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the King was restored, very few of those lords remained who began, or at least had improved, their education under the reigns of King James or King Charles I., of which lords the two principal were the Marquis of Ormond, and the Earl of Southampton. The minors had, during the rebellion and usurpation, either received too much tincture of bad principles from those fanatic times, or, coming to age at the Restoration, fell into the vices of that dissolute reign.
I date from this era the corrupt method of education among us, and, in consequence thereof, the necessity the Crown lay under of introducing new men into the chief conduct of public affairs, or to the office of what we now call prime ministers; men of art, knowledge, application and insinuation, merely for want of a supply among the nobility. They were generally (though not always) of good birth ; sometimes younger brothers, at other times such, who, although inheriting good estates, yet happened to be well educated, and provided with learning. Such, under that king, were Hyde, Bridgeman, Clifford, Osborn, Godolphin, Ashley Cooper : few or none under the short reign of King James II.: under King William, Somers, Montague, Churchill, Vernon, Boyle, and many others : under the Queen, Harley, St John, Harcourt, Trevor: who, indeed, were persons of the best private families, but unadorned with titles. So in the following reign, Mr Robert Walpole was for many years prime minister, in which post he still happily continues : his brother Horace is ambassador extraordinary to France. Mr Addison and Mr Craggs, without the least alliance to support them, have been secretaries of state.
If.the facts have been thus for above sixty years past,
(whereof I could, with a little farther recollection, produce many more instances,) I would ask again, how it has happened, that in a nation plentifully abounding with nobility, so great share in the most competent parts of public management has been for so long a period chiefly entrusted to commoners; unless some omissions or defects of the highest import may be charged upon those, to whom the care of educating our noble youth had been committed ? For, if there be any
difference between human creatures in the point of natural parts, as we usually call them, it should seem, that the advantage lies on the side of children born from noble and wealthy parents; the same traditional sloth and luxury, which render their body weak and effeminate, perhaps refining and giving a freer motion to the spirits, beyond what can be expected from the gross, robust issue of meaner mortals. Add to this the peculiar advantages, which all young noblemen possess by the privileges of their birth. Such as a free access to courts, and a universal deference paid to their persons.
But, as my Lord Bacon charges it for a fault on princes, that they are impatient to compass ends, without giving themselves the trouble of consulting or executing the means; so, perhaps, it may be the disposition of young nobles, either from the indulgence of parents, tutors, and governors, or their own inactivity, that they expect the accomplishments of a good education, without the least expense of time or study to acquire them.
What I said last, I am ready to retract, for the case is infinitely worse ; and the very maxims set up to direct modern education are enough to destroy all the seeds of knowledge, honour, wisdom, and virtue, among
The current opinion prevails, that the study of Greek and Latin is loss of time; that public schools, by mingling the sons of noblemen with those of the vulgar, engage the former in bad company; that whipping breaks the spirits of lads well born; that universities make young men pedants; that to dance, fence, speak French, and know how to behave yourself among great persons of both sexes, comprehends the whole duty of a gentleman.
I cannot but think, this wise system of education has been much cultivated among us, by those worthies of the
army, who during the last war returned from Flanders at the close of each campaign, became the dictators of behaviour, dress, and politeness, to all those youngsters, who frequent chocolate-coffee-gaminghouses, drawing-rooms, operas, levees, and assemblies : where a colonel, by his pay, perquisites, and plunder, was qualified to outshine many peers of the realm ; and by the influence of an exotic habit and demeanour, added to other foreign accomplishments, gave the law to the whole town, and was copied as the standard pattern of whatever was refined in dress, equipage, conversation, or diversions.
I remember, in those times, an admired original of that vocation sitting in a coffeehouse near two gentlemen, whereof one was of the clergy, who were engaged in some discourse, that savoured of learning. This officer thought fit to interpose, and professing to deliver the sentiments of his fraternity, as well as his own, (and probably he did so of too many among them,) turned to the clergyman, and spoke in the following manner : “ D-n' me, doctor, say what you will, the army is the only school for gentlemen. Do you
Lord Marlborough beat the French with Greek and Latin? D-n me, a scholar.when he comes into good company, what is he but an ass? D-n me, I would be glad by G-d to see any of your scholars with his nouns and his verbs, and his philosophy, and trigonometry, what a figure he would make at a siege, or blockade, or rencountering
D-n me,” &c.* After which he proceeded with a volley of military terms, less significant, sounding worse, and harder to be understood, than any that were ever coined by the commentators upon Aristotle. I would not here be thought to charge the soldiery with ignorance and contempt of learning, without allowing exceptions, of which I have known many; but, however, the worst example, especially in a great majority, will certainly prevail.
I have heard, that the late Earl of Oxford, in the time of his ministry, never passed by White's chocolatehouse (the common rendezvous of infamous sharpers and noble cullies) without bestowing a curse upon that famous academy, as the bane of half the English nobility. I have ikewise been told another passage concerning that great minister, which, because it gives a humorous idea of one principal ingredient in modern education, take as follows. Le Sack, the famous French dancing master, in great admiration, asked a friend, whether it were true, that Mr Harley was made an earl and lord treasurer ? and finding it confirmed said, “ Well; I wonder what the devil the Queen could see in him ; for I attended him two years, and he was the greatest dunce that ever I taught.”+
* Swift has versified very near the whole of this passage in his poem on Hamilton's Bawn, where it is put in the mouth of the Captain of Dragoons.
† The story of Le Sack many of the Dean's friends have heard him tell, as he had it from the Earl himself. See Tatler, No. XX.
Another hindrance to good education, and I think the greatest of any, is that pernicious custom in rich and noble families, of entertaining French tutors in their houses. These wretched pedagogues are enjoined by the father, to take special care that the boy shall be perfect in his French ; by the mother, that master must not walk till he is hot, nor be suffered to play with other boys, nor be wet in his feet, nor daub his clothes, and to see the dancing master attends constantly, and does his duty; she farther insists, that he be not kept too long poring on his book, because he is subject to sore eyes, and of a weakly constitution.
By these methods, the young gentleman is, in every article, as fully accomplished at eight years old, as at eight and twenty, age adding only to the growth of his person and his vice; so that if you should look at him in his boyhood through the magnifying end of a perspective, and in his manhood through the other, it would be impossible to spy any difference; the same airs, the same strut, the same cock of his hat, and posture of his sword, (as far as the change of fashions will allow,) the same understanding, the same compass of knowledge, with the very same absurdity, impudence, and impertinence of tongue.*
* The late Sir David Dalrymple gives this account of the state of the gay
world in the reign of Queen Anne :“ General Bland told me that every gay man about the town did not pretend to be a beau in the days of Queen Anne; it was a peculiar character, and distinguished by bold strokes, as having horses of a particular colour, or the like. In process of time this distinction was lost, and the word was applied to all fine men, as the lower female vulgar term them. As soon as beau became a nomen multitudinis, there was a necessity of ranging the fine men under different