Category Archives: Education

Item of the Day: Castiglione’s The Courtier (1727)

Full Title:

Il Cortegiano, or The Courtier: Written by Conte Baldassar Castiglione. And a New Version of the same into English. Together with Several of his Celebrated Pieces, as well Latin as Italian, both in Prose and Verse. To which is prefix’d, The Life of the Author. By A.P. Castiglione, of the same Family. Printed in London by W. Bowyer, 1727.

[The text appears in Italian and English in facing columns.]

From Book II.

I have often, not without Wonder, reflected, whence an Error could arise; which one would be apt to think natural to old Men, since found in so many; viz. that they almost universally applaud the Times past, and blame the present; censuring those Modes and Practices with which their younger Years were not acquainted; lamenting the Decline of Virtue, the Degeneracy of Age, the Change of all Things from bad to worse. Now it seems a most unreasonable thing, and what we cannot but be surprized at, that an advanced Age, such as from its great Experience is wont in other Matters to pass the truest, the most exact Judgment, should in this so err, as not to perceive, that if the World daily grew worse, if the Parents were generally better than their Children, we should long e’er this have arrived at the highest Pitch of Vice, at a State, a worse than which would be impossible. Yet this Error we find, not only in our own, but also in ancient Times, prevailing over Persons of the Age we speak of: As is evident from many of the ancient Writers, and particularly the Comick, who give us a better idea of humane Life than any other.

The Reason of this wrong Judgment I take to be, that our Years, as they pass, carry away with ’em many of the Comforts of Life, and particularly occasion such a Decrease of the Animal Spirits, as effects a Change in our Constitution, and renders all those Organs weak through which the Soul exerts its Operations. Whence the sweet Flowers of Delight fall at that time of Life from our Hearts, as Leaves fall from the Trees in Autumn, and instead of gay and chearful Thoughts, a Train of dark and melancholy Apprehensions possess us, our Minds discovering a Weakness great as what we find in our Bodies: All that remains of our past Pleasures, is the Remembrance of the dear Time when they were enjoy’d, which seems such to us, as if Heaven, Earth, and universal Nature, had then put on their best Array, and afforded us the Entertainment of a delightful Garden, adorn’d with all the Beauties of the Spring. Hence perhaps it were to be wish’d, that in that cold Season, when the Sun of our Life is in his Decline, we might lose at once the Sense of Pleasure and its Remembrance, and that we knew Themistocles’s Art of Forgetfulness; because the Senses of our Bodies are so easily deceived, as to mislead the Determinations of the Mind.

I cannot therefore but regard old Men as in the same Condition with them, who fixing, as they sail out of a Haven, their Eyes of the Shore, think it to move, and the Vessel they are in, to stand still: When on the contrary, the Shore, like the Time, keeps its settled State, and we in the Bark of Mortality, are each after the other carried with a brisk Gale through that stormy Sea which devours all things, nor find it ever in our Power to regain the Haven; but always toss’d by the Fury of the Winds, have our Vessel dash’d at length against a Rock and split.

That the Minds then of the aged know not a Relish of many Pleasures, is, becasue they are not proper Subjects for them. As it is with one in a Fever, to whose vitiated Palate the most delicate Wines appear insipid and disagreeable: The very same it is with those in the Decline of Life; they feel an Inclination for Pleasure, yet whatever they pursue they find tastless, flat, and quite different from what they had formerly enjoy’d, though the Nature of the Pleasure continue still the same. Disappointed thus, they grieve and lay the Fault on the Times, as if they were grown worse; never perceiving the Change to be in themselves, not the Times. On the other hand too, reflecting on the Pleasures pass’d, they reflect likewise on the Time when they enjoy’d them, and commend it as seeming to carry with it a Taste of what they felt in it when present. The Truth is, we ever entertain an Aversion to all those things which have accompanied our Uneasynesses, as we do an Affection to whatever has attended our Joys.

Hence it is that a Lover often views with Pleasure a Casement when shut, and this, because he has at some time seen his Mistress there; so likewise a Ring, a Letter, a Garden, any Place or Thing that has been a Witness to his Happiness. On the contrary, an Apartment deck’d with all that can make it gay and delightful, shall be the Abhorrence of him who has suffer’d Imprisonment, or any other Uneasiness in it. I my self have known some that could never drink out of any thing which bore a Resemblance to what they had formerly taken Physick in. For as the Casement, Ring, or Letter, recall’d to the one the dear Remembrance of what had so much delighted him, seeming a part of what had given him Pleasure: So the very Place or Vessel are regarded by the other, as bringing with them the Imprisonment or Disease. On a Foundation like this, I believe it is, that the advanced in Age applaud the past Time, and inveigh against the present.

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Filed under 1720's, Culture, Education, Modern Language Translations, Oratory, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Webster’s Essays and Fugitiv Writings (1790)

Full Title:

A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings. On Moral, Historical, Political, and Literary Subjects. By Noah Webster, Jun. Attorney at Law. Printed at Boston for the Author, by I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews, 1790.

On the Education of Females

In a system of education, that should embrace every part of the community, the female sex claim no inconsiderable share of our attention.

The women in America (to their honor it is mentioned) are not generally above the care of educating their own children. Their own education should therefore enable them to implant in the tender mind, such sentiments of virtue, propriety and dignity, as are suited to the freedom of our governments. Children should be treated as children, but as children that are, in a future time, to be men and women. By treating them as if they were always to remain children, we very often see their childishness adhere to them, even in middle life. The silly language called baby talk, in which most persons are initiated in infancy, often breaks out in discourse, at the age of forty, and makes a man appear very ridiculous. In the same manner, vulgar, obscene and illiberal ideas, imbibed in a nursery or a kitchen, often give a tincture to the conduct through life. In order to prevent every evil bias, the ladies, whose province it is to direct the inclinations of children on their first appearance, and to choose their nurses, should be possessed, not only of amiable manners, but of just sentiments and enlarged understandings.

But the influence of women in forming the dispositions of youth, is not the sole reason why their education should be particularly guarded; their influence in controling the manners of a nation, is another powerful reason. Women, once abandoned, may be instrumental in corrupting society; but such is the delicacy of the sex, and such the restraints which custom imposes upon them, that they are generally the last to be corrupted. There are innumerable instances of men, who have been restrained from a vicious life, and even of very abandonded [sic] men, who have been reclaimed, by their attachment to ladies of virtue. A fondness for the company and conversation of ladies of character, may be considered as a young mans’ best security against the attractives of a dissipated life. A man who is attached to good company, seldom frequents that which is bad. For this reason, society requires taht females should be well educated, and extend their influence as far as possible over the other sex.

But a distinction is to be made between a good education, and a showy one; for an education, merely superficial, is a proof of corruption of taste, and has a mischievous influence on manners. The education of females, like that of males, should be adapted to the principles of the government, and correspond with the stage of society. Education in Paris differs from that in Petersburg, and the education of females in London or Paris should not be a model for the Americans to copy.

In all nations a good education, is that which renders the ladies correct in their manners, respectable in their families, and agreeable in society. That education is always wrong, which raises a woman above the duties of her station.

In America, female education should have for its object what is useful. Young ladies should be taught to speak and write their own language with purity and elegance; an article in which they are often deficient. The French langauge is not necessary for ladies. In some cases it is convenient, but, in general, it may be considered as an article of luxury. As an accomplishment, it may be studied by those whose attention is not employed about more important concerns.

Some knowlege [sic] of arithmetic is necessary for every lady. Geography should never be neglected. Belles Letters learning seems to correspond with the dispositions of most females. A taste for Poetry and fine writing should be cultivated; for we expect the most delicate sentiments from the pens of that sex, which is possessed of the finest feelings.

A course of reading can hardly be prescribed for all ladies. But it should be remarked, that this sex cannot be too well acquainted with the writers upon human life and manners. The Spectator should fill the first place in every lady’s library. Other volumes of periodical papers, tho inferior to the Spectator, should be read; and some of the best histories.

With respect to novels, so much admired by the young, and so generally condemned by the old, what shall I say? Perhaps it may be said with truth, that some of them are useful, many of them pernicious, and most of them trifling. A hundred volumes of modern novels may be read, without acquiring a new idea. Some of them contain entertaining stories, and where the descriptions are drawn from nature, and from characters and events in themselves innocent, the perusal of them may be harmless.

Were novels written with a view to exhibit only one side of human nature, to paint the social virtues, the world would condemn them as defective: But I should think them more perfect. Young people, especially females, should not see the vicious part of mankind. At best novels may be considered as the toys of young; the rattle boxes of sixteen. The mechanic gets his pence for his toys, and the novel writer, for his books; and it would be happy for society, if the latter were in all cases as innocent play things as the former.

In the large towns in America, music, drawing and dancing, constitute a part of female education. They, however, hold a subordinate rank; for my fair friends will pardon me, when I declare, that no man ever marries a woman for her performance on a harpsichord, or her figure in a minuet. However ambitious a woman may be to command admiration abroad, her real merit is known only at home. Admiration is useless, when it is not supported by domestic worth. But real honor and permanent esteem, are always secured by those who preside over their own families with dignity.

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Filed under 1790's, Education, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Women

Item of the Day: Webster’s History of Animals (1812)

Full Title:

History of Animals; Designed for the Instruction and Amusement of Persons of Both Sexes by Noah Webster, Jun. Esq. Printed in New-Haven by Walter & Steele, 1812.

Excerpt from “MAN”

16. Of the human race. Among the countless species of animals which inhabit the globe; Man holds the first rank. He is not indeed the largest or strongest animal; but he is of the most beautiful form, and indued with a superior degree of intellectual power, which enables him to subdue other animals, and make them subservient to his necessities, his convenience, or his luxury. But what especially distinguishes man from other animals, is his rational soul, which is capable of continual improvement and high intellectual enjoyment in this life, and is destined to survive the body, and enjoy immortality.

17. Infancy of man. Notwithstanding the dignity of man compared with other animals, he is, at his birth, the most helpless and dependent. When first born, the infant can only move its feeble limbs, and manifest its wants by the cries of distress. Unable to move its body, it depends on its nurse for support and protection; and its utmost efforts towards procuring food consist in swallowing the milk which is poured into its mouth, or in feebly drawing it with its lips from the breast.

18. Progress of infancy. For several month after its birth, the infant continues most of the time in sleep. When awake, its eyes are fixed, or moved without design; and they appear glossy or destitute of lustre. Light indeed atracts the eye of an infant, in a short time after its birth; but rarely does it exhibit a smile, or shed a tear, until after forty days. Its hands are moved, but without design, or direction to a particular object. Its bones are soft, and its joints feeble. In this manner the infant continues dependent on the fostering care of its mother and nurse, till the appearance of teeth indicates the time when it may quit the breast, and be fed with more substantial food.

19. Childhood. The teeth usually begin to appear between the ages of four and eight months. Strong, healthful children begin to walk at the age of nine or ten months; but more generally, children cannot walk till twelve or fourteen months old. From the time of weaning, till three years old, the child is exposed to many dangers from accidents, and especially from the diseases incident to dentition, or teething. Until this period, and for several years after, the child’s life is exposed to hazard from certain diseases which are epidemic, at irregular periods, in all countries; by which means one third of the children perish before they are three years old.

20. Propensity of children to action. No sooner is the child able to walk, than he manifests an inclination to be continually in motion. He walks from place to place to find objects of amusement; but soon dissatisfied with one toy, he throws it away, and seeks another. As he advances in strength, he begins to run and to play with more vigor, and to seek for companions as lively, as playful and noisy as himself. This propensity to action, however troublesome to his parents, is of immense consequence to the child; it is intended, in the wise economy of providence, to prompt the feeble child to exert his muscles and limbs, for the purpose of giving them strength and firmness; invigorating the body, and fitting it to sustain the necessary toils and labor of his future life.

21. Puberty. From infancy, the growth of the body is tolerably regular and uniform, till the age of thirteen or fourteen years. At this time, the child passes rapidly to a state of manhood; and often the size of his body is enlarged, in disproportion to its strength; and young persons of both sexes are peculiarly liable to disease, especially to affections of the lungs. By the age of twenty years, but sometimes a little earlier or later, the body has usually acquired its full size, proportion, strength and beauty. Females however generally arrive to their full size at an earlier age than males.

22. Progress of man to old age. After the body has arrived to its full size and strength, it continues many years without any great change, except that it sometimes gains an inconvenient load of fat. The state of full strength continues often to the age of forty or forty-five years; but, before this period, the body usually begins to lose in activity. At the age of fifty, or somewhat earlier, man begins to be sensible of a decay, not only of activity, but of strength; and about this period, his eye-sight begins to fail. The decay is gradual—the bones become hard; the cartilages (or gristle) become more rigid, rendering the motion of the joints more difficult; and other parts of the body undergo a similar alteration. The flesh falls away, and leaves the skin to contract into wrinkles; the hair often becomes white; all the functions of the body become more slow and languid; until the blood ceases to circulate, and man sinks into his native dust.

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Filed under 1810's, Education, Medicine, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Aiken’s Letters from a Father to his Son (1794)

Full Title:  The New-York Magazine; or, Literary Repository for October, 1794. From the Monthly Review for May, 1794.  LETTER FROM A FATHER TO HIS SON, ON VARIOUS TOPICS. By J. Aiken, M.D.

It is impossible to compare the established modes of education with the present state of knowledge without perceiving that they are defective in several respects, but particularly in this, that the plans of instruction commonly followed are by no means sufficiently varied and extensive.  The grand object ought not so much to be to form great scholars, or great mathematicians, as to furnish young men with such general principles of knowledge and taste, as may be useful to them in future life:  whereas the fact is, that, in our public schools and universities, one or two objects of pursuit, and these often only indirectly connected with the scholar’s future destination, are almost exclusively regarded.  Classical or mathematical learning, in relation to other studies, like the serpent of Aaron, swallows up all the rest.  Whatever temporary benefit may accrue to individuals from the arbitrary connection which has been established between high attainments in these branches of learning and the acquisition of academical honours, or professional emolument, the general inconveniencies attending this narrow plan of education are seriously felt; an it is become a concern of the first moment so far to new model our systems of instruction, as to accommodate them to the present enlightened and improved state of society.

The ingenious and judicious author of the work now before us, is so strongly convinced of the propriety of such an extension of the current plans of eduction, that, as we learn from the introductory letter, he has educated his son, to whom the letters are addressed, on a broad scale, which has comprized many changes of discipline, and has embraced a large field of instruction.  By these means he has endeavoured to give the young man a comprehensive view of the objects before him, and to prepare him for the study of books, of men, and of nature, as well as for the reputable and useful discharge of professional duties.  In giving the finishing stroke to this important work of educating a son, he addresses to him a series of letters, supplementary to those instructions which he had received, in a systematic way, from books and lectures.  Presuming that his principles, in the course of a liberal education, had been well established, he writes, ‘rather with a view to place in a strong and familiar light some subordinate truths belonging to the experimental practice of life, which, though not of the same fundamental importance with principles, are of no small weight in promoting a man’s happiness and utility.’ At the same time, he communicates to him various observations on points of taste and literature, in which his chief aim has been to obviate prejudices, and to give that turn to this son’s thoughts which might enable him to judge and enjoy for himself, without first appealing to the decision of a dictator.  The letters, throughout, encourage and recommend that freedom of discussion, without which, as the author justly remarks, no difference exists between opinion and prejudice.

The public is much indebted to Dr. Aiken for extending the utility of these letters beyond his own family; for that young man must have been very fortunately educated, and have made very extraordinary attainments, who cannot reap from them much improvement, as well as entertainment: nor is this publication by any means to be considered as peculiarly appropriated to the use of young men.  The work, being neither elementary nor systematic, brings before its readers a great variety of pleasing and interesting and interesting subjects; on all of which it leads them into important or curious inquiries, or induces a train of useful or amusing reflections.  In this view, Dr. Aiken’s publication may be considered as a valuable addition to the public stock of miscellaneous essays, moral and critical: for, (using the terms with some degree of latitude,) under these two classes all the letters in this volume may with propriety be arranged.

Among the moral essays, the first that occurs, both on account of the great importance of the subject, and of the happy manner in which it is treated, calls for particular notice.  the topic is — strength of character.  This desirable quality, the author is of opinion, not only increases, from natural causes, with increasing years, but is capable of improvement by moral discipline.  The causes of the contrary juvenile weakness, on which Dr. Aiken particularly insists, are false shame, a fear of offending or giving pain, and a desire of pleasing all mankind.  The doctor remarks on the last of these causes, with the subsequent advice on the cultivation of firmness and constituency of character, are as follow:

‘The desire of pleasing all mankind, which is the counterpart of the two former principles, is a fertile source of weakness and mutability in some of the best dispositions.  It is the quality commonly termed good-nature, and perhaps is in some measure national to Englishmen.  Young persons are not only themselves prone to fall into excess of easy good nature, but it is the quality that most readily captivates them in the choice of an early friend.  It is impossible here to blame the disposition, although it be highly important to guard against the indulgence of it; for it leads to the very same imbecility of conduct that false shame and cowardice do.  In the course of our duties we are almost as frequently called upon to undergo the censure and enmity of mankind, as to cultivate their friendship and good opinion.  Cicero, in enumerating the causes which induce men to desert their duty, very properly mentions an unwillingness “suscipere inimicitias,” to take up enmities.  This is, indeed, one of the severest trials of our attachment to principle; but it is what we must be ready to sustain when occasion requires, or renounce every claim to a strong and elevated character.

‘When young in life, I derived much satisfaction from thinking that I had not an enemy in the world.  A too great facility in giving up my own interest, when it involved a point of contention, and a habit of assenting to, or at least not opposing, the various opinions I heard, had, in fact, preserved me from direct hostility with any mortal, and, I had reason to believe, had conciliated for me the passive regard of most of those with whom I was acquainted.  But no sooner did different views of things, and a greater firmness of temper, incite me to an open declaration respecting points which I thought highly interesting to mankind, than I was made sensible, that my former source of satisfaction, must be exchanged for self-approbation and the esteem of a few.  The event gave me at first some surprise and more concern; for I can truly say, that in my own breast, I found no obstacle to the point of agreeing to differ. It was even some time before I could construe the estranged looks of those, who meant to intimate that they had renounced private friendship with me, upon mere public grounds.  But enough!  At present, I can sincerely assure you, that I feel more compunction for early compliances, than regret for the consequences of later assertions of principle.   And it is my decided advice to you, who are beginning the world, not to be intimidated from openly espousing the cause you think a right one, by the apprehension of incurring any man’s displeasure.  I suppose this to be done within the limits of candour, modesty, and real good temper.  These being observed, you can have no enemies but those who are not worthy to be your friends.”

This kind of experimental counsel from a father to his son is highly interesting and valuable.  Perhaps there is no moral quality concerning which the young men of the present age, (so productive of powerful temptations to duplicity and inconsistency of character) stand more in need of monition.

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Filed under 1790's, Education, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

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.


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,


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

Item of the Day: Pierpont’s The American First Class Book

Full Title: The American first class book; or, exercises in reading and recitation: selected principally from modern authors of Great Britain and America: and designed for the use of the highest class in publick and private schools. By John Pierpont, Minister of Hollis-street Church, Boston: Author of Airs of Palestine, &c. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins and Richardson, Lord & Holbrook, 1831.


This book has been compiled with a special reference to the publick Reading and Grammar Schools of this city. It is the result of an attempt to supply the want—which has long been a subject of complaint among those whom the citizens of Boston have charged with the general superintendence of their publick schools, as well as with those who are appointed to the immediate instruction of them—of a book of Exercises in Reading and Speaking better adapted, than any English compilation that has yet appeared, to the state of society as it is in this country; and less obnoxious to complaint, on the ground of its national or political character, than it is reasonable to expect that any English compilation would be, among a people whose manners, opinions, literary institutions, and civil governments, are so strictly republican as our own.But, though the immediate design of this compilation was a limited and local one, it has been borne in mind, throughout the work, that the want, which has been a subject of complaint in this city, must have been still more widely felt; especially by those, in every part of our country, who are attentive to the national, moral, and religious sentiments, contained in the books that are used by their children while learning to read, and while their literary taste is beginning to assume something of the character which it ever afterwards retains.

How far the objections, which have been made to other works of this sort, have been obviated in the present selection, it is for others to determine. I willingly leave the decision of this question to the ultimate and only proper tribunal—the publick; to whose kindness, as shown towards one of my efforts, in another department of literature, I am no stranger, and for which I should prove myself ungrateful should I not acknowledge my obligation. –I only hope that the kindness of the publick towards the past, many not have led into presumption and carelessness in regard to the present.

In as much, however, as this book departs, in some particulars, from most others of the same general character, it may be expected that the author should assign his reasons for such deviations. These relate principally to the omission of some things that are usually deemed essential to a school-reader; and to the arrangement of the materials of which this is made up.

First, then, it may be urged as an objection to this, as a compilation that is to be used by those who are learning to read, that it consists entirely of exercises in reading and speaking, to the exclusion of those rules, the knowledge of which is indispensable to any considerable proficiency in either.

I have observed, however, that that part of school-books which consists of Brief Treatises upon Rhetorick, Rules for Reading, and Essays on Elocution is, almost uniformly, little worn; –an evidence that it is little used; in other words, that it is of little use. I have construed this fact into an oracular monition not to devote to such Rules, Treatises, or Essays, any part of the present work.

The truth probably is, that reading, like conversation, is learned from example rather than by rule. –No one becomes distinguished, as a singer, by the most familiar knowledge of the gamut; so, no one is ever made an accomplished reader or speaker by studying rules for elocution, even though aided by a diagram. There is even less aid derived from rules in reading than singing: for musick is, in a great degree, a matter of strict science; while reading, after the alphabet is learned, is altogether an art: –an art, indeed, which requires a quick perception, a delicate taste, a good understanding, and, especially, a faculty of nicely discriminating and accurately expressing the various shades of an author’s meaning: –but, still, an art that is less capable than musick of being reduced to definitive rules, or of being taught by them.

To become a good reader or a good speaker, the best examples of elocution, in these respective departments, must be see, and heard, and studied. The tones that express particular emotions and passions must be caught by the ear. The same organ must inform us what is mean: by the very terms in which all rules must be expressed, –what is meant by a rapid or deliberate enunciation; what by speaking loudly or softly, on a high or low key, with emphasis or in a monotony, distinctly or indistinctly. We may amuse ourselves, if we please, with laying down rules upon these matters, but, till our rules are illustrated by the voice and manner of a good reader, they are totally inoperative; and, when thus illustrated, totally unnecessary. The learner imitates the example of reading which is given in explaining a rule, and the rule itself is forsaken and soon forgotten.

It seems to me that the readiest, indeed, the only good way, to teach children to read well, is, to give them the charge of instructers who are themselves good readers, –instructers, who, like teachers of musick, will not content themselves with laying certain rules for regulating the tones, inflexions, and cadences of the voice before your child’s eye, which can neither receive a sound nor give one, but who will address his ear with living instruction, –with the rich and informing melody of the human voice. . . .

Boston, June, 1823.

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Filed under 1830's, Education, Language, Posted by Caroline Fuchs