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

By the Late
Mrs. Richard Trench.

A New Edition,
a Preface and Notes by the Editor

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

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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.


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.


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.

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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 formly 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.

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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 sion 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 priety. 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 themWe 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.

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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 ing 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 ble, 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 separably 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 cares 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 ging, 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 miss 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.

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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.

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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.

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Chapter VII.


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, 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.

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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 sions 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.


List No. 2.

Approved Books of Instruction and 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 Christian Knowledge.

1 F1v 2 F2r 3 F2v 4 F3r 5 F3v 6 F4r F4v

London: John W. Parker, Publisher, West Strand.