π1v
A seated woman, shown from the waist up, wearing a garment with long sleeves. Fabric of some sort is draped over her head. Her hands rest on what appears to be the back of a chair. She holds a pen in her right hand.

Engraved by T.S. Inglehart from a Miniature by Hamilton

π2r omitted π2v A1r

Thoughts of a Parent
on
Education.

By the Late
Mrs. Richard Trench.

A New Edition,
with
a Preface and Notes by the Editor
.

London:
John W. Parker, West Strand. 1837M.DCCC.XXXVII.

A1v A2r

Editor’s Preface.

The valuable and interesting little work
now offered to the public, fell into the
Editor’s hands a short time ago, during
her residence in Ireland; and anxious to
be the means of diffusing more widely,
thoughts so just, so pure, and intelligent,
she has obtained permission to reprint
them.

It was originally her desire to have
appended a slight sketch of the lamented
Author’s life, which is said to have been
eventful and interesting; but this wish
has been readily relinquished, under the
expectation that a memoir, with collected A2 A2v iv
remains in prose and verse, will shortly be
published, by a member of Mrs. Trench’s
own family.

The work has been republished without
any alteration in the text. The Editor is,
therefore, answerable for the notes alone;
in one or two of which she has ventured
to express a difference of opinion from the
gifted Author; in others, to confirm or
develop her views more fully.

A3r

Author’s Preface.

Had not a few copies of the following
Thoughts been printed, and privately circulated,
some years since, I could myself
have almost believed that I had insensibly
borrowed the greatest part of them from
a more important work on the same subject,
which I have only just seen. However,
as I have sometimes presented the
same truths in a different dress, I am not
deterred from offering to young mothers
this slighter attempt.

I may be thought to refrain from giving
the title of the work I allude to, lest I A3v vi
should seem to challenge a comparison
unfavourable to mine. I do refrain from
it, lest some readers might erroneously
suspect that I intend to convey an accusation,
when I only wish to offer an
excuse.

A4r

Thoughts of a Parent.

Chapter I.

The aim of education usually contracted
to minor interests and advantages.

The first object of education is to train up an
immortal soul. The second (but second at an
immeasurable distance) is, to do this in a manner
most conducive to human happiness; never
sacrificing either the interests of the future
world to those of the present, or the welfare of
the man to the inclinations of the child: errors
not dissimilar in complexion, though so awfully
different in the importance of their results.

This simple position seems so evident, as to
require neither repetition nor enforcement; yet
experience proves how little it is acted upon in
education: and among those who do act upon it,
how many discover a strange species of false
shame in confessing their motive.

A4v 8

When a mother boasted to Lucinda, in a
confidential moment, of her daughter’s accomplishments,
the latter, a sincere and clearsighted
person, observing how exclusively the
embellishments of life had superseded all else in
her friend’s estimation, ventured to hint that
such acquirements ought not to be the great
object of education.

“I know what you mean,” replied the careful
matron: “the great object is, her marrying
advantageously.”

“Not exactly,” replied Lucinda: “so many
of the unmarried are eminently useful in walks
where wives and mothers can seldom tread, and
the balance of happiness so equal, that nothing
is more surprising than the prevalent solicitude
to ensure the marriage of young women.”

“How stupid I am!” replied mamma.
“You mean, by the great object, living in the
best company?”

Lucinda shook her head.

“Oh! then you mean the power of amusing
herself at home.”

In short, when Lucinda explained, by hinting
somewhat of that religious instruction—that A5r 9
education of the heart, which prepares for a
higher existence, she was listened to with
evident ennui; and a certain degree of restlessness
in her fair auditor, showed the desire of
terminating a conversation derogatory to Lucinda’s
understanding.

One mother, indulging for her daughter the
wish she has felt most powerfully for herself,
thinks she displays a graceful candour, in owning
that “her great ambition is to see her
admired.”
Another declares she has chiefly set
her heart on making her girls excellent musicians.
A third, on their “being perfectly
women of fashion.”
These sentiments are seldom
openly avowed, and are most acted upon in
that class of persons, who, uniting wealth and
idleness to a thirst for dissipation, are eagerly
pressing upwards; and though not within the
pale of fashion, conceive that envied distinction
not wholly unattainable, either by themselves
or their children.

One father professes he will be satisfied if his
son “never does anything unworthy of a gentleman!”
We all know the latitude of the phrase.
Another, only wishes that his should “advance A5v 10
by his talents, and be distinguished in the
world.”

Any person who ventures, except in the
pulpit, to speak with the openness of Lucinda,
is considered (unless mildly set aside as a saint
or a Methodist) as either half mad, half fool;
or an untutored, Parson Adams-ish sort of person,
regardless or ignorant of the common usages
of life.This appalling fact would not now perhaps be so generally
admitted, as it must have been (especially in Ireland)
when these pages were written. Religion is now taught
as a branch of education at least. And did Christianity
consist of outward ordinances,—fixed rules of conduct,—
and assent to certain dogmas, it might be so taught. But
the truth is, that though the facts and doctrines of our
religion may be learnt by the pupil, their results, their
practical consequences, must be imbibed from the teacher’s
own life. Her temper, her views, her hopes, must “tell
of the doctrine,”
whether, at least, she believes its truth.
And if this comment be wanting, our children may be
reading the Scriptures daily, yet may not, after all, be receiving
a Christian education. Nay, should this reading
bring forth fruit to them, may it not rather be in spite of,
than in consequence of, their education? Such a view
of the subject, I conceive, would have been taken by the
author at the present day.

Were the plain, but unpopular assertion, that
this world is a preparation for the next, uniformly A6r 11
attended to, how would it simplify the
apparently complicated task of education:—how
many systems and theories would crumble into
dust:—how few parents could mistake the plain
road pointed out by the Gospel. An affectionate
mother, guided by its precepts, would need but
little study to become the best instructor of
early youth. As she would acknowledge that
we find in the human heart the soil for every
virtue, the seeds of every vice, she would be in
no danger of following those rash philosophers
who advise us to trust “implicitly to Nature.”
On the contrary, she would vigilantly eradicate
those vices to which she knows our nature is
prone, though some of them may shoot up in
the most brilliant and beautiful colours; for the
graces of infancy reflect a charm on its very
faults. Falsehood, from the lips of a lovely and
sprightly child, who has no apparent design but
to amuse, wears the garb of lively invention;
and, if we reflect not on the habit thus formed,
is often highly entertaining. Obstinacy takes
the shape of firmness;—anger, of spirit and
courage;—selfishness, of forethought and penetration.
The Christian mother feels that the A6v 12
seeds of these imperfections are thickly sown,
and she will endeavour to stifle them before
they appear above the surface; conscious that
this can best be done by an assiduous and early
cultivation of the opposite virtues.

Above all, she will be aware of resigning herself
wholly to the guidance of any general system
of education, recommended by so short-
sighted a being as man; because the difference
of external circumstances, of organization, of
mental powers, and imperceptible early associations,
must create the necessity of continual
variation from systems the most plausible and
imposing.

That we are all born alike in disposition and
capability of acquiring knowledge, no one who
has studied children will be hardy enough to
assert; though it has been boldly insisted on by
some modern French philosophers.

Difference of temper, though health and all
other external circumstances are the same, is
observable in a few days after our birth. While
nature is so various, an unbending systematic
education will too often prove no better than
the bed of Procrustes.

A7r 13

This education of the heart must begin in
the cradle. The principles which are to guide
our lives, ought to be implanted in the nursery:
they will otherwise be too weak, however acknowledged
by the understanding, to operate as
restraints during the perilous and impassioned
hours of youth. If reserved to be taught in
in the later years of childhood, they may certainly
be imprinted in our hearts, and we may return
to their guidance after having wandered far
astray; but the ideas impressed on infancy—
these—and, in most cases, these alone, enable
us to do our part, and co-operate with the assistance
from above, in resisting strong and urgent
temptation, at that season when the imagination
and senses are in their fullest vigour—while
the energies of our intellect, and clearness of
our judgment, have not acquired half their
strength.

Much depends on the choice of a nurse, or
the conduct of those valuable mothers who,
when it is possible, undertake that endearing
office. A nurse of a serene temper is preferable
to those noisy, laughter-loving, loquacious
dames, so often applauded by parents for their A7v 14
high spirits. Equanimity and gentle cheerfulness
are delightful to infants, from the first
dawning of apprehension; and Raphael was
true to nature, as well as to taste, when he gave
his Madonna that soft and subdued tenderness
of aspect, which we cannot gaze upon without
feeling ourselves harmonized and improved.
The effects of the disposition of a nurse on our
future temper, has been often observed; and it
would be well if mothers would lay down a few
simple rules for her moral management of an
infant, giving her the reasons for them. This
will, in general, render her obedience more willing
and intelligent; for obedient she must be,
as the authority of a parent should supersede
every other. Mildness, patience, truth, and
self-denial, (virtues absolutely necessary to the
performance of her duties,) she must be taught
by the example as well as precepts of her mistress.
Without the first of these virtues, all
the rest will be useless; and she must learn
that meekness and gentleness are much more
compatible with steadiness and courage, than
either noise or violence.

To resign is our last moral lesson: it ought A8r 15
also to be our first. In this great preparatory
school, called human life, we are continually
required to practise the virtues of patience and
self-denial. From the dawn of observation, in
our very cradles, the temper may equally be
spoiled by neglect, severity, or a timid, slavish
indulgence. The real wants of an infant should
be satisfied, the moment they are known. To
supply them before they are announced by tears
and cries, will often wholly prevent those
whimpering and noisy habits, so injurious to
children, and so distressing to their parents.
The writer is so fortunate as to know a little
group who have scarcely ever been heard to cry,
and it may partly be attributed to a careful
observance of this rule. They have not found
tears and clamour necessary to the attainment
of their wishes.

An infant should ever be addressed with mild
cheerfulness, and treated with that uniform
kindness of which it appears conscious: I dare
not say how soon. Those who have observed
infancy, know it well: those who have not, will
listen with a smile of incredulity. But we must
accustom even infants to resign immediately A8v 16
whatever we do not wish them to retain, and to
be refused whatever is unfit for us to grant. At
the same time, we ought not to seek occasions
for practising this rule: there are more than
enough in the natural course of things. Nay,
we ought to diminish these occasions; and
affectionate intelligence is often necessary, in
order to turn the attention of the child from an
object of earnest desire, by exciting some other
interest or inclination. The power of narrating,
with simplicity and good sense, is invaluable: it
almost saves the trouble of refusing. Most
children will accept a story, without knowing it
to be so intended, as a substitute for any other
pleasure. When, however, we must refuse, our
denial ought to be good-humoured, prompt, and
decisive. We ought not to excite false hope, or
create suspense: we ought not to associate the
idea of our displeasure with that of privation.
But, “let your No be as a wall of brass, which
the child, with all his endeavours, shall not be
able to shake.”

Your child is prepared to walk, and longs to
play in your garden. If he bear with patience
being prevented by a storm, but fall into a passion B1r 17
of tears at losing his amusement by your
refusal, it is your own fault; you have either
taught him to use tears as weapons of conquest,
or to consider your denials as sometimes the
fruits of harshness or caprice. Were your conduct
to him always unalterable as the law of
necessity,—gentle as the law of kindness,—the
chief source of infantine sorrow would be dried
up.

Parents who spoil by self-indulgence,
(for so it may properly be called,) often
refuse them in an humble and deprecating
manner; nay, sometimes atone for their presumption
by a bribe, or else express their denial
with the utmost peevishness. Their temper is
not unfrequently ruffled by being forced to act
in a way contrary to habit and inclination; and
this often vents itself on the little petitioner,
thus doubly a sufferer: unused to a refusal, and
refused with a degree of harshness which habitual
indulgence has rendered him peculiarly
unfit to bear.

We are sometimes a little angry with those
whom we refuse, as well as with those who
refuse us. Courtiers are aware of this; and B B1v 18
there are some who never “fritter away their
interest,”
(to borrow a phrase from one of themselves,)
by asking any favour for others; dreading
compliance as a waste of their influence; and
fearing a denial, lest it should indispose towards
them, those from whom it proceeded.

Children, at different periods of their infancy,
particularly if delicate in their frame, are often
subject to severe fits of involuntary crying; and
nothing can be more cruel than to treat these as
faults. We have known this error carried to a
most barbarous excess. They are, in fact, a
malady, which will be increased either by injudicious
fondling, or stern severity. With gravity,
sweet, firm composure, and an effort, wholly
unperceived by the child, to divert his attention,
they ought to be met. The command of, “Have
done!”
issued in a harsh and violent manner, is
as useless as the adoption of looks and epithets
more endearing than at other times. “You
shall cease from cying!”
in all cases of this kind,
commits our authority; for we never can be
sure of the extent of human wilfulness; and the
child, even when he cries from obstinacy, may
go on in spite of all threats, and whatever degree B2r 19
of punishment we may think proper to inflict.
If so, he has gained a victory, which sows the
seeds of future disobedienccdisobedience. The peremptory
command to cease from crying, it is impossible
to obey, if the tears of a child spring from weakness;
and all punishment will increase them,
sometimes to a most alarming excess. “While
you cry, I shall whip,”
was the expression of a
highly-approved governess of our acquaintance,
in former times; and she suited the action to the
word, to the utter extinction of health and
firmness in her pupil, but without gaining her
point.

It appeared in a court of justice, in Paris, a
few years ago, that a governess had thus caused
the death of a little girl intrusted to her care.

B2 B2v 20

Chapter II.

On Instilling Early Notions of
Religion.

“I teach my children their prayers, and desire
them to read the Bible; but say very little on
religion, as I make it a rule to talk to them only
on what they can understand.”
Such is the
substance of what is said by many parents, with
an air of triumph over those who attempt to
impress the truths of religion on the infant heart.
Few opinions are more erroneous, few mistakes
more fatal. Children, who are as yet undisturbed
by the passions, “those vultures of the
mind,”
are peculiarly fitted to receive religious
impressions, and Heaven is reflected in their
little bosoms, as in a clear, unruffled lake.
“What!” it is said, “will you attempt to explain
to a child the nature and attributes of the
Supreme Being?”

I shall not attempt to explain what is above
all human comprehension; but I shall tell them B3r 21
of a Being, all-powerful, all-wise, all-good, who
sees us in every moment of our lives, and reads
every thought of our hearts; who will reward
the good, and punish the wicked, if not in this
life, certainly in the next. I shall particularly
dwell on the happiness he has prepared for those
who obey him; and on his beneficence, in making
this earth, though only formed as a place of trial,
so often the abode of peace and pleasure. They
shall learn to “see God in the clouds, and hear
him in the wind:”
—in fruits and in flowers:—
in the sun, the moon, the stars, the beauties of
nature, and the joys of family affection. They
shall learn to observe how many delights he has
showered upon us; and, in their pains and their
sicknesses, their sorrows and their fears, to look
onwards to a fairer scene, where suffering will be
unknown. I shall pass more lightly over the
punishment prepared for the wicked, as it is not
eligible, at an early age, to cloud the mind by
deep or frequent representations of guilt and
misery. Children must know that both exist,
as soon as they are capable of observation; and
although the advantage of bringing them up in
total ignorance of evil, physical and moral, has B3v 22
proved an attractive subject for eloquent declamation,
it is needless to state the objections to
it, which must arise in thinking minds, because
the plan is wholly impracticable. But the opposite
extreme is far more dangerous. It has frequently
thrown a lasting gloom over the mind;
and the melancholy impression made on Johnson,
by his mother’s vivid description of the torments
of hell, when he was but three years old, as
related by Madame Piozzi, may have imparted
to his religious feelings that dark hue, which filled
his latter days with disquietude.

All the topics I have selected, will interest at
five or six years of age, sometimes much earlier;
and are particularly enjoyed by children, as subjects
of consideration, if not taught with a
melancholy countenance, as a lecture, but introduced
in their walks, in their beds, and mingled
with the most interesting occurences of their
existence, whether joyous or melancholy.

We often hear parents say, sometimes with
very mysterious faces, sometimes with an expression
of humour, as if enjoying the thoughts
of carrying on a deception, that “children ask
such extraordinary questions on religion, as it is B4r 23
quite impossible to answer.”
They will then
cite some expression or mistake, that seems to
them to place it in a ludicrous light; and they
appear to wish you should draw an inference
not very honourable to Christianity. They treat
it as something most reverenced, when least
inquired into or understood. “I think the less
that is said about religion, the better,”
is a
phrase of the same nature, which we all have
heard, from moral and well-conducted people;
and it never can be heard, without pain, by
those whose hearts are feelingly alive to the
best interests of men. It is certain that intelligent
children will sometimes require explanations
no man can give. We may allow the
truth of that assertion, though we deny the
inference too often meant to be drawn from it;
and we deprecate the habit of making it a text
for indecorous and insipid jests.

On religious subjects we are doubly armed;
for, when pressed by inquiries it is impossible to
satisfy, we can reply, as to questions on all other
topics, “You are yet too young to comprehend
the meaning of my answer.”
In this, a well-
taught child will cheerfully acquiesce, from a B4v 24
confidence founded on experience, that you will
explain to him all you can, as soon as possible.
And we can also say: “What you inquire
about cannot be understood in this world—it
may in the next. One of the pleasures of
heaven will be, the knowledge of many things
no one can comprehend in this life.”
They are
so fully satisfied with this, that an intelligent
child, of five years old, said to his mother:—
“Mamma, the foolishest angel in heaven, is
wiser than Sir Isaac Newton while he was
here.”
And they may be so impressed with
the hope of a future state, that the same child
at seven, when as well-informed in history as
most of his age, observed: “I am surprised the
wicked ever put a good man to death; since
they must know how much happier he will be,
than if they allowed him to live.”
Many will
smile as his simplicity; but some will own that
he had only a clearer view than his seniors, of
the difference between time and eternity.

In Moorehead’s twelfth and thirteenth Sermons,
both this duty, and the manner of its
performance, are beautifully described and enforced.
He advises us to begin by expatiating B5r 25
on the rule of doing to others as we would they
should do unto us; and on the fourth and fifth
commandments, so intelligible to infant capacities,
I may add, so soothing to youthful hearts.
It seems a pleasure to them to know, that in the
necessary, easy, and obvious duty of honouring
their parents, they are also obeying the Governor
of the Universe. And the contemplation of the
Sabbath, that day which gives “a pause from
labour to the whole Christian world,”The author appears to have fallen into the mistake,
so common at the present day, though almost uknown
in the age of our reformers, of confounding the Jewish
Sabbath, instituted in memory of the Creation, with the
Christian commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection, celebrated
on a different day, in a different manner, and on
different grounds.
and
whose venerable form is coëval with creation, is
always delightful to their opening minds.

Till they can read well, selections from the
Bible should be read to them, and its phraseology
carefully explained, where it differs from
the language of conversation. This is far better
than their stammering over the Sacred Volume
as a task, or making use of it as a book for
learning to read. Mrs. Trimmer’s judicious B5v 26
selections will assist parents in this part of their
duty; but if we mean the very young should
profit by her Annotations, they must be considerably
familiarized and abridged. Mr. Bullar’s
Bible Questions may be used in conversation,
before we give them to be answered in writing.
This little book, at once simple, concise, and
ingenious, fills up a chasm which many instructors
had observed with regret. The Creation,
the Deluge, the pious confidence of Abraham,
the resignation of Isaac, the eventful
history of Joseph, the firmness of Moses, the
escape of the Israelites, their wanderings in the
desert, the magnanimity of David, the patience
of Job, and the devoted affection of Ruth, are
more interesting to children, when related with
due attention to their powers and taste, than any
other points of history, ancient or modern. But
if with a sad face, and peevish voice, we summon
them, in the dreaded words, “Come, read your
chapter, then you may take some amusing
book;”
and give them a fragment, in an idiom
not rendered familar to their ears, of a history
they have never been led to relish or understand,
(just as if so much medicine were first to be B6r 27
swallowed, and then more agreeable food permitted,)
we raise powerful difficulties against
their reaping the full benefit, in after-life, of the
Inspired Writings: we associate with a thousand
unpleasing recollections, that which it is
our duty to present in the fullest and clearest
light.

It will scarcely be thought irrelevant to remark,
that the unwieldly form of a well-printed
Bible, and the very small type of a moderate-
sized one, occasionally prevent the Sacred
Volume from being read. There is also sometimes
an apprehension of being supposed to
make a parade of devotion, which prevents the
Bible from lying on tables where it would
appear, if less distinguished in shape and size.
The publication of a few, in five or six volumes,
would obviate these inconveniences, and make
any particular part, selected for study, more
portable in travelling, and more manageable in
sickness.

What Moorehead has said of the introductory
steps to a knowledge of Christianity, conveys
a new idea, so just and important, that
my readers will be pleased to see it in his own
words.

B6v 28

“In this branch of religious instruction, there
is one view to which the minds of the young
ought to be particularly directed: I mean the
character of our Saviour. His connexion with a
higher nature than ours, renders him an object
of peculiar reverence to the young mind to
which he is first introduced; but the simplicity
and the gentleness of his virtues, render him still
more an object of love and confidence. It is
not, perhaps, one of the least wonderful circumstances
in this divine character, that while it is
encompassed with the rays of Deity, and in all
the trying circumstances of human life carries a
form so lofty and commanding, it is yet quite
level to the capacity of a child. The fact is, I
believe it is more capable of being felt by children
than by ourselves: for this plain reason,
that, in some of its most striking peculiarities,
their minds are as yet less distantly removed
from it.”

B7r 29

Chapter III.

On Forming the Manners.

“Manners are all,” was the favourite maxim
of a prudent matron, well known in her little
circle, as an adept in worldly wisdom. Without
subscribing to her opinion, one is willing to
allow that, in things indifferent, an action identically
the same, may please or displease, according
to the method of doing it.

Those who desire to improve the manners of
their children, should rarely speak to them on
the subject. After they have been taught those
obvious rules which prevent them from being
unnecessarily troublesome, example can do much,
but precept may destory its good effects. In
ameliorating hearts, you polish manners. Good
nature, good humour, gentleness, the habit of
respecting one’s self soberly, and, if attended
to, the feelings of others, will, without the formality
of precept, give sweetness, courtesy, and B7v 30
that higher species of grace which depends on
the mind.

Forms are so insignificant, that no one ever
missed or was awkward in adopting them, except
by laying too much or too little stress on their performance.
The first is the more common cause of
failure, as our instinctively imitative habits usually
preserve us from any ill effects arising from contempt
or neglect of common forms. But if a
child has been led to think too highly of the
effects of his bow, his mode of entering or leaving
a room, of picking up a fan, or giving a tea-cup,
a great step has been taken towards lowering
his mind, and throwing restraint on his manners.
That person was proverbially deficient in “the
graces,”
to whom the most elaborate lectures
ever written on the subject were addressed:
lectures which formed, for some years, a code of
manners for the nation, and founded a school, of
which the remaining professors still think themselves
superior to all who went before, and all
who may follow after. Yet his instructor, the
head of that school, united the highest polish,
and habits of the best society, in every sense of
the word, with admirable talents and extensive B8r 31
knowledge; therefore he was peculiarly qualified
to impress whatever he desired to teach, both by
precept and example. Where he failed, who
can expect to succeed? The graces seldom
flourish, unless indigenous to the soil. Ease
and self-possession are advantages universally
attractive, and peculiarly sought for by all who
make manners a study, either as masters or
scholars. These are essential parts of good
breeding, without which it can scarcely be said
to exist; and they belong, in a very high degree,
to many of the members of the Society of
Friends
, who often possess a graceful simplicity
of address that emperors might envy. May not
this partly arise from their being, from youth
upwards, unincumbered by forms, while, at the
same time, a pleasing serenity is ensured by the
mildness of their habits, and the peaceful, benevolent
tenour of their occupations?

“She glides in like a spirit, and is by your
side before you know she is in the room,”
was
the description given to us of that heroine of
humanity we are not permitted to name, by a
man of talent,The late Mr. Parnell, the friend of Ireland, the friend
of the poor, the affectionate relative, the sincere Christian.
who had attended her levee in B8v 32
London last spring, when rank, and worth, and
influence, and taste, (all who were something,
and all who would be something,) sought for an
audience from this harbinger of mercy, this
bearer of the olive-branch, penetrating into the
dungeon like a ray of light—“a sun-beam that
had lost its way.”

There is, in essentials, more resemblance
betwen some of our most polished members
of general society, our Corinthian pillars, and
well-educated individuals of this sect, than one
could have imagined before the comparison was
made. Both are placid, serene, still, or, at least
free from impatient or affected gesticulation:
both keep self out of sight, are minutely attentive
to the feelings and wishes of others, and
make no secret of their pain at hearing of any
instance, in any quarter, or harshness, cruelty,
or injustice.

The French idea of studying to adapt our
manners to different classes of life, to shade them,
(les nuançer,) sometimes makes the society of
individuals of that nation uninteresting to persons
of lively imagination, and seems never to
succeed when transplanted into English education.

C1r 33

Let us inspire children with kindly feelings
for the weak and helpless, respect for old age
and misfortune, a due deference for rank and
station; and they will express these sentiments
better from the dicates of their own hearts,
than from any code of rules, which enfeeble the
powers, and occupy too great a portion of attention,
to the exclusion of matter more suited to
the dignity of man: not to mention the danger
that such rules may generate stiffness, affectation,
and insincerity.

Do you wish to intimidate a gentle and refined
mind, so as to dispossess it, perhaps for
ever, of its full powers, in the presence of superiors,
whether in rank or station? You need
only show too much anxiety for their captivating
those superiors; lay too much stress on their
suffrages; and this practice will, as assuredly in
wordly and insensible characters, lay the foundation
of fawning to those above, for which the
actor usually repays himself by insolence to those
below.

But some who are at ease with their equals,
and with person of higher rank than themselves,
are unaccountably embarrassed in addressing C C1v 34
those in humble life. This may arise from
having been too sedulously restrained, in early
life, from knowing anything of this class, and
imbibing their notions of it from affectedly sentimental
productions, where every inhabitant of
a cottage is a model of patience and refinement,
every landlord a tyrant, and every steward an
oppressor. Many little novelets,Great as is the improvement in this class of books
since these pages were written; yet, the false notions of
religion and morality conveyed in many popular, and, in
some respects, useful works of the present day, are very
extraordinary.
written expressly
for youth, seem composed only to exemplify
these assertions, and to show that poverty
and virtue, riches and vice, are synonymous
terms. All their labourers are saints or heroes,
and all their gentlemen wholly worthless; except
one great leviathan, who scatters about his
hundreds without reflection or inquiry, in a way
that, in real life, would probably be rewarded
with a statute of lunacy, or, at least, would deserve
one. These books are well intended, but
they are not sources whence real kindliness will
ever flow. They may prepare one in a hundred, C2r 35
with a very soft heart, or a very weak head, for
being a dupe; but they will not assist in giving
habits of enlightened, efficient, and persevering
benevolence.

False ideas of the poorer classes are peculiarly
inconvenient to women. Louisa had never been
permitted to speak to any such, except a few
confidential servants, till womanhood, and involuntarily
expected them all to assimilate, in some
degree, with those she had read of in novels and
romances. Upon her marriage, when a desire
of being useful led her to converse with her
poorer neighbours in the country, she found some
difficulties arise: first, from an acquired habit of
considering them all as unfortunates; and next,
from supposing that her kindness would awaken
in their hearts that exquisite tenderness, and
deep respect, so affectingly described in works of
fiction. She feared that her generosity, united
to that delicacy, sweetness, intellect, and beauty,
of which she had heard so much, would almost
overpower their feelings; and she dreaded the
pathos of their gratitude. What was her surprise
at finding, that too apparent a consideration
for them sometimes awakened only a desire to C2 C2v 36
impose; and that they were not so feelingly alive
to the appearance and manners of their benefactors,
as in novels, where every dying sufferer
invariably mistakes the youthful female who
relieves him for an angel. She discovered also,
that when “reality was dealing” with the children
of sorrow, outward show had no effect;—
that a gift bore the same value to a starving
family, whether the donor was sixty or sixteen;—
and that those who would serve the poor effectually,
must, in general, rather conceal than
display any excess of sensibility.

Suffering children to associate with servants,
is justly condemned; dispensing wholly with
attendance, as recommended by some, is more
desirable than practicable; but commanding the
young never to speak to those from whom they
daily receive assistance, as proposed by others,
is to require what is nearly impossible, and to
cherish the seeds of pride. It is of some importance
never to allow their attendants to be
called “Miss Mary’s” or “Master John’s maid.”
On the contrary, we should say: “They are not
your servants: they are mine, whom I allow to
assist you, while you behave to them with propriety. C3r 37”
We have lately heard of a plantation
in the West Indies, where all the slaves were
in the habit of falling on their knees to their
proprietor’s eldest boy, when he returned, after
an absence from home. This, we hope, is an
extreme case; it is certainly an awful one.

All prudent and affectionate parents must feel
the incalculable advantage of being the companions
of their children, to the utmost limit
their situations will admit;From the mode of life usually adopted by the highest
classes of our countrymen, this advantage is denied to their
children. They see them, doubtless, daily, but how rarely
alone. Until a young person is come out, she is the companion
of her governess, not of her mother. And doubtless
this exchange may, in some cases, be valuable to the
child; but how shall the mother answer for her personal
neglect of the precious talent committed to her!
I am aware that a mother, who does devote the largest
portion of her time to her children, will be assailed and
perplexed by the reproaches of most of her acquaintance.
Her friends will urge the claims of society upon her; and
it will be well, therefore, if she settle honestly with her
own conscience what these claims really are. They are
not, we find, permitted to interfere with the wordly calling
of our husbands. The lawyer may devote himself to his
clients,—the merchant to his counting-house; official men
may plead their indispensable engagements; but when a
mother would devote herself to the calling evidently
marked out for her by Providence, she is told of the claims
of society
! An illustrious exception to the above remark
will, however, readily occur to the reader’s mind.
and they will
consider morals, discretion and piety, as the
most valuable qualities the attendants or instructors
of youth, or infancy, can possess; always
preferring a moderate degree of skill, with a high C3v 38
tone of principle, to the most useful or acceptable
talents, divested of this firm foundation. But,
instead of prohibiting the young from speaking
to servants, we should rather accustom them,
occassionally, to give our orders, to make inquiries,
and to confer favours, which will prevent
them from performing such offices, in their maturity,
with stiffness and embarrassment. We
should also lead them“We should lead them,” the author wisely inserts.
Aware, doubtless, that these visits, profitable to both
parties, if made in company with a parent or older friend,
may do much harm to a young person if made alone.
Those who have seen something of the poor, are aware of
the quantity of low flattery poured into the ears of the
young people who visit them. By the better sort, probably,
well meant, (though not, from that circumstance, less
pernicious,) but, by the more numerous and designing class,
intended to answer their own purposes in disposing their
young visiters to listen more favourably to the claims they
put forth.
to visit the cottage and C4r 39
the workshop. This will enable them hereafter
to know the real wants of the poor, as well as to
relieve them, with that well-judging charity
which is “twice blessed;” and will guard them
against that morbid sensibility, which shrinks
from the very idea of the indispensable gradations
of society. We know how successfully
this was practised, in the education of one in
the highest rank: that beloved one, “the first
in virtue as in place,”
who has left us the inheritance
of an example, over which her early
death, and sublimely simple resignation of “a
high and palmy state”
of happiness, that realized
the dreams of fiction, seems to have thrown an
added brightness: like those light clouds which
sometimes hang on the moon, and, instead of
diminishing, reflect and diffuse, and even seem
to increase, its original lustre. We have seen
her visiting the cottages in Bognor, and leaving,
together with some judicious gift, that remembrance
of her kindliness and courtesy, which
gave more than “an hour’s importance to the
poor man’s heart,”
a pure and indelible satisfaction.

We recollect this practice and condemned at C4v 40
the time, as tending to lessen the dignity of her
manners. That it had not this effect, is now
universally allowed; and that it tended to foster
that spirit of humanity she so eminently possessed,
can scarcely be denied.

Nothing gives so high a polish as truly religious
feelings: they shrink into nothingness all
those minor objects which create asperities between
man and man: they give, from the habit
of self-examination, an insight into the heart, a
quickness of perception that knows every tender
point, and avoids touching it, except to heal,
whether its delicacy spring from the virtues, the
infirmities, or even the vices of our nature. The
Christian cannot be proud, vain, or negligent,
except in the inverse of his religion: as the sun
of righteousness shines out in his heart, these
clouds will melt away.

The courtesy of Christianity is equally visible
in health and sickness, in retirement as in a
crowd, in a cottage as in a palace. Those
sudden gusts of adverse or prosperous fortune, so
fatal to artificial pretensions, do not throw it off
its guard. Like the finest porcelain of the East,
when broken in a thousand pieces, every fracture C5r 41
displays new smoothness and polish; and, in its
shivered state, it best shows the superiority of
its beautiful structure, over those coarser kinds
which are “of the earth, earthy.”

The courtesy of Christianity is equally solicitous
to avoid offending the poor and low, as the
rich and great; recollecting that to the poor the
Gospel was first preached, and that the Saviour
of the world ennobled their situation, by choosing
it for his own.

From the great difference some persons show
in their manners to the high and low, they
almost may be said to assume, alternately, the
appearance of two opposite beings. The gentle
tone, the sweet smile, the diffident yet easy
address, the hesitating mildness with which they
differ in opinion, when conversing with a superior,
form a strong contrast to those harsh interrogatories,
that raised voice, that clouded brow, and
those blunt contradictions, which they reserve
for the humbler classes. Nothing is more
amusing than the mistakes that have arisen
when the actor has misjudged the rank of those
whom he addressed. An instance of this sort is
humorously told, in that instructive tale, The C5v 42
Countess and Gertrude
. More serious consequences
have sometimes ensued from this species
of duplicity; and the following anecdote is
closely connected with the subject.

Laura was a lovely girl of eighteen, when
Edward M., a young man of the highest personal
and intellectual endowments, became attached
to her. His father promised a cheerful consent
to their marriage, notwithstanding such
a disparity of rank and fortune as would have
justified his refusal in the eyes of the majority,
provided Edward would defer his proposal, till
six months of absence, and six more of acquaintance,
had proved the stability of his affection.

During his foreign tour, Laura’s image rested
in the sanctuary of his heart, drawn in the most
attractive colours. The fairest faces only recalled
the idea of one, whose beauty was illuminated,
in her lover’s eyes, by that lustre of moral excellence,
without which it is valueless and insipid
to men of refined taste. Such cheerfulness was
in her smile, such mildness in her accent, as
promised a perpetual spring of domestic felicity.
When he returned to his country, he resolved to
make his arrival first known to Laura, although C6r 43
he never had appared to her but in the character
of a friend; and as lovers, on the eve of meeting
or separation, have seldom the proper use of
their reasoning faculties, he indulged the injudicious
idea of increasing her pleasure at seeing
him, by surprise. Having leaped over a wall,
he placed himself in that favourite seat, in the
ground near her own peculiar flower-garden,
whither his fancy had so often strayed. After a
few tedious moments of breathless suspense, he
hears a rustling in the leaves. “’Tis Laura!”
No, it is a decrepit old weeding-woman, who
begins her daily task. But she is followed by
the radiant form of Laura; not, however, beaming
in smiles. She has just discovered that this
poor woman had pulled, by mistake, and sent to
another young lady, as a present, the curious
exotics intended for the ornament of Laura’s
luxuriant tresses, at an approaching ball. The
unseen lover remains mute and motionless from
astonishment, at hearing a storm of coarse reproach,
and energetic scolding, in tones, now
sharp, now rough, varied through all the notes
of the gamut, from those lovely lips which
seemed hitherto to have opened only to breathe C6v 44
music and perfume. The scene concluded with
the final dismissal of the poor woman. Laura
retired. The lover put a bank-note into the
hand of the astonished weeder, whom he respected
as the instrument of his deliverance;
leaped the wall; returned, for a short time, to
Italy; came home restored to himself; and
never forgot the gratitude he owed his father,
for having prevailed on him to conceal his attachment
till confirmed by time and intimacy.

C7r 45

Chapter IV.

On Humanity to Animals.

Long before children can practise any lessons of
humanity to their fellow-men, they may be accustomed
to perform their duties to inferior
animals; and the seeds of kindness, or cruelty,
may be cherished by the conduct they are taught
to observe to the fly in the window.

Women have it completely in their power to
mould the rising generation into habits of rational
kindness to the inferior world; and the minute
attention of parents would be more efficacious
than even Lord Erskine’s bill, so honourable to
his head and heart—with which we carnestlyearnestly
wish their efforts were destined to co-operate.
But we must be consistent. If a boy sees his
mother tread on, what she terms, “the odious
spider,”
with eye of hate, and step of triumph,
he will not think her prompted by compassion,
but caprice, when she restrains him from touching C7v 46
“the dear little goldfinch’s nest,” to which
he is impelled by a powerful instinct, probably
given to man, to assist him in procuring his
food, when in a state of nature. The taste of
children for beauty and melody is not awakened
very early, Providence having kindly ordained
that feelings of a higher nature should be first
developed. In the bottom of his heart, the boy
thinks mamma either “ill-natured for killing
the poor little spider,”
or unreasonable for saving
the bird’s nest; and, at best, strangely capricious.

In the scale of existence, wherever sensibility
to pain and pleasure commences, there should
commence our respect for the feelings of beings
thus endowed. No matter, whether they are
covered with scales, repugnant to our limited
senses, or clothed more beautifully than Solomon
in all his glory. Where sensation begins, there
begin the rights of beings partaking, in one
respect, of a joint nature with ourselves; and
whenever we are forced to destroy them, we are
bound to do it in the most humane and expeditious
manner.

Even in this compassionate age, we may hourly
see instances of hardness of heart towards the C8r 47
animal creation. In the sports of the field,It may be doubted whether field sports do at all enhance
the sufferings of the brute creation, since the death
they meet with in this way, is, probably, the least painful
that could be devised: and since we conceive that we
have a right, not only to kill, but to breed up—on purpose to
kill them
for the table,—tame animals,—we can scarcely
be scrupulous about destroying wild ones for the same
purpose.
With respect to the Insect tribes also, much false sensibility,
and subsequent hardness of heart, may be excited,
by representing their sufferings as much greater than they
really are—as something even analogous to our own. But
the fly, whose depredations on our sugar-basin are not
disturbed, even by the loss of a leg in the service, need
not be made an object of sympathy. Nor, perhaps, have
the wasps, who sip their deadly syrup to the last, much
right to complain of the cruelty of their fate. But if we
make our children feel that this is the case, their hearts
must either become hardened under constant exposure
to scenes of this nature, or themselves the slaves of a
morbid sensibility.
in
most of our unnecessary despatch in travelling,
in the treatment of horses, and in several modes
of preparing the creatures which we use as food,
there is still much cruelty. We still see fruit-
trees protected by bottles of honey, where wasps
and other insects meet with that lingering death,
which we ought not to inflict on any sentient C8v 48
being. This cruel device gives a striking image
of the life of the idle and dissipated in luxurious
capitals; for these creatures, smothered in distasteful
sweets, (distasteful only from their excess,)
seem all equally engaged in a painful
struggle for pre-eminence. So live, so die, thousands
in our populous cities, victims of luxury,
and struggling for a mere pre-eminence:—not
for distinction in arts, in literature, or in virtue;
but for a precedence in the court of that phantom,
Fashion; that most despotic tyrant that
ever ruled over willing slaves.

We have, more than once, shrunk at hearing
women single out certain animals—a cat, a toad,
or a poor patient ass, (unless Alison’s eulogiumSee Alison’s Essay on Taste.
has rescued the latter,) as objects of their aversion,
and out of the pale of their pity, on account
of somewhat in their exterior, intolerable to the
senses of an exquisitely-delicate female. To the
sufferings of these “odious animals,” some have
been heard to profess themselves indifferent.
This could not have happened, had their attention
been properly directed, in youth, to the D1r 49
feelings of the brute creation; but where parents
have neglected this essential duty, it is surprising
how frequently those, who are humane in other
respects, are, in this particular, miserably
deficient.

Those ladies, who are all tenderness to their
linnets, and callous to the pains of less-attractive
animals, would do well to reflect on that passage
in Locke, where he says, that a trifling change
in the formation of any of our organs of sense,
would render repulsive and disgusting to us,
those objects now most agreeable to that organ.
They might then ask themselves, whether, in
the scale of existence supposed by Milton, Addison,
Locke, and other eminent persons, to rise
from us to the Divinity, there may not be some
superior natures, exalted a little above ourselves,
to whom mankind may be an object of dislike,
though of compassion; and who may look down
on us with a mixture of pity and contempt. In
the development of this principle, and others of
similar tendency, consists the moral beauty of
Gulliver’s Travels. On such a subject, we
must speak, and even think with deep humility;
but, from analogy, we may deem it not impossible,D D1v 50
and the reflection may tend to abate our
pride: it can, at least, have no injurious effect;
for we can apprehend nothing from created
beings, while guarded by infinite power and
perfection.

It is of some use to show children, that many
actions, which appear vicious to them, in animals,
are the effects of instinct, and to familiarize
them with the distinction between this faculty
and human reason. They comprehend as much
of this as is necessary for the cultivation of the
heart, very early; and if we wait to give them
some explanation of so abstruse a subject, till
they can perfectly understand it, we must defer
it for ever.

It is not difficult to prove to a child, that the
spider is no more cruel in killing a fly for his
dinner, than man in making the same use of a
sheep; that the laws of Providence have appointed
us to live by destruction; and that it is
our duty to bow submissively to the decree, at
the same time that we endeavour to diminish
the sufferings with which it must necessarily be
attended. This will put an end to childish
irritation, and feelings of revenge towards such D2r 51
animals as may chance to injure their favourites;
and the indulgence of these feelings often makes
a channel in the heart, that lays it open to the
influence of vindictive passion on more serious
occassions. Let us awaken their attention on
these subjects—lay down a few broad principles;
and they will learn to apply them much sooonersooner
than is generally supposed. In Mrs. Hamilton’s
excellent Popular Essays, the effects of guiding
and arresting the attention of youth, are developed
with great ingenuity, and happily illustrated.

Among the few fictitious tales we would
recommend, Mrs. Trimmer’s "Fabulous Histories,
professedly inculcating a proper treatment
of animals, hold a distinguished place. They
are charming. We have never met any person
who did not look back with pleasure on the
amusement this volume gave their childhood;
and we confess, that we still find the Robin and
his Mate a most interesting pair, fully deserving
the pre-eminence acquired by their ancestors,
and the high place they hold in the world’s
esteem.

One is tempted to believe, from the relations D 2 D2v 52
of travellers, that the docility of domestic animals
bears, in most countries, a pretty exact proportion
to the gentleness of the inhabitants.

Thomson, who travelled through Sweden in
18121812, thus speaks of the peasantry:—“There is
nothing to be seen which indicates the existence
of the more violent passions; but every one
expresses a docility and good humour in his face,
which, I believe, all possess.”
Of these qualities,
Thomson, who seems a minute and faithful observer,
gives some remarkable instances from his
own knowledge, and concludes by saying:—
“They are a most amiable and innocent people.”
A late traveller in Sweden has also informed us,
in conversation, that in posting, the drivers seldom
mount their horses, and are moved, almost
to tears, if these animals suffer hardship or
fatigue.

The effects of this mild treatment, Thomson
thus describes:—“The sheep in Sweden are
exceedingly tame. I had occasion to see repeated
flocks of these driven to Stockholm by
women. I have seen the sheep surrounding
the woman on the road, licking her hand with
as much familiarity as so many dogs. The D3r 53
domestic animals do not differ from those of
England, except in being much tamer. I have
repeatedly gone up and patted the head of a
watch-dog, kept chained to protect a farm-yard.
The cats frequently make up to you, though a
perfect stranger; and I have seen repeated
instances of their following you in the fields,
like a dog.”

It is certain the accidents and inconvenience,
caused by the indocility of our domestic animals,
might be diminished, if a more gentle mode of
treating them were universal. It is well known,
that horses neither thrive nor work well, when
harshly treated. They are peculiarly sensible of
the kindness of men. We are aware, that they
are so tamed and taught by the Arabs, as to
sleep in a crowded tent, without injuring an
infant family: and the feats of an Arab, chiefly
in consequence of the docility of his horse, are
alwayalways a source of wonder to Europeans. Sir J.
Sinclair
is of opinion, that gentleness is of the
highest importance to the well-being of this
noble animal. He also says, in his work on the
husbandry of Scotland:—“The horses will do
their work more easily, and their lives will be D3v 54
considerably prolonged, by keeping the same
persons long about them, so as to become acquainted
with their tempers, instead of changing
every half year.”

Perhaps we have digressed a little too much
in this chapter. Be it so. We shall be forgiven
by those, who have feelings of gratitude or compassion
for the horse; and perhaps no one was
ever thoroughly grateful, who did not experience
something like that sentiment for all beings,
whether endowed with reason or not, who have
contributed to his ease and pleasure.

When a young woman, apparently mild and
compassionate, sees her own coachman and
another exercise their whips with savage ferocity,
forcing their horses to a desperate struggle, at
the risk of dashing through their sides the poles
of each carriage, merely to arrive soonest, by one
moment, at the door of an assembly, we are
surprised she can endure a sight so cruel and
offensive. But when she proves herself the instigator,
by telling us, with an animated smile,
that she has ordered her coachman “never to
give way,”
can we avoid turning from her with
distaste?—inferior, however, to what we feel for D4r 55
those who blame the practice, but declare they
cannot restrain their servants from it; thus trying
to unite, by a flimsy falsehood, the honours
of humanity with the indulgence of a silly and
pettish spirit of competition.

The nightly scenes of riot, at the doors of our
great houses, are disgraceful. How often, beneath
the calm splendour of the summer moon,
“shining on, shining on,” as with a disdainful
smile, the air resounds with oaths, execrations,
and those strokes of the whip, that prove degraded
man is exercising his ungrateful cruelty
on that noble animal, one is, at such a moment,
tempted to think his superior! Not only a
summer’s moon, but the mild radiance of a summer’s
dawn is thus greeted; the quiet pursuits
of early labour thus impeded. I have seen the
slow-moving pile of fruits and flowers, gemmed
with morning-dew, as it entered from the country,
overturned, trampled on, and destroyed, in these
fierce and foolish contests; and have endeavoured
to conceive, what can be thought of the pleasures
of the rich, by those peasants, who, rising at the
break of day to their humble and useful pursuits,
find themselves entangled in the turmoil so inseparably D4v 56
connected with most of our splendid
“evening”-amusements:—so we continue to call
them, although they seldom begin till near
twelve, and sometimes, as has been whimsically
expressed, commence on the following day.
Even the despotic oligarchy, the committee of
Almack’s, in its desire to patronize early hours,
has found the greatest difficulty in the enforcement
of that decree, which insists on attendance
before midnight.

D5r 57

Chapter V.

On Courage.

It is probable that all cowardice is acquired, and
that man is naturally a courageous animal: it is,
however, a vice, or to speak more mildly, a
quality, easily implanted in the human mind,
though seldom indigenous. It is often produced
by a desire to preserve children from accident,
rather by their fears than our cares. To avoid
a little present trouble, we give them exaggerated
ideas of danger, and enlist Imagination on the
side of Cowardice.

“Take care,” should be sparingly used in our
dialogues with a child. Those who have
received most cautions, and heard most lectures
on their personal safety, are not always the most
secure. Some are incited to temerity by weariness
of reiterated advice, or contempt of injudicious
prohibition; and others, when they find
themselves in a situation really perilous, have D5v 58
not only the danger to struggle with, but their
own fears. Why do the intoxicated proverbially
escape? Because they are guarded by
instinct, left undisturbed by apprehension. As
we cannot give children the prudence of manly
reason, let us not take from them the advantages
of youthful instinct. Before such writers as
Miss Edgeworth and Mrs. Barbauld condescended
to enlighten the nursery, a popular little
volume, with terrific engravings, warned us
against all animals, foreign and domestic, in
terms calculated to excite the most lively apprehensions.
The motto to each dreadful tale had
an oracular and imposing sound in the ears of
children, and was imprinted on their minds by
frequent recurrence, with a slight variation.
“When you play with a horse, take care of his heels.”
“When you play with a bull, take care of his horns.”
And so on, through the whole animal creation.
There are many who can trace to this book the
birth of fears, which materially diminish their
independence, and their pleasure in rural walks.

The cultivation of courage, as of every desirable
quality, cannot commence too soon. A mother, D6r 59
irritable or nervous, must resign the pleasure of
being a nurse. She will find full scope for
maternal care, in the watchfulness her substitute
will probably require. Sudden noise, dazzling
light, violent motion, whatever can excite in an
infant strong sensations, should be carefully
avoided.This sentiment has been before expressed in this
little work, yet its introduction here seems necessary.—
See page 13.
A placid, gentle disposition in a
nurse, is on this account more desirable than that
turbulent gaiety so often and so injudiciously
required, which adds nothing to the cheerfulness
of a healthy child, and depresses the spirits of
such as are weak. When an infant wakens,
let it be addressed with particular mildness; and
if it be ever necessary to disturb its slumbers,
this should be done in the most quiet way, with
every precaution to avoid surprise. Surprise is
sometimes nearly akin to fear, in young or
uncultivated minds; therefore, when anything
visibly astonishes an infant, let us not treat it
worse than we should a starting horse. Let us
lead it gently to consider the object, and, if possible,
to discover the cause of any singular effect. D6v 60
An intelligent child, fifteen months old, showed
some apprehension, one night, at observing
strongly-marked shadows on a white wall, which
probably had been pointed out to him in an
injudicious manner. We have known artful
nurses take such advantage of similar circumstances,
in exciting vague fears, as to give
those intrusted to their care much present and
future pain, in the hope of governing them with
greater ease. It were well if such artifices were
confined to nurses. By a little address, the child
was induced to approach these shadows; and, on
seeing that they could be produced, at will, by
his mother’s hands and his own, he soon became
amused, by what might have been converted into
a source of terror.

Those who have strong talents for description,
are dangerous companions to the young, unless
remarkably discreet. When a child begins to
prattle, let us avoid all tragical stories: no Little
Red Ridinghood
; no Bluebeard; no horrible
murders or cruel punishments, till the blossom is
knit, and the mind has a sufficient variety of
ideas, to save it from dwelling too much on one.
Indiscriminate reading, for a thousand reasons, D7r 61
must never be permitted. A few scenes in Macbeth,
or Richard the Third, with some of the
horrid murders in the Gentleman’s Magazine,
may baffle all our cares in this point, if read at
too early a period. The cultivation of firmness
is chiefly negative: we are rather called upon to
avoid and prevent mischief, than to act.

The custom, once prevalent, of terrifying
young minds with stories of ghosts, is now universally
reprobated, in consequence of the increasing
stock of national good sense. But many
yet living can place fears of supernatural agency,
and of darkness, among the real miseries of childhood;
and have had reason, through life, to
lament the effect of such feelings, on their nerves
and health. It is useful to observe the consequences
of exploded errors, that we may be
stimulated to avoid others of the same tendency.

A child scratches its finger, or its nose happens
to bleed. If mamma or nurse show signs of
disgust and horror at sight of blood, and repeat
this whenever a similar accident occurs, an association
of ideas is formed, which reason finds it
difficult afterwards to dissolve; if, on the contrary,
they amuse the child at this moment; if D7v 62
they remark how beautiful and bright the colour
of blood appears, on the little one’s frock or
handkerchief, he will not afterwards feel that
vague horror at its appearance, confessed by
many, and often evinced by swooning, sickness,
and other painful emotions.

“The sense of pain is most in apprehension;”
therefore, when it is necessary to speak of bodily
pain, (a topic to be in general avoided with
children,) let it be mentioned simply, without
exaggeration, and, if possible, compared to
something they have already suffered. What
we imagine, impresses far more terror than what
we recollect.

I knew a person who was cured of extreme
fear of every insect of the bee kind, by being
accidentally stung. Her apprehensions had been
instilled by a nurse, who, to prevent her from
what she called “meddling with flowers” in her
garden-walks, represented bees as their powerful,
intelligent, and vindictive guardians.

Extracting a firm tooth, gives all children
much the same pain;It is important, however, to observe, that among children
brought up in the same way, and with equally good
dispositions, some are by constitution positively more susceptible
of pain than others; and some from their nervous
temperament are more exposed to a dread of it. I know
a child who does come to the dentist pale and in tears, but
determined to undergo the suffering, because he thinks it
is his duty. I believe that he actually exerts greater self-
command than his sister, who sits down cheerfully to the
same operation.
but observe the difference D8r 63
in their sufferings, created by education. One
child comes to the dentist, pale and trembling,
in tears, like a criminal going to execution;
another enters firm, cheerful, animated; not from
ostentation of courage or hope of a bribe, but
because she, who never deceived him, has declared
it would conduce to his future comfort,
and her present satisfaction. One tooth is
extracted: the dentist and mamma propose
drawing the others to-morrow. “No,” cries the
more sensible boy, in a cheerful tone; “pray,
mamma, let all be finished to-day.”
We were
present at this incident, and much pleased with
the little stoic, who was just seven years old.

But it may be said, “Are children to burn,
drown, or wound themselves, without receiving
a caution from the lips of experience?”
By no
means: we must require their strict obedience, D8v 64
in avoiding such real hazards as we cannot
remove. But it is better, if possible, to ward off
danger by our own precautions than their fears,
or even their obedience. Rather let us bar our
windows, than terrify a child from leaping out,
by frightful descriptions of his fate, were he to
fall and break his neck.

In his father’s absence, when a boy is educated
by his mother, (“a woman, therefore, full of
fears,”
) how, it may be said, can she teach a
virtue, of which she cannot show the example?

Let her recollect, that although children should
be impressed with a high degree of respect for
their parents, it is not necessary, even if it were
possible, that they should consider them as perfect.
Where she has not self-command enough
to conceal her fears, let her ascribe them to their
real cause; and if this should happen to be a
mistaken education, let her express a hope that
her son, who is so fortunate as to be more judiciously
brought up, and can feel no similar weakness,
will one day be her protector.

Thus the child’s affection may superadd fresh
motives to the exertion of firmness; and the E1r 65
mother’s sincerity prove, as usual, more politic
than any subterfuge or partial concealment.

Let not death be spoken of as necessarily
attended with every circumstance of horror and
pain, but mentioned simply as a change of being,
or a voyage to a distant country,—a change and
a voyage productive of nothing but good to those
who endeavour to obey their Creator.

They who are unwilling to admit that courage
is natural to man, assert, that a self-reared individual
would be the most cowardly of beings;
but of these we can never observe a sufficient
number, to obtain absolute proof on the subject.
A boy, about fifteen, was shown in Paris, in the
winter of 18091809, who had been found two years
before in a wood, where he had probably been
exposed when old enough to obtain subsistence
by seeking wild fruits, roots, salads, and eggs.
He was incapable of articulating, but his countenance
and gestures showed a restless anxiety
wholly distinct from fear. He seemed actuated
merely by a vague desire of escaping to his
native woods, and his attitudes and movements
resembled those of a wild beast shut up in a
menagerie. There was the same soft, unquiet E E1v 66
step, continued waving restlessness, and sullen
consciousness of powers deprived of opportunities
of exertion.

As to fears of supernatural agency, they will
never exist where just ideas of the Supreme
Being are entertained. True religion is the
parent of courage as well as cheerfulness. “Je
crains Dieu, cher Abner, et n’ai point d’autre
crainte,”
like a line from our own Shakespeare, in
describing a particular feeling, marks a general
effect with beauty and precision.

Johnson is sometimes cited as an instance of
the depressing nature of religious feeling;See p. 20. but
had his mother confined herself to the topic of
the delights of heaven, and reserved her terrors
till her son was old enough to require, in
addition to the allurements of hope, the stronger
restraints of fear, she had acted more wisely,
and more in unison with the scripture precept,
of giving “milk to babes,”—of teaching the
young and ignorant such doctrines as are best
suited to their limited conceptions, and least
likely to overpower weak minds.

E2r 67

The physical habits most favourable to firmness
of mind and body are well known. Healthful
exercises, open air, cold bathing, plain diet,
a country education, and youthful companions,
all contribute their share to the attainment of
these valuable qualities.

E 2 E2v 68

Chapter VI.

On Punishments.

It may afford some consolation to those whose
views are now called visionary, to look back and
inquire how many opinions are at present received
into the company of undoubted truths,
which, thirty years since, were ridiculed as the
fine-spun dreams of a sickly sensibility. With
what shrugs of contempt would the majority of
persons, then reputed wise, have heard of an
attempt to bestow on our whole population the
forbidden fruit of the alphabet, and all its combinations,
ending with the alarming power of
actually “reading a book.” But great as this
wonder would have been, “a greater is behind:”
the population is to be thus instructed without
the assistance of the rod or cane. “These,” it
is now said, “are reserved for the sons of the
nobility and gentry.”
Dr. Bell and Joseph
Lancaster
have discarded them, and rule by the E3r 69
mixed principles of imitation, habit, and that
much-calumniated feeling, emulation: a feeling
as distinct from envy, as generosity from profuseness,
prudence from avarice, or any other
virtue from the relative vice to which its excess
might possibly lead.

The habit of governing children by the fear
of corporal suffering, has fortunately been
losing ground for many years, but by very slow
degrees. As improvements advance, however,
their motion is accelerated; and the consciousness
of this tendency should console us for
seeing that they move with an almost imperceptible
progression at their commencement.

As soon as a child can comprehend why it is
punished by physical pain, it has intelligence
enough to be restrained by milder measures.
Some are so extremely obstinate, that it is necessary
to prevent them, by force, from doing what
we forbid; but even this rarely happens under
a tolerable system of education, and when it
does, our coercion should stop at the point which
operates merely as restraint.

Chastisement, whether in the form of whipping,
caning, slapping, ear-pulling, hair-dragging, E3v 70
or any other uncouth and barbarous shape,
never can produce good in private education;
and many of the wise are doubtful of its having
a favourable effect, even in public schools. It
has, we believe, been banished from the Charterhouse,
and the principle of emulation substituted
with the happiest results. In domestic
life there are few sights more degrading and disgusting,
than that of a person at once judge and
executioner, inflicting indefinite pain on a trembling
child, whose punishment is often redoubled
and prolonged, under pretence of the manner in
which he receives it, be that manner what it
may: his fortitude being called obstinacy, his
timidity peevishness, his patience want of feeling;
while sometimes the passionate actor in
this odious scene, increasing in violence by the
expression of his own anger, after having given
the first blow, is much more inclined to give the
second: a melancholy proof of that disposition
to cruelty, which is the darkest stain on our
fallen nature.

If parents find the tutors and governesses
they have selected unable to enforce obedience
without chastisement, they cannot too soon dismiss E4r 71
them as incompetent; for anything may
be made a punishment to a child. Where
pocket-money is allowed, a slight fine, or at
other times a temporary privation, is often a
useful addition to a word or a look of displeasure;
but these last alone, well managed, are
rarely insufficient. To make use of shame in
this way, is a hazardous experiment. Shame is
so fine a weapon, it were pity to risk its edge,
or even its polish, by tampering with it for our
purposes. “Therein the patient must minister
unto himself.”

Above all, a child should see that no punishment,
however slight, is intended to be vindictive,
but simply an act destined to prevent him
from hurting himself or hurting others. This
prevents him from feeling any resentment or
sense of injustice, or receiving those false impressions,
which even now render it, to many
persons, so difficult to separate some idea of
vengeance from punishment. In the debates of
the last session, whenever the reform of our
criminal code, or prison discipline, was touched
on, we saw proofs of this, even among our
legislators.

E4v 72

The sense of injustice being, perhaps, the
severest of inflictions, is a pang from which we
should most carefully shield the young committed
to our care. To an ingenuous nature it
is a torment never forgot, and with difficulty
forgiven: what must it be when united with
personal suffering!

From ill-advised corporal punishments, received
in youth and infancy, have sprung pusillanimity
and insanity, in some constitutions;
hardness, cruelty, and obstinacy, in others; besides
various minor failings, and indescribable
aberrations from a healthy tone of mind.

It has been urged that, “Spare not the rod,”
is a maxim of the highest authority. But, if
not figurative, we may humbly conceive that,
although meant to be acted on under the Jewish
dispensation, which deterred from crime chiefly
by denunciations of temporal evils, it is superseded
by the law of kindness in the New Testament,
where we find meekness and gentleness
uniformly inculcated in all domestic relations.

Parents are seldom sufficiently anxious to
proportion censure to offence. Some are capable
of giving a benignant and grave rebuke, when E5r 73
faults of an immoral tendency are committed,
who betray far more displeasure, perhaps entirely
lose their temper, if their child chance to break
a China jar, spill ink on a fine carpet, or neglect
some immaterial point of civility towards a
stranger, whom his father or mother wishes to
please. This is hurtful in many directions;
and, if it does not lower the parent’s character
in the eye of the child, must create a false scale
of right and wrong in his mind, increasing that
value for externals which it is part of the business
of a good education to diminish. The intention,
not the event, should call forth our
reproofs; and they should never be tedious or
insulting.

Examples of youthful merit should be sought
for among the absent or dead. It is dangerous
to offer a friend, or relation, or even an acquaintance,
as a model: it often excites envy, and
always awakens a desire to know the faults, as
well as merits, of one proposed as such. This
leads our pupils to excuse similar faults in themselves,
or to suppose their absence atones for the
absence also of those merits we hold up for their
imitation.

E5v 74

There is a species of lecturing used to the
young, which degenerates sometimes into rating
and scolding, that we should never permit,
either in ourselves or others. It spoils the
temper of those that give and those that receive
it, and induces an indifference to the temperate,
grave, and mild rebukes of truth and well-regulated
affection. The wisdom that is from above,
is gentle; and St. Paul could find no stronger
adjuration, by which to entreat his own converts,
than, “by the meekness and gentleness of the
Author and Finisher”
of our faith.

E6r 75

Chapter VII.

Amusements.

We can best judge of the dispositions of the
young, by the choice and conduct of their
amusements. One of the benefits of a great
school is, that these are enjoyed in public. The
heart is often wofully injured, in domestic education,
by the plays which occur between two
or three children, “when some still, removed
place will fit,”
at a distance from all inspection.
“Now you have finished your business, you may
go and play,”
is frequently the signal for a return
to plays where habits are fostered of teasing, of
artifice, of tyranny, of meanness, and many
others equally reprehensible. The amusements
of childhood and youth, should be shared among
so many as to create that respect for truth and
firmness generated by the public eye, or should
be sedulously inspected. Children should not
feel the bridle, but it should be ever on their E6v 76
necks. A parent, or governor, who acts as he
ought, will always be their favourite play-fellow;
and may have some trouble in complying with
their solicitations for his constant presence and
assistance, though he will have none in seeking
to prevent their escape from his jurisdiction.

Still less should a single child be abandoned
to himself in the hours of relaxation. His disposition
is in danger of being deteriorated by his
own musings, as much as that of two or three
by their communications. The reveries indulged
in by the young, if they have lively imaginations,
weaken their reasoning powers, and create a love
of excitement through life: those who are addicted
to this fantastic habit seldom avow it,
and usually possess singular address in its concealment.
So far it partakes of the character of
insanity.

“To cure the habit of reverie,” says Miss
Edgeworth
, “we must take different methods
with different tempers: with those who indulge
in the stupid reverie, we should employ strong
excitation, and present to the senses a rapid
succession of objects; but to break the habit in
children of great sensibility, we should set them E7r 77
to some employment which is wholly new, and
will exercise and exhaust all their faculties, so
as to leave them no life for castle-building.”

Such exercises in the open air as employ
both mind and body, particularly gardening, (in
which the pupil should be taught some of the
nicer branches, and allowed to try experiments,
uniting practice with theory,) are invaluable in
this disease of day-dreaming. If you do not
promote healthful and deep sleep, by efficient
exercise, you will vainly chain down your pupil’s
mind in the day. When he closes his eyes at
night, it will be to muse, but not to rest: the
favourite visions will be recalled, the broken
thread of the narrative will be resumed, and all
your web unravelled by his superior skill. We
recommend Dr. Johnson’s admirable paper on
castle-building,See The Rambler, INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to wwp@neu.edu that citedRange is unmatched.No. 89. to those who may think this
point has been more dwelt upon than it deserves.
If they still retain that opinion, they will thank
us for referring them to such an eloquent delineation
of what often passes in the recesses of
the human mind, and has seldom been a subject
of inquiry.

E7v 78

Children are fond of many employments which
neither exert mind nor body, but give pleasant
feelings of occupation without any fatigue.
These are often condemned as loss of time.
Perhaps Miss Edgeworth and Rousseau are too
partial to them; and yet it may, possibly, be a
greater error to reject them altogether. The
hours of youth are long enough to allow a space
for these harmless amusements. The day of
childhood is long as a polar day, “Which will not see A sunset till its summer’s gone, Its sleepless summer of long night.”
That of advanced age, in comparison, seems
contracted to a span. Nothing is more curious
than this apparent, and therefore, as to its effects,
real inequality of duration; this accelerated
motion of time, like that which impelled the
Caliph Vathek and his companions to the Hall
of Eblis
: this spiral line, contracting at every
turn, till it comes to a point, and concludes all.

The mind is not of necessity idle, because the
fingers are busy: while making a screen, or
arranging a series of prints, thought may take
flight, and the imagination ripen by long excursions E8r 79
into the ideal world. The time we pass
in reflection is that which improves, not the
hours we bend over a book or a pen. Technical
employments promote calmness; and of those
who are not forced to labour for subsistence,
whose wants are supplied, and whose pleasures
are prepared, the greater part require to be
quieted rather than excited. One would hesitate
in proposing these pastimes to a boy of
genius, but it is ill-judged to forbid them. His
own mind may discern what is good for him,
better than any observer, however-clear-sighted;
and the mechanical pursuit we condemn, may
sheath some corroding sharpness, or tranquillize
some irritation, which opposition or neglect
might exasperate.

“Laissez-nous faire” is too much neglected in
education, as well as in politics. Parents and
governors are too anxious their pupils should
be wise, good, and happy, exactly their way.
They forget the infinite variety of existence, and
diversity of excellence, this world affords, and
would narrow all modes of actions to the breadth
of that invisible hair, on which the Mohammeddans
suppose all true believers must pass, over a E8v 80
fiery gulf, to reach their paradise. In the hands of
such instructors, either all the blossoms of moral
beauty are crushed, or the pupil, if his mind be
ardent, and his sensibility acute, imbibes a silent
and deep-rooted disgust towards his teachers;
for which, internally, he sometimes reproaches
himself, and sometimes them.

When this disgust occurs, their influence is
over. The spell is broken. The vessel is adrift:
perhaps to enter on a nobler career; perhaps to
perish from the want of a pilot.

The End.

London: John W. Parker, St. Martin’s Lane.

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Entertainment,
for Young Persons.

Those to which a * is prefixed, are published under the Direction of the
Committee of General Literature and Education of the Society for Promoting
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.

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