The compleat English gentleman. Edited for the first time from the author's autograph MS. in the British Museum, with introd., notes, and index by Karl D. Bülbring online

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The Compleat

English Gentleman


The Compleat

English Gentleman

By Daniel Defoe Ql^Pfi

Edited for the First Time from the Author's

Autograph Manuscript in the British

Museum, with Introduction

Notes, and Index

By Karl D. Bulbring, M.A., Ph.D.

London; PubUshed by David Nutt
















Forewords i

Remarks on the History of the Word Gentleman xxxii
On the Education of the Gentry in Former Times, xlv

Text of Defoe's Work i

Introduccion 3



Of the born gentleman, in the common, or modern, or present
acceptation of the word, and as the gentry among us are
pleas'd to understand it ii


Of the great mistakes in the first managing the children of
gentlemen, and of the horrible corrupcion of blood from
the suckling them by those (....). That the ignorance
and the bad educacion of gentlemen of quallity and fortune
is no where in Christendome so entirely neglected as in
this nacion, and some thing of the consequences of it' . 59

1 This heading is struck out in MS.

[ viii ]


Of the generall ignorance of the English gentry, and the
true causes of it in the manner of their introduccion into
life 92


Of what may be the unhappy consequences of this generall
defect in the education of our gentry, and a rational pro-
posall for preventing those consequences .... 144


That it is not to late to put a stop to this national defect of
learning, and that the gentlemen of England, generally
speaking, may in a great measure retriev the loss of
their education by a little voluntary applicacion ; and an
account of some proper and very easie methods for the
doing it I have heard 184


Of the gentleman's government of himself, his family, and

fortune . 232



Of the fund for the increase of our nobillity and gentry in
England, being the begining of those we call bred gentle-
men, with some account of the difference .... 256

Notes 279

Index 289


^^^^HE Compleat English Gentleman, by Daniel
Defoe, which appears now for the first time
in print, is preserved, in the author's hand-
writing, in the manuscript collection of
the British Museum, numbered 32,555 of the Addi-
tional MSS.

John Forster was the first to mention the existence
of the work, in his Biographical Essays, London, i860,
foot-note on page 155. Fuller particulars were made
public by William Lee {Life of Daniel Defoe, London,
1869, pp. 451, 452, and 457), and to these subsequent
writers have added nothing further.

In one point they have all been misled, for the MS.
does not consist of a single work, but includes another,
which is bound up with it and fills the leaves 67-100.
This second work bears the title. On Royall Educa-
cion, and will be published shortly by Mr. David Nutt,

The Compleat English Gentleman was one of Defoe's
last works, the only one published subsequently being
his Effectual Scheme for the Preventing of Street
Robberies, and Suppressing the other Diso7'ders of the


[ X ]

Night (1730). Together with the MS. is preserved
a printed proof-sheet of sixteen pages, containing the
beginning of the work. This seems to be the only
part which was ever put in type. There is extant a
letter written by Defoe to Mr. T. Watts, in Wild Court,
the printer of this sheet, which is important, as it fixes
the date previous to which the work must have been
composed. It is as follows : —

Sir — I am to ask your pardon for keeping the enclosed so long,
Mr. Baker having told me your resolution of taking it in hand and
working it off. But I have been exceedingly ill. I have revised it
again, and contracted it very much, and hope to bring it within the
bulk you desire, or as near it as possible. But this and some
needful alterations will oblige you to much trouble in the first
sheet, and perhaps almost as bad as setting it over again, which
cannot be avoided. I will endeavour to send the rest of the copy
so well corrected as to give you very little trouble. I here return
the first sheet and as much copy as will make near three sheets
more. You shall have all the remainder so as not to let you stand
still at all.

I am, Sir,

Your most humble servant,

De Foe.
Sept. loth, 1729.

The terminus a quo is furnished by internal evidence
of the work itself. Many historical facts are mentioned,
the latest of which are these : —

On page 35, Peter the Great, who died January 28,
1725, is spoken of as the late Czar, and his Avife and
successor, Catherine I., who died May 17, 1727, as the
late Empress ; whilst Prince Menchikoff, who was
deprived of the Regency and sent to Siberia in
September 1727, is alluded to as being in exile.

[ -^i ]

Thus, allowing some time for the news to reach
London, and taking into account the delay mentioned
in the letter, we get the year 1728 and the earlier half
of 1729 as the date of composition.

The manuscript and proof-sheet appear to have
remained in the possession of Defoe's relations, the
Baker family, for more than a hundred years, as Mr.
Dawson Turner, of Great Yarmouth, bought them in
183 I from the Rev. H. D. F. Baker, the descendant
of Henry Baker, son-in-law of Defoe, for ^^69, the
British Museum not having ventured to go beyond
^35.^ At the sale of his MSS. in 1859 Defoe's
treatise was purchased by Mr. James Crossley for
£j^ 8i-. (including commission).' The British Museum
bought it on June 20, 1885, at Sotheby's (Crossley
Sale, lot 2973).

The MS. is a small quarto, and consists of 142
leaves, the printed sheet being affixed at the end.
According to Mr. Francis B. Bickley, of the British
Museum, the binding was certainly done when the MS.
belonged to Dawson Turner, since many of his other
MSS. are bound in exactly the same style. The proof-
sheet has a few corrections, but in a handwriting
different from Defoe's. The MS. itself is in Defoe's
own firm, small, and close writing. As a rule, only one
side of the paper is written on, but many insertions and
notes are added on the opposite page. The first leaf

1 Forster, page 155 ; Lee, page 457; and Dawson Turner's Sale

^ Seethe fly-leaf of the MS., where also this remark in Crossley's
hand is to be found : " For an admirer of Defoe this volutne is a

[ >^ii ]

contains the title. On the next six leaves are three
different Introductions, of which the first, filling folio 2,
runs thus : —

The True Bred Gentleman.

Nothing in the worid can be more prepoflerous, and yet nothing
of the kind is more warmly efpoufed and dogmatically infifted upon,
than the grofs nocions of ^ nobillity and gentiUity, as they are at this
time entertained among [us]."

If it were to be defended by reafoning, or fupported by argument,
we fhould certainly have found fomething among the antients for
an opinion that has taken fuch deep root among us.

If phylofophy or the laws of Nature were furnifhed with anything
to fupply the defeft of argument, they would have been fearcht to
the bottom long agoe.

If anatomy, or the flrictefl inquiry into the microcofme of the
creature called man could afford anything in its favour, fomething
might be found in the learned anatomifls of the age.

But if neither phylofophy, reafon, or demonflration of parts can
fhew any fpecific difference between the Patricij and the Plebei, if
the whole kind is formed in the fame mould, if all the parts arc
the fame, if the form is the fame, and the materialls the fame ;
where then mufl we fearch for the gentleman, among the remains
of antiquity, or among the works of Nature ?^

This brief preface does not suit with the beginning
of the first chapter, as it partly contradicts and partly
anticipates what is said there.

The second Introduction (fol. 3-5) is the one adopted
for the present edition, as it agrees best with the treatise
that follows, though it seems incomplete, ending abruptly

^ MS. of of. 2 tis omitted in MS.

3 At the bottom of the page : " Mr. Furlong at or near the King's
Amis at Hungerford Market in the Strand."

[ -^iii ]

as it does in the middle of folio 5^. It does not seem
that anything is lost, but that Defoe broke off at this

The third Introduction (fol. ^-7^ is in parts very like
the one I have chosen, and is full of witty and striking
remarks. I reproduce it here : —


The grave ones tell us that every age has its peculiar favourite
follyes, fmgular to itfelf, which the people are all wayes fond of and
blind to the weaknefs of them ; and if I may judge of the pafl times
by the prefent, I believ 'tis very true.

It is true, in former ages, when the fimple things they have taken
up with, have run fome length and this or that vice has been
fafhionable for a time, the flucfluating palate has chang'd its gufl, the
habit has fmelt ftale, they have grown fick of their old mifflrefs, and
fac'd about to fome other extravagance : whether this age will do
fo, or how long it may be, or if, when they do, they will change for
the better or for the worfe, where is the conjuror that can tell ?

It might be ufefull, if it were not for being tedious, to run over
the world and giv a lift of nacionall follyes, and to look back into
time and trace periodicall extravagances of particular ages in thofe
nations feparately or among man-kind univerfally : how one age
has been quarrelfome, another drunken,^ another lewd, etc., more
than any before them.

But what need when we are come to the heel of time, when the
W'hole lift being, as it were, worn out, and every humour has had its
day : the world, at prefent, feems to engrofs them into one generall,
and making a kind of democrafie of vices, to let them all reign
together. Yet it is true that even in fuch a Common Wealth of crime
there will be fomepredominant.^ The age will embrace fome peculiar,
and this I take to be our cafe. Pj-ide and ignorance have been the
two tyrant devils of the age. They have reign'd ^ too long and got
fuch a footing that, as I doubt, they will not abdicate ; and particu-

^ MS. druk'en. * MS. predomimit. ^ MS. rign'd.

[ xiv ]

larly as vvc do not fee any worfe to come in their room, fo I can not
fee a probable end of their dominion.

Pride indeed is an original, a child of Hell by imediate genera-
cion, which comes in by a kind of hereditary right ; and it reigns
accordingly like a tyrant.

Ignorance indeed is an upflart, for man was not created a fool :
'Tis a negatio, a deprivacion of knowledge, as darknefs is a depri-
vacion of light.

Nature's produccion is a CJiartc BlancJi^ and the foul is plac'd
in him like a ^ peice of clean paper, upon which the precepts of
life are to be written by his inflrucflors, and he has the charge of
keeping it fair lay'd upon himfelf.

If his introduccion is good, if he is well taught, 'tis his felicity ; if
not, his foul remains a blank, and the world is a blank to him, and
he is miferable by the accident of his birth, not by his fault. But
if this blank be written upon, but either the writing makes no
impreffion or is not carefully preferVd : this is both his mifery and
his fault, and this is the criminal negatio I am to fpeak of. This
is Ignoi-ance in the abflraift.

But to bring thefe two together which one would think was
impoffible — for how can they confifl.'' Is it poffible a man can be
proud of ignorance .'' was ever a crooked man proud of a hump
back, or a cripple proud of his wooden leg ? Was ever a man proud
of the fmall-pox in his face or vain of being fquint ey'd? To'-' be
proud of knowledge,^ tho' it is a blemifh too and a great token of
degeneracy, yet there is fome foundacion for it. There is fomething
at bottom to be proud of, and as Mr. Dryden faid to Shad well : —

Pridofwit and fence may be an e%nl,

But to be proud of 7t07ifence, thafs the Devil.

To be proud of ignorance is to be proud of non-entity. Ignorance
is no being, as black is no colour. 'Tis a demiffion ; 'tis a nothing^
if that can be faid to be that has no being. In fhort, 'tis a name
without a thing, 'tis a noun of emptynefs, a word to fignifye the
want of every thing that is worth anything.

I might examin here the reafon of the generall ignorance, which
we are fo fond of in this age, and how it comes to encreafe as it
^ a omitted in MS. - With a small letter in MS. " Folio 7.

[ XV ]

does ; and I might run it up to its originall, (viz.) the defe^l of
education and inftruccion ; and that indeed may be the true naturall
reafon as we fhall fee afterward : But I am not fo much upon the
grave part yet.

But the prefent caufe of our ignorance, at leafl the befl reafon we
can give for its encreafe, is its being fo fafhionable, and there comes
in the pride of it.

We have a tradition among us, how true I leave to the criticks,
that in the reign of Richard III., commonly, tho' (asfome fay)fainy
caird Crook-back'' d Richard, the courtiers made themfelves huinp^
to wear under their clothes, that fo they might be in the fafhion and
look like the king,^ regis ad exempliun. So by the rule of our
prefent difcourfe, they might fet up for feverall other imitacions in
the round fhouldred age. The Ruffian ladyes, I am told, in the
reign of the late Czar's grandfather, painted their hair red, becaufe
the Czarina's hair was red ; and who knows, had King James II.
reign'd a little longer," fham births, warming pans, and borrow'd
heires might have become a fafhion to prevent alienacion of eflates
and keep the manfion houfe in the i ight line.

How glorious ignorance came to be the fafhion fo much among
us, is not very eafie to fay, or when it had its original. But that
we grow proud of this deformity I mufl date from the fad, viz, of
its being faihionable.

But I am told this is begging the queflion, that it does not appear ;
or to reduce it to a fair enquiry, how do I prov that it is the

If I may be allow'd to answer that queflion with a queflion, at
the fame time promifmg to giv an ample difcovery of the fadl ' in
its place, my queflion fhould be, in fhort, this : —

If Ignorance is not the fafhion, why is it not more out of fafhion .^
why do we decline fending our young noblemen and the fons of
out befl gentry to fchool, and efpecially the eldefl fons, the heirs of
the eflates ? why mufl they have no learning ?

The, tho' weak and foolifh, anfwer is : Why, nobody does it. 'Tis
below his quallity. " What?'''' fayes the lady moiher, "fhall viyfon
go to fchool ! my Jon ' no, indeed, he fhan't go among the rabble of

1 MS. n- ' MS. lo}ig. " "cl:" indistinct.

L ^vi J

every trades-man's boys and be bred up among mechanicks. No, no,
my fon is a gentleman ; my fon, is he not a baronet by his blood ?
and he is born a gentleman, and he fhall be bred a gentleman." —
And fo the young gentleman has a tutor beftow'd on him to teach
him at home ; 'tis taken for a fcandal to the heir of the family to
be under difcipline and under reflraints, and much more to be under
the power and correcion of a forry pedagogue : no, he fhall have
a tutor.

And what is the Englifh of this tutor? 'Tis evedent in the
confequence. The young gentleman has a tutor, that is, a play-
fellow : while he is a child, indeed, he may learn him his letters and
to read Englifh, and indeed, tJiis but fo7'7yly too fometimes, and
very feldome to fpell it. But more of that in its place. Then, with
fome difficulty, he is taught his accidence, which he can rather fay
than underfland, and this carryes him on to 12 or 13 year old,
perhaps farther, according as he is dull or quick. If {end of

There are some very good points in this Introduction ;
but that which has been prefixed to the present edition
deserves the preference, not only as being more complete,
but because it leads more directly to the subject of
the work, and indeed supplies some almost necessary
observations, intended to make the aim of the book
more easily intelligible, and to preclude misunderstand-
ings. It seems not improbable that the two rejected
Introductions were written before entering on the
composition of the work itself, whilst the third was
written, after a good deal, or perhaps the whole, of the
book was completed ; and that Defoe desired, at the
outset, plainly to state his opinion on several points
on which he feared he had not made it sufficiently
clear in the body of the work.

The beginning of the treatise itself is not preserved
in manuscript, but the want is fully supplied by the

[ xvil ]

printed portion. One sheet consisting of two leaves
must have been lost before folio 8, which accordingly
is numbered 2 by Defoe himself ; also folio i o has the
old number 3. The beginning of the text of folio 8 is
found on page 8 of the proof-sheet ; but two insertions
preserved in the printed portion, and which must have
been written on the back of the preceding leaf, are
lost with the first sheet.

The MS. is well preserved, but the close and hurried
writing, the indistinct characters, which may very often
mean different letters, the great number of emendations,
additions, and deleted passages, the extensive use of
contractions and of shorthand and other abbreviations,
and the uncommon, irregular, and often curious and
faulty spelling make it difficult and sometimes perplex-
ing to read. Mr. Francis B. Bickley, of the British
Museum, who made the copy for the printer, has per-
formed his arduous task in a most satisfactory manner,
and, in order to make the reproduction as correct as
possible, the editor has himself compared all doubtful,
difficult, or complicated passages with the MS. while
correcting the proofs. There are a few shorthand
notes in the MS. which it has been impossible to de-
cipher, or to get transcribed by an expert ; but they are
always short, and never form part of the text. All
the shorthand abbreviations in the text we have, I
believe, interpreted correctly.

As Defoe himself states in the letter to his printer,
he has tried to shorten the work, and there are, in con-
sequence, a few deleted passages of some length in the
MS., which are printed at the end of the present
volume among the Notes.

[ xviii ]

In preparing the text for publication I have avoided
needless corrections. In the opening part, which had
to be taken from the printed sheet, I have strictly-
adhered to the old spelling and punctuation, though it
will be seen that both in these and in the use of
capital letters, there are many inconsistencies.

With regard to the MS. itself, I have adhered to the
text, with the following necessary exceptions. I have
expanded all abbreviations, which are very numerous.
Defoe uses a short, thick, horizontal stroke for and,
only occasionally employing the sign & ; a short, thick,
oblique stroke from right to left for tJiat ; a similar one
from left to right for tJie ; but sometimes the well-known
abbreviations y' and y^. An o with a horizontal stroke
means either ivJiich or ivhat ; if crossed obliquely from
right to left, it means particular. Two connected ^'s
stand for good ; a long stroke with an a, for notwitJi-
standing. Another more complicated shorthand abbre-
viation is used for the words government, governor,
and govern ; another for understand and understood ;
likewise the words zvorld, ivould, should, said, children,
compleat, king, Christ and Christian, circumstance, pro-
vidence, necessary, of, satisfaction, are, some of them
usually, some occasionally, represented by shorthand
notations ; a dot before some of them signifies the addi-
tion of an s, — e.g., kings, tJiafs. Acc*^ signifies account ;
und"", 7indcr ; m, mui ; prelimin^', preliminary ; bro\
brought; G, gentleman, or gentlemen, or gentry, or
gentle ; ha', Jiave ; hon''', honourable ; S., Spain ; S'',
Sir; Po., Portuguese ; T — M, tradesman ; Q^, Cardinal;
K"^, kingdom ; Hund^', Inuidreds ; tho'', thoughts ; Q.,
Queen ; sev", s ever all ; Y\o, plenipotentiary ; P., Parlia-

[ ^ix ]

ment ; ps, peicc (Defoe's spelling for piece) \ gen",
generall ; comp% company ; y", thevi ; ord^n^ oj-dinary ;
Abishops, Archbishops; Eng., EnglisJi ; Pat. Nost,,
Paternoster; D., Devil; M., Majesty ; Gent., Gentle-
man; bro., brotJtcr ; fa., fatJicr ; iJ", Lord; ag*',
against ; tho', thought. Defoe also uses the old abbre-
viations for er and r^ after p ; in with this abbreviation
of er means merit. The i between c and c or rt: in such
words as condicion, especially, is either represented by a
flourish over the two neighbouring letters, or omitted

Many of these abbreviations are at once understood,
and the meaning of others was found by comparison
with the printed sheet, whilst several could only be
explained conjecturally by comparing all the passages
in which they occur. To this latter class belong the
words notivithstanding, children, good, pjvvidc/ice, coin-
pleat, Christian, circumstance, and one or two others.
For the sake of scrupulous readers I have pointed out
in foot-notes all the passages where such abbreviations
occur, though I have myself no doubt that the inter-
pretations given are correct.

I have been obliged to supply the punctuation, — as
Defoe scarcely puts any commas, and only very rarely
puts a full stop or other mark ; — and to regulate the use
of capitals (in which I have followed modern usage), as
he puts them quite at random, sometimes even writing
a small letter after a full stop, he makes no distinction
between the capital and the small r,

I have frequently inserted a hyphen where it facili-
tates comprehension, though Defoe never uses it. The
apostrophe is often employed in abbreviations in the

[ ^^ ]

MS., but occasionally I have supplied one in conformity
with modern custom, as in the Saxon genitive, where
Defoe never employs it. Now and then it was neces-
sary to insert a word which had been accidentally
omitted, and, though I do not think that in any instance
there was room for doubt, all such additions are
pointed out at the bottom of the page.

With these exceptions, I have endeavoured accu-
rately to reproduce the original. I have retained
Defoe's spelling, curious and faulty though it often is.
In many words he is simply following the older method,
but this will not serve to excuse his writing hormony,
pi'opogate, and the like, not once only, but frequently, or
as often as the words occur ; and it is amusing to note
that he scoffs at the country gentlemen for not knowing
how to spell while laying himself so open to criticism.
Blunders in spelling, therefore, I have only corrected
where it was evident that letters had been unintentionally
omitted or written twice, as aiumher for cumber, den-
gerate for degenerate, bings for brings ; these corrections
also have been pointed out at the bottom of the page.

Defoe was very fond of long sentences, and the MS.
shows that he frequently inserted additional clauses,
long or short, subordinate or otherwise, explanatory or
merely ornam.ental. Thus the sentence often becomes
so long that he is obliged to repeat the beginning of it
with an " I say " ; and even then he seldom scruples to
heap fresh superfluities on the others. It is therefore
no wonder that he often forgets to complete the origi-
nal construction, and follows the overflowing stream of
his thoughts in a different direction. I need hardly
say that I have not altered such passages in order to

[ xxi ]

make his style more grammatically correct, nor have I
made changes in any other cases where he builds up
his sentences regardless of the ordinary rules of the
English language. At the end of the volume I have
endeavoured to clear up a few allusions which seemed
to require explanation.

It appears, from a passage in the work, that Defoe
intended to publish it anonymously ; he may perhaps
have been conscious that one whose conduct had often
been unscrupulous and dishonest could hardly publish
a treatise on such a subject under his own name. He
begins by adopting the then current acceptation of the
word " gentleman " as " a person born (for there lies the
essence of quality) of some known or ancient family "
(p. 13). Then he goes on to praise the nobility and
gentry as " the glory of Creation, the exalted head of

Online LibraryUnknownThe compleat English gentleman. Edited for the first time from the author's autograph MS. in the British Museum, with introd., notes, and index by Karl D. Bülbring → online text (page 1 of 27)