(Swift) was sent at the age of six to the school at Kilkenny, and in his fifteenth year (1682) was admitted into the University of Dublin.
In his academical studies he was either not diligent or not happy. It must disappoint every reader's expectation that, when at the usual time he claimed the Bachelorship of Arts, he was found by the examiners too conspicuously deficient for regular admission, and obtained his degree at last by special favour; a term used in that university to denote want of merit.
Of this disgrace it may be easily supposed that he was much ashamed, and shame had its proper effect in producing reformation. He resolved from that time to study eight hours a-day, and continued his industry for seven years, with what improvement is sufficiently known. This part of his story well deserves to be remembered; it may afford useful admonition and powerful encouragement to men, whose abilities have been made for a time useless by their passions or pleasures, and who, having lost one part of life in idleness, are tempted to throw away the remainder in despair.In this course of daily application he continued three years longer at Dublin;...
It is easy to imagine that the mode in which his first degree was conferred left him no great fondness for the University of Dublin, and therefore he resolved to become a Master of Arts at Oxford. In the testimonial which he produced, the words of disgrace were omitted, and he took his Master's degree (July 5, 1692) with such reception and regard as fully contented him.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Dr Samuel Johnson -- a Life of Jonathan Swift -- I read about in a book about psychotherapy which was a library discard. It was pointed out as an example of catching up later in life in one's studies. Of course, he was still only 25 when he got his Master's, but the point was that you can mess up earlier in life and it's not necessarily irredeemable.