Tuesday, December 21, 2010


What Good Are Education and Breeding?

Thomas Shadwell, The Squire of Alsatia (1688), Act II:
SIR WILLIAM. Now, brother, pray what have you made your son good for, with your breeding you so much boast of? Let's hear that now. Come on, let's hear.
SIR EDWARD. First, I bred him at Westminster School till he was master of the Greek and Latin tongues; then I kept him at the university where I instructed him to read the noble Greek and Roman authors.
SIR WILLIAM. Well, and what use can he make of the noble Greek and Latin but to prate like a pedant, and show his parts over a bottle?
SIR EDWARD. To make a man fit for the conversation of learned gentlemen is one noble end of study. But those authors make him wiser and honester, sir, to boot.
SIR WILLIAM. Wiser! Will he ever get sixpence, or improve, or keep his estate by 'em?
SIR EDWARD. Mean notions. I made him well versed in history.
SIR WILLIAM. That is a pretty study, indeed! How can there be a true history when we see no man living is able to write truly the history of the last week?
SIR EDWARD. He, by the way, read natural philosophy, and had insight enough in the mathematics.
SIR WILLIAM. Natural philosophy knows nothing! Nor would I give a fart for any mathematician, but a carpenter, bricklayer, or measurer of land, or sailor.
SIR EDWARD. Some moderate skill in it will use a man to reason closely.
SIR WILLIAM. Very pretty. Reason! Can he reason himself into six shillings by all this?

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