Imatges de pàgina

* Miss Hamilton in her opening letter considers the end and object of education. But an error which pervades the whole work is, that, though she properly contemplates the infant mind, as the blank paper on which any character may be imprinted, she makes no allowance for the future corrections of reason. Reason dawns much more early than she supposes ; and we have known young people argue with a force and accuracy which have not been easily eluded. The mind thus early expanded will often correct an improper bias by its own efforts, and resist an indulgence which it has experienced to be injurious. The object of education we shall however explain in her own words. ... .. .. • To expose the absurdity of making mere personal accomplish, ments the exclusive object of attention, is an easy task; but it is, per. haps, an error little less fatal in its consequences, to direct the attention solely to the cultivation of the understanding, while we neglect the heart. Whoever considers the operation of the passions, and the influence of the affections upon the happiness of individuals and of society, must be sensible, that if these do not receive a proper direction in early life, the acquisition of knowledge will never render a man “wise unto happiness or unto virtue, more than unto salvation.”

If, upon taking these things into consideration, we acquire a proper view of the necessity of perfecting the intellectual and moral powers of our children, we shall adopt the means best suited to views so comprehensive. If we consider, with an amiable and enlightened philosopher, the object of education to be “ first, to cultivate the various principles of our nature, both speculative and active, in such a manner as to bring them to the greatest perfection of which they are susceptible; and secondly, by watching over the impressions and associations which the mind receives in early life, to se cure it against the influence of prevailing errors, and, as far as pos: sible, to engage its prepossessions on the side of truth;” the importance of the object will command our attention, and our anxiety to accomplish it will prompt to vigorous exertion. P. 19.

The second letter relates to the association of ideas, and the cause of their permanence. This cause is the strength of the impression, or the frequency of the repetition. Associations, permanent from the force of the impression, are those producing fear (Letter III). Though we would not assert that the terror from being left in darkness is an instinctive impression, yet it is at least one of those universal ones, which lead us to suspect the existence of instincts. The apprehension of falling is another. Each appears so early, and so generally, as to preclude the suspicion, in every instance, of terror purpose. ly excited. Terror, frequently raised, undoubtedly, as our author observes, produces timidity, and is the parent of dissimulation, but that kind or degree of timidity is, we suspect, never the product of nursery terrors;-it is an inherent dispo,

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sition, connected with the constitution; it is the timidity of the softer sex, not inconsistent with passive firmness, but wholly so with active resolution. The fear of death, enlarged on by our author, certainly never originated in the nursery. It is a part of the same constitution, which we have said cannot be produced by any error during a residence in the juvenile apartments. We would reprobate, however, as much as herself, every method of exciting fear; for this passion is evidently injurious, though we cannot agree with Miss Hamilton respect ing the extent of its influence..

Associations producing aversion, the subject of the fourth letter, lead the author to examine the nature of antipathies and prejudice. The latter is defined to be desire or aversion to certain objects or opinions, by means of strong but unexamined associations. Antipathies appear so early, or, as we would rather say, from such unknown associations, that we have been led to consider these latter as innate, while prejudice may be allowed to arise from the unexainined associations of our author.

Next to the feelings of hatred and antipathy, Miss Hamilton mentions those of contempt. Expressions of this kind should, she thinks, be carefully guarded against, as they produce in the minds of those who employ them too great self-complacency. They should indeed be avoided, because a child should think nothing contemptible; should consider every thing to have its place in the scale of animated nature, connecting the chain that would otherwise be broken.' The most contemptible conduct, the most contemptible, insect, have each their utility; and the only feeling which folly should excite is pity. Vice must raise a different one, viz. indignation..

Much is said of the danger of connexions with servants. We admit it all; but, with Locke, we think it unavoidable. We may however ask, why it should be avoided? The child is perhaps to ocarefully secluded who never knows improper words, who never witnesses bad actions, or observes the effects of deçeit and cunning. All that the parent can do is to guard against their effects. We would never have a child a spy on the conduct of servants, and would check every tale that he can bring from the kitchen or servants’-hall. An attentive parent will, however, soon catch the idea derived from these sources, and may with ease counteract the impression, by pointing out a different conduct or language in persons whom the child must know to be superior in station or accomplishments. We lately knew a boy who would swear, and be most illiberally abusive, before he spoke plain. The source was easily .traced and corrected; and the fault was cured by a determined inąttention to every offensive word. He soon grew ashamed of his language, which he observed rendered him an ob'ect of

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disregard, and at eight years of age is a pattern of delicate and proper conversation. It is a great error in education to aim at preventing such contamination; it were as easy to prevent the infection of disease in the circumambient air. If infection must arrive, the counterpoison should be in readiness, and even anticipated.

The letters on religion are very full. On this subject we are unprepared to speak, as our experience is not sufficiently matured. At present we nearly agree with Rousseau. Religion is either a feeling, or a conviction, the result of reasoning. So far as it can interest children, or be more than a lesson repeated without understanding, it must be confined to the for: mer; and, in our present opinions, we would limit it to incultating the doctrine of a superintending Providence, from whom every blessing is derived, and by whose power every evil is averted. In submission to the dispensations of this benevolent Deity, in whom we live and move and have our being, we would at first nurture the infant mind. Prayer and thanksgiving follow of course; and these should be of the most general kind. More particular doctrines can only be comprehended and appreciated at an age far more mature. We cannot say that we highly approve of the letters on this subject. The author's opinions are with difficulty seised; and the whole wants that masterly comprehension which can alone make them the objects of our consent and approbation.

The letter on the cultivation of benevolence demands, on the whole, our commendation; yet it branches into some points with which the subject has little apparent connexion. Youth, as we have already said, is the period of openness, of candor, and benevolence.

• Nature early impels the mind to seek for happiness; but, before the dawn of reason and experience, the judgements concerning it must be erroneous. In infancy, all ideas concerning it are comprised in the gratification of will; the propensity to this gratification is encouraged by frequent indulgence, till every notion of happiness becomes connected with it. The idea of misery becomes consequently associated with disappointment; and how far these associations may affect the mind, by producing the malevolent passions, will appear evident on a very little reflexion.

"We have already remarked that the painful sensations make a more vivid as well as a more lasting impression than the pleasureable; from which it evidently follows, that the happiness derived from the gratification of will can never bear any proportion to the misery occasioned by its disappointment. Where the propensity to this gra. tification is strengthened by indulgence, the frequent repetition of disappointment will deeply impress the mind with the feelings of regentment, and thus render it liable to the reception of all the male. volent passions connected with it; while the pleasureable sensation occasioned by indulgence will produce no other effects than to aug. ment the desire of future gratification.

An admirable illustration of this doctrine is given by Hartley, who, after observing that the gratification of self-will, if it does not always produce pleasure, yet is always so associated with the idea of pleasure in the mind, that the disappointment of it never fails to produce pain, proceeds as follows: “ If the will was always grati." fied, this mere associated pleasure would, according to the present frame of our natures, absorb, as it were, all other pleasures; and thus, by drying up the source from whence it sprung, be itself dried up at last; and the first disappointments would be intolerable. Both of which things are observable in an inferior degree, both in adults' and in children after they are much indulged. Gratifications of the will without the consequent expected pleasure, disappointments of it without the consequent expected pain, are here particularly useful to us. And it is by this, amongst other means, that the human will is brought to a conformity with the divine, which is the only radical cure for all our evils and disappointments, and the only earnest and medium for obtaining everlasting happiness."

• By the above reasoning, which is I think conclusive, it evidently appears, that were the constant gratification of will possible, (which, in the present state of things, it certainly is not) it would only tend to make the being so gratified miserable. The constant gratification of self-will must necessarily exclude the exercise of all the grateful passions. Where success is certain, hope can have no existence; nor can joy be produced by attaining that which is considered as a right. Let hope and joy be excluded from the human mind, and where is happiness?' P. 156.

This reasoning is on the whole correct and satisfactory; yet perhaps it is not perfectly applicable to the subject. The minds of children are indeed eager in pursuit; but this eagerness is connected with mutability. Desires are violent; but disappointments are not grievous, because other objects wear an equally attractive hue. Colligit et ponit temerè; mutatur in beras. We speak now of children in general, not of the pampered minions of indulgence. A child may be led, but he can. not be drawn; and he should never be allowed to commando If a new object will not obliterate the eager wish for what cannot be granted, the consequence must be endured. The child will cry; he will promise to roar,' and will keep his word. The parents' head and heart may ache, but each will feel more pain if the infant succeed. When the child has once roared himself hoarse without success, he will not be inclined to repeat the experiment; and, if disregarded for his misconduct, will readily apologise for it. We have never found a more powerful argument than attention, or a stronger dissuasive than neglect. To say to a child of a generous disposition, No, sir! such conduct unfits you for my companion,' and to follow this idea by a studied inattention during the remainder of the day,

CRIT. Rev. Vol. 34. Feb. 1802.

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we have often found effectual, if no officious servant counteract the design by an opposite behaviour. Above all, we must. repeat that the parent should never yield; for a single victory will render the child a tyrant.

Habitual gratification, as Miss Hamilton truly observes, will make him miserable. It renders even adults capricious and unhappy; and frequent irritation is the parent of every malevolent passion. The whole of this subject is well explained. We wish it had been detailed somewhat more comprehensively.

The tenth letter, on self-denial, should have followed this, and we shall in general mark our approbation of it. The eighth, which really follows, is not indeed inapposite. It is entitled

an examination into the usual methods employed to counteract the effects of injudicious indulgence.' Schools, Miss. Hamilton thinks, implant worse principles or passions than they eradicate. Our opinion is different. With all the inconveniences of schools, they are the only correctives of the errors of the nursery.

The ninth letter is 'on partiality, and the associations producing a contempt for the female character. The following: remarks on the former should be imprinted on the head and heart of every parent. Partiality is perhaps unavoidable, The error consists in suffering it to influence the conduct. ** The disposition to benevolence is sown and nourished in the grateful soil of family affection. Where children are educated upon sensible principles, so that their wills are not perpetually clashing with each other, mutual affection must naturally spring from sympathy in each other's joys, and the pleasure derived from each. other's society. But this affection is too often nipped in the bud by. the canker of parental partiality.

* Children are so far conscious of their rights, as to feel that they have an equal claim to the parent's tenderness and affection. Where this claim is not allowed, and capricious fondness singles out some particular objects on which to lavish its regards, it never fails to pro-"i duce the worst consequences both on the favoured and neglected parties. In the former it engenders pride and arrogance, in the latter. it brings forth indignation and hatred; and destroys the sense of justice in both. It'too often happens that personal defects, or per-: sonal charms, occasion this unfortunate bias in a mother's mind; sometimes that briskness which is so frequently mistaken for genius, or that dulness which is confounded with stupidity, becomes an excuse for partiality or dislike; and sometimes no excuse is attempted but the sensible one, that “ it is a feeling that cannot be helped!"

Whatever may be the motive assigned for partiality to a favourite, or fot dislike to an unfavoured child, the mother who indulges her feelings with regard to either may be assured she is guilty of a crime of no light dye. She, in the first place, breaks the bonds of family affection, and sows the seeds of discord among her children, .

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