Imágenes de páginas

science, or literature: Crowded as every path now is with • competitors, even genius is doomed to labour before it can ( succeed.' And it is added, that, for boys, he conceived a public education to be, on the whole, the most advisable; and that it would require a very uncommon concurrence of circumstances to make any other be thought of. It is also stated, that, in his later practice, « less praise and less stimulus of all kinds • were used, than with his earlier pupils; upon the maxim, « which applies as well to the mind as to the body, that the least • quantity of stimulus that will preserve it in healthy action, is " the best.'

Now in all this we most cordially concur;—and we think the Edgeworth scheme of education very signally improved by the corrections which its authors are here said to have made on it. But when these are once made to their full extent, in what can this scheme be said to differ from any other rational one that has been announced to the world, from the days of Xe. nophon and Quinctillian down to those of Milton and Locke? We have no great faith, in short, in any pretended discoveries in this, more than in any other department of mental philosophy, and are noway curious or sanguine as to any new or patent method of making men wise, virtuous, or free. The substance of what is taught at any period of society, is generally prescribed by the usages of that society; and may be fairly considered as beyond the control of any private individual. Whatever opinion we may entertain as to the importance of the learned languages, for instance, every gentleman must now learn them-as every.lady must learn dancing and music; and any alteration in these respects is not so properly to be considered as an improvement in the methods of instruction, as a change in the habits of the nation. When we speak of improvements in education, therefore, we mean either contrivances for teaching what is commonly taught with more ease and security than is common,-or such observances as promise more effectually to excite and strengthen the intellect and judgment, or to form the character by the cultivation of moral habits and sensibilities. The last is, beyond all doubt, the most important; but it is in the first only, we think, that any real improvement has ever been made by the ingenuity of individu. als. There have been infinite and undeniable improvements in the methods of teaching all the different branches of knowledge; and, so long as society continues to be progressive, such improvements will necessarily multiply and accumulate. Almost every invention in the arts and sciences themselves, may indeed be considered as a means of facilitating their acquisition ;-as the notation of music--the introduction of logarithms and alges


brom-the invention of various instruments and practical processes-the Linnæan, and all other systems consisting of simple and judicious classification. In other cases, the improvement is directly in the method of teaching ;-as in the Lancasterian system of mutual instruction-the process by which deaf and dumb persons are educated--and the more questionable inventions of Logier and Feinagle. As to all such improvements in education, therefore, and especially when confined to expediting the acquisition of a single branch of knowledge, we are so far from entertaining any general scepticism, that we consider their frequent occurrence as among the inevitable consequences of a progressive advancement in the other arts of civilization; and have no doubt at all, that, as every succeeding generation will have more to learn than that which preceded it, it will also be enabled to acquire that learning with greater facility and despatch.

The case however, we cannot help thinking, is widely different with regard to those methods and practices by which it is sometimes pretended, not merely that some branch of knowledge may be better or sooner learned, but that the intellect may be improved, and the character exalted to a degree unattainable under any other system. Of all such pretensions, we confess we are in the highest degree distrustful; and are inclined indeed to think, that all persons of ordinary sense have always known and practised all that can be certainly known, or safely practised on the subject; and that almost everything that has been attempted beyond this, by the refinements of ingenious speculators, has been very fantastical and insignificant, and not only hazardous in practice, but exceedingly questionable in principle. Fortunately, indeed, for mankind, the development of our intellectual and moral capacities has not been left, in any great degree, to the contrivances of hunian genius, or the efforts of human skill and industry. Like our bodily powers, they for the most part develop themselves by an inward impulse and energy; and by far the most important guidance and direction they ever receive, is that which is derived from the general habits of the society into which we are thrown, rather than from the anxious efforts of individual and elaborate instruction. Unless in some very extraordinary cases, the common education of the times will do all for a man that the spirit of the times will allow any education to do him. Gross blunders may indeed be occasionally committed, and some good may be done by pointing these out, and warning the ignorant of their hazard ;-but small ones seem to do no great mischief: less, probably, than the superfine methods and nice observ ; ances by which it is expected to avoid them. It is possible, we suppose, to lay down very sage maxims for regulating a child's diet, and giving it always the very quantity and quality of food most fitted for its condition; and yet it would be absurd to expect more than the average degree of health and vigour from such an anxious training. It is the same, we are persuaded, with the food of the mind. There is a vis medicatrix naturæ in both parts of the system, which enables us to resist and throw off the effect of little irregularities and disturbances,--and perhaps makes us stronger by the effort; so that we thrive just as well under an ordinary treatment as under an exquisite one, and may safely leave to Providence all that we cannot regulate without a great deal of trouble and contrivance.

The clear and well-digested statements and striking examples of such books as Miss E.'s, are of use, partly to caution the vee ry rash and ignorant against gross and palpable blunders, but chiefly to give courage and assurance to anxious and inexperienced parents in the discharge of a task which they would, after all, have got well enough through without them. There is no parent in the decent ranks of life-none who could think of reading books for his improvement—who does not know that his child should be taught habits of application and self-command, -to speak iruth-to avoid sensuality—to be obliging, considerate and firm; and, though they may not know very well how to explain the methods they pursue to obtain these ends, and may, consequently be sometimes in doubt whether they are the best or fittest methods, it will generally be found that no great practical error is ever committed by persons of ordinary judgment, and that natural affection and common sense do all that it is material or safe to do for their attainment. For the truth is, not only that there is an instinctive wisdom that guides them aright in the task which Nature has imposed on them, but that the world, and the course of living, works along with them in those laudable endeavours--and not only helps them forward, day by day, and hour by hour, when they are in the right, but counterworks their errors when they are wrong, and bears them back into the right tract as often as they attempt to leave it. The bad consequences of any absurd or vicious proceeding are too soon felt and observed to be long tolerated; and, even where the child has been spoiled by the folly or neglect of its natural guardians, it is generally pretty effectually unspoiled again by its first collision with general society--except in the case of princes of the blood, provincial grandees, female beauties, and other unfortunate persons who are exempted from this wholesome discipline, and destined to live on, the victims of flattery and self-illusion,

The pain of this corrective process is not, for the most part, very formidable; and its efficacy, especially when early applied, is such as to leave us very little anxiety about early mis. management, where it is not followed up by a continued course of ill example. · For these reasons, we are inclined to think but lightly of most elaborate and original plans of education-and to hold, that, even if they were to accomplish all they profess, the benefit would be too trifling to repay the trouble and anxiety of the execution. But, in reality, so far as we have ever seen, these exclusive and refined systems do not only fail of their promised end, but they are almost always attended with positive evils, of a nature at least as formidable as those they pretend to exclude. It is impossible to make young persons the object of any such peculiar and pretending method of instruction, without their being aware of it; and the consequence is, that, even where it succeeds the best, they are apt to look upon its peculiarities as so many titles to distinction, and to grow up with a preposterous conceit of their own superiority, and offensively to overrate the importance of any advantages it may have conferred on them a habit of thinking far more incurable and unfavourable to real improvement than any that is usually generated by mere neglect or want of judgment in the conduct of education. Something of this tendency we should be disposed to ascribe even to the corrected system of the Edgeworths; and if it have not rendered its pupils somewhat presumptuous, self-sufficient, and pragmatical, we think they must have been more indebted to the good dispositions they have inherited from their mothers, than to the training they have received from the other members of the family.

Art. VII. The Jacobite Relics of Scotland, being the Songs,

Airs, and Legends, of the Adherents to the House of Stuart. Collected and illustrated by James HogG, Author of the

Queen's Wake, &c. &c. 8vo. pp. 444. Edinburgh, 1819. W e gather, from some remarks in the Introduction to this

volume, that the undertaking was suggested at a meeting of the Highland Society of London, to which it is dedicated. Nothing can be more praiseworthy than the purpose of rescuing from the oblivion to which they were hurrying swiftly, the monuments raised by the poetical genius of our countrymen who had devoted themselves to the exiled family; and he must either be a squeamish politician, or a cold admirer of song, who can suffer the pernicious and absurd principles consecrated in those effusions of the Jacobite muse, to interfere with the wish common to every good Scotchman, that the literary merits of his country, in all ages, should meet with their full share of praise. At the same time, it cannot be denied, that the language held upon this subject by many persons among us in the present times, is peculiarly reprehensible. The controversy between the two families and their partisans is wholly laid at rest, by the course of nature, indeed, as well as of political events; and long ago it ceased to be at all a practical question. Yet do we find a strange sort of spirit lately sprung up-a sort of speculative Jacobitism, not wholly romantic, neither, we are afraid, but connected with the events of the times, and a sort of twin brother to the newfangled doctrine of legitimacy. The praises of the Cavaliers are lavishly chanted; the devotion of the Stuart partisans is consecrated as something more than human; the exiled house is represented in the most false and favourable lights; and the Whigs are vilified in an equal proportion, and with no kind of discrimination. Now the men who show their zeal in this truly preposterous manner, run no risk, much less do they make the smallest sacrifice; yet they seem to exult in the disinterested gallantry and constancy of the old and real Jacobites, as if they belonged themselves to the caste. In a sound, skin, they publish what, even half a century ago, would have cost them either ear; and they would fain persuade themselves that they have a right to glory in the romantic purity of their honest zeal for a beaten cause. Now all this is not mere folly and affectation; nor is it all enthusiasm. The persons who indulge in this lofty strain have some things in common with, that party whose personal attachment, gallantry, and contempt of danger, they have no pretension to share. Like them, they hate the cause of popular principles; they dislike a free and rational government; they had rather see a king unfettered by a parliament; a judge unchecked by a jury; and a press free to praise only the stronger side, and restrained from palliating all abuses save those of power. To promulgate such doctrines openly, even at this time of day, and large as the strides are which have been made within a few years, might not be altogether safe; and accordingly their advocates are eager in seizing every opportunity of crying up those who were the victims of such principles in a former age, and of stamping with every mark of opprobrium and ridicule the great men to whom we owe the whole blessings of the English constitution.

Mr Scott's avowed writings are not entirely free from this imputation; and those still more popular works which are so generally ascribed to him, abound with instances of the spirit of

« AnteriorContinuar »