Advice to Students: Give Terence a Good Thumbing

Mark Pattison, Isaac Casaubon

“Of his children in general the diary says, in 1607, ‘They are almost all great troubles to me, some of them because they are always ill, some because they make no progress either in virtue or in letters.’ He is in fear that more of them will follow John’s example. This grievous disappointment was not to extend to Meric. Meric, at the date when this wail was wrung from the desponding father, was only seven. In the following year, aet. 8, he was sent to school at Sedan, under Samuel Neran. Here he remained till 1611, when he rejoined his father in England. Isaac lived to see Meric confirmed, but not to see developed in him those learned tastes and accomplishments which might have consoled the father for the degeneracy of the rest of the children. The only letter which Meric preserved of those written to him in his school-days, is so characteristic of the writer that it is thought right to give it. It is dated Paris, September 18, 1609.

‘Meric, I am glad that you write to me tolerably often, and shall be more so if you do so oftener. I shall, however, expect each letter to show some progress since the one which preceded it. I see that you are beginning to compose latin themes, but not without bad mistakes. Learn something every day. Exercise your memory diligently. If Terence is one of the books you read at school, I desire that you will commit it to memory from beginning to end. No one will ever speak latin well who has not thumbed Terence. Write me word if you read Terence, and what it is you read at school. Above all, be good, fear God, pray for father, mother, brothers, and sisters. Honour your teachers, and be obedient to them. Be careful not to waste time. If you do this, God will bless your studies. I have written to the master, and to the person with whom you board, not to let you want for anything. Your mother sends her remembrances, and desires you will, from her; kiss Mrs. Capell’s hands, as I do also. Your father, Is. Casaubon. Remember me to the Hotomans.'”

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