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will tell me I did not make it a part of your education; your prospect was very different from hers. As you had much in your circumstances to attract the highest offers, it seemed your business to learn how to live in the world, as it is hers to know how to be easy out of it.
It is the common error of builders and parents to follow some plan they think beautiful (and perhaps is so), without considering that nothing is beautiful which is displaced. Hence we see so many edifices raised, that the raisers can never inhabit, being too large for their fortunes. Vistas are laid open over barren heaths, and apartments contrived for a coolness very agreeable in Italy, but killing in the north of Britain: thus every woman endeavours to breed her daughter a fine lady, qualifying her for a station in which she will never appear, and at the same time incapacitating her for that retirement to which she is destined. Learning, if she has a real taste for it, will not only make her contented, but happy in it. No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting. She will not want new fashions, nor regret the loss of expensive diversions, or variety of company, if she can be amused with an author in her closet.
To render this amusement complete, she should be permitted to learn the languages. I have heard it lamented that boys lose so many years in mere learning of words: this is no objection to a girl, whose time is not so precious: she cannot advance herself in any profession, and has therefore more hours to spare; and as you say her memory is good, she will be very agreeably employed this way. There are two cautions to be given on this subject: first, not to think
herself learned when she can read Latin, or even Greek. Languages are more properly to be called vehicles of learning than learning itself, as may be observed in many schoolmasters, who, though perhaps critics in grammar, are the most ignorant fellows upon earth. True knowledge consists in knowing things, not words.
I would no further wish her a linguist than to enable her to read books in their originals, that are often corrupted, and are always injured, by translations. Two hours' application every morning will bring this about much sooner than you can imagine, and she will have leisure enough besides to run over the English poetry, which is a more important part of a woman's education than it is generally supposed. Many a young damsel has been ruined by a fine copy of verses, which she would have laughed at if she had known it had been stolen from Mr. Waller. I remember, when I was a girl, I saved one of my companions from destruction, who communicated to me an epistle she was quite charmed with. As she had naturally a good taste, she observed the lines were not so smooth as Prior's or Pope's, but had more thought and spirit than any of theirs. She was wonderfully delighted with such a demonstration of her lover's sense and passion, and not a little pleased with her own charms, that had force enough to inspire such elegancies. In the midst of this triumph, I showed her that they were taken from Randolph's poems, and the unfortu nate transcriber was dismissed with the scorn he deserved. To say truth, the poor plagiary was very unlucky to fall into my hands; that author being no
longer in fashion, would have escaped any one of less universal reading than myself.
You should encourage your daughter to talk over with you what she reads; and as you are very capable of distinguishing, take care she does not mistake pert folly for wit and humour, or rhyme for poetry, which are the common errors of young people, and have a train of ill consequences. The second caution to be given her (and which is most absolutely necessary), is to conceal whatever learning she attains, with as much solicitude as she would hide crookedness or lameness: the parade of it can only serve to draw on her the envy, and consequently the most inveterate hatred, of all he and she fools, which will certainly be at least three parts in four of her acquaintance.
The use of knowledge in our sex, beside the amusement of solitude, is to moderate the passions, and learn to be contented with a small expense, which are the certain effects of a studious life; and it may be preferable even to that fame which men have engrossed to themselves, and will not suffer us to share. You will tell me I have not observed this rule myself; but you are mistaken: it is only inevitable accident that has given me any reputation that way. I have always carefully avoided it, and ever thought it a misfortune.
It is a saying of Thucydides, that ignorance is bold, and knowledge reserved. Indeed it is impossible to be far advanced in it without being more humbled by a conviction of human ignorance than elated by learning. At the same time I recommend books, I neither exclude work nor drawing. I think it is as scandalous for a woman not to know how to use a needle, as for a man not to know how to use a sword. I was once
extremely fond of my pencil, and it was a great mortification to me when my father turned off my master, having made a considerable progress for the short time I learned. My over-eagerness in the pursuit of it had brought a weakness in my eyes, that made it necessary to leave off; and all the advantage I got was the improvement of my hand. I see by hers that practice will make her a ready writer; she may attain it by serving you for a secretary, when your health or affairs make it troublesome to you to write yourself; and custom will make it an agreeable amusement to her. She cannot have too many for that station of life which will probably be her fate.
The ultimate end of your education was to make you a good wife (and I have the comfort to hear that you are one); hers ought to be to make her happy in a virgin state. I will not say it is happier, but it is undoubtedly safer, than any marriage. In a lottery, where there is (at the lowest computation) ten thousand blanks to a prize, it is the most prudent choice not to venture. I have always been so thoroughly persuaded of this truth, that, notwithstanding the flattering views I had for you (as I never intended you a sacrifice to my vanity), I thought I owed you the justice to lay before you all the hazards attending matrimony: you may recollect I did so in the strongest
I am afraid you will think this a very long insignificant letter. I hope the kindness of the design will excuse it, being willing to give you every proof in my power that I am your most affectionate mother.
["IN massive force of understanding," says a recent critic, “in multifarious knowledge, sagacity, and moral intrepidity, no writer of the eighteenth century surpassed Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON. His influence upon the literature of his age was almost unbounded. No prose writer of that day escaped the contagion of his peculiar style. He banished for a long period the naked simplicity of Swift and the idiomatic graces of Addison; he depressed the literature and poetry of imagination, while he elevated that of the understanding; he based criticism on strong sense and solid judgment, not on scholastic subtleties and refinement; and though some of the higher qualities and attributes of genius eluded his grasp and observation, the withering scorn and invective with which he assailed all affected sentimentalism, immorality, and licentiousness, introduced a pure and healthful and invigorating atmosphere into the crowded walks of literature. These are solid and substantial benefits which should weigh down errors of taste or the caprices of a temperament constitutionally prone to melancholy and ill health, and which was little sweetened by prosperity or applause at that period of life when the habits are formed and the manners become permanent. His contributions to literature were both numerous and important. 1738 appeared his London, a Satire; in 1744 his Life of Savage; in 1749 The Vanity of Human Wishes, and the tragedy of Irene; in 1750-52 the Rambler, published in numbers; in 1755 his Dictionary of the English Language, which had engaged him above seven years; in 1758-60 the Idler, another series of essays; in 1759 Rasselas; in 1775 the Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland: and in 1781 the Lives of the Poets. The high church and Tory predilections of Johnson led him to embark on the troubled sea of party politics, and he wrote some vigorous pamphlets in defence of the ministry and against the claims of the Americans."]
From the Preface of the Dictionary.
It is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life to be rather driven by the fear of evil,