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Runic, Celtic, or Sclavonian alphabet, never suspecting it to be a modern character. I have often told you, that every man, who has the use of his eyes and of his hand, can write whatever hand he pleases; and it is plain that you can, since you write both the Greek and German characters, which you never learned of a writing-master, extremely well, though your common hand, which you learned of a master, is an exceeding bad and illiberal one, equally unfit for business or common use. I do not desire that you should write a laboured or stiff character: a man of business must write quick and well, and that depends singly upon use. I would therefore advise you to get some very good writing-master at Paris, and apply to it for a month only, which will be sufficient; for, upon my word, the writing of a genteel plain hand of business is of much more importance than you think. You will say, it may be, that, when you write so very ill, it is because you are in a hurry: to which I answer, Why are you ever in a hurry? a man of sense may be in haste, but can never be in a hurry, because he knows that whatever he does in a hurry he must necessarily do very ill. He may be in haste to dispatch an affair, but he will take care not to let that haste hinder his doing it well. Little minds are in a hurry, when the object proves (as it commonly does) too big for them; they run, they stare, they puzzle, confound, and perplex themselves; they want to do every thing at once, and never do it at all. But a man of sense takes the time necessary for doing the thing he is about, well; and his haste to dispatch business, only appears by the continuity of
his application to it; he pursues it with a cool steadiness, and finishes it before he begins any other. I own your time is much taken up, and you have a great many different things to do; but remember, that you had much better do half of them well, and leave the other half undone, than do them all indifferently. Moreover, the few seconds that are saved in the course of the day, by writing ill instead of well, do not amount to an object of time by any means equivalent to the disgrace or ridicule of writing an ugly scrawl. Con. sider, that if your very bad writing could furnish me with matter of ridicule, what will it not do to others, who do not view you in that partial light that I do.
GENERAL RULES FOR THE ATTAINMENT OF
DEEPLY impress your mind with the vast importance of a sound judgment, and the rich and inestimable advantage of right reasoning. Review the instances of your own misconduct in life, and observe how many follies and sorrows you had escaped, if from your early years you had taken due pains to judge aright concerning persons, times, and things. This will awaken you to the work of improving your reasoning powers, and of seizing every opportunity and advantage for this end.
Take a wide survey now and then of the unlimited regions of learning. Let your meditations run over the names of all the sciences, with their numerous branchings, and particular themes of
knowledge, and then reflect with how few of them you are acquainted. The most learned of mortals will never find occasion to act over again what is fabled of Alexander the Great, that when he had conquered what was called the Eastern world, he wept for want of more worlds to conquer. The worlds of science are innumerable and endless.
Read the accounts of those vast treasures of knowledge, which some of the dead have possessed, and some of the living do possess, and be astonished at the almost incredible advances that have been made in science. Acquaint yourself with some persons of great learning, that, by comparing yourself with them, you may acquire a just opinion of your own attainments, and be animated with a generous and laudable emulation to equal, or exceed them. But remember, if upon a few superficial acquirements you value and exalt yourself, as though you were already learned, you are thereby erecting an impassable barrier against all improvement.
Presume' not too much upon a bright genius, a ready wit, and good parts; for these without la. bour and study will never make a man of knowledge and wisdom. Persons of a gay and vigorous fancy have often fallen into this mistake. They have been acknowledged to shine in an assembly, and sparkle in a discourse upon common topics, and thence have resolved to abandon reading and study: but when they had lost their vivacity of animal nature and youth, they became stupid and sottish, even to contempt and ridicule. It is meditation, and studious thought, that gives good sense even to the best genius.
Exercise your reason and judgment upon all you read; for, if your learning be a mere accumulation of what others have written, without a due penetration into the meaning, and a judicious choice and determination of your own sentiments, your head has little better title to true knowledge than the shelves of your library.
Do not hover always on the surfaces of things, or take up suddenly with mere appearances, for this will fill the mind with errours and prejudices, and give it an ill habit of thinking; but penetrate into the depth of matters, as far as your time and circumstances will allow.
Once a day, especially in the early years of life, study, examine what new ideas you have gained, and what advances you have made in any part of knowledge, and let no day if possible pass away without some intellectual gain. It was a sacred rule among the Pythagoreans, that they should every evening run thrice over the actions and affairs of the day, and examine what their conduct had been, what they had done, and what they had neglected; assured that, by this method, they would make a rapid progress in the path of knowledge and virtue.
DIFFERENT METHODS OF IMPROVING IN
KNOWLEDGE. THERE are five eminent means or methods, whereby the mind is improved in knowledge; and these are, observation, reading, instruction by lectures, conversation, and meditation; the last of which is in a more peculiar manner called study.
Observation is the notice that we take of all occurrences in human life, whether they be sensual or intellectual; whether relating to persons or things, to ourselves or to others. It is this that furnishes us even from our infancy with a rich variety of ideas, propositions, words, and phrases. It is by this we know that fire will burn, that the sun gives light, that a horse eats grass, that an acorn produces an oak, that man is a being capable of reasoning and discourse, that our bodies die and are carried to the grave, and that one generation succeeds another. All those things which we see, which we hear or feel, which we perceive by sense or consciousness, or which we know in a direct manner with scarcely any exercise of our reflecting faculties or our reasoning powers, may be included under the general name of observation.
Reading is that method whereby we acquaint ourselves with what other men have published to the world in their compositions. The arts of reading and writing are of infinite advantage; for by them we are made partakers of the sentiments, observations, reasonings, and improvements, of all the learned world, in the most remote nations, and in former ages, almost from the beginning of mankind.
Public or private lectures are such verbal instructions as are given by a teacher, while the learners attend in silence. We learn in this manner religion from the pulpit; philosophy or theology from the professor's chair; and mathematics, by a teacher showing us various theorems or problems; that is, speculations or practices, by