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Plutarch, who was born at Chæronea in Bœotia, probably about A. 50, and was a contemporary of Tacitus and Pliny, has written two works still extant, the well-known Lives, and the less-known Moralia.The Lives have often been translated, and have always been a popular work.
For the spirit of those who are a spurious and bastard breed is apt to be mean and abject: for as the poet truly says, "It makes a man even of noble spirit servile, when he is conscious of the ill fame of either his father or mother."4 On the other hand the sons of illustrious parents are full of pride and arrogance.For natural ability without training is blind: and training without natural ability is defective, and practice without both natural ability and training is imperfect.For just as in farming the first requisite is good soil, next a good farmer, next good seed, so also here: the soil corresponds to natural ability, the training to the farmer, the seed to precepts and instruction.§ To speak generally, what we are wont to say about the arts and sciences is also true of moral excellence, for to its perfect development three things must meet together, natural ability, theory, and practice.By theory I mean training, and by practice working at one's craft.And what trees do not by neglect become gnarled and unfruitful, whereas by pruning they become fruitful and productive?And what constitution so good but it is marred and impaired by sloth, luxury, and too full habit?Paley "to be practically almost unknown to most persons in Britain, even to those who call themselves scholars."1 Habent etiam sua fata libelli. Montaigne, who was a great lover of Plutarch, and who observes in one passage of his Essays that "Plutarch and Seneca were the only two books of solid learning he seriously settled himself to read," quotes as much from the Moralia as from the Lives.And in the seventeenth century I cannot but think the Moralia were largely read at our Universities, at least at the University of Cambridge.For those children, that their parents begot in drink, are wont to be fond of wine and apt to turn out drunkards.And so Diogenes, seeing a youth out of his mind and crazy, said, "Young man, your father was drunk when he begot you." Let this hint serve as to procreation: now let us discuss education.