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one, and shoulde as an apprentice age. It was
effects which might result from this inclination, my father was impatient to see me engaged with my brother. I held back for some time ; at length, however, I suffered myself to be persuaded, and signed my indentures, being then only twelve years of age. It was agreed that I should serve as an apprentice to the age of twenty-one, and should receive journeyman's wages only during the last year.
In a very short time I made great proficiency in this business, and became sery serviceable to my brother. I had now an opportunity of procuring better books The acquaintance I necessarily formed with booksellers' apprentices, enabled me to borrow a volume now and then, which I never failed to return punctually and without injury. How often has it happened to me to pass the greater part of the night in reading by my bedside, when the book had been lent me in the evening, and was to be returned the next morning, lest it might be missed or wanted.
At length Mr. Matthew Adams, an ingenious tradesman, who had a handsome collection of books, and who frequented our printing-house, took notice of me. He invited me to see his library, and had the goodness to lend me any books I was desirous of reading. I then took a strange fancy for poetry, and composed several little pieces. My brother, thinking he might find his account in it, encouraged me and engaged me to write two ballads. One, called the Light-House Tragedy, contained an account of the shipwreck of Captain Worthilake, and his two daughters : the other was a sailor's song on the capture of the noted pirate : called Teach, or Black-Beard. They were wretched verses in point of style, mere blindmen's ditties. When printed, he despatched me about the town to sell them. The first had a prodigious run, because the event was recent, and made a great noise.
My vanity was flattered by this success ; but my father checked my exultation, by ridiculing my productions, and telling me that versifiers were always poor. I thus escaped the misfortune of being á very wretched poet. But as the faculty of writing prose has been of great service to me, in the course of my life, and principally contributed to my advancement, I shall relate by what means, situated as I was, I acquired the small skill I may possess in that way.
There was in the town another young man, a great lover of books, of the name of John Collins, with whom I was intimately connected. We frequently engaged in dispute, and were indeed so fond of argumontation, that nothing was so agreeable to us as a
war of words. This contentious temper, I would observe by the by, is in danger of becoming a very bad habit, and frequently renders a man's company insurportable, as being no otherwise capable of indulgence than by an indiscriminate contradiction. Independently of the acrimony and discord it introduces into conversation, and is often productive of dislike, and even hatred, between persons to whom friendship is indispensably necessary. I acquired it by reading, while I lived with my father, books of religious concontroversy. I have since remarked, that men of sense seldom fall into this error; lawyers, fellows of universities, and persons of every profession educated at Edingburgh, excepted.
Collins and I fell one day into an argument relative to the education of women; namely, whether it was propor to instruct them in the sciences, and whether they were competent to the study. Collins supported the negative, and affirmed that the task was beyond their capacity. I maintained the opposite opinion, a little perhaps for the pleasure of disputing. He was naturally more eloquent than I; words flowed copiously from his lips; and frequently I thought myself vanquished, more by his volubility than by the force of his arguments. We separated without coming to an agreement upon this point, and as we were not to see each other again for some time, I committed my thoughts to paper, made a fair copy, and sent it to him. He answered, and I replied. Three or four letters had been written by each, when my father chanced to light upon my papers and read them. Without entering into the merits of the cause, he, embraced the opportunity of speaking to me upon my manner of writing. He observed, that though I had the advantage of my adversary in correct spelling and pointing, which I owed to my occupation, I was greatly his inferior in elegance of expression, in arrangement, and perspicuity. Of this he convinced me by several examples. I felt the justice of his remarks, became more attentive to language, and resolved to make every effort to improve my style.
Amidst these resolves an odd volume of the Spectator fell into my hands. This was a publication I had never seen. I bought the volume, and read it again and again. I was enchanted with it, thought the style was excellent, and wished it were in my power to imitate it. With this view I selected some of the papers, made short summaries of the sense of each period, and put them for a few days aside. I then, without looking at the book, endeavoured to restore the
on, in me by sbecame ry effort
essays to their due form, and to express each thought at length, as it was in the original, employing the most appropriate words that occured to my mind. I afterwards compared my Spectator with the original ; I perceived some faults, which I corrected : but I found that I wanted a fund of words, if I may so express myself, and a facility of recollecting and employing them, which I thought I should by that time have acquired, had I continued to make verses. The continual need of words of the same meaning, but of different lengths for the measure, or of different sounds for the rhyme, would have obliged me to seek for a variety of synonymes and have rendered me master of them. Frony this belief, I took some of the tales of the Spectator and turned them into verse ; and after a time, when I had sufficiently forgotten them, I again converted them into prose.
Sometimes also I mingled all my summaries together; and a few weeks after, endeavoured to arrange them in the best order, before I attempted to form the periods and complete the essays. This I did with a view of acquiring method in the arrangement of my thoughts. On comparing afterwards my performance with the original, many faults were apparent, which I corrected; but I had sometimes the satisfaction to think, that, in certain particulars of little importance, I had been fortunate enough to improve the order of thought or the style ; and this encouraged me to hope that I should succeed, in time, in writing decently in the English language, which was one of the great objects of my ambition
The time which I devoted to these exercises, and to reading, was the evening after my day's labour was. finished, the morning before it began, and Sunday's when I could escape attending Divine service. While I lived with my father, he had insisted on my punctual attendance on public worship, and I still indeed considered it as a duty, but a duty which I thought I had no time to practice.
When about sixteen years of age, a work of Tryon fell into my hands, in which he recommends vegetable diet. I determined to observe it. My brother being a bachelor, did not keep house, but boarded with his apprentices in a neighbouring family. My refusing to eat animal food was found inconvenient, and I was often scolded for my singularity. I attended to the mode in which Tryon prepared some of his dishes, particularly how to boil potatoes and rice, and make hasty puddings. I then said to my brother, that if he would allow me por week half what he paid for my
board, I would undertake to maintain myself. The offer was instantly embraced, and I soon found that of what he gave me I was able to save half. This was a new fund for the purchase of books; and other advantages resulted to me from the plan. When my brother and his workmen left the printing house to go to dinner, I remained behind ; and despatching my frugal moal, which frequently consisted of a biscuit only, or a slice of bread and a bunch of raisins, or a bun from the pastry cook's with a glass of water, I had the rest of the time, till their return, for study; and my progress therein was proportioned to that clearness of ideas, and quickness of conception, which are the fruit of temperance in eating and drinking.
It was about this period that, having one day been put to blush for my ignorance in the art of calculation, which I had twice failed to learn while at school, I took Cocker's Treatise on Arithmetic, and went through it myself with the utmost ease. I also read a book of Navigation by Seller and Sturmy, and made myself master of the little geometry it contains, but I never proceeded far in this science. Nearly at the same time I read Locke on the Human Understanding, and the Art of Thinking, by Messrs. du Port Royal.
While labouring to form and improve my style, I met with an English Grammar, which I believe was Greenwood's, having at the end of it two little essays on rhetoric and logic. In the latter I found a model of disputation after the manner of Socrates. Shortly after I procured Xenophen's works, entitled, Memorable Things of Socrates, in which are various examples of the same inethod. Charmed to a degree of enthusiasm with this mode of disputing, I adopted it, and renouncing blunt contradiction, and direct and positive argument, I assured the character of a humble questioner. The perusal of Shaftesbury and Collins had made me a sceptic; and, being previously so as to many doctrines of Christianity, I found Socrates' method to be both the safest for myself, as well as the most embarrassing to those against whom I employed it. It soon afforded me singular pleasure ; ( incessantly practised it; and became very adroit in obtaining, even from persons of superior understanding, concessions of which they did not fortsee the consequence. Thus I involved them in difficulties from which they were unable to extricate themselves, and sometimes obtained vietories, which neither my cause nor my arguInents merited.
This method I continued to employ for some years; but I afterwards abandoned it by degrees, retai
ly the habit of expressing myself with modest diffidence, and never making use when I advanced any proposition which might be controverted, of the words is certainly,” “ undoubtedly," or any others that might give the appearance of being obstinately attached to my opinion. I rather said, I imagine, I suppose, or it appears to me, that such a thing is so or so, for such and such reasons: or it is so, if I am not mistaken, This habit has, I think, been of considerable advantage to me, when I have had occasion to impress my opinion on the minds of others, and persuade them to the adoption of the measures I have suggested. And since the chief ends of conversation are, to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I could wish that intelligent and well meaning men would not themselves diminish the power they possess of being useful, by a positive and presumptuous manner of expressing themselves, which scarcely ever fails to disgust the hearer, and is only calculated to excite opposition, and defeat every purpose for which the faculty of speech has been bestowed on man. In short, if you wish to inform, a positive and dogmatical manner of advancing your opinion may provoke contradiction, and prevent your being heard with attention. On the other hand, if, with a desire of being informed, and of benefiting by the knowledge of others, you express yourself as being strongly attached to your own opinions, modest and sensible men, who do not love disputation, will leave you in tranquil possession of your errors. By following such a method, you can rarely hope to please your auditors, conciliate their good will, or work conviction on those whom you may be desirous of gaining over to your views. Pope judiciously observes,
Men must be taught as if you taught them not
And things unknown proposed as things forgot. And in the same poem he afterwards advises us,
To speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence. He might have added to these lines, one that he has coupled elsewhere, in my opinion, with less propriety. It is this:
For want of modesty is want of sense. If you ask why I say with less propriety, I must give you the two lines together : • Immodest words admit of no defence,
For want of decency is want of sense