« AnteriorContinua »
names, as carry with them the ideas of something terrible and hurtful, which they have reason to be afraid of, when alone, especially in the dark. This must be carefully prevented; for though by this foolish way they may keep them from little faults, yet the remedy is much worse than the disease; and there are stamped upon their imaginations ideas that follow them with terror and affrightment. Such bugbear thoughts, once got into the tender minds of children, and being set on with a strong impression from the dread that accompanies such .apprehensions, sink deep, and fasten themselves so, as not easily, if ever, to be got out again; and, whilst they are there, frequently haunt them with strange visions, making children dastards when alone, and afraid of their shadows and darkness all their lives after. I have had those complain to me, when men, who had been thus used when young; that, though their reason corrected the wrong ideas they had taken in, and they were satisfied, that there was no cause to fear invisible beings more in the dark than in the light; yet that these notions were apt still, upon any occasion, to start up first in their prepossessed fancies, and not to be removed without some pains. And, to let you see how lasting frightful images are, that take place in the mind early, I shall here tell you a pretty remarkable, but true story: there was in a town in the west, a man of a disturbed brain, whom the boys used to tease, when he came in their way: this fellow one day, seeing in the street one of those lads that used to vex him, stepped into a cutler's shop he was near, and there seizing on a naked sword, made after the boy, who seeing him coming so armed, betook himself to his feet, and ran for his life, and by good luck had strength and heels enough to reach his father's house, before the madman could get up to him: the door was only latched; and when be had the latch in his hand, he turned about his head to see how near his pursuer was, who was at the entrance of the porch, with his sword up ready to strike; and he had just time to get in and clap to the door to avoid the blow, which, though his body escaped, his mind did not. This frightening idea made so deep an impression there, that it lasted many years, if not all his life after; for telling this story when he was a man, he said, that after that time till then, he never went in at that door, (that he could remember,) at any time, without looking back, whatever business he had in his head, or how little soever, before he came thither, he thought of this madman.
If children were let alone, they would be no more afraid in the dark than in broad sunshine; they would in their turns as much welcome the one for sleep, as the other to play in: there should be no distinction made to them, by any discourse, of more danger, or terrible things in the one than the other. But, if the folly of any one about them should do them this harm, and make them think there is any difference between being in the dark and winking, you must get it out of their minds as soon as you can; and let them know, that God, who made all things good for them, made the night, that they might sleep the better. and quieter; and that they being under his protection, there is nothing in the dark to hurt them. What is to be known more of God and good spirits, is to bo deferred till the time we shall hereafter mention; and of evil spirits, it will be well if you can keep him from wrong fancies about them, till he is ripe for that sort of knowledge.
GOOD-NATURE. 133. Having laid the foundations of virtue in a true notion of a God, such as the creed wisely teaches, as far as his age is capable, and by accustoming him to
pray to him; the next thing to be taken care of, is to keep him exactly to speaking of truth, and by all the ways imaginable inclining him to be good. natured. Let him know, that twenty faults are sooner to be forgiven than the straining of truth, to cover any one by an excuse: and to teach him betimes to love and be good-natured to others, is to lay early the true foundation of an honest man; all injustice generally springing from too great love of ourselves, and too little of others.
This is all I shall say of this matter in general, and is enough for laying the first foundations of virtue in a child. As he grows up, the tendency of his natural inclination must be observed; which, as it inclines him, more than is convenient, on one or the other side, from the right path of virtue, ought to have proper remedies applied; for few of Adam's children are so happy as not to be born with some bias in their natural temper, which it is the business of education either to take off, or counterbalance: but to enter into particulars of this, would be beyond design of this short treatise of education. I intend not a discourse of all the virtues and vices, and how each virtue is to be attained, and every particular vice by its peculiar remedies cured; though I have mentioned some of the most ordinary faults, and the ways to be used in correcting them.
134. Wisdom I take, in the popular acceptation, for a man's managing his business ably, and with foresight, in this world. This is the product of a good natural temper, application of mind and experience together, and so above the reach of children. The greatest ing that in them can be done towards is to hinder them, as much as may be, from being cunning; which being the ape of wisdom, is the most distant from it that can be: and, as an ape, for the likeness it has to a man, wanting what really should make him so, is by so much the uglier; cunning is only the want of understanding; which, because it can not compass its ends by direct ways, would do it by a trick and circumvention; and the mischief of it is, a cunning trick helps but once, but hinders ever after. No cover was ever made either so big, or so fine, as to hide itself. Nobody was ever so cunning, as to conceal their being so: and when they are once discovered, every body is shy, every body distrustful of crafty men; and all the world forwardly join to oppose and defeat them: whilst the open, fair, wise man has every body to make way for him, and goes directly to his business. To accustom a child to have true notions of things, and not to be satisfied till he has them; to raise his mind to great and worthy thoughts; and to keep him at a distance from falsehood, and cunning, which has always a broad mixture of falsehood in it; is the fittest preparation of a child for wisdom. The rest, which is to be learned from time, experience, and observation, and an acquaintance with men, their tempers and designs, is not to be expected in the ignorance and inadvertency of childhood, or the inconsiderate heat and unweariness of youth: all that can be done towards it, during this unripe age, is, as I have said, to accustom them to truth and sincerity; to a submission to reason; and, as much as may be, to reflection on their own actions.
BREEDING. 135. The next good quality belonging to gentleman, is good-breeding. There are two sorts of ill-breeding; the one a sheepish bashfulness; and the other, a misbecoming negligence and disrespect in our carriage; both which are avoided, by duly observing this one rule, Not to think meanly of ourselves, and not to think meanly of others.
136. The first part of this rule must not be understood in opposition to humility, but to assurance. We ought not to think so well of ourselves, as to stand upon our own value; and assume to ourselves a preference before others, because of any advantage we may imagine we have over them; but modestly to take what is offered, when it is our due. But yet we ought to think so well of ourselves, as to peform those actions which are incumbent on, and expected of us, without discomposure or disorder, in whose presence soever we are, keeping that respect and distance which is due to every one's rank and quality. There is often in people, especially children, a clownish shamefacedness before stran. gers, or those above them; they are confounded in their thoughts, words, and looks, and so lose themselves in that confusion, as not to be able to do any thing, or at least not to do it with that freedom and gracefulness which pleases, and makes them acceptable. The only cure for this, as for any other miscarriage, is by use to introduce the contrary habit. But since we can not accustom ourselves to converse with strangers, and persons of quality, without being in their company, nothing can cure this part of ill-breeding but change and variety of company, and that of persons above us.
137. As the before-mentioned consists in too great a concern how to behare ourselves towards others, so the other part of ill-breeding lies in the appearance of too little care of pleasing or showing respect to those we have to do with. To avoid this these two things are requisite : first, a disposition of the mind not to offend others; and secondly, the most acceptable and agreeable way of ex. pressing that disposition. From the one, men are called civil; from the other, well-fashioned. The latter of these is that decency and gracefulness of looks, voice, words, motions, gestures, and of all the whole outward demeanor, which takes in company, and makes those with whom we may converse easy and well pleased. This is, as it were, the language whereby that internal civility of the mind is expressed; which, as other languages are, being very much governed by the fashion and custom of every country, must in the rules and practice of it, be learned chiefly from observation, and the carriage of those who are allowed to be exactly well-bred. The other part, which lies deeper than the outside, is that general good-will and regard for all people, which makes any one have a care not to show, in his carriage, any contempt, disrespect, or neglect of them; but to express, according to the fashion and way of that country, a respect and value for them, according to their rank and condition. It is a disposition of the mind that shows itself in the carriage, whereby a man avoids making any one uneasy in conversation.
I shall take notice of four qualities, that are most directly opposite to this first and most taking of all the social virtues. And from some one of these four, it is, that incivility commonly has its rise. I shall set them down, that children may be preserved or recovered from their ill influence.
ROUGHNESS. 1. The first is a natural roughness, which makes a man uncomplaisant to others, so that he has no deference for their inclinations, tempers, or conditions. It is the sure badge of a clown, not to mind what pleases or displeases those he is with; and yet one may often find a man, in fashionable clothes, give an unbounded swing to his own humor, and suffer it to justle or overrun any one that stands in its way, with a perfect indifferency how they take it. This is a brutality that every one sees and abhors, and nobody can be easy with: and therefore this finds no place in any one, who would be thought to have the least tincture of good-breeding. For the very end and business of good-breeding is to supple the natural stiffness, and so soften men's tempers, that they may bend to a compliance, and accommodate themselves to those they have to do with.
2. Contempt, or want of due respect, discovered either in looks, words, or gestures: this, from whomsoever it comes, brings always uncasiness with it; for nobody can contentedly bear being slighted.
3. Censoriousness, and finding fault with others, has a direct opposition to civility. Men, whatever they are, or are not guilty of, would not have their faults displayed, and set in open view and broad daylight, before their own, or other people's eyes. Blemishes affixed to any one, always carry shame with them: and the discovery, or even bare imputation of any defect, is not borno without some uneasiness. Raillery is the most refined way of exposing the faults of others; but, because it is usually done with wit and good language, and gives entertainment to the company, people are led into a mistake, and, where it keeps within fair bounds, there is no incivility in it: and so the pleasantry of this sort of conversation often introduces it amongst people of the better rank; and such talkers are favorably heard, and generally applauded by the laughter of the by-standers on their side: but they ought to consider, that the entertainment of the rest of the company is at the cost of that one, who is set out in their burlesque colors, who, therefore, is not without uneasiness, unless the subject, for which he is rallied, be really in itself matter of commendation; for then the pleasant images and representations which make the raillery, carrying praise as well as sport with them, the rallied person also finds his account, and takes part in the diversion. But, because the nice management of so nice and ticklish a business, wherein a little slip may spoil all, is not every body's talent, I think those, who would secure themselves from provoking others, especially all young people, should carefully abstain from raillery; which, by a small mistake, or any wrong turn, may leave upon the mind of those, who are made uneasy by it, the lasting memory of having been piquantly, though wittily, taunted for something censurable in them.
Besides raillery, contradiction is a kind of censoriousness, where-in ill-breeding often shows itself. Complaisance does not require that we should always admit all the reasonings or relations that the company is entertained with; no, nor silently let pass all that is vented in our hearing. The opposing the opinions, and rectifying the mistakes of others, is what truth and charity sometimes require of us, and civility does not oppose, if it be done with due caution and care of circumstances. But there are some people, that one may observe possessed, as it were, with the spirit of contradiction, that steadily, and without regard to right or wrong, oppose some one, or perhaps every one of the company, whatever they say. This is so visible and outrageous a way of censuring
that nobody can avoid thinking himself injured by it. All opposition to what another man has said, is so apt to be suspected of censoriousness, and is so seldom received without some sort of humiliation, that it ought to be made in the gentlest manner, and softest words can be found; and such as, with the whole deportment, may express no forwardness to contradict. All marks of respect and good-will ought to accompany it, that whilst we gain the argument, we may not lose the esteem of those that hear us.
4. Captiousness is another fault opposite to civility, not only because it often produces misbecoming and provoking expressions and carriage, but because it is a tacit accusation and reproach of some incivility, taken notice of in those whom we are angry with. Such a suspicion, or intimation, can not be borne by any one without uneasiness. Besides, one angry body discomposes the whole company, and the harmony ceases upon any such jarring.
The happiness, that all men so steadily pursue, consisting in pleasure, it is easy to see why the civil are more acceptable than the useful. The ability, sincerity, and good intention, of a man of weight and worth, or a real friend, seldom atone for the uneasiness, that is produced by his grave and solid representations. Power and riches, nay virtue itself, are valued only as conducing to our happiness; and, therefore, he recommends himself ill to another as aiming at his happiness, who, in the services he does him, makes him uneasy in the manner of doing them. He that knows how to make those he converges with easy, without debasing himself to low and servile flattery, has found the true art of living in the world, and being both welcome and valued every where. Civility therefore, is what, in the first place, should with great care be made habitual to children and young people.
BREEDING. 138. There is another fault in good manners, and that is, excess of ceremony and an obstinate persisting to force upon another what is not his due, and what he can not take without folly or shame. This seems rather a design to expose, than oblige; or, at least, looks like a contest for mastery; and, at best, is but troublesome, and so can be no part of good-breeding, which has no other use or end, but to make people easy and satisfied in their conversation with us. This is a fault few young people are apt to fall into;- but yet, if they are ever guilty of it, or are suspected to incline that way, they should be told of it, and warned of this mistaken civility. The thing they should endeavor and aim at in conversation, should be to show respect, esteem, and good-will, by paying to every one that common ceremony and regard, which is in civility due to them. To do this, without a suspicion of flattery, dissimulation, or meanness, is a great skill, which good sense, reason, and good company, can only teach; but is of so much use in civil life, that it is well worth the studying.
139. Though the managing ourselves well in this part of our behavior has the name of good-breeding, as if peculiarly the effect of education; yet, as I have said, young children should not be much perplexed about it; I mean, about putting off their hats, and making legs modishly. Teach them humility, and to be good-natured, if you can, and this sort of manners will not be want. ing: being in truth, nothing but a care not to show any slighting, or contempt, of any one in conversation. What are the most allowed and esteemed ways of