Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

cannot scrutinize and discriminate. External acquirements too recommend themselves the more because they are more rapidly as well as more visibly progressive. While the mind is led on to improvement by slow motions and imperceptible degrees; while the heart must now be admonished by reproof, and now allured by kindness; its liveliest advances being suddenly impeded by obstinacy, and its brightest prospects often obscured by passion ; it is slow in its acquisitions of virtue, and reluctant in its approaches to piety. The unruly and turbulent propensities of the mind are not so obedient to the forming hand as defects of manner or awkwardness of gait. Often when we fancy that a troublesome passion is completely crushed, we have the mortification to find that we have “ scotch'd the snake, not killed it.” One evil temper starts up, before another is conquered. The subduing hand cannot eutoff the ever-sprouting heads so fast as the prolific Hydra can re-produce them, nor fell the stubborn Antaeus so often as he can recruit his strength, and rise in vigorous and repeated opposition. Hired teachers are also under a disadvantage resembling tenants at rack-rent ; it is their interest to bring in an immediate revenue of praise and profit, and for the sake of the present rich crop, those who are not strictly conscientious, do not care how much the ground is impoverished for future produce. But parents, who are the lords of the soil, must look to permanent value, and to continued fruitfulness. The best effects of a careful education are often very remote : they are to be discovered in future scenes, are exhibited in as yet untried connexions. Every event of life will be putting the heart in fresh situations, and making new demands on its prudence, its firmness, its integrity, or its forbearance. Those whose business it is to form and model it, cannot foresee those contingent situations specifically and distinctly ; yet, as far as human wisdom will allow, they must enable it to prepare for them all by general principles, correct habits, and an unremitted sense of dependence on the Great Disposer of events. The young Christian militant must learn and practise all his evolutions; though he does not know on what service his leadcr may command him, by what

particular foe he shall be most assailed, nor what mode of
attack the enemy may employ. -
But the contrary of all this is the case with external ac-
quisitions. The master, it is his interest, will industrious-
ly instruct his young pupil to set all her improvements
in the most immediate and conspicuous point of view.
To attract admiration is the great principle sedulously in-
culcated into her young heart; and is considered as the
fundamental maxim ; and, perhaps, if we were required.

2 to condense the reigning system of the brilliant education

[ocr errors]

of a lady into an aphorism, it might be comprised in this short sentence, To allure and to shine. This system however is the fruitful germ, from which a thousand yet unborn vanities, with all their multiplied ramifications, will spring. A tender mother cannot but feel an honest triumph in completing those talents in her daughter which will necessarily excite admiration ; but she will also shudder at the vanity that admiration may excite, and at the new ideas it will awaken ; and, startling as it may sound, the labours of a wise mother anxious for her daughter's best interests, will seem to be at variance with those of all her teachers. She will indeed rejoice at her progress, but she will rejoice with trembling ; for she is fully aware that if all possible accomplishments could be bought at the price of a single virtue, of a single principle, the purchase would be infinitely dear, and she would reoret the dazzling but destructive acquisition. She kne "hat the superstructure of the accomplishments can be alone safely erected on the broad and solid basis of Christian humility : may more, that as the materials of which that superstructure is to be composed, are in themselves of so unstable and tottering a nature, the foundation must be deepened and enlarged with more abundant care, otherwise the fabric will be overloaded with its own ornaments, and what was intended only to embellish the building, will prove the occasion of its fall. -“To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven,” said the wise man; but he said it before the invention of baby-balls. This modern device is a sort of triple conspiracy against the innocence, the health, and the happiness of children : thus by facti.

tious amusements, to rob them of a relish for the simple joys, the unbought delights, which naturally belong to their blooming season, is like blotting out spring from the year. To sacrifice the true and proper enjoyments of sprightly and happy children, is to make then pay a dear and disproportioned price for their artificial pleasures. They step at once from the nursery to the ball-room; and, by a preposterous change of habits, are thinking of dressing themselves, at an age when they used to be dressing their dolls. Instead of bounding with unrestrained freedom of little wood-nymphs, over hill and dale, their cheeks flushed with health, and their hearts overflowing with happiness, these gay little creatures are shut up all the morning, demurely practising the fast grave, and transacting the serious business of acquiring a new step for the evening, with more cost of time and pains than it would have taken them to acquire twenty new ideas. Thus they lose the amusements which naturally bełong to their smiling period, and unnaturally anticipate these pleasures (such as they are) which would come in, too much of course, on their introduction into fashionable life. The true pleasures of childhood are cheap and natural ; for every object teems with delight to eyes and hearts new to the enjoyment of life ; nay, the hearts of healthy children abound with a general disposition to mirth and joyfulness, evo. 2 ...hout a specific object to excite it; like our first parent, in the world's first spring, when all was new, and fresh, and gay about him,

they live and move,
And feel that they are happier than they know.

Only furnish them with a few simple and harmless materials, and a little, but not too much, leisure, and they will manufacture their own pleasures with more skill, and success, and satisfaction, than they will receive from all that your money can purchase. Their bodily recreations should be such as will promote their health, quicken their activity, enliven their spirits, whet their ingenuity, and qualify them for their mental work. But if you begin thus early to create wants, to invent gratifications, to multiply desires, to awaken dormant sensibilitics, te stir up hidden fires, you are studiously laying up for your children a store of premature caprice, and irritability and discontent. While childhood preserves its native simplicity, every little change is interesting, every gratification is a luxury; a ride or a walk will be a delightful amusement to a child in her natural state; but it will be dull and tasteless to a sophisticated little creature, nursed in these forced, and costly, and vapid pleasures. Alas! that we should throw away this first grand opportunity of working into a practical habit the moral of this important truth, that the chief source of human discontent is to be looked for, not in our real but in our factitious wants ; not in the demands of nature, but in the artificial cravings of desire When one sees the growing zeal to crowd the midnight ball with these pretty fairies, one would be almost tempted to fancy it was a kind of pious emulation among the mothers to cure their infants of a fondness for vain and foolish pleasures, by tiring them out by this premature familiarity with them ; and that they were actuated by something of the same principle which led the Spartans to introduce their sons to scenes of riot, that they might conceive an early disgust at vice or possibly, that they imitated those Scythian mothers who used to . plunge their new born infants into the flood, thinking none to be worth saving who could not stand this early struggle for their lives: the greater part indeed, as it might have been expected, perished; but the parents took comfort, that if many were lost, the few who escaped would be the stronger for having been thus exposed. To behold lilliputian coquettes, projecting dresses, studying colours, assorting ribbands and feathers, their little hearts beating with hopes about partners and fears about rivals ; and to see their fresh cheeks pale after the midnight supper, their aching heads and unbraced nerves, disqualifying the little languid beings for the next day’s. task; and to hear the grave apology, “that it is owing to the wine, the crowd, the heated room of the last night's ball ;” all this, I say, would really be as ludicrous, if the

children's BALLs. - 43

mischief of the thing did not take off from the merriment of it, as any of the ridiculous and preposterous disproportions in the diverting travels of Captain Lemuel Gulliver.

Under a just impression of the evils which we are sustaining from the principles and the practices of modern France, we are apt to lose sight of those deep and lasting

mischiefs which so long, so regularly, and so systematically, we have been importing from the same country, though in another form and under another government. In one respect, indeed, the first were the most formidable, because we embraced the ruin without suspecting it; while we defeat the malignity of the latter, by detecting the turpitude, and defending ourselves against it. This is not the place to descant on that levity of manners, that contempt of the sabbath, that fatal familiarity with loose principles, and those relaxed notions of conjugal fidelity, which have often been transplanted into this country by women of fashion, as a too common effect of a long residence in that: but it is peculiarly suitable to my subject to advert to another domestic mischief derived from the same foreign extraction: I mean, the risks that have been run, and the sacrifices which have been made, in order to furnish our young ladies with the means of acquiring the French language in the greatest possible purity. Perfection in this accomplishment has been so long established as the supreme object; so long considered as the predominant excellence to which all other excellencies must bow down, that it would be hopeless to attack a law which fashion has immutably decreed, and which has received the stamp of long prescription. We must therefore be contented with expressing a wish, that this indispensable persection could have been attained at the expense of sacrifices less important. It is with the greater regret I animadvert on this and some other prevailing practices, as they are errors into which the wise and respectable have, through want of consideration, or raher through want of firmness to resist the tyranny of ashion, sometimes fallen. It has not been unusual when mothers of rank and reputation have been asked how they ventured to intrust their daughters to foreigners, of

*

[ocr errors]
« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »