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   Chapter 12 BOOKS.

Practical Education, Volume I By Maria Edgeworth Characters: 114755

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The first books which are now usually put into the hands of a child, are Mrs. Barbauld's Lessons; they are by far the best books of the kind that have ever appeared; those only who know the difficulty and the importance of such compositions in education, can sincerely rejoice, that the admirable talents of such a writer have been employed in such a work. We shall not apologize for offering a few remarks on some passages in these little books, because we are convinced that we shall not offend.

Lessons for children from three to four years old, should, we think, have been lessons for children from four to five years old; few read, or ought to read, before that age.

"Charles shall have a pretty new lesson."

In this sentence the words pretty and new are associated; but they represent ideas which ought to be kept separate in the mind of a child. The love of novelty is cherished in the minds of children by the common expressions that we use to engage them to do what we desire. "You shall have a new whip, a new hat," are improper modes of expression to a child. We have seen a boy who had literally twenty new whips in one year, and we were present when his father, to comfort him when he was in pain, went out to buy him a new whip, though he had two or three scattered about the room.

The description, in the first part of Mrs. Barbauld's Lessons, of the naughty boy who tormented the robin, and who was afterwards supposed to be eaten by bears, is more objectionable than any in the book: the idea of killing is in itself very complex, and, if explained, serves only to excite terror; and how can a child be made to comprehend why a cat should catch mice, and not kill birds? or why should this species of honesty be expected from an animal of prey?

"I want my dinner."

Does Charles take it for granted, that what he eats is his own, and that he must have his dinner? These and similar expressions are words of course; but young children should not be allowed to use them: if they are permitted to assume the tone of command, the feelings of impatience and ill temper quickly follow, and children become the little tyrants of a family. Property is a word of which young people have general ideas, and they may, with very little trouble, be prevented from claiming things to which they have no right. Mrs. Barbauld has judiciously chosen to introduce a little boy's daily history in these books; all children are extremely interested for Charles, and they are very apt to expect that every thing which happens to him, is to happen to them; and they believe, that every thing he does, is right; therefore, his biographer should, in another edition, revise any of his expressions which may mislead the future tribe of his little imitators.

"Maid, come and dress Charles."

After what we have already said with respect to servants, we need only observe, that this sentence for Charles should not be read by a child; and that in which the maid is said to bring home a gun, &c. it is easy to strike a pencil line across it. All the passages which might have been advantageously omitted in these excellent little books, have been carefully obliterated before they were put into the hands of children, by a mother who knew the danger of early false associations.

"Little boys don't eat butter."

"No body wears a hat in the house."

This is a very common method of speaking, but it certainly is not proper towards children. Affirmative sentences should always express real facts. Charles must know that some little boys do eat butter; and that some people wear their hats in their houses. This mode of expression, "No body does that!" "Every body does this!" lays the foundation for prejudice in the mind. This is the language of fashion, which, more than conscience, makes cowards of us all.

"I want some wine."

Would it not be better to tell Charles, in reply to this speech, that wine is not good for him, than to say, "Wine for little boys! I never heard of such a thing!" If Charles were to be ill, and it should be necessary to give him wine; or were he to see another child drink it, he would lose confidence in what was said to him. We should be very careful of our words, if we expect our pupils to have confidence in us; and if they have not, we need not attempt to educate them.

"The moon shines at night, when the sun is gone to bed."

When the sun is out of sight, would be more correct, though not so pleasing, perhaps, to the young reader. It is very proper to teach a child, that when the sun disappears, when the sun is below the horizon, it is the time when most animals go to rest; but we should not do this by giving so false an idea, as that the sun is gone to bed. Every thing relative to the system of the universe, is above the comprehension of a child; we should, therefore, be careful to prevent his forming erroneous opinions. We should wait for a riper period of his understanding, before we attempt positive instruction upon abstract subjects.

The enumeration of the months in the year, the days in the week, of metals, &c. are excellent lessons for a child who is just beginning to learn to read. The classification of animals into quadrupeds, bipeds, &c. is another useful specimen of the manner in which children should be taught to generalize their ideas. The pathetic description of the poor timid hare running from the hunters, will leave an impression upon the young and humane heart, which may, perhaps, save the life of many a hare. The poetic beauty and eloquent simplicity of many of Mrs. Barbauld's Lessons, cultivate the imagination of children, and their taste, in the best possible manner.

The description of the white swan with her long arched neck, "winning her easy way" through the waters, is beautiful; so is that of the nightingale singing upon her lone bush by moon-light. Poetic descriptions of real objects, are well suited to children; apostrophe and personification they understand; but all allegoric poetry is difficult to manage for them, because they mistake the poetic attributes for reality, and they acquire false and confused ideas. With regret children close Mrs. Barbauld's little books, and parents become yet more sensible of their value, when they perceive that none can be found immediately to supply their place, or to continue the course of agreeable ideas which they have raised in the young pupil's imagination.

"Evenings at Home," do not immediately join to Lessons for Children from three to four years old; and we know not where to find any books to fill the interval properly. The popular character of any book is easily learned, and its general merit easily ascertained; this may satisfy careless, indolent tutors, but a more minute investigation is necessary to parents who are anxious for the happiness of their family, or desirous to improve the art of education. Such parents will feel it to be their duty to look over every page of a book before it is trusted to their children; it is an arduous task, but none can be too arduous for the enlightened energy of parental affection. We are acquainted with the mother of a family, who has never trusted any book to her children, without having first examined it herself with the most scrupulous attention; her care has been repaid with that success in education, which such care can alone ensure. We have several books before us marked by her pencil, and volumes which, having undergone some necessary operations by her scissors, would, in their mutilated state, shock the sensibility of a nice librarian. But shall the education of a family be sacrificed to the beauty of a page, or even to the binding of a book? Few books can safely be given to children without the previous use of the pen, the pencil, and the scissors. In the books which we have before us, in their corrected state, we see sometimes a few words blotted out, sometimes half a page, sometimes many pages are cut out. In turning over the leaves of "The Children's Friend," we perceive, that the different ages at which different stories should be read, have been marked; and we were surprised to meet with some stories marked for six years old, and some for sixteen, in the same volume. We see that different stories have been marked with the initials of different names by this cautious mother, who considered the temper and habits of her children, as well as their ages.

As far as these notes refer peculiarly to her own family, they cannot be of use to the public; but the principles which governed a judicious parent in her selection, must be capable of universal application.

It may be laid down as a first principle, that we should preserve children from the knowledge of any vice, or any folly, of which the idea has never yet entered their minds, and which they are not necessarily disposed to learn by early example. Children who have never lived with servants, who have never associated with ill educated companions of their own age, and who, in their own family, have heard nothing but good conversation, and seen none but good examples, will, in their language, their manners, and their whole disposition, be not only free from many of the faults common amongst children, but they will absolutely have no idea that there are such faults. The language of children who have heard no language but what is good, must be correct. On the contrary, children who hear a mixture of low and high vulgarity before their own habits are fixed, must, whenever they speak, continually blunder; they have no rule to guide their judgment in their selection from the variety of dialects which they hear; probably they may often be reproved for their mistakes, but these reproofs will be of no avail, whilst the pupils continue to be puzzled between the example of the nursery and of the drawing-room. It will cost much time and pains to correct these defects, which might have been with little difficulty prevented. It is the same with other bad habits. Falsehood, caprice, dishonesty, obstinacy, revenge, and all the train of vices which are the consequences of mistaken or neglected education, which are learned by bad example, and which are not inspired by nature, need scarcely be known to children whose minds have from their infancy been happily regulated. Such children should sedulously be kept from contagion. No books should be put into the hands of this happy class of children, but such as present the best models of virtue: there is no occasion to shock them with caricatures of vice. Such caricatures they will even understand to be well drawn, because they are unacquainted with any thing like the originals. Examples to deter them from faults to which they have no propensity, must be useless, and may be dangerous. For the same reason that a book written in bad language, should never be put into the hands of a child who speaks correctly, a book exhibiting instances of vice, should never be given to a child who thinks and acts correctly. The love of novelty and of imitation, is so strong in children, that even for the pleasure of imitating characters described in a book, or actions which strike them as singular, they often commit real faults.

To this danger of catching faults by sympathy, children of the greatest simplicity are, perhaps, the most liable, because they least understand the nature and consequences of the actions which they imitate.

During the age of imitation, children should not be exposed to the influence of any bad examples until their habits are formed, and until they have not only the sense to choose, but the fortitude to abide by, their own choice. It may be said, that "children must know that vice exists; that, even amongst their own companions, there are some who have bad dispositions; they cannot mix even in the society of children, without seeing examples which they ought to be prepared to avoid."

These remarks are just with regard to pupils who are intended for a public school, and no great nicety in the selection of their books is necessary; but we are now speaking of children who are to be brought up in a private family. Why should they be prepared to mix in the society of children who have bad habits or bad dispositions? Children should not be educated for the society of children; nor should they live in that society during their education. We must not expect from them premature prudence, and all the social virtues, before we have taken any measures to produce these virtues, or this tardy prudence. In private education, there is little chance that one errour should balance another; the experience of the pupil is much confined; the examples which he sees, are not so numerous and various as to counteract each other. Nothing, therefore, must be expected from the counteracting influence of opposing causes; nothing should be trusted to chance. Experience must preserve one uniform tenour; and examples must be selected with circumspection. The less children associate with companions of their own age, the less they know of the world; the stronger their taste for literature; the more forcible will be the impression that will be made upon them by the pictures of life, and the characters and sentiments which they meet with in books. Books for such children, ought to be sifted by an academy[101] of enlightened parents.

Without particular examples, the most obvious truths are not brought home to our business. We shall select a few examples from a work of high and deserved reputation, from a work which we much admire, "Berquin's Children's Friend." We do not mean to criticise this work as a literary production; but simply to point out to parents, that, even in the best books for children, much must still be left to the judgment of the preceptor; much in the choice of stories, and particular passages suited to different pupils.

In "The Children's Friend," there are several stories well adapted to one class of children, but entirely unfit for another. In the story called the Hobgoblin, Antonia, a little girl "who has been told a hundred foolish stories by her maid, particularly one about a black-faced goblin," is represented as making a lamentable outcry at the sight of a chimney-sweeper; first she runs for refuge to the kitchen, the last place to which she should run; then to the pantry; thence she jumps out of the window, "half dead with terror," and, in the elegant language of the translator, almost splits her throat with crying out Help! Help!-In a few minutes she discovers her errour, is heartily ashamed, and "ever afterwards Antonia was the first to laugh at silly stories, told by silly people, of hobgoblins and the like, to frighten her."

For children who have had the misfortune to have heard the hundred foolish stories of a foolish maid, this apparition of the chimney-sweeper is well managed; though, perhaps, ridicule might not effect so sudden st cure in all cases as it did in that of Antonia. By children who have not acquired terrors of the black-faced goblin, and who have not the habit of frequenting the kitchen and the pantry, this story should never be read.

"The little miss deceived by her maid," who takes her mamma's keys out of her drawers, and who steals sugar and tea for her maid, that she may have the pleasure of playing with a cousin whom her mother had forbidden her to see, is not an example that need be introduced into any well regulated family. The picture of Amelia's misery, is drawn by the hand of a master. Terror and pity, we are told by the tragic poets, purify the mind; but there are minds that do not require this species of purification. Powerful antidotes are necessary to combat powerful poisons; but where no poison has been imbibed, are not antidotes more dangerous than useful?

The stories called "The Little Gamblers; Blind Man's Buff; and Honesty the best Policy," are stories which may do a great deal of good to bad children, but they should never be given to those of another description. The young gentlemen who cheat at cards, and who pocket silver fish, should have no admittance any where. It is not necessary to put children upon their guard against associates whom they are not likely to meet; nor need we introduce The Vulgar and Mischievous School-Boy, to any but school-boys. Martin, who throws squibs at people in the street, who fastens rabbits' tails behind their backs, who fishes for their wigs, who sticks up pins in his friends' chairs, who carries a hideous mask in his pocket to frighten little children, and who is himself frightened into repentance by a spectre with a speaking trumpet, is a very objectionable, though an excellent dramatic character. The part of the spectre is played by the groom; this is ill contrived in a drama for children; grooms should have nothing to do with their entertainments; and C?sar, who is represented as a pleasing character, should not be supposed to make the postillion a party in his inventions.

"A good heart compensates for many indiscretions," is a dangerous title for a play for young people; because many is an indefinite term; and in settling how many, the calculations of parents and children may vary materially. This little play is so charmingly written, the character of the imprudent and generous Frederick is so likely to excite imitation, that we must doubly regret his intimacy with the coachman, his running away from school, and drinking beer at an ale-house in a fair. The coachman is an excellent old man; he is turned away for having let master Frederick mount his box, assume the whip, and overturn a handsome carriage. Frederick, touched with gratitude and compassion, gives the old man all his pocket money, and sells a watch and some books to buy clothes for him. The motives of Frederick's conduct are excellent, and, as they are misrepresented by a treacherous and hypocritical cousin, we sympathize more strongly with the hero of the piece; and all his indiscretions appear, at least, amiable defects. A nice observer[102] of the human heart says, that we are never inclined to to cure ourselves of any defect which makes us agreeable. Frederick's real virtues will not, probably, excite imitation so much as his imaginary excellences. We should take the utmost care not to associate in the mind the ideas of imprudence and of generosity; of hypocrisy and of prudence: on the contrary, it should be shown that prudence is necessary to real benevolence; that no virtue is more useful, and consequently more respectable, than justice. These homely truths will never be attended to as the counter-check moral of an interesting story; stories which require such morals, should, therefore, be avoided.

It is to be hoped, that select parts of The Children's Friend,[103] translated by some able hand, will be published hereafter for the use of private families. Many of the stories, to which we have ventured to object, are by no means unfit for school-boys, to whom the characters which are most exceptionable cannot be new. The vulgarity of language which we have noticed, is not to be attributed to M. Berquin, but to his wretched translator. L'Ami des Enfans, is, in French, remarkably elegantly written. The Little Canary Bird, Little George, The Talkative Little Girl, The Four Seasons, and many others, are excellent both in point of style and dramatic effect; they are exactly suited to the understandings of children; and they interest without any improbable events, or unnatural characters.

In fiction it is difficult to avoid giving children false ideas of virtue, and still more difficult to keep the different virtues in their due proportions. This should be attended to with care in all books for young people; nor should we sacrifice the understanding to the enthusiasm of eloquence, or the affectation of sensibility. Without the habit of reasoning, the best dispositions can give us no solid security for happiness; therefore, we should early cultivate the reasoning faculty, instead of always appealing to the imagination. By sentimental persuasives, a child may be successfully governed for a time, but that time will be of short duration, and no power can continue the delusion long.

In the dialogue upon this maxim, "that a competence is best," the reasoning of the father is not a match for that of the son; by using less eloquence, the father might have made out his case much better. The boy sees that many people are richer than his father, and perceiving that their riches procure a great number of conveniences and comforts for them, he asks why his father, who is as good as these opulent people, should not also be as rich. His father tells him, that he is rich, that he has a large garden, and a fine estate; the boy asks to see it, and his father takes him to the top of a high hill, and, showing him an extensive prospect, says to him, "All this is my estate." The boy cross questions his father, and finds out that it is not his estate, but that he may enjoy the pleasure of looking at it; that he can buy wood when he wants it for firing; venison, without hunting the deer himself; fish, without fishing; and butter, without possessing all the cows that graze in the valley; therefore he calls himself master of the woods, the deer, the herds, the huntsmen, and the labourers that he beholds. This is[104] poetic philosophy, but it is not sufficiently accurate for a child; it would confound his ideas of property, and it would be immediately contradicted by his experience. The father's reasoning is perfectly good, and well adapted to his pupil's capacity, when he asks, "whether he should not require a superfluous appetite to enjoy superfluous dishes at his meals." In returning from his walk, the boy sees a mill that is out of repair, a meadow that is flooded, and a quantity of hay spoiled; he observes, that the owners of these things must be sadly vexed by such accidents, and his father congratulates himself upon their not being his property. Here is a direct contradiction; for a few minutes before he had asserted that they belonged to him. Property is often the cause of much anxiety to its possessor; but the question is, whether the pains, or the pleasures of possessing it, predominate; if this question could not be fully discussed, it should not be partially stated. To silence a child in argument is easy, to convince him is difficult; sophistry or wit should never be used to confound the understanding. Reason has equal force from the lips of the giant and of the dwarf.

These minute criticisms may appear invidious; but it is hoped that they will be considered only as illustrations of general principles; illustrations necessary to our subject. We have chosen M. Berquin's work because of its universal popularity; probably all the examples which have been selected, are in the recollection of most readers, or at least it is easy to refer to them, because "The Children's Friend" is to be found in every house where there are any children. The principles by which we have examined Berquin, may be applied to all books of the same class. Sandford and Merton, Madame de Silleri's Theatre of Education, and her Tales of the Castle, Madame de la Fite's Tales and Conversations, Mrs. Smith's Rural Walks, with a long list of other books for children, which have considerable merit, would deserve a separate analysis, if literary criticism were our object. A critic once, with indefatigable ill-nature, picked out all the faults of a beautiful poem, and presented them to Apollo. The god ordered a bushel of his best Parnassian wheat to be carefully winnowed, and he presented the critic with the chaff. Our wish is to separate the small portion of what is useless, from the excellent nutriment contained in the books we have mentioned.

With respect to sentimental stories,[105] and books of mere entertainment, we must remark, that they should be sparingly used, especially in the education of girls. This species of reading, cultivates what is called the heart prematurely; lowers the tone of the mind, and induces indifference for those common pleasures and occupations which, however trivial in themselves, constitute by far the greatest portion of our daily happiness. Stories are the novels of childhood. We know, from common experience, the effects which are produced upon the female mind by immoderate novel reading. To those who acquire this taste, every object becomes disgusting which is not in an attitude for poetic painting; a species of moral picturesque is sought for in every scene of life, and this is not always compatible with sound sense, or with simple reality. Gainsborough's Country Girl, as it has been humorously[106] remarked, "is a much more picturesque object, than a girl neatly dressed in a clean white frock; but for this reason, are all children to go in rags?" A tragedy heroine, weeping, swooning, dying, is a moral picturesque object; but the frantic passions, which have the best effect upon the stage, might, when exhibited in domestic life, appear to be drawn upon too large a scale to please. The difference between reality and fiction, is so great, that those who copy from any thing but nature, are continually disposed to make mistakes in their conduct, which appear ludicrous to the impartial spectator. Pathos depends on such nice circumstances, that domestic, sentimental distresses, are in a perilous situation; the sympathy of their audience, is not always in the power of the fair performers. Frenzy itself may be turned to farce.[107] "Enter the princess mad in white satin, and her attendant mad in white linen."

Besides the danger of creating a romantic taste, there is reason to believe, that the species of reading to which we object, has an effect directly opposite to what it is intended to produce. It diminishes, instead of increasing, the sensibility of the heart; a combination of romantic imagery, is requisite to act upon the associations of sentimental people, and they are virtuous only when virtue is in perfectly good taste. An eloquent philosopher[108] observes, that in the description of scenes of distress in romance and poetry, the distress is always made elegant; the imagination, which has been accustomed to this delicacy in fictitious narrations, revolts from the disgusting circumstances which attend real poverty, disease and misery; the emotions of pity, and the exertions of benevolence, are consequently repressed precisely at the time when they are necessary to humanity.

With respect to pity, it is a spontaneous, natural emotion, which is strongly felt by children, but they cannot properly be said to feel benevolence till they are capable of reasoning. Charity must, in them, be a very doubtful virtue; they cannot be competent judges as to the general utility of what they give. Persons of the most enlarged understanding, find it necessary to be extremely cautious in charitable donations, lest they should do more harm than good. Children cannot see beyond the first link in the chain which holds society together; at the best, then, their charity can be but a partial virtue. But in fact, children have nothing to give; they think that they give, when they dispose of property of their parents; they suffer no privation from this sort of generosity, and they learn ostentation, instead of practising self-denial. Berquin, in his excellent story of "The Little Needle Woman," has made the children give their own work; here the pleasure of employment is immediately connected with the gratification of benevolent feelings; their pity is not merely passive, it is active and useful.

In fictitious narratives, affection for parents, and for brothers and sisters, is often painted in agreeable colours, to excite the admiration and sympathy of children. Caroline, the charming little girl, who gets upon a chair to wipe away the tears that trickle down her eldest sister's cheek when her mother is displeased with her,[109] forms a natural and beautiful picture; but the desire to imitate Caroline must produce affectation. All the simplicity of youth, is gone the moment children perceive that they are extolled for the expression of fine feelings, and fine sentiments. Gratitude, esteem and affection, do not depend upon the table of consanguinity; they are involuntary feelings, which cannot be raised at pleasure by the voice of authority; they will not obey the dictates of interest; they secretly despise the anathemas of sentiment. Esteem and affection, are the necessary consequences of a certain course of conduct, combined with certain external circumstances, which are, more or less, in the power of every individual. To arrange these circumstances prudently, and to pursue a proper course of conduct steadily, something more is necessary than the transitory impulse of sensibility, or of enthusiasm.

There is a class of books which amuse the imagination of children, without acting upon their feelings. We do not allude to fairy tales, for we apprehend that these are not now much read; but we mean voyages and travels; these interest young people universally. Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver, and the Three Russian Sailors, who were cast away upon the coast of Norway, are general favourites. No child ever read an account of a shipwreck, or even a storm, without pleasure. A desert island is a delightful place, to be equalled only by the skating land of the rein-deer, or by the valley of diamonds in the Arabian Tales. Savages, especially if they be cannibals, are sure to be admired, and the more hair-breadth escapes the hero of the tale has survived, and the more marvellous his adventures, the more sympathy he excites.[110]

Will it be thought to proceed from a spirit of contradiction, if we remark, that this species of reading should not early be chosen for boys of an enterprising temper, unless they are intended for a sea-faring life, or for the army? The taste for adventure, is absolutely incompatible with the sober perseverance necessary to success in any other liberal professions. To girls, this species of reading cannot be as dangerous as it is to boys; girls must very soon perceive the impossibility of their rambling about the world in quest of adventures; and where there appears an obvious impossibility in gratifying any wish, it is not likely to become, or at least to continue, a torment to the imagination. Boys, on the contrary, from the habits of their education, are prone to admire, and to imitate, every thing like enterprise and heroism. Courage and fortitude, are the virtues of men, and it is natural that boys should desire, if they believe that they possess these virtues, to be placed in those great and extraordinary situations which can display them to advantage. The taste for adventure, is not repressed in boys by the impossibility of its indulgence; the world is before them, and they think that fame promises the highest prize to those who will most boldly venture in the lottery of fortune. The rational probability of success, few young people are able, fewer still are willing, to calculate; and the calculations of prudent friends, have little power over their understandings, or at least, over their imagination, the part of the understanding which is most likely to decide their conduct.-From general maxims, we cannot expect that young people should learn much prudence; each individual admits the propriety of the rule, yet believes himself to be a privileged exception. Where any prize is supposed to be in the gift of fortune, every man, or every young man, takes it for granted that he is a favourite, and that it will be bestowed upon him. The profits of commerce and of agriculture, the profits of every art and profession, can be estimated with tolerable accuracy; the value of activity, application and abilities, can be respectively measured by some certain standard. Modest, or even prudent people, will scruple to rate themselves in all of these qualifications superior to their neighbours; but every man will allow that, in point of good fortune, at any game of chance, he thinks himself upon a fair level with every other competitor.

When a young man deliberates upon what course of life he shall follow, the patient drudgery of a trade, the laborious mental exertions requisite to prepare him for a profession, must appear to him in a formidable light, compared with the alluring prospects presented by an adventuring imagination. At this time of life, it will be too late suddenly to change the taste; it will be inconvenient, if not injurious, to restrain a young man's inclinations by force or authority; it will be imprudent, perhaps fatally imprudent, to leave them uncontroled. Precautions should therefore be taken long before this period, and the earlier they are taken, the better. It is not idle refinement to assert, that the first impressions which are made upon the imagination, though they may be changed by subsequent circumstances, yet are discernible in every change, and are seldom entirely effaced from the mind, though it may be difficult to trace them through all their various appearances. A boy, who at seven years old, longs to be Robinson Crusoe, or Sinbad the sailor, may at seventeen, retain the same taste for adventure and enterprise, though mixed so as to be less discernible, with the incipient passions of avarice and ambition; he has the same dispositions modified by a slight knowledge of real life, and guided by the manners and conversation of his friends and acquaintance. Robinson Crusoe and Sinbad, will no longer be his favourite heroes; but he will now admire the soldier of fortune, the commercial adventurer, or the nabob, who has discovered in the east the secret of Aladdin's wonderful lamp; and who has realized the treasures of Aboulcasem.

The history of realities, written in an entertaining manner, appears not only better suited to the purposes of education, but also more agreeable to young people than improbable fictions. We have seen the reasons why it is dangerous to pamper the taste early with mere books of entertainment; to voyages and travels, we have made some objections. Natural history, is a study particularly suited to children: it cultivates their talents for observation, applies to objects within their reach, and to objects which are every day interesting to them. The histories of the bee, the ant, the caterpillar, the butterfly, the silk-worm, are the first things that please the taste of children, and these are the histories of realities.

Amongst books of mere entertainment, no one can be so injudicious, or so unjust, as to class the excellent "Evenings at Home." Upon a close examination, it appears to be one of the best books for young people from seven to ten years old, that has yet appeared. We shall not pretend to enter into a minute examination of it; because, from what we have already said, parents can infer our sentiments, and we wish to avoid tedious, unnecessary detail. We shall, however, just observe, that the lessons on natural history, on metals, and on chemistry, are particularly useful, not so much from the quantity of knowledge which, they contain, as by the agreeable manner in which it is communicated: the mind is opened to extensive views, at the same time that nothing above the comprehension of children is introduced. The mixture of moral and, scientific lessons, is happily managed so as to relieve the attention; some of the moral lessons, contain sound argument, and some display just views of life. "Perseverance against Fortune;" "The Price of Victory;" "Eyes and no Eyes," have been generally admired as much by parents as by children.

There is a little book called "Leisure Hours," which contains a great deal of knowledge suited to young people; but they must observe, that the style is not elegant; perhaps, in a future edition, the style may be revised. The "Conversations d'Emile," are elegantly written, and the character of the mother and child admirably well preserved. White of Selborne's Naturalist's Calendar, we can recommend with entire approbation: it is written in a familiar, yet elegant style; and the journal form, gives it that air of reality which is so agreeable and interesting to the mind. Mr. White will make those who have observed, observe the more, and will excite the spirit of observation in those who never before observed.

Smellie's Natural History, is a useful, entertaining book; but it must be carefully looked over, and many pages and half pages must be entirely sacrificed. And here one general caution may be necessary. It is hazarding too much, to make children promise not to read parts of any book which is put into their hands; when the book is too valuable, in the parent's estimation, to be cut or blotted, let it not be given to children when they are alone; in a parent's presence, there is no danger, and the children will acquire the habit of reading the passages that are selected without feeling curiosity about the rest. As young people grow up, they will judge of the selections that have been made for them; they will perceive why such a passage was fit for their understanding at one period, which they could not have understood at another. If they are never forced to read what is tiresome, they will anxiously desire to have passages selected for them; and they will not imagine that their parents are capricious in these selections; but they will, we speak from experience, be sincerely grateful to them for the time and trouble bestowed in procuring their literary amusements.

When young people have established their character for truth and exact integrity, they should be entirely trusted with books as with every thing else. A slight pencil line at the side of a page, will then be all that is necessary to guide them to the best parts of any book. Suspicion would be as injurious, as too easy a faith is imprudent: confidence confirms integrity; but the habits of truth must be formed before dangerous temptations are presented. We intended to have given a list of books, and to have named the pages in several authors, which have been found interesting to children from seven to nine or ten years old. The Reviews; The Annual Registers; Enfield's Speaker; Elegant Extracts; The Papers of the Manchester Society; The French Academy of Sciences; Priestley's History of Vision; and parts of the Works of Franklin, of Chaptal, Lavoisier and Darwin, have supplied us with our best materials. Some periodical papers from the World, Rambler, Guardian, and Adventurer, have been chosen: these are books with which all libraries are furnished. But we forbear to offer any list; the passages we should have mentioned, have been found to please in one family; but we are sensible, that as circumstances vary, the choice of books for different families, ought to be different. Every parent must be capable of selecting those passages in books which are most suited to the age, temper, and taste of their children. Much of the success, both of literary and moral education, will depend upon our seizing the happy moments for instruction; moments when knowledge immediately applies to what children are intent upon themselves; the step which is to be taken by the understanding, should immediately follow that which has already been secured. By watching the turn of mind, and by attending to the conversation of children, we may perceive exactly what will suit them in books; and we may preserve the connection of their ideas without fatiguing their attention. A paragraph read aloud from the newspaper of the day, a passage from any book which parents happen to be reading themselves, will catch the attention of the young people in a family, and will, perhaps, excite more taste and more curiosity, than could be given by whole volumes read at times when the mind is indolent or intent upon other occupations.

The custom of reading aloud for a great while together, is extremely fatiguing to children, and hurtful to their understandings; they learn to read on without the slightest attention or thought; the more fluently they read, the worse it is for them; for their preceptors, whilst words and sentences are pronounced with tolerable emphasis, never seem to suspect that the reader can be tired, or that his mind may be absent from his book. The monotonous tones which are acquired by children who read a great deal aloud, are extremely disagreeable, and the habit cannot easily be broken: we may observe, that children who have not acquired bad customs, always read as they speak, when they understand what they read; but the moment when they come to any sentence which they do not comprehend, their voice alters, and they read with hesitation, or with false emphasis: to these signals a preceptor should always attend, and the passage should be explained before the pupil is taught to read it in a musical tone, or with the proper emphasis: thus children should be taught to read by the understanding, and not merely by the ear. Dialogues, dramas, and well written narratives, they always read well, and these should be their exercises in the art of reading: they should be allowed to put down the book as soon as they are tired; but an attentive tutor will perceive when they ought to be stopped, before the utmost point of fatigue. We have heard a boy of nine years old, who had never been taught elocution by any reading master, read simple pathetic passages, and natural dialogues in "Evenings at Home," in a manner which would have made even Sterne's critic forget his stop-watch.

By reading much at a time, it is true that a great number of books are run through in a few years; but this is not at all our object; on the contrary, our greatest difficulty has been to find a sufficient number of books fit for children to read. If they early acquire a strong taste for literature, no matter how few authors they may have perused. We have often heard young people exclaim, "I'm glad I have not read such a book-I have a great pleasure to come!"-Is not this better than to see a child yawn over a work, and count the number of tiresome pages, whilst he says, "I shall have got through this book by and by; and what must I read when I have done this? I believe I never shall have read all I am to read! What a number of tiresome books there are in the world! I wonder what can be the reason that I must read them all! If I were but allowed to skip the pages that I don't understand, I should be much happier, for when I come to any thing entertaining in a book, I can keep myself awake, and then I like reading as well as any body does."

Far from forbidding to skip the incomprehensible pages, or to close the tiresome volume, we should exhort our pupils never to read one single page that tires, or that they do not fully understand. We need not fear, that, because an excellent book is not interesting at one period of education, it should not become interesting at another; the child is always the best judge of what is suited to his present capacity. If he says, "Such a book tires me," the preceptor should never answer with a forbidding, reproachful look, "I am surprised at that, it is no great proof of your taste; the book, which you say tires you, is written by one of the best authors in the English language." The boy is sorry for it, but he cannot help it; and he concludes, if he be of a timid temper, that he has no taste for literature, since the best authors in the English language tire him. It is in vain to tell him, that the book is "universally allowed to be very entertaining."

"If it be not such to me,

What care I how fine it be!"

The more encouraging and more judicious parent would answer upon a similar occasion, "You are very right not to read what tires you, my dear; and I am glad that you have sense enough to tell me that this book does not entertain you, though it is written by one of the best authors in the English language. We do not think at all the worse of your taste and understanding; we know that the day will come when this book will probably entertain you; put it by until then, I advise you."

It may be thought, that young people who read only those parts of books which are entertaining, or those which are selected for them, are in danger of learning a taste for variety, and desultory habits, which may prevent their acquiring accurate knowledge upon any subject, and which may render them incapable of that literary application, without which nothing can be well learned. We hope the candid preceptor will suspend his judgment, until we can explain our sentiments upon this subject more fully, when we examine the nature of invention and memory.[111]

The secret fear, that stimulates parents to compel their children to constant application to certain books, arises from the opinion, that much chronological and historical knowledge must at all events be acquired during a certain number of years. The knowledge of history is thought a necessary accomplishment in one sex, and an essential part of education in the other. We ought, however, to distinguish between that knowledge of history and of chronology which is really useful, and that which is acquired merely for parade. We must call that useful knowledge, which enlarges the view of human life and of human nature, which teaches by the experience of the past, what we may expect in future. To study history as it relates to these objects, the pupil must have acquired much previous knowledge; the habit of reasoning, and the power of combining distant analogies. The works of Hume, of Robertson, Gibbon, or Voltaire, can be properly understood only by well informed and highly cultivated understandings. Enlarged views of policy, some knowledge of the interests of commerce, of the progress and state of civilization and literature in different countries, are necessary to whoever studies these authors with real advantage. Without these, the finest sense, and the finest writing, must be utterly thrown away upon the reader. Children, consequently, under the name of fashionable histories, often read what to them is absolute nonsense: they have very little motive for the study of history, and all that we can say to keep alive their interest, amounts to the common argument, "that such information will be useful to them hereafter, when they hear history mentioned in conversation."

Some people imagine, that the memory resembles a store-house, in which we should early lay up facts; and they assert, that, however useless these may appear at the time when they are laid up, they will afterwards be ready for service at our summons. One allusion may be fairly answered by another, since it is impossible to oppose allusion by reasoning. In accumulating facts, as in amassing riches, people often begin by believing that they value wealth only for the use they shall make of it; but it often happens, that during the course of their labours, they learn habitually to set a value upon the coin itself, and they grow avaricious of that which they are sensible has little intrinsic value. Young people who have accumulated a vast number of facts, and names, and dates, perhaps intended originally to make some good use of their treasure; but they frequently forget their laudable intentions, and conclude by contenting themselves with the display of their nominal wealth. Pedants and misers forget the real use of wealth and knowledge, and they accumulate without rendering what they acquire useful to themselves or to others.

A number of facts are often stored in the mind, which lie there useless, because they cannot be found at the moment when they are wanted. It is not sufficient, therefore, in education, to store up knowledge; it is essential to arrange facts so that they shall be ready for use, as materials for the imagination, or the judgment, to select and combine. The power of retentive memory is exercised too much, the faculty of recollective memory is exercised too little, by the common modes of education. Whilst children are reading the history of kings, and battles, and victories; whilst they are learning tables of chronology and lessons of geography by rote, their inventive and their reasoning faculties are absolutely passive; nor are any of the facts which they learn in this manner, associated with circumstances in real life. These trains of ideas may with much pains and labour be fixed in the memory, but they must be recalled precisely in the order in which they were learnt by rote, and this is not the order in which they may be wanted: they will be conjured up in technical succession, or in troublesome multitudes.-Many people are obliged to repeat the alphabet before they can recollect the relative place of any given letter; others repeat a column of the multiplication table before they can recollect the given sum of the number they want. There is a common rigmarole for telling the number of days in each month in the year; those who have learnt it by heart, usually repeat the whole of it before they can recollect the place of the month which they want; and sometimes in running over the lines, people miss the very month which they are thinking of, or repeat its name without perceiving that they have named it. In the same manner, those who have learned historical or chronological facts in a technical mode, must go through the whole train of their rigmarole associations before they can hit upon the idea which they want. Lord Bolingbroke mentions an acquaintance of his, who had an amazing collection of facts in his memory, but unfortunately he could never produce one of them in the proper moment; he was always obliged to go back to to some fixed landing place, from which he was accustomed to take his flight. Lord Bolingbroke used to be afraid of asking him a question, because when once he began, he went off like a larum, and could not be stopped; he poured out a profusion of things which had nothing to do with the point in question; and it was ten to one but he omitted the only circumstance that would have been really serviceable. Many people who have tenacious memories, and who have been ill educated, find themselves in a similar condition, with much knowledge baled up, an incumbrance to themselves and to their friends. The great difference which appears in men of the same profession, and in the same circumstances, depends upon the application of their knowledge more than upon the quantity of their learning.

With respect to a knowledge of history and chronologic learning, every body is now nearly upon a level; this species of information cannot be a great distinction to any one; a display of such common knowledge, is considered by literary people, and by men of genius especially, as ridiculous and offensive. One motive, therefore, for loading the minds of children with historic dates and facts, is likely, even from its having universally operated, to cease to operate in future. Without making it a laborious task to young people, it is easy to give them such a knowledge of history, as will preserve them from the shame of ignorance, and put them upon a footing with men of good sense in society, though not, perhaps, with men who have studied history for the purpose of shining in conversation. For our purpose, it is not necessary early to study voluminous philosophic histories; these should be preserved for a more advanced period of their education. The first thing to be done, is to seize the moment when curiosity is excited by the accidental mention of any historic name or event. When a child hears his father talk of the Roman emperors, or of the Roman people, he naturally inquires who these people were; some short explanation may be given, so as to leave curiosity yet unsatisfied. The prints of the Roman emperors' heads, and Mrs. Trimmer's prints of the remarkable events in the Roman and English history, will entertain children. Madame de Silleri, in her Adela and Theodore, describes historical hangings, which she found advantageous to her pupils. In a prince's palace, or a nobleman's palace, such hangings would be suitable decorations, or in a public seminary of education it would be worth while to prepare them: private families would, perhaps, be alarmed at the idea of expense, and at the idea, that their house could not readily be furnished in proper time for the instruction of children. As we know the effect of such apprehensions of difficulty, we forbear from insisting upon historical hangings, especially as we think that children should not, by any great apparatus for teaching them history, be induced to set an exorbitant value upon this sort of knowledge, and should hence be excited to cultivate their memories without reasoning or reflecting. If any expedients are thought necessary to fix historic facts early in the mind, the entertaining display of Roman emperors, and British kings and queens, may be made, as madame de Silleri recommends, in a magic lantern, or by the Ombres Chinoises. When these are exhibited, there should be some care taken not to introduce any false ideas. Parents should be present at the spectacle, and should answer each eager question with prudence. "Ha! here comes queen Elizabeth!" exclaims the child; "was she a good woman?" A foolish show-man would answer, "Yes, master, she was the greatest queen that ever sat upon the English throne!" A sensible mother would reply, "My dear, I cannot answer that question; you will read her history yourself, you will judge by her actions, whether she was, or was not, a good woman." Children are often extremely impatient to settle the precise merit and demerit of every historical personage, with whose names they become acquainted; but this impatience should not be gratified by the short method of referring to the characters given of these persons in any common historical abridgment. We should advise all such characters to be omitted in books for children; let those who read, form a judgment for themselves: this will do more service to the understanding, than can be done by learning by rote the opinion of any historian. The good and bad qualities; the decisive, yet contradictory, epithets, are so jumbled together in these characters, that no distinct notion can be left in the reader's mind; and the same words recur so frequently in the characters of different kings, that they are read over in a monotonous voice, as mere concluding sentences, which come of course, at the end of every reign. "King Henry the Fifth, was tall and slender, with a long neck, engaging aspect, and limbs of the most elegant turn. **********. His valour was such as no danger could startle, and no difficulty could oppose. He managed the dissentions amongst his enemies with such address as spoke him consummate in the arts of the cabinet. He was chaste, temperate, modest, and devout, scrupulously just in his administration, and severely exact in the discipline of his army, upon which he knew his glory and success in a great measure depended. In a word, it must be owned that he was without an equal in the arts of war, policy, and government. His great qualities were, however, somewhat obscured by his ambition, and his natural propensity to cruelty."

Is it possible that a child of seven or eight years old can acquire any distinct, or any just ideas, from the perusal of this character of Henry the fifth? Yet it is selected as one of the best drawn characters from a little abridgment of the history of England, which is, in general, as well done as any we have seen. Even the least exceptionable historic abridgments require the corrections of a patient parent. In abridgments for children, the facts are usually interspersed with what the authors intend for moral reflections, and easy explanations of political events, which are meant to be suited to the meanest capacities. These reflections and explanations do much harm; they instil prejudice, and they accustom the young unsuspicious reader to swallow absurd reasoning, merely because it is often presented to him. If no history can be found entirely free from these defects, and if it be even impossible to correct any completely, without writing the whole over again, yet much may be done by those who hear children read. Explanations can be given at the moment when the difficulties occur. When the young reader pauses to think, allow him to think, and suffer him to question the assertions which he meets with in books, with freedom, and that minute accuracy which is only tiresome to those who cannot reason. The simple morality of childhood is continually puzzled and shocked at the representation of the crimes and the virtues of historic heroes. History, when divested of the graces of eloquence, and of that veil which the imagination is taught to throw over antiquity, presents a disgusting, terrible list of crimes and calamities: murders, assassinations, battles, revolutions, are the memorable events of history. The love of glory atones for military barbarity; treachery and fraud are frequently dignified with the names of prudence and policy; and the historian, desirous to appear moral and sentimental, yet compelled to produce facts, makes out an inconsistent, ambiguous system of morality. A judicious and hon

est preceptor will not, however, imitate the false tenderness of the historian for the dead; he will rather consider what is most advantageous to the living; he will perceive, that it is of more consequence that his pupils should have distinct notions of right and wrong, than that they should have perfectly by rote all the Grecian, Roman, English, French, all the fifty volumes of the Universal History. A preceptor will not surely attempt, by any sophistry, to justify the crimes which sometimes obtain the name of heroism; when his ingenious indignant pupil verifies the astonishing numeration of the hundreds and thousands that were put to death by a conqueror, or that fell in one battle, he will allow this astonishment and indignation to be just, and he will rejoice that it is strongly felt and expressed.

Besides the false characters which are sometimes drawn of individuals in history, national characters are often decidedly given in a few epithets, which prejudice the mind, and convey no real information. Can a child learn any thing but national prepossession, from reading in a character of the English nation, that "boys, before they can speak, discover that they know the proper guards in boxing with their fists; a quality that, perhaps, is peculiar to the English, and is seconded by a strength of arm that few other people can exert? This gives their soldiers an infinite superiority in all battles that are to be decided by the bayonet screwed upon the musket."[112] Why should children be told, that the Italians are naturally revengeful; the French naturally vain and perfidious, excessively credulous and litigious; that the Spaniards are naturally jealous and haughty?[113] The patriotism of an enlarged and generous mind cannot, surely, depend upon the early contempt inspired for foreign nations.-We do not speak of the education necessary for naval and military men-with this we have nothing to do; but surely it cannot be necessary to teach national prejudices to any other class of young men. If these prejudices are ridiculed by sensible parents, children will not be misled by partial authors; general assertions will be of little consequence to those who are taught to reason; they will not be overawed by nonsense wherever they may meet with it.

The words whig and tory, occur frequently in English history, and liberty and tyranny are talked of-the influence of the crown-the rights of the people. What are children of eight or nine years old to understand by these expressions? and how can a tutor explain them, without inspiring political prejudices? We do not mean here to enter into any political discussion; we think, that children should not be taught the principles of their preceptors, whatever they may be; they should judge for themselves, and, until they are able to judge, all discussion, all explanations, should be scrupulously avoided. Whilst they are children, the plainest chronicles are for them the best histories, because they express no political tenets and dogmas. When our pupils grow up, at whatever age they may be capable of understanding them, the best authors who have written on each side of the question, the best works, without any party considerations, should be put into their hands; and let them form their own opinions from facts and arguments, uninfluenced by passion, and uncontrolled by authority.

As young people increase their collection of historic facts, some arrangement will be necessary to preserve these in proper order in the memory. Priestley's Biographical Chart, is an extremely ingenious contrivance for this purpose; it should hang up in the room where children read, or rather where they live, for we hope no room will ever be dismally consecrated to their studies. Whenever they hear any celebrated name mentioned, or when they meet with any in books, they will run to search for these names in the biographical chart; and those who are used to children, will perceive, that the pleasure of this search, and the joy of the discovery, will fix biography and chronology easily in their memories. Mortimer's Student's Dictionary, and Brookes's Gazetteer, should, in a library or room which children usually inhabit, be always within the reach of children. If they are always consulted at the very moment they are wanted, much may be learned from them; but if there be any difficulty in getting at these dictionaries, children forget, and lose all interest in the things which they wanted to know. But if knowledge becomes immediately useful, or entertaining to them, there is no danger of their forgetting. Who ever forgets Shakespeare's historical plays? The arrangements contrived and executed by others, do not always fix things so firmly in our remembrance, as those which we have had some share in contriving and executing ourselves.

One of our pupils has drawn out a biographical chart upon the plan of Priestley's, inserting such names only as he was well acquainted with; he found, that in drawing out this chart, a great portion of general history and biography was fixed in his memory. Charts, in the form of Priestley's, but without the names of the heroes, &c. being inserted, would, perhaps, be useful for schools and private families.

There are two French historical works, which we wish were well translated for the advantage of those who do not understand French. The chevalier Meheghan's Tableau de l'Histoire Moderne, which is sensibly divided into epochs; and Condillac's View of Universal History, comprised in five volumes, in his "Cours d'Etude pour l'Instruction du Prince de Parme." This history carries on, along with the records of wars and revolutions, the history of the progress of the human mind, of arts, and sciences; the view of the different governments of Europe, is full and concise; no prejudices are instilled; yet the manly and rational eloquence of virtue, gives life and spirit to the work. The concluding address, from the preceptor to his royal pupil, is written with all the enlightened energy of a man of truth and genius. We do not recommend Condillac's history as an elementary work; for this it is by no means fit; but it is one of the best histories that a young man of fifteen or sixteen can read.

It is scarcely possible to conceive, that several treatises on grammar, the art of reasoning, thinking, and writing, which are contained in M. Condillac's course of study, were designed by him for elementary books, for the instruction of a child from seven to ten years old. It appears the more surprising that the abbé should have so far mistaken the capacity of childhood, because, in his judicious preface, he seems fully sensible of the danger of premature cultivation, and of the absurdity of substituting a knowledge of words for a knowledge of things. As M. Condillac's is a work of high reputation, we may be allowed to make a few remarks on its practical utility, and this may, perhaps, afford us an opportunity of explaining our ideas upon the use of metaphysical, poetical, and critical works, in early education. We do not mean any invidious criticism upon Condillac, but in "Practical Education" we wish to take our examples and illustrations from real life. The abbé's course of study, for a boy of seven years old, begins with metaphysics. In his preface he asserts, that the arts of speaking, reasoning, and writing, differ from one another only in degrees of accuracy, and in the more or less perfect connection of ideas. He observes, that attention to the manner in which we acquire, and in which we arrange our knowledge, is necessary equally to those who would learn, and to those who would teach, with success. These remarks are just; but does not he draw an erroneous conclusion from his own principles, when he infers, that the first lessons which we should teach a child, ought to be metaphysical? He has given us an abstract of those which he calls preliminary lessons, on the operations of the soul, on attention, judgment, imagination, &c.-he adds, that he thought it useless to give to the public the conversations and explanations which he had with his pupil on these subjects. Both parents and children must regret the suppression of these explanatory notes; as the lessons appear at present, no child of seven years old can understand, and few preceptors can or will make them what they ought to be. In the first lesson on the different species of ideas, the abbé says,

"The idea, for instance, which I have of Peter, is singular, or individual; and as the idea of man is general relatively to the ideas of a nobleman and a citizen, it is particular as it relates to the idea of animal."[114]

"Relatively to the ideas of a nobleman and a citizen." What a long explanation upon these words there must have been between the abbé and the prince! The whole view of society must have been opened at once, or the prince must have swallowed prejudices and metaphysics together. To make these things familiar to a child, Condillac says, that we must bring a few or many examples; but where shall we find examples? Where shall we find proper words to express to a child ideas of political relations mingled with metaphysical subtleties?

Through this whole chapter, on particular and general ideas, the abbé is secretly intent upon a dispute began or revived in the thirteenth century, and not yet finished, between the Nominalists and the Realists; but a child knows nothing of this.

In the article "On the Power of Thinking," an article which he acknowledges to be a little difficult, he observes, that the great point is to make the child comprehend what is meant by attention; "for as soon as he understands that, all the rest," he assures us, "will be easy." Is it then of less consequence, that the child should learn the habit of attention, than that he should learn the meaning of the word? Granting, however, that the definition of this word is of consequence, that definition should be made proportionably clear. The tutor, at least, must understand it, before he can hope to explain it to his pupil. Here it is:

"*** when amongst many sensations which you experience at the same time, the direction of the organs makes you take notice of one, so that you do not observe the others any longer, this sensation becomes what we call attention."[115]

This is not accurate; it is not clear whether the direction of the organs be the cause, or the effect, of attention; or whether it be only a concomitant of the sensation. Attention, we know, can be exercised upon abstract ideas; for this objection M. Condillac has afterwards a provisional clause, but the original definition remains defective, because the direction of the organs is not, though it be stated as such, essential: besides, we are told only, that the sensation described becomes (devient) what we call attention. What attention actually is, we are still left to discover. The matter is made yet more difficult; for when we are just fixed in the belief, that attention depends "upon our remarking one sensation, and not remarking others which we may have at the same time," we are in the next chapter given to understand, that "in comparison we may have a double attention, or two attentions, which are only two sensations, which make themselves be taken notice of equally, and consequently comparison consists only of sensations."[116]

The doctrine of simultaneous ideas here glides in, and we concede unawares all that is necessary to the abbé's favourite system, "that sensation becomes successively attention, memory, comparison, judgment, and reflection;[117] and that the art of reasoning is reducible to a series of identic propositions." Without, at present, attempting to examine this system, we may observe, that in education it is more necessary to preserve the mind from prejudice, than to prepare it for the adoption of any system. Those who have attended to metaphysical proceedings, know, that if a few apparently trifling concessions be made in the beginning of the business, a man of ingenuity may force us, in the end, to acknowledge whatever he pleases. It is impossible that a child can foresee these consequences, nor is it probable that he should have paid such accurate attention to the operations of his own mind, as to be able to detect the fallacy, or to feel the truth, of his tutor's assertions. A metaphysical catechism may readily be taught to children; they may learn to answer almost as readily as Trenck answered in his sleep to the guards who regularly called to him every night at midnight. Children may answer expertly to the questions, "What is attention? What is memory? What is imagination? What is the difference between wit and judgment? How many sorts of ideas have you, and which are they?" But when they are perfect in their responses to all these questions, how much are they advanced in real knowledge?

Allegory has mixed with metaphysics almost as much as with poetry; personifications of memory and imagination are familiar to us; to each have been addressed odes and sonnets, so that we almost believe in their individual existence, or at least we are become jealous of the separate attributes of these ideal beings. This metaphysical mythology may be ingenious and elegant, but it is better adapted to the pleasures of poetry than to the purposes of reasoning. Those who have been accustomed to respect and believe in it, will find it difficult soberly to examine any argument upon abstract subjects; their favourite prejudices will retard them when they attempt to advance in the art of reasoning. All accurate metaphysical reasoners have perceived, and deplored, the difficulties which the prepossessions of education have thrown in their way; and they have been obliged to waste their time and powers in fruitless attempts to vanquish these in their own minds, or in those of their readers. Can we wish in education to perpetuate similar errors, and to transmit to another generation the same artificial imbecility? Or can we avoid these evils, if with our present habits of thinking and speaking, we attempt to teach metaphysics to children of seven years old?

A well educated, intelligent young man, accustomed to accurate reasoning, yet brought up without any metaphysical prejudices, would be a treasure to a metaphysician to cross examine: he would be eager to hear the unprejudiced youth's evidence, as the monarch, who had ordered a child to be shut up, without hearing one word of any human language, from infancy to manhood, was impatient to hear what would be the first word that he uttered. But though we wish extremely well to the experiments of metaphysicians, we are more intent upon the advantage which our unprejudiced pupils would themselves derive from their judicious education: probably they would, coming fresh to the subject, make some discoveries in the science of metaphysics: they would have no paces[118] to show; perhaps they might advance a step or two on this difficult ground.

When we object to the early initiation of novices into metaphysical mysteries, we only recommend it to preceptors not to teach; let pupils learn whatever they please, or whatever they can, without reading any metaphysical books, and without hearing any opinions, or learning any definitions by rote; children may reflect upon their own feelings, and they should be encouraged to make accurate observations upon their own minds. Sensible children will soon, for instance, observe the effect of habit, which enables them to repeat actions with ease and facility, which they have frequently performed. The association of ideas, as it assists them to remember particular things, will soon be noticed, though not, perhaps, in scientific words. The use of the association of pain or pleasure, in the form of what we call reward and punishment, may probably be early perceived. Children will be delighted with these discoveries if they are suffered to make them, and they will apply this knowledge in their own education. Trifling daily events will recall their observations, and experience will confirm, or correct, their juvenile theories. But if metaphysical books, or dogmas, are forced upon children in the form of lessons, they will, as such, be learned by rote, and forgotten.

To prevent parents from expecting as much as the abbé Condillac does from the comprehension of pupils of six or seven years old upon abstract subjects, and to enable preceptors to form some idea of the perfect simplicity in which children, unprejudiced upon metaphysical questions, would express themselves, we give the following little dialogues, word for word, as they passed:

1780. Father. Where do you think?

A--. (Six and a half years old.) In my mouth.

Ho--. (Five years and a half old.) In my stomach.

Father. Where do you feel that you are glad, or sorry?

A--. In my stomach.

Ho--. In my eyes.

Father. What are your senses for?

Ho--. To know things.

Without any previous conversation, Ho-- (five years and a half old) said to her mother, "I think you will be glad my right foot is sore, because you told me I did not lean enough upon my left foot." This child seemed, on many occasions, to have formed an accurate idea of the use of punishment, considering it always as pain given to cure us of some fault, or to prevent us from suffering more pain in future.

April, 1792. H--, a boy nine years and three quarters old, as he was hammering at a work-bench, paused for a short time, and then said to his sister, who was in the room with him, "Sister, I observe that when I don't look at my right hand when I hammer, and only think where it ought to hit, I can hammer much better than when I look at it. I don't know what the reason of that is; unless it is because I think in my head."

M--. I am not sure, but I believe that we do think in our heads.

H--. Then, perhaps, my head is divided into two parts, and that one thinks for one arm, and one for the other; so that when I want to strike with my right arm, I think where I want to hit the wood, and then, without looking at it, I can move my arm in the right direction; as when my father is going to write, he sometimes sketches it.

M--. What do you mean, my dear, by sketching it?

H--. Why, when he moves his hand (flourishes) without touching the paper with the pen. And at first, when I want to do any thing, I cannot move my hand as I mean; but after being used to it, then I can do much better. I don't know why.

After going on hammering for some time, he stopped again, and said, "There's another thing I wanted to tell you. Sometimes I think to myself, that it is right to think of things that are sensible, and then when I want to set about thinking of things that are sensible, I cannot; I can only think of that over and over again."

M--. You can only think of what?

H--. Of those words. They seem to be said to me over and over again, till I'm quite tired, "That it is right to think of things that have some sense."

The childish expressions in these remarks have not been altered, because we wished to show exactly how children at this age express their thoughts. If M. Condillac had been used to converse with children, he surely would not have expected, that any boy of seven years old could have understood his definition of attention, and his metaphysical preliminary lessons.

After these preliminary lessons, we have a sketch of the prince of Parma's subsequent studies. M. Condillac says, that his royal highness (being not yet eight years old) was now "perfectly well acquainted with the system of intellectual operations. He comprehended already the production of his ideas; he saw the origin and the progress of the habits which he had contracted, and he perceived how he could substitute just ideas for the false ones which had been given to him, and good habits instead of the bad habits which he had been suffered to acquire. He had become so quickly familiar with all these things, that he retraced their connection without effort, quite playfully."[119]

This prince must have been a prodigy! After having made him reflect upon his own infancy, the abbé judged that the infancy of the world would appear to his pupil "the most curious subject, and the most easy to study." The analogy between these two infancies seems to exist chiefly in words; it is not easy to gratify a child's curiosity concerning the infancy of the world. Extracts from L'Origine des Loix, by M. Goguet, with explanatory notes, were put into the prince's hands, to inform him of what happened in the commencement of society. These were his evening studies. In the mornings he read the French poets, Boileau, Moliere, Corneille, and Racine. Racine, as we are particularly informed, was, in the space of one year, read over a dozen times. Wretched prince! Unfortunate Racine! The abbé acknowledges, that at first these authors were not understood with the same ease as the preliminary lessons had been: every word stopped the prince, and it seemed as if every line were written in an unknown language. This is not surprising, for how is it possible that a boy of seven or eight years old, who could know nothing of life and manners, could taste the wit and humour of Moliere; and, incapable as he must have been of sympathy with the violent passions of tragic heroes and heroines, how could he admire the lofty dramas of Racine? We are willing to suppose, that the young prince of Parma was quick, and well informed for his age; but to judge of what is practicable, we must produce examples from common life, instead of prodigies.

S--, a boy of nine years old, of whose abilities the reader will be able to form some judgment from anecdotes in the following pages, whose understanding was not wholy uncultivated, when he was between nine and ten years old, expressed a wish to read some of Shakespeare's plays. King John was given to him. After the book had been before him for one winter's evening, he returned it to his father, declaring that he did not understand one word of the play; he could not make out what the people were about, and he did not wish to read any more of it. His brother H--, at twelve years old, had made an equally ineffectual attempt to read Shakespeare; he was also equally decided and honest in expressing his dislike to it; he was much surprised at seeing his sister B--, who was a year or two older than himself, reading Shakespeare with great avidity, and he frequently asked what it was in that book that could entertain her. Two years afterwards, when H-- was between fourteen and fifteen, he made another trial, and he found that he understood the language of Shakespeare without any difficulty. He read all the historical plays with the greatest eagerness, and particularly seized the character of Falstaff. He gave a humorous description of the figure and dress which he supposed Sir John should have, of his manner of sitting, speaking, and walking. Probably, if H-- had been pressed to read Shakespeare at the time when he did not understand it, he might never have read these plays with real pleasure during his whole life. Two years increase prodigiously the vocabulary and the ideas of young people, and preceptors should consider, that what we call literary taste, cannot be formed without a variety of knowledge. The productions of our ablest writers cannot please, until we are familiarized to the ideas which they contain, or to which they allude.[120]

Poetry is usually supposed to be well suited to the taste and capacity of children. In the infancy of taste and of eloquence, rhetorical language is constantly admired; the bold expression of strong feeling, and the simple description of the beauties of nature, are found to interest both cultivated and uncultivated minds. To understand descriptive poetry, no previous knowledge is required, beyond what common observation and sympathy supply; the analogies and transitions of thought, are slight and obvious; no labour of attention is demanded, no active effort of the mind is requisite to follow them. The pleasures of simple sensation are, by descriptive poetry, recalled to the imagination, and we live over again our past lives without increasing, and without desiring to increase, our stock of knowledge. If these observations be just, there must appear many reasons, why even that species of poetry which they can understand, should not be the early study of children; from time to time it may be an agreeable amusement, but it should not become a part of their daily occupations. We do not want to retrace perpetually in their memories a few musical words, or a few simple sensations; our object is to enlarge the sphere of our pupil's capacity, to strengthen the habits of attention, and to exercise all the powers of the mind. The inventive and the reasoning faculties must be injured by the repetition of vague expressions, and of exaggerated description, with which most poetry abounds. Childhood is the season for observation, and those who observe accurately, will afterwards be able to describe accurately: but those, who merely read descriptions, can present us with nothing but the pictures of pictures. We have reason to believe, that children, who have not been accustomed to read a vast deal of poetry, are not, for that reason, less likely to excel in poetic language. The reader will judge from the following explanations of Gray's Hymn to Adversity, that the boy to whom they were addressed, was not much accustomed to read even the most popular English poetry; yet this is the same child, who a few months afterwards, wrote the translation from Ovid, of the Cave of Sleep, and who gave the extempore description of a summer's evening in tolerably good language.

Jan. 1796. S-- (nine years old) learned by heart the Hymn to Adversity. When he came to repeat this poem, he did not repeat it well, and he had it not perfectly by heart. His father suspected that he did not understand it, and he examined him with some care.

Father. "Purple tyrants!" Why purple?

S--. Because purple is a colour something like red and black; and tyrants look red and black.

Father. No. Kings were formerly called tyrants, and they wore purple robes: the purple of the ancients is supposed to be not the colour which we call purple, but that which we call scarlet.

"When first thy sire to send on earth

Virtue, his darling child, design'd,

To thee he gave the heavenly birth,

And bade to form her infant mind."

When S-- was asked who was meant in these lines by "thy sire," he frowned terribly; but after some deliberation, he discovered that "thy sire" meant Jove, the father, or sire of Adversity: still he was extremely puzzled with "the heavenly birth." First he thought that the heavenly birth was the birth of Adversity; but upon recollection, the heavenly birth was to be trusted to Adversity, therefore she could not be trusted with the care of herself. S-- at length discovered, that Jove must have had two daughters, and he said he supposed that Virtue must have been one of these daughters, and that she must have been sister to Adversity, who was to be her nurse, and who was to form her infant mind: he now perceived that the expression, "Stern, rugged nurse," referred to Adversity; before this, he said, he did not know who it meant, whose "rigid lore" was alluded to in these two lines, or who bore it with patience.

"Stern, rugged nurse, thy rigid lore

With patience many a year she bore."

The following stanza S-- repeated a second time, as if he did not understand it.

"Scared at thy frown, terrific fly

Self pleasing follies, idle brood,

Wild laughter, noise, and thoughtless joy,

And leave us leisure to be good.

Light they disperse, and with them go

The summer friend, the flattering foe;

By vain prosperity receiv'd,

To her they vow their truth, and are again believ'd."

Father. Why does the poet say wild laughter?

S--. It means, not reasonable.

Father. Why is it said,

"By vain prosperity receiv'd,

To her they vow their truth, and are again believ'd?"

S--. Because the people, I suppose, when they were in prosperity before, believed them before, but I think that seems confused.

"Oh gently on thy suppliant's head,

Dread goddess, lay thy chastening hand."

S-- did not seem to comprehend the first of these two lines; and upon cross examination, it appeared that he did not know the meaning of the word suppliant; he thought it meant "a person who supplies us."

"Not in thy Gorgon terrors clad,

Nor circled by the vengeful band,

As by the impious thou art seen."

It may appear improbable, that a child who did not know the meaning of the word suppliant, should understand the Gorgon terrors, and the vengeful band, yet it was so: S-- understood these lines distinctly; he said, "Gorgon terrors, yes, like the head of Gorgon." He was at this time translating from Ovid's Metamorphoses; and it happened that his father had explained to him the ideas of the ancients concerning the furies; besides this, several people in the family had been reading Potter's ?schylus, and the furies had been the subject of conversation. From such accidental circumstances as these, children often appear, in the same instant almost, to be extremely quick, and extremely slow of comprehension; a preceptor who is well acquainted with all his pupil's previous knowledge, can rapidly increase his stock of ideas by turning every accidental circumstance to account: but if a tutor persists in forcing a child to a regular course of study, all his ideas must be collected, not as they are wanted in conversation or in real life, but as they are wanted to get through a lesson or a book. It is not surprising, that M. Condillac found such long explanations necessary for his young pupil in reading the tragedies of Racine; he says, that he was frequently obliged to translate the poetry into prose, and frequently the prince could gather only some general idea of the whole drama, without understanding the parts. We cannot help regretting, that the explanations have not been published for the advantage of future preceptors; they must have been almost as difficult as those for the preliminary lessons. As we are convinced that the art of education can be best improved by the registering of early experiments, we are very willing to expose such as have been made, without fear of fastidious criticism or ridicule.

May 1, 1796. A little poem, called "The Tears of Old May-day," published in the second volume of the World, was read to S--. Last May-day the same poem had been read to him; he then liked it much, and his father wished to see what effect it would have upon this second reading. The pleasure of novelty was worn off, but S-- felt new pleasure from his having, during the last year, acquired a great number of new ideas, and especially some knowledge of ancient mythology, which enabled him to understand several allusions in the poem which had before been unintelligible to him. He had become acquainted with the muses, the graces, Cynthia, Philomel, Astrea, who are all mentioned in this poem; he now knew something about the Hesperian fruit, Amalthea's horn, choral dances, Libyan Ammon, &c. which are alluded to in different lines of the poem: he remembered the explanation which his father had given him the preceding year, of a line which alludes to the island of Atalantis:

"Then vanished many a sea-girt isle and grove,

Their forests floating on the wat'ry plain;

Then famed for arts, and laws deriv'd from Jove,

My Atalantis sunk beneath the main."

S--, whose imagination had been pleased with the idea of the fabulous island of Atalantis, recollected what he had heard of it; but he had forgotten the explanation of another stanza of this poem, which he had heard at the same time:

"To her no more Augusta's wealthy pride,

Pours the full tribute from Potosi's mine;

Nor fresh blown garlands village maids provide,

A purer offering at her rustic shrine."

S-- forgot that he had been told that London was formerly called Augusta; that Potosi's mines contained silver; and that pouring the tribute from Potosi's mines, alludes to the custom of hanging silver tankards upon the May-poles in London on May-day; consequently the beauty of this stanza was entirely lost upon him. A few circumstances were now told to S--, which imprinted the explanation effectually in his memory: his father told him, that the publicans, or those who keep public houses in London, make it a custom to lend their silver tankards to the poor chimney-sweepers and milk-maids, who go in procession through the streets on May-day. The confidence that is put in the honesty of these poor people, pleased S--, and all these circumstances fixed the principal idea more firmly in his mind.

The following lines could please him only by their sound, the first time he heard them:

"Ah! once to fame and bright dominion born,

The earth and smiling ocean saw me rise,

With time coeval, and the star of morn,

The first, the fairest daughter of the skies.

"Then, when at heaven's prolific mandate sprung

The radiant beam of new-created day,

Celestial harps, to airs of triumph strung,

Hail'd the glad dawn, and angel's call'd me May.

"Space in her empty regions heard the sound,

And hills and dales, and rocks and valleys rung;

The sun exulted in his glorious round,

And shouting planets in their courses sung."

The idea which the ancients had of the music of the spheres was here explained to S--, and some general notion was given to him of the harmonic numbers.

What a number of new ideas this little poem served to introduce into the mind! These explanations being given precisely at the time when they were wanted, fixed the ideas in the memory in their proper places, and associated knowledge with the pleasures of poetry. Some of the effect of a poem must, it is true, be lost by interruptions and explanations; but we must consider the general improvement of the understanding, and not merely the cultivation of poetic taste. In the instance which we have just given, the pleasure which the boy received from the poem, seemed to increase in proportion to the exactness with which it was explained. The succeeding year, on May-day 1797, the same poem was read to him for the third time, and he appeared to like it better than he had done upon the first reading. If, instead of perusing Racine twelve times in one year, the young prince of Parma had read any one play or scene at different periods of his education, and had been led to observe the increase of pleasure which he felt from being able to understand what he read better each succeeding time than before, he would probably have improved more rapidly in his taste for poetry, though he might not have known Racine by rote quite so early as at eight years old.

We considered parents almost as much as children, when we advised that a great deal of poetry should not be read by very young pupils; the labour and difficulty of explaining it can be known only to those who have tried the experiment. The Elegy in a country church-yard, is one of the most popular poems, which is usually given to children to learn by heart; it cost at least a quarter of an hour to explain to intelligent children, the youngest of whom was at the time nine years old, the first stanza of that elegy. And we have heard it asserted by a gentleman not unacquainted with literature, that perfectly to understand l'Allegro and Il Penseroso, requires no inconsiderable portion of ancient and modern knowledge. It employed several hours on different days to read and explain Comus, so as to make it intelligible to a boy of ten years, who gave his utmost attention to it. The explanations on this poem were found to be so numerous and intricate, that we thought it best not to produce them here. Explanations which are given by a reader, can be given with greater rapidity and effect, than any which a writer can give to children: the expression of the countenance is advantageous, the sprightliness of conversation keeps the pupils awake, and the connection of the parts of the subject can be carried on better in speaking and reading, than it can be in written explanations. Notes are almost always too formal, or too obscure; they explain what was understood more plainly before any illustration was attempted, or they leave us in the dark the moment we want to be enlightened. Wherever parents or preceptors can supply the place of notes and commentators, they need not think their time ill bestowed. If they cannot undertake these troublesome explanations, they can surely reserve obscure poems for a later period of their pupil's education. Children, who are taught at seven or eight years old to repeat poetry, frequently get beautiful lines by rote, and speak them fluently, without in the least understanding the meaning of the lines. The business of a poet is to please the imagination, and to move the passions: in proportion as his language is sublime or pathetic, witty or satirical, it must be unfit for children. Knowledge cannot be detailed, or accurately explained, in poetry; the beauty of an allusion depends frequently upon the elliptical mode of expression, which passing imperceptibly over all the intermediate links in our associations, is apparent only when it touches the ends of the chain. Those who wish to instruct, must pursue the opposite system.

In Doctor Wilkins's Essay on Universal Language, he proposes to introduce a note similar to the common note of admiration, to give the reader notice when any expression is used in an ironical or in a metaphoric sense. Such a note would be of great advantage to children: in reading poetry, they are continually puzzled between the obvious and the metaphoric sense of the words.[121] The desire to make children learn a vast deal of poetry by heart, fortunately for the understanding of the rising generation, does not rage with such violence as formerly. Dr. Johnson successfully laughed at infants lisping out, "Angels and ministers of grace, defend us." His reproof was rather ill-natured, when he begged two children who were produced, to repeat some lines to him, "Can't the pretty dears repeat them both together?" But this reproof has probably prevented many exhibitions of the same kind.

Some people learn poetry by heart for the pleasure of quoting it in conversation; but the talent for quotation, both in conversation and in writing, is now become so common, that it cannot confer immortality.[122] Every person has by rote certain passages from Shakespeare and Thomson, Goldsmith and Gray: these trite quotations fatigue the literary ear, and disgust the taste of the public. To this change in the fashion of the day, those who are influenced by fashion, will probably listen with more eagerness, than to all the reasons that have been offered. But to return to the prince of Parma. After reading Corneille, Racine, Moliere, Boileau, &c. the young prince's taste was formed, as we are assured by his preceptor, and he was now fit for the study of grammar. So much is due to the benevolent intentions of a man of learning and genius, who submits to the drudgery of writing an elementary book on grammar, that even a critic must feel unwilling to examine it with severity. M. Condillac, in his attempt to write a rational grammar, has produced, if not a grammar fit for children, a philosophical treatise, which a well educated young person will read with great advantage at the age of seventeen or eighteen. All that is said of the natural language of signs, of the language of action, of pantomimes, and of the institution of M. l'Abbé l'Epée for teaching languages to the deaf and dumb, is not only amusing and instructive to general readers, but, with slight alterations in the language, might be perfectly adapted to the capacity of children. But when the Abbé Condillac goes on to "Your highness knows what is meant by a system," he immediately forgets his pupils age. The reader's attention is presently deeply engaged by an abstract disquisition on the relative proportion, represented by various circles of different extent, of the wants, ideas, and language of savages, shepherds, commercial and polished nations, when he is suddenly awakened to the recollection, that all this is addressed to a child of eight years old: an allusion to the prince's little chair, completely rouses us from our reverie.

"As your little chair is made in the same form as mine, which is higher, so the system of ideas is fundamentally the same amongst savage and civilized nations; it differs only in degrees of extension, as after one and the same model, seats of different heights have been made."[123]

Such mistakes as these, in a work intended for a child, are so obvious, that they could not have escaped the penetration of a great man, had he known as much of the practice as he did of the theory of the art of teaching.

To analyze a thought, and to show the construction of language, M. Condillac, in this volume on grammar, has chosen for an example a passage from an Eloge on Peter Corneille, pronounced before the French academy by Racine, on the reception of Thomas Corneille, who succeeded to Peter. It is in the French style of academical panegyric, a representation of the chaotic state in which Corneille found the French theatre, and of the light and order which he diffused through the dramatic world by his creative genius. A subject less interesting, or more unintelligible to a child, could scarcely have been selected. The lecture on the anatomy of Racine's thought, lasts through fifteen pages; according to all the rules of art, the dissection is ably performed, but most children will turn from the operation with disgust.

The Abbé Condillac's treatise on the art of writing, immediately succeeds to his grammar. The examples in this volume are much better chosen; they are interesting to all readers; those especially from madame de Sevigné's letters, which are drawn from familiar language and domestic life. The enumeration of the figures of speech, and the classification of the flowers of rhetoric, are judiciously suppressed; the catalogue of the different sorts of turns, phrases proper for maxims and principles, turns proper for sentiment, ingenious turns and quaint turns, stiff turns and easy turns, might, perhaps, have been somewhat abridged. The observations on the effect of unity in the whole design, and in all the subordinate parts of a work, though they may not be new, are ably stated; and the remark, that the utmost propriety of language, and the strongest effect of eloquence and reasoning, result from the greatest possible attention to the connection of our ideas, is impressed forcibly upon the reader throughout this work.

How far works of criticism in general are suited to children, remains to be considered. Such works cannot probably suit their taste, because the taste for systematic criticism cannot arise in the mind until many books have been read; until the various species of excellence suited to different sorts of composition, have been perceived, and until the mind has made some choice of its own. It is true, that works of criticism may teach children to talk well of what they read; they will be enabled to repeat what good judges have said of books. But this is not, or ought not to be, the object. After having been thus officiously assisted by a connoisseur, who points out to them the beauties of authors, will they be able afterwards to discover beauties without his assistance? Or have they as much pleasure in being told what to admire, what to praise, and what to blame, as if they had been suffered to feel and to express their own feelings naturally? In reading an interesting play, or beautiful poem, how often has a man of taste and genius execrated the impertinent commentator, who interrupts him by obtruding his ostentatious notes-"The reader will observe the beauty of this thought." "This is one of the finest passages in any author, ancient or modern." "The sense of this line, which all former annotators have mistaken, is obviously restored by the addition of the vowel i." &c.

Deprived, by these anticipating explanations, of the use of his own common sense, the reader detests the critic, soon learns to disregard his references, and to skip over his learned truisms. Similar sensations, tempered by duty or by fear, may have been sometimes experienced by a vivacious child, who, eager to go on with what he is reading, is prevented from feeling the effect of the whole, by a premature discussion of its parts. We hope that no keen hunter of paradoxes will here exult in having detected us in a contradiction: we are perfectly aware, that but a few pages ago we exhibited examples of detailed explanations of poetry for children; but these explanations were not of the criticising class; they were not designed to tell young people what to admire, but simply to assist them to understand before they admired.

Works of criticism are sometimes given to pupils, with the idea that they will instruct and form them in the art of writing: but few things can be more terrific or dangerous to the young writer, than the voice of relentless criticism. Hope stimulates, but fear depresses the active powers of the mind; and how much have they to fear, who have continually before their eyes the mistakes and disgrace of others; of others, who with superior talents have attempted and failed! With a multitude of precepts and rules of rhetoric full in their memory, they cannot express the simplest of their thoughts; and to write a sentence composed of members, which have each of them names of many syllables, must appear a most formidable and presumptuous undertaking. On the contrary, a child who, in books and in conversation, has been used to hear and to speak correct language, and who has never been terrified with the idea, that to write, is to express his thoughts in some new and extraordinary manner, will naturally write as he speaks, and as he thinks. Making certain characters upon paper, to represent to others what he wishes to say[124] to them, will not appear to him a matter of dread and danger, but of convenience and amusement, and he will write prose without knowing it.

Amongst some "Practical Essays,"[125] lately published, "to assist the exertions of youth in their literary pursuits," there is an essay on letter-writing, which might deter a timid child from ever undertaking such an arduous task as that of writing a letter. So much is said from Blair, from Cicero, from Quintilian; so many things are requisite in a letter; purity, neatness, simplicity; such caution must be used to avoid "exotics transplanted from foreign languages, or raised in the hot-beds of affectation and conceit;" such attention to the mother-tongue is prescribed, that the young nerves of the letter-writer must tremble when he takes up his pen. Besides, he is told that "he should be extremely reserved on the head of pleasantry," and that "as to sallies of wit, it is still more dangerous to let them fly at random; but he may repeat the smart sayings of others if he will, or relate part of some droll adventure, to enliven his letter."

The anxiety that parents and tutors frequently express, to have their children write letters, and good letters, often prevents the pupils from writing during the whole course of their lives. Letter-writing becomes a task and an evil to children; whether they have any thing to say or not, write they must, this post or next, without fail, a pretty letter to some relation or friend, who has exacted from them the awful promise of punctual correspondence. It is no wonder that school-boys and school-girls, in these circumstances, feel that necessity is not the mother of invention; they are reduced to the humiliating misery of begging from some old practitioner a beginning, or an ending, and something to say to fill up the middle.

Locke humorously describes the misery of a school-boy who is to write a theme; and having nothing to say, goes about with the usual petition in these cases to his companions, "Pray give me a little sense." Would it not be better to wait until children have sense, before we exact from them themes and discourses upon literary subjects? There is no danger, that those who acquire a variety of knowledge and numerous ideas, should not be able to find words to express them; but those who are compelled to find words before they have ideas, are in a melancholy situation. To form a style, is but a vague idea; practice in composition, will certainly confer ease in writing, upon those who write when their minds are full of ideas; but the practice of sitting with a melancholy face, with pen in hand, waiting for inspiration, will not much advance the pupil in the art of writing. We should not recommend it to a preceptor to require regular themes at stated periods from his pupils; but whenever he perceives that a young man is struck with any new ideas, or new circumstances, when he is certain that his pupil has acquired a fund of knowledge, when he finds in conversation that words flow readily upon certain subjects, he may, without danger, upon these subjects, excite his pupil to try his powers of writing. These trials need not be frequently made: when a young man has once acquired confidence in himself as a writer, he will certainly use his talent whenever proper occasions present themselves. The perusal of the best authors in the English language, will give him, if he adhere to these alone, sufficient powers of expression. The best authors in the English language are so well known, that it would be useless to enumerate them. Dr. Johnson says, that whoever would acquire a pure English style, must give his days and nights to Addison. We do not, however, feel this exclusive preference for Addison's melodious periods; his page is ever elegant, but sometimes it is too diffuse.-Hume, Blackstone, and Smith, have a proper degree of strength and energy combined with their elegance. Gibbon says, that the perfect composition and well turned periods of Dr. Robertson, excited his hopes, that he might one day become his equal in writing; but "the calm philosophy, the careless inimitable beauties of his friend and rival Hume, often forced him to close the volume with a mixed sensation of delight and despair." From this testimony we may judge, that a simple style appears to the best judges to be more difficult to attain, and more desirable, than that highly ornamented diction to which writers of inferior taste aspire. Gibbon tells us, with great candour, that his friend Hume advised him to beware of the rhetorical style of French eloquence. Hume observed, that the English language, and English taste, do not admit of this profusion of ornament.

Without meaning to enter at large into the subject, we have offered these remarks upon style for the advantage of those who are to direct the taste of young readers; what they admire when they read, they will probably imitate when they write. We objected to works of criticism for young children, but we should observe, that at a later period of education, they will be found highly advantageous. It would be absurd to mark the precise age at which Blair's Lectures, or Condillac's Art d'Ecrire, ought to be read, because this should be decided by circumstances; by the progress of the pupils in literature, and by the subjects to which their attention happens to have turned. Of these, preceptors, and the pupils themselves, must be the most competent judges. From the same wish to avoid all pedantic attempts to dictate, we have not given any regular course of study in this chapter. Many able writers have laid down extensive plans of study, and have named the books that are essential to the acquisition of different branches of knowledge. Amongst others we may refer to Dr. Priestley's, which is to be seen at the end of his Essays on Education. We are sensible that order is necessary in reading, but we cannot think that the same order will suit all minds, nor do we imagine that a young person cannot read to advantage unless he pursue a given course of study. Men of sense will not be intolerant in their love of learned order.

If parents would keep an accurate list of the books which their children read, of the ages at which they are read, it would be of essential service in improving the art of education. We might then mark the progress of the understanding with accuracy, and discover, with some degree of certainty, the circumstances on which the formation of the character and taste depend. Swift has given us a list of the books which he read during two years of his life; we can trace the ideas that he acquired from them in his Laputa, and other parts of Gulliver's travels. Gibbon's journal of his studies, and his account of universities, are very instructive to young students. So is the life of Franklin, written by himself. Madame Roland has left a history of her education; and in the books she read in her early years, we see the formation of her character. Plutarch's Lives, she tells us, first kindled republican enthusiasm in her mind; and she regrets that, in forming her ideas of universal liberty, she had only a partial view of affairs. She corrected these enthusiastic ideas during the last moments of her life in prison. Had the impression which her study of the Roman history made upon her mind been known to an able preceptor, it might have been corrected in her early education. When she was led to execution, she exclaimed, as she passed the statue of Liberty, "Oh Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!"[126]

Formerly it was wisely said, "Tell me what company a man keeps, and I will tell you what he is;" but since literature has spread a new influence over the world, we must add, "Tell me what company a man has kept, and what books he has read, and I will tell you what he is."

[101] V. Academie della Crusca.

[102] Marmontel. "On ne se guérit pas d'un dêfaut qui plait."

[103] We have heard that such a translation was begun.

[104] V. Hor. 2 Epist. lib. ii.

[105] V. Sympathy and Sensibility.

[106] V. A letter of Mr. Wyndham's to Mr. Repton, in Repton, on Landscape Gardening.

[107] The Critic.

[108] Professor Stewart.

[109] Berquin.

[110] V. Sympathy and Sensibility.

[111] Chapter on Invention and Memory.

[112] V. Guthrie's Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar, page 186.

[113] Ibid, page 398.

[114] L'idée, par exemple, que j'ai de Pierre, est singuliére ou individuelle, et comme l'idêe d'homme est générale par rapport aux idées de noble et de roturier, elle est particuliére par rapport à l'idée d'animal. Le?ons Préliminaires, vol. i. p. 43.

[115] Ainsi lorsque, de plusieurs sensations qui se font en même temps sur vous, la direction des organs vous en fait remarquer une, de maniére que vous ne remarquez plus les autres, cette sensation devient ce que nous appellons attention. Le?ons Préliminaires, page 46.

[116] "La comparaison n'est donc qu'une double attention. Nous venons de voir que l'attention n'est qu'une sensation qui se fait remarquer. Deux attentions ne sont donc que deux sensations qui se font remarquer également; et par conséquent il n'y a dans la comparaison que des sensations." Le?ons Préliminaires, p. 47.

[117] V. Art de Penser, p. 324.

[118] V. Dunciad.

[119] Motif des études qui ont été faites aprés Le?ons Préliminaires, p. 67. Lejeune prince connoissoit déja le systême des operations de son ame, il comprenoit la génération de ses idées, il voyoit l'origine et le progrès des habitudes qu'il avoit contractées, et il concevoit comment il pouvoit substituer des idées justes aux idées fausses qu'on lui avoit données, et de bonnes habitudes aux mauvaises qu'on lui avoit laissé prendre. Il s'ètoit familiarié si promptement avec toutes ces choses, qu'il s'en retra?oit la suite sans effort, et comme en badinant.

[120] As this page was sent over to us for correction, we seize the opportunity of expressing our wish, that "Botanical Dialogues, by a Lady," had come sooner to our hands; it contains much that we think peculiarly valuable.

[121] In Dr. Franklin's posthumous Essays, there is an excellent remark with respect to typography, as connected with the art of reading. The note of interrogation should be placed at the beginning, as well as at the end of a question; it is sometimes so far distant, as to be out of the reach of an unpractised eye.

[122] Young.

[123] Comme votre petite chaise est faite sur le même modèle que la mienne qui est plus élevée, ainsi le système des idées est le même pour le fond chez les peuples sauvages et chez les peuples civilisés; il ne differe, qui parce qu'il est plus on moins etendu; c'est un même modele d'apres lequel on a fait des sieges de différent hauteur.-Grammaire, page 23.

[124] Rousseau.

[125] Milne's Well-bred Scholar.


"Oh Liberté, que de forfaits on commet en ton nom!"

V. Appel à l'Impartielle Postérité.


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