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My elder brother (for I had one brother and two sisters, all older than myself) was, while we lived at London, boarded at a private school, in the house of one Francis Atkinson, at a place called Hadley, near Barnet in Hartfordo shire ; where he had made some good proficiency in the Latin and French tongues. But after we had left the city, and were resettled in the country; he was taken from that private school, and sent to the free school at Thame in Oxfordshire.
Thither also was I sent, as soon as my ten. der age would permit : for I was indeed but young when I went, and yet seemed younger than I was, by reason of my low and little stature. For it was held, for some years, à doubtful point, whether I should not have proved a dwarf. But after I was arrived to the fifteenth year of my age, or thereabouts, I began to shoot up, and gave not over growing, till I had attained the middle size and stature of men.
At this school, which at that time was in good reputation, I profited apace ; having then a natural propensity to learning: so that at the first reading over my lesson, I commonly made myself master of it: and yet, which is strange to think of, few boys in the school wore out more birch than 1. For though I was never, that I remember, whipped upon the score of not having my lesson ready, or of not saying it well : yet being a little busy boy, full of spirit, of a working head, and ac.
tive hand, I could not easily conform myself to the grave and sober rules, and as I then thought, severe orders of the school; but was often playing one waggish prank or other among my fellow-scholars, which subjected me to correction, so that I have come under the discipline of the rod twice in a forenoon; which yet brake no bones.
Had I been continued at this school, and in due time preferred to an higher, I might in likelihood have been a scholar : for I was observed to have a genius apt to learn. father having, as soon as the republican government began to settle, accepted the office of a justice of the peace, which was no way bene. ficial but merely honorary, and every way expensive, and put himself into a port and course of living agreeable thereunto; and having also removed my brother from Thame school to Merton college in Oxford, and entered him there in the highest and most chargeable condition of a fellow-commoner, he found it needful to retrench his expences elsewhere, the hurt of which fell upon me. For he thereupon took me from school, to save the charge of maintaining me there, which was somewhat like plucking green fruit from the tree, and laying it by before it was come to its due ripeness, which will thenceforth shrink and wither, and lose that little juice and relish which it began to have.
Even so it fared with me. For being taken home when I was but young, and before I
was well settled in my studies, (though I had made a good progress in the Latin tongue, and was entered in the Greek) being left too much; to myself, to ply or play with my books or without them, as I pleased; I soon shook, hands with my books by shaking my books out of my hands, and laying them, by degrees, quite aside; and addicted myself to such youthful sports and pleasures as the place afforded, and my condition could reach unto.
By this means, in a little time, I began to lose that little learning I had acquired at school ; and by a continued disuse of my books, became at length so utterly a stranger to learning, that I could not have read, far: less have understood a sentence in Latin. Which I was so sensible of, that I warily avoid-, ed reading to others, even in an English book, lest, if I should meet with a Latin word, I should shame myself, by mispronouncing, it.
Thus I went on, taking my swing in such vain courses, as were accounted harmless recreations ; entertaining my companions, and familiar acquaintance, with pleasant discourses in our conversations, by the mere force of mother wit and natural parts, without the help of school cultivation : and was accounted good company too.
But I always sorted myself with persons of ingenuity, temperance and sobriety : for I. loathed scurrilities in conversation, and had a natural aversion to immoderate drinking:
So that in the time of my greatest vanity, I was preserved from profaneness, and the grosser evils of the world; which rendered me acceptable to persons of the best note in that country then. I often waited on the lord Wenman, at his house, Thame park, about two miles from Crowell, where I lived ; to whose favour I held myself entitled in a two-fold respect ; both as my mother was nearly related to his lady, and as he had been pleased to bestow his name upon me, when he made large promises for me at the font. He wa. a person of great honour and virtue, and always gave me a kind reception at his table, how often soever I came. And I have cause to think, I should have received from this lord some advantageous preferment in this world, as soon as he had found me capable of it, though hetwixt him and my father there was not then so good an understanding as might have been wished ; had I not been, in a little time after, called into the service of the best and highest Lord, and thereby lost the favour of all my friends, relations, and acquaintance of this world. To the account of which most happy exchange I hasten, and therefore wil: lingly pass over many particularities of my youthful life. Yet one passage I am willing to mention, for the effect it had upon me after. wards, which was thus:
My father being then in the commission of the peace, and going to a petty sessions at Watlington, I waited on him thither. And
when we came near the town, the coachman seeing a nearer and easier way than the com: mon road, through a corn-field, and that it was wide enough for the wheels to run, with: out endamaging the corn, turned down there. Which being observed by an husband-man, who was at plough not far off, he ran to us; and stopping the coach, poured forth a mouthful of complaints, in none of the best lan. guage, for driving over the corn. My father mildly answered him, that if there was an of fence committed, he must rather impute it to his servant, than himself; since he neither die rected him to drive that way, nor knew which way he drove. Yet added, that he was going to such an inn at the town ; whither if he came, he would make him full satisfaction, for whatsoever damage he had received there. by. And so on we went, the man venting his discontent as he went back, in angry accents. At the town, upon enquiry, we understood that it was a way often used, and without damage, being broad enough; but that it was not the common road, which yet lay not far from it, and was also good enough: wherefore my father bid his man drive home that way.
It was late in the evening when we returned, and very dark; and this quarrelsome man, who had troubled himself and us in the morning, having gotten another lusty fellow like himself to assist him, way-layedus in the night, expecting we would return the same way we