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violence, and walked away in apparent agitation. I never durst make any further inquiries.
7. Education of Children.
Mr. Johnson was exceedingly disposed to the general indulgence of children, and was even scrupulously and ceremoniously attentive not to offend them: he had strongly persuaded himself of the difficulty people always find to erase early impressions either of kindness or resentment, and said," he should never have so loved his mother when a man, had she not given him coffee she could ill afford, to gratify his appetite when a boy."
"If you had had children, Sir," said I, "would you have taught them any thing?" "I hope," replied he, "that I should have willingly lived on bread and water to obtain instruction for them; but I would not have set their future friendship to hazard, for the sake of thrusting into their heads knowledge of things for which they might not perhaps have either taste or necessity. You teach your daughters the diameters of the planets, and wonder, when you have done, that they do not delight in your company. No science can be communicated by mortal creatures without attention from the scholar; no attention can be obtained from children without the infliction of pain, and pain is never remembered without resentment." That something should be learned was, however, so certainly his opinion, that I have heard him say, how education had been often compared to agriculture, yet that it resembled it chiefly in this: " that if nothing is sown, no crop," says he, "can be obtained." His contempt of the lady who fancied her son could be eminent without study, because Shakspeare was found wanting in scholastic learning, was expressed in terms so gross and so well known, I will not repeat them here.
The remembrance of what had passed in his own childhood, made Mr. Johnson very solicitous to preserve the felicity of children; and when he had persuaded Dr. Sumner to remit the tasks usually given to fill up boys' time during the holydays, he rejoiced exceedingly in the success of his negotiation, and told me that he had never
ceased representing to all the eminent schoolmasters in England, the absurd tyranny of poisoning the hour of permitted pleasure, by keeping future misery before the children's eyes, and tempting them by bribery or falsehood to evade it. "Bob Sumner," said he, "however, I have at length prevailed upon: I know not, indeed, whether his tenderness was persuaded, or his reason convinced, but the effect will always be the same." Poor Dr. Sumner died, however, before the next vacation.
8. Positive and General.
Mr. Johnson was of opinion, too, that young people should have positive, not general, rules given for their direction. 66 My mother," said he, "was always telling me that I did not behave myself properly; that I should endeavour to learn behaviour, and such cant but when I replied, that she ought to tell me what to do, and what to avoid, her admonitions were commonly, for that time at least, at an end." This, I fear, was, however, at best a momentary refuge, found out by perverseness. No man knew better than Johnson in how many nameless and numberless actions behaviour consists: actions which can scarcely be reduced to rule, and which come under no description. Of these he retained so many very strange ones, that I suppose no one who saw his odd manner of gesticulating, much blamed or wondered at the good lady's solicitude concerning her son's behaviour.
9. Parental Authority.
Though he was attentive to the peace of children in general, no man had a stronger contempt than he for such parents as openly profess that they cannot govern their children. 66 How," says he, "is an army governed? Such people, for the most part, multiply prohibitions till obedience becomes impossible, and authority appears absurd; and never suspect that they teaze their family, their friends, and themselves, only because conversation runs low, and something must be said."
Of parental authority, indeed, few people thought with a lower degree of estimation. I one day mentioned the
resignation of Cyrus to his father's will, as related by Xenophon, when, after all his conquests, he requested the consent of Cambyses to his marriage with a neighbouring princess; and I added Rollin's applause and recommendation of the example. "Do you not perceive, then," says Johnson, "that Xenophon on this occasion commends like a pedant, and Père Rollin applauds like a slave? If Cyrus by his conquests had not purchased emancipation, he had conquered to little purpose indeed. Can you bear to see the folly of a fellow who has in his care the lives of thousands, when he begs his papa permission to be married, and confesses his inability to decide in a matter which concerns no man's happiness but his own?"
Mr. Johnson caught me another time reprimanding the daughter of my housekeeper for having sat down unpermitted in her mother's presence. "Why, she gets her living, does she not," said he, "without her mother's help? Let the wench alone," continued he. And when we were again out of the women's sight who were concerned in the dispute: "Poor people's children, dear lady," said he, "never respect them: I did not respect my own mother, though I loved her and one day, when in anger she called me a puppy, I asked her if she knew what they called a puppy's mother?"
We were talking of a young fellow who used to come often to the house he was about fifteen years old, or less, if I remember right, and had a manner at once sullen and sheepish. "That lad," says Mr. Johnson, "looks like the son of a schoolmaster; which," added he, "is one of the very worst conditions of childhood: such a boy has no father, or worse than none; he never can reflect on his parent, but the reflection brings to his mind some idea of pain inflicted, or of sorrow suffered."
10. Cultivation of Memory.
I will relate one thing more that Dr. Johnson said about babyhood before I quit the subject; it was this: "That little people should be encouraged always to tell whatever they hear particulaaly striking, to some brother, sister, or servant, immediately before the impression is erased by
the intervention of newer occurrences. He perfectly remembered the first time he ever heard of heaven and hell," he said, "because when his mother had made out such a description of both places as she thought likely to seize the attention of her infant auditor, who was then in bed with her, she got up, and dressing him before the usual time, sent him directly to call a favourite workman in the house, to whom she knew he would communicate the conversation while it was yet impressed upon his mind. The event was what she wished; and it was to that method chiefly that he owed his uncommon felicity of remembering distant occurrences, and long past conversations."
Dr. Johnson delighted in his own partiality for Oxford; and one day, at my house, entertained five members of the other university with various instances of the superiority of Oxford, enumerating the gigantic names of many men whom it had produced, with apparent triumph. At last I said to him, " Why, there happens to be no less than five Cambridge men in the room now." "I did not," said he, "think of that till you told me; but the wolf don't count the sheep." When the company were retired, we happened to be talking of Dr. Barnard, the Provost of Eton, who died about that time; and, after a long and just eulogium on his wit, his learning, and his goodness of heart: "He was the only man, too," says Mr. Johnson, quite seriously, "that did justice to my good breeding; and you may observe that I am well bred to a degree of needless scrupulosity. No man,' continued he, not observing the amazement of his hearers, "no man is so cautious not to interrupt another; no man thinks it so necessary to appear attentive when others are speaking; no man so steadily refuses preference to himself, or so willingly bestows it on another, as I do; nobody holds so strongly as I do the necessity of ceremony, and the ill effects which follow the breach of it: yet people think me rude; but Barnard did me justice." Tis pity," said I, laughing, "that he had not heard pliment the Cambridge men after dinner to-day."