Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

than the dramatist. What sort of a figure should we cut in marble ; or could any existing Hogarth throw a mass of modern hats into the corner of his picture, so that we might individualize every one, and appropriate it to its owner amid the group of living figures ?— The drab-coloured Quakers have never yet produced an artist; and the black and blue ones will probably be no better provided should the present modes continue.

But worse than this confusion of ranks is the levelling and jumbling of ages by this preposterous omniparity of appearance. It was but last week that a young acquaintance of mine overtaking, as he imagined, a fellow collegian, and saluting him with a hearty slap on the back and the exclamation—" Ah! Harry, is it you?” found he had nearly knocked the breath out of his own grandfather! These pedestrian anachronisms, these walking impostors, these liars in broad-cloth, these habitual cheats, all ought to be sent to Bridewell

; for, if the reputation of juvenility be a good, is it not felonious to obtain it under false pretences ? Every superannuated Adonis and “Dandy of sixty" should be shut up with all the Grandmothers of the Loves in a House of mutual correction. What! is the tailor to be our modern alchymist, and take measure of us for a new youth? Is his magical goose to lay the golden egg which we may resolve into the true aurum potabile and elixir vitæ

? Are his scissors to dash the fatal shears from the hand of Atropos, and is he to pass the thread of life through his needle ? Some of our juvenile septuagenaries, who strive to escape a second childhood by never going out of the first, seem besotted enough to imagine that they can stop the great wheel of Time by stuffing their wigs and cocked-hats between the spokes, and blunt the scythe of Death by wreathing it with bunches of touch-me-not, as the Tyrannicides, Harmodius and Aristogiton, twined roses around their swords. As well might they expect to arrest the progress of senility by stopping their watches, or ensure a perpetual spring by sticking artificial primroses in their button-holes. Let them “bid Taliocotius trim them the calves of twenty chairmen,” and if he obey the summons, I will credit the possibility of their rejuveniscencé ; let them imitate Sinbad the Sailor and shake the old man from their shoulders, and I will allow them to be covered with a youthful habit. Rather should they recollect the reproach of Fontenelle to a greybeard who had dyed the hair of his head black—“Sir, it is easy to see that

you

have worked more with your jaws than your brains.” The old Frenchman who refused to take physic because he was in hopes deatb had forgotten him, and was afraid of putting him in mind, had better plea for his folly than these ancient simpletons, who hope to sneak by him in the disguise of boy's clothes. When any such are detected and carried off by the hawk. eyed King of shadows, I recommend their friends to insert their deaths in somewhat the following style : “ Died in the full flower of his poodle great-coat, aged eighty"-or, “ Cut off in the prime of his Cossack trowsers, aged threescore and ten"—or, “ Suddenly snatched from his friends in the first year of his Petersham hat, and sixty-seventh of his age"-Mr. such-a-one. And should I myself survive a certain friend, which I hardly wish now that he has disfigured himself so piteously, I will take care to perpetuate that which he has vainly endeavoured to cut off from my recollection, by inscribing on his tomb_" Here lies Frank Hartopp, the last of the Pigtails." H.

LETTERS ON A TOUR IN SWITZERLAND.

NO. V.
Ev'n bere where Alpine solitudes extend,

I sit me down a pensive hour to spend. GOLDSMITH. LEAVING Vevay, we passed again by Lausanne; and stopping according to engagement to say farewell to our hospitable friends at Orbe, we drove to Yverdun, a little quiet sombre town, at the foot of the Jura, and at the western end of the lake of Neuchatel. Its long avenues of stately poplars, its old baronial castle, and its situation on the Lake, give it an air of ancient consequence. The castle, once the abode of the mailed knights of Romont, is now the scene of Pestalozzi's celebrated seminary. Armed with an introductory letter, we repaired to the school, in the hope of conversing with this renowned individual ; but, unfortunately, he himself and the greater number of his pupils (which is now much reduced) were absent on a vacation excursion. À very amiable and intelligent lady, a relation of the teacher, was, however, so obliging as to give us many explanations on his system, and to give some lessons to the children under her care in our presence. Arithmetic and music were the subjects of instruction. Three very clever little girls, two English and one Swiss, from about seven to ten years of age, were the performers, together with a fine Swiss peasant girl of about 18, who was a senior pupil and an assistant instructress. From the mode in which these lessons were given, some idea might be formed of the practical execution of those theories, which in the exalted rhapsodies of Pestalozzi and his admirers seldom assume any tangible shape. The great aim of the system is an early excitement of the thinking powers. Rousseau, seeing the difficulty of making children learn rationally and with understanding, flew into the other extreme, and was for leaving the mind long barren and teaching children nothing at all. This was found pregnant with mischief, and Pestalozzi set his mind to remove the difficulty, and to discover the means of rousing the minds of children, and making the tender soil fruitful. The children's faculties are to be early developed, and actively stimulated. They are to learn nothing by rote, and to give a reason for every thing. The arithmetical tuition consisted in divers problems, which were to be resolved off-hand without slate or pencil, and to be proved and explained and reasoned upon by the little pupils, so as to evince the most complete understanding of the question and all its consequences and results. For instance, instead of learning the multiplication-table by an effort of memory, as we in England are content to do, the little girls were asked “ The 10th part of 100 multiplied by the 10th part of 50 are how much ?" They immediately knit their little brows and bit their fingers'-ends, and in a minute one replied with great eagerness -50. " Why so?" was the next question, to which she readily replied, “because the 10th part of 100 is 10, and the 10th part of 50 is 5, and five times ten make 50." A harder question was then proposed. "The 10th part of 100 and the 50th part of 200 make what part of 140?" This was too difficult for the two youngest girls, but the eldest, a very clever little English girl, replied after a minute's working in the head, " the 10th ;--because the 10th part of 100 is 10, and the 50th part of 200 is 4, and 10 and 4 are 14, and 14 is the 10th part of 140." All this was done with a great deal of laughing vivacity, and an evident pleasure in the active stimulus which the process gave to the mind. Indeed the affectionate good-humour of the governess could hardly restrain the high spirits of the little girls, who appeared remarkably fond of her. They were then desired to sing several bars of music, which the young peasant girl chalked on a board. They were made to sound every note distinctly and correctly; and the Swiss girl, who appeared to have a most exact ear, stopped them on the slightest error in time or intonation. They then explained the different notes, and musical characters, parsed the passages as it were, and shewed themselves thoroughly grounded in the rudiments of music. The happiness and gaiety of the children, and the ease and frankness with which they answered any question we put to them, were truly remarkable, and clearly evinced that the habit of exerting and putting forth their faculties had in no degree chilled, but on the contrary seemed rather to have quickened the playfulness and volatility common to their time of life.

It was of course impossible to judge, from this visit, of the general effect of this system on the character, tempers, and dispositions of children. Certainly the little we saw looked well. The children were unquestionably more awakened, more shrewd, more in possession of their faculties than girls of that age, or even of three years older, generally are. Other branches of knowledge are taught them, as we were informed, on the same sort of principle-of committing nothing to memory, which the mind does not entirely master and make its own. The rationule of every rule of grammar, or rudiment of science, is to be thoroughly understood, and proved and explained, before any other rule is learnt. No arbitrary dogmas are thus laid up in the mind, as to which a child, on examination, can only say—“it is so, because it is so." They are to learn to reason, think, and combine; not simply to acquire and get by heart. There appears certainly much good sense in this system, and perhaps we might adopt some hints from it with adyantage. Our own plan of early education is often too mechanical, cold, and unimpressive, and too little calculated to rouse the mind, or to invite and encourage it to put forth its energies. We store the memory with dry rules, facts, and fundamental principles, without much caring to make the child comprehend at the moment all their bearings and consequences; trusting to the improving powers of perception to comprehend and turn to account, at maturer years, what the infant has acquired almost mechanically. For the first few years of tuition we exercise the memory alone; and certainly this gives a strength and capacity to that faculty, which is hardly to be acquired in any other way, and which is of the greatest advantage in after-life. That command of illustration from all sources of history and poetry in ancient and modern languages—those apt quotations, and happy examples, which Englishmen of talent adduce in parliament, in writing, and in conversation, so much more copiously and readily than welleducated men of other countries—are to be greatly ascribed to the constant and active exercise of the memory, which our system of education, from the nurse to the university, requires. It is well known that several of our eminent lawyers have committed great part of Coke upon Littleton and other dry works to memory, before they thoroughly comprehended their doctrines. Still, however, English chil. dren might with advantage be taught a little earlier to think as well as

to recollect. The memory would not be injured, but assisted, by eliciting the reflective powers somewhat sooner than we are wont to attempt. Pestalozzi's system runs into the opposite extreme ; and one of the greatest evils to which it has a tendency, is that of giving an unnatural, precocious, and feverish activity to the faculties of children, which is neither favourable to the disposition, nor to the ultimate strength of the mental powers. Pestalozzi would make children little philosophers, and casuists and reasoners-apt at argument and discussionshrewd at seeing distinctions and drawing inferences. He would “ teach the young idea,” not “ how to shoot," but to blossom and bear: the fruit is thus likely to be crude and vapid, and the plant to be stunted of its growth. It is forcing the intellect in a hot-house-breaking open the petals of the mind before they naturally expand to the invigorating rays of reason and intelligence. Pestalozzi has done good, unquestionably, in Switzerland-by disturbing narrow old-fashioned ideas, and giving an impulse to minds on the subject of education. He first established himself in 1799 at Stanz, in the canton of Unterwalden, with the benevolent object of educating the orphans of those who had perished in the devastation and plunder of the canton by the French. The United Helvetic Government then gave him the Castle of Burgdorf, near Berne, for his plans; but he was afterwards obliged to remove to Yverdun, where the old castle was assigned him by the Government of the Canton de Vaud, which is reckoned one of the most liberal (or revolutionary, according to certain classes,) in Switzerland, Prejudice has run, and still runs high, among the upper ranks in many parts of Switzerland, against Pestalozzi and his plans. Some consider him a mere dreamer and enthusiast, full of German mysticism; others connect him with the Swiss Revolution, and consider his systems as tending to jacobinism and disaffection ; just as the Ultras in France hold the Enseignement Mutuel (Lancaster's plan) a jacobinical innovation, full of danger to religion and aristocracy ;-and even among the most moderate, the old philosopher of Yverdun does not appear to enjoy the same consideration at home, that his doctrines meet with among the Princes and people of Germany.

The lake of Neuchatel convinced us that a large expanse of water is not necessarily a picturesque object. It is nine leagues long and two in breadth, square and formal as a parallelogram, and boatless and lifeless as if its waters were infected. After the lovely bays and undulating and varied banks of Lake Leman, it has a character of monotony and gloom, which even the fine green slopes and forests of the Jura above it, and the number of neat little villages on its banks, cannot charm away. Our drive from Yverdun to Neuchatel was therefore not very lively. The Alps, which, when they are in view, are more than enough to engross the eye and the mind, were concealed by a summer haze. As we approached Neuchatel, and were within the limits of the Canton, we were stopped in several villages to pay toll to the Seigneur the Count de Pourtalés. This was the only instance of the kind in Switzerland ; and we learnt that this and other noble families in the Canton of Neuchatel have retained most of their feudal rights and emoluments, though they were unsparingly abolished at the Revolution in the other Cantons. Neuchatel is a neat, compact, but singularly lifeless town. The grass grows in the streets and walks, few passengers are seen, the shops are apparently very quiet, and the inns are some of the worst we found in Switzerland. The old castle, which is the residence of the Prussian Governor, and the seat of the council, stands in a striking position above the town. The interior is handsome, oldfashioned, and gloomy, commanding a noble prospect of the lake and the distant Alps. The Council Rooms are hung with portraits of Frederick the Great, Marechal Keith, and the present King of Prussiaand the walls emblazoned with the arms of the Counts of Neuchatel, from the Burgundian and Orleans dynasties down to the present Prussian Sovereign. The Principality of Neuchatel now presents the only vestige of monarchical government in this land of republicanism and aristocracy. It devolved on the family of Prussia in 1707, on the extinction of the princely House of Orleans-Longueville, when the King of Prussia became the nearest descendant, through the Orange family, of Jean de Châlons, a great Burgundian noble, to whom the Emperor Rodolph, of Hapsbourg, had ceded the principality in the thirteenth century. The people of Neuchatel immediately recognized the King of Prussia as their sovereign, but France laid claim to the succession; and it was only by the firm conduct of the country and their allies, the Canton of Berne, that their rightful sovereign was secured in his possession. The sovereignty is little more than titular. The King of Prussia is the executive organ of the government, but the real power rests with the Citizens, or rather with their deputies in council. Neuchatel is, in all respects, a confederated Swiss Canton, subject to all the obligations of federal union, like the other Cantons. The people are not compelled to serve in the armies of Prussia, and may even serve (and have often done so) against their Sovereign of Prussia, provided he does not wage war in his character of Prince of Neuchatel. In the seven years war several regiments of Neuchatelois served with the French against Frederick; and he took some of his own subjects prisoners at the battle of Rosbach, treated them with kindness, and made inquiries of the officers about the town of Neuchatel, and whether it had not been lately damaged by an overflowing of the River Seyon.

From Neuchatel we drove to La Neufville, a singularly pretty village, or rather a little ancient walled town, situated at the western extremity of the Lake of Bienne, and at the foot of the chain of the Jura. It was Sunday evening : the rain which had poured all the morning had ceased, the clouds cleared away, the sunset was clear and bright, and the banks of the smooth glassy lake which washed the village were peculiarly green, fresh, and beautiful. The little town was humming with all the busy converse and innocent enjoyment of a rural Sunday evening. The peasants were lounging at their doors, smoking their pipes, or wandering listlessly about by the little quay, and in the fields by the lake. A few rustic kind of boats were paddled about here and there on the lake, filled with parties of young men and girls in their varied costume : some returning home from the isle of St. Pierre, where they had made parties of pleasure; and others from excursions to the opposite banks of the lake, all laughing and rallying, and joking, with an easy mirth never approaching to indecorum or excess. Among the buzz of gay and happy voices about us we were struck with some English sounds among the crowd; which had a striking effect in this sequestered scene, where every object was so peculiarly Swiss, and where the scene had a character of remoteness

« AnteriorContinuar »