Imágenes de páginas

On Education.


TOWEVER widely the thinking part of mankind may

have differed as to the proper mode of conducting education, they have always been unanimous in their opinion of its importance. The outward effects of it are observed by the most inattentive. They know that the clown and the dancing-mafter are the same from the hand of Nature; and, although a little farther reflection is requisite to perceive the effects of culture on the internal senses, it cannot be disputed that the mind, like the body, when arrived at firmness and maturity, retains the impressions it received in a more pliant and tender age.

The greatest part of mankind, born to labour for their subfiftence, are fixed in habits of industry by the iron hand of Necessity. They have little time or opportunity for the cultivation of the understanding ; the errors and immoralities of their conduct, that flow from the want of those sentiments which education is intended to produce, will, on that account, meet with indulgence from every benevolent mind. But those who are placed in a conspicuous station, whose vices become more complicated and destructive, by the abuse of knowledge, and the misapplication of improved talents, have no title to the same indulgence. Their guilt is heightened by the rank and fortune which protect them from punishment, and which, in some degree, preserve them from that infamy their conduct has merited.

I hold it, then, incontrovertible, that the higher the rank, the more urgent is the necessity for storing the mind with the principles, and directing the passions to the practice, of public and private virtue.

It will be allowed by all, that the great purpose of education is to form the man and the citizen, that he may be virtuous, happy in himself, and useful to socieK


[ocr errors]

ty. To attain this end, his education should begin, as it were, from his birth, and be continued till he arrive at firmness and maturity of mind, as well as of body. Sincerity, truth, justice, and humanity, are to be cultivated from the first dawnings of memory and observation. As the powers of these increase, the genius and disposition unfold themselves; it then becomes neceffary to check, in the bud, every propensity to folly or to vice; to root out every mean, selfish, and ungenerous sentiment; to warm and animate the heart in the pursuit of virtue and honour. The experience of ages has hitherto discovered no furer method of giving right impressions to young minds, than by frequently exhibiting to them those bright examples which history affords, and, by that means, inspiring them with those fentiments of public and private virtue which breathe in the writings of the sages of antiquity.

In this view, I have confidered the acquisition of the dead languages as a most important branch in the edu. cation of a gentleman. The flowness with which he acquires them, prevents his memory from being loaded with facts faster than his growing reason can compare and distinguish; he becomes acquainted by degrees with the virtuous characters of ancient times; he admires their justice, temperance, fortitude, and public spirit, and burns with a desire to imitate them. The impresfions these have made, and the restraints to which he has been accustomed, serve as a check to the many tumultuous passions which the ideas of religion alone would, at that age, be unable to controul. Every victory he obtains over himfelf serves as a new guard to virtue. When he errs, he becomes sensible of his weakness, which, at the same time that it teaches him modė. ration and forgiveness to others, flows the necessity of keeping a stricter watch over his own actions. Dua ring these combats, his reafoning faculties expand, his judgment strengthens, and, while he becomes acquainted with the corruptions of the world, he fixes himself in the practice of virtue.

A man

A man thus educated, enters upon the theatre of the world with many and great advantages. Accustomed to reflection, acquainted with human nature, the strength of virtue, and depravity of vice, he can trace actions to their source, and be enabled, in the affairs of life, to avail himself of the wisdom and experience of past ages.

Very different is the modern plan of education followed by many, especially with the children of persons of superior rank. They are introduced into the world almost from their very infancy. Instead of having their minds stored with the bright examples of antiquity, or those of modern times, the first knowledge they acquire is of the vices with which they are surrounded ; and they learn what mankind are, without ever knowing what they ought to be. Poffeffed of no sentiment of virtue, of no focial affection, they indulge, to the uta most of their ability, the gratification of every selfifh appetite, without any other restraint than what' self-in. tereft dictates. In men thus educated, youth is not the season of virtue; they have contracted the cold indifference, and all the vices of age, long before they arrive at manhood. Finding no entertainment in their own breasts, as void of friends as incapable of friendthip, they fink reflection in a life of dissipation.

As many of the bad effects of the prefent system of education may be attributed to a premature introduction into the world, I shall conclude by reminding those parents and guardians who are fo anxious to bring their children and pupils early into public life, that one of the finest gentlemen, the brightest geniuses, the most useful and best-informed citizens of which antiquity has left us an example, did not think himself qualified to appear in public till the age of twenty-Gx, and even continued his studies, for some years after, under the eminent teachers of Greece and Rome.

[blocks in formation]

On Envy.

NVY is almost the only vice which is practicable


which can never lie quiet for want of irritation ; its effects, therefore, are every, where discoverable, and its attempts always to be dreaded.

It is impossible to mention a name which any advantageous distinction has made eminent, but some latent animosity will burst out. The wealthy trader, however he may abstract himself from public affairs, will never want those who hint, with Shylock, that ships are but boards, and that no man can properly be termcd rich whose fortune is at the mercy of the winds. The beauty, adorned only with the unambitious graces of innocence and modesty, provokes, whenever she appears, a thousand murmurs of detraction, and whispers of suspicion. The genius, even when he endeavours only to entertain with pleasing images of nature, or instruct by uncontested principles of science, yet suffers persecution from innumerable critics, whose acrimony is excited merely by the pain of seeing others pleased, of hearing applauses which another enjoys,

The frequency of envy makes it so familiar, that it escapés our notice; nor do we often reflect upon its turpitude or malignity, till we happen to feel its influ

When he that has given no provocation to malice, but by attempting to excel in some useful art, finds himself pursued, by multitudes whom he never faw, with implacability of personal resentment; when he perceives clamour and malice let loose

upon public enemy, and incited by every stratagem of defamation ; when he hears the misfortunes of his family, or the follies of his youth, exposed to the world; and every failure of conduct, or defect of nature, aggravated and ridiculed; he then learns to abhor those artifices


him as a


at which he only laughed before, and discovers how much the happiness of life would be advanced by the eradication of envy from the human heart.

Envy is, indeed, a stubborn weed of the mind, and seldom yields to the culture of philofophy. There are, however, confiderations, which, if carefully implanted, and diligently propagated, might in time overpower and repress it, since no one can nurse it for the fake of pleasure, as its effects are only shame, anguish, and perturbation.

It is, above all other vices, inconsistent with the character of a social being, because it facrifices truth and kindness to very weak temptations. He that plunders a wealthy neighbour, gains as much as he takes away, and improves his own condition, in the same proportion as he impairs another's; but he that blasts a flourishing reputation, must be content with a small dividend of additional fame, so small as can afford very little consolation to balance the guilt by which it is obtained.

I have hitherto avoided mentioning that dangerous and empirical morality, which cures one vice by means of another. But envy is so base and detestable, so vile in its original, and so pernicious in its effects, that the predominance of almost any other quality is to be defired. It is one of those lawless enemies of society, against which poisoned arrows may honestly be used. Let it therefore be constantly remembered, that.whoever envies another, confesses his superiority; and let those be reformed by their pride, who have lost their virtue.

It is no flight aggravation of the injuries which envy incites, that they are committed against those who have , given no intentional provocation; and that the sufferer is marked out for ruin, not because he has failed in any duty, but because he has dared to do more than was required.

Almost every other crime is practised by the help of some quality which might have produced esteem or


1. 3

« AnteriorContinuar »