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which his tender mind could neither admit nor comprehend.
The injurious author, male or female, of children's works, is anxious on one point only : self-interest. Vanity whispers that he possesses every qualification for writing, and interest suggests that he may turn his productions to profit. He gives to the world stories and rhymes in plenty, and, to diversify his labours, perhaps ushers in an elementary abridgment occasionally. With little or no experience of infant manners, and no thought or concern for the purity of infant mind, he endeavours by any means to strike, allure, astonish, and agitate their tender bosoms. He gives a sounding title, with a shewy frontispiece; presents high, overwrought, unnatural scenes; lays open, in some of his characters, the baseness and knavery of the worst part of mankind ; lifts the veil, which should never be withdrawn before childhood, from plot, intrigue, scandal, slander, satire, finished vice, levity, and folly of a world they know not, nor ought to know; and offers to their wondering minds, and, as yet, uncorrupt hearts, false but shewy sentiments, and plausible yet glittering language of the strongest passions. The child of six or seven years will read such a book as the author himself would perhaps approve. Such a person might be flattered by observing the Aushed face, anxious yet distressed expression of countenance, wide stretched eye, and lip severed, but marked with a shade of contempt and scorn-the indignation, as it were, of innocence at the touch of corruption. But the good, the prudent, the cautious mother would be shocked and alarmed at these signs
of gratification, received, however it might be tinctured by contempt, from corrupt sources ; she would speedily see, that if her child were allowed to drink of those spiced waters, he would soon cease to relish the pure stream, as he also would soon cease to be pure and innocent. Let the mother ask him, her still unvitiated child, if he really thinks such a book a pretty one. He will instantly say, “ No mamma, not near so pretty as my others."
Why then do you go on reading it?" He will reply, “ I don't know, mamma, but I should like just to read it to the end.” And thus does evil in man lead him on, even where his better self, his innocence, taste, conscience, and guardian angel, warn him loudly that neither true enjoyment, nor instruction, nor reason, nor right are to be found. Just a step further. Alas! how often does this one step just lead to danger and to ruin.
NOW I BESEECH THEE, THOSE THAT READ THIS BOOK, THAT THEY BE NOT DISCOURAGED.' ENQUIRE CONCERNING THE WORDS OF THIS BOOK.” “I WRITE UNTO YOU, LITTLE CHILDREN.-I WRITE UNTO YOU, FATHERS.'
Such, then, being the merit or worthlessness displayed in juvenile compositions, and the variety amongst those who produce them, it becomes necessary, indeed an imperative duty, to examine with the
severest scrutiny every juvenile work, of every description whatever, before we suffer a single page to be scanned by children. In this examination a mother should not depend wholly upon the reviews or criticisms of men, if men of science ever do condescend to notice in the least the diminutive books for children, for they are either not really fitted to such minutiæ of employment, or else do not think proper to be. Certain it is, a man high in literary re, putation is yet no more successful in his judgment of what is proper reading, or occupation for any child under seven years of age, than he is by nature capable of the exertion and watchfulness required in training of little children, teaching them to walk, and giving them the rudiments of knowledge during the first important years of their lives. This era passed, however, and a good foundation fairly made, instructions of scientific men begin to be of use, and not only may their choice of books, but their remarks, become useful and valuable to the parent or teacher. Indeed, generally speaking, the young woman who is educated by her father, if he be a well-informed man, is observed to think more closely, to have clearer ideas upon subjects she has made her study; to have a mind steadier and more enlarged, and reasoning powers much stronger than women in general, who have been instructed by women only. A father, if he be clever, may be of infinite service to his daughter, in the period to which I allude: within eight and eighteen years.
However, this consideration is foreign to the subject, and I resume that of the present chapter.
A mother, then, should not depend upon the reviews for the true characters of little children's books, but should read, and reflect, and study them herself, and try to discover, not whether some parts are bad and some good, but whether a whole book from beginning to end is good or bad : that is, whether it may be given without restriction or reserve to her child, or whether it should be withheld from him altogether.*
And as some mothers who have not hitherto been accustomed to act upon their own judgments (and how few really do it is needless to insist on) in the choice of little books, may consider a few hints not
* The Monthly Review' is, I believe, the only periodical puba lication which notices with any degree of regularity books for children; and in this highly respectable, and, for the most part, liberal work, I have obserred children's books of two or three hundred small pages dispatched in two lines and a half of sweeping criticism; books, too, which deserved only partial commendation, or censure. Were it only for the benefit of a promising author, one would be desirous to shew where he may improve; but surely, when we consider the responsibility affecting the pages, and the danger of allowing the spirit of one, much less of several obnoxious passages to pass into a tender mind, no gentleman will deny that it becomes a duty to examine and judge with great care, and to report with fidelity and precision. On the whole, howerer, children are much indebted to this review; for hastily and slightly as they have been served, yet the homage of service has been done tbem. Some trash has hereby been restrained from burting them, and some excellence bas been drawn forth for their admiration and instruction. It is, after all, to be regretted tbat a review is not appropriated exclusively to children's works, and that two or three ladies of talent and experience have not the spirit, industry and perseverance, to keep this department of literature, fairly their own, in their own bands.
unacceptable, I beg to offer to them some small assistance; first, in choosing, and next in the selections which I have ventured to make of modern juvenile publications for the use of their children, who being imprudently taken to a bookseller, and left to make their own choice from vast numbers, often stand puzzled and wavering, and at length purchase the gaudiest but worst books in the whole collection.
It appears, then, advisable for a mother to send to a bookseller, and unknown to her child, for one or two dozens of little books on all subjects, which books she may require permission to keep for several days to read through, one by one, as she may find the convenience or time for so doing, in private ; for it is needless to say, that if her children see new books, they will be naturally anxious to possess onę at least of them.
The first point to determine, on taking up at random any such volume, is, whether it be truth or fiction. We will suppose it to be truth. Now fact, or truth, or what we call history, as we present it to children, is of three kinds; the indispensable, the important, and the useful.
The indispensable kind of truth or history is that which is absolutely necessary to all human creatures, which it is impossible they should be able to live without, and not be in danger of some great evil, present or future: and this is Sacred History. The important, or second kind of truths, are comprized in natural history of created objects ; beginning with animate and domestic, and going on to wild animals ;