« AnteriorContinuar »
and let every body see your beautiful frock, and your nice pretty shoes. Who has such a pretty pair of shoes as you ?"
Nobody has," lisps the attentive little victim, bridling and pouting her lip, and endeavouring to imitate the toss of the head and the exultation of her temper. “To be sure, nobody has," continues this
one, “mind you shew them when you go into the drawing-room, and every body will say you are a pretty little lady."
Prejudice, folly, conceit, affectation, and levity, listen delighted to such instructions; is it not useless to say how they improve opportunity ?
And is the mother herself never guilty of addressing any part of the foregoing remarks to her child ? Let her make inquiry of her conscience; if that judge do acquit her in this point, why will she bear the culpability in the other, of letting her child be subject to have ideas put into his head by any human being, to the endangering of his innocence, and the warping of his soul? Why will she not let him, when a child, speak and act as a child ? with the sweet simplicity and artlessness of childhood? Why not let him smile when he is excited by something to smile at; be pleased when something curious, admirable, exhilirating, or meritorious, strikes his senses ; and feel anxiety when something noble, generous, kind, or good, presents itself as worthy to rouse his better feelings and create an interest ? Why chain his attention to all that bespeaks the littleness of man, and his innumerable wants, of eating, drinking, clothing, and never suffer it to rise to the contemplation of all that is excellent in him and wor
thy of an immortal being? A single act of goodness is far worthier a child's consideration than a pair of new shoes; and
if the little cherub like to make exclamations of pleasure upon such a new article of dress, what heart will not participate in one of the momentary joys of his infancy? Blessings upon the heads of little children, blessings upon their innocent lips, and half-articulated words, and blessings upon those who promote their happiness ! Let their joys be without number and without end; but let them not feel the wish to rejoice over a new article of dress during more than a few moments, for it is foreign to the simplicity of childhood to do so. They look upon a new piece of attire as upon any other new object : not because this attire is to set off their persons, or because it is too fine, or too expensive for any other person to purchase. Shame! shame on the idea. Shame, tenfold, to him who forces it into the mind of infancy, to its discredit, its confusion, and its injury.
But because dress, and self-adornment, and gratification, are not to be the paramount duties of a child, let us not be thought to advance, that order, neatness, and propriety, which are connected with attention to self, are to be neglected. These things in the course of life are of a secondary importance; and whatever is absolutely required in the course of existence, is also required in childhood ; with this difference, however, that the seed or principle is all we expect in the child.
From the adult, we require fruit or acts. If there were no seed given, whence can fruit grow? Does not an infant come into the
world perfect in body and limb, and complete in its provision for thought and speech? At the age of two years, has nature aught to do but to develope and unfold ? Has she to make limbs, or to add new faculties as the child advances in growth? That which nature does for the natural man, the mother should do for the moral man, give him the germs of all goodness and propriety in his infancy, and leave them to time and culture to unfold and ripen for maturity.
An attention then to order, neatness, and propriety of dress, and manners too, are perfectly consistent with the engaging virtue of which I am treating. Indeed self-respect, which is also an attribute of modesty, demands it. But of this hereafter.
To preserve a simplicity in speech and manners, modesty, innocence, and truth, will be the greatest securities. If they could be given in the perfection of virtue, then indeed would the security be complete. But what mortal shall we find possessing any one virtue fully and determinately? The most genuine are adulterated by our commerce with the world, the re-action of vicious propensities, and, above all, the considerations of self. Notwithstanding all which, so far from being discouraged by evil thoughts, base suggestions, and the resistance offered by selfish motive, the good do cheerfully advance on their way, always remembering, that perfection, though an object for attainment, is far off; that their inward struggles are the combat of a foe, whose siege is vigorous in proportion to the value of the citadel; that the great tempter was never so desirous to conquer as
when perfection stood before him; and that in proportion to the greatness of the victory gained over a base foe, so is the glory of the conquerors. All these are considerations of comfort for the man as well as the parent, if some disappointment attend his sanguine expectations. Let not the mother, I mean the anxious indefatigable mother, be disturbed if she do not perceive early blossoms of excellence in her child. She may assure herself that if the soil is not execrably bad, the seed she has carefully sown and unceasingly guarded must produce something, however tardy its appearance.
It is observable, that the manners and speech of the eldest born are seldom distinguished with infantine simplicity in as great a degree as those of his brothers and sisters. The eldest child is, for a considerable time, the companion of grown persons. He copies their manners and uses their words; hence he is often considered the most clever, allowing, of course, for the disparity of years; but this is a false way of estimating capability, and one which has deceived many. Wherever I am told that a child is amazingly clever and forward for his age, that he uses such and such long words, and can repeat such and such things, I invariably suppose him to be a mere repeater ; because the really clever and promising child is more anxious to inquire than to repeat; and if he have had the advantage of being taught how to think, he has not been teased with hard words or complex sentences, but has had his curiosity gratified by information and replies, thrown into the very simplest form of speech which art can devise, or patient and mater
ternal care could adopt : which information, so given, has sunk deep into the mind, because it was well understood. And for the very reason that it was so simple, it could make but a very poor figure when repeated either by the child or the mother to the flat. tering crowd. Thus the little one who is considered most clever because he makes use of long words and fine speeches, or because he repeats some (to him) incomprehensible rubbish in poetry, is, in truth, most ignorant; for whilst his mouth is filled with words, his mind is left in worse than emptiness; it is as much in a state of depression from its perplexity, as the heart is in a state of danger from the acceptance of false praise. Grown persons, it is true, who are to be depended on, can do much for young children towards opening their minds; but as few persons may be so trusted, it is no great advantage to any child to be with others than his mother. A companion he must have, and who is fitter than his parent?
The object in early exercising the infant powers, is not to force them into unnatural ripeness, but only to unfold, and gradually bring them to the child's own view. Of what value to him, are his mind, reason, conscience, sense, if these treasures are not unlocked, and spread out gently before him, along with the valuables which these treasures can purchase ; beauties in earth, sea, air, the whole book of nature ? What matters it that he has a heart, if that heart be not taught to beat under all the kindly influence and graceful dominion of the virtues ? He must learn them through mind: give him ideas, words will follow. His tender features, innocent countenance,