The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

XV. Education

§ 18. Private Schools

But, of whatever grade, all these private schools were for persons who could pay a fee; the very poor and the indifferent were not helped by them. In spite of casual attempts of town councils, vestries and private persons to provide instruction, the number of the illiterate and untaught was great and the morals of a large part of the population gave anxiety to thoughtful men. The increase of pauperism between 1692 and 1699 intensified the evil, and the earliest attempts at amelioration were on economic rather than educational lines. John Bellers came forward with Proposals for Raising a Colledge of Industry (1696) which, in fact, consisted of a proprietary workhouse in close association with a farm, by whose means Bellers hoped to eliminate the middleman, solve the puzzle of the unemployed and pay profits to the proprietors. The teaching to be given in the school was to be addressed mainly to reading, writing and handicrafts, children beginning to learn knitting and spinning at four or five years old; the inmates might remain to the age of twenty-four. The scheme secured the approval of William Penn, Thomas Ellwood and other quakers, but it was full of generalities and platitudes, without showing capacity to found a living institution; Cowley was the real author of some of the notions which Bellers presented very nebulously.