I am really excited about the newest volume in the Plutarch Project series, and not just because it’s been almost a year since the last one. I’ve been “living” with these studies for so long now that almost everything coming up in world news seems to relate back to the Gracchi brothers, or Agis and Cleomenes, or Julius Caesar. Charlotte Mason’s view of Plutarch’s Lives as good Citizenship teaching for students seems particularly apt with this set of subjects. We are not just teaching the events of history, but looking at how change happens, and the ways that people react to it.
Besides, you need not be alone; the soul
Shall have society of its own rank.
Be great, be true, and all the Scipios,
The Catos, the wise patriots of Rome,
Shall flock to you and tarry by your side,
And comfort you with their high company.
Virtue alone is sweet society,
It keeps the key to all heroic hearts
And opens you a welcome in them all.
from “Written at Rome,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The last of this series of Plutarch quotes.)
“If any one ask what the next thing is wherein I would have children instructed, and to what further good qualities I would have them insured, I answer, that I think it advisable that they neither speak nor do anything rashly; for, according to the proverb, the best things are the most difficult. But extemporary discourses are full of much ordinary and loose stuff, nor do such speakers well know where to begin or where to make an end. And besides other faults which those who speak suddenly are commonly guilty of, they are commonly liable to this great one, that they multiply words without measure; whereas, premeditation will not suffer a man to enlarge his discourse beyond a due proportion…
“For as they who have been a long time in chains, when they are at last set at liberty, are unable to walk, on account of their former continual restraint, and are very apt to trip, so they who have been used to a fettered way of speaking a great while, if upon any occasion they be enforced to speak on a sudden, will hardly be able to express themselves without some tokens of their former confinement. But to permit those that are yet children to speak extemporally is to give them occasion for extremely idle talk.”
“And yet many fathers there are, who so love their money and hate their children, that, lest it should cost them more than they are willing to spare to hire a good schoolmaster for them, they rather choose such persons to instruct their children as they are worth; thereby beating down the market, that they may purchase ignorance cheap. It was, therefore, a witty and handsome jeer which Aristippus bestowed on a sottish father, who asked him what he would take to teach his child. He answered, ‘A thousand drachmas.’ When the other cried out: ‘Oh, Hercules, what a price you ask! for I can buy a slave at that rate.’ ‘Do so, then,’ said the philosopher, ‘and you shall have two slaves instead of one—your son for one, and him you buy for another…’
“For when such sons are arrived at man’s estate, and, through contempt of a sound and orderly way of living, precipitate themselves into all manner of disorderly and servile pleasures, then will those parents dearly repent of their own neglect of their children’s education, when it is too late to amend; and vex themselves, even to distraction, at their vicious courses.”
“Moreover, as it is my advice to parents that they make the breeding up of their children to learning their chief care, so I here add, that the learning they ought to train them up unto should be sound and wholesome, and such as is most remote from those trifles which suit the popular humor. For to please the many is to displease the wise.
“To this saying of mine Euripides himself bears witness:
I’m better skilled to treat a few, my peers,
Than in a crowd to tickle vulgar ears;
Though others have the luck on’t, when they babble
Most to the wise, then most to please the rabble.
“…It is a fine thing to sail around and visit many cities, but it is profitable to fix our dwelling in the best.”