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THE Author of the following Letters having endeavoured to make himself as useful as he could in the execution of an import. ant trust, not only by reading books with his pupils; and teaching sciences, but by conversing freely with them, as occasion required, on literary and moral subjects; he took frequent opportunities of committing to paper, in the form of a letter, the substance of what had passed in these conversations. And as all young people of the same station have a common interest in most of the subjects thus treated of, he thought it might be of service to select a few of these Letters, and send them to the press; that when he has put them into the hands of his own pupils, for whose use they were intended, he may have the honour of addressing himself as a friendly monitor and guide to other young travellers, who are, upon the same road to learning and virtue; and have many dangers to encounter, from the fervour of youth, their own inexperience, and the overbearing influence of ill principles and bad examples.
Though some copies of these Letters were gone out of his hands, and he was solicited by his friends to the publication, he lays no stress upon these considerations : his only motive is the desire of making an experiment for the benefit of youth ; and if this little volume should be found capable of answering, in any degree so desirable an end, it will be accepted by such parents and teachers, as wish not only to cultivate the understanding of their scholars, which perhaps is their first object, but to secure them against the errors and miscarriages to which they are more particularly exposed in the present age; and to such he begs leave to recommend it for their patronage and protection. If his design should meet with the approbation of those who are the proper' judges, he may be encouraged to send abroad hereafter another volume upon the same plan. VOL. V.
IV. On Diversions.
XIII. On the Use of Heathen XXIV. On the same.
XXV. On the same.
XIV. On the Consent between | XXVI. On Private Judgment.
ON A TEACHABLE DISPOSITION.
WOLFE instructed his soldiers, that if the French should land in Kent, as they were then expected to do, actual service in that inclosed country would shew them the reson of several evolutions, which they had never been able to comprehend *. The soldier, therefore, submits to learn things of which he does not see the use. And is not every learner under the same obligation? If he desires to be taught, must not he bring with him that teachable disposition, which receives the rules and elements of learning implicitly, and trusts to the future for the knowledge of those reasons on which they are grounded? This is not a matter of choice: he can be taught on no other principle; for though the practice of a rule may seem very easy, the reason of that rule will generally lie too deep for a beginner; and long experience will be necessary before it can be understood: indeed there are many rules established, for which we have no reason but experience. If a learner will take his own judgment concerning the propriety of what is proposed to him, before he is capable of judging rightly, he will cheat
* See Ceneral Wolfe's Instructions, p. 51. second edition,
himself, and preclude his future improvement. At best, he will lose a great deal of time, and go the farthest way about; and, which is the greatest misfortune, he will contract bad habits in the beginning, and perhaps find himself unfit to be taught, when he would be glad to learn. I have seen some examples of young persons who have been disappointed by trusting at first to their own shallow conceptions, and supposing, what is very pleasant in idea, that Nature may be a master before it has been a scholar. If the consequences of this error are so bad in arts and sciences, and matters of accomplishment, they will be much worse in those things, which relate to the economy of human life.
It is indeed a very dangerous mistake to imagine, that the mind can be cultivated, and the manners formed, on any principle but that of dependence : and therefore we cannot sufficiently lament that this wholesome and necessary doctrine is growing every day more and more out of fashion. Nothing is now to be taken upon authority. A wild and absurd system is prevailing, which encourages the depravity of nature, by admitting, that nothing is to be complied with by young people, of which they do not see the propriety: though it is morally impossible they should see it in many cases, till they look back upon the past time with eyes that are opened by years and experience: and thus we are nursing up a spirit of petulance and mutiny, which can never fail to render the labour of cultivation very disagreeable to the teacher. Some parents, who, through a natural partiality, are willing to have it thought that their children are prodigies of forwardness and acuteness, consult their opinions, and argue with them, under a persuasion that their own reason will direct them, before they know the difference be