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versy, neither belonging to heresy nor treason, nor greatly touching God nor the prince; although in very deed, in the end, the good or ill bringing up of children, doth as much serve to the good or ill service of God, our Prince, and our whole country, as any one thing doth beside.
“ I do gladly agree with all good schoolmasters in these points ; to have children brought to good perfectness in learning, to all honesty in manners; to have all faults rightly amended ; to have every vice severely corrected. But for the order and way that leadeth rightly to these points, we somewhat differ; for commonly many schoolmasters, some as I have seen, more as I have heard tell, be of so crooked a nature, as when they meet with a hard-witted scholar, they rather break him than bow him, rather mar him than mend him. For when the schoolmaster is angry with some other matter, then will he soonest fall to beat his scholar; and though he himself should be punished for his folly, yet must he beat some scholar for his pleasure, though there be no cause for him to do so, nor yet fault in the scholar to deserve so. These, ye
say, be fond schoolmasters, and few they be, that be found to be such. They be fond, indeed, but surely over many such be found every where. But this will I say, that even the wisest of your great beaters do as oft punish nature, as they do correct faults. Yea, many times the better nature is sorer punished. For, if one by quickness of wit take his lesson readily, another by hardness of wit taketh it not so speedily; the first is always commended; the other is commonly punished : when a wise schoolmaster should rather discreetly consider the right disposition of both their natures, and not
so much weigh what either of them is able to do now, as what either of them is likely to do hereafter. For this I know, not only by reading of books in my study, but also by experience of life abroad in the world, that those which be commonly the wisest, the best learned, and best men also, when they be old, were never como monly the quickest of wit when they were young. The causes why, amongst other, which be many, that move me thus to think, be these few which I will reckon.
“Quick wits commonly be apt to take, unapt to keep; soon hot, and desirous of this and that; as soon cold, and weary of the same again; more quick to enter speedily, than able to pierce far; even like our sharp tools, whose edges be very soon turned. Such wits delight themselves in easy and pleasant studies, and never pass far forward in high and hard sciences. And therefore the quickest wits commonly may prove the best poets, but not the wisest orators : ready of tongue to speak boldly, not deep of judgment, either for good counsel, or wise writing. Also for manners and life, quick wits commonly be, in desire, new-fangled; in purpose, unconstant, light to promise anything, ready to forget everything, both benefit and injury; and thereby neither fast to friend, nor fearful to foe; inquisitive of every trifle, not secret in the greatest affairs ; bold with any person; busy in every matter; soothing such as be present, nipping any that is absent : of nature also always flattering their betters, envying their equals, despising their inferiors; and by quickness of wit, very quick and ready to like none so well as themselves.
“ Moreover, commonly, men very quick of wit be also very light of conditions; and thereby very ready of disposition to be carried over quickly by any light company 10 any riot and unthriftiness when they be young ;
and therefore seldom either honest of life, or rich in living when they be old. For quick in wit, and light in manners, be either seldom troubled, or very soon weary in carrying a very heavy purse. Quick wits also be in most part of all their doings over quick, hasty, rash, heady, and brainsick. These two last words, heady and brainsick, be fit and proper words, rising uaturally of the matter, and termed aptly by the condition of overmuch quickness of wit. In youth also they be ready scoffers, privy mockers, and ever over light and merry : in age, soon testy, very waspish, and always over miserable. And yet few of them come to any great age, by reason of their misordered life when they were young ; but a great deal fewer of them come to show any great countenance, or bear any great authority abroad in the world ; but either live obscurely, men know not how, or die obscurely, men mark not when.
“ They be like trees, that show forth fair blossom and broad leaves in spring time, but bring out small and not long-lasting fruit in harvest time; and that only such as fall and rot before they be ripe, and so never or seldom come to any good at all. For this you shall find most true by experience, that amongst a number of quick wits in youth, few be found in the end either very fortunate for themselves, or very profitable to serve the commonwealth, but decay and vanish, men know not which way; except a very few, to whom peradventure blood and happy parentage may perchance purchase a long standing upon the stage. The which felicity, be. cause it cometh by others' procuring, not by their own deserving, and stands by other men's feet, and not by their own, what outward brag soever is borne by them, is indeed of itself, and in wise men's eyes, of no great estimation.”
The author here gives it as his opinion, that there are certain sciences by the over-much study and use of which "
some wits, moderate enough by nature, be many times marred.” The sciences against which he thus warns moderate wits are music in which he is said to have been himself a proficient), arithmetic, and geometry. “These sciences," he says, “as they sharpen men's wits overmuch, so they change men's manners over sore, if they be not moderately mingled, and wisely applied to some good use of life. Mark all mathematical heads, which be only and wholly bent to those sciences, how solitary they be themselves, how unfit to live with others, and how unapt to serve in the world.” In support of this notion he quotes Galen, Plato, and Cicero, as all condemning much music, on the ground that it “marreth men's manners;" and he refers to what he had himself written more at large on the matter, twenty years ago, in his Book or Shooting. The passage in the Toxophilus is curious as giving the grounds on which Ascham appears to have taken up these opinions. He there observes that “lutes, harps, barbitons, sambukes, with other instruments, every one which standeth by fine and quick fingering, be condemned of Aristotle, as not to be brought in and used among them which study for learning and virtue." Music, he thinks, doth to a man's mind, “as honey doth to a man's stomach, which at the first receiveth it well, but afterward it maketh it unfit to abide any strong nourishing meat, or else any wholesome, sharp, and quick drink. And even so in a manner these instruments make a man's wit so soft and smooth, so tender and quaisy, that they be less able to brook strong and tough study. Wits be not sharpened, but rather dulled,
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 otium 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.