The want of it is very visible in many learned Persons, who, while they are admiring the Styles of Demosthenes or Cicero, want Phrases to express themselves on the most common Occasions. I have seen a Letter from one of these Latin Orators, which would have been deservedly laugh’d at by a common Attorney.
Under this Head of Writing I cannot omit
Accounts and Short-hand,
which are learned with little pains, and very properly come into the
number of such Arts as I have been here recommending.
You must doubtless, Sir, observe that I have hitherto chiefly insisted upon these things for such Boys as do not appear to have any thing extraordinary in their natural Talents, and consequently are not qualified for the finer Parts of Learning; yet I believe I might carry this Matter still further, and venture to assert that a Lad of Genius has sometimes occasion for these little Acquirements, to be as it were the forerunners of his Parts, and to introduce [him ] into the World.
History is full of Examples of Persons, who tho they have had the largest Abilities, have been obliged to insinuate themselves into the Favour of great Men by these trivial Accomplishments; as the compleat Gentleman, in some of our modern Comedies, makes his first Advances to his Mistress under the disguise of a Painter or a Dancing-Master.
The Difference is, that in a Lad of Genius these are only so many Accomplishments, which in another are Essentials; the one diverts himself with them, the other works at them. In short, I look upon a great Genius, with these little Additions, in the same Light as I regard the Grand Signior, who is obliged, by an express Command in the Alcoran, to learn and practise some Handycraft Trade. Tho I need not have gone for my Instance farther than Germany, where several Emperors have voluntarily done the same thing. Leopold the last , worked in Wood; and I have heard there are several handycraft Works of his making to be seen at Vienna so neatly turned, that the best Joiner in Europe might safely own them, without any disgrace to his Profession.
I would not be thought, by any thing I have said, to be against improving a Boys Genius to the utmost pitch it can be carried. What I would endeavour to shew in this Essay is, that there may be Methods taken, to make Learning advantageous even to the meanest Capacities.
I am, SIR, Yours, &c.
[Footnote 1: Perhaps Swift and his old schoolfellow, Mr. Stratford, the Hamburgh merchant.
Stratford is worth a plumb, and is now
lending the Government
L40,000; yet we were educated together at the same school and