home, except at certain times; he must be near the kitchen at three fixed hours of the day; if he be absent more than four or five hours, he is ill-treated. In short, a youth thus pampered is worth nothing as a person to be employed in business.
27. And, as to friends and acquaintances; they will say nothing to you; they will offer you indulgences under their roofs; but the more ready you are to accept of their offers, and, in fact, the better taste you discover, the less they will like you, and the sooner they will find means of shaking you off; for, besides the cost which you occasion them, people do not like to have critics sitting in judgment on their bottles and dishes. Water-drinkers are universally laughed at; but, it has always seemed to me, that they are amongst the most welcome of guests, and that, too, though the host be by no means of a niggardly turn. The truth is, they give no trouble; they occasion no anxiety to please them; they are sure not to make their sittings inconveniently long; and, which is the great thing of all, their example teaches moderation to the rest of the company. Your notorious 'lovers of good cheer' are, on the contrary, not to be invited without due reflection: to entertain one of them is a serious business; and as people are not apt voluntarily to undertake such pieces of business, the well-known 'lovers of good eating and drinking' are left, very generally, to enjoy it by themselves and at their own expense.
28. But, all other considerations aside, health, the most valuable of all earthly possessions, and without which all the rest are worth nothing, bids us, not only to refrain from excess in eating and drinking, but bids us to stop short of what might be indulged in without any apparent impropriety. The words of ECCLESIASTICUS ought to be read once a week by every young person in the world, and particularly by the young people of this country at this time. 'Eat modestly that which is set before thee, and devour not, lest thou be hated. When thou sittest amongst many, reach not thine hand out first of all. How little is sufficient for man well taught! A wholesome sleep cometh of a temperate belly. Such a man riseth up in the morning, and is well at ease with himself. Be not too hasty of meats; for excess of meats bringeth sickness, and choleric disease cometh of gluttony. By surfeit have many perished, and he that dieteth himself prolongeth his life. Show not thy valiantness in wine; for wine hath destroyed many. Wine measurably taken, and in season, bringeth gladness and cheerfulness of mind; but drinking with excess maketh bitterness of mind, brawlings and scoldings.' How true are these words! How well worthy of a constant place in our memories! Yet, what pains have been taken to apologise for a life contrary to these precepts! And, good God! what punishment can be too great, what mark of infamy sufficiently signal, for those pernicious villains of talent, who have employed that talent in the composition of Bacchanalian songs; that is to say, pieces of fine and captivating writing in praise of one of the most odious and destructive vices in the black catalogue of human depravity!
29. In the passage which I have just quoted from chap. xxxi. of ECCLESIASTICUS, it is said, that 'wine, measurably taken, and in season,' is a proper thing. This, and other such passages of the Old Testament, have given a handle to drunkards, and to extravagant people, to insist, that God intended that wine should be commonly drunk. No doubt of that. But, then, he could intend this only in countries in which he had given wine, and to which he had given no cheaper drink except water. If it be said, as it truly may, that, by the means of the sea and the winds, he has given wine to all countries, I answer that this gift is of no use to us now, because our government steps in between the sea and the winds and us. Formerly, indeed, the case was different; and, here I am about to give you, incidentally, a piece of historical knowledge, which you will not have acquired from HUME, GOLDSMITH, or any other of the romancers called historians. Before that unfortunate event, the Protestant Reformation, as it is called, took place, the price of RED WINE, in England, was fourpence a gallon, Winchester measure; and of WHITE WINE, sixpence a gallon. At the same time the pay of a labouring man per day, as fixed by law, was fourpence. Now, when a labouring man could earn four quarts of good wine in a day, it was, doubtless, allowable, even in England, for people in the middle rank of life to drink wine rather commonly; and, therefore, in those happy days of England, these passages of Scripture were applicable enough. But, now, when we have got a Protestant government, which by the taxes which it makes people pay to it, causes the eighth part of a gallon of wine to cost more than the pay of a labouring man for a day; now, this passage of Scripture is not applicable to us. There is no 'season' in which we can take wine without ruining ourselves, however 'measurably' we may take it; and I beg you to regard, as perverters of Scripture and as seducers of youth, all those who cite passages like that above cited, in justification of, or as an apology for, the practice of wine-drinking in England.
30. I beseech you to look again and again at, and to remember every word of, the passage which I have just quoted from the book of ECCLESIASTICUS. How completely have been, and are, its words verified by my experience and in my person! How little of eating and drinking is sufficient for me! How wholesome is my sleep! How early do I rise; and how 'well at ease' am I 'with myself!' I should not have deserved such blessings, if I had withheld from my neighbours a knowledge of the means by which they were obtained; and, therefore, this knowledge I have been in the constant habit of communicating. When one gives a dinner to a company, it is an extraordinary affair, and is intended, by sensible men, for purposes other than those of eating and drinking. But, in general, in the every-day life, despicable are those who suffer any part of their happiness to depend upon what they have to eat or to drink, provided they have a sufficiency of wholesome food; despicable is the man, and worse than despicable the youth, that would make any sacrifice, however small, whether of money or of time, or of anything else, in order to secure a dinner different from that which he would have had without such sacrifice. Who, what man, ever performed a greater quantity of labour than I have performed? What man ever did so much? Now, in a great measure, I owe my capability to perform this labour to my disregard of dainties. Being shut up two years in Newgate, with a fine on my head of a thousand pounds to the king, for having expressed my indignation at the flogging of Englishmen under a guard of German bayonets, I ate, during one whole year, one mutton chop every day. Being once in town, with one son (then a little boy) and a clerk, while my family was in the country, I had during some weeks nothing but legs of mutton; first day, leg of mutton boiled or roasted; second, cold; third, hashed; then, leg of mutton boiled; and so on. When I have been by myself, or nearly so, I have always proceeded thus: given directions for having every day the same thing, or alternately as above, and every day exactly at the same hour, so as to prevent the necessity of any talk about the matter. I am certain that, upon an average, I have not, during my life, spent more than thirty-five minutes a day at table, including all the meals of the day. I like, and I take care to have, good and clean victuals; but, if wholesome and clean, that is enough. If I find it, by chance, too coarse for my appetite, I put the food aside, or let somebody do it, and leave the appetite to gather keenness. But the great security of all is, to eat little, and to drink nothing that intoxicates. He that eats till he is full is little better than a beast; and he that drinks till he is drunk is quite a beast.
31. Before I dismiss this affair of eating and drinking, let me beseech you to resolve to free yourselves from the slavery of the tea and coffee and other slop-kettle, if, unhappily, you have been bred up in such slavery. Experience has taught me, that those slops are injurious to health: until I left them off (having taken to them at the age of 26), even my habits of sobriety, moderate eating, early rising; even these were not, until I left off the slops, sufficient to give me that complete health which I have since had. I pretend not to be a 'doctor;' but, I assert, that to pour regularly, every day, a pint or two of warm liquid matter down the throat, whether under the name of tea, coffee, soup, grog, or whatever else, is greatly injurious to health. However, at present, what I have to represent to you is the great deduction, which the use of these slops makes, from your power of being useful, and also from your power to husband your income, whatever it may be, and from whatever source arising. I am to suppose you to be desirous to become a clever and a useful man; a man to be, if not admired and revered, at least to be respected. In order to merit respect beyond that which is due to very common men, you must do something more than very common men; and I am now going to show you how your course must be impeded by the use of the slops.
32. If the women exclaim, 'Nonsense! come and take a cup,' take it for that once; but hear what I have to say. In answer to my representation regarding the waste of time which is occasioned by the slops, it has been said, that let what may be the nature of the food, there must be time for taking it. Not so much time, however, to eat a bit of meat or cheese or butter with a bit of bread. But, these may be eaten in a shop, a warehouse, a factory, far from any fire, and even in a carriage on the road. The slops absolutely demand fire and a congregation; so that, be your business what it may; be you shopkeeper, farmer, drover, sportsman, traveller, to the slop-board you must come; you must wait for its assembling, or start from home without your breakfast; and, being used to the warm liquid, you feel out of order for the want of it. If the slops were in fashion amongst ploughmen and carters, we must all be starved; for the food could never be raised. The mechanics are half-ruined by them. Many of them are become poor, enervated creatures; and chiefly from this cause. But is the positive cost nothing? At boarding-schools an additional price is given on account of the tea slops. Suppose you to be a clerk, in hired lodgings, and going to your counting-house at nine o'clock. You get your dinner, perhaps, near to the scene of your work; but how are you to have the breakfast slops without a servant? Perhaps you find a lodging just to suit you, but the house is occupied by people who keep no servants, and you want a servant to light a fire and get the slop ready. You could get this lodging for several shillings a week less than another at the next door; but there they keep a servant, who will 'get you your breakfast,' and preserve you, benevolent creature as she is, from the cruel necessity of going to the cupboard and cutting off a slice of meat or cheese and a bit of bread. She will, most likely, toast your bread for you too, and melt your butter; and then muffle you up, in winter, and send you out almost swaddled. Really such a thing can hardly be expected ever to become a man. You are weak; you have delicate health; you are 'bilious!' Why, my good fellow, it is these very slops that make you weak and bilious; And, indeed, the poverty, the real poverty, that they and their concomitants bring on you, greatly assists, in more ways than one, in producing your 'delicate health.'
33. So much for indulgences in eating, drinking, and dress. Next, as to amusements. It is recorded of the famous ALFRED, that he devoted eight hours of the twenty-four to labour, eight to rest, and eight to recreation. He was, however, a king, and could be thinking during the eight hours of recreation. It is certain, that there ought to be hours of recreation, and I do not know that eight are too many; but, then observe, those hours ought to be well-chosen, and the sort of recreation ought to be attended to. It ought to be such as is at once innocent in itself and in its tendency, and not injurious to health. The sports of the field are the best of all, because they are conducive to health, because they are enjoyed by day-light, and because they demand early rising. The nearer that other amusements approach to these, the better they are. A town-life, which many persons are compelled, by the nature of their calling, to lead, precludes the possibility of pursuing amusements of this description to any very considerable extent; and young men in towns are, generally speaking, compelled to choose between books on the one hand, or gaming and the play-house on the other. Dancing is at once rational and healthful: it gives animal spirits: it is the natural amusement of young people, and such it has been from the days of Moses: it is enjoyed in numerous companies: it makes the parties to be pleased with themselves and with all about them; it has no tendency to excite base and malignant feelings; and none but the most grovelling and hateful tyranny, or the most stupid and despicable fanaticism, ever raised its voice against it. The bad modern habits of England have created one inconvenience attending the enjoyment of this healthy and innocent pastime, namely, late hours, which are at once injurious to health and destructive of order and of industry. In other countries people dance by day-light. Here they do not; and, therefore, you must, in this respect, submit to the custom, though not without robbing the dancing night of as many hours as you can.
34. As to GAMING, it is always criminal, either in itself, or in its tendency. The basis of it is covetousness; a desire to take from others something, for which you have given, and intend to give, no equivalent. No gambler was ever yet a happy man, and very few gamblers have escaped being miserable; and, observe, to game for nothing is still gaming, and naturally leads to gaming for something. It is sacrificing time, and that, too, for the worst of purposes. I have kept house for nearly forty years; I have reared a family; I have entertained as many friends as most people; and I have never had cards, dice, a chess-board, nor any implement of gaming, under my roof. The hours that young men spend in this way are hours murdered; precious hours, that ought to be spent either in reading or in writing, or in rest, preparatory to the duties of the dawn. Though I do not agree with the base and nauseous flatterers, who now declare the army to be the best school for statesmen, it is certainly a school in which to learn experimentally many useful lessons; and, in this school I learned, that men, fond of gaming, are very rarely, if ever, trust-worthy. I have known many a clever man rejected in the way of promotion only because he was addicted to gaming. Men, in that state of life, cannot ruin themselves by gaming, for they possess no fortune, nor money; but the taste for gaming is always regarded as an indication of a radically bad disposition; and I can truly say, that I never in my whole life knew a man, fond of gaming, who was not, in some way or other, a person unworthy of confidence. This vice creeps on by very slow degrees, till, at last, it becomes an ungovernable passion, swallowing up every good and kind feeling of the heart. The gambler, as pourtrayed by REGNARD, in a comedy the translation of which into English resembles the original much about as nearly as Sir JAMES GRAHAM'S plagiarisms resembled the Registers on which they had been committed, is a fine instance of the contempt and scorn to which gaming at last reduces its votaries; but, if any young man be engaged in this fatal career, and be not yet wholly lost, let him behold HOGARTH'S gambler just when he has made his last throw and when disappointment has bereft him of his senses. If after this sight he remain obdurate, he is doomed to be a disgrace to his name.
35. The Theatre may be a source not only of amusement but also of instruction; but, as things now are in this country, what, that is not bad, is to be learned in this school? In the first place not a word is allowed to be uttered on the stage, which has not been previously approved of by the Lord Chamberlain; that is to say, by a person appointed by the Ministry, who, at his pleasure, allows, or disallows, of any piece, or any words in a piece, submitted to his inspection. In short, those who go to play-houses pay their money to hear uttered such words as the government approve of, and no others. It is now just twenty-six years since I first well understood how this matter was managed; and, from that moment to this, I have never been in an English play-house. Besides this, the meanness, the abject servility, of the players, and the slavish conduct of the audience, are sufficient to corrupt and debase the heart of any young man who is a frequent beholder of them. Homage is here paid to every one clothed with power, be he who or what he may; real virtue and public-spirit are subjects of ridicule; and mock-sentiment and mock-liberality and mock-loyalty are applauded to the skies.
36. 'Show me a man's companions' says the proverb, 'and I will tell you what the man is;' and this is, and must be true; because all men seek the society of those who think and act somewhat like themselves: sober men will not associate with drunkards, frugal men will not like spendthrifts, and the orderly and decent shun the noisy, the disorderly, and the debauched. It is for the very vulgar to herd together as singers, ringers, and smokers; but, there is a class rather higher still more blamable; I mean the tavern-haunters, the gay companions, who herd together to do little but talk, and who are so fond of talk that they go from home to get at it. The conversation amongst such persons has nothing of instruction in it, and is generally of a vicious tendency. Young people naturally and commendably seek the society of those of their own age; but, be careful in choosing your companions; and lay this down as a rule never to be departed from, that no youth, nor man, ought to be called your friend, who is addicted to indecent talk, or who is fond of the society of prostitutes. Either of these argues a depraved taste, and even a depraved heart; an absence of all principle and of all trust-worthiness; and, I have remarked it all my life long, that young men, addicted to these vices, never succeed in the end, whatever advantages they may have, whether in fortune or in talent. Fond mothers and fathers are but too apt to be over-lenient to such offenders; and, as long as youth lasts and fortune smiles, the punishment is deferred; but, it comes at last; it is sure to come; and the gay and dissolute youth is a dejected and miserable man. After the early part of a life spent in illicit indulgences, a man is unworthy of being the husband of a virtuous woman; and, if he have anything like justice in him, how is he to reprove, in his children, vices in which he himself so long indulged? These vices of youth are varnished over by the saying, that there must be time for 'sowing the wild oats,' and that 'wildest colts make the best horses.' These figurative oats are, however, generally like the literal ones; they are never to be eradicated from the soil; and as to the colts, wildness in them is an indication of high animal spirit, having nothing at all to do with the mind, which is invariably debilitated and debased by profligate indulgences. Yet this miserable piece of sophistry, the offspring of parental weakness, is in constant use, to the incalculable injury of the rising generation. What so amiable as a steady, trust-worthy boy? He is of real use at an early age: he can be trusted far out of the sight of parent or employer, while the 'pickle,' as the poor fond parents call the profligate, is a great deal worse than useless, because there must be some one to see that he does no harm. If you have to choose, choose companions of your own rank in life as nearly as may be; but, at any rate, none to whom you acknowledge inferiority; for, slavery is too soon learned; and, if the mind be bowed down in the youth, it will seldom rise up in the man. In the schools of those best of teachers the JESUITS, there is perfect equality as to rank in life: the boy, who enters there, leaves all family pride behind him: intrinsic merit alone is the standard of preference; and the masters are so scrupulous upon this head, that they do not suffer one scholar, of whatever rank, to have more money to spend than the poorest. These wise men know well the mischiefs that must arise from inequality of pecuniary means amongst their scholars: they know how injurious it would be to learning, if deference were, by the learned, paid to the dunce; and they, therefore, take the most effectual means to prevent it. Hence, amongst other causes, it is, that their scholars have, ever since the existence of their Order, been the most celebrated for learning of any men in the world.
37. In your manners be neither boorish nor blunt, but even these are preferable to simpering and crawling. I wish every English youth could see those of the United States of America; always civil, never servile. Be obedient, where obedience is due; for, it is no act of meanness, and no indication of want of spirit, to yield implicit and ready obedience to those who have a right to demand it at your hands. In this respect England has been, and I hope always will be, an example to the whole world. To this habit of willing and prompt obedience in apprentices, in servants, in all inferiors in station, she owes, in a great measure, her multitudes of matchless merchants, tradesmen, and workmen of every description, and also the achievements of her armies and navies. It is no disgrace, but the contrary, to obey, cheerfully, lawful and just commands. None are so saucy and disobedient as slaves; and, when you come to read history, you will find that in proportion as nations have been free has been their reverence for the laws. But, there is a wide difference between lawful and cheerful obedience and that servility which represents people as laying petitions 'at the king's feet,' which makes us imagine that we behold the supplicants actually crawling upon their bellies. There is something so abject in this expression; there is such horrible self-abasement in it, that I do hope that every youth, who shall read this, will hold in detestation the reptiles who make use of it. In all other countries, the lowest individual can put a petition into the hands of the chief magistrate, be he king or emperor: let us hope, that the time will yet come when Englishmen will be able to do the same. In the meanwhile I beg you to despise these worse than pagan parasites.
38. Hitherto I have addressed you chiefly relative to the things to be avoided: let me now turn to the things which you ought to do. And, first of all, the husbanding of your time. The respect that you will receive, the real and sincere respect, will depend entirely on what you are able to do. If you be rich, you may purchase what is called respect; but it is not worth having. To obtain respect worth possessing, you must, as I observed before, do more than the common run of men in your state of life; and, to be enabled to do this, you must manage well your time: and, to manage it well, you must have as much of the day-light and as little of the candle-light as is consistent with the due discharge of your duties. When people get into the habit of sitting up merely for the purpose of talking, it is no easy matter to break themselves of it: and if they do not go to bed early, they cannot rise early. Young people require more sleep than those that are grown up: there must be the number of hours, and that number cannot well be, on an average, less than eight: and, if it be more in winter time, it is all the better; for, an hour in bed is better than an hour spent over fire and candle in an idle gossip. People never should sit talking till they do not know what to talk about. It is said by the country-people, that one hour's sleep before midnight is worth more than two are worth after midnight, and this I believe to be a fact; but it is useless to go to bed early and even to rise early, if the time be not well employed after rising. In general, half the morning is loitered away, the party being in a sort of half-dressed half-naked state; out of bed, indeed, but still in a sort of bedding. Those who first invented morning-gowns and slippers could have very little else to do. These things are very suitable to those who have had fortunes gained for them by others; very suitable to those who have nothing to do, and who merely live for the purpose of assisting to consume the produce of the earth; but he who has his bread to earn, or who means to be worthy of respect on account of his labours, has no business with morning gown and slippers. In short, be your business or calling what it may, dress at once for the day; and learn to do it as quickly as possible. A looking-glass is a piece of furniture a great deal worse than useless. Looking at the face will not alter its shape or its colour; and, perhaps, of all wasted time; none is so foolishly wasted as that which is employed in surveying one's own face. Nothing can be of little importance, if one be compelled to attend to it every day of our lives; if we shaved but once a year, or once a month, the execution of the thing would be hardly worth naming: but this is a piece of work that must be done once every day; and, as it may cost only about five minutes of time, and may be, and frequently is, made to cost thirty, or even fifty minutes; and, as only fifteen minutes make about a fifty-eighth part of the hours of our average day-light; this being the case, this is a matter of real importance. I once heard SIR JOHN SINCLAIR ask Mr. COCHRANE JOHNSTONE, whether he meaned to have a son of his (then a little boy) taught Latin. 'No,' said Mr. JOHNSTONE, 'but I mean to do something a great deal better for him.' 'What is that?' said Sir John. 'Why,' said the other, 'teach him to shave with cold water and without a glass.' Which, I dare say, he did; and for which benefit I am sure that son has had good reason to be grateful. Only think of the inconvenience attending the common practice! There must be hot water; to have this there must be a fire, and, in some cases, a fire for that purpose alone; to have these, there must be a servant, or you must light a fire yourself. For the want of these, the job is put off until a later hour: this causes a stripping and another dressing bout; or, you go in a slovenly state all that day, and the next day the thing must be done, or cleanliness must be abandoned altogether. If you be on a journey you must wait the pleasure of the servants at the inn before you can dress and set out in the morning; the pleasant time for travelling is gone before you can move from the spot; instead of being at the end of your day's journey in good time, you are benighted, and have to endure all the great inconveniences attendant on tardy movements. And, all this, from the apparently insignificant affair of shaving! How many a piece of important business has failed from a short delay! And how many thousand of such delays daily proceed from this unworthy cause! 'Toujours pret' was the motto of a famous French general; and pray let it be yours: be 'always ready;' and never, during your whole life, have to say, 'I cannot go till I be shaved and dressed.' Do the whole at once for the day, whatever may be your state of life; and then you have a day unbroken by those indispensable performances. Begin thus, in the days of your youth, and, having felt the superiority which this practice will give you over those in all other respects your equals, the practice will stick by you to the end of your life. Till you be shaved and dressed for the day, you cannot set steadily about any business; you know that you must presently quit your labour to return to the dressing affair; you, therefore, put it off until that be over; the interval, the precious interval, is spent in lounging about; and, by the time that you are ready for business, the best part of the day is gone.
39. Trifling as this matter appears upon naming it, it is, in fact, one of the great concerns of life; and, for my part, I can truly say, that I owe more of my great labours to my strict adherence to the precepts that I have here given you, than to all the natural abilities with which I have been endowed; for these, whatever may have been their amount, would have been of comparatively little use, even aided by great sobriety and abstinence, if I had not, in early life, contracted the blessed habit of husbanding well my time. To this, more than to any other thing, I owed my very extraordinary promotion in the army. I was always ready: if I had to mount guard at ten, I was ready at nine: never did any man, or any thing, wait one moment for me. Being, at an age under twenty years, raised from Corporal to Serjeant Major at once, over the heads of thirty Serjeants, I naturally should have been an object of envy and hatred; but this habit of early rising and of rigid adherence to the precepts which I have given you, really subdued these passions; because every one felt, that what I did he had never done, and never could do. Before my promotion, a clerk was wanted to make out the morning report of the regiment. I rendered the clerk unnecessary; and, long before any other man was dressed for the parade, my work for the morning was all done, and I myself was on the parade, walking, in fine weather, for an hour perhaps. My custom was this: to get up, in summer, at day-light, and in winter at four o'clock; shave, dress, even to the putting of my sword-belt over my shoulder, and having my sword lying on the table before me, ready to hang by my side. Then I ate a bit of cheese, or pork, and bread. Then I prepared my report, which was filled up as fast as the companies brought me in the materials. After this I had an hour or two to read, before the time came for any duty out of doors, unless when the regiment or part of it went out to exercise in the morning. When this was the case, and the matter was left to me, I always had it on the ground in such time as that the bayonets glistened in the rising sun, a sight which gave me delight, of which I often think, but which I should in vain endeavour to describe. If the officers were to go out, eight or ten o'clock was the hour, sweating the men in the heat of the day, breaking in upon the time for cooking their dinner, putting all things out of order and all men out of humour. When I was commander, the men had a long day of leisure before them: they could ramble into the town or into the woods; go to get raspberries, to catch birds, to catch fish, or to pursue any other recreation, and such of them as chose, and were qualified, to work at their trades. So that here, arising solely from the early habits of one very young man, were pleasant and happy days given to hundreds.
40. Money is said to be power, which is, in some cases, true; and the same may be said of knowledge; but superior sobriety, industry and activity, are a still more certain source of power; for without these, knowledge is of little use; and, as to the power which money gives, it is that of brute force, it is the power of the bludgeon and the bayonet, and of the bribed press, tongue and pen. Superior sobriety, industry, activity, though accompanied with but a moderate portion of knowledge, command respect, because they have great and visible influence. The drunken, the lazy, and the inert, stand abashed before the sober and the active. Besides, all those whose interests are at stake prefer, of necessity, those whose exertions produce the greatest and most immediate and visible effect. Self-interest is no respecter of persons: it asks, not who knows best what ought to be done, but who is most likely to do it: we may, and often do, admire the talents of lazy, and even dissipated men, but we do not trust them with the care of our interests. If, therefore, you would have respect and influence in the circle in which you move, be more sober, more industrious, more active than the general run of those amongst whom you live.
41. As to EDUCATION, this word is now applied exclusively to things which are taught in schools; but education means rearing up, and the French speak of the education of pigs and sheep. In a very famous French book on rural affairs, there is a Chapter entitled 'Education du Cochon,' that is, education of the hog. The word has the same meaning in both languages; for both take it from the Latin. Neither is the word LEARNING properly confined to things taught in schools, or by books; for, learning means knowledge; and, but a comparatively small part of useful knowledge comes from books. Men are not to be called ignorant merely because they cannot make upon paper certain marks with a pen, or because they do not know the meaning of such marks when made by others. A ploughman may be very learned in his line, though he does not know what the letters p. l. o. u. g. h mean when he sees them combined upon paper. The first thing to be required of a man is, that he understand well his own calling, or profession; and, be you in what state of life you may, to acquire this knowledge ought to be your first and greatest care. A man who has had a new-built house tumble down will derive little more consolation from being told that the architect is a great astronomer, than this distressed nation now derives from being assured that its distresses arise from the measures of a long list of the greatest orators and greatest heroes that the world ever beheld.
42. Nevertheless, book-learning is by no means to be despised; and it is a thing which may be laudably sought after by persons in all states of life. In those pursuits which are called professions, it is necessary, and also in certain trades; and, in persons in the middle ranks of life, a total absence of such learning is somewhat disgraceful. There is, however, one danger to be carefully guarded against; namely, the opinion that your genius, or your literary acquirements, are such as to warrant you in disregarding the calling in which you are, and by which you gain your bread. Parents must have an uncommon portion of solid sense to counterbalance their natural affection sufficiently to make them competent judges in such a case. Friends are partial; and those who are not, you deem enemies. Stick, therefore, to the shop; rely upon your mercantile or mechanical or professional calling; try your strength in literature, if you like; but, rely on the shop. If BLOOMFIELD, who wrote a poem called the FARMER'S BOY, had placed no reliance on the faithless muses, his unfortunate and much-to-be-pitied family would, in all probability, have not been in a state to solicit relief from charity. I remember that this loyal shoemaker was flattered to the skies, and (ominous sign, if he had understood it) feasted at the tables of some of the great. Have, I beseech you, no hope of this sort; and, if you find it creeping towards your heart, drive it instantly away as the mortal foe of your independence and your peace.
43. With this precaution, however, book-learning is not only proper, but highly commendable; and portions of it are absolutely necessary in every case of trade or profession. One of these portions is distinct reading, plain and neat writing, and arithmetic. The two former are mere child's work; the latter not quite so easily acquired, but equally indispensable, and of it you ought to have a thorough knowledge before you attempt to study even the grammar of your own language. Arithmetic is soon learned; it is not a thing that requires much natural talent; it is not a thing that loads the memory or puzzles the mind; and it is a thing of every-day utility. Therefore, this is, to a certain extent, an absolute necessary; an indispensable acquisition. Every man is not to be a surveyor or an actuary; and, therefore, you may stop far short of the knowledge, of this sort, which is demanded by these professions; but, as far as common accounts and calculations go, you ought to be perfect; and this you may make yourself, without any assistance from a master, by bestowing upon this science, during six months, only one half of the time that is, by persons of your age, usually wasted over the tea-slops, or other kettle-slops, alone! If you become fond of this science, there may be a little danger of wasting your time on it. When, therefore, you have got as much of it as your business or profession can possibly render necessary, turn the time to some other purpose. As to books, on this subject, they are in everybody's hand; but, there is one book on the subject of calculations, which I must point out to you; 'THE CAMBIST,' by Dr. KELLY. This is a bad title, because, to men in general, it gives no idea of what the book treats of. It is a book which shows the value of the several pieces of money of one country when stated in the money of another country. For instance, it tells us what a Spanish Dollar, a Dutch Dollar, a French Frank, and so on, is worth in English money. It does the same with regard to weights and measures: and it extends its information to all the countries in the world. It is a work of rare merit; and every youth, be his state of life what it may, if it permit him to pursue book-learning of any sort, and particularly if he be destined, or at all likely to meddle with commercial matters, ought, as soon as convenient, to possess this valuable and instructive book.
44. The next thing is the GRAMMAR of your own language. Without understanding this, you can never hope to become fit for anything beyond mere trade or agriculture. It is true, that we do (God knows!) but too often see men have great wealth, high titles, and boundless power heaped upon them, who can hardly write ten lines together correctly; but, remember, it is not merit that has been the cause of their advancement; the cause has been, in almost every such case, the subserviency of the party to the will of some government, and the baseness of some nation who have quietly submitted to be governed by brazen fools. Do not you imagine, that you will have luck of this sort: do not you hope to be rewarded and honoured for that ignorance which shall prove a scourge to your country, and which will earn you the curses of the children yet unborn. Rely you upon your merit, and upon nothing else. Without a knowledge of grammar, it is impossible for you to write correctly, and it is by mere accident if you speak correctly; and, pray bear in mind, that all well-informed persons judge of a man's mind (until they have other means of judging) by his writing or speaking. The labour necessary to acquire this knowledge is, indeed, not trifling: grammar is not, like arithmetic, a science consisting of several distinct departments, some of which may be dispensed with: it is a whole, and the whole must be learned, or no part is learned. The subject is abstruse: it demands much reflection and much patience: but, when once the task is performed, it is performed for life, and in every day of that life it will be found to be, in a greater or less degree, a source of pleasure or of profit or of both together. And, what is the labour? It consists of no bodily exertion; it exposes the student to no cold, no hunger, no suffering of any sort. The study need subtract from the hours of no business, nor, indeed, from the hours of necessary exercise: the hours usually spent on the tea and coffee slops and in the mere gossip which accompany them; those wasted hours of only one year, employed in the study of English grammar, would make you a correct speaker and writer for the rest of your life. You want no school, no room to study in, no expenses, and no troublesome circumstances of any sort. I learned grammar when I was a private soldier on the pay of sixpence a day. The edge of my berth, or that of the guard-bed, was my seat to study in; my knapsack was my book-case; a bit of board, lying on my lap, was my writing-table; and the task did not demand any thing like a year of my life. I had no money to purchase candle or oil; in winter-time it was rarely that I could get any evening-light but that of the fire, and only my turn even of that. And if I, under such circumstances, and without parent or friend to advise or encourage me, accomplished this undertaking, what excuse can there be for any youth, however poor, however pressed with business, or however circumstanced as to room or other conveniences? To buy a pen or a sheet of paper I was compelled to forego some portion of food, though in a state of half-starvation; I had no moment of time that I could call my own; and I had to read and to write amidst the talking, laughing, singing, whistling and brawling of at least half a score of the most thoughtless of men, and that too in the hours of their freedom from all control. Think not lightly of the farthing that I had to give, now and then, for ink, pen, or paper! That farthing was, alas! a great sum to me! I was as tall as I am now; I had great health and great exercise. The whole of the money, not expended for us at market, was two-pence a week for each man. I remember, and well I may! that upon one occasion I, after all absolutely necessary expenses, had, on a Friday, made shift to have a halfpenny in reserve, which I had destined for the purchase of a red-herring in the morning; but, when I pulled off my clothes at night, so hungry then as to be hardly able to endure life, I found that I had lost my halfpenny! I buried my head under the miserable sheet and rug, and cried like a child! And, again I say, if I, under circumstances like these, could encounter and overcome this task, is there, can there be, in the whole world, a youth to find an excuse for the non-performance? What youth, who shall read this, will not be ashamed to say, that he is not able to find time and opportunity for this most essential of all the branches of book-learning?
45. I press this matter with such earnestness, because a knowledge of grammar is the foundation of all literature; and because without this knowledge opportunities for writing and speaking are only occasions for men to display their unfitness to write and speak. How many false pretenders to erudition, have I exposed to shame merely by my knowledge of grammar! How many of the insolent and ignorant great and powerful have I pulled down and made little and despicable! And, with what ease have I conveyed upon numerous important subjects, information and instruction to millions now alive, and provided a store of both for millions yet unborn! As to the course to be pursued in this great undertaking, it is, first, to read the grammar from the first word to the last, very attentively, several times over; then, to copy the whole of it very correctly and neatly; and then to study the Chapters one by one. And what do this reading and writing require as to time? Both together not more than the tea-slops and their gossips for three months! There are about three hundred pages in my English Grammar. Four of those little pages in a day, which is a mere trifle of work, do the thing in three months. Two hours a day are quite sufficient for the purpose; and these may, in any town that I have ever known, or in any village, be taken from that part of the morning during which the main part of the people are in bed. I do not like the evening-candle-light work: it wears the eyes much more than the same sort of light in the morning, because then the faculties are in vigour and wholly unexhausted. But for this purpose there is sufficient of that day-light which is usually wasted; usually gossipped or lounged away; or spent in some other manner productive of no pleasure, and generally producing pain in the end. It is very becoming in all persons, and particularly in the young, to be civil, and even polite: but it becomes neither young nor old to have an everlasting simper on their faces, and their bodies sawing in an everlasting bow: and, how many youths have I seen who, if they had spent, in the learning of grammar, a tenth part of the time that they have consumed in earning merited contempt for their affected gentility, would have laid the foundation of sincere respect towards them for the whole of their lives!
46. Perseverance is a prime quality in every pursuit, and particularly in this. Yours is, too, the time of life to acquire this inestimable habit. Men fail much oftener from want of perseverance than from want of talent and of good disposition: as the race was not to the hare but to the tortoise, so the meed of success in study is to him who is not in haste, but to him who proceeds with a steady and even step. It is not to a want of taste or of desire or of disposition to learn that we have to ascribe the rareness of good scholars, so much as to the want of patient perseverance. Grammar is a branch of knowledge; like all other things of high value, it is of difficult acquirement: the study is dry; the subject is intricate; it engages not the passions; and, if the great end be not kept constantly in view; if you lose, for a moment, sight of the ample reward, indifference begins, that is followed by weariness, and disgust and despair close the book. To guard against this result be not in haste; keep steadily on; and, when you find weariness approaching, rouse yourself, and remember, that if you give up, all that you have done has been done in vain. This is a matter of great moment; for out of every ten, who undertake this task, there are, perhaps, nine who abandon it in despair; and this, too, merely for the want of resolution to overcome the first approaches of weariness. The most effectual means of security against this mortifying result is to lay down a rule to write or to read a certain fixed quantity every day, Sunday excepted. Our minds are not always in the same state; they have not, at all times, the same elasticity; to-day we are full of hope on the very same grounds which, to-morrow, afford us no hope at all: every human being is liable to those flows and ebbs of the mind; but, if reason interfere, and bid you overcome the fits of lassitude, and almost mechanically to go on without the stimulus of hope, the buoyant fit speedily returns; you congratulate yourself that you did not yield to the temptation to abandon your pursuit, and you proceed with more vigour than ever. Five or six triumphs over temptation to indolence or despair lay the foundation of certain success; and, what is of still more importance, fix in you the habit of perseverance.
47. If I have bestowed a large portion of my space on this topic, it has been because I know, from experience as well as from observation, that it is of more importance than all the other branches of book-learning put together. It gives you, when you possess it thoroughly, a real and practical superiority over the far greater part of men. How often did I experience this even long before I became what is called an author! The Adjutant, under whom it was my duty to act when I was a Serjeant Major, was, as almost all military officers are, or at least were, a very illiterate man, perceiving that every sentence of mine was in the same form and manner as sentences in print, became shy of letting me see pieces of his writing. The writing of orders, and other things, therefore, fell to me; and thus, though no nominal addition was made to my pay, and no nominal addition to my authority, I acquired the latter as effectually as if a law had been passed to confer it upon me. In short, I owe to the possession of this branch of knowledge everything that has enabled me to do so many things that very few other men have done, and that now gives me a degree of influence, such as is possessed by few others, in the most weighty concerns of the country. The possession of this branch of knowledge raises you in your own esteem, gives just confidence in yourself, and prevents you from being the willing slave of the rich and the titled part of the community. It enables you to discover that riches and titles do not confer merit; you think comparatively little of them; and, as far as relates to you, at any rate, their insolence is innoxious.
48. Hoping that I have said enough to induce you to set resolutely about the study of grammar, I might here leave the subject of learning; arithmetic and grammar, both well learned, being as much as I could wish in a mere youth. But these need not occupy the whole of your spare time; and, there are other branches of learning which ought immediately to follow. If your own calling or profession require book-study, books treating of that are to be preferred to all others; for, the first thing, the first object in life, is to secure the honest means of obtaining sustenance, raiment, and a state of being suitable to your rank, be that rank what it may: excellence in your own calling is, therefore, the first thing to be aimed at. After this may come general knowledge, and of this, the first is a thorough knowledge of your own country; for, how ridiculous is it to see an English youth engaged in reading about the customs of the Chinese or of the Hindoos, while he is content to be totally ignorant of those of Kent or of Cornwall! Well employed he must be in ascertaining how Greece was divided and how the Romans parcelled out their territory, while he knows not, and apparently does not want to know, how England came to be divided into counties, hundreds, parishes and tithings.
49. GEOGRAPHY naturally follows Grammar; and you should begin with that of this kingdom, which you ought to understand well, perfectly well, before you venture to look abroad. A rather slight knowledge of the divisions and customs of other countries is, generally speaking, sufficient; but, not to know these full well, as far as relates to our own country, is, in one who pretends to be a gentleman or a scholar, somewhat disgraceful. Yet how many men are there, and those called gentlemen too, who seem to think that counties and parishes, and churches and parsons, and tithes and glebes, and manors and courts-leet, and paupers and poor-houses, all grew up in England, or dropped down upon it, immediately after Noah's flood! Surely, it is necessary for every man, having any pretensions to scholarship, to know how these things came; and, the sooner this knowledge is acquired the better; for, until it be acquired, you read the history of your country in vain. Indeed, to communicate this knowledge is one main part of the business of history; but it is a part which no historian, commonly so called, has, that I know of, ever yet performed, except, in part, myself, in the History of the PROTESTANT REFORMATION. I had read HUME'S History of England, and the Continuation by SMOLLETT; but, in 1802, when I wanted to write on the subject of the non-residence of the clergy, I found, to my great mortification, that I knew nothing of the foundation of the office and the claims of the parsons, and that I could not even guess at the origin of parishes. This gave a new turn to my inquiries; and I soon found the romancers, called historians, had given me no information that I could rely on, and, besides, had done, apparently, all they could to keep me in the dark.
50. When you come to HISTORY, begin also with that of your own country; and here it is my bounden duty to put you well on your guard; for in this respect we are peculiarly unfortunate, and for the following reasons, to which I beg you to attend. Three hundred years ago, the religion of England had been, during nine hundred years, the Catholic religion: the Catholic clergy possessed about a third part of all the lands and houses, which they held in trust for their own support, for the building and repairing of churches, and for the relief of the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger; but, at the time just mentioned, the king and the aristocracy changed the religion to Protestant, took the estates of the church and the poor to themselves as their own property, and taxed the people at large for the building and repairing of churches and for the relief of the poor. This great and terrible change, effected partly by force against the people and partly by the most artful means of deception, gave rise to a series of efforts, which has been continued from that day to this, to cause us all to believe, that that change was for the better, that it was for our good; and that, before that time, our forefathers were a set of the most miserable slaves that the sun ever warmed with his beams. It happened, too, that the art of printing was not discovered, or, at least, it was very little understood, until about the time when this change took place; so that the books relating to former times were confined to manuscript; and, besides, even these manuscript libraries were destroyed with great care by those who had made the change and had grasped the property of the poor and the church. Our 'Historians,' as they are called, have written under fear of the powerful, or have been bribed by them; and, generally speaking, both at the same time; and, accordingly, their works are, as far as they relate to former times, masses of lies unmatched by any others that the world has ever seen.