Alfred Raymond Johns.

Practical wisdom; letters to young men online

. (page 1 of 8)
Online LibraryAlfred Raymond JohnsPractical wisdom; letters to young men → online text (page 1 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook










Practical Wisdom

Letters to Young Men










Copyright, 1902







Sir Walter Raleigh's Instructions to
His Son (circa 1632) . . . 9

Francis Osborn's Advice to a Son
(1656) 43

Lord Burleigh's Advices to His Son
(1617) 117

Sir Matthew Hale's Advice to His
Grand-Children (circa 1680) . 131

William, Earl of Bedford's Advice to
His Sons (circa 1642) . . • 171






VIRTUOUS Persons to be made
CHOICE OF FOR Friends. — There
is nothing more becoming any wise man,
than to make choice of friends, for by
them thou shalt be judged what thou art :
let them therefore be wise and virtuous,
and none of those that follow thee for gain ;
but make election rather of thy betters,
than thy inferiors, shunning always such
as are poor and needy : for if thou givest
twenty gifts, and refuse to do the like but
once, all that thou hast done will be lost,
and such men will become thy mortal
enemies. Take also special care, that
thou never trust any friend or servant,
with any matter that may endanger thine

[7] "


estate ; for so shalt thou make thyself a
bond-slave to him that thou trustest, and
leave thyself always to his mercy : and be
sure of this, thou shalt never find a friend
in thy young years, whose conditions and
qualities will please thee after thou comest
to more discretion and judgment, and then
all thou givest is lost, and all wherein thou
shalt trust such a one, will be discovered.
Such therefore as are thy inferiors, will
follow thee but to eat thee out, and when
thou leavest to feed them, they will hate
thee ; and such kind of men, if thou pre-
serve thy estate, will always be had. And
if thy friends be of better quality than thy-
self, thou mayest be sure of two things :
the first, that they will be more careful to
keep thy counsel, because they have more
to lose than thou hast : the second, they
will esteem thee for thyself, and not for
that which thou dost possess. But if thou



be subject to any great vanity or ill (from
which I hope God will bless thee), then
therein trust no man ; for every man's
folly ought to be his greatest secret. And
although I persuade thee to associate thy-
self with thy betters, or at least with thy
peers, yet remember always that thou ven-
ture not thy estate with any of those great
ones that shall attempt unlawful things ;
for such men labour for themselves, and
not for thee ; thou shalt be sure to part
with them in the danger, but not in the
honour ; and to venture a sure estate in
present, in hope of a better in future, is
mere madness : and great men forget such
as have done them service, when they have
obtained what they would, and will rather
hate thee for saying thou hast been a
means for their advancement, than ac-
knowledge it.

I could give thee a thousand examples,


and I myself know it, and have tasted it
in all the course of my life ; when thou
shalt read and observe the stories of all
nations, thou shalt find innumerable ex-
amples of the like. Let thy love therefore
be to the best, so long as they do well j but
take heed that thou love God, thy Country,
thy Prince, and thine own Estate, before
all others : for the fancies of men change,
and he that loves to-day, hateth to-morrow ;
but let reason be thy school-mistress, which
shall ever guide thee aright.

Great Care to be had in the
CHOOSING OF a Wife. — The next and
greatest care ought to be in the choice of
a wife, and the only danger therein, is
beauty, by which all men in all ages, wise
and foolish, have been betrayed. And
though I know it vain to use reasons or
arguments to dissuade thee from being
captivated therewith, there being few or


none that ever resisted that witchery, yet
I cannot omit to warn thee, as of other
things, which may be thy ruin and de-
struction. For the present time, it is
true, that every man prefers his fantasy in
that appetite, before all other worldly
desires, leaving the care of honour, credit,
and safety, in respect thereof. But re-
member, that though these affections do
not last, yet the bond of marriage dureth
to the end of thy life. Remember, sec-
ondly, that if thou marry for beauty, thou
bindest thyself all thy life forthat which per-
chance will neither last nor please thee one
year ; and when thou hast it, it will be to
thee of no price at all ; for the desire dieth
when it is attained, and the affection
perisheth when it is satisfied. Remem-
ber, when thou wert a sucking child that
then thou didst love thy nurse, and that
thou wert fond of her ; after a while thou



didst love thy dry-nurse, and didst forget
the other; after that thou didst also despise
her : so will it be with thee in thy liking
in elder years ; and therefore, though thou
canst not forbear to love, yet forbear to
link ; and after a while thou shalt find an
alteration in thyself, and see another far
more pleasing than the first, second, or
third love ; yet I wish thee above all the
rest, have a care thou dost not marry an
uncomely woman for any respect ; for
comeliness in children is riches, if nothing
else be left them. And if thou have care
for thy races of horses, and other beasts,
value the shape and comeliness of thy
children, before alliances or riches. Have
care therefore of both together, for if thou
have a fair wife, and a poor one, if thine
own estate be not great, assure thyself that
love abideth not with want ; for she is the
companion of plenty and honour. This


Bathsheba taught her son Solomon ; Fav-
our is deceitful, and beauty is vanity : she
saith further. That a wise woman overseeth
the ways of her household, and eateth not
the bread of idleness.

Have therefore ever more care that thou
be beloved of thy wife, rather than thyself
besotted on her ; and thou shalt judge of
her love by these two observations : first,
if thou perceive she have a care of thy
estate, and exercise herself therein ; the
other, if she study to please thee, and be
sweet unto thee in conversation, without
thy instruction ; for love needs no teaching
nor precept. On the other side, be not
sour or stern to thy wife, for cruelty
engendereth no other thing than hatred :
let her have equal part of thy estate whilst
thou liveth, if thou find her sparing and
honest ; but what thou givest after thy
death, remember that thou givest it to a


stranger, and most times to an enemy ; for
he that shall marry thy wife, will despise
thee, thy memory, and thine, and shall
possess the quiet of thy labours, the fruit
which thou hast planted, enjoy thy love,
and spend with joy and ease what thou
hast spared, and gotten with care and tra-
vail. Yet always remember, that thou
leave not thy wife to be a shame unto
thee after thou art dead, but that she may
live according to thy estate ; especially if
thou hast few children, and them provided
for. But howsoever it be, or whatsoever
thou find, leave thy wife no more than of
necessity thou must, but only during her
widowhood ; but leave thy estate to thy
house and children, in which thou livest
upon earth whilst it lasteth. To con-
clude. Wives were ordained to continue
the generation of men, not to transfer
them, and diminish them, either in con-



tinuance or ability ; and therefore thy
house and estate, which liveth in thy son,
and not in thy wife, is to be preferred.
Thy best time for marriage will be towards
thirty, for as the younger times are unfit,
either to choose or to govern a wife and
family, so if thou stay long thou shalt
hardly see the education of thy children,
who being left to strangers, are in effect
lost : and better were it to be unborn, than
ill-bred ; for thereby thy posterity shall
either perish, or remain a shame to thy
name and family. Bestow therefore thy
youth so, that thou mayest have comfort to
remember it, when it hath forsaken thee,
and not sigh and grieve at the account
thereof. Whilst thou are young thou wilt
think it will never have an end ; but be-
hold, the longest day hath his evening,
and that thou shalt enjoy it but once —
that it never turns again ; use it therefore


as the spring-time which soon departeth,
and wherein thou oughtest to plant, and
sow all provisions for a long and happy

The Wisest Men have been abused
BY Flatterers. — Take care thou be not
made a fool by flatterers, for even the
wisest men are abused by these. Know
therefore, that flatterers are the worst kind
of traitors ; for they will strengthen thy
imperfections, encourage thee in all evils,
correct thee in nothing, but so shadow and
paint all thy vices and follies, as thou shalt
never, by their will, discern evil from good,
or vice from virtue. And because all men
are apt to flatter themselves, to entertain
the additions of other men's praises, is
most perilous. Do not therefore praise
thyself, except thou wilt be counted a vain-
glorious fool, neither take delight in the
praise of other men, except thou deserve



it, and receive it from such as are worthy
and honest, and will withal warn thee of
thy faults ; for flatterers have never any
virtue, they are ever base, creeping, cow-
ardly persons. A flatterer is said to be a
beast that biteth smiling; it is said by
Isaiah in this manner : * My people, they
that praise thee, seduce thee, and disorder
the paths of thy feet : ' and David desired
God to cut out the tongue of a flatterer.
But it is hard to know them from friends,
they are so obsequious and full of protes-
tations ; for as a wolf resembles a dog, so
doth a flatterer a friend. A flatterer is
compared to an ape, who because she
cannot defend the house like a dog, labour
as an ox, or bear burdens as a horse,
doth therefore yet play tricks and provoke
laughter. Thou mayest be sure that he
that will in private tell thee thy faults, is
thy friend, for he adventures thy dislike,



and doth hazard thy hatred ; for there are
few men that can endure it, every man
for the most part delighting in self-praise,
which is one of the most universal follies
that bewitcheth mankind.

Private Quarrels to be Avoided. —
Be careful to avoid public disputations at
feasts or at tables among choleric or
quarrelsome persons ; and eschew ever-
more to be acquainted or familiar with
ruffians ; for thou shalt be in as much
danger in contending with a brawler in a
private quarrel, as in a battle, wherein
thou mayest get honour to thyself, and
safety to thy prince and country ; but if
thou be once engaged, carry thyself bravely,
that they may fear thee after. To shun
therefore private fight, be well advised in
thy words and behaviour, for honour and
shame is in the talk, and the tongue of a
man causeth him to fall.



Jest not openly at those that are simple,
but remember how much thou art bound
to God, who hath made thee wiser. De-
fame not any woman publicly, though
thou know her to be evil ; for those that
are faulty, cannot endure to be taxed, but
will seek to be avenged of thee ; and those
that are not guilty, cannot endure unjust
reproach. And as there is nothing more
shameful and dishonest, than to do wrong,
so truth itself cutteth his throat that carri-
eth her publicly in every place. Remember
the divine saying, ' he that keepeth his
mouth, keepeth his life.' Do therefore right
to all men where it may profit them, and
thou shalt thereby get much love ; and for-
bear to speak evil things of men, though it
be true (if thou be not constrained) and
thereby thou shalt avoid malice and revenge.

Do not accuse any man of any crime,
if it be not to save thyself, thy prince, or



country ; for there is nothing more dis-
honourable, next to treason itself, than to
be an accuser. Notwithstanding I would
not have thee for any respect lose thy
reputation, or endure public disgrace : for
better it were not to live, than to live a
coward, if the offence proceed not from
thyself: if it do, it shall be better to
compound it upon good terms, than to
hazard thyself; for if thou overcome,
thou art under the cruelty of the law, if
thou art overcome, thou art dead or dis-
honoured. If thou therefore contend, or
discourse in argument, let it be with wise
and sober men, of whom thou must learn
by reasoning, and not with ignorant per-
sons ; for thou shalt thereby instruct
those that will not thank thee, and will
utter what they have learned from thee
for their own. But if thou know more
than other men, utter it when it may do



thee honour, and not in assemblies of
ignorant and common persons.

Speaking much, also, is a sign of vanity ;
for he that is lavish in words, is a niggard
in deeds ; and as Solomon saith, ' The
mouth of a wise man is in his heart, the
heart of a fool is in his mouth, because
what he knoweth or thinketh, he utter-
eth.' And by thy words and discourses,
men will judge thee. For as Socrates
saith, ' Such as thy words are, such will
thy affections be esteemed ; and such will
thy deeds as thy affections, and such thy
hfe as thy deeds.' Therefore be advised
what thou dost discourse of, what thou
maintainest; whether touching religion,
state, or vanity ; for if thou err in the
first, thou shah be accounted profane ; if
in the second, dangerous ; if in the third,
indiscreet and foolish. He that cannot
refrain from much speaking, is like a city


without walls, and less pains in the world
a man cannot take, than to hold his
tongue ; therefore if thou observest this
rule in all assemblies, thou shalt seldom
err — restrain thy choler, hearken much
and speak little ; for the tongue is the in-
strument of the greatest good and greatest
evil that is done in the world.

According to Solomon, life and death
are in the power of the tongue : and as
Euripides truly affirmeth,' Every unbridled
tongue, in the end, shall find itself unfor-
tunate ; ' for in all that ever I observed in
the course of worldly things, I ever found
that men's fortunes are oftener made by
their tongues than by their virtues, and
more men's fortunes overthrown thereby
also, than by their vices. And to con-
clude, all quarrels, mischief, hatred, and
destruction, arise from unadvised speech,
and in much speech there are many errors,



out of which thy enemies shall ever take
the most dangerous advantage. And as
thou shalt be happy, if thou thyself ob-
serve these things, so shalt it be most
profitable for thee to avoid their com-
panies that err in that kind; and not to
hearken to tale-bearers, to inquisitive per-
sons, and such as busy themselves with
other men's estates ; that creep into houses
as spies, to learn news which concerns
them not ; for assure thyself such persons
are most base and unworthy, and I never
knew any of them prosper, or respected
amongst worthy or wise men.

Take heed also that thou be not found
a liar ; for a lying spirit is hateful both to
God and man. A liar is commonly a
coward, for he dares not avow truth. A
liar is trusted of no man, he can have no
credit, either in public or private ; and if
there were no more arguments than this,



know that our Lord, in St. John, saith,
' that it is a vice proper to Satan,' lying
being opposite to the nature of God, which
consisteth in truth ; and the gain of lying
is nothing else, but not to be trusted of
any, nor to be believed when we say the
truth. It is said in the Proverbs, ' that
God hateth false lips ; and he that speaketh
lies shall perish.' Thus thou mayst see
and find in all the books of God, how
odious and contrary to God a liar is ; and
for the world, believe it, that it never did
any man good, except in the extremity of
saving life ; for a liar is of a base, un-
worthy, and cowardly spirit.

Three Rules to be observed for the
Preservation of a Man's Estate. —
Amongst all other things of the world,
take care of thy estate, which thou shalt
ever preserve, if thou observe three things ;
first, that thou know what thou hast ;



what every thing is worth that thou hast ;
and to see that thou art not wasted by thy
servants and officers. The second is, that
thou never spend any thing before thou
have it ; for borrowing is the canker and
death of every man's estate. The third
is, that thou suffer not thyself to be
wounded for other men's faults, and
scourged for other men's offences ; which
is, the surety for another ; for thereby
millions of men have been beggared and
destroyed, paying the reckoning of other
men's riot, and the charge of other men's
folly and prodigality ; if thou smart, smart
for thine own sins, and above all things,
be not made an ass to carry the burdens of
other men. If any friend desire thee to
be his surety, give him a part of what thou
hast to spare ; if he press thee farther he
is not thy friend at all, for friendship
rather chooseth harm to itself, than offer-



eth it. If thou be bound for a stranger,
thou art a fool ; if for a merchant thou
puttest thy estate to learn to swim ; if for
a church-man, he hath no inheritance ; if
for a lawyer, he will find an evasion by a
syllable or word, to abuse thee; if for a
poor man thou must pay it thyself; if for
a rich man he needs not : therefore from
suretyship, as from a manslayer or en-
chanter, bless thyself; for the best profit
and return will be this — that if thou force
him for whom thou art bound, to pay it
himself, he will become thy enemy ; if
thou use to pay it thyself, thou wilt be-
come a beggar. And believe thy father
in this, and print it in thy thought — that
what virtue soever thou hast, be it never
so manifold, if thou be poor withal, thou
and thy qualities shall be despised : besides,
poverty is oftentimes sent as a curse of
God, it is a shame amongst men, an im-



prisonment of the mind, a vexation of
every worthy spirit ; thou shalt neither
help thyself nor others ; thou shalt drown
thee in all thy virtues, having no means to
show them ; thou shalt be a burden and
an eye-sore to thy friends ; every man
will fear thy company, thou shalt be driven
basely to beg, and depend on others, to
flatter unworthy men, to make dishonest
shifts: and, to conclude, poverty provokes
a man to do infamous and detested deeds.
Let not vanity, therefore, or persuasion
draw thee to that worst of worldly

If thou be rich, it will give thee pleasure
in health, comfort in sickness, keep thy
mind and body free, save thee from many
perils, relieve thee in thy elder years, re-
lieve the poor and thy honest friends, and
give means to thy posterity to live and de-
fend themselves and thine own fame.



Where it is said in the Proverbs, that ' he
shall be sore vexed that is surety for a
stranger, and he that hateth suretyship is
sure ' : it is farther said, ' the poor is hated
even of his own neighbour, but the rich
have many friends.' Lend not to him
that is mightier than thyself, for if thou
lendest him, count it but lost. Be not
surety above thy power, for if thou be
surety think to pay it.

What sort of Servants are fittest
TO BE ENTERTAINED. — Let thy Servants
be such as thou mayest command, and
entertain none about thee but yoemen, to
whom thou givest wages ; for those that
will serve thee without thy hire, will cost
thee treble as much as they that know thy
fare : if thou trust any servant with thy
purse, be sure thou take his account ere
thou sleep ; for if thou put it off, thou
wilt then afterwards for tediousness, neg-



lect it. I myself have thereby lost more
than I am worth. And whatever thy
servant gaineth thereby, he will never
thank thee, but laugh thy simplicity to
scorn ; and besides, 'tis the way to make
thy servants thieves, which else would be

Brave Rags wear soonest out of
Fashion. — Exceed not in the humour of
rags and bravery, for these will soon wear
out of fashion ; but money in thy purse
will ever be in fashion ; and no man is
esteemed for gay garments, but by fools
and women.

Riches not to be sought by evil
Means. — On the other side, take heed
that thou seek not riches basely, nor attain
them by evil means ; destroy no man for
his wealth, nor take any thing from the
poor : for the cry and complaint thereof
will pierce the heavens. And it is most



detestable before God, and most dishon-
ourable before worthy men to wrest any
thing from the needy and labouring soul.
God will never prosper thee in aught, if
thou offend therein : but use thy poor
neighbours and tenants well, pine not them
and their children to add superfluity and
needless expenses to thyself. He that
hath pity on another man's sorrow, shall
be free from it himself; and he that de-
lighteth in, and scorneth the misery of
another, shall one time or other fall into
it himself. Remember this precept, * He
that hath mercy on the poor lendeth unto
the Lord, an-d the Lord will recompense
him what he hath given.' I do not under-
stand those for poor, which are vagabonds
and beggars, but those that labour to live,
such as are old and cannot travel, such
poor widows and fatherless children as are
ordered to be relieved, and the poor tenants


that travail to pay their rents and are
driven to poverty by mischance, and not
by riot or careless expenses ; on such have
thou compassion, and God will bless thee
for it. Make not the hungry soul sorrow-
ful, defer not thy gift to the needy, for if
he curse thee in the bitterness of his soul,
his prayer shall be heard of him that made

What Inconveniences happen to


especial care that thou delight not in wine,
for there never was any man that came to
honour or preferment that loved it ; for it
transformeth a man into a beast, decayeth
health, poisoneth the breath, destroyeth
natural heat, brings a man's stomach to
an artificial heat, deformeth the face, rot-
teth the teeth, and to conclude, maketh a
man contemptible, soon old, and despised
of all wise and worthy men ; hated in thy

I 33]


servants, in thyself and companions ; for
it is a bewitching and infectious vice ; and
remember my words, that it were better
for a man to be subject to any vice than
to it ; for all other vanities and sins are
recovered, but a drunkard will never shake
off the delight of beastliness ; for the
longer it possesses a man, the more he
will delight in it, and the older he groweth,
the more he will be subject to it ; for it
dulleth the spirits and destroyeth the body,
as ivy doth the old tree ; or as the worm
that engendereth in the kernel of the

Take heed therefore that such a cure-
less canker pass not thy youth, nor such a
beastly infection thy old age ; for then
shall all thy life be but as the life of a
beast, and after thy death, thou shalt only
leave a shameful infamy to thy posterity,
who shall study to forget that such a one



was their father. Anacharsis saith, the
first draught serveth for health, the second
for pleasure, the third for shame, the
fourth for madness ; but in youth there is
not so much as one draught permitted ;
for it putteth fire to fire ; and therefore
except thou desire to hasten thine end,
take this for a general rule, that thou
never add any artificial heat to thy body,
by wine or spice, until thou find that time
hath decayed thy natural heat, and the
sooner thou beginnest to help nature, the
sooner she will forsake thee, and trust al-
together to art. Who have misfortunes,
saith Solomon, who have sorrow and grief,
who have trouble without fighting, stripes
without cause, and faintness of eyes ? even
they that sit at wine, and strain themselves
to empty cups. Pliny saith, wine maketh

1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryAlfred Raymond JohnsPractical wisdom; letters to young men → online text (page 1 of 8)