A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Silence Dogood Essay 4
"Sir, Discoursing the other Day at Dinner with my Reverend ..."

to description and overview | image navigation

An sum etiam nunc vel Graece loqui vel Latine docendus?
    Cicero.

To the Author of the New-England Courant.

["[No 4" appears along right side of column. This number signifies this is the fourth Silence Dogood letter.]

SIR,

DISCOURSING the other
Day at Dinner with my
Reverend Boarder, for-
merly mention'd, (whom
for Distinction sake
we will call by the
Name of Clericus,) con-
cerning the Education
of Children, I ask'd his
Advice about my young
Son William, whether or
no I had best bestow up-
on him Academical
Learning, or (as our Phrase is) bring him up at our
College
: He perswaded me to do it by all Means,
using many weighty Arguments with me, and an-
swering all the Objections that I could form against
it; telling me withal, that he did not doubt but
that the Lad would take his Learning very well, and
not idle away his Time as too many there now-a-
days do. These Words of Clericus gave me a Curi-
osity to inquire a little more strictly into the present
Circumstances of that famous Seminary of Learning;
but the Information which he gave me, was nei-
ther pleasant, nor such as I expected.

AS soon as Dinner was over, I took a solitary
Walk into my Orchard, still ruminating on Clericus's
Discourse with much Consideration, until I came
to my usual Place of Retirement under the Great
Apple-Tree
; where having seated my self, and care-
lesly laid my Head on a verdant Bank, I fell by De-
grees into a soft and undisturbed Slumber. My wa-
king Thoughts remained with me in my Sleep, and
before I awak'd again, I dreamt the following
DREAM.

I FANCY'D I was travelling over pleasant and
delightful Fields and Meadows, and thro' many small
Country Towns and Villages; and as I pass'd along,
all Places resounded with the Fame of the Temple of
LEARNING: Every Peasant, who had wherewith-
al, was preparing to send one of his Children at least
to this famous Place; and in this Case most of them
consulted their own Purses instead of their Chil-
drens Capacities: So that I observed, a great many,
yea, the most part of those who were travelling
thither, were little better than Dunces and Block-
heads. Alas! alas!

AT length I entred upon a spacious Plain, in the
Midst of which was erected a large and stately Edi-
fice: It was to this that a great Company of Youths
from all Parts of the Country were going; so step-
ping in among the Crowd, I passed on with them,
and presently arrived at the Gate.

THE Passage was kept by two sturdy Porters
named Riches and Poverty, and the latter obstinate-
ly refused to give Entrance to any who had not first
gain'd the Favour of the former; so that I observed,
many who came even to the very Gate, were obli-
ged to travel back again as ignorant as they came,
for want of this necessary Qualification. However,
as a Spectator I gain'd Admittance, and with the
rest entred directly into the Temple.

IN the Middle of the great Hall stood a stately

and magnificent Throne, which was ascended to by
two high and difficult Steps. On the Top of it sat
LEARNING in awful State; she was apparelled
wholly in Black, and surrounded almost on every Side
with innumerable Volumes in all Languages. She
seem'd very busily employ'd in writing something on
half a Sheet of Paper, and upon Enquiry, I understood
she was preparing a Paper, call'd, The New-England Cou-
rant
. On her Right Hand sat English, with a plea-
sant smiling Countenance, and handsomely attir'd;
and on her left were seated several Antique Figures
with their Faces vail'd. I was considerably puzzl'd
to guess who they were, until one informed me, (who
stood beside me,) that those Figures on her left
Hand were Latin, Greek, Hebrew, &c. and that they
were very much reserv'd, and seldom or never un-
vail'd their Faces here, and then to few or none, tho'
most of those who have in this Place acquir'd so
much Learning as to distinguish them from English,
pretended to an intimate Acquaintance with them.
I then enquir'd of him, what could be the Reason
why they continued vail'd, in this Place especially:
He pointed to the Foot of the Throne, where I saw
Idleness, attended with Ignorance, and these (he in-
formed me) were they, who first vail'd them, and
still kept them so.

NOW I observed, that the whole Tribe who en-
tred into the Temple with me, began to climb the
Throne; but the Work proving troublesome and
difficult to most of them, they withdrew their Hands
from the Plow, and contented themselves to sit at
the Foot, with Madam Idleness and her Maid Ig-
norance
, until those who were assisted by Diligence
and a docible Temper, had well nigh got up the first
Step: But the Time drawing nigh in which they
could no way avoid ascending, they were fain to
crave the Assistance of those who had got up before
them, and who, for the Reward perhaps of a Pint
of Milk
, or a Piece of Plumb-Cake, lent the Lubbers
a helping Hand, and sat them in the Eye of the
World, upon a Level with themselves.

The other Step being in the same Manner a-
scended, and the usual Ceremonies at an End, every
Beetle-Scull seem'd well satisfy'd with his own
Portion of Learning, tho' perhaps he was e'en just
as ignorant as ever. And now the Time of their
Departure being come, they march'd out of Doors
to make Room for another Company, who waited
for Entrance: And I, having seen all that was to be
seen, quitted the Hall likewise, and went to make
my Observations on those who were just gone out
before me.

SOME I perceiv'd took to Merchandizing, others
to Travelling, some to one Thing, some to another,
and some to Nothing; and many of them from hence-
forth, for want of Patrimony, liv'd as poor as Church
Mice, being unable to dig, and asham'd to beg, and
to live by their Wits it was impossible. But the
most Part of the Crowd went along a large beaten
Path, which led to a Temple at the further End
of the Plain, call'd, The Temple of Theology. The
Business of those who were employ'd in this Tem-
ple being laborious and painful, I wonder'd exceed-
ingly to see so many go towards it; but while I
was pondering this Matter in my Mind, I spy'd Pe-
cunia
behind a Curtain, beckoning to them with her
Hand, which Sight immediately satisfy'd me for
whose Sake it was, that a great Part of them (I will

not say all) travel'd that Road. In this Temple I
saw nothing worth mentioning, except the ambi-
tious and fraudulent Contrivances of Plagius, who
(notwithstanding he had been severely reprehended
for such Practices before) was diligently transcri-
bing some eloquent Paragraphs out of Tillotson's
Works, &c. to embellish his own.

NOW I bethought my self in my Sleep, that
it was Time to be at Home, and as I fancy'd I was
travelling back thither, I reflected in my Mind on
the extream Folly of those Parents, who, blind to
their Childrens Dulness, and insensible of the Solidi-
ty of their Skulls, because they think their Purses
can afford it, will needs send them to the Temple
of Learning, where, for want of a suitable Genius,
they learn little more than how to carry themselves
handsomely, and enter a Room genteely, (which
might as well be acquir'd at a Dancing-School,)
and from whence they return, after Abundance of
Trouble and Charge, as great Blockheads as ever,
only more proud and self-conceited.

WHILE I was in the midst of these unpleasant
Reflections, Clericus (who with a Book in his Hand
was walking under the Trees) accidentally awak'd
me; to him I related my Dream with all its Par-
ticulars, and he, without much Study, presently in-
terpreted it, assuring me, That it was a lively Re-
presentation of
HARVARD COLLEGE, Etcetera.

I remain, Sir,
Your Humble Servant
,
SILENCE DOGOOD.

The New-England Courant, May 14, 1722


Section Viewing Options NOTE

Jump:
overview | large | transcription HELP