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would be allowed to whisper nightly in the ears of my young friends, as they lie down to rest, “ How many minutes have you lost to-day, that might have been employed in your own improvement, in your Maker's service, or for your fellow-creature's
Conversation is the daughter of reasoning, the mother of knowledge, the breath of the soul, the commerce of hearts, the bond of friendship, the nourishment of contentment, and the occupation of men of wit.
Hold your tongue, Miss Julia; little girls should be seen and not heard,” said Mrs. B.'s nursery governess to a little sprite of seven years old, who was anxious to take a turn in the chatter of the breakfast-table. For I would not have
suppose that a nursery
breakfast passes without chatter. Ì who traverse houses from corner to corner, and listen from behind the doors, know better. From the nursery to the kitchen, from the school-room to the parlour, all is chatter, and one might conclude the power of talking increases in inverse ratio with the information possessed. But let it not therefore be concluded that I am no friend to talking. We listeners are considerably interested in the furtherance of the custom: and it may even appear, ere the end of my tale, that I have a very different object in view, than that of putting my young friends to silence.
It is objected by some, that young people talk too much, and by others, that they talk too little; and each remark is just; for they do both. When young people are alone, freed from the constraints of society and the presence of those who are older or wiser than themselves, their ceaseless volubility, the idleness, uselessness, and folly of their conversation,
is all too much: not a pause to reflect upon
their words; not a moment to weigh the sentiments they hear; not a care for the time they waste, or for the habits of trifling and exaggeration they acquire. But in society they often talk too little. An unreasonable fear of exposing their sentiments loses to them the best means of ascertaining if they are right. A want of that simplicity of mind, which, conscious of no design, does not look to be charged with a wrong one, makes them fear to be thought ostentatious: while the real difficulty of expressing themselves, from want of being accustomed to ita difficulty their indolence would rather keep than make an effort to subdue-prevents their joining in conversation on subjects on which they are fully able to speak, and would gain information by doing 50. Modesty may lead them to suppose they cannot contribute to the pleasure of the conversation; and pride prevents their speaking, lest they should, perhaps, expose their ignorance.
I have wondered often how all this befalls; but now methinks I have stolen a key that may
unlock the mystery. Little Julia was to be seen and not heard that is to say, she was to ask no questions when her infant mind was struggling to enlarge itself by increase of knowledge; she was to express no feeling that moved her little bosom, or thought that awakened in her dormant intellect. But Julia was to listen, I suppose; and much may be learnt by silent attention. She listened, and so did I: and we learned a great deal; for we heard all that the footman had told the cook, and the cook had told the nursery-maid; and we gained an insight into our neighbours' affairs, and heard many wonders, the incredibility of which never failed to secure belief; whereas what was simply true and certain,
was warmly contested. Added to all this were the schemes of deception and petty artifices that I do not judge it honourable to disclose.
This, then, I thought within myself, is little Julia's first lesson in the art of talking; a lesson she will probably repeat after her own manner, the first time she escapes with her younger sisters to a private corner: and not being allowed to inquire, her mind must work, for work it will, upon the materials it has gathered; and I heard her in truth not long after, exaggerating, and mimicking, and wondering and disputing, as fast as her little tongue could move, to evince its delight at the resumption of its power.
The powers of speech are among the most important committed to our charge; and as capable as any other of a right or a wrong cultivation: there is this only difference, that while other powers lie dormant from neglect, these will be in action whether cultivated or not, and if we do not direct them to the right, will most certainly expend themselves on the wrong.
If a young person is not allowed, or not encouraged to speak with her parents and equals, she will requite herself by talking to her waitingmaid; and if she be not accustomed in society to converse rationally and sensibly, she will most surely spend the powers given her for better purposes, in idle gossip or mischievous slander.
From the lessons in the nursery, Julia passes to the school-room: she there learns much, and perhaps thinks much, but has little opportunity to communicate. If the discipline be strict, she is desired to hold her tongue, and mind her lessons; if it be indulgent, she may talk, indeed, as fast as it pleases her; she may repeat, with the more exaggeration the better, all the tittle-tattle she has heard elsewhere; what this person says, and that person does, and the other person wears; but no one takes any care to lead her to subjects useful and improving, to correct her misconceptions, and false ideas, and rash asser And here I entreat my readers to attend; for if the fault has been hitherto charged to the nurse and the maid, it now becomes their own. And so it was, that some years
first acquaintance with Julia in the nursery-it was a cheerless night—the heavens were hung with the thick dark clouds that betoken coming snows: here and there a pallid star peeped forth, perceived but a moment ere it was gone, and returned no more. I watched them long, and they became fewer and fewer: and one by one I saw the clouds close over them, as time closes over the joys that have passed away. And now the vapors united into one unshadowed and unbroken mass of blackness. The winds just whispered through the leafless trees, a low and melancholy sound, and I began to feel the cold droppings of the fleecy shower. More silent than the thief upon his midnight errand, unheard and unsuspected from within, the snow stole down upon the hard frozen earth, to prepare for the returning sun far other landscape than that he shone upon before he set. I was some distance yet from home, and liking to observe nature in all her varied aspects, I sought shelter in the porch of a handsome dwelling-house that fronted the path I was treading. There, through an opening in the crimson curtains of an adjoining window, I looked upon a scene strikingly contrasted with that which was without. A blazing fire, recently fed with the dry log, crackled and sparkled on the hearth. The reeking urn, with the tall candles by its side, was hissing on the table. The downy rug and many-coloured