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In 1774, Miss Aikin was married to the Rev. Rochemond Barbauld, a descendant from a family of French Protestants. Soon after this, Mr. Barbauld opened a boarding school for boys in the village of Palgrave, in Suffolk. The rapid and uninterrupted success which crowned this undertaking was doubtless owing, in a great measure, to the literary celebrity attached to the name of Mrs. Barbauld, who took part with her husband in the business of instruction. It was for the benefit of the younger class of scholars that she composed her “Hymns in Prose for Children.” “The business of tuition, however," says her biographer, Miss Aikin, “to those by whom it is faithfully and zealously exercised, must ever be fatiguing beyond almost any other occupation; and Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld found their health and spirits so much impaired by their exertions that, at the end of eleven years, they determined upon quitting Palgrave, and allowing them. selves an interval of complete relaxation before they should again embark in any scheme of active life.” Accordingly, in the autumn of 1785, they embarked for the continent, and, after spending nearly a year in Switzerland and France, returned to England in June, 1786. In the spring of the next year, Mr. Barbauld was elected pastor of a “dissenting" congregation in Hampstead, where for several years he received a few lads as his pupils, while Mrs. B. gave instruction to two or three girls. But her pen did not long remain idle. In 1790, and in the few subsequent years, ap. peared her “Poetical Epistle to Mr. Wilberforce" on the rejection of his bill for abolishing the Slave Trade-her “Remarks on Mr. Gilbert Wake. field's Inquiry into the Expediency and Propriety of Public or Social Worship’--and her “Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation," &c.
In 1802, Mr. Barbauld accepted an invitation to become pastor of the congregation at Newington Green, and, quitting Hampstead, they took their abode in the village of Stoke Newington. In 1804, she offered to the public “ Selections from the 'Spectator,' " Tatler,''Guardian,' and ‘Frceholder,' with a Preliminary Essay.” This essay has ever been considered a very fine piece of criticism, and the most successful of her efforts in that department of literature. Hitherto Mrs. Barbauld's life had been almost one uninterrupted course of happiness and prosperity. But she was soon to experience one of the severest of all trials, in the loss of her husband, who, after a most lingering illness, expired on the 11th of November, 1808. A beautiful memoir of his character, doubtless from her pen, appeared shortly after in the “Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature ;" and in her poem of “Eighteen Hundred and Eleven” she touchingly alludes to
" That sad death whence most affection bleeds." Mrs. Barbauld published but little after this : a gentle and scarcely perceptible decline was now sloping for herself the passage to the tomb; and on the morning of March 9, 1825, after a few days' illness, she expired without a struggle, in the eighty.second year of her age.
To claim for Mrs. Barbauld the praise of purity and elevation of mind, might well appear superfluous. She is decidedly one of the most eminent female writers which England has produced; and both in prose and poetry she takes the highest rank. Her prose style is easy and graceful, alike cal.
culated to engage the most common and the most elevated understanding. Her “Essay on Romances" is a professed imitation of the style of Dr. Johnson; and he is himself said to have allowed it to be the best that was ever attempted, “because it reflected the color of his thoughts, no less than the turn of his expressions.” Her poems are addressed more to the feelings than to the imagination ; but the language never becomes prosaic, and has sublimity and pathos, without bombast or affectation. Her hymns are among the best sacred lyrics in the language, and it has been justly said of her that “the spirit of piety and benevolence that breathes through her works pervaded her life."'i
The first thing to be considered, with respect to education, is the object of it. This appears to me to have been generally misunderstood. Education, in its largest sense, is a thing of great scope and extent. It includes the whole process by which a human being is formed to be what he is, in habits, principles, and cultivation of every kind. But of this, a very small part is in the power even of the parent himself; a smaller still can be directed by purchased tuition of any kind. You engage for your child masters and tutors at large salaries; and you do well, for they are competent to instruct him: they will give him the means, at least, of acquiring science and accomplishments; but in the business of education, properly so called, they can do little for you. Do you ask, then, what will educate your son? Your example will educate him: your conversation with your friends; the business he sees you transact; the likings and dislikings you express; these will educate him: the society you live in will educate him; your domestics will educate him; above all, your rank and situation in life, your house, your table, will educate him. It is not in your power to withdraw him from the continual influence of these things, except you were to withdraw yourself from them also. You speak of beginning the education of your son. The moment he was able to form an idea, his education was already begun; the education of circumstances insensible educationwhich, like insensible perspiration, is of more constant and powerful effect, and of infinitely more consequence to the habit, than that which is direct and apparent. This education goes on at every instant of time; it goes on like time; you can neither stop it nor turn its course. What these have a tendency to make your child, that he will be. Maxims and documents are good precisely
· Read a Memoir of Mrs. Barbauld by Miss Lucy Aikin.
till they are tried, and no longer: they will teach him to talk, and nothing more. The circumstances in which your son is placed will be even more prevalent than your example; and you have no right to expect him to become what you yourself are, but by the same means. You, that have toiled during youth, to set your son upon higher ground, and to enable him to begin where you left off, do not expect that son to be what you were—diligent, modest, active, simple in his tastes, fertile in resources. You have put him under quite a different master. Poverty educated you; wealth will educate him. You cannot suppose the result will be the same. You must not even expect that he will be what you now are; for though relaxed, perhaps, from the severity of your frugal habits, you still derive advantage from having formed them; and, in your heart, you like plain dinners, and early hours, and old friends, whenever your fortune will permit you to enjoy them. But it will not be so with your son: his tastes will be formed by your present situation, and in no degree by your former one.
You are sensible of the benefit of early rising; and you may, if you please, make it a point that your daughter and your son shall retire at the hour when you are preparing to see company. But their sleep, in the first place, will not be so sweet and undisturbed amidst the rattle of carriages, and the glare of tapers glancing through the rooms, as that of the village child in his quiet cottage, protected by silence and darkness: and, moreover, you may depend upon it that, as the coercive power of education is laid aside, they will in a few months slide into the habitudes of the rest of the family, whose hours are determined by their company and situation in life. You have, however, done good, as far as it goes; it
; is something gained, to defer pernicious habits, if we cannot prevent them.
There is nothing which has so little share in education as direct precept. I do not mean to assert that sentiments inculcated in education have no influence; they have much, though not the most: but it is the sentiments we let drop occasionally, the conversation they overhear when playing unnoticed in a corner of the room, which has an effect upon children; and not what is addressed directly to them in the tone of exhortation. If you would know precisely the effect these set discourses have upon your child, be pleased to reflect upon that which a discourse from the pulpit, which you have reason to think merely professional, has upon you. Children have almost an intuitive discernment between the maxims you bring forward for their use, and those by which you direct your own conduct. Be as cunning as you will
, they are always more cunning than you. Every child knows whom his father and
mother love and see with pleasure, and whom they dislike; for whom they think themselves obliged to set out their best plate and china; whom they think it an honor to visit, and upon whom they confer honor by admitting them to their company. “Respect nothing so much as virtue," says Eugenio to his son; “virtue and talents are the only grounds of distinction.". The child presently has occasion to inquire why his father pulls off his hat to some people and not to others: he is told that outward respect must be proportioned to different stations in life. This is a little difficult of comprehension : however, by dint of explanation, he gets over it tolerably well. But he sees his father's house in the bustle and hurry of preparation; common business laid aside, everybody in movement, an unusual anxiety to please and to shine. Nobody is at leisure to receive his caresses or attend to his questions; his lessons are interrupted, his hours deranged. At length a guest arrives: it is my Lord whom he has heard you speak of twenty times as one of the most worthless characters upon earth. Your child, Eugenio, has received a lesson of education. Resume, if you will, your systems of morality on the morrow; you will in vain attempt to eradicate it. “You expect company, mamma; must I be dressed to day?” “No, it is only good Mrs. Such-a-one.” Your child has received a lesson of education; one which he well understands, and will long remember.
But the education of your house, important as it is, is only a part of a more comprehensive system. Providence takes child where you leave him. Providence continues his education upon a larger scale, and by a process which includes means far more efficacious. Has your son entered the world at eighteen, opinionated, haughty, rash, inclined to dissipation? Do not despair; he may yet be cured of these faults, if it pleases Heaven. There are remedies which you could not persuade yourself to use, if they were in your power, and which are specific in cases of this kind. How often do we see the presumptuous, giddy youth changed into the wise counsellor, the considerate, steady friend! How often the thoughtless, gay girl into the sober wife, the affectionate mother! Faded beauty, humbled self-consequence, disappointed ambition, loss of fortune—this is the rough physic provided by Providence to meliorate the temper, to correct the offensive petulancies of youth, and bring out all the energies of the finished character. Afllictions soften the proud; difficulties push forward the ingenious; successful industry gives consequence and credit, and develops a thousand latent good qualities. There is no malady of the mind so inveterate, which this education of events is not calculated to cure, if life were long enough; and shall we not hope that He,
in whose hand are all the remedial processes of nature, will renew the discipline in another state, and finish the imperfect man?
SINS OF GOVERNMENT, SINS OF THE NATION.
We act as a nation when, through the organ of the legislative power, which speaks the will of the nation, and by means of the executive power which does the will of the nation, we enact laws, form alliances, make war or peace, dispose of the public money, or do any of those things which belong to us in our collective capacity; and we are called upon to repent of national sins, because we can help them, and because we ought to help them. We are not fondly to imagine we can make government the scapegoat to answer for our follies and our crimes: by the services of this dayo they call upon us to answer for them; they throw the blame where it ought ultimately to rest; that is, where the power ultimately rests. It were trifling with our consciences to endeavor to separate the acts of governors sanctioned by the nation, from the acts of the nation; for, in every transaction, the principal is answerable for the conduct of the agents he employs to transact it. If the maxim that the king can do no wrong throws upon ministers the responsibility, because without ministers no wrong could be done, the same reason throws it from them upon the people, without whom ministers could do no wrong.
The vices of nations may be divided into those which relate to their own internal proceedings, or to their relations with other states. With regard to the first, the causes for humiliation are various. Many nations are guilty of the crime of permitting oppressive laws and bad governments to remain amongst them, by which the poor are crushed, and the lives of the innocent are laid at the mercy of wicked and arbitrary men. This is a national sin of the deepest dye, as it involves in it most others. It is painful to reflect how many atrocious governments there are in the world; and how little even they who enjoy good ones seem to understand their true nature. We are apt to speak of the happiness of living under a mild government, as if it were like the happiness of living under an indulgent climate; and when we thank God for it, we rank it with the blessings of the air and of the soil; whereas we
" I regret that my limited space will not allow me to take more from this most admirable essay on education—the best, I hesitate not to say, that I have ever read.
A day for a National Fast.