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Voltaire denominates “ Comedies spirituelles.” By this means, he is enabled to illustrate the doctrines of grace and regeneration, by an anecdote of a dancing-master, or a story of a drowned lap.dog, and to demonstrate the difference of heaven and hell, by a west wind in autumn, and the kitchen-fire of the London tavern in the dog-days As some of the early fathers of the Church confirmed their converts in Christianity, by performing divine service in the heathen temples, so this worthy minister cultivates the attachment of his audience to psalms and spiritual songs, by having them sung to such tunes as 66 Tell me, babbling echo,” 66 Water parted,” and
God save the king.” He thus happily associates in the minds of his people the ideas of religion and entertainment, and practically enforces the maxim of Dr. Watts, that
“ Religion never was desigo'd
To make our pleasures less." And now, Mr. Reflector, I cannot help indulging the most confi. dent expectations, that this view of our literary, political, moral, domestic, and religious advantages, will make my countrymen so well satisfied with the times in which they live, that they will see the folly of making themselves uneasy about the mismanagement of an expedition, a slight departure from the principles of the constitution, two or three trifling sinecures, or even the increase of the national debt. And they will, no doubt, be sensible of the urreasonableness of their complaints about corruption and intoler. ance, when they contemplate the many blessings they enjoy, of which their ancestors never dreamt, and which were never provided for in Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights.
I am, Sir, yours, &c.
E. B. H.
ART. XV.-Cursory Remarks on the proper Objects in the Edu.
cation of the Middle and Lower Classes ; and on the most cffectual Mode of obtaining them.
It is, perhaps, no easy task to say any thing new on the subject of Education. At least, the multitude of writers, whose leisure and talents have been devoted to the invention or illus tration of different plans for the communication of knowledge, seems sufficient to stifle the ambition, as well as almost to prea clude the possibility of novelty. Here, however, is our best hope; for while the necessity of novelty is by no means apparent, and cannot, indeed, be rationally insisted upon, there is little doubt
that he will be most beneficially employed who must exactly ascertains the merits of his predecessors,-- who selects from their various systems the most rational and practical features,-gives them a new and more judicious combination, --and enforces them by more powerful argument. The opinion of Longeroue, more than a hundred years since, that the world was already in possession of a sufficient number of good works on every subject, is at least true on this; and a writer, who has enough common sense to aim at utility rather than at splendour, will content himself with the humble employment of a careful compilation ; nor deviate into novelty till he has satisfactory assurances that preceding writers are erroneous in their views, or defective in their arrangements. On such a subject the slightest errors may be pro. fluctive of incalculable mischiefs; and, on such an occasion, very little reflection, it is hoped, is necessary to persuade writers to sacrifice vanity to benevolence,--the empty desire of distinguish. ing themselves to the heart-felt satisfaction of benefiting mankind.
It has been the general error of writers on this subject, to give a more obedient attention to the impulse of fancy, than to the dictates of reason, or the evidences of experience; and yet there are few who have not commenced with certain standing censures and common-place lamentations on this very fault of their predecessors, whom they have then proceeded to plunder with as little of reserve or consistency, as of good sense or honesty. The existing edifices have been demolished, not to raise a new building, but almost invariably to erect upon the same foundation, and with the same materials, a superstructure on an almost similar plan. However erroneous or defective may be the plans of those who have gone before them, it would be as well, that is, as rea. sonable, if these authors had softened the acrimony of their reproaches, and mitigated the poignancy of their sorrows by reflections, not more consolatory than true,-that it is the glory of our country to have produced a splendid succession of writers on almost every subject that has exercised human intellect--as lively, as sound, as original, as philosophical, as any the world has produced and that it is her pride and happiness, no less than her bulwark, that her sons are with justice ranked as high in the comparative estimate of moral feeling and practical virtue as any nation under the cope of heaven. But while the considera. tion of these circumstances ought to relax the severity of censure, and cheer the hopelessness of despondence, they will by no means warrant either indifference or neglect. The pre-eminence of our writers, it is more than probable, is owing to the natural energy of their minds, which has risen superior to a mistaken and preju. dicial education, rather than to that education itself. A fortunate
VOL. II. NO. III,
combination of contingencies will often concur, even under the worst systems, to produce what are called great geniuses ; and, indeed, it is difficult to conceive one so defective and pernicious, that illustrious and even good characters shall not be formed under it. So very little consideration, however, is necessary to convince us, that the excellence of our writers has been, or is, influenced in but a small degree by the superiority of any particular system of education, that it is not likely any argument will be drawn from that source in favour of not interfering with established practices : nor can their continuance be more powerfully justified by the national and private virtues; for however high may be our com. parative rank,-however we may shine by the force of contrast, -Stellas inter Luna minores,—there is still too fatal a scope for the benevolent exertions of the philsopher and the philanthropist, to authorise the inactivity of either.
It is, however, to the latter only of these just-mentioned objects, that every wise system of education will direct its unceasing attention. The formation of authors, or of any class of men, whose mental endowments and acquisitions are to contribute the public stock of either information or entertainment,—will occupy but a small portion of any plan that has pretensions to practical utility and real good. Those who employ themselves in teaching or entertaining mankind, are already more than sufficiently numes rous to answer all the demands of necessity or of pleasure. The hope of public approbation is incentive sufficient to recruit the ranks without the culture of education; nor is the number likely to diminish so long as man has vanity or notoriety has charms. And yet to form a judgment from the labour and the means recommended by most writers on education, as well as from the almost uniform conduct of those concerned in ito-one might conclude, not only that the world is miserably in want of proper employment for the hours of retirement and of
relaxation for those of gaiety ; but that it is necessary to a man's existence in this world, and happiness in the next, to make him either a poet or an orator, or a metaphysician; to give him a capability of de. claiming with a good grace and in set language, and a skill in unraveling the intricacies of thought and arresting the shadowy tribes of mind.”
Doubtless it is a fine thing in theory to watch the progress of knowledge,—to see the untaught mind and narrow notions of childhood proceeding, by easy steps, and a multitude of small acquisitions, till they at last expand into the keensightedness of the philosopher and the statesman. The inviting splendour of such an employment has led many from the consideration of what was most useful on such a subject, to the more agreeable occupation of devising the best mode of forming and finishing such exalted
characters. But it is fortunate for mankind that these absurd attempts have nearly as much ill-success as they deserve. As greatness is comparative, and as ambition has ever yet found means to surpass, in a given proportion, all its competitors in the course of glory, these elevated stations can be gained only by a few; and the necessities of the day force such numbers from the contest, that they are not contended for by many. To provide the needful, not to procure the splendid and useless, is the aim and is sufficient to employ nearly all the time and talents of the vast body of mankind. Why then we should be prepared and armed for a contest to which neither interest nor inclination impels,—and from which necessity is imperiously calling us off, must be left to that folly which inspired the idea to answer. No reflection is necessary to convince us that it is neither likely nor necessary but both prejudicial and improbable, that men in general should become statesmen, poets, orators, or philosophers; and but little experience is requisite to shew that the attention should be most careful. ly directed to a consideration of the various inconveniences of life, and to the best mode of evading or combating them, or at least of alleviating and diminishing them. Once in the course of a long life, perhaps, a man may be called upon to argue acutely, and to speak fluently;—but an expertness in the active duties of life is a knowledge useful every moment, and to prepare for and be capable of executing them, is of infinite importance not only from their number and their constant recurrence, but from their influence on private happiness, and their intimate connexion with national prosperity.
People in general have, individually, no more concern with the conduct of their fellows than as that conduct is hurtful or beneficial to themselves ;--1100 to govern, therefore, but to obey ;not to instruct, but to learn ;--not to attempt to entertain, but to be easily satisfied,--are among the most useful lessons they can be taught. To infuse into the mind simple and few desires, not ambition,patient fortitude, not refined sensibility ;--to give a love for innocent amusements,-and to teach the practice of the milder virtues, ---are objects on attention to which, in a great mea. sure, depends our present happiness. And yet, how little of all that has been said on this subject is reducible to these simple principles !
One would think that the best system of education must obvi. ously be that which could be most generally adopted, most easily executed, and most speedily completed; but it is evident, from the extent and solidity of the foundations which these authors usually lay out, that the splendid edifice it is intended to raise will require more labour, time, and expense than people in general have either inclination or opportunity to bestow or procure. If this be the case, and that it is there are volumes of evidence on the
from a pe
shelves of every well-stocked library to prove, either all the law bour which has been bestowed on this subject is useless, owing to a false pre-supposition of means not in existence,—which is a great want of foresight ; or it has been intended solely for the service of the affluent,--which is a still greater want of charity.--Either way authors exclude the middle and lower classes from the advantageous results of their speculations. On these, however, the great body of the community, depends not only the physical strength but the intellectual energy of a nation ; and from these classes alone can we deduce the real state of national elevation or depression; for on their numerousness or deficiency and on their civilization or barbarism,-rest the vigour of the whole body as well as its mental excellence.
It will soon
seen, rusal of the works which treat on this subject, with what a culpa. ble negligence it has been considered, as far as it relates to the public good in this point of view. Locke, in his Thoughts on Education, professes to regard that of the gentleman's calling” only (as he phrases it); leaving the good conduct of the inferior classes to the influence of this favoured one. Mrs. Macauley Graham, too, from whose Whig principles, if we were not to be eternally deceived by the professions of that party, we might expect something more liberal—she admits that her “plan can alone be carried into general practice by the opulent; and that the needy and those of moderate fortune are, by their circumstances, precluded from attempting it *.” She, like the last-mentioned au. thor, leaves it entirely to the good sense of the lower classes, to follow the good example of their superiors; declaring that there would be no end of forming rules of education for all the differ. ent ranks and situations of men.” The aim of the Treatise of Knox, a work abounding in excellent observation and sound practical direction,-is “to exalt the endowments of human nature, and render it capable of sublime and refined contempla. tion +." The improvement of the mental faculties and their re. finement, is, no doubt, the load star by which every sensible pilot directs his course, and among the universally admitted objects of education; but at the same time, while the remembrance of Swift's Laputa leads us inevitably to associate a general turn for refined and sublime contemplation with something eminently ridiculous, useless, and prejudicial, the mention of such an object let us at once into the author's' narrow views, in excluding from his consideration the interests of the middle and inferior classes -a circumstance still further confirmed, when it is found that the completion of his design will require eighteen or twenty years.
* Preface to the Letters on Education.