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CHAP. have justified his friends in their enthusiastic adXV. miration, and would have confounded, and perhaps A.D. 1735 silenced, his personal enemies. It would have afforded also to those of after times who regarded his extraordinary talents with the admiration which in an impartial observer they must always inspire, one illustrious instance in which their influence was not misused nor their powers perverted.
But while his thoughts were thus engaged, he could yet find leisure for reflections upon other topics. During his residence at Chantelou, he addressed to Lord Bathurst a letter upon the True Use of Retirement and Study; a subject with which it was eminently his interest, as it had long been his endeavour, to become conversant.
In the treatment of study generally, as he had done in that of history particularly, he points out the error of those who make it an end, and not a means. He exposes the folly of those who devote a whole life to the attainment of perfection in a single branch of knowledge, to the acquirement of skill in a controversial disputation, or to anatomizing with a microscopic eye the niceties of ancient scholarship." Though reading makes a scholar," he says to such, "yet every scholar is not a philosopher, nor every philosopher a wise man. It cost you twenty years to devour all the volumes on one side of your library; you came out a great critic in Latin and Greek, in the Oriental tongues, in history and chronology,-but you was not satisfied
you confessed that these were the literæ nihil sanan- CHAP. tes, and you wanted more time to acquire other knowledge you have had this time-you have passed twenty years more on the other side of your library, among philosophers, rabbies, commentators, schoolmen, and whole legions of modern doctors. You are going on, as fast as the infirmities you have contracted will admit, in the same course of study; but you begin to perceive that you shall want time, and you make grievous complaints of the shortness of human life."
This address is just, and the reflections it suggests are mournful, since they show the weakness of our utmost powers, and the little progress which we make by our utmost application. But Bolingbroke disapproves such an expenditure of life as much as that which is passed without any object at all. According to his view of the use of retirement and study, it is a mean of obtaining knowledge which may rightly influence the conduct of the individual. Knowledge is still the object, but it is not the ultimate object it is not the knowledge which lies like the miser's hoard unproductive while other heaps are accumulating; it is rather like the wealth which is continually current, and is ever ministering to the necessities and comforts of mankind.
From such a description of the end of study, it follows that the proper season for its cultivation is the spring of life, while there is yet a future which the knowledge to be acquired may influence;
A. D. 1735
CHAP. and so our author teaches: "To set about acquiring the habits of meditation and study late in life," he says, "is like getting into a go-cart with a greybeard, and learning to walk when we have lost the use of our legs. In general, the foundations of an happy old age must be laid in youth; and in particular he who has not cultivated the reason young, will be utterly unable to improve it old."
The kind of knowledge which Bolingbroke proposes as the object of this early study, is that which shall recover to the student the unfettered exercise
of his reason. Mere knowledge teaches him what
Our author would rather he should learn how to think. The accidents of birth and the prejudices of education he would have him erase from his mind he would have him cut the bands in which his youthful mind has been swathed, and suffer it to exert its naked and unimpeded energies upon all those subjects which interest and influence the man. How far this theory is sound, or how far its object is attainable, may well be questioned. The studies which are to obliterate all former prejudices are to enable the reason to form new decisions. The judices which had been imbibed were in most instances those which the instructor had also learned in his youth, and which his mature judgment had approved. They were, like the rudiments of learning by which they were accompanied, things for which he was indebted to the ripened understandings of others.
But the judgment attains its maturity
less rapidly than the body. Is there no danger, CHAP. therefore, that the independent decisions of the youthful judgment, which by the constitution of the human mind will soon become settled opinions, may be inferior to those prejudices which he derived from the more sober judgment of the majority of those who reasoned before him? Experience shows us that men will not be continually reviewing the grounds of their opinion upon particular subjects. These subjects are so numerous that it would be impossible to do so. What they have once examined, (and often what they have not examined at all,) they are contented to hold. Their decision becomes. a settled opinion; and whether formed by education in childhood, or by the immature judgment of early youth, it is equally difficult to be eradicated.
It might be asked, If the proper season for retirement and study was youth, why was Bolingbroke in retirement at the age of sixty? This objection he anticipates, but he does not entirely answer. He says, that in his youth he felt the love of study, and was not quite a stranger to industry and application; and that, although often transported by the hurry of his passions, he had some calmer hours. This may tend to free him from the censure of falling under the class whom he has designated by the simile of a greybeard in a go-cart; but it does not convince us that he ought not, according to his own hypothesis, to be in action, not in retirement. Instead of showing this, he starts off into a censure of the impiety of
CHAP. those who make the decrees of Providence the objects of their complaints, and murmur that the web A.D. 1735 of human life is spun so soon.
Bolingbroke has taught us by his practice what he has omitted in his precept. The uses of retirement and study are manifold. Like all other excellent things, they are subject to abuse; but when pursued in moderation, they comprehend pleasure as well as profit. The acquirements of youth may perhaps often embrace only the latter ;* but our author in communicating the knowledge he had gained found both, although he perhaps partook more largely of the former. When in youth he retired to acquire knowledge, his retirement was useful to himself; when in age he retired to communicate it, it was pleasant to himself and useful to others.
The next production of his pen was a letter upon the Spirit of Patriotism, written in the year 1736. This was addressed to Lord Cornbury, and is perhaps the most excellent advice which has ever been given to a man about to enter into the service of his country. If his practice were really so bad as his enemies have endeavoured to paint it, this little treatise was the most severe satire upon himself he could have penned. It proposes the advantage of his country as the only object of his pupil's exertions, and places far beneath that object every hankering after personal
* A great authority (Aristotle, in his Rhetoric 1. 1. Ch. xi.) has characterized study as an
evil in itself, and only to be rendered pleasant by habit.