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Fear God, and think of yourself every day as about
We need scarcely add that Mirandola had been, in this instance, deceived by his Hebrew friend, or by his own sanguine temperament; and that the writings in question were, in reality, the production of a much later age than that of their pretended author. The many laborious hours he spent in decyphering them, however, were not probably altogether thrown away; nor was his ardour the less honourable to him, that it met with somewhat less than its expected reward.
It was by such zeal and industry as this, that, cut off as he was in his early days, Mirandola nevertheless had obtained for himself the universal reputation of being, to borrow the words of one of his contemporaries, not only a most able linguist, but master of all the liberal arts, an admirable poet, and the most learned philosopher and skilful disputant of his age. Even Politian describes him as the Phænix among all the great geniuses of his time. Most of his printed works (but he left many others in manuscript) relate to theological subjects, and are strongly marked by what would now be called a spirit of mysticism; but are extolled by those who have studied them as abounding in erudition and genius. Among them is a Treatise, in twelve books, in refutation of astrology, which ranks its author as one of the earliest assailants in modern times of the pretensions of that visionary science, which may be said to have remained, for many ages after nearly the universal faith of Europe
Self-Educated Men. T. Stimpson.
Many of the persons who have most remarkably distinguished themselves by their ardour and success in the pursuit of knowledge, under adverse circumstances, have had no master to instruct them in any thing beyond perhaps the mere elements of reading; and have taught themselves, therefore, whatever else they had acquired, by their own unaided efforts. To have done this indicates, undoubtedly, a decidedly superior mind ; but it is more honourable, perhaps, to an individual's force of character, and zeal for intellectual improvement, than even to his strength of native talent. For a teacher is really not so indispensable to the work of education as is often supposed. Every branch of human knowledge has in fact been acquired, as we have already remarked, without the assistance of an instructor, if by no one else, at least by him who first found it out. But this sort of self-instruction, demanding as it does, the application of original and inventive genius, indicates, a much more extraordinary degree of mental capacity, than is required merely to gain an acquaintance by solitary study with any department of science, or other species of learning, which is to be found already expounded in books. A good elementary book upon any subject is itself a teacher which, to a person of ordinary intelligence, ought almost to render any other unnecessary.
In the present age, especially, when such works abound, persons so circumstanced as not to be able easily to obtain the lessons of a living master, will find comparatively but little difficulty in teaching themselves any of the common branches of education; if they will but make the attempt with a true desire and determination to succeed in it, and are not devoid of those powers of attention and perseverance without which there can be no success in any thing. The truth is, that even those who enjoy to the greatest extent the advantages of what is called a regular education must be their own instructors as to the greater portion of what they acquire, if they are ever to advance beyond the elements of learning. What they learn at schools and colleges is comparatively of small value, unless their own after reading and study improve those advantages. Still, however, it may be said, that it is a great matter for the young student to have the first steps of his progress encouraged and facilitated, by thus advancing, as it were, while another holds him by the hand. Compared with him who educates himself from the beginning, such a student may be regarded as entering upon a new country under the conduct of a guide, instead of endeavouring to find his way through it by the aid simply of the road-book. Or rather, he is in the situation of the man who begins the world with a fortune, which, though small, is yet sufficient to set him
up in business; while others have to earn even their first shilling by their own ingenuity and industry. Undoubtedly the person thus circumstanced has a somewhat gentler ascent to climb, in the first instance, than his competitors. Still all must owe what they eventually arrive at principally to their own efforts. And if this be, generally speaking, true of commercial prosperity, it is still more strictly so of the acquisition of intellectual riches; for, in this latter case, what is called good-fortune can be of no avail to any one.
But the examples which we are going to mention will shew how much every man has it in his
own power to do for himself, when placed in the situation referred to.
The first case we shall detail is that of the wellknown mathematician, THOMAS SIMPSON. He was born in the town of Market-Bosworth, in Leicestershire, in the year 1710. His father was a working stuff-weaver, and was either so poor, or so insensible to the importance of education, that, after keeping his son at school only so long as to enable him to make a very slight progress in reading, he took him home with the view of bringing him up to his own trade. Thomas, however, had already acquired a passionate love of books, and was resolved at all hazards to make himself a scholar. So, beside contriving to teach himself writing, he read with the greatest eagerness every volume that came in his way, or that he could by any means procure; and spent in this manner not only all his leisure, but even occasionally a portion of the time which his father thought he ought to have employed at his work. Instead of giving any encouragement indeed to his son's fondness for study, his father did all in his power to cure him of what he deemed so idle and pernicious a propensity; and at last, it is said, after many reprimands, forbade him eyen to open a book, and insisted upon his confining himself to his loom the whole day. This injudicious severity, however, defeated its own object. The young man's repeated attempts to evade the harsh injunction that had been laid upon him, led to perpetual quarrels between himself and his father, till he, was one day ordered by the latter to leave the house altogether, and to go seek his fortune where and in whatever way
he chose. In this extremity he took refuge in the house of a tailor's widow, who let lodgings in the neighbouring village of Nuneaton, and with whose son, two years older than himself, he had been previously acquainted. Here he
contrived to maintain himself for a while by working at his business; and had at least a little time to spare besides for his favourite enjoyment of reading, when he could anywhere borrow a book. It chanced, however, that, among other humble travellers who sometimes took up their abode with the widow, was pedlar, who followed the profession of an astrologer and fortune-teller, as well as that of an itinerant merchant, and was accordingly accounted a man of no little learning by the rustics of those parts. Young Simpson's curiosity had been, some time before this, greatly excited by a remarkable eclipse of the sun, which happened on the 11th of May, 1724; but, if this was the incident that gave his mind its first bias toward the studies in which he afterwards attained so high a distinction, it was to his casual connexion with the astrologer that he owed the rudiments of his scientific knowledge. This personage, with whom he had become very intimate, had, it appears, a few books relating to the mystery he professed, and to the branches of real learning held to be connected with it. Among these were Cocker's ‘Arithmetic, which had, fortunately, a treatise on Algebra bound up with it—as well as the less useful addition of a work written by Partridge, the famous Almanacmaker, on the calculation of nativites. Both these volumes, the pedlar, on setting out upon a tour to Bristol, left in the hands of his young friend. These were the first scientific works Simpson had ever had an opportunity of perusing, and they interested him exceedingly—even the book on nativities, notwithstanding the absurdities it was filled with, probably not a little exciting his wonder and curiosity, both by its mysterious speculations on the prophetic language of the stars, and such scattered intimations as it afforded in regard to the sublime realities of astronomy. He studied his manuals with such ar