Page images

for the most part, far inferior to what it should be, and, in many cases, the merest empiricism. Schoolmasters understand not what they have to do; and cannot, in consequence, be expected to employ a suitable instrumentality. With the exception of the clergy, and the adequately educated of the dissenting ministry, few or no educators have received such a training as may fit them for their office; and considering, as we do, that teaching is in itself an art, and should be studied as a profession, we cannot repose entire confidence in the fitness of all the ministers of religion who are engaged in it. Too often, the office of teacher is assumed by ministers of the Gospel, not because they have a liking or a fitness for it, but because they have need of a second pursuit to eke out the means of subsistence. A labour undertaken contre cæur, and carried forward conjointly with another which is avowedly the object of life, can scarcely, except in rare cases, be adequately discharged. The remedy is, to make schoolmastering a separate profession; to provide means for giving a suitable education to suitable men, who will, in process of time, make their way to the exclusion of all others.

It is vain, however, to expect that the business of a schoolmaster can be fitly discharged till there is a change in parents. This change must be of two kinds, each intimately allied with the other. Parents must improve in their judgments, and improve in their demeanour. They must learn to know what qualifications a man ought to possess, and who does possess them; and they must learn to treat with respect and confidence whomsoever they choose as their children's instructor. Till this take place, till parents themselves are rightly instructed, and manifest the correctness of their moral taste by showing regard to the man who either deserves it or is unfit for his office, the idea of meanness will be connected with the pursuit, and men of high and honourable feeling and of adequate acquirements will not be drawn into it, or if any enter, they will remain no longer than can be avoided. As it is, the profession is full of quackery. He succeeds best whose manners are at once imposing and low -who can attract the parent's eye and succumb to his interference. This quackery is still more rife in girls' than in boys' schools, so many are there of schoolmistresses who have entered on the business merely because every other resource had failed –who have scarcely anything to recommend them but a certain ease of exterior and a decent hand-writing; and thus it happens that the choicest casket in the world—a daughter's heart, is entrusted ten thousand times over and over again, to unfaithful hands—to ignorance and conceit, to those who are soured by misfortune or disappointed love.

We are glad to believe that a reformation has commenced. Correct views of education are beginning to prevail.


instructors and parents are less ignorant than they were. But the illumination is very partial with both. The one is ready enough to demand—this the parent has been taught, by the excitement which prevails on the subject—but he knows not what to demand, and as often requires the wrong as the right. While the schoolmaster, perplexed by the requirements of a new philosophy on one side, and the vexatious impertinence of the parents on the other, is disposed to follow doggedly in his old track. Even in the case of masters who have studied education as a science, and endeavour to practise it as an art, difficulties are experienced both numerous and harrassing. In this land, wherein canes, ferules, the big voice, stern countenance, and all the terrific resources of the pædagogue's art have flourished for ages, it is by no means an easy matter, even for those who are imbued with the spirit of an entirely opposite system for training the young, to act up to their principles and wishes. The prevalence of a bad system necessitates its continuance, though it may be in a mitigated form. A boy that has been used to the lash, is at first, if not for a long while, insensible to milder appliances. He is, pro tanto, brutalized, and understands not the tones of humanity. He was put beyond the reach of reason when first a blow was unnecessarily used instead of an argument. Place one who has been whipped out of all the better feelings of his nature, in an institution where the appeal is to the moral and not the physical nature, and he interprets mildness into weakness, patience into laxity, and expostulation into a recognition of his own importance. Were the higher principles of the youthful nature appealed to from the first, there would be less, instead of, as now, more difficulty, in employing none but them. To no small extent, teachers may be said to make the motives by which they sway their pupils; and when the heart is placed under a gentle discipline, before it is hardened, perverted and soured by severity, reason and kindness are found not only sufficient, but more than sufficient, rulers of the young. In such a case, not only will a word be more powerful than a blow, but there will be in the breast a large surplusage of good feeling, of attachment and obedience, beyond what the judicious teacher will, on ordinary occasions, have need to employ. Men create the obstacles they endeavour to surmount in education. They throw up, by their passion and ferocity, mounds of indocility and defiance, and then wonder they are unable to make their way on level ground.

Parents, however, are as misjudging as teachers are unfit. How often, by their interference, do they render a mild discipline powerless, and compel the resort to severity. And, then, what error is more prevalent than the practice of sending a child almost to any school during its early years, in the pious design of finishing its education at an expensive, that is, in common


estimation, a good establishment. This is even bad economy, The article first purchased may be low priced; but it is not cheap, because it is worthless. Let the amount of good be measured by the progress made, and persons who act thus pay a large sum for almost nothing. The case is worse still. Evil is acquired as well as good lost. The child is degraded in his moral feelings. The better principles are suppressed and crushed—the worse brought into fearful activity and power. Learning is disliked—the intellectual faculties are not only for the most part dormant, but debilitated, while difficulties have been created all but insuperable-difficulties in habits of disobedience, carelessness, irregularity, inveterate dislike of books difficulties most numerous and powerful. After a conflict for twelvemonth between his old habits and the new and better system, the youth is taken from school into the world, with, in the imagination of his fond parents, the advantages of a good education. Of this they are certain—they have employed teachers and paid bills from his childhood upwards, and especially gratifying is the fact to them, that their boy terminated his studies at a school frequented by the sons of some of the most respectable people in the vicinity; and terminated them, indeed, he has, perhaps with a feu-de-joie, his Latin books having kindled the last November bonfire, to the glee of himself and the envy of other 'young gentlemen' still in durance vile.' And what is there to wonder at, if this youth acts agreeably to the education he has received, in abandoning all healthy literary pursuits, and seeking his pleasures in lawless and gross gratifications ? Yet parents are surprised when they reap the harvest they sowed, in choosing a school, in the first place, more for cheapness than suitability; and, in the last place, more for fashion than worth.

There are exceptions. Disaster does not always follow misdirected education—so strong are the conservative principles of human nature. And so strong, also, is the bias of some minds towards intellectual pursuits, that the barriers erected by our social blunders are thrown down, and the youth gives himself an education which fits him for life and for usefulness. Thus it often happens, that the self-educated are well educated from the very circumstance of having been free from the crushing influence of established institutions. And those who know anything of actual life will bear us out in the assertion, that the cases are by no means uncommon, in which what is possessed of chief value, whether in useful knowledge or mental power, has been acquired, not in consequence of the discipline of the school, but in spite of it, in opposition to the obstructions it raised, and by the mere force of native vigour acting on materials supplied by past ages, in conjunction with the collisions and impulses of actual life.



REV. JOSEPH BLANCO WHITE. Mardon, London. It is strange how little consideration for its author enters into the feelings with which we read a book. Not one reader in ten thousand ever thinks of the pains of production, the slow elaborations of thought, the multitude of wearing feelings, and the fretful weighings of words, at the cost of which the volume in his hand was prepared. It is a book, and nothing more. It is a thing of letters and words, stamped in black on a white surface, and so we criticise it, as though it had no parentage but the printing-press. There is no consideration of the individual mind which is conversing with us, inclining us to receive the sentiments with indulgence, and a sympathy, if not for their truth, at least for their naturalness in the circumstances and position of the writer. There is no consideration of what our own difficulties would be in a similar case, to temper the abstract hardness of our criticism, whether of the thought or of the expression. We read in cold forgetfulness, that for our benefit a human spirit has traced itself on the page, perhaps with tears and toil.

Doubtless a certain good arises from this indifference of the reader to the author, namely, that the book is judged by its intrinsic merits ; but the moral interest suffers, the sympathetic affections are unconcerned, and the thoughts are received, (and we think unretentively, from this very cause,) rather as abstractions than as the living attitudes in which a mind like our own actively existed. This disregard of the sympathetic interest of a book is especially to be lamented, when, as is the case of our author, it exhibits the result of one of those struggles which God has contrived as a means of giving developement and exercise to the separate parts of our nature, and compactness to the whole; the struggles that arise between what we learn from our position and social influences, and what we learn from ourselves_between our sympathetic impressions and the leadings of our own reason, when consulted reverently but freely, and without social fear. Whoever reads the work whose title stands at the head of this article, without such an interest in the writer, we might say the memorialist, as mind owes to mind, will do him an injustice and themselves an injury. The intellectual charm, great as it is, is inferior to the moral one. Truth of thought regales the intellect. Truth in action wins the whole love of our spiritual being.

Let us hear the claims of our author on his readers, for personal esteem and sympathy :

• Convinced that it is my duty publicly to depart from some doctrines upon which the orthodox seem to consider themselves as incapable of mistake, (else they would not treat those who deny them, as guilty of something worse than an error of judgment,) I perceived the necessity and submitted to the pain of quitting the domestic society of a family, whose menibers showed me an affection seldom bestowed but upon a near relative, and whom I love with all the tenderness and warmth of a heart which nature has not made either cold or insensible to kindness. It is not my intention to court the sympathy of the public on the score of what I have had to endure on this occasion. I will not complain : though this is certainly the sccond time that ORTHODOXY has reduced me to the alternative of dissembling, or renouncing my best external means of happiness. But I humbly thank God, that the love of honesty and veracity which He implanted in my soul, has been strengthened, constantly and visibly, from the moment that, following its impulse, I quitted my native country. From that time to the present -a period of five-and-twenty years-every day seems to have made me more and more obedient to the principle, nol lo deceive either by word or sleed. To countenance externally the profession of what internally I am convinced to be injurious to the preservation and further spread of Christ's true Gospel, would be a conduct deserving bitter remorse and utter self-contempt.'—p. iii.

For the sake of those not acquainted with Mr. White's history, it may be necessary to state, that five-and-twenty years ago, following the guidings of conscience, he laid down the office of a Roman Catholic Priest, and, as a necessary consequence, fled from his native country, Spain; and that previously to his recent avowal of Unitarianism, he was the honoured inmate of the Archbishop of Dublin. What a cloud of difliculties surrounds the man, especially if he be distinguished, who, in this country, changes a theological view, and prepares to assume a public attitude in harmony with his new opinion. He has difficulties with himself. He has to part with a faith that was long the parent of his devotion, that watched and prayed with him through many a trying hour, that kept him from temptation and grief without hope. He has to insert a new support of faith within a tissue of religious sentiments, that still cling to the old support of his former faith as closely as the ivy to the oak. He has to cut out of his mind intellectual muscle, without touching the nerves of feeling intertwined. He has to contend with dreadful doubts, the promptings of his feelings, whether he is not deceived, or whether, even if his new views are true, they are yet of sufficient importance to justify a complete breaking up of his social position

present means of influence. In that moral struggle he may be excused, if, like his Master, he is in an agony and sweat drops of blood. He has difficulties with others. How few seem to understand that another mind may take views different from theirs, and yet be neither dishonest, ignorant, nor mad. They see things in one strong light themselves, and they cannot believe it possible that any body else sees them in another.

« PreviousContinue »