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T HE Importance of Education is a Point
so generally understood and confessed,
that it would be of little use to attempt any new Proof or Illustration of its Necessity and Advantages.
At a time when so many Schemes of Education have been projected, so many Proposals offered to the Public, so many Schools opened for general Knowledge, and so many Lectures in particular Sciences attended ; at a time when Mankind seems intent rather upon familiarising than enlarging the several Arts, and every Age, Sex, and Profession, is invited to an Acquaintance with those Studies, which were formerly supposed acceslible only to such as had devoted themselves to literary Leisure, and dedicated their Powers to philofophical Enquiries; it seems
rather requisite that an Apology should be made, · for any further Attempt to smooth a Path so fre
quently beaten, or to recommend Attainments so ardently pursued, and so officiously directed.
That this general Desire may not be frustrated, our Schools seem yet to want some Book, which may excite Curiosity by its Variety, encourage Diligence by its Facility, and reward Application by its Usefulness. In examining the Treatises hitherto offered to the Youth of this Nation, there appeared none that did not fail in one or other of these essential Qualities; none that were not either unpleasing, or abstruse, or crouded with Learning very rarely applicable to the Purposes of common Life.
Every Man, who has been engaged in Teaching, knows with how much Difficulty youthful Minds are confined to close "Application, and how readily they deviate to any thing, rather than attend to that which is imposed as a Talk. That this Disposition, when it becomes inconsistent with the Forms of Education, is to be checked, will readily be granted; but since, though it may be in some Degree obviated, it cannot wholly be suppressed, it is surely rational to turn it to Advantage, by taking care that the Mind shall never want Objects on which its Faculties may be usefully employed. It is not impossible, that this restless Desire of Novelty, which gives so much Trouble to the Teacher,, may be often the Struggle of the Understanding starting from that, to which it is not by Nature adapted, and travelling in Search of something on which it may fix with greater Satisfaction. For without supposing each Man,
particularly marked out by his Genius for particular Performances, it may be easily conceived, that when a numerous Class of Boys is confined indiscriminately to the same Forms of Composition, the Repetition of the same Words, or the Explication of the fame Sentiments, the Employment muft, either by Nature or Accident, be less suitable to some than others; that the Ideas to be contemplated, may be too difficult for the Apprehension of one, and too obvious for that of another : they may be such as some Understandings cannot reach, though others look down upon them as below their Regard. Every Mind in its Progress through the different Stages of scholastic Learning, must be often in one of these Conditions, muft either flag with the Labour, or grow wanton with the Facility of the Work assigned ; and in either State it naturally turns aside from the Track before it. Weariness looks out for Relief, and Leisure for Employment, and surely it is rational to indulge the Wanderings of both. For the Faculties which are too lighty burthen'd with the Business of the Day, may with great Propriety add to it fome other Enquiry; and he that finds himself overwearied by a Task, which perhaps, with all his Efforts, he is not able to perform, is undoubtedly to be justified in addicting himself rather to easier Studies, and endeavouring to quit that which is above his Attainment, for that which Nature has not made him incapable of pursuing with Advantage.
That therefore this roving Curiosity may not be unsatisfied, it seems necessary to scatter in its Way such Allurements as may withhold it from an useless and unbounded Diffipation; such as may regulate it without Violence, and direct it without Restraint ; such as may suit every Inclination, and fit every Capacity; may employ the stronger Genius, by Operations of Reafon, and engage the less active or forcible Mind, by supplying it with eafy Knowledge, and obviating that Despondence, which quickly prevails, when nothing appears but a Succession of Difficulties, and one Labour only ceases that another may be imposed.
A Book intended thus to correspond with all Dispositions, and afford Entertainment for Minds of different Powers, is necessarily to contain Treatises on different Subjects. As it is designed for Schools, though for the higher Classes, it is confined wholly to such Parts of Knowledge as young Minds may comprehend; and as it is drawn up for Readers yet unexperienced in Life, and unable to distinguish the useful from the oftentatious or unnecessary Parts of Science, it is requisite that a very nice Distinction should be made, that nothing unprofitable should be admitted for the sake of Pleasure, nor any Arts of Attraction neglected, that might fix the Attention upon more important Studies.
These Considerations produced the Book which is here offered to the Public, as better adapted