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   Chapter 3 ON ATTENTION.

Practical Education, Volume I By Maria Edgeworth Characters: 74831

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Pere Bourgeois, one of the missionaries to China, attempted to preach a Chinese sermon to the Chinese. His own account of the business is the best we can give.

"They told me Chou signifies a book, so that I thought whenever the word Chou was pronounced, a book was the subject of discourse; not at all. Chou, the next time I heard it, I found signified a tree. Now I was to recollect Chou was a book, and a tree; but this amounted to nothing. Chou I found also expressed great heats. Chou is to relate. Chou is the Aurora. Chou means to be accustomed. Chou expresses the loss of a wager, &c. I should never have done were I to enumerate all its meanings******.

"I recited my sermon at least fifty times to my servant before I spoke it in public; and yet I am told, though he continually corrected me, that of the ten parts of the sermon (as the Chinese express themselves) they hardly understood three. Fortunately the Chinese are wonderfully patient."

Children are sometimes in the condition in which the Chinese found themselves at this learned missionary's sermon, and their patience deserves to be equally commended. The difficulty of understanding the Chinese Chou, strikes us immediately, and we sympathise with Pere Bourgeois's perplexity; yet, many words, which are in common use amongst us, may perhaps be as puzzling to children. Block (see Johnson's Dictionary) signifies a heavy piece of timber, a mass of matter. Block means the wood on which hats are formed. Block means the wood on which criminals are beheaded. Block is a sea-term for pulley. Block is an obstruction, a stop; and, finally, Block means a blockhead.

There are in our language, ten meanings for sweet, ten for open, twenty-two for upon, and sixty-three for to fall. Such are the defects of language! But, whatever they may be, we cannot hope immediately to see them reformed, because common consent, and universal custom, must combine to establish a new vocabulary. None but philosophers could invent, and none but philosophers would adopt, a philosophical language. The new philosophical language of chemistry was received at first with some reluctance, even by chemists, notwithstanding its obvious utility and elegance. Butter of antimony, and liver of sulphur, flowers of zinc, oil of vitriol, and spirit of sulphur by the bell, powder of algaroth, and salt of alembroth, may yet long retain their ancient titles amongst apothecaries. There does not exist in the mineral kingdom either butter or oil, or yet flowers; these treacherous names[13] are given to the most violent poisons, so that there is no analogy to guide the understanding or the memory: but Custom has a prescriptive right to talk nonsense. The barbarous enigmatical jargon of the ancient adepts continued for above a century to be the only chemical language of men of science, notwithstanding the prodigious labour to the memory, and confusion to the understanding, which it occasioned: they have but just now left off calling one of their vessels for distilling, a death's head, and another a helmet. Capricious analogy with difficulty yields to rational arrangement. If such has been the slow progress of a philosophical language amongst the learned, how can we expect to make a general, or even a partial reformation amongst the ignorant? And it may be asked, how can we in education attempt to teach in any but customary terms? There is no occasion to make any sudden or violent alteration in language; but a man who attempts to teach, will find it necessary to select his terms with care, to define them with accuracy, and to abide by them with steadiness; thus he will make a philosophical vocabulary for himself. Persons who want to puzzle and to deceive, always pursue a contrary practice; they use as great a variety of unmeaning, or of ambiguous words, as they possibly can.[14] That state juggler, Oliver Cromwell, excelled in this species of eloquence; his speeches are models in their kind. Count Cagliostro, and the Countess de la Motte, were not his superiors in the power of baffling the understanding. The ancient oracles, and the old books of judicial astrologers, and of alchymists, were contrived upon the same principles; in all these we are confounded by a multiplicity of words which convey a doubtful sense.

Children, who have not the habit of listening to words without understanding them, yawn and writhe with manifest symptoms of disgust, whenever they are compelled to hear sounds which convey no ideas to their minds. All supernumerary words should be avoided in cultivating the power of attention.

The common observation, that we can attend to but one thing at a time, should never be forgotten by those who expect to succeed in the art of teaching. In teaching new terms, or new ideas, we must not produce a number at once. It is prudent to consider, that the actual progress made in our business at one sitting is not of so much consequence, as the desire left in the pupil's mind to sit again. Now a child will be better pleased with himself, and with his tutor, if he acquire one distinct idea from a lesson, than if he retained a confused notion of twenty different things. Some people imagine, that as children appear averse to repetition, variety will amuse them. Variety, to a certain degree, certainly relieves the mind; but then the objects which are varied must not all be entirely new. Novelty and variety, joined, fatigue the mind. Either we remain passive at the show, or else we fatigue ourselves with ineffectual activity.

A few years ago, a gentleman[15] brought two Eskimaux to London-he wished to amuse, and at the same time to astonish, them with the great magnificence of the metropolis. For this purpose, after having equipped them like English gentlemen, he took them out one morning to walk through the streets of London. They walked for several hours in silence; they expressed neither pleasure nor admiration at any thing which they saw. When their walk was ended, they appeared uncommonly melancholy and stupified. As soon as they got home, they sat down with their elbows upon their knees, and hid their faces between their hands. The only words they could be brought to utter, were, "Too much smoke-too much noise-too much houses-too much men-too much every thing!"

Some people who attend public lectures upon natural philosophy, with the expectation of being much amused and instructed, go home with sensations similar to those of the poor Eskimaux; they feel that they have had too much of every thing. The lecturer has not time to explain his terms, or to repeat them till they are distinct in the memory of his audience.[16] To children, every mode of instruction must be hurtful which fatigues attention; therefore, a skilful preceptor will, as much as possible, avoid the manner of teaching, to which the public lecturer is in some degree compelled by his situation. A private preceptor, who undertakes the instruction of several pupils in the same family, will examine with care the different habits and tempers of his pupils; and he will have full leisure to adapt his instructions peculiarly to each.

There are some general observations which apply to all understandings; these we shall first enumerate, and we may afterwards examine what distinctions should be made for pupils of different tempers or dispositions.

Besides distinctness and accuracy in the language which we use, besides care to produce but few ideas or terms that are new in our first lessons, we must exercise attention only during very short periods. In the beginning of every science pupils have much laborious work; we should therefore allow them time; we should repress our own impatience when they appear to be slow in comprehending reasons, or in seizing analogies. We often expect, that those whom we are teaching should know some things intuitively, because these may have been so long known to us that we forget how we learned them. We may from habit learn to pass with extraordinary velocity from one idea to another. "Some often repeated processes of reasoning or invention," says Mr. Stewart, "may be carried on so quickly in the mind, that we may not be conscious of them ourselves." Yet we easily convince ourselves that this rapid facility of thought is purely the result of practice, by observing the comparatively slow progress of our understandings in subjects to which we have not been accustomed: the progress of the mind is there so slow, that we can count every step.

We are disposed to think that those must be naturally slow and stupid, who do not perceive the resemblances between objects which strike us, we say, at the first glance. But what we call the first glance is frequently the fiftieth: we have got the things completely by heart; all the parts are known to us, and we are at leisure to compare and judge. A reasonable preceptor will not expect from his pupils two efforts of attention at the same instant; he will not require them at once to learn terms by heart, and to compare the objects which those terms represent; he will repeat his terms till they are thoroughly fixed in the memory; he will repeat his reasoning till the chain of ideas is completely formed.

Repetition makes all operations easy; even the fatigue of thinking diminishes by habit. That we may not increase the labour of the mind unseasonably, we should watch for the moment when habit has made one lesson easy, and when we may go forward a new step. In teaching the children at the House of Industry at Munich to spin, Count Rumford wisely ordered that they should be made perfect in one motion before any other was shown to them: at first they were allowed only to move the wheel by the treadle with their feet; when, after sufficient practice, the foot became perfect in its lesson, the hands were set to work, and the children were allowed to begin to spin with coarse materials. It is said that these children made remarkable good spinners. Madame de Genlis applied the same principle in teaching Adela to play upon the harp.[17]

In the first attempts to learn any new bodily exercise, as fencing or dancing, persons are not certain what muscles they must use, and what may be left at rest; they generally employ those of which they have the most ready command, but these may not always be the muscles which are really wanted in the new operation. The simplest thing appears difficult, till, by practice, we have associated the various slight motions which ought to be combined. We feel, that from want of use, our motions are not obedient to our will, and to supply this defect, we exert more strength and activity than is requisite. "It does not require strength; you need not use so much force; you need not take so much pains;" we frequently say to those who are making the first painful awkward attempts at some simple operation. Can any thing appear more easy than knitting, when we look at the dexterous, rapid motions of an experienced practitioner? But let a gentleman take up a lady's knitting needles, and knitting appears to him, and to all the spectators, one of the most difficult and laborious operations imaginable. A lady who is learning to work with a tambour needle, puts her head down close to the tambour frame, the colour comes into her face, she strains her eyes, all her faculties are exerted, and perhaps she works at the rate of three links a minute. A week afterwards, probably, practice has made the work perfectly easy; the same lady goes rapidly on with her work; she can talk and laugh, and perhaps even think, whilst she works. She has now discovered that a number of the motions, and a great portion of that attention which she thought necessary to this mighty operation, may be advantageously spared.

In a similar manner, in the exercise of our minds upon subjects that are new to us, we generally exert more attention than is necessary or serviceable, and we consequently soon fatigue ourselves without any advantage. Children, to whom many subjects are new, are often fatigued by these overstrained and misplaced efforts. In these circumstances, a tutor should relieve the attention by introducing indifferent subjects of conversation; he can, by showing no anxiety himself, either in his manner or countenance, relieve his pupil from any apprehension of his displeasure, or of his contempt; he can represent that the object before them is not a matter of life and death; that if the child does not succeed in the first trials, he will not be disgraced in the opinion of any of his friends; that by perseverance he will certainly conquer the difficulty; that it is of little consequence whether he understands the thing in question to-day or to-morrow; these considerations will calm the over-anxious pupil's agitation, and, whether he succeed or not, he will not suffer such a degree of pain as to disgust him in his first attempts.

Besides the command which we, by this prudent management, obtain over the pupil's mind, we shall also prevent him from acquiring any of those awkward gestures and involuntary motions which are sometimes practised to relieve the pain of attention.

Dr. Darwin observes, that when we experience any disagreeable sensations, we endeavour to procure ourselves temporary relief by motions of those muscles and limbs which are most habitually obedient to our will. This observation extends to mental as well as to bodily pain; thus persons in violent grief wring their hands and convulse their countenances; those who are subject to the petty, but acute miseries of false shame, endeavour to relieve themselves by awkward gestures and continual motions. A plough-boy, when he is brought into the presence of those whom he thinks his superiors, endeavours to relieve himself from the uneasy sensations of false shame, by twirling his hat upon his fingers, and by various uncouth gestures. Men who think a great deal, sometimes acquire habitual awkward gestures, to relieve the pain of intense thought.

When attention first becomes irksome to children, they mitigate the mental pain by wrinkling their brows, or they fidget and put themselves into strange attitudes. These odd motions, which at first are voluntary, after they have been frequently associated with certain states of mind, constantly recur involuntarily with those feelings or ideas with which they have been connected. For instance, a boy, who has been used to buckle and unbuckle his shoe, when he repeats his lesson by rote, cannot repeat his lesson without performing this operation; it becomes a sort of artificial memory, which is necessary to prompt his recollective faculty. When children have a variety of tricks of this sort, they are of little consequence; but when they have acquired a few constant and habitual motions, whilst they think, or repeat, or listen, these should be attended to, and the habits should be broken, otherwise these young people will appear, when they grow up, awkward and ridiculous in their manners; and, what is worse, perhaps their thoughts and abilities will be too much in the power of external circumstances. Addison represents, with much humour, the case of a poor man who had the habit of twirling a bit of thread round his finger; the thread was accidentally broken, and the orator stood mute.

We once saw a gentleman get up to speak in a public assembly, provided with a paper of notes written in pencil: during the exordium of his speech, he thumbed his notes with incessant agitation; when he looked at the paper, he found that the words were totally obliterated; he was obliged to apologize to his audience; and, after much hesitation, sat down abashed. A father would be sorry to see his son in such a predicament.

To prevent children from acquiring such awkward tricks whilst they are thinking, we should in the first place take care not to make them attend for too long a time together, then the pain of attention will not be so violent as to compel them to use these strange modes of relief. Bodily exercise should immediately follow that entire state of rest, in which our pupils ought to keep themselves whilst they attend. The first symptoms of any awkward trick should be watched; they are easily prevented by early care from becoming habitual. If any such tricks have been acquired, and if the pupil cannot exert his attention in common, unless certain contortions are permitted, we should attempt the cure either by sudden slight bodily pain, or by a total suspension of all the employments with which these bad habits are associated. If a boy could not read without swinging his head like a pendulum, we should rather prohibit him from reading for some time, than suffer him to grow up with this ridiculous habit. But in conversation, whenever opportunities occur of telling him any thing in which he is particularly interested, we should refuse to gratify his curiosity, unless he keeps himself perfectly still. The excitement here would be sufficient to conquer the habit.

Whatever is connected with pain or pleasure commands our attention; but to make this general observation useful in education, we must examine what degrees of stimulus are necessary for different pupils, and in different circumstances. We have formerly observed,[18] that it is not prudent early to use violent or continual stimulus, either of a painful or a pleasurable nature, to excite children to application, because we should by an intemperate use of these, weaken the mind, and because we may with a little patience obtain all we wish without these expedients. Besides these reasons, there is another potent argument against using violent motives to excite attention; such motives frequently disturb and dissipate the very attention which they attempt to fix. If a child be threatened with severe punishment, or flattered with the promise of some delicious reward, in order to induce his performance of any particular task, he desires instantly to perform the task; but this desire will not ensure his success: unless he has previously acquired the habit of voluntary exertion, he will not be able to turn his mind from his ardent wishes, even to the means of accomplishing them. He will be in the situation of Alnaschar in the Arabian tales, who, whilst he dreamt of his future grandeur, forgot his immediate business. The greater his hope or fear, the greater the difficulty of his employing himself.

To teach any new habit or art, we must not employ any alarming excitements: small, certain, regularly recurring motives, which interest, but which do not distract the mind, are evidently the best. The ancient inhabitants of Minorca were said to be the best slingers in the world; when they were children, every morning what they were to eat was slightly suspended from high poles, and they were obliged to throw down their breakfasts with their slings from the places where they were suspended, before they could satisfy their hunger. The motive seems to have been here well proportioned to the effect that was required; it could not be any great misfortune to a boy to go without his breakfast; but as this motive returned every morning, it became sufficiently serious to the hungry slingers.

It is impossible to explain this subject so as to be of use, without descending to minute particulars. When a mother says to her little daughter, as she places on the table before her a bunch of ripe cherries, "Tell me, my dear, how many cherries are there, and I will give them to you?" The child's attention is fixed instantly; there is a sufficient motive, not a motive which excites any violent passions, but which raises just such a degree of hope as is necessary to produce attention. The little girl, if she knows from experience that her mother's promise will be kept, and that her own patience is likely to succeed, counts the cherries carefully, has her reward, and upon the next similar trial she will, from this success, be still more disposed to exert her attention. The pleasure of eating cherries, associated with the pleasure of success, will balance the pain of a few moments prolonged application, and by degrees the cherries may be withdrawn, the association of pleasure will remain. Objects or thoughts, that have been associated with pleasure, retain the power of pleasing; as the needle touched by the loadstone acquires polarity, and retains it long after the loadstone is withdrawn.

Whenever attention is habitually raised by the power of association, we should be careful to withdraw all the excitements that were originally used, because these are now unnecessary; and, as we have formerly observed, the steady rule, with respect to stimulus, should be to give the least possible quantity that will produce the effect we want. Success is a great pleasure; as soon as children become sensible to this pleasure, that is to say, when they have tasted it two or three times, they will exert their attention merely with the hope of succeeding. We have seen a little boy of three years old, frowning with attention for several minutes together, whilst he was trying to clasp and unclasp a lady's bracelet; his whole soul was intent upon the business; he neither saw nor heard any thing else that passed in the room, though several people were talking, and some happened to be looking at him. The pleasure of success, when he clasped the bracelet, was quite sufficient; he looked for no praise, though he was perhaps pleased with the sympathy that was shown in his success. Sympathy is a better reward for young children in such circumstances than praise, because it does not excite vanity, and it is connected with benevolent feelings; besides, it is not so violent a stimulus as applause.

Instead of increasing excitements to produce attention, we may vary them, which will have just the same effect. When sympathy fails, try curiosity; when curiosity fails, try praise; when praise begins to lose its effect, try blame; and when you go back again to sympathy, you will find that, after this interval, it will have recovered all its original power. Doctor Darwin, who has the happy art of illustrating, from the most familiar circumstances in real life, the abstract theories of philosophy, gives us the following picturesque instance of the use of varying motives to prolong exertion.

"A little boy, who was tired of walking, begged of his papa to carry him. "Here," says the reverend doctor, "ride upon my gold headed cane;" and the pleased child, putting it between his legs, galloped away with delight. Here the aid of another sensorial power, that of pleasurable sensation, superadded power to exhausted volition, which could otherwise only have been excited by additional pain, as by the lash of slavery."[19]

Alexander the Great one day saw a poor man carrying upon his shoulders a heavy load of silver for the royal camp: the man tottered under his burden, and was ready to give up the point from fatigue. "Hold on, friend, the rest of the way, and carry it to your own tent, for it is yours," said Alexander.

There are some people, who have the power of exciting others to great mental exertions, not by the promise of specific rewards, or by the threats of any punishment, but by the ardent ambition which they inspire, by the high value which is set upon their love and esteem. When we have formed a high opinion of a friend, his approbation becomes necessary to our own self-complacency, and we think no labour too great to satisfy our attachment. Our exertions are not fatiguing, because they are associated with all the pleasurable sensations of affection, self-complacency, benevolence, and liberty. These feelings, in youth, produce all the virtuous enthusiasm characteristic of great minds; even childhood is capable of it in some degree, as those parents well know, who have never enjoyed the attachment of a grateful affectionate child. Those, who neglect to cultivate the affections of their pupils, will never be able to excite them to "noble ends," by "noble means." Theirs will be the dominion of fear, from which reason will emancipate herself, and from which pride will yet more certainly revolt.

If Henry the Fourth of France had been reduced, like Dionysius the tyrant of Syracuse, to earn his bread as a schoolmaster, what a different preceptor he would probably have made! Dionysius must have been hated by his scholars as much as by his subjects, for it is said, that "he[20] practised upon children that tyranny which he could no longer exercise over men."

The ambassador, who found Henry the Fourth playing upon the carpet with his children, would probably have trusted his own children, if he had any, to the care of such an affectionate tutor.

Henry the Fourth would have attached his pupils whilst he instructed them; they would have exerted themselves because they could not have been happy without his esteem. Henry's courtiers, or rather his friends, for though he was a king he had friends, sometimes expressed surprise at their own disinterestedness: "This king pays us with words," said they, "and yet we are satisfied!" Sully, when he was only Baron de Rosny, and before he had any hopes of being a duke, was once in a passion with the king his master, and half resolved to leave him: "But I don't know how it was," says the honest minister, "with all his faults, there is something about Henry which I found I could not leave; and when I met him again, a few words made me forget all my causes of discontent."

Children are more easily attached than courtiers, and full as easily rewarded. When once this generous desire of affection and esteem is raised in the mind, their exertions seem to be universal and spontaneous: children are then no longer like machines, which require to be wound up regularly to perform certain revolutions; they are animated with a living principle, which directs all that it inspires.

We have endeavoured to point out the general excitements, and the general precautions, to be used in cultivating the power of attention; it may be expected, that we should more particularly apply these to the characters of different pupils. We shall not here examine whether there be any original difference of character or intellect, because this would lead into a wide theoretical discussion; a difference in the temper and talents of children early appears, and some practical remarks may be of service to correct defects, or to improve abilities, whether we suppose them to be natural or acquired. The first differences which a preceptor observes between his pupils, when he begins to teach them, are perhaps scarcely marked so strongly as to strike the careless spectator; but in a few years these varieties are apparent to every eye. This seems to prove, that during the interval the power of education has operated strongly to increase the original propensities. The quick and slow, the timid and presumptuous, should be early instructed so as to correct as much as possible their several defects.

The manner in which children are first instructed must tend either to increase or diminish their timidity, or their confidence in themselves, to encourage them to undertake great things, or to rest content with limited acquirements. Young people, who have found from experience, that they cannot remember or understand one half of what is forced upon their attention, become extremely diffident of their own capacity, and they will not undertake as much even as they are able to perform. With timid tempers, we should therefore begin, by expecting but little from each effort, but whatever is attempted, should be certainly within their attainment; success will encourage the most stupid humility. It should be carefully pointed out to diffident children, that attentive patience can do as much as quickness of intellect. If they perceive that time makes all the difference between the quick and the slow, they will be induced to persevere. The transition of attention from one subject to another is difficult to some children, to others it is easy. If all be expected to do the same things in an equal period of time, the slow will absolutely give up the competition; but, on the contrary, if they are allowed time, they will accomplish their purposes. We have been confirmed in our belief of this doctrine by experiments. The same problems have been frequently given to children of different degrees of quickness, and though some succeeded much more quickly than others, all the individuals in the family have persevered till they have solved the questions; and the timid seem to have been more encouraged by this practical demonstration of the infallibility of persevering attention, than by any other methods which have been tried. When, after a number of small successful trials, they have acquired some share of confidence in themselves, when they are certain of the possibility of their performing any given operations, we may then press them a little as to velocity. When they are well acquainted with any set of ideas, we may urge them to quick transition of attention from one to another; but if we insist upon this rapidity of transition, before they are thoroughly acquainted with each idea in the assemblage, we shall only increase their timidity and hesitation; we shall confound their understandings, and depress their ambition.

It is of consequence to distinguish between slow and sluggish attention. Sometimes children appear stupid and heavy, when they are absolutely exhausted by too great efforts of attention: at other times, they have something like the same dulness of aspect, before they have had any thing to fatigue them, merely from their not having yet awakened themselves to business. We must be certain of our pupil's state of mind before we proceed. If he be incapacitated from fatigue, let him rest; if he be torpid, rouse him with a rattling peal of thunder; but be sure that you have not, as it has been said of Jupiter,[21] recourse to your thunder only when you are in the wrong. Some preceptors scold when they cannot explain, and grow angry in proportion to the fatigue they see expressed in the countenance of their unhappy pupils. If a timid child foresees that an explanation will probably end in a phillipic, he cannot fix his attention; he is anticipating the evil of your anger, instead of listening to your demonstrations; and he says, "Yes, yes, I see, I know, I understand," with trembling eagerness, whilst through the mist and confusion of his fears, he can scarcely see or hear, much less understand, any thing. If you mistake the confusion and fatigue of terror for inattention or indolence, and press your pupil to further exertions, you will confirm, instead of curing, his stupidity. You must diminish his fear before you can increase his attention. With children who are thus, from timid anxiety to please, disposed to exert their faculties too much, it is obvious that no excitation should be used, but every playful, every affectionate means should be employed to dissipate their apprehensions.

It is more difficult to manage with those who have sluggish, than with those who have timid, attention. Indolent children have not usually so lively a taste for pleasure as others have; they do not seem to hear or see so quickly; they are content with a little enjoyment; they have scarcely any ambition; they seem to prefer ease to all sorts of glory; they have little voluntary exertion; and the pain of attention is to them so great, that they would preferably endure the pain of shame, and of all the accumulated punishments which are commonly devised for them by the vengeance of their exasperated tutors. Locke notices this listless, lazy humour in children; he classes it under the head "Sauntering;" and he divides saunterers into two species; those who saunter only at their books and tasks; and those who saunter at play and every thing. The book-saunterers have only an acute, the others have a chronic disease; the one is easily cured, the other disease will cost more time and pains.

If, by some unlucky management, a vivacious child acquires a dislike to literary application, he may appear at his books with all the stupid apathy of a dunce. In this state of literary dereliction, we should not force books and tasks of any sort upon him; we should rather watch him when he is eager at amusements of his own selection, observe to what his attention turns, and cultivate his attention upon that subject, whatever it may be. He may be led to think, and to acquire knowledge upon a variety of subjects, without sitting down to read; and thus he may form habits of attention and application, which will be associated with pleasure. When he returns to books, he will find that he understands a variety of things in them which before appeared incomprehensible; they will "give him back the image of his mind," and he will like them as he likes pictures.

As long as a child shows energy upon any occasion, there is hope. If he "lend his little soul"[22] to whipping a top, there is no danger of his being a dunce. When Alcibiades was a child, he was one day playing at dice with other boys in the street; a loaded waggon came up just as it was his turn to throw. At first he called to the driver to stop, but the waggoner would not stop his horses; all the boys, except Alcibiades, ran away, but Alcibiades threw himself upon his face, directly before the horses, and stretching himself out, bid the waggoner drive on if he pleased. Perhaps, at the time when he showed this energy about a game at dice, Alcibiades might have been a saunterer at his book, and a foolish schoolmaster might have made him a dunce.

Locke advises that children, who are too much addicted to what is called play, should be surfeited with it, that they may return to business with a better appetite. But this advice supposes that play has been previously interdicted, or that it is something pernicious: we have endeavoured to show that play is nothing but a change of employment, and that the attention may be exercised advantageously upon a variety of subjects which are not called Tasks.[23]

With those who show chronic listlessness, Locke advises that we should use every sort of stimulus; praise, amusement, fine clothes, eating; any thing that will make them bestir themselves. He argues, that as there appears a deficiency of vigour, we have no reason to fear excess of appetite for any of these things: nay, further still, where none of these will act, he advises compulsory bodily exercise. If we cannot, he says, make sure of the invisible attention of the mind, we may at least get something done, prevent the habit of total idleness, and perhaps make the children desire to exchange labour of body for labour of mind. These expedients will, we fear, be found rather palliative than effectual; if, by forcing children to bodily exercise, that becomes disagreeable, they may prefer labour of the mind; but, in making this exchange, or bargain, they are sensible that they choose the least of two evils. The evil of application is diminished only by comparison in their estimation; they will avoid it whenever they are at liberty. The love of eating, of fine clothes, &c. if they stimulate a slothful child, must be the ultimate object of his exertions; he will consider the performance of his task merely as a painful condition on his part. Still the association of pain with literature continues; it is then impossible that he should love it. There is no active principle within him, no desire for knowledge excited; his attention is forced, it ceases the moment the external force is withdrawn. He drudges to earn his cream bowl duly set, but he will stretch his lubbar length the moment his task is done.

There is another class of children opposed to saunterers, whom we may denominate volatile geniuses. They show a vast deal of quickness and vivacity; they understand almost before a tutor can put his ideas into words; they observe a variety of objects, but they do not connect their observations, and the very rapidity with which they seize an explanation, prevents them from thoroughly comprehending it; they are easily disturbed by external objects when they are thinking. As they have great sensibility, their associations are strong and various; their thoughts branch off into a thousand beautiful, but useless ramifications. Whilst you are attempting to instruct them upon one subject, they are inventing, perhaps, upon another; or they are following a train of ideas suggested by something you have said, but foreign to your business. They are more pleased with the discovery of resemblances, than with discrimination of difference; the one costs them more time and attention than the other: they are apt to say witty things, and to strike out sparks of invention; but they have not commonly the patience to form exact judgments, or to bring their first inventions to perfection. When they begin the race, every body expects that they should outstrip all competitors; but it is often seen that slower rivals reach the goal before them. The predictions formed of pupils of this temperament, vary much, according to the characters of their tutors. A slow man is provoked by their dissipated vivacity, and, unable to catch or fix their attention, prognosticates that they will never have su

fficient application to learn any thing. This prophecy, under certain tuition, would probably be accomplished. The want of sympathy between a slow tutor and a quick child, is a great disadvantage to both; each insists upon going his own pace, and his own way, and these ways are perhaps diametrically opposite. Even in forming a judgment of the child's attention, the tutor, who is not acquainted with the manner in which his pupil goes to work, is liable to frequent mistakes. Children are sometimes suspected of not having listened to what has been said to them, when they cannot exactly repeat the words that they have heard; they often ask questions, and make observations, which seem quite foreign to the present business; but this is not always a proof that their minds are absent, or that their attention is dissipated. Their answers often appear to be far from the point, because they suppress their intermediate ideas, and give only the result of their thoughts. This may be inconvenient to those who teach them; but this habit sufficiently proves that these children are not deficient in attention. To cure them of the fault which they have, we should not accuse them falsely of another. But it may be questioned whether this be a fault; it is absolutely necessary, in many processes of the mind, to suppress a number of intermediate ideas. Life, if this were not practised, would be too short for those who think, and much too short for those who speak. When somebody asked Pyrrhus which of two musicians he liked the best, he answered, "Polysperchon is the best general." This would appear to be the absurd answer of an absent person, or of a fool, if we did not consider the ideas that are implied, as well as those which are expressed.

March 5th, 1796. To-day, at dinner, a lady observed that Nicholson, Williamson, Jackson, &c. were names which originally meant the sons of Nicholas, William, Jack, &c. A boy who was present, H--, added, with a very grave face, as soon as she had finished speaking, "Yes, ma'am, Tydides." His mother asked him what he could mean by this absent speech? H-- calmly repeated, "Ma'am, yes; because I think it is like Tydides." His brother S--eagerly interposed, to supply the intermediate ideas; "Yes, indeed, mother," cried he, "H-- is not absent, because des, in Greek, means the son of (the race of.) Tydides is the son of Tydeus, as Jackson is the son of Jack." In this instance, H-- was not absent, though he did not make use of a sufficient number of words to explain his ideas.

August, 1796. L--, when he returned home, after some months absence, entertained his brothers and sisters with a new play, which he had learned at Edinburgh. He told them, that when he struck the table with his hand, every person present, was instantaneously to remain fixed in the attitudes in which they should be when the blow was given. The attitudes in which some of the little company were fixed, occasioned much diversion; but in speaking of this new play afterwards, they had no name for it. Whilst they were thinking of a name for it, H-- exclaimed, "The Gorgon!" It was immediately agreed that this was a good name for the play, and H--, upon this occasion, was perfectly intelligible, without expressing all the intermediate ideas.

Good judges, form an accurate estimate of the abilities of those who converse with them, by what they omit, as well as by what they say. If any one can show that he also has been in Arcadia, he is sure of being well received, without producing minutes of his journey. In the same manner we should judge of children; if they arrive at certain conclusions in reasoning, we may be satisfied that they have taken all the necessary previous steps. We need not question their attention upon subjects where they give proofs of invention; they must have remembered well, or they could not invent; they must have attended well, or they could not have remembered. Nothing wearies a quick child more than to be forced slowly to retrace his own thoughts, and to repeat the words of a discourse to prove that he has listened to it. A tutor, who is slow in understanding the ideas of his vivacious pupil, gives him so much trouble and pain, that he grows silent, from finding it not worth while to speak. It is for this reason, that children appear stupid and silent, with some people, and sprightly and talkative with others. Those who hope to talk to children with any effect, must, as Rousseau observes, be able to hear as well as to speak. M. de Segrais, who was deaf, was much in the right to decline being preceptor to the Duke de Maine. A deaf preceptor would certainly make a child dumb.

To win the attention of vivacious children, we must sometimes follow them in their zigzag course, and even press them to the end of their own train of thought. They will be content when they have obtained a full hearing; then they will have leisure to discover that what they were in such haste to utter, was not so well worth saying as they imagined; that their bright ideas often, when steadily examined by themselves, fade into absurdities.

"Where does this path lead to? Can't we get over this stile? May I only go into this wood?" exclaims an active child, when he is taken out to walk. Every path appears more delightful than the straight road; but let him try the paths, they will perhaps end in disappointment, and then his imagination will be corrected. Let him try his own experiments, then he will be ready to try yours; and if yours succeed better than his own, you will secure his confidence. After a child has talked on for some time, till he comes to the end of his ideas, then he will perhaps listen to what you have to say; and if he finds it better than what he has been saying himself, he will voluntarily give you his attention the next time you begin to speak.

Vivacious children are peculiarly susceptible of blame and praise; we have, therefore, great power over their attachment, if we manage these excitements properly. These children should not be praised for their happy hits, their first[24] glances should not be extolled; but, on the contrary, they should be rewarded with universal approbation when they give proofs of patient industry, when they bring any thing to perfection. No one can bring any thing to perfection without long continued attention; and industry and perseverance presuppose attention. Proofs of any of these qualities may therefore satisfy us as to the pupil's capacity and habits of attention; we need not stand by to see the attention exercised, the things produced are sufficient evidence. Buffon tells us that he wrote his Epoques de la Nature over eighteen times before he could perfect it to his taste. The high finish of his composition is sufficient evidence to intelligent readers, that he exerted long continued attention upon the work; they do not require to have the eighteen copies produced.

Bacon supposes, that for every disease of the mind, specific remedies might be found in appropriate studies and exercises. Thus, for "bird-witted" children he prescribes the study of mathematics, because, in mathematical studies, the attention must be fixed; the least intermission of thought breaks the whole chain of reasoning, their labour is lost, and they must begin their demonstration again. This principle is excellent; but to apply it advantageously, we should choose moments when a mathematical demonstration is interesting to children, else we have not sufficient motive to excite them to commence the demonstration; they will perceive, that they loose all their labour if their attention is interrupted; but how shall we make them begin to attend? There are a variety of subjects which are interesting to children, to which we may apply Bacon's principle; for instance, a child is eager to hear a story which you are going to tell him; you may exercise his attention by your manner of telling this story; you may employ with advantage the beautiful figure of speech called suspension: but you must take care, that the hope which is long deferred be at last gratified. The young critics will look back when your story is finished, and will examine whether their attention has been wasted, or whether all the particulars to which it was directed were essential. Though in amusing stories we recommend the figure called suspension,[25] we do not recommend its use in explanations. Our explanations should be put into as few words as possible: the closer the connection of ideas, the better. When we say, allow time to understand your explanations, we mean, allow time between each idea, do not fill up the interval with words. Never, by way of gaining time, pay in sixpences; this is the last resource of a bankrupt.

We formerly observed that a preceptor, in his first lessons on any new subject, must submit to the drudgery of repeating his terms and his reasoning, until these are sufficiently familiar to his pupils. He must, however, proportion the number of his repetitions to the temper and habits of his pupils, else he will weary, instead of strengthening, the attention. When a thing is clear, let him never try to make it clearer; when a thing is understood, not a word more of exemplification should be added. To mark precisely the moment when the pupil understands what is said, the moment when he is master of the necessary ideas, and, consequently, the moment when repetition should cease, is, perhaps, the most difficult thing in the art of teaching. The countenance, the eye, the voice, and manner of the pupil, mark this instant to an observing preceptor; but a preceptor, who is absorbed in his own ideas, will never think of looking in his pupil's face; he will go on with his routine of explanation, whilst his once lively, attentive pupil, exhibits opposite to him the picture of stupified fatigue. Quick, intelligent children, who have frequently found that lessons are reiterated by a patient but injudicious tutor, will learn a careless mode of listening at intervals; they will say to themselves, "Oh I shall hear this again!" And if any stray thought comes across their minds, they will not scruple to amuse themselves, and will afterwards ask for a repetition of the words or ideas which they missed during this excursion of fancy. When they hear the warning advertisement of "certainly for the last time this season," they will deem it time enough to attend to the performance. To cure them of this presumption in favour of our patience, and of their own superlative quickness, we should press that quickness to its utmost speed. Whenever we call for their attention, let it be on subjects highly interesting or amusing, and let us give them but just sufficient time with their fullest exertion to catch our words and ideas. As these quick gentlemen are proud of their rapidity of apprehension, this method will probably secure their attention, they will dread the disgrace of not understanding what is said, and they will feel that they cannot understand unless they exert prompt, vigorous, unremitted attention.

The Duchess of Kingston used to complain that she could never acquire any knowledge, because she never could meet with any body who could teach her anything "in two words." Her Grace felt the same sort of impatience which was expressed by the tyrant who expected to find a royal road to Geometry.

Those who believe themselves endowed with genius, expect to find a royal road in every science shorter, and less laborious, than the beaten paths of industry. Their expectations are usually in proportion to their ignorance; they see to the summit only of one hill, and they do not suspect the Alps that will arise as they advance: but as children become less presumptuous, as they acquire more knowledge, we may bear with their juvenile impatience, whilst we take measures to enlarge continually their sphere of information. We should not, however, humour the attention of young people, by teaching them always in the mode which we know suits their temper best. Vivacious pupils should, from time to time, be accustomed to an exact enumeration of particulars; and we should take opportunities to convince them, that an orderly connection of proofs, and a minute observation of apparent trifles, are requisite to produce the lively descriptions, great discoveries, and happy inventions, which pupils of this disposition are ever prone to admire with enthusiasm. They will learn not to pass over old things, when they perceive that these may lead to something new; and they will even submit to sober attention, when they feel that this is necessary even to the rapidity of genius. In the "Curiosities of Literature," there has been judiciously preserved a curious instance of literary patience; the rough draught of that beautiful passage in Pope's translation of the Iliad which describes the parting of Hector and Andromache. The lines are in Pope's hand-writing, and his numerous corrections appear; the lines which seem to the reader to have been struck off at a single happy stroke, are proved to have been touched and retouched with the indefatigable attention of a great writer. The fragment, with all its climax of corrections, was shown to a young vivacious poet of nine years old, as a practical lesson, to prove the necessity of patience to arrive at perfection. Similar examples, from real life, should be produced to young people at proper times; the testimony of men of acknowledged abilities, of men whom they have admired for genius, will come with peculiar force in favour of application. Parents, well acquainted with literature, cannot be at a loss to find opposite illustrations. The Life of Franklin is an excellent example of persevering industry; the variations in different editions of Voltaire's dramatic poetry, and in Pope's works, are worth examining. All Sir Joshua Reynolds's eloquent academical discourses enforce the doctrine of patience; when he wants to prove to painters the value of continual energetic attention, he quotes from Livy the character of Philop?men, one of the ablest generals of antiquity. So certain it is, that the same principle pervades all superior minds: whatever may be their pursuits, attention is the avowed primary cause of their success. These examples from the dead, should be well supported by examples from amongst the living. In common life, occurrences can frequently be pointed out, in which attention and application are amply rewarded with success.

It will encourage those who are interested in education, to observe, that two of the most difficult exercises of the mind can, by practice, be rendered familiar, even by persons whom we do not consider as possessed of superior talents. Abstraction and transition-abstraction, the power of withdrawing the attention from all external objects, and concentrating it upon some particular set of ideas, we admire as one of the most difficult exercises of the philosopher. Abstraction was formerly considered as such a difficult and painful operation, that it required perfect silence and solitude; many ancient philosophers quarrelled with their senses, and shut themselves up in caves, to secure their attention from the distraction caused by external objects. But modern[26] philosophers have discovered, that neither caves nor lamps are essential to the full and successful exercise of their mental powers. Persons of ordinary abilities, tradesmen and shop-keepers, in the midst of the tumult of a public city, in the noise of rumbling carts and rattling carriages, amidst the voices of a multitude of people talking upon various subjects, amidst the provoking interruptions of continual questions and answers, and in the broad glare of a hot sun, can command and abstract their attention so far as to calculate yards, ells, and nails, to cast up long sums in addition right to a farthing, and to make out multifarious bills with quick and unerring precision. In almost all the dining houses at Vienna, as a late traveller[27] informs us "a bill of fare containing a vast collection of dishes is written out, and the prices are affixed to each article. As the people of Vienna are fond of variety, the calculation at the conclusion of a repast would appear somewhat embarrassing; this, however, is done by mechanical habit with great speed; the custom is for the party who has dined to name the dishes, and the quantity of bread and wine. The keller who attends on this occasion, follows every article you name with the sum, which this adds to the calculation, and the whole is performed, to whatever amount, without ink or paper. It is curious to hear this ceremony, which is muttered with great gravity, yet performed with accuracy and despatch."

We coolly observe, when we read these things, "Yes, this is all habit; any body who had used himself to it might do the same things." Yet the very same power of abstracting the attention, when employed upon scientific and literary subjects, would excite our astonishment; and we should, perhaps, immediately attribute it to superior original genius. We may surely educate children to this habit of abstracting the attention, which we allow depends entirely upon practice. When we are very much interested upon any subject, we attend to it exclusively, and, without any effort, we surmount all petty interposing interruptions. When we are reading an interesting book, twenty people may converse round about us, without our hearing one word that they say; when we are in a crowded playhouse, the moment we become interested in the play, the audience vanish from our sight, and in the midst of various noises, we hear only the voices of the actors.

In the same manner, children, by their eager looks and their unaffected absence to all external circumstances, show when they are thoroughly interested by any story that is told with eloquence suited to their age. When we would teach them to attend in the midst of noise and interruptions, we should begin by talking to them about things which we are sure will please them; by degrees we may speak on less captivating subjects, when we perceive that their habit of beginning to listen with an expectation of pleasure is formed. Whenever a child happens to be intent upon any favourite amusement, or when he is reading any very entertaining book, we may increase the busy hum around him, we may make what bustle we please, he will probably continue attentive; it is useful therefore to give him such amusements and such books when there is a noise or bustle in the room, because then he will learn to disregard all interruptions; and when this habit is formed, he may even read less amusing books in the same company without being interrupted by the usual noises.

The power of abstracting our attention is universally allowed to be necessary to the successful labour of the understanding; but we may further observe, that this abstraction is characteristic in some cases of heroism as well as of genius. Charles the Twelfth and Archimedes were very different men; yet both, in similar circumstances, gave similar proofs of their uncommon power of abstracting their attention. "What has the bomb to do with what you are writing to Sweden," said the hero to his pale secretary when a bomb burst through the roof of his apartment, and he continued to dictate his letter. Archimedes went on with his demonstration in the midst of a siege, and when a brutal soldier entered with a drawn sword, the philosopher only begged he might solve his problem before he was put to death.

Presence of mind in danger, which is usually supposed to depend upon our quick perception of all the present circumstances, frequently demands a total abstraction of our thoughts. In danger, fear is the motive which excites our exertions; but from all the ideas that fear naturally suggests, we must abstract our attention, or we shall not act with courage or prudence. In proportion to the violence of our terror, our voluntary exertion must be great to withdraw our thoughts from the present danger, and to recollect the means of escape. In some cases, where the danger has been associated with the use of certain methods of escape, we use these without deliberation, and consequently without any effort of attention; as when we see any thing catch fire, we instantly throw water upon the flames to extinguish them. But in new situations, where we have no mechanical courage, we must exert much voluntary, quick, abstract attention, to escape from danger.

When Lee, the poet, was confined in Bedlam, a friend went to visit him; and finding that he could converse reasonably, or at least reasonably for a poet, imagined that Lee was cured of his madness. The poet offered to show him Bedlam. They went over this melancholy, medical prison, Lee moralising philosophically enough all the time to keep his companion perfectly at ease. At length they ascended together to the top of the building; and, as they were both looking down from the perilous height, Lee seized his friend by the arm, "Let us immortalize ourselves!" he exclaimed; "let us take this leap. We'll jump down together this instant." "Any man could jump down," said his friend, coolly; "we should not immortalize ourselves by that leap; but let us go down, and try if we can jump up again." The madman, struck with the idea of a more astonishing leap than that which he had himself proposed, yielded to this new impulse, and his friend rejoiced to see him run down stairs full of a new project for securing immortality.

Lee's friend, upon this occasion, showed rather absence than presence of mind: before he could have invented the happy answer that saved his life, he must have abstracted his mind from the passion of fear; he must have rapidly turned his attention upon a variety of ideas unconnected by any former associations with the exciting motive-falling from a height-fractured skulls-certain death-impossibility of reasoning or wrestling with a madman. This was the train of thoughts which we might naturally expect to arise in such a situation, but from all these the man of presence of mind turned away his attention; he must have directed his thoughts in a contrary line: first, he must have thought of the means of saving himself, of some argument likely to persuade a madman, of some argument peculiarly suited to Lee's imagination, and applicable to his situation; he must at this moment have considered that alarming situation without thinking of his fears; for the interval in which all these ideas passed in his mind, must have been so short that he could not have had leisure to combat fear; if any of the ideas associated with that passion had interrupted his reasonings, he would not have invented his answer in time to have saved his life.

We cannot foresee on what occasions presence of mind may be wanted, but we may, by education, give that general command of abstract attention, which is essential to its exercise in all circumstances.

Transition of thought, the power of turning attention quickly to different subjects or employments, is another of those mental habits, which in some cases we call genius, and which in others we perceive depends entirely upon practice. A number of trials in one newspaper, upon a variety of unconnected subjects, once struck our eye, and we saw the name of a celebrated lawyer[28] as counsel in each cause. We could not help feeling involuntary admiration at that versatility of genius, which could pass from a fractional calculation about a London chaldron of coals, to the Jamaica laws of insurance; from the bargains of a citizen, to the divorce of a fine lady; from pathos to argument; from arithmetic to wit; from cross examination to eloquence. For a moment we forgot our sober principles, and ascribed all this versatility of mind to natural genius; but upon reflection we recurred to the belief, that this dexterity of intellect was not bestowed by nature. We observe in men who have no pretensions to genius, similar versatility of mind as to their usual employments. The daily occupations of Mr. Elwes's huntsman were as various and incongruous, and required as quick transitions of attention, as any that can well be imagined.

"At[29] four o'clock he milked the cows; then got breakfast for Mr. Elwes and friends; then slipping on a green coat, he hurried into the stable, saddled the horses, got the hounds out of the kennel, and away they went into the field. After the fatigues of hunting, he refreshed himself, by rubbing down two or three horses as quickly as he could; then running into the house to lay the cloth, and wait at dinner; then hurrying again into the stable to feed the horses, diversified with an interlude of the cows again to milk, the dogs to feed, and eight hunters to litter down for the night." Mr. Elwes used to call this huntsman an idle dog, who wanted to be paid for doing nothing!

We do not mean to require any such rapid daily transitions in the exercise of attention from our pupils; but we think that much may be done to improve versatility of mind, by a judicious arrangement of their occupations. When we are tired of smelling a rose, we can smell a carnation with pleasure; and when the sense of smell is fatigued, yet we can look at the beautiful colours with delight. When we are tired of thinking upon one subject, we can attend to another; when our memory is fatigued, the exercise of the imagination entertains us; and when we are weary of reasoning, we can amuse ourselves with wit and humour. Men, who have attended much to the cultivation of their mind, seem to have felt all this, and they have kept some subordinate taste as a refreshment after their labours. Descartes went from the system of the world to his flower-garden; Galileo used to read Ariosto; and the metaphysical Dr. Clarke recovered himself from abstraction by jumping over chairs and tables. The learned and indefatigable chancellor d'Aguesseau declared, that change of employment was the only recreation he ever knew. Even Montaigne, who found his recreation in playing with his cat, educated himself better than those are educated who go from intense study to complete idleness. It has been very wisely recommended by Mr. Locke, that young people should early be taught some mechanical employment, or some agreeable art, to which they may recur for relief when they are tired by mental application.[30]

Doctor Darwin supposes that "animal motions, or configurations of the organs of sense, constitute our ideas.[31] The fatigue, he observes, that follows a continued attention of the mind to one object, is relieved by changing the subject of our thoughts, as the continued movement of one limb is relieved by moving another in its stead." Dr. Darwin has further suggested a tempting subject of experiment in his theory of ocular spectra, to which we refer ingenious preceptors. Many useful experiments in education might be tried upon the principles which are there suggested. We dare not here trust ourselves to speculate upon this subject, because we are not at present provided with a sufficient number of facts to apply our theory to practice. If we could exactly discover how to arrange mental employments so as to induce actions in the antagonist faculties of the mind, we might relieve it from fatigue in the same manner as the eye is relieved by change of colour. By pursuing this idea, might we not hope to cultivate the general power of attention to a degree of perfection hitherto unknown?

We have endeavoured to show how, by different arrangements and proper excitations, a preceptor may acquire that command over the attention of his pupils, which is absolutely essential to successful instruction; but we must recollect, that when the years commonly devoted to education are over, when young people are no longer under the care of a preceptor, they will continue to feel the advantages of a command of attention, whenever they mix in the active business of life, or whenever they apply to any profession, to literature, or science. Their attention must now be entirely voluntary; they will have no tutor to excite them to exertion, no nice habitual arrangements to assist them in their daily occupations. It is of consequence, therefore, that we should substitute the power of voluntary, for the habit of associated, attention. With young children we depend upon particular associations of place, time, and manner, upon different sorts of excitement, to produce habits of employment: but as our pupils advance in their education, all these temporary excitements should be withdrawn. Some large, but distant object, some pursuit which is not to be rewarded with immediate praise, but rather with permanent advantage and esteem, should be held out to the ambition of youth. All the arrangements should be left to the pupil himself, all the difficulties should be surmounted by his own industry, and the interest he takes in his own success and improvement, will now probably be a sufficient stimulus; his preceptor will now rather be his partner than his master, he should rather share the labour than attempt to direct it: this species of sympathy in study, diminishes the pain of attention, and gives an agreeable interest even in the most tiresome researches. When a young man perceives that his preceptor becomes in this manner the companion of his exertions, he loses all suspicion that he is compelled to mental labour; it is improper to say loses, for in a good education this suspicion need not ever be created: he discovers, we should rather say, that all the habits of attention which he has acquired, are those which are useful to men as well as to children, and he feels the advantage of his cultivated powers on every fresh occasion. He will perceive, that young men who have been ill educated, cannot, by any motive, command their vigorous attention, and he will feel the cause of his own superiority, when he comes to any trial of skill with inattentive men of genius.

One of the arguments which Bayle uses, to prove that fortune has a greater influence than prudence in the affairs of men, is founded upon the common observation, that men of the best abilities cannot frequently recollect, in urgent circumstances, what they have said or done; the things occur to them perhaps a moment after they are past. The fact seems to be, that they could not, in the proper moment, command their attention; but this we should attribute to the want of prudence in their early education. Thus, Bayle's argument does not, in this point of view, prove any thing in favour of fortune. Those who can best command their attention, in the greatest variety of circumstances, have the most useful abilities; without this command of mind, men of genius, as they are called, are helpless beings; with it, persons of inferior capacity become valuable. Addison trembled and doubted, and doubted and trembled, when he was to write a common official paper; and it is said, that he was absolutely obliged to resign his place, because he could not decide in time whether he should write a that or a which. No business could have been transacted by such an imbecile minister.

To substitute voluntary for associated attention, we may withdraw some of the usually associated circumstances, and increase the excitement; and we may afterwards accustom the pupil to act from the hope of distant pleasures. Unless children can be actuated by the view of future distant advantage, they cannot be capable of long continued application. We shall endeavour to explain how the value of distant pleasures can be increased, and made to act with sufficient force upon the mind, when we hereafter speak of judgment and of imagination.

It has been observed, that persons of wit and judgment have perhaps originally the same powers, and that the difference in their characters arises from their habits of attention, and the different class of objects to which they have turned their thoughts. The manner in which we are first taught to observe, and to reason, must in the first years of life decide these habits. There are two methods of teaching; one which ascends from particular facts to general principles, the other which descends from the general principles to particular facts; one which builds up, another which takes to pieces; the synthetic and the analytic method. The words analysis and synthesis are frequently misapplied, and it is difficult to write or to speak long about these methods without confounding them: in learning or in teaching, we often use them alternately. We first observe particulars; then form some general idea of classification; then descend again to new particulars, to observe whether they correspond with our principle.

Children acquire knowledge, and their attention alternates from particular to general ideas, exactly in the same manner. It has been remarked, that men who have begun by forming suppositions, are inclined to adapt and to compress their consequent observations to the measure of their theories; they have been negligent in collecting facts, and have not condescended to try experiments. This disposition of mind, during a long period of time, retarded improvement, and knowledge was confined to a few peremptory maxims and exclusive principles. The necessity of collecting facts, and of trying experiments, was at length perceived; and in all the sciences this mode has lately prevailed: consequently, we have now on many subjects a treasure of accumulated facts. We are, in educating children, to put them in possession of all this knowledge; and a judicious preceptor will wish to know, not only how these facts can be crammed speedily into his pupil's memory, but what order of presenting them will be most advantageous to the understanding; he will desire to cultivate his pupil's faculties, that he may acquire new facts, and make new observations after all the old facts have been arranged in his mind.

By a judicious arrangement of past experiments, and by the rejection of what are useless, an able instructer can show, in a small compass, what it has cost the labour of ages to accumulate; he may teach in a few hours what the most ingenious pupil, left to his own random efforts, could not have learned in many years. It would take up as much time to go over all the steps which have been made in any science, as it originally cost the first discoverers. Simply to repeat all the fruitless experiments which have been made in chemistry, for instance, would probably employ the longest life that ever was devoted to science; nor would the individual have got one step forwarder; he would die, and with him his recapitulated knowledge; neither he nor the world would be the better for it. It is our business to save children all this useless labour, and all this waste of the power of attention. A pupil, who is properly instructed, with the same quantity of attention, learns, perhaps, a hundred times as much in the same time, as he could acquire under the tuition of a learned preceptor ignorant in the art of teaching.

The analytic and synthetic methods of instruction will both be found useful when judiciously employed. Where the enumeration of particulars fatigues the attention, we should, in teaching any science, begin by stating the general principles, and afterwards produce only the facts essential to their illustration and proof. But wherever we have not accumulated a sufficient number of facts to be accurately certain of any general principle, we must, however tedious the task, enumerate all the facts that are known, and warn the pupil of the imperfect state of the science. All the facts must, in this case, be stored up with scrupulous accuracy; we cannot determine which are unimportant, and which may prove essentially useful: this can be decided only by future experiments. By thus stating honestly to our pupils the extent of our ignorance, as well as the extent of our knowledge; by thus directing attention to the imperfections of science, rather than to the study of theories, we shall avoid the just reproaches which have been thrown upon the dogmatic vanity of learned preceptors.

"For as knowledges are now," says Bacon, "there is a kind of contract of errour between the deliverer and receiver; for he that delivereth knowledge, desireth to deliver it in such a form as may be best believed, and not as may be best examined; and he that receiveth knowledge, desireth rather present satisfaction than expectant inquiry; and so rather not to doubt, than not to err; glory making the author not to lay open his weakness, and sloth making the disciple not to know his strength."[32]

[13] V. Preface to Berthollet's Chemical Nomenclature.

[14] V. Condillac's "Art de Penser."

[15] Major Cartwright. See his Journal, &c.

[16] V. Chapter on Mechanics.

[17] V. Adela and Theodore.

[18] Chapter on Tasks.

[19] Zoonomia, vol. i. page 435.

[20] Cicero.

[21] Lucian.

[22] "And lends his little soul at every stroke." Virg.

[23] V. Chapter II. on Tasks.

[24] Apercues.

[25] Deinology.

[26] V. Condillac Art de Penser.

[27] Mr. Owen.

[28] Mr. Erskine-The Star.

[29] V. Life of John Elwes, Esq. by T. Topham.

[30] V. Chapter on Toys.

[31] Zoonomia, vol. i. p. 21, 24.

[32] Bacon, vol. i. page 84.

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