Vergerius was born at Capo d'Istria in 1349; after spending some years at Padua he removed to Florence, where he taught Logic, and Studied Civil and Canon Law. In 1391 we find him again in Padua, as 'Doctor Artium' , as 'Doctor Medicinae' , and as professor of Logic . In his teaching of this latter subject he has broken away from scholastic method, and already gives evidence of an essentially modern treatment of Dialectic, in which he was followed by Vittorino . But he had already at Florence, if not earlier, imbibed the full Humanist enthusiasm. In or soon after the year 1404 , he composed the Treatise De ingenuis moribus , for the use of Ubertinus, [Page 94] son of Francesco Carrara, the lord of Padua. This work, which has been too much overlooked by later students of the Renaissance , was for a century and a half after its appearance amongst the most widely read of all the productions of the Revival of Letters. In the sixteenth century it was diligently studied in schools, as Paulus Jovius  records. Bembo prized it as 'digna philosopho,' Sabellico finds it 'gravissimis respersa sententiis, utpote qui philosophiae prius operam dedit quam ad scribendum venisset.' Brucker is astonished at the knowledge of human nature, and at the lofty view of the Teacher's function, so much in advance of that age, which the work reveals. Prof. Combi , the latest and most ardent student of Vergerius, affirms that he is 'one of the most illustrious of the long series of Italian educators, and the first to approach the subject upon the new lines, and with the larger scope, rendered possible by the Revival and demanded by the altered conditions of society. In this Treatise we find, for the first time, systematically urged and defended, subjects and methods of instruction hitherto neglected or indeed forbidden.'
Vergerius was a thorough Humanist of the finer type. His Latinity, natural and unaffected, proves this, as does his intimacy, revealed by his Letters, with the scholars and public men who were at the head of the new movement, Salutato, Barzizza, Zabarella; so too, his wide acquaintance with classical texts ; or the privilege unanimously accorded to him of composing the epitaph upon the grave of Chrysoloras [Page 95] at the Monastery in Constance; or the denunciation of Carlo Malatesta on his destruction of the statue of Vergil at Mantua . But his most important contribution to classical learning was undoubtedly this Treatise, the main characteristic of which lies in that union of Classical enthusiasm with Christianity  which has been the ideal of Humanist education ever since.
The Contents of the Tract fall naturally under the following heads:
§1. Introduction. The purport of the Treatise.
§2. Concerning Character and its Discipline.
§3. Concerning Liberal Studies.
§4. Concerning the Manner of Study.
§5. Concerning Bodily Exercises and Training in the Art of War.
§6. Concerning Recreation.
[The history of the earlier editions of Vergerius De Ingenuis Moribus is obscure. Combi says that at least twenty editions appeared before 1500; and he examined twenty more of later date. The first edition has latterly been ascribed, by Combi and Michele, to 1472, possibly one of those printed at Brescia. Hain, 15987, is probably 'Roma, 1473.' Colle is in any case wrong (Storia dell' Univ. di Pad. iv. 46) in giving 'Milano, 1474' as the earliest. Dr Copinger, however, informs me that he believes that the Ed. Pr. was printed at Venice by Adam de Ambergau in 1470, a copy of which is in his own possession. The Treatise was printed in Louvain in 1485, and in Paris in 1494. The MS. copies are very numerous: it is found generally in conjunction with Plutarch's treatise, as translated by Guarino, and with that of St Basil, in Bruni's version.]
§1. Your grandfather, Francesco I, a man distinguished for his capacity in affairs and for his sound judgment, was in the habit of saying that a parent owes three duties to his children. The first of these is to bestow upon them names of which they need not feel ashamed. For not seldom, out of caprice, or even indifference, or perhaps from a wish to perpetuate a family name, a father in naming his child inflicts upon him a misfortune which clings to him for life. The second obligation is this: to provide that his child be brought up in a city of distinction, for this not only concerns his future self-respect, but is closely connected with the third and most important care which is due from father to son. This is the duty of seeing that he be trained in sound learning. For no wealth, no possible security against the future, can be compared with the gift of an education in grave and liberal studies. By them a man may win distinction for the most modest name, and bring honour to the city of his birth however obscure it may be. But we must remember that whilst a man may escape from the burden of an unlucky name, or from the contempt attaching to a city of no repute, by changing the one or quitting the other, he can never remedy the neglect of early education. The foundation, therefore, of this last must be laid in the first years of life, the disposition moulded whilst it is susceptible and the mind trained whilst it is retentive.
This duty, common indeed to all parents, is specially incumbent upon such as hold high station. For the lives of men of position are passed, as it were, in public view; and are fairly expected to serve as witness to personal merit and [Page 97] capacity on part of those who occupy such exceptional place amongst their fellow men. You therefore, Ubertinus, the bearer of an illustrious name, the representative of a house for many generations sovereign in our ancient and most learned city of Padua, are peculiarly concerned in attaining this excellence in learning of which we speak. Our name, our birthplace, are not of our own choice. Progress in learning, on the other hand, as in character, depends largely on ourselves, and brings with it its own abiding reward. But I know that I am urging one who needs no spur. Can I say more than this?--continue as you have begun; let the promise of the future be consistent with your performance in the past.
To you, therefore, I have addressed this Tractate upon the principles of Learning and of Conduct: by which I intend the subjects and the manner of study in which youth may be best exercised, and the actions which it behoves them to pursue, or to avoid, in the course of their daily life. Although addressed to you, it is intended for all who, blessed by nature with quickened minds and lofty aims, desire to shew by their lives their gratitude for such gifts. For no liberal mind will readily sink into mere sloth or become absorbed in the meaner side of existence.
§2. In judging character in youth, we recognise, first of all, that it is a mark of soundness in a boy's nature that he is spurred by desire of praise: upon this rests emulation, which may be defined as rivalry without malice. Next we notice the quality of willing and ready obedience, which in itself is full of promise for future progress, whilst, combined with the love of approbation, it suggests the possibility of the highest excellence. For, as yet, the boy is not of an age to be stimulated by the dictates of reason, which would be, doubtless (as Plato and Cicero said), the surest motive, but emulation, going along with obedience, supplies that which reason is as yet too weak to give. Again, we prize every sign of alertness, of industry, of thoroughness, in the growing character. As in a horse the mettle which needs neither whip [Page 98] nor spur, so in a boy eagerness for learning marks a temper from which much may be hoped. Where all these qualities are found united we need have little anxiety as to character at large. Again, we may feel confidently about a boy who shews signs of due shame at punishment or disgrace, or who respects his master in spite of it. The boy, too, who is naturally of a friendly disposition, forgiving, sociable, taking all that is said and done in good part, gives good promise for the future. Perhaps we may add, with Aristotle, that excessive physical energy rarely goes with keen intellectual tastes. Arguments drawn from physiognomy I prefer to leave to others. But we have said enough to shew how bent of character may be recognised in early years. And we may admit that there is often a relation between dignity of mien and loftiness of temper. Socrates suggested that boys should be encouraged to regard themselves in a mirror, that the boy of dignified bearing may feel himself bound to act worthily of it, the boy of less attractive form braced to attain an inner harmony to compensate for his defect. Perhaps, however, we gain surer stimulus from contemplating others than from the reflection of our own selves: as Scipio, Fabius and Caesar kept before their eyes the images of Alexander or other heroes of the past.
If, however, it is helpful to contemplate the outward form of a dead hero, how much more shall we gain from the example of living worth? For it is with character as with instruction: the 'living voice' is of far more avail than the written letter; the life we can observe, the character actually before us, affect us as no other influence can. Let, then, the examples of living men, known and respected for their worth, be held up for a boy's imitation. And, moreover, let those of us who are older not forget so to live that our actions may be a worthy model for the youth who look up to us for guidance and example.
As to the moral discipline of the young, we must remember, first, that each age has its peculiar dangers, and next that these are due, in part, to natural bent, in part, to defective training or [Page 99] to inexperience of life. For instance, a boy will be of open-handed and generous disposition, just as he is by virtue of his years of warm and sanguine habit of body: and such a temper we prefer to parsimoniousness. But yet a habit of squandering money thoughtlessly, from indifference to its value, or carelessness as to the character of those upon whom it is bestowed, must be checked. Again, the same superabundant vitality which, rightly directed, inspires a young man to high endeavour, may, without such guidance, generate a spirit of arrogance, or intolerable self-conceit. Herein lies that great danger to character, a habit of boasting, which in turn gives rise to a disregard of truth in all relations of life, a fault apt to become ingrained as years roll by. Nothing so injures a young man in the eyes of serious people as exaggeration and untruthfulness. Indeed a master will be well-advised to inculcate generally a habit of speaking little, and seldom, and of answering questions rather than asking them. For a youth who is silent commits at most but one fault, that he is silent; one who is talkative probably commits fifty. Looseness of conversation must be vigorously dealt with, remembering the poet's warning, repeated by St Paul: the natural sense of shame may be successfully appealed to in this matter. Once more, if boys are credulous we may ascribe it to inexperience; if they change their tastes or opinions, it is due to the flux of the bodily humours, caused by excess of natural heat. This, moreover, produces also that intensity or passion in all that they do which scarcely admits of precepts of moderation, and certainly not of harsh condemnation, for it belongs to their age, and has its proper function in early years. To this same natural tendency we may attribute the fickle character of their first friendships.
Children, although for the most part under the unwritten discipline of home, are not to be regarded as outside the control of public regulation. For the education of children is a matter of more than private interest; it concerns the State, which indeed regards the right training of the young as, in [Page 100] certain aspects, within its proper sphere. I would wish to see this responsibility extended. But to come to detail. It is especially necessary to guard the young from the temptations natural to their age. For, as has been said, every period of life has its own besetting sins. Manhood is the age of passion; middle-life of ambition; old age of avarice. I speak, of course, in general terms. So, too, we find faults common to boyhood, which are obvious subjects for Regulations. In order to maintain a high standard of purity all enticements of dancing, or suggestive spectacles, should be kept at a distance; and the society of women as a rule carefully avoided. A bad companion may wreck the character. Idleness, of mind and body, is a common source of temptation to indulgence, and unsociable, solitary temper must be disciplined, and on no account encouraged. Harmful imaginations in some, moroseness and depression in others, result from want of healthy companionship. Tutors and comrades alike should be chosen from amongst those likely to bring out the best qualities, to attract by good example, and to repress the first signs of evil. All excess in eating and drinking, or in sleep, is to be repressed: though we must not forget the differing needs of individuals. But our physical nature should be satisfied only, not pampered. In the matter of allowing wine to children I should prohibit its use, except in the smallest quantities, and even then carefully diluted, with water in the larger proportion. But in no case is it allowable to eat, drink or sleep up to the point of complete satisfaction; in all bodily pleasures we must accustom our children to retain complete and easy control of appetite. Above all, respect for Divine ordinances is of the deepest importance; it should be inculcated from the earliest years. This reverential temper, however, must not be forced in such a way that it pass into unreasoning superstition, which engenders contempt rather than faith. Profane language is to be held an abominable sin; and disrespect towards the ceremonies of the Church or vain swearing must be sternly repressed. Reverence towards [Page 101] elders and parents is an obligation closely akin. In this, antiquity offers us a beautiful illustration. For the youth of Rome used to escort the Senators, the Fathers of the City, to the Senate House; and awaiting them at the entrance, accompany them at the close of their deliberations on their return to their homes. In this the Romans saw an admirable training in endurance and in patience. This same quality of reverence will imply courtesy towards guests, suitable greetings to elders, to friends and to inferiors. For right bearing in these points is always attractive; and in none more than in the son of a Prince, who must unite in his carriage a certain dignity with a becoming and natural ease. And these details of personal bearing can be learnt by observation, aided by wise guidance. This, indeed, must often take the form of correction, and will, perhaps, be most needed by those who are to be called to the sovereignty of a city or a state. The reproofs of our friends may be likened to a faithful mirror; and he who wilfully refuses to listen to them flings himself thereby into the arms of flatterers. For it is little short of a miracle that a man of wealth, of birth and of station, brought up amidst luxury and ease, should prove himself on all occasions wise and strong; the allurements of pleasure, and the evil influence of parasites, with every opportunity of self-indulgence, leave scarcely a chink by which reason and integrity may force an entrance. Plato, in the Gorgias, specially commends the man who in such surroundings can resist temptation. I would have you note that one special source of danger lies in the weak indulgence of parents, which undermines the moral strength of their children; and this is often seen the more conspicuously when the father's stronger hand has been taken away. Therefore I strongly approve of the system under which children liable to such dangers are educated abroad; or if in their own city, in the house of relatives or friends. For as a rule the sense that they are not in their own house checks self-will and imposes a healthy restraint upon boys, and removes, at least, some of the [Page 102] hindrances which stand between them and full devotion to those liberal studies which I must now set forth.
§3. We call those studies liberal which are worthy of a free man; those studies by which we attain and practise virtue and wisdom; that education which calls forth, trains and develops those highest gifts of body and of mind which ennoble men, and which are rightly judged to rank next in dignity to virtue only. For to a vulgar temper gain and pleasure are the one aim of existence, to a lofty nature, moral worth and fame. It is, then, of the highest importance that even from infancy this aim, this effort, should constantly be kept alive in growing minds. For I may affirm with fullest conviction that we shall not have attained wisdom in our later years unless in our earliest we have sincerely entered on its search. Nor may we for a moment admit, with the unthinking crowd, that those who give early promise fail in subsequent fulfillment. This may, partly from physical causes, happen in exceptional cases. But there is no doubt that nature has endowed some children with so keen, so ready an intelligence, that without serious effort they attain to a notable power of reasoning and conversing upon grave and lofty subjects, and by aid of right guidance and sound learning reach in manhood the highest distinction. On the other hand, children of modest powers demand even more attention, that their natural defects may be supplied by art. But all alike must in those early years,
'Dum faciles animi iuvenum, dum mobilis aetas,'
whilst the mind is supple, be inured to the toil and effort of learning. Not that education, in the broad sense, is exclusively the concern of youth. Did not Cato think it honourable to learn Greek in later life? Did not Socrates, greatest of philosophers, compel his aged fingers to the lute?
Our youth of today, it is to be feared, is backward to learn; studies are accounted irksome. Boys hardly weaned begin [Page 103] to claim their own way, at a time when every art should be employed to bring them under control and attract them to grave studies. The Master must judge how far he can rely upon emulation, rewards, encouragement; how far he must have recourse to sterner measures. Too much leniency is objectionable; so also is too great severity, for we must avoid all that terrifies a boy. In certain temperaments--those in which a dark complexion denotes a quiet but strong personality--restraint must be cautiously applied. Boys of this type are mostly highly gifted and can bear a gentle hand. Not seldom it happens that a finely tempered nature is thwarted by circumstances, such as poverty at home, which compels a promising youth to forsake learning for trade; though, on the other hand, poverty is less dangerous to lofty instincts than great wealth. Or again, parents encourage their sons to follow a career traditional in their family, which may divert them from liberal studies; and the customary pursuits of the city in which we dwell exercise a decided influence on our choice. So that we may say that a perfectly unbiassed decision in these matters is seldom possible, except to certain select natures, who by favour of the gods, as the poets have it, are unconsciously brought to choose the right path in life. The myth of Hercules, who, in the solitude of his wanderings, learned to accept the strenuous life and to reject the way of self-indulgence, and so attain the highest, is the significant setting of this profound truth. For us it is the best that can befall, that either the circumstances of our life, or the guidance and exhortations of those in charge of us, should mould our natures whilst they are still plastic.
In your own case, Ubertinus, you had before you the choice of training in Arms or in Letters. Either holds a place of distinction amongst the pursuits which appeal to men of noble spirit; either leads to fame and honour in the world. It would have been natural that you, the scion of a House ennobled by its prowess in arms, should have been content to [Page 104] accept your father's permission to devote yourself wholly to that discipline. But to your great credit you elected to become proficient in both alike: to add to the career of arms traditional in your family, an equal success in that other great discipline of mind and character, the study of Literature.
There was courage in your choice. For we cannot deny that there is still a horde--as I must call them--of people who, like Licinius the Emperor, denounce learning and the Arts as a danger to the State and hateful in themselves. In reality the very opposite is the truth. However, as we look back upon history we cannot deny that learning by no means expels wickedness, but may be indeed an additional instrument for evil in the hands of the corrupt. To a man of virtuous instincts knowledge is a help and an adornment; to a Claudius or a Nero it was a means of refinement in cruelty or in folly. On the other hand, your grandfather, Jacopo da Carrara, who, though a patron of learning, was not himself versed in Letters, died regretting that opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of higher studies had not been given him in youth; which shews us that, although we may in old age long for it, only in early years can we be sure of attaining that learning which we desire. So that it is no light motive to youthful diligence that we thereby provide ourselves with precious advantages against on-coming age, a spring of interest for a leisured life, a recreation for a busy one. Consider the necessity of the literary art to one immersed in reading and speculation; and its importance to one absorbed in affairs. To be able to speak and write with elegance is no slight advantage in negotiation, whether in public or private concerns. Especially in administration of the State, when intervals of rest and privacy are accorded to a prince, how must he value those means of occupying them wisely which the knowledge of literature affords to him! Think of Domitian: son of Vespasian though he was, and brother of Titus, he was driven to occupy his leisure by killing flies! What a warning is here conveyed [Page 105] of the critical judgments which posterity passes upon Princes! They live in a light in which nothing can long remain hid. Contrast with this the saying of Scipio: 'Never am I less idle, less solitary, than when to outward seeming I am doing nothing or am alone'; evidence of a noble temper, worthy to be placed beside that recorded practice of Cato, who, amid the tedious business of the Senate, could withdraw himself from outward distractions and find himself truly alone in the companionship of his books.
Indeed the power which good books have of diverting our thoughts from unworthy or distressing themes is another support to my argument for the study of letters. Add to this their helpfulness on those occasions when we find ourselves alone, without companions and without preoccupations--what can we do better than gather our books around us? In them we see unfolded before us vast stores of knowledge, for our delight, it may be, or for our inspiration. In them are contained the records of the great achievements of men; the wonders of Nature; the works of Providence in the past, the key to her secrets of the future. And, most important of all, this Knowledge is not liable to decay. With a picture, an inscription, a coin, books share a kind of immortality. In all these memory is, as it were, made permanent; although, in its freedom from accidental risks, Literature surpasses every other from of record.
Literature indeed exhibits not facts alone, but thoughts, and their expression. Provided such thoughts be worthy, and worthily expressed, we feel assured that they will not die; although I do not think that thoughts without style will be likely to attract much notice or secure a sure survival. What greater charm can life offer than this power of making the past, the present, and even the future, our own by means of literature? How bright a household is the family of books! we may cry with Cicero. In their company there is no noise, no greed, no self-will: at a word they speak to you, at a word they are still; [Page 106] to all our requests their response is ever ready and to the point. Books indeed are a higher--a wider, more tenacious--memory, a storehouse which is the common property of us all.
I attach great weight to the duty of handing down this priceless treasure to our sons unimpaired by any carelessness on our part. How many are the gaps which the ignorance of past ages has wilfully caused in the long and noble roll of writers! Books--in part or in their entirety--have been allowed to perish. What remains of others is often sorely corrupt, mutilated, or imperfect. It is hard that no slight portion of the history of Rome is only to be known through the labours of one writing in the Greek language; it is still worse that this same noble tongue, once well nigh the daily speech of our race, as familiar as the Latin language itself, is on the point of perishing even amongst its own sons, and to us Italians is already utterly lost, unless we except one or two who in our time are tardily endeavouring to rescue something--if it be only a mere echo of it--from oblivion.
We come now to the consideration of the various subjects which may rightly be included under the name of 'Liberal Studies.' Amongst these I accord the first place to History, on grounds both of its attractiveness and of its utility, qualities which appeal equally to the scholar and to the statesman. Next in importance ranks Moral Philosophy, which indeed is, in a peculiar sense, a 'Liberal Art,' in that its purpose is to teach men the secret of true freedom. History, then, gives us the concrete examples of the precepts inculcated by philosophy. The one shews what men should do, the other what men have said and done in the past, and what practical lessons we may draw therefrom for the present day. I would indicate as the third main branch of study, Eloquence, which indeed holds a place of distinction amongst the refined Arts. By philosophy we learn the essential truth of things, which by eloquence we so exhibit in orderly adornment as to bring conviction to differing minds. And history provides the light of experience-- [Page 107] a cumulative wisdom fit to supplement the force of reason and the persuasion of eloquence. For we allow that soundness of judgment, wisdom of speech, integrity of conduct are the marks of a truly liberal temper.
We are told that the Greeks devised for their sons a course of training in four subjects: letters, gymnastic, music and drawing. Now, of these drawing has no place amongst our liberal studies; except in so far as it is identical with writing (which is in reality one side of the art of Drawing), it belongs to the Painter's profession; the Greeks, as an art-loving people, attached to it an exceptional value.
The Art of Letters, however, rests upon a different footing. It is a study adapted to all times and to all circumstances, to the investigation of fresh knowledge or to the re-casting and application of old. Hence the importance of grammar and of the rules of composition must be recognised at the outset, as the foundation on which the whole study of Literature must rest; and closely associated with these rudiments, the art of Disputation or Logical argument. The function of this is to enable us to discern fallacy from truth in discussion. Logic, indeed, as setting forth the true method of learning, is the guide to the acquisition of knowledge in whatever subject. Rhetoric comes next, and is strictly speaking the formal study by which we attain the art of eloquence; which, as we have just stated, takes the third place amongst the studies specially important in public life. It is now, indeed, fallen from its old renown and is well night a lost art. In the Law Court, in the Council, in the popular Assembly, in exposition, in persuasion, in debate, eloquence finds no place nowadays: speed, brevity, homeliness are the only qualities desired. Oratory, in which our forefathers gained so great glory for themselves and for their language, is despised; but our youth, if they would earn the repute of true education, must emulate their ancestors in this accomplishment.
After Eloquence, we place Poetry and the Poetic Art, which [Page 108] though not without value in daily life and as an aid to oratory, have nevertheless their main concern for the leisure side of existence.
As to Music, the Greeks refused the title of 'Educated' to anyone who could not sing or play. Socrates set an example to the Athenian youth, by himself learning to play in his old age; urging the pursuit of music not as a sensuous indulgence, but as an aid to the inner harmony of the soul. In so far as it is taught as a healthy recreation for the moral and spiritual nature, music is a truly liberal art, and, both as regards its theory and practice, should find a place in education.
Arithmetic, which treats of the properties of numbers, Geometry, which treats of the properties of dimensions, lines, surfaces, and solid bodies, are weighty studies because they possess a peculiar element of certainty. The science of the Stars, their motions, magnitudes and distances, lifts us into the clear calm of the upper air. There we may contemplate the fixed stars, or the conjunctions of the planets, and predict the eclipses of the sun and the moon. The knowledge of Nature--animate and inanimate--, the laws and the properties of things in heaven and in earth, their causes, mutations and effects, especially the explanation of their wonders (as they are popularly supposed) by the unravelling of their causes--this is a most delightful, and at the same time most profitable, study for youth. With these may be joined investigations concerning the weights of bodies, and those relative to the subject which mathematicians call 'Perspective.'
I may here glance for a moment at the three great professional Disciplines: Medicine, Law, Theology. Medicine, which is applied science, has undoubtedly much that makes it attractive to a student. But it cannot be described as a Liberal study. Law, which is based upon moral philosophy, is undoubtedly held in high respect. Regarding Law as a subject of study, such respect is entirely deserved; but Law as practised becomes a mere trade. Theology, on the other [Page 109] hand, treats of themes removed from our senses, and attainable only by pure intelligence.
§4. The principal 'Disciplines' have now been reviewed. It must not be supposed that a liberal education requires acquaintance with them all: for a thorough mastery of even one of them might fairly be the achievement of a lifetime. Most of us, too, must learn to be content with modest capacity as with modest fortune. Perhaps we do wisely to pursue that study which we find most suited to our intelligence and our tastes, though it is true that we cannot rightly understand one subject unless we can perceive its relation to the rest. The choice of studies will depend to some extent upon the character of individual minds. For whilst one boy seizes rapidly the point of which he is in search and states it ably, another, working far more slowly, had yet the sounder judgement and so detects the weak spot in his rival's conclusions. The former, perhaps, will succeed in poetry, or in the abstract sciences; the latter in real studies and practical pursuits. Or a boy may be apt in thinking, or slow in expressing himself; to him the study of Rhetoric and Logic will be of much value. Where the power of talk alone is remarkable I hardly know what advice to give. Some minds are strong on the side of memory: these should be apt for history. But it is of importance to remember that in comparison with intelligence memory is of little worth, though intelligence without memory is, so far as education is concerned, of none at all. For we are not able to give evidence that we know a thing unless we can reproduce it.
Again, some minds have peculiar power in dealing with abstract truths, but are defective on the side of the particular and the concrete, and so make good progress in mathematics and in metaphysic. Those of just opposite temper are apt in Natural Science and in practical affairs. And the natural bent should be recognised and followed in education. Let the boy of limited capacity work only at that subject in which he shews he can attain some result. [Page 110] Respecting the general place of liberal studies, we remember that Aristotle would not have them absorb the entire interests of life: for he kept steadily in view the nature of man as a citizen, an active member of the State. For the man who has surrendered himself absolutely to the attractions of Letters or of speculative thought follows, perhaps, a self-regarding end and is useless as a citizen or as prince.
In acquiring our knowledge we should be careful to go to the best teachers even for the Rudiments; in choosing our authors to take only those of the first rank. Thus Philip entrusted Alexander to Aristotle even for the Alphabet; the Romans used Vergil as the first reading book. Rightly in both cases: for that which is early implanted in the growing mind will strike deep roots. If, therefore, instead of sound methods and right examples, wrong principles and perverse standards be set before the beginner in any subject, he has a twofold difficulty to overcome. The story of Timotheus, the Spartan teacher of music, illustrates what I mean. He was accustomed to charge double fees to those pupils who came to him with a knowledge of music already acquired. For he said that he had to spend one course in teaching them to forget what they had previously learnt, before he could begin to give them his own special instruction.
Two faults, in particular, whether in the school master or in the student, seem to call for stringent correction. The first is the habit of attempting too much at once. For as the digestion refuses its task upon ill-assorted or excessive food, so the memory cannot retain an undue burden, and the mind ill-nourished becomes feebler instead of stronger with manhood. The remedy for this is to limit the number of subjects in hand at one time so that the memory may fully overtake each of them, and daily revision make our acquisition secure. The second fault is that of hastily passing from one subject to another, which is destructive of all steady progress. For there is an Italian proverb which warns us that 'Wine not allowed to [Page 111] rest turns sour.' And so we shall do well to put our heart into one subject at a time, and to repress a superficial curiosity. There is an order in studies which should be obeyed. A habit of irregular reading, or dipping into books, here the beginning, here the end, here the middle, is responsible for much useless study. On the other hand, wide reading concentrated round one special subject is often conducive to a thorough acquaintance with it.
Again, we must remember that mental endowments differ. There is the eager intellectual temper, which is apt to be soon discouraged by difficulties unless spurred by question or discussion. Where there is real capacity behind, success seems generally to reward patient guidance. And there is the brilliant genius, daunted by nothing, which attacks the gravest problems, and refuses to admit defeat. But here keen insight and swift acquisition often go with poor retentiveness. To boys thus gifted I would urge the adoption of some such plan as that of Cato, who, whatever he had done, seen, read during the day, reviewed it in the evening, when he would account, not only for his working hours, but for his leisure also. So a regular revision of all new knowledge, at least of that which strikes us as most important in it, will be a great help to memory. So, too, a habit of discussing our subject with a fellow student will aid us alike in understanding, in expressing, and in remembering, what we have gained. This indeed is the valuable effect of disputation as an educational instrument. Once more, the practice of teaching what we have learnt is a certain way of securing our own knowledge of the subject. Moreover, any exercise by which we may learn to distrust our own attainments, and so increase our diligence and our modesty is to be prized. For the temptation to exhibit their prodigious erudition besets many young students; and we may admit that a man deceives no one so readily as himself. It is perhaps the first essential of real progress to be sceptical of our own powers, and to discard that presumption of our [Page 112] own ability or knowledge which tempts us to make light of the need for thoroughness.
It will always happen that a beginner meets with difficulties of matter or expression in the subject, whatever it may be, upon which he is engaged. Perhaps he blames the book he is using or its author, whilst the fault lies, of course, in his own ignorance, which is only to be overcome by quiet perseverance in the particular study. To give a fixed time each day to reading, which shall be encroached upon under no pretext whatsoever, is a well tried practice which may be strongly recommended. Alexander read much even on campaign; Caesar wrote his Commentaries, and Augustus recited poetry, whilst commanding armies in the field. With such examples what distractions of peaceful city life can be pleaded as excuse for neglect of daily study? Nay, many leisure hours now wasted may be saved by devoting them to the recreation of lighter reading. Some wisely arrange a course of Readings during dinner; others court sleep, or banish it, amidst books, although physicians are, no doubt, right in condemning the abuse of this latter practice. In every Library let a clock be so placed that it may catch the eye of the reader, to warn him by the swift lapse of time of the need of diligence, and, I would add, let the Library be used for no other purpose whatsoever than that for which it is designed.
§ 5. In what I have written thus far upon the choice of studies I have had regard more particularly to those whose temperament inclines them to Learning rather than to War. But where an active frame is conjoined to a vigorous intellect a true education will aim at the efficient training of both--the Reason, that it may wisely control, the Body, that it may promptly obey. So that if we be involved in arms we may be found ready to defend our rights or to strike a blow for honour or power. Especially must the education of a Prince accord a high place to instruction in the art of war, not less than to training in the arts of peace. Alexander the Great, himself a prince [Page 113] conspicuous in arms, and also a constant student of Homer, preferred to every other line of the Poet that one in which he speaks of Agamemnon as a great king because a valiant warrior, holding him thus typical of every true ruler of men.
Now war involves physical endurance as well as military skill. So that from his earliest years a boy must be gradually inured to privations and grave exertion, to enable him to bear strain and hardship when he reaches manhood. The institutions of Minos and Lycurgus ordained that the youth of Crete and Sparta should be exercised in activity and courage by feats of strength, or dangers of the field; in endurance by bearing heat and cold, hunger and thirst. For as luxury enervates mind and body alike, so exertion fortifies both. Nor could I find, even in antiquity, a more significant example than that of your own father Francesco, who always declared that this stedfastness under hardship and bodily strain was the quality of which he felt most proud. Endeavour to shew yourself a worthy son in this most important quality. This physical power, also, is accompanied by a contempt of death and by a consequent invincible courage. For all ought to regard life as of less moment than noble action. If we hold it our first duty to live honourably and bravely, whether in peace or war, we shall not overrate the blessing of long life, as so many do. If death comes we shall meet it manfully, and, if need be, go to welcome it cheerfully. Even if it seem to come untimely, we shall still have had our opportunities. Scipio Africanus, the hero of the Second Punic War, hardly more than a boy at the time, had at the battle of the Ticino the glory of saving his father under the very feet of the enemy. Aemilius Lepidus is another instance of conspicuous bravery rewarded by the highest distinction of his fellow citizens. Nor have you yourself been backward in the field, as you shewed lately at Brescia against the German hordes, winning there the highest admiration of friend and foe alike.
So, I repeat, it is of greatest importance that boys should [Page 114] be trained from childhood in feats of courage and endurance. The Lacedaemonian discipline was indeed severe. The boys were trained to be of such a temper that in their contests they could not yield nor confess themselves vanquished; the severest tests produced no cry of pain, though blood might flow and consciousness itself give way. The result was that all antiquity rehearses the deathless courage of the Spartans in the field; their arms were to them part of their very selves, to be cast away, or laid down, only with their lives. What else than this same early and most diligent training could have enabled the Romans to shew themselves so valiant, so enduring, in the campaigns they fought? Wherefore, whether a boy be trained in Arms or in Letters (for these are the two chief liberal Arts and fittest therefore for a prince), so soon as he be able to use his limbs let him be trained to Arms; so soon as he can rightly speak let him be trained to Letters. Further, it will be easy and it will be of great benefit to a boy to alternate the study of letters with bodily exercises; and, indeed, at whatever age he may be, the same practice is to be commended. Theodosius, we are told, spent the day in martial exercises, or in the business of the state; the evening he devoted to books.
In choice of bodily exercises those should be adopted which serve to maintain the body in good health and to strengthen the limbs; and thus it will be necessary to consider to some extent the case of each individual boy. For some boys are of a soft and humid bodily habit: they will need to be dried and hardened by vigorous exercises; or those whose blood mounts too readily will be best practised in restraint if they be exercised in the full heat of the sun. In childhood much care must be taken lest the growth be hindered, or the nerves of the body be strained, by severe exertion; but as youth develops this may be slowly increased. The order, perhaps, to be observed is this: in childhood, learning first; in youth, morals; with physical exercises, varying in degree, for all.
[Page 115] The importance attached by the Romans to systematic and scientific training in arms is illustrated by the example of Caius Marius, who, according to Plutarch, was present every day at the Camp, in which his son was quartered as a Cadet. In spite of his years and his high position, the great soldier himself took his place habitually at drill. To P. Rutilius is due the introduction of methodical training in the handling of the sword, especially in the art of the thrust and parry; so that swordsmanship became thenceforward a matter, not merely of muscle and daring, but of elaborate skill. So, too, our youth must learn the art of the sword, the cut, the thrust and the parry; the use of the shield; of the spear; of the club; training either hand to wield the weapon. Further, swimming, to which Augustus rightly attached so great importance, running, jumping, wrestling, boxing, javelin-throwing, archery, thorough horsemanship, in sport or in war--these are all needful to the full training of the soldier. Particularly will it be necessary that he be practised in the drill of the heavy man-at-arms. Arms and methods of warfare change from age to age. The chariot of the Homeric Greeks, the legion of the Romans, have both disappeared; the chief arm of today is cavalry. But whatever the method or the weapon of the time, let there be ample practice for our youth, with as great variety of exercises as can be devised, so that they may be ready for combat hand to hand or in troop, in the headlong charge or in the skirmish. We cannot forestall the reality of war, its sudden emergencies, or its vivid terrors, but by training and practice we can at least provide such preparation as the case admits. So, with Horace, we may say:
Angustam amice pauperiem pati
robustus acri militia puer
condiscat et Parthos ferocis
vexet eques metuendus hasta
vitamque sub divo et trepidis agat
Odes, iii. 2.
[Page 116] Further, it will be desirable to include the wider aspects of the art of war, by which I mean the principles of generalship: strategy and tactics; discipline; supplies; and the ordering of camps and winter quarters. For the commander must be prepared to bear a heavy responsibility. If he be not calm and confident, as one who has truly learnt his art, the forces under him will not support the day; and the discredit of failure will, fairly or not, attach to him alone. The art of war, indeed, can only be rightly acquired by constant experience in the field, but such books as have been written by great soldiers upon their calling must not be overlooked. Your father, too, is more capable than any other of giving you wise instruction in these subjects, more especially concerning the use of engines of war. Indeed, your own family today supplies you with notable instances of warlike skill, and to them (your father Francesco and your uncle Jacopo in particular) you will turn repeatedly, with that respect and filial affection which is ever due from youth to age, and is the true corner stone of orderly communities of men.
§ 6. But as we are not so constituted that we are able to bestow ourselves all day long upon our ordered tasks, I will now set forth the true place of recreation. First of all, it imports that boys engage in no debasing games, or such as cannot develop bodily gifts or powers of Will. We cannot, therefore, accord a high place to that practice which found favour with Scipio and Laelius, namely, of seeking rest for exhausted minds in aimless walks along the shore, picking up pebbles and shells as they went. Scaevola, on the other hand, was wiser: he spent wearisome days in the Courts, and found in the sharp exertion of ball-play the best refreshment alike for jaded spirits and for bodily fatigue. So, too, others seek recreation in hunting, hawking, or fishing; and so keen is their enjoyment, that the severe efforts which these pursuits demand are cheerfully borne.
"The labour we delight in physicks pain":
[Page 117] so to render the well known line of Horace . If these be too strenuous a relaxation for those who are exhausted by study, it may suffice to seek it in quiet repose, in gentle riding, or in pleasant walks. Wit and comely humour may find a place, as Lycurgus allowed. Nor will it be unbecoming to have recourse to music and to song. Did not the Pythagoreans approve this? Nay, Homer himself shews us Achilles refreshing his spirit after the fight by singing, though his songs were not of love but of heroic deeds. Then we may choose such measures as shall be best suited to our moods. The Sicilian measures conduce most to restful calm; the Gallic, on the other hand, stir us to energy and movement; the Italian hold a middle place. To accompany oneself in singing is less dignified than to sing to the accompaniment of another; whilst to watch dancing girls, or to dance ourselves to music, is altogether unworthy; though some may defend the latter as a form of exercise in spite of its tendency to lasciviousness and vain conceit. The game of "tabulae" which Palamedes is said to have invented during the Trojan war to keep his soldiers occupied during wearisome inaction, is free from all such objections. Dice-playing is to be utterly condemned. It is either a base form of money-getting, or an effeminate excitement; though a game of skill, in which chance plays but a small part, is allowable. Claudius, the Emperor, wrote a book on dice-playing, which the vicious have found a useful argument for their indulgence.
Those whose time is occupied in Letters may find sufficient relaxation in change of subject. But it must not be forgotten that it is sometimes needful, in the interests of our work, to do absolutely nothing for a while. For the string ever stretched will end by breaking. I know, indeed, that to the wise man nothing is so laborious as doing nothing. We know of some who divide their day into three parts, one of which is given to [Page 118] sleep, one to recreation and to meals, one to liberal studies. On such a point I cannot pronounce; but this at least I can safely say, that the larger the place we can allot to learning, the richer, the fuller is the life we thereby secure to ourselves.
Lastly, I must add a word upon attention to personal habits. In this matter we must not be neglectful: for whilst we may not bestow too much thought upon our outward appearance, which is effeminacy, we must have due regard to our dress, and its suitability to time, place, and circumstance. Perhaps we ought not to be too severe if a young man verging on manhood seem to spend undue care upon his person; something may be forgiven him, provided he does not carry his foible into the more serious years of life.
§ 7. In offering this Treatise to you, Ubertinus, I end as I began. You do not need my insistence; follow the instincts of your best self, and you will be found worthy. If I seem to flatter you, it is that I look confidently to see you fulfil the promise of your youth. Should you prove me a true prophet, you will reap the praise of men, not of your own day alone, but, if my pen avail, of days far distant. Should you, however, disappoint my hopes, there is one, at least, who will be forced to admit, with sorrow, that nothing was lacking to you but yourself.
1. Gloria, Mon. Pad. ii. 491.
3. Ibid., p. 493. But Voigt (i. 432) is wrong in saying that he taught at Padua between July 1397 and June 1400: his name never occurs during those years in the University records. Gloria, ii. 492.
4. Supra, p. 60. See the important letter in Prof. Combi, Epist. Verg. p. 100 and Gloria, ii. 493.
5. The date fixed by the allusion of Vergerius to the siege of Brescia, 1403: inf. p. 113. Sabbadini, La Scuola &c. p. 29. Rösler, Kardinal Johannes Dominicis, u.s.w. p. 75, agrees with Combi in giving 1392 as the date. Combi, p. 40. Novatti gives 1399.
6. The full title given in the earliest editions and in most MMS. runs: 'Petri Paulus Vergerii Justino-Politani ad Ubertinum Carariensem de ingenuis moribus opus praeclarissimum.' Some MMS. (e.g. Harl. 2678) have the additional words, 'et liberalibus studiis.'
7. No edition seems to have been printed after 1700: the only translation I have traced is the Italian one by Prof. E. Michele (1878).
8. Paolo Giovio, Elog. Clar. Virorum, Venet. 1546, p. 68.
9. Epistol. di P. P. Vergerio, p. xix.
10. Id., p. xlviii.
11. In full in Combi, Verg. p. 113. Cf. p. xxii.
12. Combi, p. xlvii, and supra, p. 15.
13. 'Molliter austerum studio fallente laborem,' Sat. II. ii. 12.