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spoil my book; for I persuade myself that you did not buy it as a bookseller, to sell it again for gain, but as a scholar to improve your mind by it; and if the mind be improved, your advantage is abundant, though your book yield less money to your executors.
Logic, or Tlx Ki jKt Vh of fyaton. v. RULKS OF IMPROVEMENT BY CONVERSATION'.
1. If we would improve our minds by conversation, it is a great happiness to be acquainted with persons wiser than ourselves. It is a piece of useful advice, therefore, to get the favor of their conversation frequently, as far as circumstances will allow: and if they happen to be a little reserved, use all obliging methods to draw out of them what may increase your own knowledge.
2. If you happen to be in company with a merchant or a sailor, a farmer or a mechanic, a milkmaid or a spinster, lead them into a discourse of the matters of their own peculiar province or profession; for every one knows, or should know, his own business best. In this sense a common mechanic is wiser than a philosopher. By this means you may gain some improvement in knowledge from every one you meet.
3. Confine not yourself always to one sort of company, or to persons of the same party or opinion, either in matters of learning, religion, or the civil life, lest if you should happen to be nursed up or educated in early mistake, you should be confirmed and established in the same mistake, by conversing only with persons of the same sentiments. A free and general conversation with men of very various countries and of different parties, opinions, and practices, (so far as it may be done safely,) is of excellent use to undeceive us in many wrong judgments which we may have framed, and to lead us into juster thoughts.
4. In mixed company, among acquaintance and strangers, endeavor to learn something from all. Be swift to hear, but be cautious of your tongue, lest you betray your ignorance, and perhaps offend some of those who are present too.
5. Believe that it is possible to learn something from persons much below yourself. We are all short-sighted creatures; our views are also narrow and limited; we often see but one side of a matter, and do not extend our sight far and wide enough to reach every thing that has a connection with the thing we talk of: we see but in part, and know but in part, therefore it is no wonder we form not right conclusions, because we do not survey the whole of any subject or argument.
6. To make conversation more valuable and useful, whether it be in a designed or accidental visit, among persons of the same or of different sexes, after the necessary salutations are finished, and the stream of common talk begins to hesitate, or runs flat and low, let some one person take a book which may be agreeable to the whole company, and by common consent let him read in it ten lines, or a paragraph or two, or a few pages, till some word or sentence gives an occasion for any of the company to offer a thought or two relating to that subject. Interruption of the reader should be no blame, for conversation is the business; whether it be to confirm what the author says, or to improve it; to enlarge upon or to correct it; to object against it, or to ask any question that is akin to it; and let every one that pleases add his opinion and promote the conversation. When the discourse sinks again, or diverts to trifles, let him that reads pursue the page, and read on further paragraphs or pages, till some occasion is given by a word or sentence for a new discourse to be started, and that with the utmost ease and freedom. Such a method as this would prevent the hours of a visit from running all to waste; and by this means, even among scholars, they will seldom find occasion for that too just and bitter reflection, I have lost my lime in the company of the learned.
By such practice as this, young ladies may very honorably and agreeably improve their hours: while one applies herself to reading, the others employ their attention, even among the various artifices of the needle; but let all of them make their occasional remarks or inquiries. This will guard a great deal of that precious time from modish trifling impertinence or scandal, which might otherwise afford matter for painful repentance.
Observe this rule in general; whensoever it lies in your power to lead the conversation, let it be directed to some profitable point of knowledge or practice, so far as may be done with decency; and let not the discourse and the hours be suffered to run loose without aim or design: and when a subject is started, pass not hastily to another, before you have brought the present theme or discourse to some tolerable issue, or a joint consent to drop it.
7. Attend with sincere diligence while any one of the company is declaring his sense of the question proposed; hear the argument with patience, though it differ ever so much from your sentiments, for you yourself are very desirous to be heard with patience by others who differ from you. Let not your thoughts be active and busy all the while to find out something to contradict, and by what means to oppose the speaker, especially in matters which are not brought to an issue. This is a frequent and unhappy temper and practice. You should rather be intent and solicitous to take up the mind and meaning of the speaker, zealous to seize and approve all that is true in his discourse; nor yet should you want courage to oppose where it is necessary; but let your modesty and patience, and a friendly temper, be as conspicuous as your zeal.
8. As you should carry about with you a constant and sincere sense of your own ignorance, so you should not be afraid nor ashamed to confess this ignorance, by taking all proper opportunities to ask and inquire for farther information; whether it be the meaning of a word, the nature of a thing, the reason of a proposition, or the custom of a nation. Never remain in ignorance for want of asking.
9. Be not too forward, especially in the younger part of life, to determine any question in company with an infallible and peremptory sentence, nor speak with assuming airs, and with a decisive tone of voice. A young man in the presence of his elders should rather hear and attend, and weigh the arguments which are brought for the proof or refutation of any doubtful proposition; and when it is your turn to speak, propose your thoughts rather in way of inquiry.
10. As you may sometimes raise inquiries for your own instruction and improvement, and draw out the learning, wisdom, and fine sentiments of your friends, who perhaps may be too reserved or modest; so at other times, if you perceive a person unskilful in the matter of debate, you may, by questions aptly proposed in the Socratic method, lead him into a clearer knowledge of the subject: then you become his instructor, in such a nmnner as may not appear to make yourself his superior.
11. Take heed of affecting always to shine in company above the rest, and to display the riches of your own understanding or your oratory, as though you would render yourself admirable to all that are present. This is seldom well taken in polite company; much less should you use such forms of speech as would insinuate the ignorance or dulness of those with whom you converse.
12. Banish utterly out of all conversation, and especially out of all learned and intellectual conference, every thing that tends to provoke passion, or raise a fire in the blood. Let no sharp language, no noisy exclamation, no sarcasms or biting jests be heard among you; no perverse or invidious consequences be drawn from each other's opinions, and imputed to the person. All these things are enemies to friendship, and the ruin of free conversation. The impartial search of truth requires all calmness and serenity, all temper and candor; mutual instruction can never be attained in the midst of passion, pride, and clamor, unless we suppose, in the midst of such a scene, there is a loud and penetrating lecture read by both sides on the folly and shameful infirmities of human nature.
13. To conclude: when you retire from company, then converse with yourself in solitude, and inquire what you have learnt for the improvement of your understanding, or for the rectifying your inclinations, for the increase of your virtues, or the meliorating your conduct and behaviour in any future parts of life. If you have seen some of your company candid, modest, humble in their manner, wise and sagacious, just and pious in their sentiments, polite and graceful, as well as clear and strong in their expression, and universally acceptable and lovely in their behavior, endeavor to impress the idea of all these upon your memory, and treasure them up for your imitation.
Improvement of the Mind.
CONYERS MIDDLETON. 1683—1750.
Cohtbbs Middletoit, a celebrated divine and critic, was the son of a clergyman, and born at Richmond, in Yorkshire, 16S3. He was educated at Cambridge, and in 1717 received from the university the degree of Doctor of Divinity. His first published work was "A Full and Impartial Account of all the late Proceedings in the University of Cambridge against Dr. Bentley," which, says Dr. Monk, "was the first published specimen of a style, which, for elegance, purity, and ease, yields to none in the whole compass of the English language." In 1724 he visited Italy, and having taken a careful and near view of the ecclesiastical pomp and ceremonies of the papal church, he published, in 1729, his celebrated Letter from Rome, in which he attempted to show that «the religion of the present Romans was derived from that of their heathen ancestors," and that, in particular, the rites, ceremonies, dresses of the priests, and other matters in the Romish church, were taken from the pagan religion. It was received with great favor by the learned, and went .hrough four editions in the author's lifetime.
In 1741 appeared his greatest work, and that on which his fame chiefly i-ests, » The History of the Life of Marcus Tullius Cicero." It might more properly be called, The Life and Times of Cicero, since it is full, not only in every thing that relates personally to the illustrious Roman orator, but gives an admirable picture of the Republic at the time he flourished. The style is remarkable for uniting clearness, strength, elegance, and richness in an unusual degree, and the work may justly be considered as a model of composition in the department of biography. The characters of the most prominent men of the time, he draws up with consummate skill, judgment, and taste; and few historical works are more interesting, nnd none more instructive. In 1745 he published an account of the various specimens of ancient art which he had collected during his residence at Rome; and in 1749, "A Free Inquiry into Miraculous Powers." This was immediately attacked by many of the clergy, who maintained that the tendency of the book was to destroy the authority of miracles in general: but Middleton disclaimed all such intention. After van ous controversies upon religious subjects with some of the clergy of the day, he expired on the 28th of July, 1750.
CICERO OFFERS HIMSELF TO THE BAR.
Cicero had now run through all that course of discipline, which he lays down as necessary to form the complete omtor: for, in his treatise on that subject, he gives us his own sentiments in the person of Crassus, on the institution requisite to that character; declaring that no man ought to pretend to it, without being previously acquainted with every thing worth knowing in art or nature; that this is implied in the very name of an omtor, whose profession it is to speak upon every subject which can be proposed to him; and whose eloquence, without the knowledge of what he speaks, would be the prattle only and impertinence of children. He had learnt the rudiments of gmmmar, and languages, from the ablest teachers; gone through the studies of humanity and the politer letters with the poet Archias; been instructed in philosophy by the principal professors of each sect; Phasdrus the Epicurean, Philo the Academic, Diodotus the Stoic; acquired a perfect knowledge of the law, from the greatest lawyers, as well as the greatest statesmen of Rome, the two Sca:volas; all which accomplishments were but ministerial and subservient to that on which his hopes and ambition were singly placed, the reputation of an orator: To qualify himself therefore particularly for this, he attended the pleadings of all the speakers of his time; heard the daily lectures of the most eminent orators of Greece, and was perpetually composing somewhat at home, and declaiming under their correction: and that he might neglect nothing which could help in any degree to improve and polish his style, he spent the intervals of his leisure in the company of the ladies; especially of those who were remarkable for a politeness of language, and whose fathers had been distinguished by a fame and reputation of their eloquence.
Thus adorned and accomplished, he offered himself to the bar about the age of twenty-six; not as others generally did, raw and ignomnt of their business, and wanting to be formed to it by use and exnorience, but finished and nualified at once to sustain any