« AnteriorContinuar »
some of the best affections of the heart. The Romans (and it is mortifying on the subject of Christian education to be driven so often to refer to the superiority of pagans) were so well aware of the importance of keeping up a sense of family fondness and attachment by the very same means which promoted simple and domestic employment, that no citizen of note ever appeared in public in any garb but what was spun by his wife and daughter; and this virtuous fashion was not confined to the early days of republican severity, but even in all the pomp and luxury of imperial power, Augustus preserved in his own family this simplicity of primitive manners.
Let me be allowed to repeat, that I mean not with preposterous praise to descant on the ignorance or the prejudice of past times, nor absurdly to regret that vulgar system of education which rounded the little circle of female acquirements within the limits of the sampler and the receiptbook. Yet if a preference almost exclusive was then given to what was merely useful, a preference almost equally exclusive also is now assigned to what is merely ornamental. And it must be owned, that if the life of a young lady, formerly, too much resembled the life of a confectioner, it now too much resembles that of an actress; the morning is all rehearsal, and the evening is all performance. And those who are trained in this regular routine, who are instructed in order to be exhibited, soon learn to feel a sort of impatience in those societies in which their kind of talents
are not likely to be brought into play; the task of an auditor becomes dull to her who has been used to be a performer. Esteem and kindness become but cold substitutes to one who has been fed on plaudits, and pampered with acclamations; and the excessive commendation which the visitor is expected to pay for his entertainment not only keeps alive the flame of yanity in the artist by constant fuel, but is not seldom exacted at a price which a veracity at all strict would grudge. The misfortune is, when a whole circle are obliged to be competitors who shall flatter most, it is not easy to be at once very sincere and
civil. And unfortunately, while the age is become so knowing and so fastidious, that if a young lady does not play like a public performer, no one thinks her worth attending to; yet, if she does so excel; some of the soberest of the admiring circle feel a strong alloy to their pleasure, on reflecting at what a vast expense of time this perfection must probably have been acquired. *
The study of the fine arts, indeed, is forced on young persons, with or without genius, fashion, as was said before, having swallowed up that distinction, to such excess, as to vex, fatigue, and disgust those who have no talents, and to determine them, as soon as they become free agents, to abandon all such tormenting acquirements. While by this incessant compulsion still more pernicious effects are often produced on those who actually possess genius; for the natural constant reference in the mind to that public performance for which they are sedulously cultivating this talent excites the same passions of envy, vanity, and competition in the dilettanti performers, as might be supposed to stimulate professional candidates for fame and profit at public games and theatrical exhibitions. Is this emulation, is this spirit of rivalry, is this hunger after public praise, the temper which prudent parents would wish to excite and foster ? Besides, in any event the issue is not favourable: if the young performers are timid, they disgrace themselves and distress their friends; if courageous, their boldness offends still more than their bad performance. Shall they then be studiously brought into situations in which failure discredits and success disgusts ?
* That accurate judge of the human heart, Madame de Maintenon, was so well aware of the danger resulting from some kinds of excellence, that after the young ladies of the court of Louis Quatorze had distinguished themselves by the performance of some dramatic pieces of Racine, when her friends told her how admirably they had played their parts ; “Yes," answered this wise woman, so admirably that they shall never play again."
May I venture, without being accused of pedantry, to conclude this chapter with another reference to ancient and pagan examples ? The Hebrews, Egyptians, and Greeks believed that they could more effectually teach their youth maxims of virtue, by calling in the aid of music and poetry. These maxims, therefore, they put into verses, and these verses were set to the most popular and simple tunes, which the children sang. Thus was their love of goodness excited by
the very instruments of their pleasure; and the senses, the taste, and the imagination, as it were, pressed into the service of religion and morals. Dare I appeal to Christian parents, if these arts are commonly used by them, as subsidiary to religion and to a system of morals much more worthy of every ingenious aid and association, which might tend to recommend them to the youthful mind ? Dare I appeal to Christian parents whether music, which fills up no trifling portion of their daughters' time, does not fill it without any moral end, or even without any specific object ? Nay, whether some of the favourite songs of polished societies are not amatory, are not Anacreontic, more than quite become the modest lips of innocent youth and delicate beauty ?
ON THE RELIGIOUS EMPLOYMENT OF TIME.
ON THE MANNER IN WHICH HOLIDAYS ARE PASSED.
SELFISHNESS AND INCONSIDERATION CONSIDERED.
DANGERS ARISING FROM THE WORLD.
THERE are many well-disposed parents, who, while they attend to these fashionable acquirements, do not neglect to infuse religious knowledge into the minds of their children; and having done this, are but too apt to conclude that they have done all, and have fully acquitted themselves of the important duties of education. For having, as they think, sufficiently grounded their daughters in religion, they do not scruple to allow them to spend almost the whole of their time exactly like the daughters of worldly people. Now, though it be one great point gained, to have imbued their young minds with the best knowledge, the work is not, therefore, by any means accomplished. 66 What do
ye more than others ?” is a question which, in a more extended sense, religious parents must be prepared to answer.
Such parents should go on to teach children the religious use of time, the duty of consecrating to God every talent, every faculty, every possession, and of devoting their whole lives to his glory. People of piety should be more peculiarly on their guard against a spirit of idleness, and a slovenly