« AnteriorContinua »
SIR RICHARD STEELE.-1675-1728. RICHARD STEELE was born in Dublin, S. 1675, his father an Englishman, being secretary to the first Duke of Ormond, and his mother an Irish woman.' On the death of his father he was placed .by the Duke, who was one of the governors, in the Charter House School, London, where he remained till he was 17, and where he made the acquaintance of Joseph Addison, which ripened into a friendship that survived all the jealousies and disturbances of similar pursuits in literature and politics. They were comrades in the University (Oxford), which Steele left without a degree, for a sol-. dier's career, which, after attaining the rank of Captain, he abandoned for the precarious support of letters and politics.
Through the influence of Addison with the Government, he obtained the appointment of Gazetteer, and in 1709, (April 12) under the name of Isaac Bickerstaff, he began the Tatler, which was discontinued in January 1711; and in March of the same year he commenced with Addison the publication of the Spectator; and in March, 1713, issued the first number of the Guardian--works which have passed into the family reading, wherever the English language is spoken. His ready and versatile pen contributed largely to the interests of those
He was elected to Parliament in 1715, and was knighted by the King, for his vigorous defense of. the House of Hanover. He was married in 1707, and his correspondence with his wife exhibits his character as most amiable, as well as eccentric. He died Sept. 1, 1729.
FLOGGING IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS. I must confess I have very often, with much sorrow, bewailed the misfortune of the children of Great Britain, when I consider the ignorance and undiscerning or the generality of schoolmasters. The boasted liberty we talk of is but a mean reward for the long servitude, the many heartaches and terrors, to which our childhood is exposed in going through a Grammar School. Many of these stupid tyrants exercise their cruelty without any manner of distinc. tion of the capacities of children, or the intention of parents in their behalf. There are many excellent tempers which are worthy to be nourished and cultivated with all possible diligence and care, that were never designed to be acquainted with Aristotle, Tully, or Virgil; and there are as many who have capacities for understanding every word those great persons have writ, and yet were not born to have any relish of their writings.
For want of this common and obvious discerning in those who have the care of youth, we have so many hundred unaccountable creatores every age whipped up into great scholars, that are forever near a right understanding, and will never arrive at it. These are the scandal of letters, and these are generally the men who are to teach others. The sense of shame and honor is
enough to keep the world itself in order without corporal punishment, much more to traiu üic minds of uncorrupted and innocent children. It happens, I doubt not, more than oure, in a year, that a læd is chastised for a blockhead, when it is good apprehension thau makes him incapable of knowing what his teacher means. A brisk imagination very often inay suggest an error, which a lad could not bave fallen into, if he had been as heavy in conjecturing as his master in explaining. But there is no mercy even towards a wrong interpretation of his meaning: the sufferings of the scholar's body are to rectify the mistakes of his mind.
I am confident that no boy, who will not be allured to letters without blows, will ever be brought to any thing with them. A great or good mind must necessarily be the worse for such indignities, and it is a sad change to . Jose of its virtue for the improvement of its knowledge. No one who has gone through what they call a great school, but must remember to have seen chil. dren of excellent and ingenuous natures, as has afterward appeared in their manhood—I say no man who has passed through this way of education but must have seen an ingenuous creature, expiring with shame, with pale looks, beseeching sorrow, and silent tears, throw up its honest eyes, and kneel on its tender knees to an inexorable blockhead to be forgiven the false quantity of a word in making a Latin verse. The child is punished, and the next day he commits a like crime, and so a third with the same consequence. I would fain ask any reasonable man whether this lad, in the simplicity of liis native innocence, full of shame, and capable of any impression from that grace of soul, was not fitter for any purpose in this life, than after that spark of virtue is extinguished in him, though he is able to write twenty verses in an evening? ...
It is wholly to this dreadful practice that we may attribute a certain hardi. - ness and ferocity which some men, though liberally educated, carry about them in all their behavior. To be bred like a gentleman, and punished like a malefactor, must, as we see it does, produce that illiberal sauciness which we see sometimes in men of letters. ...
It is, methinks, a very melancholy consideration, that a little negligence can spoil us, but great industry is necessary to improve us; the most excellent natures are soon depreciated, but evil tempers are long before they are exalted into good habits. To help this by punishments, is the same thing as killing a man to cure him of a distemper. When he comes to suffer punishment in that one circumstance, he is brought below the existence of a rational creature, and is in the state of a brute that moves only by the admonition of stripes. But since this custom of educating by the lash is suffered by the gentry of Great Britain, I would prevail only that honest, heavy lads may be dismissed from slavery sooner than they are at present, and not whipped on to their fourteenth or fifteenth year, whether they expect any progress from them or not. Let the child's capacity be forth with examined, and he sent to some mechanic way of life, without respect to his birth, if nature designed him for nothing higher: let him go before he has innocently suffered and is debased into a dereliction of mind, for being what it is no guilt to be-a plain man. I would not here be supposed to have said, that our learned men of either robe, who have been whipped at school, are not still men of noble and liberal minds; but I am sure they would have been much more so than they are, bad they never suffered that infamy.-Spectator, No. 20.
ESSAY ON EDUCATION.
BY OLIVER GOLDSMITH.
As few subjects are more interesting to society, so few have been more frequently written upon, than the education of youth. Yet is it not a little surprising, that it should have been treated almost by all in a declamatory manner? They have insisted largely on the advantages that result from it, both to the individual and to society, and have expatiated in the praise of what no one has ever been so hardy as to call in question.
Instead of giving us fine but empty harangues upon this subject, instead of indulging each his particular and whimsical system, it had been much better if the writers on this subject had treated it in a more scientific manner, repressed all the sallies of imagination, and given us the result of their observations with didactic simplicity. Upon this subject the smallest errors are of the most dangerous consequence; and the author should ventute the imputation of stupidity upon a topic, where his slightest deviations may tend to injure the rising gen. eration.
I shall, therefore, throw out a few thoughts upon this subject, which have not been attended to by others, and shall dismiss all attempts to please, while I study only instruction.
The manner in which our youth of London are at present educated is, some in free schools in the city, but the far" greater number in boarding schools about town. The parent justly consults the health of his child, and finds that an education in the country tends to promote this much more than a continuance in the town. Thus far they are right: if there were a possibility of having even our free schools kept a little out of town, it would certainly conduce to the health and vigor of perhaps the mind as well as of the body. It may be thought whimsical, but it is truth, I have found by experience, that they who have spent all their lives in cities, contract not only an effeminacy of habit, but even of thinking.
But when I have said, that the boarding schools are preferable to free schools, as being in the country, this is certainly the only advantage I can allow them; otherwise it is impossible to conceive the ignorance of those who take upon them the important trust of education. Is any man unfit for any of the professions? he finds his last resource in setting up school. Do any become bankrupts in trade? they still set up a boarding school, and drive a trade this way, when all others fail: nay, I have been told of butchers and barbers, who have turned schoolmasters; and, more surprising still, made fortunes in their new professions.
* This Essiy was originally published in the Bee, No. VI , Nov. 101h, 1759. It was after wards introduced by the author into a volume of Essays with the following observation : " This Treatise was published before Rousseau's "Emilius:" if there be a similitude in any instance, it is hoped that the author of the present essay will not be termed a plagiarist.” Ja this repriut we follow Bohn's Edition of the Works of Oliver Goldsmith.” 4 vois. Lon. don. 1854.
Could we think ourselves in a country of civilized people-could it be conceived that we have any regard for posterity, when such are permitted to take the charge of the morals, genius, and health of those dear little pledges, who may one day be the guardians of the liberties of Europe, and who may serve as the honor and bulwark of their aged parents? The care of our children, is it below the state ? is it fit to indulge the caprice of the ignorant with the disposal of their children in this particular? For the state to take the charge of all its children, as in Persia or Spartà, might at present be inconvenient; but surely with great ease it might cast an eye to their instructors. Of all members of society, I do not know a more useful or a more honorable one, than a schoolmaster; at the same time that I do not see any more generally despised, or whose talents are so ill' rewarded.
Were the salaries of schoolmasters to be augmented from a diminution of useless sinecures, how might it turn to the advantage of this people—a people whom, without flattery, I may in other respects term the wisest and greatest upon earth! But, while I would reward the deserving, I would dismiss those utterly unqualified for their employment: in short, I would make the business of a schoolmaster every way more respectable, by increasing their salaries, and admitting only men of proper abilities.
There are already schoolmasters appointed, and they have some small salaries; but where at present there is but one schoolmaster appointed, there should at least be two; and wherever the salary is at present twenty pounds, it should be a hundred. Do we give immoderate benefices to those who instruct ourselves, and shall we deny even subsistence to those who instruct our children? Every member of society should be paid in proportion as he is necessary: and I will be bold enough to say, that schoolmasters in a state are more necessary than clergymen, as children stand in more need of instruction than their parents.
But, instead of this, as I have already observed, we send them to board in the country to the most ignorant set of men that can be imagined. But lest the ignorance of the master be not sufficient, the child is generally consigned to the usher. This is generally some poor needy animal, little superior to a footman either in learning or spirit, invited to his place by an advertisement, and kept there merely from his being of a complying disposition, and making the children fond of him. "You give your child to be educated to a slave," says a philosopher to a rich man; “instead of one slave, you will then have two."
It were well, however, if parents, upon fixing their children in one of these houses, would examine the abilities of the usher as well as of the master; for, whatever they are told to the contrary, the usher is generally the person most employed in their education. If, then, a gentleman, upon putting out his son to one of these houses, sees the usher disregarded by the master, he may depend upon it, that he is equally disregarded by the boys; the truth is, in spite of all their endeavors to please, they are generally the laughingstock of the school. Every trick is played upon the usher; the oddity of his manners, his dress, or his language, is a fund of eternal ridicule; the master himself now and then can not avoid joining in the laugh, and the poor wretch, eternally resenting this ill usage, seems to live in a state of war with all the family. This is a very proper person, is it not, to give children a relish for learning? They must esteem learning very much, when they see its professors used with such ceremony! If the usher be despised, the father may be assured his child will never be properly instructed.*
But let me suppose, that there are some schools without these inconveniences, -where the master and ushers are men of learning, reputation, and aseiduity. If there are to be found such, they can not be prized in a state sufficiently. A boy will learn more true wisdom in a public school in a year, than by a private education in five. It is not from masters, but from their equals, youth learn a knowledge of the world: the little tricks they play each other, the punishment that frequently attends the commission, is a just picture of the great world, and all the ways of men are practiced in a public school in miniature. It is true, a child is early made acquainted with some vices in a school, but it is better to know these when a boy, than be first taught them when a man, for their novelty then may have irresistible charms.
In a public education boys early learn temperance; and if the parents and friends would give them less money upon their usual visits, it would be much to their advantage, since it may justly be said, that a great part of their disor. ders arise from surfeit,-plus occidit gula quam gladius. And now I am come to the article of health, it may not be amiss to observe, that Mr. Locke and some others have advised, that children should be inured to cold, to fatigue, and hardship, from their youth; but Mr. Locke was but an indifferent physician. Habit, I grant, has great influence over our constitutions, but we have not precise ideas upon this subject.
We know that, among savages, and even among our peasants, there are found children born with such constitutions, that they cross rivers by swimming, endure cold, thirst, hunger, and want of sleep, to a surprising degree; that when they happen to fall sick, they are cured, without the help of medicine, by nature alone. Such examples are adduced, to persuade us to imitate their manner of education, and accustom ourselves betimes to support the same fatigues. But had these gentlemen considered, first, that those savages and peasants are generally not so longlived as they who have led a more indolent life; secondly, that the more laborious the life is, the less populous is the country: had they considered, that what physicians call the stamina vitæ, by fatigue and labor become rigid, and thus anticipate old age; that the number who survive those rude trials, bears no proportion to those who die in the experiment: had these things been properly considered, they would not have thus extolled an education begun in fatigue and hardships. Peter the Great, willing to inure the children of his seamen to a life of hardship, ordered that they should drink only sea water, but they unfortunately all died under the experiment.
But while I would exclude all unnecessary labors, yet still I would recommend temperance in the highest degree. No luxurious dishes with high seasoning, notining given children to force an appetite, as little sugared or salted provisions as possible, though never so pleasing; but milk, morning and night, should be their constant food. This diet would make them more healthy than any of those slops that are usually cooked by the mistress of a boarding school;
* The author's remarks upon this subject are the more worthy of attention, that he hina. self knew by experience the duties and annoyances of such a situation.—Bohn.