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   Chapter 8 ON TRUTH.

Practical Education, Volume I By Maria Edgeworth Characters: 59922

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


It is not necessary here to pronounce a panegyric upon truth; its use and value is thoroughly understood by all the world; but we shall endeavour to give some practical advice, which may be of service in educating children, not only to the love, but to the habits, of integrity. These are not always found, as they ought to be, inseparable.

Rousseau's eloquence, and Locke's reasoning, have sufficiently reprobated, and it is to be hoped have exploded, the system of lecturing children upon morality; of giving them precepts and general maxims which they do not understand, and which they cannot apply. We shall not produce long quotations from books which are in every body's hands.[51] There is one particular in which Rousseau especially, and most other authors who have written upon education, have given very dangerous counsel; they have counselled parents to teach truth by falsehood. The privilege of using contrivance, and ingenious deceptions, has been uniformly reserved for preceptors; and the pupils, by moral delusions, and the theatric effect of circumstances treacherously arranged, are to be duped, surprised, and cheated, into virtue. The dialogue between the gardener and Emilius about the Maltese melon-seed, is an instance of this method of instruction. Honest Robert, the gardener, in concert with the tutor, tells poor Emilius a series of lies, prepares a garden, "choice Maltese melon-seed," and "worthless beans," all to cheat the boy into just notions of the rights of property, and the nature of exchange and barter.

Part of the artificial course of experience in that excellent work on education, Adele and Theodore, is defective upon the same principle. There should be no moral delusions; no artificial course of experience; no plots laid by parents to make out the truth; no listening fathers, mothers, or governesses; no pretended confidence, or perfidious friends; in one word, no falsehood should be practised: that magic which cheats the senses, at the same time confounds the understanding. The spells of Prospero, the strangenesses of the isle, perplex and confound the senses and understanding of all who are subjected to his magic, till at length, worked by force of wonders into credulity, his captives declare that they will believe any thing; "that there are men dewlapt like bulls; and what else does want credit," says the Duke Anthonio, "come to me, and I'll be sworn 'tis true."

Children, whose simplicity has been practised upon by the fabling morality of their preceptors, begin by feeling something like the implicit credulity of Anthonio; but the arts of the preceptors are quickly suspected by their subjects, and the charm is for ever reversed. When once a child detects you in falsehood, you lose his confidence; his incredulity will then be as extravagant as his former belief was gratuitous. It is in vain to expect, by the most eloquent manifestoes, or by the most secret leagues offensive and defensive, to conceal your real views, sentiments, and actions, from children. Their interest keeps their attention continually awake; not a word, not a look, in which they are concerned, escapes them; they see, hear, and combine, with sagacious rapidity; if falsehood be in the wind, detection hunts her to discovery.

Honesty is the best policy, must be the maxim in education, as well as in all the other affairs of life. We must not only be exact in speaking truth to our pupils, but to every body else; to acquaintance, to servants, to friends, to enemies. It is not here meant to enter any overstrained protest against the common phrases and forms of politeness; the current coin may not be pure; but when once its alloy has been ascertained, and its value appreciated, there is no fraud, though there may be some folly, in continuing to trade upon equal terms with our neighbours, with money of high nominal, and scarcely any real, value. No fraud is committed by a gentleman's saying he is not at home, because no deception is intended; the words are silly, but they mean, and are understood to mean, nothing more than that the person in question does not choose to see the visiters who knock at his door. "I am, sir, your obedient and humble servant," at the end of a letter, does not mean that the person who signs the letter is a servant, or humble, or obedient, but it simply expresses that he knows how to conclude his letter according to the usual form of civility. Change this absurd phrase, and welcome; but do not let us, in the spirit of Draco, make no distinction between errours and crimes. The foibles of fashion or folly, are not to be treated with the detestation due to hypocrisy and falsehood; if small faults are to incur such grievous punishments, there can, indeed, be none found sufficiently severe for great crimes; great crimes, consequently, for want of adequate punishment, will increase, and the little faults, that have met with disproportionate persecution, will become amiable and innocent in the eyes of commiserating human nature. It is not difficult to explain to young people the real meaning, or rather the nonsense, of a few complimentary phrases; their integrity will not be increased or diminished by either saying, or omitting to say, "I am much obliged to you," or "I shall be very happy to see you at dinner," &c. We do not mean to include in the harmless list of compliments, any expressions which are meant to deceive; the common custom of the country, and of the society in which we live, sufficiently regulates the style of complimentary language; and there are few so ignorant of the world as seriously to misunderstand this, or to mistake civility for friendship.

There is a story told of a Chinese mandarin, who paid a visit to a friend at Paris, at the time when Paris was the seat of politeness. His well-bred host, on the first evening of his arrival, gave him a handsome supper, lodged him in the best bed-chamber, and when he wished him a good night, amongst other civil things, said he hoped the mandarin would, during his stay at Paris, consider that house as his own. Early the next morning, the polite Parisian was awakened by the sound of loud hammering in the mandarin's bed-chamber; on entering the room, he found the mandarin and some masons hard at work, throwing down the walls of the house. "You rascals, are you mad?" exclaimed the Frenchman to the masons. "Not at all, my dear friend," said the Chinese man, soberly, "I set the poor fellows to work; this room is too small for my taste; you see I have lost no time in availing myself of your goodness. Did not you desire me to use this house as if it were my own, during my stay at Paris?" "Assuredly, my dear friend, and so I hope you will," replied the French gentleman, "the only misfortune here is, that I did not understand Chinese, and that I had no interpreter." They found an interpreter, or a Chinese dictionary, and when the Parisian phrase was properly translated, the mandarin, who was an honest man, begged his polite host's pardon for having pulled down the partition. It was rebuilt; the mandarin learned French, and the two friends continued upon the best terms with each other, during the remainder of the visit.

The Chesterfieldian system of endeavouring to please by dissimulation, is obviously distinguishable by any common capacity, from the usual forms of civility. There is no hope of educating young people to a love of integrity in any family, where this practice is adopted. If children observe that their parents deceive common acquaintance, by pretending to like the company, and to esteem the characters, of those whom they really think disagreeable and contemptible, how can they learn to respect truth? How can children believe in the praise of their parents, if they detect them in continual flattery towards indifferent people? It may be thought, by latitudinarians in politeness, that we are too rigid in expecting this strict adherence to truth from people who live in society; it may be said, that in Practical Education, no such Utopian ideas of perfection should be suggested. If we thought them Utopian, we certainly should not waste our time upon them; but we do not here speak theoretically of what may be done, we speak of what has been done. Without the affectation of using a more sanctified language than other people; without departing from the common forms of society; without any painful, awkward efforts, we believe that parents may, in all their conversation in private and in public, set their children the uniform example of truth and integrity.

We do not mean that the example of parents can alone produce this effect; a number of other circumstances must be combined. Servants must have no communication with children, if you wish to teach them the habit of speaking truth. The education, and custom, and situation of servants, are at present such, that it is morally impossible to depend upon their veracity in their intercourse with children. Servants think it good natured to try to excuse and conceal all the little faults of children; to give them secret indulgences, and even positively to deny facts, in order to save them from blame or punishment. Even when they are not fond of the children, their example must be dangerous, because servants do not scruple to falsify for their own advantage; if they break any thing, what a multitude of equivocations! If they neglect any thing, what a variety of excuses! What evasions in actions, or in words, do they continually invent!

It may be said, that as the Spartans taught their children to detest drunkenness, by showing them intoxicated Helots, we can make falsehood odious and contemptible to our pupils, by the daily example of its mean deformity. But if children, before they can perceive the general advantage of integrity, and before they can understand the utility of truth, see the partial immediate success of falsehood, how can they avoid believing in their own experience? If they see that servants escape blame, and screen themselves from punishment, by telling falsehoods, they not only learn that falsehood preserves from pain, but they feel obliged to those who practise it for their sakes; thus it is connected with the feelings of affection and of gratitude in their hearts, as well as with a sense of pleasure and safety. When servants have exacted promises from their protégés, those promises cannot be broken without treachery; thus deceit brings on deceit, and the ideas of truth and falsehood, become confused and contradictory. In the chapter upon servants, we have expatiated upon this subject, and have endeavoured to point out how all communication between children and servants may be most effectually prevented. To that chapter, without further repetition, we refer. And now that we have adjusted the preliminaries concerning parents and servants, we may proceed with confidence.

When young children first begin to speak, from not having a sufficient number of words to express their ideas, or from not having annexed precise ideas to the words which they are taught to use, they frequently make mistakes, which are attributed to the desire of deceiving. We should not precipitately suspect them of falsehood; it is some time before they perfectly understand what we mean by truth. Small deviations should not be marked with too much rigour; but whenever a child relates exactly any thing which he has seen, heard, or felt, we should listen with attention and pleasure, and we should not show the least doubt of his veracity. Rousseau is perfectly right in advising, that children should never be questioned in any circumstances upon which it can be their interest to deceive. We should, at least, treat children with the same degree of wise lenity, which the English law extends to all who have arrived at years of discretion. No criminal is bound to accuse himself. If any mischief has been committed, we should never, when we are uncertain by whom it has been done, either directly accuse, or betray injurious suspicions. We should neither say to the child, "I believe you have done this," nor, "I believe you have not done this;" we should say nothing; the mischief is done, we cannot repair it: because a glass is broken, we need not spoil a child; we may put glasses out of his reach in future. If it should, however, happen, that a child voluntarily comes to us with a history of an accident, may no love of goods or chattels, of windows, of china, or even of looking-glasses, come in competition with our love of truth? An angry word, an angry look, may intimidate the child, who has summoned all his little courage to make this confession. It is not requisite that parents should pretend to be pleased and gratified with the destruction of their furniture, but they may, it is to be hoped, without dissimulation, show that they set more value upon the integrity of their children, than upon a looking-glass, and they will "keep their temper still, though china fall."

H--, one day when his father and mother were absent from home, broke a looking-glass. As soon as he heard the sound of the returning carriage, he ran and posted himself at the hall door. His father, the moment he got out of the carriage, beheld his erect figure, and pale, but intrepid countenance. "Father," said the boy, "I have broke the best looking-glass in your house!" His father assured him, that he would rather all the looking-glasses in his house should be broken, than that one of his children should attempt to make an excuse. H-- was most agreeably relieved from his anxiety by the kindness of his father's voice and manner, and still more so, perhaps, by perceiving that he rose in his esteem. When the glass was examined, it appeared that the boy had neglected to produce all the circumstances in his own favour. Before he had begun to play at ball, he had had the precaution to turn the back of the looking-glass towards him; his ball, however, accidentally struck against the wooden back, and broke the glass. H-- did not make out this favourable state of the case for himself at first; he told it simply after the business was settled, seeming much more interested about the fate of the glass, than eager to exculpate himself.

There is no great danger of teaching children to do mischief by this indulgence to their accidental misfortunes. When they break, or waste any thing, from pure carelesness, let them, even when they speak the truth about it, suffer the natural consequences of their carelesness; but at the same time praise their integrity, and let them distinctly feel the difference between the slight inconvenience to which they expose themselves by speaking the truth, and the great disgrace to which falsehood would subject them. The pleasure of being esteemed, and trusted, is early felt, and the consciousness of deserving confidence is delightful to children; but their young fortitude and courage should never be exposed to severe temptations. It is not sufficient to excite an admiration of truth by example, by eloquent praise, or by the just rewards of esteem and affection; we must take care to form the habits at the same time that we inspire the love of this virtue. Many children admire truth, and feel all the shame of telling falsehoods, who yet, either from habit or from fear, continue to tell lies. We must observe, that though the taste for praise is strong in childhood, yet it is not a match for any of the bodily appetites, when they are strongly excited. Those children, who are restrained as to the choice, or the quantity, of their food, usually think that eating is a matter of vast consequence, and they are strongly tempted to be dishonest to gratify their appetites. Children do not understand the prudential maxims concerning health, upon which these restraints are founded; and if they can, "by any indirection," obtain things which gratify their palate, they will. On the contrary, young people who are regularly let to eat and drink as much as they please, can have no temptation from hunger and thirst, to deceive; if they partake of the usual family meals, and if there are no whimsical distinctions between wholesome and unwholesome dishes, or epicurean distinctions between rarities and plain food, the imagination and the pride of children will not be roused about eating. Their pride is piqued, if they perceive that they are prohibited from touching what grown up people are privileged to eat; their imagination is set to work by seeing any extraordinary difference made by judges of eating between one species of food and another. In families where a regularly good table is kept, children accustomed to the sight and taste of all kinds of food, are seldom delicate, capricious, or disposed to exceed; but in houses where entertainments are made from time to time with great bustle and anxiety, fine clothes, and company-manners, and company-faces, and all that politeness can do to give the appearance of festivity, deceive children at least, and make them imagine that there is some extraordinary joy in seeing a greater number of dishes than usual upon the table. Upon these occasions, indeed, the pleasure is to them substantial; they eat more, they eat a greater variety, and of things that please them better than usual; the pleasure of eating is associated with unusual cheerfulness, and thus the imagination, and the reality, conspire to make them epicures. To these children, the temptations to deceive about sweetmeats and dainties are beyond measure great, especially as ill-bred strangers commonly show their affection for them by pressing them to eat what they are not allowed to say "if you please" to. Rousseau thinks all children are gluttons. All children may be rendered gluttons; but few, who are properly treated with respect to food, and who have any literary tastes, can be in danger of continuing to be fond of eating. We therefore, without hesitation, recommend it to parents never to hazard the truth and honour of their pupils by prohibitions, which seldom produce any of the effects that are expected.

Children are sometimes injudiciously restrained with regard to exercise; they are required to promise to keep within certain boundaries when they are sent out to play; these promises are often broken with impunity, and thus the children learn habits of successful deceit. Instead of circumscribing their play grounds, as they are sometimes called, by narrow inconvenient limits, we should allow them as much space as we can with convenience, and at all events exact no promises. We should absolutely make it impossible for them to go without detection into any place which we forbid. It requires some patience and activity in preceptors to take all the necessary precautions in issuing orders, but these precautions will be more useful in preserving the integrity of their pupils, than the most severe punishments that can be devised. We are not so unreasonable as to expect, with some theoretic writers on education, that tutors and parents should sacrifice the whole of their time to the convenience, amusement, and education of their pupils. This would be putting one set of beings "sadly over the head of another:" but if parents would, as much as possible, mix their occupations and recreations with those of their children, besides many other advantages which have been elsewhere pointed out with respect to the improvement of the understanding, they would secure them from many temptations to falsehood. They should be encouraged to talk freely of all their amusements to their parents, and to ask them for whatever they want to complete their little inventions. Instead of banishing all the freedom of wit and humour, by the austerity of his presence, a preceptor, with superior talents, and all the resources of property in his favour, might easily become the arbiter deliciarum of his pupils.

When young people begin to taste the pleasures of praise, and to feel the strong excitations of emulation and ambition, their integrity is exposed to a new species of temptation. They are tempted, not only by the hope of obtaining "well-earned praise," but by the desire to obtain praise without the labour of earning it. In large schools, where boys assist each other in their literary exercises, and in all private families where masters are allowed to show off the accomplishments of young gentlemen and ladies, there are so many temptations to fraudulent exhibitions, that we despair of guarding against their consequences. The best possible method is to inspire children with a generous contempt for flattery, and to teach them to judge impartially of their own merits. If we are exact in the measure of approbation which we bestow, they will hence form a scale by which they can estimate the sincerity of other people. It is said[52] that the preceptor of the duke of Burgundy succeeded so well in inspiring him with disdain for unmerited praise, that when the duke was only nine years old, he one day called his tutor to account for having concealed some of his childish faults; and when this promising boy, and singular prince, was asked "why he disliked one of his courtiers," he answered, "Because he flatters me." Anecdotes like these will make a useful impression upon children. The life of Cyrus, in the Cyrop?dia; several passages in Plutarch's Lives; and the lively, interesting picture which Sully draws of his noble-hearted master's love of truth, will strongly command the admiration of young people, if they read them at a proper time of life. We must, however, wait for this proper time; for if these things are read too early, they lose all their effect. Without any lectures upon the beauty of truth, we may, now and then in conversation, when occurrences in real life naturally lead to the subject, express with energy our esteem for integrity. The approbation which we bestow upon those who give proofs of integrity, should be quite in a different tone, in a much higher style of praise, than any commendations for trifling accomplishments; hence children will become more ambitious to obtain a reputation for truth, than for any other less honourable and less honoured qualification.

We will venture to give two or three slight instances of the unaffected truth and simplicity of mind, which we have seen in children educated upon these principles. No good-natured reader will suspect, that they are produced from ostentation: whenever the children, who are mentioned, see this in print, it is ten to one that they will not be surprised at their own good deeds. They will be a little surprised, probably, that it should have been thought worth while to record things, which are only what they see and feel every day. It is this character of every-day goodness which we wish to represent; not any fine thoughts, fine sentiments, or fine actions, which come out for holyday admiration. We wish that parents, in reading any of these little anecdotes, may never exclaim, "Oh that's charming, that's surprising for a child!" but we wish that they may sometimes smile, and say "That's very natural; I am sure that is perfectly true; my little boy, or my little girl, say and do just such things continually."

March, 1792. We were at Clifton; the river Avon ran close under the windows of our house in Prince's Place, and the children used to be much amused with looking at the vessels which came up the river. One night a ship, that was sailing by the windows, fired some of her guns; the children, who were looking out of the windows, were asked "why the light was seen when the guns were fired, before the noise was heard?" C--, who at this time was nine years old, answered, "Because light comes quicker to the eye, than sound to the ear." Her father was extremely pleased with this answer; but just as he was going to kiss her, the little girl said, "Father, the reason of my knowing it, was, that L-- (her elder brother) just before had told it to me."

There is, it is usually found, most temptation for children to deceive when they are put in competition with each other, when their ambition is excited by the same object; but if the transient glory of excelling in quickness, or abilities of any sort, be much inferiour to the permanent honour which is secured by integrity, there is, even in competition, no danger of unfair play.

March, 1792. One evening -- called the children round the tea-table, and told them the following story, which he had just met with in "The Curiosities of Literature."

When the queen of Sheba went to visit king Solomon, she one day presented herself before his throne with a wreath of real flowers in one hand, and a wreath of artificial flowers in the other hand; the artificial flowers were made so exactly to resemble nature, that at the distance at which they were held from Solomon, it was scarcely possible that his eye could distinguish any difference between them and the natural flowers; nor could he, at the distance at which they were held from him, know them asunder by their smell. "Which of these two wreaths," demanded the queen of Sheba, "is the work of nature?" Solomon reflected for some minutes; and how did he discover which was real? S-- (five years old) replied, "Perhaps he went out of the room very softly, and if the woman stood near the door, as he went near her, he might see better."

Father. But Solomon was not to move from his place.

S--.. Then he might wait till the woman was tired of holding them, and then perhaps she might lay them down on the table, and then perhaps he might see better.

Father. Well, C--, what do you say?

C--. I think he might have looked at the stalks, and have seen which looked stiff like wire, and which were bent down by the weight of the natural flowers.

Father. Well, H--?

H--. (ten years old.) I think he might send for a great pair of bellows, and blow, blow, till the real leaves dropped off.

Father. But would it not have been somewhat uncivil of Solomon to blow, blow, with his great pair of bellows, full in the queen of Sheba's face?

H--. (doubting.) Yes, yes. Well, then he might have sent for a telescope, or a magnifying glass, and looked through it; and then he could have seen which were the real flowers, and which were artificial.

Father. Well, B--, and what do you say?

B--. (eleven years old.) He might have waited till the queen moved the flowers, and then, if he listened, he might hear the rustling of the artificial ones.

Father. S--, have you any thing more to say?

S-- repeated the same thing that B-- had said; his attention was dissipated by hearing the other children speak. During this pause, whilst S-- was trying to collect his thoughts, Mrs. E-- whispered to somebody near her, and accidentally said the word animals loud enough to be overheard.

Father. Well, H--, you look as if you had something to say?

H--. Father, I heard my mother say something, and that made me think of the rest.

Mrs. E-- shook hands with H--, and praised him for this instance of integrity. H-- then said that "he supposed Solomon thought of some animal which would feed upon flowers, and sent it to the two nosegays; and then the animal would stay upon the real flowers."

Father. What animal?

H--. A fly.

Father. Think again.

H--. A bee.

Father. Yes.

The story says that Solomon, seeing some bees hover about the window, ordered the window to be thrown open, and watched upon which wreath of flowers the bee settled.

August 1st, 1796. S-- (nine years old) when he was reading in Ovid the fable of Perseus and Andromeda, said that he wondered that Perseus fought with the monster; he wondered that Perseus did not turn him into stone at once with his Gorgon shield. We believe that S-- saw that his father was pleased with this observation. A few days afterwards somebody in the family recollected Mr. E--'s having said, that when he was a boy he thought Perseus a simpleton for not making use of the Gorgon's head to turn the monster into stone. We were not sure whether S-- had heard Mr. E-- say this or not; Mr. E-- asked him whether he recollected to have heard any such thing. S-- answered, without hesitation, that he did remember it.

When children have formed habits of speaking truth, and when we see that these habits are grown quite easy to them, we may venture to question them about their thoughts and feelings; this must, however, be done with great caution, but without the appearance of anxiety or suspicion. Children are alarmed if they see that you are very anxious and impatient for their answer; they think that they hazard much by their reply; they hesitate, and look eagerly in your face, to discover by your countenance what they ought to think and feel, and what sort of answer you expect. All who are governed by any species of fear are disposed to equivocation. Amongst the lower class of Irish labourers, and under-tenants, a class of people who are much oppressed, you can scarcely meet with any man who will give you a direct answer to the most indifferent question; their whole ingenuity, and they have a great deal of ingenuity, is upon the qui vive with you the instant you begin to speak; they either pretend not to hear, that they may gain time to think, whilst you repeat your question, or they reply to you with a fresh question, to draw out your remote meaning; for they, judging by their own habits, always think you have a remote meaning, and they never can believe that your words have no intention to ensnare. Simplicity puzzles them much more than wit: for instance, if you were to ask the most direct and harmless question, as, "Did it rain yesterday?" the first answer would probably be, "Is it yesterday you mean?" "Yes." "Yesterday! No, please your honour, I was not at the bog at all yesterday. Wasn't I after setting my potatoes? Sure I did not know your honour wanted me at al

l yesterday. Upon my conscience, there's not a man in the country, let alone all Ireland, I'd sooner serve than your honour any day in the year, and they have belied me that went behind my back to tell your honour the contrary. If your honour sent after me, sure I never got the word, I'll take my affidavit, or I'd been at the bog." "My good friend, I don't know what you mean about the bog; I only ask you whether it rained yesterday." "Please your honour, I couldn't get a car and horse any way, to draw home my little straw, or I'd have had the house thatched long ago." "Cannot you give me a plain answer to this plain question? Did it rain yesterday?" "Oh sure, I wouldn't go to tell your honour a lie about the matter. Sarrah much it rained yesterday after twelve o'clock, barring a few showers; but in the night there was a great fall of rain any how; and that was the reason prevented my going to Dublin yesterday, for fear the mistress's band-box should get wet upon my cars. But, please your honour, if your honour's displeased about it, I'll not be waiting for a loading; I'll take my car and go to Dublin to-morrow for the slates, if that be what your honour means. Oh, sure I would not tell a lie for the entire price of the slates; I know very well it didn't rain to call rain yesterday. But after twelve o'clock, I don't say I noticed one way or other."

In this perverse and ludicrous method of beating about the bush, the man would persist till he had fairly exhausted your patience; and all this he would do, partly from cunning, and partly from that apprehension of injustice which he has been taught to feel by hard experience. The effects of the example of their parents is early and most strikingly visible in the children of this class of people in Ireland. The children, who are remarkably quick and intelligent, are universally addicted to lying. We do not here scruple or hesitate in the choice of our terms, because we are convinced that this unqualified assertion would not shock the feelings of the parties concerned. These poor children are not brought up to think falsehood a disgrace; they are praised for the ingenuity with which they escape from the cross examination of their superiors; and their capacities are admired in proportion to the acuteness, or, as their parents pronounce it, 'cuteness, of their equivocating replies. Sometimes (the gar?on[53]) the little boy of the family is despatched by his mother to the landlord's neighbouring bog or turf rick, to bring home, in their phraseology, in ours to steal, a few turf; if, upon this expedition, the little Spartan be detected, he is tolerably certain of being whipped by his mother, or some of his friends, upon his return home. "Ah, ye little brat! and what made ye tell the gentleman when he met ye, ye rogue, that ye were going to the rick? And what business had ye to go and belie me to his honour, ye unnatural piece of goods! I'll teach ye to make mischief through the country! So I will. Have ye got no better sense and manners at this time o'day, than to behave, when one trusts ye abroad, so like an innocent?" An innocent in Ireland, as formerly in England, (witness the Rape of the Lock) is synonymous with a fool. "And fools and innocents shall still believe."

The associations of pleasure, of pride and gayety, are so strong in the minds of these well educated children, that they sometimes expect the very people who suffer by their dishonesty, should sympathise in the self-complacency they feel from roguery. A gentleman riding near his own house in Ireland, saw a cow's head and fore feet appear at the top of a ditch, through a gap in the hedge by the road's side, at the same time he heard a voice alternately threatening and encouraging the cow; the gentleman rode up closer to the scene of action, and he saw a boy's head appear behind the cow. "My good boy," said he, "that's a fine cow." "Oh, faith, that she is," replied the boy, "and I'm teaching her to get her own living, please your honour." The gentleman did not precisely understand the meaning of the expression, and had he directly asked for an explanation, would probably have died in ignorance; but the boy, proud of his cow, encouraged an exhibition of her talents: she was made to jump across the ditch several times, and this adroitness in breaking through fences, was termed "getting her own living." As soon as the cow's education is finished, she may be sent loose into the world to provide for herself; turned to graze in the poorest pasture, she will be able and willing to live upon the fat of the land.

It is curious to observe how regularly the same moral causes produce the same temper and character. We talk of climate, and frequently attribute to climate the different dispositions of different nations: the climate of Ireland, and that of the West Indies, are not precisely similar, yet the following description, which Mr. Edwards, in his history of the West Indies, gives of the propensity to falsehood amongst the negro slaves, might stand word for word for a character of that class of the Irish people who, until very lately, actually, not metaphorically, called themselves slaves.

"If a negro is asked even an indifferent question by his master, he seldom gives an immediate reply; but affecting not to understand what is said, compels a repetition of the question, that he may have time to consider, not what is the true answer, but what is the most politic one for him to give."

Mr. Edwards assures us, that many of these unfortunate negroes learn cowardice and falsehood after they become slaves. When they first come from Africa, many of them show "a frank and fearless temper;"[54] but all distinction of character amongst the native Africans, is soon lost under the levelling influence of slavery. Oppression and terror necessarily produce meanness and deceit in all climates, and in all ages; and wherever fear is the governing motive in education, we must expect to find in children a propensity to dissimulation, if not confirmed habits of falsehood. Look at the true born Briton under the government of a tyrannical pedagogue, and listen to the language of in-born truth; in the whining tone, in the pitiful evasions, in the stubborn falsehoods which you hear from the school-boy, can you discover any of that innate dignity of soul which is the boasted national characteristic? Look again; look at the same boy in the company of those who inspire no terror; in the company of his school-fellows, of his friends, of his parents; would you know him to be the same being? his countenance is open; his attitude erect; his voice firm; his language free and fluent; his thoughts are upon his lips; he speaks truth without effort, without fear. Where individuals are oppressed, or where they believe that they are oppressed, they combine against their oppressors, and oppose cunning and falsehood to power and force; they think themselves released from the compact of truth with their masters, and bind themselves in a strict league with each other; thus school-boys hold no faith with their schoolmaster, though they would think it shameful to be dishonourable amongst one another. We do not think that these maxims are the peculiar growth of schools; in private families the same feelings are to be found under the same species of culture: if preceptors or parents are unjust or tyrannical, their pupils will contrive to conceal from them their actions and their thoughts. On the contrary, in families where sincerity has been encouraged by the voice of praise and affection, a generous freedom of conversation and countenance appears, and the young people talk to each other, and to their parents, without distinction or reserve; without any distinction but such as superior esteem and respect dictate. These are feelings totally distinct from servile fear: these feelings inspire the love of truth, the ambition to acquire and to preserve character.

The value of a character for truth, should be distinctly felt by children in their own family: whilst they were very young, we advised that their integrity should not be tempted; as they grow up, trust should by degrees be put in them, and we should distinctly explain to them, that our confidence is to be deserved before it can be given. Our belief in any person's truth, is not a matter of affection, but of experience and necessity; we cannot doubt the assertions of any person whom we have found to speak uniformly the truth; we cannot believe any person, let us wish to do it ever so much, if we have detected him in falsehoods. Before we have had experience of a person's integrity, we may hope, or take it for granted, that he is perfectly sincere and honest; but we cannot feel more than belief upon trust, until we have actually seen his integrity tried. We should not pretend that we have faith in our pupils before we have tried them; we may hope from their habits, from the examples they have seen, and from the advantageous manner in which truth has always been represented to them, that they will act honourably; this hope is natural and just, but confidence is another feeling of the mind. The first time we trust a child, we should not say, "I am sure you will not deceive me; I can trust you with any thing in the world." This is flattery or folly; it is paying beforehand, which is not the way to get business done; why cannot we, especially as we are teaching truth, say the thing that is-"I hope you will not deceive me. If I find that you may be trusted, you know I shall be able to trust you another time: this must depend upon you, not entirely upon me." We must make ourselves certain upon these occasions, how the child conducts himself; nor is it necessary to use any artifice, or to affect, from false delicacy, any security that we do not feel; it is better openly to say, "You see, I do you the justice to examine carefully, how you have conducted yourself; I wish to be able to trust you another time."

It may be said, that this method of strict inquiry reduces a trust to no trust at all, and that it betrays suspicion. If you examine evidently with the belief that a child has deceived you, certainly you betray injurious suspicion, and you educate the child very ill; but if you feel and express a strong desire to find that your pupil has conducted himself honourably, he will be glad and proud of the strictest scrutiny; he will feel that he has earned your future confidence, and this confidence, which he clearly knows how he has obtained, will be more valuable to him than all the belief upon trust which you could affect to feel. By degrees, after your pupil has taught you to depend upon him, your confidence will prevent the necessity of any examination into his conduct. This is the just and delightful reward of integrity: children know how to feel and understand it thoroughly: besides the many restraints from which our confidence will naturally relieve them, they feel the pride for being trusted; the honour of having a character for integrity: nor can it be too strongly impressed upon their minds, that this character must be preserved, as it was obtained, by their own conduct. If one link in the chain of confidence be broken, the whole is destroyed. Indeed, where habits of truth are early formed, we may safely depend upon them. A young person, who has never deceived, would see, that the first step in falsehood costs too much to be hazarded. Let this appear in the form of calculation, rather than of sentiment. To habit, to enthusiasm, we owe much of all our virtues-to reason more; and the more of them we owe to reason, the better. Habit and enthusiasm are subject to sudden or gradual changes-but reason continues for ever the same. As the understanding unfolds, we should fortify all our pupil's habits; and virtuous enthusiasm, by the conviction of their utility, of their being essential to the happiness of society in general, and conducive immediately to the happiness of every individual. Possessed of this conviction, and provided with substantial arguments in its support, young people will not be exposed to danger, either from sophistry or ridicule.

Ridicule certainly is not the test of truth; but it is a test which truth sometimes finds it difficult to stand. Vice never "bolts her arguments" with more success, than when she assumes the air of raillery, and the tone of gayety. All vivacious young people are fond of wit; we do not mean children, for they do not understand it. Those who have the best capacities, and the strictest habits of veracity, often appear to common observers absolutely stupid, from their aversion to any play upon words, and from the literal simplicity with which they believe every thing that is asserted. A remarkably intelligent little girl of four years old, but who had never in her own family been used to the common phrases which sometimes pass for humour, happened to hear a gentleman say, as he looked out of the window one rainy morning, "It rains cats and dogs to-day." The child, with a surprised, but believing look, immediately went to look out of the window to see the phenomenon. This extreme simplicity in childhood, is sometimes succeeded in youth by a strong taste for wit and humour. Young people are, in the first place, proud to show that they understand them; and they are gratified by the perception of a new intellectual pleasure. At this period of their education, great attention must be paid to them, lest their admiration for wit and frolic should diminish their reverence and their love for sober truth. In many engaging characters in society, and in many entertaining books, deceit and dishonesty are associated with superior abilities, with ease and gayety of manners, and with a certain air of frank carelessness, which can scarcely fail to please. Gil Blas,[55] Tom Jones, Lovelace, Count Fathom, are all of this class of characters. They should not be introduced to our pupils till their habits of integrity are thoroughly formed; and till they are sufficiently skilful in analysing their own feelings, to distinguish whence their approbation and pleasure in reading of these characters arise. In books, we do not actually suffer by the tricks of rogues, or by the lies they tell. Hence their truth is to us a quality of no value; but their wit, humour, and the ingenuity of their contrivances, are of great value to us, because they afford us entertainment. The most honest man in the universe may not have had half so many adventures as the greatest rogue; in a romance, the history upon oath of all the honest man's bargains and sales, law-suits and losses; nay, even a complete view of his ledger and day-book, together with the regular balancings of his accounts, would probably not afford quite so much entertainment, even to a reader of the most unblemished integrity and phlegmatic temper, as the adventures of Gil Blas, and Jonathan Wild, adorned with all the wit of Le Sage, and humour of Fielding. When Gil Blas lays open his whole heart to us, and tells us all his sins, unwhipt of justice, we give him credit for making us his confidant, and we forget that this sincerity, and these liberal confessions, are not characteristic of the hero's disposition, but essential only to the novel. The novel writer could not tell us all he had to say without this dying confession, and inconsistent openness, from his accomplished villain. The reader is ready enough to forgive, having never been duped. When young people can make all these reflections for themselves, they may read Gil Blas with as much safety as the Life of Franklin, or any other the most moral performance. "Tout est sain aux sains,"[56] as Madame de Sevigne very judiciously observes, in one of her letters upon the choice of books for her grand-daughter. We refer for more detailed observations upon this subject to the chapter upon Books. But we cannot help here reiterating our advice to preceptors, not to force the detestable characters, which are sometimes held up to admiration in ancient and modern history, upon the common sense, or, if they please, the moral feelings, of their pupils. The bad actions of great characters, should not be palliated by eloquence, and fraud and villainy should never be explained away by the hero's or warrior's code; a code which confounds all just ideas of right and wrong. Boys, in reading the classics, must read of a variety of crimes; but that is no reason that they should approve of them, or that their tutors should undertake to vindicate the cause of falsehood and treachery. A gentleman, who has taught his sons Latin, has uniformly pursued the practice of abandoning to the just and prompt indignation of his young pupils all the ancient heroes who are deficient in moral honesty: his sons, in reading Cornelius Nepos, could not absolutely comprehend, that the treachery of Themistocles or of Alcibiades could be applauded by a wise and polished nation. Xenophon has made an eloquent attempt to explain the nature of military good faith. Cambyses tells his son, that, in taking advantage of an enemy, a man must be "crafty, deceitful, a dissembler, a thief, and a robber." Oh Jupiter! exclaims the young Cyrus, what a man, my father, you say I must be! And he very sensibly asks his father, why, if it be necessary in some cases to ensnare and deceive men, he had not in his childhood been taught by his preceptors the art of doing harm to his fellow-creatures, as well as of doing them good. "And why," says Cyrus, "have I always been punished whenever I have been discovered in practising deceit?" The answers of Cambyses are by no means satisfactory upon this subject; nor do we think that the conversation between the old general and Mr. Williams,[57] could have made the matter perfectly intelligible to the young gentleman, whose scrupulous integrity made him object to the military profession.

It is certain, that many persons of strict honour and honesty in some points, on others are utterly inconsistent in their principles. Thus it is said, that private integrity and public corruption frequently meet in the same character: thus some gentlemen are jockies, and they have a convenient latitude of conscience as jockies, whilst they would not for the universe cheat a man of a guinea in any way but in the sale of a horse: others in gambling, others in love, others in war, think all stratagems fair. We endeavour to think that these are all honourable men; but we hope, that we are not obliged to lay down rules for the formation of such moral prodigies in a system of practical education.

We are aware, that with children[58] who are educated at public schools, truth and integrity cannot be taught precisely in the same manner as in private families; because ushers and schoolmasters cannot pay the same hourly attention to each of their pupils, nor have they the command of all the necessary circumstances.-There are, however, some advantages attending the early commerce which numbers of children at public seminaries have with each other; they find that no society can subsist without truth; they feel the utility of this virtue, and, however they may deal with their masters, they learn to speak truth towards each other.-This partial species of honesty, or rather of honour, is not the very best of its kind, but it may easily be improved into a more rational principle of action. It is illiberal to assert, that any virtue is to be taught only by one process of education: many different methods of education may produce the same effects. Men of integrity and honour have been formed both by private and public education; neither system should be exclusively supported by those who really wish well to the improvement of mankind. All the errours of each system should be impartially pointed out, and such remedies as may most easily be adopted with any hope of success, should be proposed. We think, that if parents paid sufficient attention to the habits of their children, from the age of three to seven years old, they would be properly prepared for public education; they would not then bring with them to public schools all that they have learned of vice and falsehood in the company of servants.[59] We have purposely repeated all this, in hopes of impressing it strongly. May we suggest to the masters of these important seminaries, that Greek and Latin, and all the elegance of classical literature, are matters but of secondary consequence, compared with those habits of truth, which are essential to the character and happiness of their pupils? By rewarding the moral virtues more highly than the mere display of talents, a generous emulation to excel in these virtues may with certainty be excited.

Many preceptors and parents will readily agree, that Bacon, in his "general distribution of human knowledge," was perfectly right not to omit that branch of philosophy, which his lordship terms "The doctrine of rising in the world." To this art, integrity at length becomes necessary; for talents, whether for business or for oratory, are now become so cheap, that they cannot alone ensure pre-eminence to their possessors.-The public opinion, which in England bestows celebrity, and necessarily leads to honour, is intimately connected with the public confidence. Public confidence is not the same thing as popularity; the one may be won, the other must be earned. There is amongst all parties, who at present aim at political power, an unsatisfied demand for honest men. Those who speculate in this line for their children, will do wisely to keep this fact in their remembrance during their whole education.

We have delayed, from a full consciousness of the difficulty of the undertaking, to speak of the method of curing either the habits or the propensity to falsehood. Physicians, for mental as well as bodily diseases, can give long histories of maladies; but are surprisingly concise when they come to treat of the method of cure. With patients of different ages, and different temperaments, to speak with due medical solemnity, we should advise different remedies. With young children, we should be most anxious to break the habits; with children at a more advanced period of their education, we should be most careful to rectify the principles. Children, before they reason, act merely from habit, and without having acquired command over themselves, they have no power to break their own habits; but when young people reflect and deliberate, their principles are of much more importance than their habits, because their principles, in fact, in most cases, govern their habits. It is in consequence of their deliberations and reflections that they act; and, before we can change their way of acting, we must change their way of thinking.

To break habits of falsehood in young children, let us begin by removing the temptation, whatever it may be. For instance, if the child has the habit of denying that he has seen, heard, or done things which he has seen, heard, and done, we must not, upon any account, ever question him about any of these particulars, but we should forbear to give him any pleasure which he might hope to obtain by our faith in his assertions. Without entering into any explanations, we should absolutely[60] disregard what he says, and with looks of cool contempt, turn away without listening to his falsities. A total change of occupations, new objects, especially such as excite and employ the senses, will be found highly advantageous. Sudden pleasure, from strong expressions of affection, or eloquent praise, whenever the child speaks truth, will operate powerfully in breaking his habits of equivocation. We do not advise parents to try sudden pain with children at this early age, neither do we advise bodily correction, or lasting penitences, meant to excite shame, because these depress and enfeeble the mind, and a propensity to falsehood ultimately arises from weakness and timidity. Strengthen the body and mind by all means; try to give the pupils command over themselves upon occasions where they have no opportunities of deceiving: the same command of mind and courage, proceeding from the consciousness of strength and fortitude, may, when once acquired, be exerted in any manner we direct. A boy who tells a falsehood to avoid some trifling pain, or to procure some trifling gratification, would perhaps dare to speak the truth, if he were certain that he could bear the pain, or do without the gratification. Without talking to him about truth or falsehood, we should begin by exercising him in the art of bearing and forbearing. The slightest trials are best for beginners, such as their fortitude can bear, for success is necessary to increase their courage.

Madame de Genlis, in her Adele and Theodore, gives Theodore, when he is about seven years old, a box of sugar-plums to take care of, to teach him to command his passions. Theodore produces the untouched treasure to her mother, from time to time, with great self-complacency. We think this a good practical lesson. Some years ago the experiment was tried, with complete success, upon a little boy between five and six years old. This boy kept raisins and almonds in a little box in his pocket, day after day, without ever thinking of touching them. His only difficulty was to remember at the appointed time, at the week's end, to produce them. The raisins were regularly counted from time to time, and were, when found to be right, sometimes given to the child, but not always. When, for several weeks, the boy had faithfully executed his trust, the time was extended for which he was to keep the raisins, and every body in the family expressed that they were now certain, before they counted the raisins, that they should find the number exact. This confidence, which was not pretended confidence, pleased the child, but the rest he considered as a matter of course. We think such little trials as these might be made with children of five or six years old, to give them early habits of exactness. The boy we have just mentioned, has grown up with a more unblemished reputation for truth, than any child with whom we were ever acquainted. This is the same boy who broke the looking-glass.

When a patient, far advanced in his childhood, is yet to be cured of a propensity to deceive, the business becomes formidable. It is dangerous to set our vigilance in direct opposition to his cunning, and it is yet more dangerous to trust and give him opportunities of fresh deceit. If the pupil's temper is timid, fear has probably been his chief inducement to dissimulation. If his temper is sanguine, hope and success, and perhaps the pleasure of inventing schemes, or of outwitting his superiors, have been his motives. In one case we should prove to the patient, that he has nothing to fear from speaking the truth to us; in the other case we should demonstrate to him, that he has nothing to hope from telling us falsehoods. Those who are pleased with the ingenuity of cunning, should have opportunities of showing their ingenuity in honourable employments, and the highest praise should be given to their successful abilities whenever they are thus exerted. They will compare their feelings when they are the objects of esteem, and of contempt, and they will be led permanently to pursue what most tends to their happiness. We should never deprive them of the hope of establishing a character for integrity; on the contrary, we should explain distinctly to them, that this is absolutely in their own power. Examples from real life will strike the mind of a young person just entering into the world, much more than any fictitious characters, or moral stories; and strong indignation, expressed incidentally, will have more effect than any lectures prepared for the purpose. We do not mean, that any artifice should be used to make our lessons impressive; but there is no artifice in seizing opportunities, which must occur in real life, to exemplify the advantages of a good character. The opinions which young people hear expressed of actions in which they have no share, and of characters with whom they are not connected, make a great impression upon them. The horror which is shown to falsehood, the shame which overwhelms the culprit, they have then leisure to contemplate; they see the effects of the storm at a distance; they dread to be exposed to its violence, and they will prepare for their own security. When any such strong impression has been made upon the mind, we should seize that moment to connect new principles with new habits of action: we should try the pupil in some situation in which he has never been tried before, and where he consequently may feel hope of obtaining reputation, if he deserves it, by integrity. All reproaches upon his former conduct should now be forborne, and he should be allowed to feel, in full security, the pleasures and the honours of his new character.

We cannot better conclude a chapter upon Truth, than by honestly referring the reader to a charming piece of eloquence, with which Mr. Godwin concludes his essay upon Deception and Frankness.[61] We are sensible how much we shall lose by the comparison: we had written this chapter before we saw his essay.

[51] We refer to Locke's Thoughts concerning Education, and Rousseau's Emilius, vol. i.

[52] V. The Life of the Duke of Burgundy in Madame de la Fite's agreeable and instructive work for children, "Contes, Drames et Entretiens, &c."

[53] Pronounced gossoon.

[54] Edwards's History West Indies, vol. ii.

[55] See Mrs. Macaulay's Letters on Education.

[56] Every thing is healthful to the healthy.

[57] See Mr. Williams's Lectures on Education, where Xenophon is quoted, page 16, &c. vol. ii.-also, page 31.

[58] Vide Williams.

[59] V. Servants and "Public and Private Education."

[60] Rousseau and Williams.

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