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costly, and vapid pleasures. Alas ! that we should throw
away this first grand opportunity of working into a practical habit the moral of this important truth, that the chief source of human discontent is to be looked for, not in our real, but in our fictitious wants ; not in the demands of nature, but in the insatiable cravings of artificial desire !
When we see the growing zeal to crowd the midnight ball with these pretty fairies, we should be almost tempted to fancy it was a kind of pious emulation among the mothers to cure their infants of a fondness for vain and foolish pleasures, by tiring them out by this premature familiarity with them; and we should be so desirous to invent an excuse for a practice so inexcusable, that we should be ready to hope that they were actuated by something of the same principle which led the Spartans to introduce their sons to scenes of riot, that they might conceive an early disgust at vice! or, possibly, that they imitated those Scythian mothers who used to plunge their new-born infants into the flood, thinking none to be worth saving who could not stand this early struggle for their lives. The greater part, indeed, as it might have been expected, perished; but the parents took comfort, that if many were lost, the few who escaped would be the stronger for having been thus exposed !
To behold Lilliputian coquettes projecting dresses, studying colours, assorting ribands, mixing flowers, and choosing feathers; their little hearts beating with hopes about partners and fears about rivals; to see their fresh cheeks pale after the midnight supper, their aching heads and unbraced nerves, disqualifying the little languid beings for the next day's task; and to hear the grave apology, “ that it is owing to the wine, the crowd, the heated room of the last night's ball;" all this, I say, would really be as ludicrous, if the mischief of the thing did not take off from the merriment of it, as any of the ridiculous and preposterous disproportions in the diverting travels of Captain Lemuel Gulliver.
Under a just impression of the evils which we are sustaining from the principles and the practices of modern France, we are apt to lose sight of those deep and lasting mischiefs which so long, so regularly, and so systematically we have been importing from the same country, though in another form and under another government. In one respect, indeed, the first were the more formidable, because we embraced the ruin with. out suspecting it; while we defeat the malignity of the latter, by detecting the turpitude and defending ourselves against its contagion. This is not the place to descant on that levity of manners, that contempt of the Sabbath, that fatal familiarity with loose principles, and those relaxed notions of conjugal fidelity, which have often been transplanted into this country by women of fashion, as a too common effect of a long residence in a neighbouring nation; but it is peculiarly suitable to my subject to advert to another domestic mischief derived from the same foreign extraction; I mean, the risks that have been run, and the sacrifices which have been made, in order to furnish our young ladies with the means of acquiring the French language in the greatest possible purity. Perfection in this accomplishment has been so long established as the supreme object, so long considered as the predominant excellence to which all other excellences must bow down, that it would be hopeless to attack a law which fashion has immutably decreed, and which has received the stamp of long prescription. We must, therefore, be contented with expressing a wish, that this indispensable perfection could have been attained at the expense of sacrifices less important. It is with the greater regret I animadvert on this and some other prevailing practices, as they are errors into which the wise and respectable have, through want of consideration, or rather through want of firmness to resist the tyranny of fashion, sonietimes fallen. It has not been unusual when mothers of rank and reputation have been asked how they ventured to intrust their daughters to foreigners, of whose principles they knew nothing, except that they were Roman Catholics, to answer, 6. That they had taken care to be secure on that subject; for that it had been stipulated that the question of religion should never be agitated between the teacher and the pupil.” This, it must be confessed, is a most desperate remedy; it is like starving to death, to avoid being poisoned. And who can help trembling for the event of that education, from which religion, as far as the governess is concerned, is thus formally and systematically excluded. Surely it would not be exacting too much, to suggest at least that an attention no less
scrupulous should be exerted to insure the character of our children's instructor, for piety and knowledge, than is thought necessary to ascertain that she has nothing patois in her dialect.
I would rate a correct pronunciation and an elegant phraseology at their just price, and I would not rate them low; but I would not offer up piety and principle as victims to sounds and accents. And the matter is now made more easy; for whatever disgrace it might once have brought on an English lady to have had it suspected from her accent that she had the misfortune not to be born in a neighbouring country, some recent events may serve to reconcile her to the suspicion of having been bred in her own. A country, to which, with all its sins, which are many, the whole world is looking up with envy and admiration, as the seat of true glory and of comparative happiness ! * A country, in which the exile, driven out by the crimes of his own, finds a home! A country, to obtain the protection of which it was claim enough to be unfortunate; and no impediment to have been the subject of her direst foe! A country, which, in this respect, humbly imitating the Father of compassion, when it offered mercy to a suppliant enemy, never conditioned for merit, never insisted on the virtues of the miserable as a preliminary to its own bounty!
England! with all thy faults I love thee still.
* This was written carly in the French Revolution.
COMPARISON OF THE MODE OF FEMALE EDUCATION
IN THE LAST AGE WITH THE PRESENT.
To return, however, to the subject of general education. We admit that a young lady may excel in speaking French and Italian, may repeat a few passages from a volume of extracts; play like a professor, and sing like a syren; have her dressing-room decorated with her own drawings, tables, stands, flower-pots, screens, and cabinets; nay, she may dance like Sempronia * herself, and yet we shall insist that she may have been very badly educated. I am far from meaning to set no value whatever on any or all of these qualifications; they are all of them elegant, and many of them properly tend to the perfecting of a polite education. These things in their measure and degree may be done, but there are others which should not be left undone. Many things are becoming, but “ one thing is needful.” Besides, as the world seems to be fully apprised of the value of whatever tends to embellish life, there is less occasion here to insist on its importance.
But, though a well-bred young lady may lawfully learn most of the fashionable arts, yet, let me ask, does it seem to be the true end of educa
* See Catiline's Conspiracy.