Изображения страниц

influence toward the explication or proof of each other : whereas, if a man deals always and only in essays and discourses on particular parts of a science, he will never obtain a distinct and just idea of the whole, and may perhaps omit some important part of it, after seven years reading of such occasional discourses.

For this reason, young students should apply themselves to their systems much more than pamphlets. That man is never so fit to judge of particular subjects relating to any science, who has never taken a survey of the whole.

It is the remark of an ingenious writer, should a barba. rous Indian, who had never seen a palace nor a ship, view their separate and disjointed parts, and observe the pillars, doors, windows, cornices, and turrets of the one, or the prow and stern, the ribs and masts, the ropes and shrouds, the sails and tackle of the other, he would be able to form but a very lame and dark idea of either of those excellent and useful inventions. In like manner, those who contemplate only the fragments or pieces broken off from any science, dispersed in short unconnected discourses, and do not discern their relation to each other, and how they may be adapted, and by their union procure the delightful symmetry of a regular scheme, can never survey an entire body of truth, but must always view it as deformed and dismembered;

while their ideas, which must be ever indistinct and often repugnant, will lie in the brain unsorted, and thrown together without order or coherence: such is the knowledge of those men who live upon the scraps of the sciences.

A youth of genius and lively imagination, of an active and forward spirit, may form within himself some alluring scenes and pleasing schemes in the beginning of a science, which are utterly inconsistent with some of the necessary and substantial parts of it which appear in the middle or the end. And if he never read and pass through the whole, he takes up and is satisfied with his own hasty pleasing schemes, and treasures these errors up amongst his solid acquisitions; whereas his own labour and study farther

pursued pursued would have shewn him his early mistakes, and cured him of his self-flattering delusions.

Hence it comes to pass that we have so many halfscholars now-a-days, and there is so much confusion and inconsistency in the notions and opinions of some persons, because they devote their hours of study entirely to short essays and pamphlets, and cast contempt upon systems, under a pretence of greater politeness; whereas the true reason of this contempt of systematical learning is mere laziness and want of judgement.

II. AFTER we are grown well acquainted with a short. system or compendium of a science, which is written in the plainest and most simple manner, it is then proper to read a larger regular treatise on that subject, if we design a complete knowledge and cultivation of it: and either while we are reading this larger system, or after we have done it, the occasional discourses and essays upon the par. ticular subjects and parts of that science may be read with the greatest profit : for in these essays we may often find very considerable corrections and improvements of what these compends, or even the larger systems, may have taught us, mingled with some mistakes.

And these corrections or improvements should be as remarks adjoined by way of note or commentary in their proper places, and superadded to the regular treatise we have read. Then a studious and judicious review of the whole will give us a tolerable acquaintance with that science.

III. It is a great happiness to have such a tutor, or such friends and companions at hand, who are able to inform us what are the best books written on any science, or any special part of it. For want of this advantage many a man has wasted his time in reading over perhaps some whole volumes, and learnt little more by it than to know that those volumes were not worth his reading.

IV. As for the languages, they are certainly best learned in the younger years of life. The memory is then most


empty and unfurnished, and ready to receive new ideas continually. We find that children, in two years time after they are born, learn to speak their native tongue.

V. The more abstracted sciences, which depend more upon the understanding and judgement, and which deal much in abstracted ideas, should not be imposed upon children too soon ; such are logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, or the depths and difficulties of grammar and criticism. Yet it must be confessed the first rudiments of grammar are necessary, or at least very convenient to be known when á youth learns a new language ; and some general easy principles and rules of morality and divinity are needful, in order to teach a child his duty to God and man; but to enter far into abstracted reasonings on these subjects is beyond the capacity of children.

VI. THERE are several of the sciences that will more agreeably employ our younger years, and the general parts of them may be easily taken in by boys. The first principles and easier practices of arithmethic, geometry, plain trigonometry, measuring heights, depths, lengths, distances, &c. the rudiments of geography and astronomy, together with something of mechanics, may be easily conveyed into the minds of acute young persons from nine or ten years old and upward. These studies may be entertaining and useful to young ladies as well as to gentlemen, and to all those who are bred up to the learned professions. The fair sex may intermingle those with the operations of the needle, and the knowledge of domestic life. Boys may be taught to join them with their rudiments of grammar, and their labour in the languages. And even those, who never learn any language but their mother-tongue, may be taught these sciences with lasting benefit in early days.

That this may be done with ease and advantage, take these three reasons.

(1.) Because they depend so much upon schemes and numbers, images, lines, and figures, and sensible things, that the imagination or fancy will greatly assist the under


standing, and render the knowledge of them much more easy:

(2.) These studies are so pleasant, that they will make the dry labour of learning words, phrases, and languages, more tolerable to boys in a Latin school by this most agreeable mixture. The employment of youth in these studies will tempt them to neglect many of the foolish plays of childhood, and they will find sweeter entertainment for themselves and their leisure hours by a cultivation of these pretty pieces of alluring knowledge.

(3.) The knowledge of these parts of science are both easy and worthy to be retained in memory by all children when they come to manly years, for they are useful through all the parts of human life; they tend to enlarge the understanding early, and to give a various acquaintance with useful subjects by times. And surely it is best, as far as possible, to train up children in the knowledge of those things which they should never forget, rather than to let them waste years of life in trifles, or in hard words which are not worth remembering

And here by the way I cannot but wonder, that any author in our age should have attempted to teach any of the exploded physics of Descartes, or the nobler inventions of Sir Isaac Newton, in his hypothesis of the heavenly bodies and their motions, in his doctrine of light and colours, and other parts of his physiology, or to instruct children in the knowledge of the theory of the heavens, earths, and planets, without any figures or diagrams. Is it possible to give a boy or a young lady the clear, distinct, and proper apprehensions of these things, without lines and figures to describe them? Does not their understanding want the aid of fancy and images to convey stronger and juster ideas of them to the inmost soul? or do they imagine that youth can penetrate into all these beauties and artifices of nature without these helps which persons of maturer age

necessary for that purpose? I would not willingly name the books, because some of the writers are said to be gentlemen of excellent acquirements.



VII. AFTER we have first learnt and gone through any of those arts or sciences which are to be explained by diagrams, figures, and schemes, such as geometry; geopraphy, astronomy, optics, mechanics, &c. we may best preserve them in memory, by having those schemes and figures in large sheets of paper hanging always before the eye in closets, parlours, halls, chambers, entries, stair-cases, &c. Thus the learned images will be perpetually imprest on the brain, and will keep the learning that depends upon them alive and fresh in the mind through the growing years of life: the mere diagrams and figures will ever recall to our thoughts those theorems, problems, and corollaries which have been demonstrated by them.

It is incredible how mueh geography may be learnt this way by the two terrestrial hemispheres, and by particular maps

and charts of the coasts and countries of the earth happily disposed round about us. Thus we may learn also the constellations, by just projections of the celestial sphere, hung up in the same manner. And I must confess, for the bulk of learners of astronomy, I like that projection of the stars best which includes in it all the stars in our horizon, and therefore it reaches to the 38 degree of southern latitude, though its centre is the north-pole. This gives us a better view of the heavenly bodies as they appear every night to us, and it may be made use of with a little instruction, and with ease to serve for a nocturnal, and shew the true hour of the night.

But remember, that if there be any colouring upon these maps or projections, it should be laid on so thin as not to obscure or conceal any part of the lines, figures, or letters : whereas most times they are daubed so thick with gay

and glaring colours, and hung up so high above the reach of the eye that should survey and read them, as though their only design were to make a gaudy show upon the wall,



« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »