Mirror of Literature,  11 (1828), 227–29.

The Man of Promise



Introduction; Short Fiction; Afterword


Genius, Providence, Endeavour, Education, Schools, Mathematics, Physiognomy

    Considers that differences in intellectual ability, while to some degree dependent on variations in native ability, are much less so than generally supposed. Suggests reasons why many do not more effectually improve their intellectual faculties. Argues that, nevertheless, 'Real genius [...] accompanied by good sense, will break through the trammels of circumstance, undismayed by privations, unchecked by obstacles'. Expounds the powers of such genius, suggesting that its 'knowledge of things appears to be gained by intuition'. (227) Discusses the vanity of genius and pretenders to genius. Narrates a story of one such pretender, Thraso, who was considered a 'prodigy of skill' at 'a public school in the north' because he could 'solve a question in Double Position by the rule of Algebra' (228). Seeking to maintain such appearances in the wider world, Thraso frequently made a fool of himself: 'If the subject of physiognomy be introduced, and whether the visage be a true index of the mind, Thraso [...] remarks that it is not as one of the Latin poets, he thinks Sallust, decides the question by saying, Fronti nulla fides'. In an afterword, argues that real merit would be better distinguished from superficial pretension, if the rising generation were given 'a better grounded, and more solid, but less extended education'. (229)

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