« AnteriorContinuar »
do well to follow the conduct of Plato. We will give the instance, in which will be seen the superiority of example
Pseusippus, the nephew of Plato, became excessively debauched, and was turned out of doors by his parents. Plato took him in, and entertained him, as if he had never heard of his debaucheries. His friends, amazed and shocked at a procedure that seemed to them to carry insensibility in it, blamed him for not labouring to inform his nephew, and save him from utter ruin. Plato answered, that he was labouring more effectually than they imagined, in letting him see, by the manner of his living, what an infinite difference there is between vice and virtue, and between honourable and base things. This method succeeded so well, that it inspired Pseusippus with a great respect for his uncle, and a violent desire to imitate him, and to devote himself to the study of philosophy, in which, it is said, he afterwards made great progress.
The man who has no power over his inclinations, nor judgment to resist the importunity of a temptation, is destitute of the true principles of virtue and industry, and is in danger of being lost, both to himself and to society. This virtue is the foundation of future ability and happiness, and must be ingrafted as soon as a child has apprehension of things. It must be confirmed, till it become a habit, by all the possible care and diligence both of parents and tutor.
A skilful tutor will easily point out the advantages of self-denial to his pupil, by his own practice. He can exhibit fruit of a tempting aspect, given him to eat at an unseasonable hour, and abstain from eating it, explaining the advantages of his forbearance. A hundred instances will occur, to enable him to illustrate and implant this important virtue.
Children ought not to be allowed to transgress the rules of justice. The least transgression of this virtue must be immediately corrected, to prevent repetition. This might be done by first giving them distinct notions of property, to understand what is theirs by peculiar right, independent of another's claim. Should they afterwards deviate from the measure of justice, let the parent or tutor descant on the irreligious act, and evince his surprise and abhorrence. If a repetition should occur from a covetous inclination, let something they value be taken from them; and let them be made sensible of the disadvantage they will experience, by possessing themselves unjustly of what is another's.
But the only true and genuine method to correct this crime of injustice is, by carefully instilling into children an ingenuous detestation of this shameful vice. This will be a better guard against the commission, than any considerations drawn from interest. Habits work with more effect than reason; for when we need our judgment most, it is seldom fairly consulted, and more rarely obeyed.
We know no better mode to illustrate this subject, than by an instance taken from our own family. We have a boy about a year and a half old; he has been spoilen by a Welsh servant,* who is remarkably fond of him, so that he frequently wishes to be master of what he desires, and a fine hurly burly ensues, unless his object be attained. The uproar has often induced us to make our appearance. We only need enquire what the noise means, and all is silence, as if nothing had occurred; and we hear no more of it. There appears no reluctance in the submission of the child's mind; and hence we perceive, that a suppleness of the will can be introduced before the child has a memory to retain the origin of it; and when once established, by a strict uniformity of decided deportment, habit will prevent struggling and repining.
Reverence is necessary for the order and well-being of society. It is the product of the moral virtues. Make a child sensible that his interests are your own, that he is dependent on you, either for his support, or a correct education, and you establish your authority. Let it be imprinted on his memory, that you, in his early life, were inflexible, whenever he obstinately persisted in the
* It is from the neglect of parents, and the imperfect education of our schools, that we find it so difficult to procure proper nurses for our children.
commission of any thing forbidden,-that you have now indulged him with the liberty due to his age, and no longer hold over him those former restraints, which curbed his sportive gaiety and impetuosity, and you reconcile him to your company,-you make him sensible of your care, your affection, and your indulgence; and the constant exhibition of your own virtues will obtain the reverence you desire.
DEJECTION OF THE ANIMAL SPIRITS.
We have seen parents with a stick, driving their children to their duty, with as much brutality as a drover drives his cattle to the fair. We have also heard them manifest as much sharpness and asperity in their rebukes, as a butcher would to his disobedient dog. This violent curbing and humbling a child breaks and subdues the spirits, so that all vigour and industry is lost, and dejection ensues.
To keep a child's spirit easy, active, and free, so as to restrain his natural disposition, and to draw him to duties that at first are uneasy, are the great arts of the tutor. Indeed, the real secret of education lies in reconciling these apparent contrarieties, which must be embraced as time and opportunity best serve. rule we can suggest is, that the two characters be illustrated, by opposite examples, drawn from ancient times,— from the conduct of acquaintances, and from the stories and anecdotes of the present day.
STRICTURE THE ELEVENTH.
PRIDE, VANITY, AND ENVY.
THE principle of every passion, says Graham, lies hidden in the human character; but their growth and excess depend on education. It is true that pride must be sometimes called in to our assistance, to effect some of the best purposes of the human mind; but the indiscriminate manner in which it is manifested, instead of furthering the growth of virtue, undermines its principles. Most children have sufficient docility in their nature to be induced to follow good habits by example and precept; and when good habits are once acquired, they recommend themselves by the felicity they bestow. A dunce, that is, a person without memory and without sensibility, cannot be made learned, or in every sense accomplished; improvement can be effected neither by ill usage, nor by raising those desires, which a natural impotence forbids to be gratified. If the distinction of genius cannot be given to a child, let it be enough to make him good and happy, without miserably abusing power to barter these solid advantages for the views of ambition.
It must be acknowledged, that the turbulent passion of pride is an insurmountable barrier to the attainment of true virtue; and vanity, which originates in pride, and is usually the quality of little minds, will be found to lead to vice.