« НазадПродовжити »
of their combination, were only shown; the causes should be deferred to a maturer age, or to those times when natural curiosity prompts us to discover the wonders of nature. Man is placed in this world as a spectator; when he is tired with wondering at all the novelties about him, and not till then, does he desire to be made acquainted with the causes that create those wonders.
What I have observed with regard to natural philosophy, I would extend to every other science whatsoever. We should teach them as many of the facta as were possible, and defer the causes until they seemed of themselves desirous of knowing them. A mind thus leaving school stored with all the simple experiences of science, would be the fittest in tho world for the college course; and though such a youth might not appear so bright, or so talkative, as those who had learned the real principles and causes of some of the sciences, yet he would make a wiser man, and would retain a more lasting passion for letters, than he who was early burdened with the disagreeable institution of effect and cause.
In history, such stories alone should be laid before them as might catch the imagination: instead of this, they are too frequently obliged to toil through the four empires, as they are called, where their memories are burdened by a number of disgusting names, that destroy all their future relish for our best historians, who may be termed the truest teachers of wisdom.
Every species of flattery should be carefully avoided: a boy, who happens to say a sprightly thing, is generally applauded so much, that he happens to continue a coxcomb sometimes all his life after. Ho is reputed a wit at fourteen, and becomes a blockhead at twenty. Nurses, footmen, and such, should therefore be driven away as much as possible. I was even going to add, that the mother herself should stifle her pleasure or her vanity, when little master Imppens to say a good or smart thing. Those modest lubberly boys who seem to want spirit, generally go through their business with more ease to themselves, and more satisfaction to their instructors.
There has of late a gentleman appeared, who thinks the study of rhetoric essential to a perfect education.* That bold male eloquence, which often without pleasing convinces, is generally destroyed by such institutions. Convincing eloquence, however, is infinitely more serviceable to its possessor than the most florid harangue, or the most pathetic tones that can be imagined; and the man who is thoroughly convinced himself, who understands his subject, and the language he speaks in, will be more apt to silence opposition, than he who studies the force of his periods, and fills our ears with sounds, while our minds are destitute of conviction.
It was reckoned the fault of the orators at the decline of the Roman empire, when they had been long instructed by rhetoricians, that their periods were so harmonious, as that they could bo sung as well os spoken. What a ridiculous figure must one of these gentlemen cut, thus measuring syllables, and weighing words, when he should plead the cause of his client I Two architects were once candidates for the building a certain temple at Athens: the first harangued the crowd very learnedly upon the different orders of architecture, and showed them in what manner the tetnplo should be' built; the other, who got up to speak after him, only observed, that what his brother had spoken he could do; and thus he at once gained his cause.
* Probably Mr. Tbomaa Sheridan, who about thia time read lectures on rhetoric and elocution— Bahn.
To teach men to be orators, is little less than to teach them to bo poets; and for my part, I should have too great a regard for my child, to wish him a manor only in a bookseller's shop.
Another passiou which the present age is apt to run into, is to make children learn all things,—the languages, the sciences, music, the exercises, and painting. Thus the child soon becomes a talker in all, but a master in none. He thus acquires a superficial fondness for every thing, and only shows his ignorance when ho attempts to exhibit his skill.
As I deliver my thoughts without method or connection, so the reader must not be surprised to find me once more addressing schoolmasters on the present method of teaching the learned languages, which is commonly by literal translations. I would ask such, if they were to travel a journey, whether those parts of the road in which they found the greatest difficulties would not be most strongly remembered? Boys who, if I may continue the allusion, gallop through one of the ancients with the assistance of a translation, can have but a very slight acquaintance either with the author or his language. It is by the exercise of the mind alone that a language is learned; but a literal translation, on the opposite page, leaves no exerciso for the memory at all. The boy will not be at the fatigue of remembering, when his doubts are at once satisfied by a glance of the eye; whereas, were every word to be sought from a dictionary, the learner would attempt to remember, in order to savo him the trouble of looking out for it for the future.
To continue in the same pedantic strain, though no schoolmaster, of all the various grammars now taught in schools about town, I would recommend only the old common lone; I have forgot whether Lilly's, or an emendation of him. The others may be improvements; but such improvements soem to me only moro grammatical niceties, no way influencing the learner, but perhaps loading him with trifling subtleties, which at a proper ago he must be at some pains to forget • N
Whatever pains a master may tako to make tho learning of tho languages agreeable to his pupil, he may depend upon it, it will be at first extremely unpleasant. The rudiments of every language, therefore, must bo given as a task, not as an amusement. Attempting to deceive children into instruction of this kind, is only deceiving ourselves; and I know no passion capable of conquering a child's natural laziness but fear. Solomon has said it before mo; nor is there any moro certain, though perhaps more disagreeable truth, than the proverb in verse, too well known to repeat on the present occasion. It is very probable that parents are told of some masters who never use tho rod, and consequently are thought the properest instructors for their children; but though tenderness is a requisite quality in an instructor, yet there is too often the truest tenderness in well-timed correction.
Some have justly observed, that all passion should be banished on this terrible occasion; but, I know not how, there is a frailty attending human nature, that few masters are able to koep their temper whilst they correct. I knew a good-natured man, who was sensible of his own weakness in this respect, and consequently had recourse to the following expedient to prevent his passions from being engaged, yet at the same time administer justice with impartiality. Whenever any of his pupils committed a fault, ho summoned a jury of his peers,—I mean of the boys of his own or the next classes to him; his accusers stood forth; he had a liberty of pleading in his own defense, and one or two more had a liberty of pleading against him: when found guilty by the panel, he was consigned to the footman who attended in the house, who had previous orders to punish, but with lenity. By this means the master took off the odium of punishment from himself; and the footman, between whom and the boys there could not be even the slightest intimacy, was placed in such a light as to be shunned by every boy in the school.
And now I have gone thus far, perhaps you will think mo some pedagoguo, willing, by a well-timed puff, to increase the reputation of his own school; but such is not the case. Tho regard I have for society, for those tender minds who are the objects of the present essay, is the only motive I liuve for offering those thoughts, calculated not to surprise by their novelty, or tho elegance of composition, but meroly to remedy some defects which have crept into the present system of school education.
[To the foregoing " Eisay on Education" we add a few detached thoughts selected from other publications and letters by the same author.]
HOME EDUCATION. ROMANCE READING. FRUGALITY.
The reasons you have given me for breeding up your son a scholar are judicious and convincing; I should, however, be glad to know for what particular profession he is designed. If he be assiduous, and divested of strong passions, (for passions in youth always lead to pleasure,) he may do very well in your college; for, it must be owned, that the industrious poor have good encouragement there, perhaps better than in any other in Europe. But, if he has ambition, strong passions, and an exquisite sensibility of contempt, do not send him there, unless you have no other trade for him except your own. It is impossible to conceive how much may be done by a proper education at homo. A boy, for instance, who understands perfectly well Latin, French, Arithmetic, and the principles of the civil law, and can write a fine hand, has an education that may qualify him for any undertaking. And these parts of learning should be carefully inculcated, let him be designed for whatever calling he will. Above all things, let him never touch a romance or novel; those paint beauty in colors more charming than nature, and describe happiness that man never tastes. How delusive, how destructive, are those pictures of consummate bliss! They teach the youthful mind to sigh after beauty and happiness which never existed; to despise the little good which fortune has mixed in our cup, by expecting more than she ever gave; and in general, take the word of a man who has seen the world, and has studied human nature more by experience than precept—take my word for it, I say, that books teach us very little of the world. The greatest merit in a state of poverty would only serve to make the possessor ridiculous; may distress, but can not relieve him. Frugality, and even avarice, in the lower orders of mankind, are true ambition. These afford tho only ladder for tho poor to rise to preferment. Teach, then, my dear Sir, to your son thrift and economy. Let his poor wandering uncle's example bo placed before his eyes. I had learned from books to be disinterested and generous, before I was taught from experience the necessity of being prudent I had contracted tho habite and notions of a philosopher, while I was exposing myself to the insidiooB approaches of cunning; and often by being, even with my narrow finances, charitable to excess, I forgot tho rules of justice, and placed myself in the very situation of the wretch who thanked me for my bounty. When I am in the remotest part of the world, tell him this, and perhaps he may improve from my example.—Letter to Rev. Henry Goldsmith. 1759.
SELF-KN'OWLEDQE AND SELF-GOVERNMEXT.
In the various objects of knowledge, which I have had the pleasure of seeing you study under my care, as well as those which you have acquired under the various teachers who have hitherto instructed you, the most material branch of information which it imports a human being to know, has been entirely overlooked,—I mean the knowledge of yourself. There are, indeed, very few persons who possess at once the capability and the disposition to give you this instruction. Your parents, who alone are perhaps sufficiently acquainted with you Tor the purpose, are usually disqualified for the task, by the very affection and partiality which would prompt them to undertake it Tour masters, who probably labor under no such prejudices, have seldom either sufficient opportunities of knowing your character, or are so much interested in your welfare, as to undertake an employment so unpleasant and laborious. You are, as yet, too young and inexperienced to perform this important office for yourself, or, indeed, to be sensible of its very great consequence to your happiness. The ardent hopes and the extreme vanity natural to early youth, blind you at once to every thing within and every thing without, and make you see both yourself and the world in false colors. This illusion, it is true, will gradually wear away as your reason matures, and your experience increases; but the question is, what is to be done in the meantime 1 Evidently there is no plan for you to adopt but to make use of the reason and experience of those who aro qualified to direct you.
Of this, however, I can assure you, both from my own experience, and from the opinions of all those whose opinions deserve to be valued, that if you aim at any sort of eminence or respectability in the eyes of the world, or in those of your friends; if you have any ambition to be distinguished in your future career for your virtues, or talents, or accomplishments, this self-knowledge of which I am speaking is above all things requisite. For how is your moral character to be improved, unless you know what are the virtues and vices which your natural disposition is calculated to foster, and what are the passions which nre most apt to govern you? How are you to attain eminence in any talent or pursuit, unless you know in what particular way your powers of mind best capacitate you for excelling? It is therefore my intention, in this letter, to offer you a few hints on this most important subject.
When you come to look abroad into the world, and to study the different characters of men, you will find that the happiness of any individual depends not, as you would suppose, on the advantages of fortune or situation, but principally on the regulation of his own mind. If you are able to secure tranquillity within, you will not be much annoyed by any disturbance without. The great art of doing this consists in a proper government of the passions—in taking care that no propensity is suffered, to acquire so much power over your mind as to be the cause of immoderate uneasiness, either to yourself or others. I insist particularly on this point, my dear young friend, because, if I am not greatly deceived, you are yourself very much disposed by nature to two passions, the most tormenting to the possessor, and the most offensivo to others, of any which afflict the human race,—I mean pride and anger. Indeed, those two dispositions seem to bo naturally connected with each other; for you havo probably remarked, that most proud men are addicted to anger, and that most passionate men are also proud. Be this as it may, I can confidently assure you, that if an attempt is not made to subdue those uneasy propensities now when your temper is flexible, and your mind easy of impression, they will most infallibly prove tho bane and torment of your whole life. They will not only destroy all possibility of your enjoying any happiness yourself, but they will produce the same effect on those about you; and by that means you will deprive yourself both of the respect of others, and the approbation of your own heart,—the only two sources from which can bo derived any substantial comfort, or real enjoyment
It is, moreover, a certain principle in morals, that all tho bad passions, but especially those of which we are speaking, defeat, in all cases, their own purposes,—a position which appears quite evident, on tho slightest examination. For what is the object which the proud man lias constantly in view? Is it not to gain distinction, and respect, and consideration among mankind? Now, it is unfortunately the nature of pride to aim at this distinction, not by striving to acquire such virtues and talents as would really entitle him to it, but by laboring to exalt himself above his equals by little and degrading methods; by endeavoring, for example, to outvie them in dress, or show, or expense, or by affecting to look down, with haughty superciliousness, on such as are inferior to himself only by some accidental advantages for which ho is no way indebted to his own merit. Tho consequence of this is, that all mankind declure war against him; his inferiors, whom ho affects to despise, will hate him, and consequently will exert themselves to injure and depress him; and his superiors, whom he attempts to imitate, will ridicule his absurd and unavailing efforts to invade what they consider as their own peculiar province.
If it may with truth bo said, that a proud man defeats his own purposes, tho same may, with equal certainty, be affirmed of a man who gives way to violence of temper. His angry invectives, his illiberal abuse, and his insulting language, produce very little effect on those who hear him, and who, perhaps, only smile at his infirmities; but who can describe the intolerable pangs of vexation, rage, and remorse, by which the heart of a passionate man is successively ravaged? Alas 1 it is himself alone for whom the storm is pent up, who is torn by its violence, and not those against whom its fury is meant to bo directed.—Letter to a Pupil
FOREIGN TRAVEL AND RESIDENCE AT A UNIVERSITY.
We seem divided, whether an education formed by traveling or by a sedentary life be preferable. Wo see more of the world by travel, but more of human nature by remaining at home; as in an infirmary, the student, who only attends to tho disorders of a few patients, is more likely to understand his profession, tlian he who indiscriminately examines them all.
A youth just landed at the Brille resembles a clown at a puppet show; carVies his amazement from one miracle to another; from this cabinet of curiosities to that collection of pictures: but wondering is not tho way to grow wise.
Whatever resolutions wo set ourselves not to keep company with our countrymen abroad, we shall find them broken when oneo we leave home. Among strangers we consider ourselves as in a solitude, and it is but natural to desire society.