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there I acquired a wrong habit, or received a wrong bias; and I sometimes sigh, that I cannot go back and begin life again, carrying with me my present experience.
Doubtless, multitudes are now in the process of education, who never will reach any tolerable standard of excellence. Probably some never could: but in many cases they might. The exceptions are few; and probably most who read these pages do feel a desire, more or less strong, of fitting themselves for respectability and usefulness. They are, however, ignorant of the way; they are surrounded by temptations and dangers; they soon forget the encouragements, and thus oscillate between hope and fear, resolution and discouragement.
You may converse with any man, however distinguished for attainments or habits of application, or power of using what he knows, and he will sigh over the remembrances of the past, and tell you,
that there have been many fragments of time which he has wasted, and many opportunities which he has lost for ever. If he had only seized upon the floating advantages, and gathered up the fragments of time, he might have pushed his researches out into new fields, and, like the immortal Bacon, have amassed vast stores of knowledge. The mighty minds which have gone before us, have left treasures for our inheritance; and the choicest gold is to be had for the digging. How great the dissimilarity between a naked Indian, dancing with joy over a new feather for his head dress, and such a mind as that of Newton or of Boyle! And what makes the difference? There is mind enough in the savage : but his soul is like the marble pillar. There is a beautiful statue in it,
but the hand of the sculptor has never laid the chisel upon it. That mind of the savage has never been disciplined by study; and it therefore, in the comparison, appears like the rough bison of the forest, distinguished only for strength and ferocity.
Without discussing the question whether the souls of men are naturally equal, it may, I think, be safely affirmed, that every one has naturally the powers of excelling in some one thing. You may not excel in mathematics, or as a writer, or a speaker; but I honestly believe that every one of my readers is capable of excel. ling in some department, and will surely do so, if faithful to himself.
There was once a boy* put under the care of the Jesuits, who was noted for nothing but his stupidity; These teachers tried him abundantly; and could make nothing of him. How little did they think that the honour of being his instructors was to raise their order in view of the world! At length, one of the fathers tried him in geometry, which so suited his genius, that he became one of the first mathematicians of his age.
I once saw a little boy, on a public occasion, while thousands were gazing at him with unaffected astonishment, climb the lightning-rod on a lofty public building. The wind blew high, and the rod shook and trembled ; but up he went, till he had reached the vane, 195 feet high. All, every moment, expected to see him fall. But what was our amazement to see him mount the vane, and place his little feet upon it, throwing his arms aloft in the air, and turning round, as the wind turned his shaking foothold ! He stood
• Clavius, who died in 1612, aged 75. His works were in five volumes folio, and greatly admired.
there till weary, and came down at his leisure. Here was a mind capable, I doubt not, of high enterprise. And yet he has never been heard of since. And why not? Either his mind has not been cultivated, or else his genius has been turned out of its proper channel. I will just add, that the poor boy was fined for setting so dangerous an example before the boys who saw him ; but I could not help wishing that, while they sought to restrain him from such daring, they had been as careful to direct his fearless genius into a proper channel.
I have used a dangerous word, though of great antiquity: the word is genius. Many train themselves into habits of eccentricity and oddity, and suppose these inseparable from genius. There are some men who think nothing so characteristic of genius, as to do common things in an uncommon way. Never set up any pretensions for a genius, nor lay claim to the character. But few such are born into the world; and of those few, though envied greatly, and imitated as greatly, but very few indeed leave the world wiser or better than they found it. The object of hard study is not to draw out geniuses, but to take minds such as are formed in a common mould, and fit them for active and decided usefulness. Nothing is so much coveted by many a young man as the reputation of being a genius; and not a few seem to feel that the want of patience for laborious application and deep research, is a mark of genius, while a real genius, like sir Isaac Newton, with great modesty says, that the great and only difference between his mind and the minds of others, consisted solely in his having more patience. You may have a good mind, a sound judgment, or a vivid imagination, or a
wide reach of thought and of views; but, believe me, you probably are not a genius, and can never become distinguished without severe application. Hence all that you ever have, must be the result of labour-hard, untiring labour. You have friends to cheer you on; you have books and teachers to aid you, and multitudes of helps; but, after all, disciplining and educating your mind must be your own work. No one can do this but yourself. And nothing in this world is of any worth, which has not labour and toil as its price.
There is no real excellence without patient study. Those who have now and then risen upon the world, without education, and without study, have shed but a doubtful light, and that but for å moment.
Set it down as a fact, to which there are no exceptions, that we must labour for all that we have, and that nothing is worth possessing or offering to others, which costs us nothing.
Those islands which so beautifully adorn the Pacific, and which, but for sin, would seem so many Edens, are said to have been reared
from the bed of the ocean by the little coral insect, which deposits one grain of sand at a time, till the whole of those piles are reared up. with human exertions. The greatest results of the mind are produced by small, but continued efforts. I have frequently thought of the emblem of a distinguished scholar, as peculiarly appropriate. As nearly as I remember, it is the picture of a mountain, with a man at its base, with his hat and coat lying beside him, and a pickaxe in his hand; and as he digs, stroke by stroke, his patient look corresponds with his words, Peu et peu, “ Little by little.” The first and great object of education is, to
discipline the mind. It is naturally like the colt, wild and ungoverned. Let any man, who has not subdued his mind, more or less, by close thought, sit down and take up a subject, and try to "think it out.” The result will be, that he cannot hold his thoughts upon the point. They fly off, they wander away. He brings them back, and determines now to hold his attention there ; when, at once, ere he knows how, he again finds himself away. The process is repeated, till he gives it up in discouragement, or else goes to sleep.
In the period of youthful study, it is not so important to lay up a vast amount of information, as to fit the mind for future acquisitions and future usefulness. The magazine will be filled; and we need not be too anxious to fill it while we are getting it ready for use. The great object now is to set the mind out on a course which can be successfully pursued through life. You must calculate to improve through life; and, therefore, now try to form habits of study, and learn how to study to advantage. “ Newton was, in his eightyfifth year, improving his Chronology; and Waller, at eighty-two, was thought to have lost none of his poetical fire.”
Make it the first object to be able to fix and hold your attention upon your studies. He who can do this, has mastered many and great difficulties; and he who cannot do it, will in vain look for success in any department of study. “To effect any purpose in study, the mind must be concentrated. If any other object plays on the fancy than that which ought to be exclusively before it, the mind is divided, and both are neutralized, so as to lose their effect. What is commonly called abstraction in study, is nothing more than having the attention so completely