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when we have them. We must allow others to be as variable, and imperfect, and faulty as ourselves. We do not wish our young readers to love their friends less, but to love them as what they are, rather than as what they wish them to be: and instead of the jealous pertinacity that is wounded by every appearance of change, and disgusted by every detection of a fault, and ready to distrust and cast away the kindest friends on every trifling difference of behaviour or feeling; to cultivate a moderation in their demands, a patient allowance for the effect of time and circumstance; an indulgence towards peculiarities of temper and character, and above all, such a close examination of what passes in their own hearts, as will teach them better to understand and excuse what they detect in the hearts of others; ever remembering that all things on earth are earthly, and therefore changeful, perishable, and uncertain
As in the bazy darkness of the scarcely-breaking twilight, every object is indistinct and uncertain; and the more the eye searches the more it is bewildered; and the foot moves uncertainly, unable to discern between the firm green sward and the dark ening chasm—so obscured, so uncertain were the moral perceptions of mankind, ere the day-star of Christian truth arose upon our world. They who talked most of virtue, and professed to love it most, and would perhaps have loved it had they known what it was, mistook the nature of the good they sought, and took evil in its stead. When the great man of antiquity prepared the tissue of moral beauty with which to dress himself for popular applause, pride and selfishness were the thread with which he wove it, the flowers he wrought in it were the evanescent charms of time and sense. Examining the finest specimens of Greek and Roman virtue, what do we find them? The hero was one to wbom the world was a plaything, and men's lives a toy. His hard bosom was forbidden every kindly emotion; every tender sympathy was imperiously sacrificed to a stern will, determined on self-aggrandizement. He was a traitor, a tyrant, and a robber; yet he lived admired, respected, and, it may be, beloved ; and died, as he believed, the favourite of the gods : still looking to the laurel wreath as his eternal crown, and the tortures of his enemies as the amusement of his Elysium.
The sage, the philosopher, though a more harmless, was a more self-deluding being still. He sought the applause of the world in affecting to despise it, and did but call off his senses, passions, and feelings from the things around him, to fix them solely and entirely on himself
. He mistook for greatness the contempt with which he rejected all the good that God or man could offer, and for magnanimity the defiance with which he braved Heaven itself to subdue him. And these were the high standards of heathen virtue, by others admired at a distance, and at a distance imitated. A self-sufficing pride, an impatient susceptibility that would not suffer the slightest touch of wrong, a bitterness of revenge that never pardoned it; these were among the foremost of a heathen's virtues. In considering the institutions of Lycurgus and other ancient legislators for the education of youth, harsh and unnatural as they appear to us, we are struck with their fitness to effect the purpose designed in them, of rearing their children to what had been accepted as the standard of moral excellence. Having determined that there was more disgrace in the discovery of a theft, than in the theft itself, the Spartans pursued a consistent purpose in teaching their children to steal adroitly; and thus throughout, we find the institutions of the wisest of heathen nations admira, bly fitted to make their children what they considered that they ought to be: virtuous, according to their dark perceptions; heroes and wise men, such as we have described.
Perhaps my readers are thinking, and my critics: making ready to assert, that. I am talking instead of listening; and lamenting what has been, rather than observing what is. But they are mistaken. Little connected as may seem the subjects, I never should
have thought of Cato, or Lycurgus, or Cæsar, or Diogenes, if I had not listened one whole day in mute attention to the progress of education in a certain school-room, and following thence into the world its tutored inmates, traced in idea the results of all the lessons I had seen them learning. When they were taught music, it was expected they should play; when they were taught French, it was expected they should understand it: and except in some few unhappy instances, I suppose the results corresponded with the expectations. But some things I observed were taught them that it was not expected they should learn, or desirable that they should practice: and if, in after life, they evinced an unexpected proficiency in these studies
, few, perhaps, of their instructors would recognize the fruit of their own labours, the produce of the seed their industry had
Parents who brought their daughters to this school -at least I heard it of so many, that I am inclined to suppose it of the rest—had said either that they were so stupid they could not, or so clever they would not, pursue their studies well at home; and they thought that the emulation excited by rivalship with others would much tend to promote their progress. The governess
who should venture to contradict this introductory clause would probably lose her school; added to which, it is an admitted rule, that what every one says must be true; by parity of reasoning, what one is always hearing, one must believe; and conscientiously, and in pure good faith, this lady undertook what was asked of her, and performed what she undertook: the
ladies powerfully stimulated by the very means prescribed, and made a very rapid progress in every thingalas! yes, in much that was unperceived and un
suspected by those who meant not to teach them any thing but good: unperceived by any one, perhaps, but myself
, whose peculiar business there it was, to look out for what was wrong; not maliciously, as I beg my readers to believe, but as the physician inquires for the symptoms of the disease he apprehends.
In the centre of a long and carpetless floor, around a coverless table- -a cold and uncomfortable prospect, that I hope had not the same chilling influence on their faculties as it would have on mine-and in defiance of all consequent spine-complaints, placed upright upon a backless form, there sat a large circle of ladies, not many years apart in age, and considered, I suppose, from their being classed together, on something like a level of attainments. They were receiving, it appeared, a lesson of French from the master, and producing for his inspection the lessons conned or written in his absence. looking little creature, whose confidence bespoke a priority her size could not have claimed, handed up her exercise with all the air of certain, and cheaplyearned success, chattered through her lessons as if they had grown upon her tongue; and in a tone of carelessness withal, that seemed determined to show it cost her no pains. Monsieur, too happy to escape the murderous garbling of his native tongue, to which he was perpetually condemned, reiterated his “Good, good, Brave, brave,” with many a whispered and broken sentence—“Well learnt, good girl," the last being withal by no means proved. The little lady turned her black eyes round the circle, with a look that said as plainly as words,
Now, stupid girls, do the best you can, for you cannot help yourselves.” This young lady was too well bred to laugh or mock; but as I watched her