Imágenes de páginas

book of foreign tongues : much less should he have the prayer of praise to his Creator for giving him food, forced into his head, in lines of gibberish, of which he only understands one or two words at the most.

A child repeating a prayer and a grace in an un. known tongue! Is it possible? Yes, I have seen several children labouring under their load, whilst their minds were distracted between the temptation of the viands and the burthen of the task, every idea of piety being entirely out of the question. Yet these were not the children of Roman Catholics, but of Protestants. What infatuation !




A few more remarks upon the instruction of mind shall be offered, and with the subject of manners, this part of the work shall end.

Of the five powers of the infant mind, two, namely, the understanding and the memory, have been just treated of. The conscience has been also noticed, but in another place. The judgment, therefore, and reasoning powers now remain for our consideration.

The judgment of children is set to work by what they observe, what they read and understand, and what they hear in conversation. It is for the reasoning powers, then, to try how far this judgment is true or false : and these powers are to be called into action by the mother's encouragement and assistance.

Girls, who are of more sedate dispositions than boys, will beg a needle and thread of their mothers, and sit quietly working, and chatting, by turns, at their side, asking many questions, and passing their judgment freely enough upon things and persons.* Sometimes they speak of what they have read; at others of what they have seen or heard. Upon these they form opinions, which are often strangely ludicrous, or palpably wrong. The first we need not be in a hurry to put right; but the second will require a tender and gentle correction, not directly by words, but by the placing of the thing to be judged in a right view before the child, and by leaving him to draw the inferences. Judgment will thus be rectified by itself.

As attention to this matter is of great importance, the boys should also be encouraged to speak their thoughts, and express themselves with a modest assurance upon those things that pass through their minds. But in general we find it less difficult to fix the attention of girls to little discussions of this sort

* I do not think a child is equal to the strong exertion of mental and bodily powers at one and the same instant, like a grown person. A little girl trying to use her needle properly, will not be able also to carry on an argument: she will lay down her work whilst she is speaking, and take it up when she has notbing more to say.

than that of boys ; at least during the first years of childhood. However we must, by some pleasing methods, invite them, that we may draw forth from the judgment whatever is there formed, and endeavour to correct and amend where amendment seems absolutely required. For instance : children should be taught in agreeable conversation, and on these seasonable opportunities, to pass no judgment on men and things rashly or suddenly, but to withhold their judgment till they see sufficient reason to determine them. To this end, they should be shewn in triAling matters how often they are deceived, when they judge on a sudden, without due consideration, and how often they are forced to change their opinions. That they should judge, not merely by outward shew and appearance, but by searching things to the bottom; they should be convinced, that every man who has fine clothes is not rich,* and that every man who talks hard words is not wise or learned ; that every one who wears a red coat is not a soldier, nor every person good-humoured who says very polite things in company; that they should use and exercise their reason on all subjects excepting that of religion, which is to be judged and determined by the word of God.

The reasoning powers are so nearly allied to the judgment, that they should be cultivated and improved nearly in the same manner. When children say they like this or dislike that; that they admire one, and disapprove of another, that they are pleased

--- * The author is here indebted to Dr. Watts.

with this and disappointed with that thing, they should be always asked--for why? what reason they have for expressing themselves thus, or feeling in that manner? In return for which confidence, the mother may shew them, when she does any thing for their good, why she did it, that they may be convinced it was fit and necessary to be done, though perhaps it was not so pleasing to them. By calling their young reason thus into exercise, they will be taught wisdom betimes; they will be led to a rational conduct in their childish years, and by these means also there will always be a handle to take hold of in order to persuade them to their duty, and to save them from mischief.

In the manners alone will the difference be observed between a respectably and a nobly born young person : the branches of education in these days are taught equally to both. Religion and virtue surely belong to one as much as to the other ; but in the manners, or carriage and deportment, there is generally a very great distinction. The child of noble parents, who is much in the company of his mother, habitually acquires, not her gracefulness and dignified carriage, for these do not belong to tender age, unpractised in the forms of society, but a gentle readiness in his deportment to oblige and be obliged ; a sort of delicacy which shrinks from vulgar tricks or coarse words ; a controul over his actions, attitudes, opinions, and feelings, which prevents him from shocking the ears or eyes of those persons of quality to whom in his mother's drawing room he is occasionally admitted. This elegant reserve of feeling and man

ner, which thus has its beginning, and which alone distinguishes the child of nobility from him of the vulgar rich, is engaging, if it be totally unmixed with affectation ; that is, if it be imitation formed unconsciously into habit, and not mere mimicry, which is put on in the drawing-room with persons of rank, and put off in the nursery with the maids, or in the study, if the child be old enough to have one, with the governess. I have seen several such children of quality who could be well bred in the drawing-room, but who were in the nursery and study to be distinguished in nothing from the coarsest, rudest, most boisterous, and most unmannerly children of the middle classes. Some pebbles will never take a polish. There are children who, let their rank be high as it may, are never, can never during existence, be made acquainted with refinement and the graces. The most po: lished gentleman in England had, as it is said; one of the dullest and most ordinary mannered of men for his son, notwithstanding the unceasing pains he took when with him, and the volumes of letters he was at the trouble to write to him when absent; and these chiefly too upon the subject he held to be of so much importance in education : the formation of the manners. But indeed there are some minds which will receive no one impression but such as they have a conceit for. Let us hope they are few in number ; though it is to be doubted whether those few have not been so distorted, and crookened in infancy, by improper treatment, as to reduce the instances of absolute perverseness and determination against every exertion and practice required, to none. I do not

« AnteriorContinuar »