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respecting your sweet infant. Bestow a word or two on her when you write again. When I was a bachelor I had no regard for children, at least till they could speak; and I used often (God forgive me!) to suspect those of affectation, who made such a rout about them. But since I have had children of my own, I am really fond of other people's, especially of my friends”; and when I can get them alone, I can prattle to them as well as the best of you. This infant of yours is a most lovely one, and I have, in truth, a great affection for her, which I dare say you, from your own feelings, can easily believe. When I told you I supposed there had never been seen so fine a child in Manchester, you turned on me with a sort of disdain, as much as
“ Is that all you have to say ?” It gives me pleasure to see that you still relish the pleasures of the country. There is an “ unbought charm” resulting from this temper of mind, which cannot be understood by the selfish or the vicious. I rode over Childwall and Mossley Hills last evening a little before sunset. Every thing without and within was in unison, and I apostrophised the Great Spirit that has made the heart of man beat time to the harmony of nature, and has rendered this intellec
sary for this
tual music so conducive both to our happiness and virtues.
What you say on education pleases me much. But do not fall into the error of many mothers, of attempting to teach every thing. The great secret, I suspect, is to teach a child to teach itself, and to interfere no further than is neces
purpose. In early infancy, indeed, though very few things are to be taught, yet what
attempt, should be attended to constantly; because habits are then to be formed. But, according to my judgment, nothing ought to be attempted but what has a reference to the passions, the first things that shoot into luxuriance in the human heart.
When irascibility is corrected, the next thing in order, in my mind, is to give a child a notion of truth. This, however, must come at an after-period, from eighteen months to two years old. +
+ In a Letter to Miss Cropper, dated July 9. 1784, Dr. Currie writes as follows: “ A strict adherence to truth in every case is a rare quality. It cannot exist where there is great vanity: and, where falsehood is unmixed with injustice or malice, it is a symptom of weakness. If you are gay, it will make you laugh; if you are serious, it may make you sigh ; but, unless you are ill-natured, it will not make you angry. If people will utter what is not true, it is proper to distinguish those untruths which spring from vice,
These two points carried, and I believe in my conscience they may be easily carried, if they are not complicated with others, you have little less to do than to feed the curiosity, as it rises, with knowledge, taking care to give it the proper quantity, and no more; to direct the affections, as they kindle, to their proper objects ; gradually to teach self-restraint and voluntary exertion; and, finally (observe this), to prune the manners into their proper form.
Girls, I believe, may be more speedily brought into form than boys, and some boys than others : dispositions ought to be studied, and all interference considered as a necessary evil. Here is my system : let me know what
from those which are chiefly to be considered as the offspring of folly. But I say, speak the truth, when you do speak, in every case. On this side you cannot err ; if you deviate in the contrary direction, your path is unsafe. Hidden snares beset you, toils and quicksands surround you, darkness may overtake you, and the precipice of vice is before you. Let not even tenderness for a fellowcreature lead you astray. Conceal his misfortunes and prevent his sorrows, if it be expedient ; but if you must speak, let it be the words of truth, and leave the consequences to the Disposer of events. If I should live to see my little William understand and practise this precept in its full extent, I shall be a very happy man. To speak truth is, in my opinion, in its essence and consequences, the height of wisdom, and the sum of virtue.”
think of it. I am often surprised to see with how much confusion and absurdity even sensible people think on these points. A
A very wellinformed mother told me the other day, that she thought the first thing that ought to be taught children was to be affectionate! Affections may be directed, nay, strengthened; but to implant them where they are not, is an arrogant and foolish attempt. But this is not so bad as the system adopted by some sensible men, of reducing children into a state of universal and implicit submission - into the condition of mere machines. I think of so blind and so brutal a system with abhorrence.
In short, my notion of education in its earlier parts is like my idea of a national government: that it should be chiefly negative or preventive, so to speak, extending to
to as small an abridgment of liberty as possible, but absolute on the points on which it interferes; and that the faults attending it in general are, like the faults in governments in general, an interference where no interference is required, on a number of foolish points, to the injury of the human faculties, and to the neglect of those points which are essential. The analogy will not hold good as to the more advanced parts of education, because its objects then are to teach and instruct; whereas
those of government should be confined, in my judgment, almost entirely to restraint.
And now, my excellent friend, I have returned you page for page, in hopes that my letter may afford
you some amusement, and, in this way, do you some good, whatever effect my prescriptions may have. With kind respects to Mr. Greg, and love to Miss Kennedy, I am always, Your most affectionate and faithful friend,
Liverpool, August 17. 1794. MY DEAR FRIEND,
I am happy you arrived safely at the end of your journey, and that you have met so much to admire and to love at Belfast. When an adventure terminates happily, the more vicissitudes of hope and fear, enjoyment and suffering, in the course of it, the better. What was hardship when present, becomes, in such a case, enjoyment on recollection. Between Port Patrick and Donaghadee the storm was terrible; it is absolutely interesting and agreeable, when related on the shore. Besides the interest of all scenes of grandeur in themselves, there is something