No. 230. Friday, Nov. 23, 1711. Steele.

Homines ad Deos nullâ re propiùs accedunt, quam salutem Hominibus dando.

Human Nature appears a very deformed, or a very beautiful Object, according to the different Lights in which it is viewed. When we see Men of inflamed Passions, or of wicked Designs, tearing one another to pieces by open Violence, or undermining each other by secret Treachery; when we observe base and narrow Ends pursued by ignominious and dishonest Means; when we behold Men mixed in Society as if it were for the Destruction of it; we are even ashamed of our Species, and out of Humour with our own Being: But in another Light, when we behold them mild, good, and benevolent, full of a generous Regard for the publick Prosperity, compassionating [each [1]] others Distresses, and relieving each others Wants, we can hardly believe they are Creatures of the same Kind. In this View they appear Gods to each other, in the Exercise of the noblest Power, that of doing Good; and the greatest Compliment we have ever been able to make to our own Being, has been by calling this Disposition of Mind Humanity. We cannot but observe a Pleasure arising in our own Breast upon the seeing or hearing of a generous Action, even when we are wholly disinterested in it. I cannot give a more proper Instance of this, than by a Letter from Pliny, in which he recommends a Friend in the most handsome manner, and, methinks, it would be a great Pleasure to know the Success of this Epistle, though each Party concerned in it has been so many hundred Years in his Grave.


What I should gladly do for any Friend of yours, I think I may now with Confidence request for a Friend of mine. Arrianus Maturius is the most considerable Man of his Country; when I call him so, I do not speak with Relation to his Fortune, though that is very plentiful, but to his Integrity, Justice, Gravity, and Prudence; his Advice is useful to me in Business, and his Judgment in Matters of Learning: His Fidelity, Truth, and good Understanding, are very great; besides this, he loves me as you do, than which I cannot say any thing that signifies a warmer Affection. He has nothing that's aspiring; and though he might rise to the highest Order of Nobility, he keeps himself in an inferior Rank; yet I think my self bound to use my Endeavours to serve and promote him; and would therefore find the Means of adding something to his Honours while he neither expects nor knows it, nay, though he should refuse it. Something, in short, I would have for him that may be honourable, but not troublesome; and I entreat that you will procure him the first thing of this kind that offers, by which you will not only oblige me, but him also; for though he does not covet it, I know he will be as grateful in acknowledging your Favour as if he had asked it. [2]


The Reflections in some of your Papers on the servile manner of Education now in Use, have given Birth to an Ambition, which, unless you discountenance it, will, I doubt, engage me in a very difficult, tho not ungrateful Adventure. I am about to undertake, for the sake of the British Youth, to instruct them in such a manner, that the most dangerous Page in Virgil or Homer may be read by them with much Pleasure, and with perfect Safety to their Persons.

Could I prevail so far as to be honoured with the Protection of some few of them, (for I am not Hero enough to rescue many) my Design is to retire with them to an agreeable Solitude; though within the Neighbourhood of a City, for the Convenience of their being instructed in Musick, Dancing, Drawing, Designing, or any other such Accomplishments, which it is conceived may make as proper Diversions for them, and almost as pleasant, as the little sordid Games which dirty School-boys are so much delighted with. It may easily be imagined, how such a pretty Society, conversing with none beneath themselves, and sometimes admitted as perhaps not unentertaining Parties amongst better Company, commended and caressed for their little Performances, and turned by such Conversations to a certain Gallantry of Soul, might be brought early acquainted with some of the most polite English Writers. This having given them some tolerable Taste of Books, they would make themselves Masters of the Latin Tongue by Methods far easier than those in Lilly, with as little Difficulty or Reluctance as young Ladies learn to speak French, or to sing Italian Operas. When they had advanced thus far, it would be time to form their Taste something more exactly: One that had any true Relish of fine Writing, might, with great Pleasure both to himself and them, run over together with them the best Roman Historians, Poets, and Orators, and point out their more remarkable Beauties; give them a short Scheme of Chronology, a little View of Geography, Medals, Astronomy, or what else might best feed the busy inquisitive Humour so natural to that Age. Such of them as had the least Spark of Genius, when it was once awakened by the shining Thoughts and great Sentiments of those admired Writers, could not, I believe, be easily withheld from attempting that more difficult Sister Language, whose exalted Beauties they would have heard so often celebrated as the Pride and Wonder of the whole Learned World. In the mean while, it would be requisite to exercise their Style in Writing any light Pieces that ask more of Fancy than of Judgment: and that frequently in their Native Language, which every one methinks should be most concerned to cultivate, especially Letters, in which a Gentleman must have so frequent Occasions to distinguish himself. A Set of genteel good-natured Youths fallen into such a Manner of Life, would form almost a little Academy, and doubtless prove no such contemptible Companions, as might not often tempt a wiser Man to mingle himself in their Diversions, and draw them into such serious Sports as might prove nothing less instructing than the gravest Lessons. I doubt not but it might be made some of their Favourite Plays, to contend which of them should recite a beautiful Part of a Poem or Oration most gracefully, or sometimes to join in acting a Scene of Terence, Sophocles, or our own Shakespear. The Cause of Milo might again be pleaded before more favourable Judges, Caesar a second time be taught to tremble, and another Race of Athenians be afresh enraged at the Ambition of another Philip. Amidst these noble Amusements, we could hope to see the early Dawnings of their Imagination daily brighten into Sense, their Innocence improve into Virtue, and their unexperienced Good-nature directed to a generous Love of their Country.

I am, &c.


[Footnote 1: of each]

[Footnote 2: Pliny, Jun, Epist. Bk. II. Ep. 2. Thus far the paper is by John Hughes.]

Translation of motto:
'Men resemble the gods in nothing so much as in doing good to their