Daily Archives: January 18, 2007

Item of the Day: Locke’s Works (1777)

Full Title:

The Works of John Locke, in Four Volumes. The Eighth Edition. London, 1777.

From the Epistle to the Reader from the Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Reader,

I here put into thy hands, what has been the diversion of some of my idle and heavy hours: if it has the good luck to prove so of any of thine, and thou hast but half so much pleasure in reading as I had in writing it, thou wilt as little think thy money, as I do my pains, ill bestowed. Mistake not this, for a commendation of my work; nor conclude because I was pleased with the doing of it, that therefore I am fondly taken with it, now it is done. He that hawks at larks and sparrows, has no less sport, though a much less considerable quarry, than he that flies at nobler game: and he is little acquainted with the subject of this treatise, the UNDERSTANDING, who does not know that as it is the most elevated faculty of the soul, so it is employed with a greater and more constant delight, than any of the other. Its searches after truth, are a sort of hawking and hunting, wherein the very pursuit makes a great part of the pleasure. Every step the mind takes, in its progress towards knowledge, makes some discovery, which is not only new, but the best too, for the time at least.

For the understanding, like the eye, judging of objects only by its own sight, cannot but be pleased with what it discovers, having less regret for what has escaped it, because it is unknown. Thus he, who has raised himself above the alms-basket, and not content to live lazy on scraps of begged opinions, sets his own thoughts on work, to find and follow truth, will (whatever he lights on) not miss the hunter’s satisfaction: every moment of his pursuit will reward his pains with some delight, and he will have reason to think his time not ill-spent, even when he cannot much boast of any great acquisition.

This, reader, is the entertainment of those, who let loose their own thoughts, and follow them in writing; which thou oughtest not to envy them, since they afford thee an opportunity of the like diversion, if thou wilt make use of thy own thoughts in reading. It is to them, if they are thy own, that I refer myself: but if they are taken upon trust from others, it is no great matter what they are: they not following truth, but some meaner consideration. And it is not worth while to be concerned, what he says or thinks, who says or thinks only as he is directed by another. If thou judgest for thyself, I know thou wilt judge candidly; and then I shall not be harmed or offended whatever be thy censure. For though it be certain, that there is nothing in this treatise, of the truth whereof I am not fully persuaded; yet I consider myself as liable to mistakes, as I can think thee; and know that this book must stand or fall with thee, not by any opinion I have of it, but by thy own. If thou findest little in it new, or instructive to thee, thou art not to blame me for it. It was not meant for those that had already mastered this subject, and made a thorough acquaintance with their own understanding; but for my own information, and the satisfaction of a few friends, who acknowledged themselves not to have sufficiently considered it. Were it fit to trouble thee with the history of this Essay, I should tell thee, that five or six friends meeting at my chamber, and discoursing on a subject very remoted from this, found themselves quickly at a stand, by the difficulties that rose on every side. After we had a while puzzled ourselves, without coming any nearer a resolution of those doubts which perplexed us, it came into my thoughts, that we took a wrong course; and that before we set ourselves upon enquiries of that nature, it was necessary to examine our own abilities, and see what objects our understandings were not fitted to deal with. This I proposed to the company, who all readily assented; and thereupon it was agreed, that this should be our first enquiry. Some hasty and undigested thoughts on a subject I had never before considered, which I set down against our next meeting, gave the first entrance into this discourse; which having been thus begun by chance, was continued by intreaty; written by incoherent parcels; and after long intervals of neglect, resumed again, as my humour, or occasions permitted; and at last, in a retirement, where an attendance on my health gave me leisure, it was brought into that order thou now seest it.

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Filed under 1770's, Education, Philosophy, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Addison’s Spectator (1761)

Full Title: The WORKS of the late right Honorable Joseph Addison, Esq; Volume the third. With a Complete Index. Birmingham: Printed by John Baskerville, for J. and R. Tonson, at Shakespear’s Head in the Strand. MDCCLXI.

No. 92 Friday, June 15.

—-Convivae prope diffentir videntur,

Poscentes vario multum diversa palato;

Quid dem? quid on dem?—-

Looking over the late packets of Letters which have been sent to me, I found the following one.

Mr. Spectator,

Your paper is part of my Tea-equipage; and my servant knows my humor so well, that calling for my breakfast this morning (it being past my usual hour) she answered, the SPECTATOR was not yet come in; but that the Tea-kettle boiled, and she expected it every moment. Having thus in part signified to you the esteem and veneration which I have for you, I must put you in mind of the catalogue of books which you have promised to recommend to our sex; for I have deferred furnishing my closet with Authors, ’till I receive your advice in this particular, being your daily disciple and humble servant,

LEONORA

In answer to my fair disciple, whom I am very proud of, I must acquaint her and the rest of my Readers, that since I have called for help in my catalogue of a Lady’s library, I have received many letters upon that head, some of which I shall give an account of.

In the first class I shall take notice of those which come to me from eminent booksellers, who every one of them mention with respect the Authors they have printed, and consequently have an eye to their own advantage more than to that of the Ladies. One tells me, that he thinks it absolutely necessary for women to have true notions of right and equity, and that therefore they cannot peruse a better book than Dalton’s Country Justice: Another thinks they cannot be without The Complete Jockey. A third observing the curiosity and desire of prying into secrets, which he tells me is natural to the fair sex, is of opinion this female inclination, if well directed, might turn very much to their advantage, and therefore recommends to me Mr. Mede upon the Revelations. A fourth lays it down as an unquestioned truth, that a Lady cannot be thoroughly accomplished who has not read The Secret Treaties and Negociations of the Marshal D’Estrades. Mr. Jacob Tonson, Jun. is of opinion that Bayle’s Dictionary might be of very great use to Ladies, in order to make them general scholars. Another, whose name I have forgotten, thinks it highly proper that every woman with child should read Mr. Wall’s History of Infant Baptism; as another is very importunate with me to recommend to all my female Readers The finishing Stroke: being a vindication of the Patriarchal Scheme, &c.

In the second class I shall mention books which are recommended by husbands, if I may believe the writers of them. Whether or no they are real husbands or personated ones I cannot tell, but the books they recommend are as follow. A Paraphrase on the History of Susanna. Rules to keep Lent. The Christian’s overthrow prevented. A dissuasive from the Play-house. The virtues of Camphire, with directions to the Camphire Tea. A letter dated from Cheapside desire me that I would advise all young wives to make themselves mistresses of Wingate’s Arithmetic, and concludes with a postscript, that he hopes I will not forget The Countess of Kent’s receipts.

I may reckon the Ladies themselves as a third class among these my correspondents and privy-counsellors. In a letter from one of them, I am advised to place Pharamond at the head of my catalogue, and, if I think proper, to give the second place to Cassandra. Coquetilla begs me not to think of nailing women upon their knees with manuals of devotion, nor of scorching their faces with books of housewifery. Florella desires to know if there are any books written against Prudes, and intreats me, if there are, to give them a place in my Library. Plays of all sorts have their several advocates: All for Love is mentioned in fifteen letters; Sophonisba, or Hannibal’s overthrow, in a dozen; the Innocent Adultery is likewise highly approved of: Mithridates King of Pontus has many friends; Alexander the Great andAurenzebe have the same number of voices; but Theodosius, or the force of Love, carries it from all the rest.

I should, in the last place, mention such books as have been proposed by men of learning, and those who appear competent judges of this matter, and must here take occasion to thank A.B. whoever it is that conceals himself under those two letters, for his advice upon this subject: but as I find the work I have undertaken to be very difficult, I shall defer the executing of it till I am further acquainted with the thoughts of my judicious contemporaries, and have time to examine the several books they offer to me; being resolved in an affair of this moment, to proceed with the greatest caution.

In the mean while, as I have taken the ladies under my particular care, I shall make it my business to find out in the best Authors ancient and modern such passages as may be for their use, and endevor to accommodate them as well as I can to their taste; not questioning but the valuable part of the sex will easily pardon me, if from time to time I laugh at those little vanities and follies which appear in the behavior of some of them, and which are more proper for ridicule than a serious censure. Most books being calculated for male Readers, and generally written with an eye to men of learning, makes a work of this Nature the more necessary; besides, I am the more encouraged, because I flatter myself that I see the sex daily improving by these my Speculations. My fair Readers are already deeper scholars than the Beaus: I could name some of them who talk much better than several gentlemen that make a figure at Will’s; and as I frequently receive letters from the fine Ladies and pretty Fellows, I cannot but observe that the former are superior to the others not only in the sense but in the spelling. This cannot but have a good effect upon the female world, and keep them from being charmed by those empty coxcombs that have hitherto been admired among the women, though laughed at among the men.

I am credibly informed that Tom Tattle passes for an impertinent fellow, that Will Trippit begins to be smoked, and that Frank Smoothly himself is within a month of a coxcomb, in case I think fit to continue this paper. For my part, as it is my business in some measure to detect such as would lead astray weak minds by their false pretences to wit and judgment, humor and gallantry. I shall not fail to lend the best lights I am able to the fair sex for the continuation of these discoveries.

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Filed under 1760's, Culture, Education, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Women