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William Penn. (1644–1718). Fruits of Solitude.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Part I


4. We are in Pain to make them Scholars, but not Men! To talk, rather than to know, which is true Canting.

5. The first Thing obvious to Children is what is sensible; and that we make no Part of their rudiments.

6. We press their Memory too soon, and puzzle, strain, and load them with Words and Rules; to know Grammer and Rhetorick, and a strange Tongue or two, that it is ten to one may never be useful to them; Leaving their natural Genius to Mechanical and Physical, or natural Knowledge uncultivated and neglected; which would be of exceeding Use and Pleasure to them through the whole Course of their Life.

7. To be sure, Languages are not to be despised or neglected. But Things are still to be preferred.

8. Children had rather be making of Tools and Instruments of Play; Shaping, Drawing, Framing, and Building, &c. than getting some Rules of Propriety of Speech by Heart: And those also would follow with more Judgment, and less Trouble and Time.

9. It were Happy if we studied Nature more in natural Things; and acted according to Nature; whose rules are few, plain and most reasonable.

10. Let us begin where she begins, go her Pace, and close always where she ends, and we cannot miss of being good Naturalists.

11. The Creation would not be longer a Riddle to us: The Heavens, Earth, and Waters, with their respective, various and numerous Inhabitants: Their Productions, Natures, Seasons, Sympathies and Antipathies; their Use, Benefit and Pleasure, would be better understood by us: And an eternal Wisdom, Power, Majesty, and Goodness, very conspicuous to us, thro’ those sensible and passing Forms: The World wearing the Mark of its Maker, whose Stamp is everywhere visible, and the Characters very legible to the Children of Wisdom.

12. And it would go a great way to caution and direct People in their Use of the World, that they were better studied and known in the Creation of it.

13. For how could Man find the Confidence to abuse it, while they should see the Great Creator stare them in the Face, in all and every part thereof?

14. Their Ignorance makes them insensible, and that Insensibility hardy in misusing this noble Creation, that has the Stamp and Voice of a Deity every where, and in every Thing to the Observing.

15. It is pity therefore that Books have not been composed for Youth, by some curious and careful Naturalists, and also Mechanicks, in the Latin Tongue, to be used in Schools, that they might learn Things with Words: Things obvious and familiar to them, and which would make the Tongue easier to be obtained by them.

16. Many able Gardiners and Husbandmen are yet Ignorant of the Reason of their Calling; as most Artificers are of the Reason of their own Rules that govern their excellent Workmanship. But a Naturalist and Mechanick of this sort is Master of the Reason of both, and might be of the Practice too, if his Industry kept pace with his Speculation; which were very commendable; and without which he cannot be said to be a complete Naturalist or Mechanick.

17. Finally, if Man be the Index or Epitomy of the World, as Philosophers tell us, we have only to read our selves well to be learned in it. But because there is nothing we less regard than the Characters of the Power that made us, which are so clearly written upon us and the World he has given us, and can best tell us what we are and should be, we are even Strangers to our own Genius: The Glass in which we should see that true instructing and agreeable Variety, which is to be observed in Nature, to the Admiration of that Wisdom and Adoration of that Power which made us all.