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you dun me so unmercifully. I own, I am surprised, that you should require my opinion on the uses of foreign travel, after perusing, as you must have done, the Dialogues lately published by an eminent divine, equally distinguished for his learning and taste. But as I know what makes you peculiarly solicitous on that subject at present, I shall give you my sentiments, such as they are, without farther hesitation.
I cannot help thinking, that a young man of fortune may spend a few years to advantage, in travelling through some of the principal countries of Europe, provided the tour be well-timed, and well-conducted ; and, without these, what part of education can be of use?
In a former letter, I gave my reasons for preferring the plan of education at the public schools of England, to any other now in use at home or abroad. After the young person has acquired the fundamental parts of learning, which are taught at schools, he will naturally be removed to some university. One of the most elegant and most ingenious writers of the present age has, in his Inquiry into the causes of the Wealth of Nations, pointed out many deficiences in those seminaries. What that gentleman has said on this subject, may possibly have some effect in bringing about an improvement. But, with all their deficiences, it must be acknowledged, that no universities have produced a greater number of men distinguished for polite literature, and eminent for science, than those of England. If a young man has, previously, acquired the habit of application, and a taste for learning, he will certainly find the means of improvement there ; and, without these, I know not where he will make any progress in literature. But whatever plan is adopted, whether the young man studies at the university, or at home with private teachers, while he is studying with disigence and alacrity, it would be doing him a most essential injury, to interrupt him by a premature expedition to the continent, from an idea of his acquiring the graces, elegance of manner, or any of the accomplishments which travelling is supposed to give. Literature is preferable to all other accomplishments, and the men of rank who possess it, have a superiority over those who do not, let their graces be what they may, which the latter feel and enyy, while they affect to despise.
According to this plan, a youth, properly educated, will seldom begin his foreign tour before the age of twenty; if
; it is a year or two later there will be no harm.
This is the age, it may be said, when young men of fortune endeavour to get into parliament ; it is so ; but if they should remain out of parliament till they are a few years older, the affairs of the nation might possibly go on as well.
It may also be said, if the tour is deferred till the age of twenty, the youth will not, after that period of life, attain the modern languages in perfection. Nor will he acquire that easy manner, and fine address, which are only çaught by an early acquaintance with courts, and the asşemblies of the gay and elegant. This is true to a certain degree ; but the answer is, that by remaining at home, and applying to the pursuits of literature, he will make more valuable attainments.
I am at a loss what to say about those same graces; it is certainly desirable to possess them, but they must come, as it were, spontaneously, or they will not come at all. They sometimes appear as volunteers, but cannot be press , ed into any service; and those who shew the greatest anxiety about them, are the least likely to attain them. I should be cautious, therefore, of advising a young man to study them either at home or abroad with much solici. iude. Students of the graces are, generally, the most az bominably affected fellows in the world. I have seen one of them make a whole company squeamish.
Though the pert familiarity of French children would not become an English boy, yet it merits the earliest and the utmost attention to prevent or conquer that awkward timidity which so often oppresses the latter when he comes into company. The timidity I speak of, is entirely differ
ent from modesty. I have seen the most impudent boys I ever knew, almost convulsed with constraint in the presence of strangers, or when they were required to pronounce a single sentence of civility. But it was only on such occasions they were bashful. Among their companions or inferiors, they were saucy, rude, and boisterous.
If boys of this description only were liable to bashfulness, it would be a pity to remove it. But although this quality is distinct from modesty, it is not incompatible with it. Boys of the most modest and most amiable disposition are often overwhelmed with it; from them it ought to be removed, if it can be done, without endanger, ing that modesty which is so great an ornament to youth, and indeed to every period of life. This, surely, may be done in England, as well as in any other country; but it is too much neglected : many consider it as a matter of no importance, or that it will wear off by time. We see it, however, often annihilate, and always impair the effect of the greatest and most useful talents. After the care of forming the heart by the principles of benevolence and integrity, perhaps one of the most important parts of education is, to habituate a boy to behave with modesty, but without restraint, and to retain the full possession of all his faculties in any company.
To attain, betimes, that ease and elegance of manner, which travelling is supposed to bestow, and that the young gentleman' may become perfectly master of the modern languages, some have thought of mixing the two plans; and, instead of allowing him to prosecute his studies at home, sending him abroad, immediately on his coming from school, on the supposition that, with the assistance of a tutor and foreign professors, he will proceed in the study of philosophy, and other branches of literature, during the three or four years which are employed in the usual tour. It will not be denied, that a young man who has made good use of his time at school and at the university, who has acquired such a taste for science as to consider its pursuits as a pleasure, and not a task, may, even dur
ing his travels, 'mix the study of men with that of books, and continue to make progress in the latter, when the greater part of his time is dedicated to the former, But that such a taste will, for the first time, spring up in the breast of a boy of sixteen or seveenteen, amidst the dissipation of theatres, reviews, processions, balls, and assemblies, is of all things the least probable.
Others, who think lightly of the importance of what is usually called science to a young man of rank and fortune, still contend, that a knowledge of history, which they admit may be of some use even to men of fortune, can certainly be acquired during the years of travelling. But what sort of a knowledge will it be which a boy, in such a situation, will acquire ? Not that which Lord Bolingbroke calls philosophy, teaching by examples, a proper
conduct in the various situations of public and private life, but merely a succession of reigns, of battles, and sieges, stored up in the memory without reflection or ap
, plication. I remember a young gentleman, whom a strong and retentive memory of such events often set a prating very mal-a-propos; one of his companions expressed much surprise at his knowledge, and wondered how he had laid up such a store. "Why, truly,' replied he, with frankness, it is all owing to my bungling blockhead of a valet, who takes up such an unconscionable time in dressing my hair, that I am glad to read to keep me from fretting; and as there are no newspapers, or magazines, to be had in this country, I have been driven to history, which answers nearly as well.
But it sometimes happens, that young men who are far behind their contemporaries in every kind of literature, are wonderfully advanced in the knowledge of the town, so as to vie with the oldest professors in London, and endanger their own health by the ardour of their application. The sooner such premature youths are separated from the connections they have formed in the metropolis, the better; and as it will not be easy to persuade them to live in any other part of Great Britain, it will be necessary
to send them abroad. But, instead of being carried to courts and capitals, the best plan for them will be, to fix them in some provincial town of France or Switzerland, where they may have a chance of improving, not so much by new attainments, as by unlearning or forgetting what they have already acquired.
After a young man has employed his time to advantage at a public school, and has continued his application to various branches of science till the age of twenty, you ask, what are the advantages he is likely to reap from a tour abroad?
He will see mankind more at large, and in numberless situations and points of view, in which they cannot appear in Great Britain, or any one country. By comparing the various customs and usages, and hearing the received opinions of different countries, his mind will be enlarged. He will be enabled to correct the theoretical notions he may have formed of human nature, by the practical knowledge of men. By contemplating their various religions, laws, and government, in action, as it were, and observing the effects they produce on the minds and characters of the people, he will be able to form a juster estimate of their value than otherwise he could have done. He will see the natives of other countries, not as he sees them in England, mere idle spectators, but busily employed in their various characters, as actors on their own proper stage. He will gradually improve in the knowledge of charucter, not of Englishmen only, but of men in general; he will cease to be deceived either by the varnish with which men are apt to heighten their own actions, or the dark colours in which they, too often, paint those of others. He will learn to distinguish the real from the ostensible motive of men's words and behaviour. Finally, by being received with hospitality, conversing familiarly, and living in the reciprocal exchange of good offices with those whom he considered as enemies, or in some unfavourable point of view, the sphere of his benevolence and goodwill to liis brethren of mankind will gradually enlarge.