Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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The Sussex Diarists.                      57
that of Thomas Turner. Here is the chief entry:—"Mr. Rogers came to the school and brought with him four volumes of Pamela, for which I paed him 4s. 6d., and bespoke Duck's Poems for Mr. Kine and a Caution to Swearers for myself (!) He wanted to borrow of me the three volumes of Philander and Silvia, which I promised to lend him. I went to Mr. Baker's for the list of scholars, and found him alone in the smoaking-room; he ordered a pint of mild beer for me, an extraordinary thing. Left at Mr. Rogers' the three volumes of Love Letters from a Nobleman to his Sister."
The majority of these works do not bespeak a very refined taste, and none of them have anything to do with scholarship. In fact, it is clear that Master Walter Gale's heart was not in his school, nor was his time given to his scholars. He took to teaching, like too many Masters of his day, to earn a living, and he was accepted for want of a better man and because little real interest was felt in the education of the people. A great many people believed, in the last century—and the belief came down to our own times, though now pretty well extinct —that the working classes were better without reading and writing—that such things did more harm than good. As then taught, perhaps, there was some truth in it. In one of the altercations between " old Kent" and the schoolmaster of Mayfield the former said that " I (Walter Gale) spent my time in reading printed papers, to the neglect of the children; and that I was covetous . . . that the children did not improve, and that he would get an old woman for 2d. a-week that would teach them better." To which the Master replied that " many of them (the boys) were extremely dull, and that I would defie any person that should undertake it to teach them better."
Altogether, the glimpse we have in this diary of the Free School of Mayfield is not calculated to raise our ideas of the education of the people in the middle of the 18th century; and if it were general, as there is reason to believe it was, it cannot be a matter of surprise that at the beginning of the
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