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LIFE AND REFLECTIONS
WHEN a man undertakes to write an account of his own life, or the life of another, it is usually expected that he will record some particulars of his parentage, birth, childhood, education, &c.I shall not utterly disappoint the expectations of my readers, on this bead, nor shall this part of the book be tiresome.
The father of CHARLES OBSERVATOR, was a descendant of a wealthy family, well educated, a man of talents, and reflection. He had several children of whom the subject of the following pages was the eldest. He suffered much in his estate during the revolutionary war, which occasioned him to remove to an uncultivated part of the country. Though he soon acquired a competency, by the prudent management of the small remains of a large fortune; yet he had it not in his power to afford his children that education he desired.
Charles was born at the close of the war, and was young at the time of his father's removal. He possessed bright powers of mind, and discovered, in early life, a strong propensity for enquiry and study. Though he was sometimes playful and rude, yet he rarely fell under the censure of his father, or needed any pointed reproof. He was beloved by the boys in the neighborhood, who looked up to him as a kind of counsellor and arbitrator, in all their boyish differences.
From fifteen years of age, his desire for an education was uncommonly ardent; but the advantages for obtaining it, were by no means proportioned to the desire. Residing in a newly settled country, where the benefit of books and qualified instructors could not be enjoyed, formed the principle impediments. These, however, did not wholly preclude some advances in the lower parts of science; even before he
arrived at eighteen years of age. In after years, a knowledge of reading, writing, plain arithmetic, grammar, geography, and some acquaintance with the Greeks, &c. formed the chief parts of his education. It was mostly obtained without the aid of instructors, or even a systematical form of study. He had little taste for fashionable amusements, and his intervals of labor and winter evenings, were chiefly taken up with reading books of various descriptions.
When his views were more matured by age, he lamented to me, that he had not been more systematical in the pursuit of knowledge. He believed that it facilitates useful studies towards their desired object. Detached scraps of knowledge cannot so successfully be brought into operation ; and if the mind is filled up with various subjects at the same time, it cannot distinctly perceive and lastingly retain any. It being, said he, the too common fault of youth, and almost unavoidable to those who manage their own studies. Hence, the importance of qualified teachers, as well as to help the studious in the difficult parts of science, which, without their aid, require much tiresome and discouraging study. For it is certain, that much more time and study are required to become scientific, when such teachers are not at hand to solve difficulties, and open to the mind the door of knowledge. An extraordinary genius and constant application, may make a man eminent in the literary department; but to such an one, an instructor would be highly useful, and to an ordinary genius much more so.
These observations are not made as an apology for the narrowness of his education, or that the reader may suppose his enquiries or observations have outdone his advantages; but to set off a fact in a just light, and to cause young persons who are blest with higher advantages, to prize and improve them in such a manner, as to shine in their professions in after life.
From this honest account of Charles, the reader need not be terrified through an apprehension that, as far as he supplies the materials for the following work, the thread of the history will be fifty times broken off by the unintelligible jargon
of French and Latin phrases: nor need he any more apprehend this insult on his understanding from the writer, This kind of pedantry is intolerable in those, wbo professedly write for mere English readers. I have been a hundred times vexed with it, and wished that these very learned authors
had been learned enough to leave out these specimens of their knowledge, or else bad shown a little more learning by giving us an English translation.
But the fears of the reader may be, that he shall not find it written in good English, with sound, common sense, and on subjects which concern the real good of mankind. however find, whether his fears are well or ill grounded, by carefully reading. His expectation will not be raised by great promises, nor by any introductory parade. An honest attempt, clothed in modesty, is all which is offered, or need be expected.
He had scarcely arrived at sixteen, before his desire to go beyond the limits of his native town, to observe the state of men and manners in other places, became too strong to be long concealed. Youthful timidity for a while prevented a disclosure of this desire, and when known by his parents, it met with the opposition of persuasion and parental authority, and was for the present abandoned. But this did not hinder his seeking objects of notice, nor the reflections which he treasured up for after use.
Being one day at neighbor Slack's, he was both diverted and offended with the behaviour of his children. Mr. Slack was in his best room, conversing with a friend. Suddenly rushed in half a dozen boys and girls, with loud peals of laughter, and boisterous sound of words. The father reddened with seeming resentment, and said in a soft tone, “ don't, my children, be so noisy." He might as well have been silent, for they had been too long acquainted with his irresolute and unsteady government, to pay the least attention to what was said. They continued their noise, till one, a little out of breath, drew off from the rest to listen to a story his father was relating. Presently he bawled out— Father, you don't tell the story right.' But did you not know, my son, it is not good manners to interrupt your father when he is talking. But I vow, father, you don't tell the story as I heard it. His father was silent, and the son went on ; the old man was as tame as a whipped spaniel, till it was finislied.
He then said, come, my son, fetch some wood and lay on the fire. I can't, let Sam go-great lazy. lout, haynt done any thing to-day. Yes I have done more than you have, too-you may go, father bid you first. Don't say so, Sanmy; come, bring in a little wood, my dear. I don't want to-why can't John go ? Come, John, you are father's best boy, run and bring some wood. Yes, I'm always the best boy, when there's any thing to do; I have to do every thing under the sun-great lazy Sue stays in the house, and don't do nothing; let her go. The father, as was usual, went and brought it himself.
In his absence, as one was sitting down in a chair, another pulled it away, and let him to the floor. He scrabbled up in a rage, and fell upon his brother with fist and teeth, who began to cry-father, John is biting and striking me. Well, Sam pulled the chair away, and almost killed me. Sue has got a pin and pricks me, screamed another. He pinched me first, said Sue. Give my thing here, bawled a fifth. I won't, tisent your thing. Tis mine, you said I might have it.L-a-w, my son, do give it to him. I won't--and away it went into the fire.
Dinner was soon on the table, and another scene of irregularity was now opened. The children scampered and hud. dled around the table, like so many hungry pigs to the trough. Each one began to help himself, before the old man could say grace. They cut and slashed, crowded and differed, till the pie was brought to table; when one called out with authority-mother, give me a great piece. Sam, said another, has got as big-again-piece as I have and away went his to the floor. O, my dear, said the mother, that's naughtym-shouldent do so.— I won't have that little piece.- Don't cry, my dear, and mother will give you a great piece. I believe, said the mother, children always act worse when we have company, than any other time. They act worse than ever I knew them to day ;--poor little thing, he's sleepy, I spose; he hasent been to sleep to-day. When dinner was ended, he left them. In the evening he related these transactions to his father, which occasioned the following remarks.
Some children may be more olistinate and irregular in their dispositions than others, and greater wisdom and energy may be required to keep them in proper subjection. And if they are governed ever so wisely, they may have their Little childish differences with each other, and may also offend