… is from page 114 of Albert Venn Dicey’s 1905 volume, Lectures on the Relation Between Law & Public Opinion in England During the Nineteenth Century ; it is from a footnote that follows a long list of the names of prominent late-18th and early-19th-century Brits – for example, Jane Austen, Robert Burns, and Thomas Paine – each of whom came from very modest families and many of whom never acquired more than small amounts of formal education. Specifically, Dicey’s point is about
the difference between the extension of knowledge and the extension of education. Receptivity of information which is cultivated and rewarded in schools and also in Universities, is a totally different thing from the education, sometimes conferred even by adverse circumstances, which trains a man to seize opportunities either of learning or of advancement. It has been well said that failures in life arise far less often from mere want of knowledge than from want of skill in the seizing of favorable opportunities.