Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

dled by the flame of genius ;-To fay nothing of thefe, and of a thousand other abfurdities, it is impoffible to pardon the total want of principle which pervades the whole deteftable system. In a few words, it may be thus explained. Life is a jeft; therefore, to aim at the advancement of human happiness, as your grand object, and at the approbation of your Maker as your ultimate reward, muft of course be ridiculous. To put on the appearance of generofity, humanity, and difinterestedness, is indeed no bad policy; but the fole end which you ought ever to pursue, either directly or indirectly, is the promotion of your own interest. Many things are useful or valuable as means; but the great end to which they are all to be confidered as fubfervient, is to rife in the world; for which purpose you need not fcruple to make use of the established modes of the court; artifice, diffimulation, and debauchery. Vice and virtue are antiquated distinctions; do not perplex yourself by attending to them; the grand diftinction, which it is necessary to keep continually in view, is between that which is fashionable and that which is vulgar. So far as virtue is connected with fashion, it is to be followed; fo far as vice implies vulgarity, it is to be fhunned. There are fome things, however, of universal and perpetual obligation; and though a ftrict obfervance of the articles of the Decalogue may be difpensed with, never hope for advancement, or even for pardon, if you fail to enter gracefully into a

room,

[ocr errors]

room, to dance a good minuet, to make a genteel bow, to pare your nails clofe, and to keep your teeth clean.

Having thus freely declared my disapprobation of a plan I regard as effentially wrong, I fhall concisely state my fentiments refpecting that which I believe to be right. I am clearly of opinion, that the culture of the human mind cannot commence at too early a period. An infant who' has attained to the ufe of language is capable of receiving numberless ideas; and it is of grea importance that the first ideas with which the mind of a child is impressed, should be fuch as are favourable to virtue. The light of reafon begins to dawn much fooner than is perhaps generally imagined; and the difference between children who have not paffed the years of infancy, with respect both to virtue and knowledge, is fuch as can scarcely be believed but by thofe who have examined them with philofophical attention. Never was there an idea more monftrously abfurd and pernicious than that started by Rouffeau, respecting the propriety of keeping children' in ignorance till they have attained to an age in which they may judge without prejudice. Ignorance in this case can only mean ignorance of what is good; for if the bloffoms of virtue and knowledge do not appear in confequence of early diligence in fowing the feed, the weeds of idleness and vice will infallibly overfpread the foil; wee ls

$ 3

which

[ocr errors]

which it will afterwards be found difficult if not impoffible to eradicate; befides, if the human mind could be retained in a state of perfect neutrality to the age specified by Rouffeau, how abfurd is it to expect that it fhould then be capable of deciding upon questions which have divided mankind for ages. In fact, the first opinions we embrace, at whatever time of life we may commence our enquiries, are, and muft be, thofe of our im mediate inftructors: Nor is the evil in the least diminished by delaying the period of that commencement. Happy is it when those instructors encourage their pupils impartially to investigate the opinions which they inculcate, and take a real fatisfaction in diffufing the liberal spirit of free enquiry and unbounded difcuffion.

I acknowledge myself an advocate for a very high degree of indulgence in the treatment of youth. Some very worthy and refpectable people have unfortunately imbibed a notion, that the parental authority ought to be exercised with rigour, and that implicit obedience is almost the only leffon which needs to be inculcated. Of the fatal effects of this plan experience exhibits the most melancholy proofs. Virtue is indeed

with fuch perfons the great object of this, as it ought to be of every plan of Education; but it is affociated with ideas fo gloomy, it presents an aspect fo harsh and difgufting, that youth, naturally averfe to seriousnefs, and much more to aufterity, flies to vice as to a refuge;

1

and

[ocr errors][merged small]

and at that critical period of life when the re-
ftraints fo long impatiently fubmitted to, must
at last suffer relaxation, is too often feen to throw
off every appearance of regard to that which has
ever been the object of its fecret averfion. I pre-
fume I scarcely need to fay, that I do not mean
to recommend that abfurd and pernicious fpecies
of indulgence by which temporary caprice is
gratified at the expence of future happiness, but
that which aims and is calculated to excite af-
fection and confidence. All recreations, tend-
ing either to health or rational amufement, fhould
be not only allowed but encouraged :-An un-
reserved intercourfe of converfation, promoted by
kindness, condefcenfion, and a flattering appear.
ance of regard and attention. The first princi-
ples of knowledge and virtue may be inculcated
in a thousand different ways, by a skilful and
watchful inftructor; and the understanding will
make rapid and vigorous fhoots where it has
free scope to expand itself in all directions; and
if the early bloffoms appear fomewhat luxuriant,
it is far better than that "Nature's wild vigour
"working at the root" fhould be chilled by
neglect, or blasted by severity. Mildness and in-
dulgence, guided by good fenfe and prudence,
on the part of the parent, muft neceffarily gene-
rate affection and gratitude in the breafts of the
children; and I will venture to lay it down as
an almost infallible maxim, that if children are
chargeable with a failure of duty in thofe re-
$ 4
S
spects,

fpects, it is owing to fome radical error in the conduct of the parents.

As to the long-contefted queftion respecting the fuperior eligibility of a public or private Education, I cannot but give a decided opinion in favour of the former. All the powers and faculties of the mind have a freer fcope and a wider range in a public than a private feminary; and a man who has had the advantage of a public Education, will in general retain through life a certain fuperiority over another of equal abilities and knowledge brought up under the care of a domeftic tutor. I think, also, that with respect to learning, i. e. claffical learning, public fchools have a manifeft advantage over private feminaries; and though the general rule, in this cafe, muft after all admit of many exceptions, and the true queftion is not, whether a public or private Education is beft, but whether one or the other is beft for a particular individual; yet I repeat, that I have no doubt but, for the majority, a public Education will be found most eligible. In order to fecure the advantages which may, with proper care and caution, be expected from this mode of Education, the most affiduous endeavours fhould, doubtlefs, be used, from the earliest dawn of reafon, to inculcate juft and noble principles of action; and for fome years previous to the entrance of a youth into this interefting fcene, perhaps from the age of feven or eight, to twelve or fourteen,

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »