Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[graphic][subsumed]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

* The attention requisite for preserving cleanness, and neatness, and order, awakens the perceptions, and gives them perpetual exercise. The consequence is, that the daughter of the cleanly peasant, having been taught from infancy to observe every slight alteration produced in the appearance of the objects around her, by any casual spot or stain, and having been compelled to attend to the proper place and situation of every article that pertains to the homely dwelling, acquires habits of observation and activity, which remain with her through every period of life. Destired as she is to labour for subsistence, those habits are to her of obvious advantage. By the cultivated state of her perceptions, she is enabled quickly to learn, and accurately to perform, every species of domestic work, as far as the performance of it requires only the use of her hands and eyes; and though, in inany branches of household economy, there is so much minute detail, and the objects of attention are so numerous, as to seem, at first view, extremely intricate, we find from experience, that where the perceptions are quick and accurate, none of those various branches escape attention.' pp. 67, 68.

The subject of educating the lower classes, has, within the last few years, been so much agitated, and the improvements which the indefatigable benevolence of an individual, or of individuals,) has recently introduced, are so general, that it is less needful to enter largely into it, than it would lately have been. Nevertheless, we cannot but recommend the following observations to those whom they most essentially concern :

• There' are still many schools in which, by the method of teaching, the perceptions are never exercised, but in the shape and sound of letters, and combination of letters. Let the scholars in such schools be examined on their conception of the meaning of what they read, and it will be found, (as far as my experience extends, it has been invariably found,) that the conception is accurate in exact proportion to the degree in which the power of perception had been exercised in infancy, by attention to surrounding objects, P: 73.• Why not then engage the teacher to try other methods besides the stated lesson, to awaken the perceptions of the stupid? This, I conceive would, to a certainty, be effected by methods so simple, that they are, for that very reason, held in contempt. But if, in tracing the cause of stupidity in children of a certain class, it is found to originate in circumstances which have prevented attention to the objects of perception, ic is only by producing attention to those objects that the defect can be remedied. In this respect infinitely more will be done, by teaching a child to notice every object within the reach of vision and to mark every minute change that takes place in the form, colour, or situation of the things around him, than by fixing his attention to the mere form of letters.'—pp. 76, 77.

To these observations a sensible note is subjoined:

In appreciating the superior advantages to be derived from this or that mode of teaching, the degree in which it is calculated to

awaken and exercise the perceptions is too seldom taken into the account. Between two plans that are in other respects equal, the preference seems to me to be undoubtedly due to that, which, while it keeps the attention in a state of perpetual requisition, gives it that direction most favourable for the development of the infant faculties.'-p. 76.

It is probable, that the persons who visit the large public schools for the instruction of the poor, which are at present establishing in every part of the country, may not, at first, perceive the beneficial tendency of that system of perpetual exercise which they exhibit. A cursory glance may discover something too much resembling play, and waste of time. Evolutions are continually performed, which seem to have little connexion with reading, writing, and arithmetic. But the intelligent observer will not fail to perceive the ultimate advantage of these exercises, in the constant play of attention which is hereby preserved. No one can nod over his lesson, or, for more than a few minutes, suffer bis mind to settle upon other objects than those employed in instructing him ; and, from habits of attention thus early formed, a degree of mental vigilance will be produced, from which, combined as it is with a proportionate regard to good order and good morals, the happiest results may be anticipated. National education thus conducted, must issue, unless there be a forcible disunion of cause and effect, in visible national improvement. By thus exciting and preserving attention, we have ourselves witnessed, in the children of a Sunday school, a degree of mental vigour produced, so great as almost to raise a suspicion of their being a different species from others of the same vicinity, whose education had been conducted upon a less intelligent plan.

From the effects of attention upon the lower orders, partioularly upon the large and important class consisting of female servants, Miss Hamilton makes an easy transition to the consequence of neglecting it, or of improving and properly directing it, in those females who are placed at the head of domestic ar: rangement. It has, we confess, been, in some degree, the fashion to regard the cultivation of intellect, and a due attention to employments strictly feminine, as being incompatible with each other, and, not only the intemperate, avowed opinions of some, who, at a time when the rights of man were misunderstood and caricatured, fell into mistakes equally pernicious, and more absurd, with regard to the rights of women; --but even the conduct of others (a few only we should hope) who, in the ardour of literary pursuits, have appeared to forget, that the first character any woman has to sustain, is that which pertains to her as a woman, may have given ground for the inference, and afforded a shew of reason to the dogmas of

a

a

ignorance. But that mental cultivation in the female sex is not necessarily inimical to what may be deemed, in some respects, inferior duties,-nay, that it tends, unless it be confined and partial, directly to the more consistent and respectable discharge of them, we think Miss Hamilton has ably shewn in her writings ; for we have not been so privileged as to enjoy an opportunity of contemplating this amiable and intelligent female, in any but her public character. From the expression of good sense and genuine principle which pervades her writings, we should expect a fair transcript of these excellencies in her life ; for she is the last female author to whose conduct we should expect to trace the scandal of the blue stocking. Unless we greatly mistake, she is no Bridgetina.

But we feel inclined to explain and to qualify, before we proceed, an epithet which has just escaped us. It is that of inferior duties, for we doubt whether, in such a connexion, it ought to be employed. It appears, indeed, that to the term duty, the qualifications, great and small, can never, with strict propriety, be applied. The due occupation of the passing hour, is the uniform demand which the Giver of that hour makes upon the receiver of it, and, in his sight, the nature of that occupation neither elevates nor degrades the servant to whom it is given. To all within the sound of his word, the injunction is addressed, Be ye holy; for I am holy !” but to none, not to the most intelligent of his creatures, does he say, Be ye great; for I am great. In the scale of intellect, we take the place assigned to us by presiding wisdom, and are only enjoined to improve the few or the many talents, without repining and without sloth. In the scale of morality, we are, if the expression may be allowed, to find our own place, and never to rest satisfied witn an inferior station. The female, therefore, who feels herself confined, by the appointments of Providence, to a narrow mental range, and who is perinitted to expatiate in those humble regions only, which comprise, perhaps, little more than the nursery and the kitchen, has no need to feel ashamed of the rank she holds, or to repine at the limits by which her walk in life is circumscribed. She is an agent in the hand of God, and should be estimated, not according to the place she occupies, but the skill and industry with which her particular part is perforined. In the sight of God, the moral appears to be far more valuable than the intellectual principle. It is that mode of approach by which finite beings are encouraged to advance towards infinite perfection. The great fallen spirit possesses a superiority of intellect, which once classed hiin high among the angelic host; but crushed and grovelling as it lies under moral abasement, he is become the most degraded

[ocr errors][merged small]

of intelligent beings. Amazing intellect cannot elevate a Satan; and, though gifted only with the bumblest portion of mind, a Christian is not degraded. He rises, in the dignity of the moral principle, into esteem and consideration even with the Most High." To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word." '

It appears, therefore, to be a false view of things, –a view taken, not in the light of scripture, but by the flashing of human pride, that regards the performance of any duty as degrading, or even as inferior." Ascertain only that it is duty, and it is that, the right discharge of which, God will honour. The Christian female, who can reflect upon a laborious life of domestic duty, looks back upon a scene of true virtue; and if, in order to perform the whole of her allotted task, she was obliged to repress a taste for pursuits more intellectual, the character of maguanimity is inscribed upon her conduct, however retired, or, in human estimation, insignificant, may have been the daily exercises to which she was appointed. This, however, cannot be said of bier, who, placed by Providence above the necessity of domestic drudgery, voluntarily confines herself to its then humble offices. We respect the woman who, in obedience to the dictate of Providence, continues, day after day, through a length of years, a sempstress, or even a cook : but we should little esteem her who, when at liberty to employ inferior hands, would prefer thus to occupy her own. For a female who has servants at coinmand, noi to be satisfied with due superintendance, but to spend ler life in occupations to which they are equally competent, discovers, we think, a bad taste, and a false judgement, and though, perhaps, more clever than even her cleverest servant, she deprives herself of esteem, by seeking it among what are indeed to her, inferior employments. Where intellect is allowed, by providential favour, to improve and expatiate, it were criminal to confine it. A life devoted to merely household avocations, would be, in this case, degrading; and from being cumbered with unnecessary serving, this misimprover of time and talent, must take her place at last as an “unprofitable servant.” She has done, indeed, precisely the same that has been done by her humble neighbour, who receives the plaudit of “ good and faithful;" but to the one, it was duty,--to the other, it was not duty. Endowed with higher talents, placed in a larger sphere, and within reach of extensive means of mental cultivation, she treated them with wilful neglect. She chose to busy her fingers and stitle her mind; and the choice degrades her. But to return,

The principle, it must be observed, which Miss. illustrating in this part of her work, is, that th attention is indispensable to the clearness of F

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »