William Cobbett knows more than you do. It’s a fact and there’s no getting round it. Lucky for you, though, he has written down what he knows so that you can benefit from it. He wrote it down in 1829 but I don’t see why that makes it any less relevant.
You’re still young, aren’t you? Good. Let’s see what advice he has for young men. I have divided the advice into five logical categories to keep things simple. Simply direct your attention to the heading that most closely relates to the area in which you need advice.
In all situations of life, avoid the trammels of the law. Man’s nature must be changed before law-suits will cease… One good rule is to have as little as possible to do with any man who is fond of law-suits, and who, upon every slight occasion, talks of an appeal to the law. Such persons… are, therefore, companions peculiarly disgusting to men of sense.
Nothing is much more discreditable than what is called hard dealing. They say of the Turks, that they know nothing of two prices for the same article; and that to ask an abatement of the lowest shopkeeper is to insult him.
There is such a thing as your quiet ‘pipe-and-pot-companions,’ which are, perhaps, the most fatal of all. Nothing can be conceived more dull, more stupid, more the contrary of edification and rational amusement, than sitting, sotting, over a pot and a glass, sending out smoke from the head, and articulating, at intervals, nonsense about all sorts of things.
By reading the single Act of the 23rd year of EDWARD the THIRD, specifying the price of labour at that time; by reading an Act of Parliament passed in the 24th year of HENRY the EIGHTH; by reading these two Acts, and then reading the CHRONICON PRECIOSUM of BISHOP FLEETWOOD, which shows the price of food in the former reign, you come into full possession of the knowledge of what England was in former times. Divers books teach how the divisions of the country arose, and how its great institutions were established; and the result of this reading is a store of knowledge, which will afford you pleasure for the whole of your life.
I hope that your taste would keep you aloof from the writings of those detestable villains, who employ the powers of their mind in debauching the minds of others, or in endeavours to do it. They present their poison in such captivating forms, that it requires great virtue and resolution to withstand their temptations; and, they have, perhaps, done a thousand times as much mischief in the world as all the infidels and atheists put together. These men ought to be called literary pimps: they ought to be held in universal abhorrence, and never spoken of but with execration.