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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Of the Rudiments of Martin’s Learning
By John Arbuthnot (1667–1735)
From ‘Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus’

MRS. SCRIBLERUS considered it was now time to instruct him in the fundamentals of religion, and to that end took no small pains in teaching him his catechism. But Cornelius looked upon this as a tedious way of instruction, and therefore employed his head to find out more pleasing methods, the better to induce him to be fond of learning. He would frequently carry him to the puppet-show of the creation of the world, where the child, with exceeding delight, gained a notion of the history of the Bible. His first rudiments in profane history were acquired by seeing of raree-shows, where he was brought acquainted with all the princes of Europe. In short, the old gentleman so contrived it to make everything contribute to the improvement of his knowledge, even to his very dress. He invented for him a geographical suit of clothes, which might give him some hints of that science, and likewise some knowledge of the commerce of different nations. He had a French hat with an African feather, Holland shirts, Flanders lace, English clothes lined with Indian silk, his gloves were Italian, and his shoes were Spanish: he was made to observe this, and daily catechized thereupon, which his father was wont to call “traveling at home.” He never gave him a fig or an orange but he obliged him to give an account from what country it came. In natural history he was much assisted by his curiosity in sign-posts; insomuch that he hath often confessed he owed to them the knowledge of many creatures which he never found since in any author, such as white lions, golden dragons, etc. He once thought the same of green men, but had since found them mentioned by Kercherus, and verified in the history of William of Newburg.  1
  His disposition to the mathematics was discovered very early, by his drawing parallel lines on his bread and butter, and intersecting them at equal angles, so as to form the whole superficies into squares. But in the midst of all these improvements a stop was put to his learning the alphabet, nor would he let him proceed to the letter D, till he could truly and distinctly pronounce C in the ancient manner, at which the child unhappily boggled for near three months. He was also obliged to delay his learning to write, having turned away the writing-master because he knew nothing of Fabius’s waxen tables.  2
  Cornelius having read and seriously weighed the methods by which the famous Montaigne was educated, and resolving in some degree to exceed them, resolved he should speak and learn nothing but the learned languages, and especially the Greek; in which he constantly eat and drank, according to Homer. But what most conduced to his easy attainment of this language was his love of gingerbread: which his father observing, caused to be stamped with the letters of the Greek alphabet; and the child the very first day eat as far as Iota. By his particular application to this language above the rest, he attained so great a proficiency therein, that Gronovius ingenuously confesses he durst not confer with this child in Greek at eight years old; and at fourteen he composed a tragedy in the same language, as the younger Pliny had done before him.  3
  He learned the Oriental languages of Erpenius, who resided some time with his father for that purpose. He had so early a relish for the Eastern way of writing, that even at this time he composed (in imitation of it) ‘A Thousand and One Arabian Tales,’ and also the ‘Persian Tales,’ which have been since translated into several languages, and lately into our own with particular elegance by Mr. Ambrose Philips. In this work of his childhood he was not a little assisted by the historical traditions of his nurse.  4

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