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A man who has been brought up among books, and is able to talk of nothing else, is a very indifferent companion, and what we call a pedant. But, methinks, we should enlarge the title and give it to every one that does not know how to think out of his profession and particular way of life.
What is a greater pedant than a mere man of the town ? Bar him the play-houses, a catalogue of the reigning beauties, and an account of a few fashionable distempers that have befallen him, and you strike him dumb. How many a pretty gentleman's knowledge lies all within the verge of the court! He would tell you the names of the principal favourites, repeat the shrewd sayings of a man of quality, whis
a per an intrigue that is not yet blown upon by common fame; or, if the sphere of his observations is a little larger than ordinary, will perhaps enter into
the incidents, turns, and revolutions in a game of ombre. When he has gone thus far, he has shewn you the whole circle of his accomplishments; his parts are drained, and he is disabled from any further conversation. What are these but rank pedants? and yet these are the men who value themselves most on their exemption from the pedantry of colleges.
I might here mention the military pedant, who always talks in a camp, and is storming towns, making lodgments, and fighting battles, from one end of the year to the other. Every thing he speaks smells of gunpowder; if you take away his artillery from him, he has not a word to say for himself. I might likewise mention the law pedant, that is perpetually pitting cases, repeating the transactions of Westminster-hall, wrangling with you upon the most indifferent circumstances of life, and not to be convinced of the distance of a place, or of the most trivial point in conversation, but by dint of argu; ment. The state pedant is wrapt up in news, and lost in politics. If you mention either of the kings of Spain.or Poland, he talks very notably; but if you go out of the Gazette, you drop him. In short,
a mere courtier, a mere soldier, a mere scholar, a mere any thing, is an insipid pedantic character, and equally ridiculous.
Of all the species of pedants which I have mentioned, the book pedant is much the most supportable; he has at least an exercised understanding, and a head which is full, though confused; so that a man who converses with him may often receive from him hints of things that are worth knowing, and what he may possibly turn to his own advantage, though they are of little use to the owner. The worst kind of pedants among learned men, are such as are naturally endued with a very small share of common sense, and have read a great number of books without taste or distinction,
The truth of it is, learning, like travelling, and all other methods of improvement, as it finishes good sense, so it makes a silly man ten thousand times more insufferable, by supplying variety of matter to his impertinence, and giving him an opportunity of abounding in absurdities
Shallow pedants cry up one another much more than men of solid and useful learning. To read the titles they give an editor, or collator of a manuscript, you
would take him for the glory of the commonwealth of letters, and the wonder of his age; when perhaps upon examination you find that he has only rectified a Greek particle, or laid out a whole sen-' tence in proper commas.
They are obliged indeed to be thus lavish of their praises, that they may keep one another in countenance: and it is no wonder if a great deal of knowledge, which is not capable of making a man wise, has a natural tendency to make him vain and arrogant.
N° 106. MONDAY, JULY 2, 1711,
-Hinc tibi copia
HOR. 1 Od, xvii. 14.
CREECH. Having often received an invitation from my friend Sir Roger de Coverley to pass away a month with him in the country, I last week accompanied him thither, and am settled with him for some time at his country-house, where I intend to form several of my ensuing speculations. Sir Roger, who is very well acquainted with my humour, lets me rise and go to bed when I please, dine at his own table or in my chamber as I think fit, sit still and say nothing without bidding me be merry. When the gentleInen of the country come to see him, he only shews me at a distance. As I have been walking in his fields I have observed them stealing a sight of me over a hedge, and have heard the knight desiring them not to let me see them, for that I hated to be stared at.
I am the more at ease in Sir Roger's family, because it consists of sober and stayed persons; for as the knight is the best master in the world, he seldom changes his servants; and as he is beloved by all about him, his servants never care for leaving him; by this means his domestics are all in years, and grown old with their master. You would take fais valet de chambre for his brother, his butler is grey-headed, his groom is one of the gravest men that I have ever seen, and his coachman has the looks of a privy-counsellor. You see the goodness of the master even in the old house-dog, and in a gray pad ahat is kept in the stable with great care and ten
derness out of regard to his past services, though he has been useless for several years.
I could not but observe with a great deal of plea. sure the joy that appeared in the countenances of these ancient domestics upon my friend's arrival athis country-seat. Some of them could not refrain from tears at the sight of their old master; every one of them pressed forward to do something for him, and seemed discouraged if they were not employed. At the same time the good old knight, with a mixture of the father and the master of the family, tempered the inquiries after bis own affairs with several kind questions relating to themselves. Thus humanity and good nature engages every body to him ;so that when he is pleasant upon any of them, all his family are in good humour, and none so much as the person whom he diverts himself with ; on the contrary, if he coughs, or betrays any infirmity of old age, it is easy for a stander-by to observe å secret concern in the looks of all bis servants.
My worthy friend has put me under the particular care of his butler, who is a very prudent man, and, as well as the rest of his fellow-servants, wonderfully desirous of pleasing me, because they have often heard their master talk of me as of his particular friend.
My chief companion, when Sir Roger is diverting himself in the woods or the fields, is a very venerable man wbo is ever with Sir Roger, and has lived at his house in the nature of a chaplain above thirty years. This gentleman is a person of good sense and some learning, of a very regular life and obliging conversation : he heartily loves Sir Roger, and knows that he is very much in the old knight's esteem, so that he lives in the family rather as a relation than a dependant.
I have observed in several of my papers, that my friend Sir Roger, amidst all his good qualities, is something of a humourist; and that his virtues, as well as imperfections, are as it were tinged by a certain extravagance, which makes them particular
ly bis, and distinguishes them from those of other
This cast of mind, as it is generally very innocent in itself, so it renders his conversation highly agreeable, and more delightful than the same degree of sense and virtue would appear in their com. mon and ordinary colours. As I was walking with him last night, he asked me how I liked the good man whorn I have just now mentioned? and without staying for my answer told me, that he was afraid of being insulted with Latin and Greek at his own table ; for which reason, he desired a particular friend of his at the university to find him out a clergyman rather of plain sense than much learning, of a good aspect, a clear voice, a sociable temper, and, if possible, a man that understood a lit. tle of back-gammon.
My friend,' says Sir Roger, 'found me out this gentleman, who, besides the endowments required of him is, they tell me, good seholar, though he does not shew it. I have given him the parsonage of the parish; and, because
, I know his value, have settled upon him a good annuity forlife. If he out-lives me, he shall find that he was higher in my esteem than perhaps he thinks he is. He has now been with me thirty years ; and, though he does not know I have taken notice of it, has never in all that time asked any thing of me for himself, though he is every day soliciting me for something in behalf of one or other of my tenants, his parishioners. There has not been a
. law-suit in the parish since he has lived among them: if any dispute arises, they apply themselves to him for the decision; if they do not acquiesce in his judgment, which I think never happened above once or twice at most, they appeal to me. At his first settling with me, I made him a present of all the good sermons which have been printed in English, and only begged of him that every Sunday he would pronounce one of them in the pulpitj Accordingly, he has digested them into such a series, that they follow one another naturally, and make a continued system of practical divinity.'