Education, A Cause of Madness

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy:

“Education, of these accidental causes of melancholy, may justly challenge the next place, for if a man escape a bad nurse, he may be undone by evil bringing up. Jason Pratensis puts this of education for a principal cause; bad parents, stepmothers, tutors, masters, teachers, too rigorous, too severe, too remiss or indulgent on the other side, are often fountains and furtherers of this disease. Parents and such as have the tuition and oversight of children, offend many times in that they are too stern, always threatening, chiding, brawling, whipping, or striking; by means of which their poor children are so disheartened and cowed, that they never after have any courage, a merry hour in their lives, or take pleasure in anything. There is a great moderation to be had in such things, as matters of so great moment to the making or marring of a child. Some fright their children with beggars, bugbears, and hobgoblins, if they cry, or be otherwise unruly: but they are much to blame in it, many times, saith Lavater, de spectris, part. 1, cap. 5. ex metu in morbos graves incidunt et noctu dormientes clamant, for fear they fall into many diseases, and cry out in their sleep, and are much the worse for it all their lives: these things ought not at all, or to be sparingly done, and upon just occasion. Tyrannical, impatient, hair-brain schoolmasters, aridi magistri, so Fabius terms them, Ajaces flagelliferi, are in this kind as bad as hangmen and executioners, they make many children endure a martyrdom all the while they are at school, with bad diet, if they board in their houses, too much severity and ill-usage, they quite pervert their temperature of body and mind: still chiding, railing, frowning, lashing, tasking, keeping, that they are fracti animis, moped many times, weary of their lives, nimia severitate deficiunt et desperant, and think no slavery in the world (as once I did myself) like to that of a grammar scholar. Praeceptorum ineptiis discruciantur ingenia puerorum, saith Erasmus, they tremble at his voice, looks, coming in. St. Austin, in the first book of his confess. et 4 ca. calls this schooling meliculosam necessitatem, and elsewhere a martyrdom, and confesseth of himself, how cruelly he was tortured in mind for learning Greek, nulla verba noveram, et saevis terroribus et poenis, ut nossem, instabatur mihi vehementer, I know nothing, and with cruel terrors and punishment I was daily compelled. Beza complains in like case of a rigorous schoolmaster in Paris, that made him by his continual thunder and threats once in a mind to drown himself, had he not met by the way with an uncle of his that vindicated him from that misery for the time, by taking him to his house. Trincavellius, lib. 1. consil. 16. had a patient nineteen years of age, extremely melancholy, ob nimium studium, Tarvitii et praeceptoris minas, by reason of overmuch study, and his tutor’s threats. Many masters are hard-hearted, and bitter to their servants, and by that means do so deject, with terrible speeches and hard usage so crucify them, that they become desperate, and can never be recalled.”

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