Page images
PDF
EPUB

I shall be highly pleased to hear from you, ana to know what authors give you most pleasure. I desire my service to Mr. Leech: pray tell him I will write to him soon about your studies.

I am, with the greatest affection,
My dear child,

Your loving uncle.

GENERAL ADVICE TO THE YOUTHFUL STUDENT.

Bath, January 14, 1754.

Mr Deah Nepiikw:

You will hardly have read over one very long letter from me before you are troubled with a second. I intended to have writ soon, but I do it the sooner on account of your letter to your aunt, which she tmnsmitted to me here. If any thing, my dear boy, could have happened to raise you higher in my esteem, and to endear you more to me, it is the amiable abhorrence you feel for the scene of vice and folly, (and of real misery and perdition, under the false notion of pleasure and spirit,) which has opened to you at your college, and at the same time, the manly, bmve, generous, and wise resolution and true spirit, with which you resisted and repulsed the first attempts upon a mind and heart, I thank Gud, infinitely too firm and noble, as well as too elegant and enlightened, to be in any danger of yielding to such contemptible and wretched corruptions. You charm me with the description of Mr. Wheler,1 and while you say you could adore him, I could adore you for the natural, genuine love of virtue, which speaks in all you feel, say, or do. As to your companions, let this be your rule. Cultivate the acquaintance with Mr. Wheler which you have so fortunately begun: and, in general, be sure to associate with men much older than yourself: scholars whenever you can: but always with men of decent and honorable lives. As their age and learning, superior both to your own, must necessarily, in good sense, and in the view of acquiring knowledge from them, entitle them to all deference, and submission of your own lights to theirs, you will particularly practise that first and greatest rule for pleasing in conversation, as well as for dmwing instruction and improvement from the company of one's superiors in age and knowledge, namely, to be a patient, attentive, and well-bred hearer, and to answer with modesty: to deliver your own opinions sparingly and with proper diffidence ; and if you are forced to desire farther information or explanation upon a point, to do it with proper apologies for the trouble you give: or if obliged to differ, to do it with all possible candor, and an unprejudiced desire to find and ascertain truth, with an entire indifference to the side on which that truth is to be found. There is likewise a particular attention required to contradict with good manners; such as, becking pardon, begging leave to doubt, and suchlike phmses. Pythagoras enjoined his scholars an absolute silence for a long novitiate. I am far from approving such a taciturnity: but I highly recommend the end and intent of Pythagoras's injunction; which is to dedicate the first parts of life more to hear and learn, in order to collect materials, out of which to form opinions founded on proper lights and well-examined sound principles, than to be presuming, prompt, and flippant in hazarding one's own slight, crude notions of things; and thereby exposing the nakedness and emptiness of the mind, like a house opened to company before it is fitted either with necessaries, or any ornaments for their reception and entertainment. And not only will this disgmce follow from such temerity and presumption, but a more serious danger is sure to ensue, that is, the embracing errors for truths, prejudices for principles; and when that is once done, (no matter how vainly and weakly,) the adhering perhaps to false and dangerous notions, only because one has declared for them, and submitting, for life, the understanding and conscience to a yoke of base and servile prejudices, vainly taken up and obstinately retained. This will never be your danger; but I thought it not amiss to offer these reflections to your thoughts. As to your manner of behaving towards these unhappy young gentlemen you describe, let it be manly and easy; decline their parties with civility; retort their raillery with raillery, always tempered with good breeding: if they banter your regularity, order, decency, and love of study, banter in return their neglect of them ; and venture to own frankly, that you came to Cambridge to learn what you can, not to follow what they are pleased to call pleasure. In short, let your external behavior to them be as full of politeness and ease as your inward estimation of them is full of pity, mixed with contempt. I come now to the part of the advice I have to offer to you, which most nearly concerns your welfare, and upon which every gocd and honorable purpose of your life will assuredly turn; I mean the keeping up in your heart the true sentiments of religion. If you are not right towards God, you can never be so towards man: the noblest sentiment of the human breast is here brourh• *n the whose utmost gifts are poor compared to those he daily receives at the hands of his never-failing Almighty Friend. "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth," is big with the deepest wisdom: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and, an upright heart, that is understanding. This is eternally true, whether the wits and rakes of Cambridge allow it or not: nay, I must add of this religious wisdom, " Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace," whatever your young gentlemen of pleasure think of a tainted health and battered constitution. Hold fast therefore by this sheet-anchor of happiness, Religion; you will often want it in the times of most danger— the storms and tempests of life. Cherish true religion. Remember the essence of religion is, a heart void of offence towards God and man; not subtle speculative opinions, but an active vital principle of faith.

Go on, my dear child, in the admirable dispositions you have towards all that is right and good, and make yourself the love and admiration of the world! I have neither paper nor words to tell you how tenderly

I am yours.

OUR OWN REASON AND OTHERS' EXPERIENCE, TO BE USED.

Bath, February 3, 1751. Nothing can, or ought to give me a higher satisfaction, than the obliging manner in which my dear nephew receives my most sincere and affectionate endeavors to be of use to him. You much overrate the obligation, whatever it be. which youth has to those who have trod the paths of the world before the.m, for their friendly advice how to avoid the inconveniences, dangers, and evils, which they themselves may have run upon, for want of such timely warnings, and to seize, cultivate, and carry forward towards perfection, those advantages, graces, virtues, and felicities, which they may have totally missed, or stopped short in the generous pursuit. To lend this helping hand to those who are beginning to tread the slippery way, seems, at best, but an office of common humanity to all; but to withhold it from one we truly love, and whose heart and mind bear every genuine mark of the very soil proper for all the amiable, manly, and generous virtues to take root, and bear their heavenly fruit; inward, conscious peace, fame among men, public love, temporal, and eternal happiness; to withhold it, I say, in such an instance, would deserve the worst of names. I am greatly pleased, my dear young friend, that you do me the justice to believe I do not mean to impose any yoke of authority upon your understanding and conviction. I wish to warn, admonish, instruct, enlighten, and convince your reason; and so determine your judgment to right things, when you shall be made to see that they are right; not to overbear, and impel you to adopt any thing before you perceive it to be right or wrong, by the force of authority. I hear with great pleasure, that Locke Jay before you, when you writ last to me; and I like the observation that you make from him, that we must use our own reason, not that of another, if we would deal fairly by ourselves, and hope to enjoy a peaceful and contented conscience. This precept is truly worthy of the dignity of rational natures. But here, my dear child, let me offer one distinction to you, and it is of much moment; it is this: Mr. Locke's precept is applicable only to such opinions as regard moral or religious obligations, and which, as such, our own consciences alone can judge and determine for ourselves. Matters of mere expediency, that affect neither honor, morality, or religion, were not in that great and wise man's view: such are the usages, forms, manners, modes, proprieties, decorums, and all those numberless ornamental little acquirements, and genteel well-bred attentions, which constitute a proper, graceful, amiable, and noble behavior. In matters of this kind, I am sure, your own reason, to which I shall always refer you, will at once tell you, that you must, at first, make use of the experience of others: in effect, see with their eyes, or not be able to see at all; for the ways of the world, as to its usages and exterior manners, as well as to all things of expediency and prudential considemtions, a moment's reflection will convince a mind as right as yours, must necessarily be to inexperienced youth, with ever so fine natural parts, a terra incognita.1 As you would not therefore attempt to form notions of China or Persia but from those who have travelled those countries, and the fidelity and sagacity of whose relations you can trust; so will you, as little, I trust, prematurely form notions of your own, concerning that usage of the world (as it is called) into which you have not yet travelled, and which must be long studied and pmctised, before it can be tolembly well known. I can repeat nothing to you of so infinite conserience of a friend you can trust, the sincerity of whose advice you will try and prove by your own experience hereafter, when more years shall have given it to you. I have been longer upon this head, than I hope there was any occasion for: but the great importance of the matter, and my warm wishes for your welfare, figure, and happiness, have drawn it from me.

My dear Nephew,

Ever affectionately,
Yours.

SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE. 1725—1780.

This eminent civilian was born in London, in July, 1723. His father was a silk-mercer, and the fortune he had acquired in the honorable pursuits of trade, was sufficient to enable him to afford his son every advantage of education and scholarship. On leaving the University of Oxford, having selected the law as his profession, he entered the Middle Temple, on which occasion ho wrote the sprightly and beautiful lines entitled "The Lawyer's Farewell to his Muse." In due time ho was called to the bar, but after seven years of patient and vain expectance, meeting with but little success, he returned to Oxford, with the intention of living on his fellowship. Having, however, obtained an appointment to the law professorship in the university, he so distinguished himself by the lectures he delivered, that he resumed the practice of his profession with a success proportioned to his great abilities and learning. In 1765 he published his celebrated "Commentaries on the Laws of England," than which few books have exerted a wider influence, it being one of the lirst works read by every student of the law, and the one to which, perhaps, he makes the most frequent reference through the whole course of his professional life. In 1770, Blackstone was made one of the judges of the. Court of Common Pleas, which situation he held till his death, in 1780.

THE LAWYER'S FAREWELL TO HIS MUSE.

As by some tyrant's stern command,
A wretch forsakes his native land,
In foreign climes condemn'd to roam
An endless exile from his home;
Pensive he treads the destined way,
And dreads to go, nor dares to stay;
Till on some neighboring mountain's brow
He stops, and turns his eyes below;
Then, melting at the well-known view,
Drops a last tear, and bids adieu;
So I. thus doom d from thee to part,
Gay Queen of Fancy and of Art,
Reluctant move, with doubtful mind,
Oft stop, and often look behind.

Companion of my tender age,
Serenely gay, and sweetly sage,

« PreviousContinue »