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whether for conversation, or for the various practical purposes of life. They are often found, in short, to have more of general practical knowledge, than commonly falls to the lot of men of profound science or literature. For one who devotes himself to science alone, or to literature alone, however deeply intelligent in that single respect, must needs be ignorant as to most other things.
But the class of the Well Informed requires a more particular description. By no means does it include all readers, and much less all that can read.
Of those who can read, the greater part make very little use of this inestimable advantage, and are very little the wiser for it. Again, of those who do read, a large proportion choose rather to be diverted or amused than instructed. They are diverted; they are amused; but enlightened and informed in any respectable measure, they are not. There are great readers, both male and female, who in no wise are well informed.Either their reading is futile and uninstructive, or they neglect to join with it the close exercise of their intellectual faculties; so that their judgments are not strengthened, nor their understandings enlarged, though an abundance of truths and facts are confusedly heaped together in their memories.
To attain the character of Well Informed, one must read with prudent selection as to books; with an attentive exercise of one's own reason and judgment; with close application of thought ;--and one must improve one's own mind, not by reading only, but also by a living intercourse with intelligent society. For it is not in abstraction from the world, but in the bosom of society-of well regulated and well informed societythat the mind enjoys the best opportunities for obtaining expansion and vigor. Here alone, it experiences a genial warmth, and powerful stimulations to laudable exertions. Here alone it is, also, that the fallacies and errors of its own crude conceptions are corrected, by means of their frequent contact, comparison, and collision, with the conceptions of kindred minds.
The road is open. The means of information are so ample and so easy of aceess, that the reading youth of
the present day, seem to have it fairly in their power to become well informed men and women. Two hours in the twenty-four, employed in well-directed intellectual industry, might suffice, in no very long time, for gathering a respectable treasure of valuable knowledge. A person who should walk only one hour, or three miles and an half, every day, would, in the course of twenty years, have travelled as many steps as would reach round the globe.
Though a bookworm is seldom good for much else, yet a reasonable degree of bookishness is not incompatible with business, nor any hindrance to it. There are men and women of considerably extensive reading, and well informed, who have been remarkable for diligence and punctuality in the various particulars of their busy callings. And besides, as there are numerous chasms in life, which they know not how to fill who are addicted neither to business nor books; so when men of business retire from it, they are generally restless in their retirement unless they have a taste for reading.
Of general diffusion of Knowledge.
The rapid progress of knowledge by diffusion, is deeply important to the civil and moral interests of society. It is probably a fact, that the number of readers, particularly readers of English, has increased threefold in the last thirty years. Add to this; there are making at the present instant, more strenuous and general efforts, by many degrees, for imparting the means of instruction to all classes of the people, than were ever made before. So that there is a fair prospect that the number of English readers will be threefold greater thirty years hence, than it is even now.
The nature and magnitude of the results cannot be fully conceived beforehand. No doubt there will be, in them, a mixture of good and evil, but there is reason to expect that the good will vastly preponderate,
One of the grand objects which so remarkably engage general attention at the present time, is to diffuse, as widely as possible, a little learning ; to impart it to the children of the indigent; and, as far as may be practicable, to put it in the power of the whole rising generation to become readers. Learning admits of many degrees; and while but few can possess it in any of the highest degrees, it is the darling project of the age we live in, that all should possess it at least in some of the lowest.
A Poet of great and deserved celebrity has told us, that a little learning is a dangerous thing—and has admonished, to drink of it deer, else not to taste at all. Nor has scarcely a maxim in Holy Writ, been quoted more frequently, or with greater confidence of its truth. The dogma'and monition of the poet, are to be received, however, with no small degree of caution; otherwise, there could be no encouragement for the general diffusion of learning, since it is only a little, that the generality can ever attain.
The two principal dangers which naturally arise from merely a little learning, are those of pedantry, and an aspiring temper.
Let them both be viewed in a fair light.
At the time, when Pope penned the couplėt to which I have reference, namely, in the early part of the last century, the bulk of the wealthy citizens even of London, especially of the female part, could neither write grammatically, nor spell correctly; as appears by sundry papers of the Spectator. Now in such a state of society, it is no wonder that those of little learning were vain of that little, and made themselves more obnoxious to ridicule by their pedantry, than the utterly illiterate were for their ignorance. But if a little learning were a possession, or acquirement, quite common, very few would be vain of it. Seldom, if ever, would a man be vain of his riches, if all other men were alike ricb, or a woman of her beauty, if all other women were as heautiful as herself. And, by a parity of reason; neither man nor woman could ordinarily be vain of such measures of learning as were in the possession of the multitude.
Hence it would seem to follow, that a general diffu
sion of learning would have a tendency to banish pedantry, rather than to increase the number of pedants. Yet, after all, some will be pedantic, and there is no help for it; for it lies in the brain.
A weak mind, whether imbued with a little learning or with much, is prone to pedantry: of which, persons of strong, sound sense, are in no great danger, even though their learning be rather superficial than profound. Nor is pedantry confined to literature alone : one is a pedant in his peculiar way, whose conversation is altogether in the dialect of his own particular profession or calling, whether it be law, physic, arms, or trade.
That a little learning, as well as much, naturally tends to awaken an aspiring temper, must indeed be adınitted. The more general the diffusion of knowledge, the greater will be the number of rival candidates for offices of honor and emolument; and of course, the greater will be the number of the disappointed and restless of those who would gladly sacrifice the repose of their country to the views of ambition and personal interest. So that, while the more general diffusion of knowledge will conduce to the greater equalization of mankind, it will also conduce to multiply bitter rivalries, unless the proper antidotes be seasonably applied.
Here, much, very much, will depend upon the quality of early Education.
Early education, of the truly christian character, by which the children are taught that the learning given them is for use, rather than show, and that the proper use of it is to meliorate their minds and hearts, and make them beneficial to the community; by which they are taught to control their appetites, to govern their passions, to moderate their desires, and to be watchful over their thoughts as well as actions, as those who wust give an account; by which they are taught, in all cases, to adhere inflexibly to truth and equity; and by which they are taught to be submissive to lawful authority, to be content with the conditions which Providence allots them, and to seek the good of others as sincerely as their own :-Such an early education, accompanied with the divine blessing, might prevent the pernicious consequences, that, otherwise, would so naturally
spring out of a general diffusion of a small portion of learning But, if the morals of the children be utterly neglected, or but very slightly attended to, their learning, whether more or less, will render them wise for evil, rather than for good.
Education, which is the means of unspeakable good, may be turned to direful evil. The same sun that expands the fragrant and beauteous rose, quickens the poison of the bohon upas.
Of adapting Education to the various callings of life.
In the wise economy of nature, there is a remarkable correspondence between the common standard of human capacities and the common occupations of life; in so much that a general enlargement, as well as a general contraction, of the natural capacities of mankind, while in this world, would be destructive to their interests.The first would set them above the ordinary business of life, while the last would reduce them below it; and in either case, the consequences would be deplorable.Wherefore, while the necessary degree of intellect is dispensed to all, the splendid gifts of genius have been dealt out with a sparing hand.
But let not blind presumption attribute this frugal economy to any lack of power or of benevolence in the great First Cause. With him it is no less easy to create a Homer or a Newton, than to create a worm ; nor is it possible that the Father of lights should grudge to impart a full necessary measure of the light of intellect. His wisdom and goodness are seen in what he withholds as well as in what he gives. If mankind generally were endowed with the capacious understanding of Bacon and Newton, or with the creative fancy of Shakespeare, while they would be feeding on thought," and rapt in profound contemplations, or forming and combining in their minds innumerable gay and sportive images, there would be no man to till the ground; the