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and made blunt with such sweet softness, even as good edges be blunted, which men whet upon soft chalk stones."
In the present work he contends, generally, that “overmuch quickness of wit, either given by nature, or sharpened by study, doth not commonly bring forth either greatest learning, best manners, or happiest life in the end." The sense in which he makes this proposition, as well as the reasons by which he defends it, will be understood from the passage that follows:
“Contrarywise, a wit in youth that is not over dull, heavy, knotty, and lumpish ; but hard, tough, and though somewhat staffish, (as Tully wisheth olium quietum non languidum, and negotium cum labore, non cum periculo,)* such a wit, I say, if it be at the first well handled by the mother, and rightly smoothed and wrought as it should, not overthwartly and against the wood by the schoolmaster, both for learning and whole course of living, proveth always the best. In wood and stone, not the softest, but hardest, be always aptest for portraiture, both fairest for pleasure, and most durable for profit. Hard wits be hard to receive, but sure to keep; painful without weariness, heedful without wavering, constant without newfangleness ; bearing heavy things, though not, lightly, yet willingly; entering hard things, though not easily, yet deeply; and so come to that perfectness of learning in the end, that quick wits seem in hope, but do not in deed, or else very seldom, ever attain unto.
“Also for manners and life, hard wits commonly are hardly carried, either to desire every new thing, or else
*i.e. leisure which is quiet, but not languid ; and business attended with exertion, but not with danger.
to marvel at every strange thing. And therefore they be careful and diligent in their own matters, not curious and busy in other men's affairs ; and so they become wise themselves, and also are counted honest by others. They be grave, steadfast, silent of tongue, secret of heart; not hasty in making, but constant in keeping any promise; not rash in uttering, but wary in considering every matter; and thereby not quick in speaking, but deep of judgment, whether they write or give counsel in all weighty affairs. And these be the men that become in the end both most happy for themselves, and also always best esteemed abroad in the world.
“I have been longer in describing the nature, the good or ill success of the quick and hard wits, than perchance some will think this place and matter doth require. But my purpose was hereby plainly to utter what injury is offered to all learning, and to the commonwealth also, first by the fond father in choosing, but chiefly by the lewd* schoolmaster in beating and driving away the best natures from learning. A child that is still, silent, constant, and somewhat hard of wit, is either never chosen by the father to be made a scholar, or else when he cometh to the school, he is smally regarded, little looked unto; he lacketh teaching, he lacketh encouraging, he lacketh all things; only he never lacketh beating, nor any word that may move him to hate learning, nor any deed that may drive him from learning to any other kind of living.
“And when this sad-natured, and hard-witted child is beat from his book, and becometh after either student of the common law, or page in the court, or servingman, or bound prentice to a merchant, or to some han
*1.e. the intemperate.
dicraft, he proveth in the end wiser, happier, and many times honester too, than many of these quick wits do by their learning.
“ Learning is both hindered and injured too by the ill choice of them that send young scholars to the Universities, of whom must needs come all our divines, lawyers, and physicians.
“ These young scholars be chosen cominonly, as young apples be chosen by children in a fair gardeu, about St. James tide. A child will choose a sweeting, because it is presently fair and pleasant, and refuse a runnet, because it is then green, hard, and sour; when the one, if it be eaten, doth breed both worms and ill humours; the other, if it stand his time, be ordered and kept as it should, is wholesome of itself, and hielpeth to the good digestion of other meats. Sweetings will receive worms, rot, and die on the tree, and never or seldom come to the gathering for good and lasting store.
“For very grief of heart I will not apply the similitude; but hereby is plainly seen, how learning is robbed of the best wits, first, by the great beating, and after by the ill choosing of scholars to go to the Universities : whereof cometh parily that lewd and spiteful proverb, sounding to the great hurt of learning, and shame of learned men, that the greatest clerks be not the wisest men.'
“And though I, in all this discourse, seein plainly to prefer hard and rough wits, before quick and light wits, both for learning and manners; yet I am not ignorant that some quickness of wit is a singular gift of God, and so most rare among men: and, namely, such a wit as is quick without lightness, sharp without brittleness,
desirous of good things without newfangleness, diligent in painful things without wearisomeness, and constant in good will to do all things well; as I know was in Sir John Cheke, and is in some that yet live, in whom all these fair qualities of wit are fully met together.
“ But it is notable and true, that Socrates saith in Plato to his friend Phædo, “That that number of men is fewest, which far exceed, either in good or ill, in wisdom or fully; but the mean betwixt both be the greatest number.' Which he proveth true in divers other things; as in greyhounds, amongst which few are found exceeding great, or exceeding little, exceeding swift, or exceeding slow. And, therefore, speaking of quick and hard wits, I meant the common number of quick and hard wits; amongst the which, for the most part, the hard wit proveth many times the better learned, wiser, and honester man. And therefore do I the more lament that such wits commonly be either kept from learning by fond fathers, or beat from learning by lewd schoolmasters."
The author proceeds to say that he might here declare " the most special notes of a good wit for learning in a child, after the manner and custom of a good horseman, who is skilful to know, and able to tell others, how by certain sure signs a man may choose a colt that is like to prove another day excellent for the saddle.” “ And it is a pity," he adds, with keen and indignant sarcasm, " that commonly more care is had, yea and that among very wise men, to find out rather a cunning man for their horse, than a cunning man for their children. They say nay in a word, but they do so in deed ; for to the one they will gladly give a stipend of two hundred crowns by the year, and loth to offer to the other two hundred shillings. God that sitteth in heaven laugheth their choice to scorn, and rewardeth their liberality as it should. For he suffereth them to have tame and wellordered horses, but wild and unfortunate children; and therefore in the end they find more pleasure in their horses, than comfort in their children."
Jostead, however, of giving his own opinion as to the true marks of promise in a child, he prefers reporting “ the judgment of him that was counted the best teacher and wisest man that learning maketh mention of," namely, Socrates, as his words are recorded by Plato, in the seventh book of his Republic. From what Socrates says, he extracts “seven true notes of a good wit," which he explains in succession.
First, the child must be 'Evpung, that is, “apt by goodness of wit, and appliable by readiness of will, to learning, having all other qualities of the mind and parts of the body, that must another day serve learning.” Among such qualifications, Ascham lays great stress upon a comely countenance and a goodly stature; and he laments that fathers, when out of several sons they have one that is lame or deformed, are too apt to put that one to learning, “as good enough to become a scholar.” He hints that the civil magistrate ought to interfere to prevent this abuse.
Secondly, the child ought to be Mvnuwv, which he interprets “good of memory.” This he says is “so principal a note, as without it all other gifts of nature do
small service to learning.” “And though,” he adds, “ it · be the mere gift of nature, yet is memory well preserved
by use, and much increased by order, as our scholar must learn another day in the University. But in a child a good memory is well known by three properties;