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it does not follow that she can read with advantage the second volume of Dugald Stewart. The latter can be grasped only by powers in a state somewhat mature. It is impossible for a fresh scholar, twelve or fourteen years old, to grapple with questions pertaining to the origin of language, or the nature of human testimony. Hence, many readers of Mr. Stewart are apt to retain nothing, except what he says upon wit, imagination, and the different kinds of memory; illustrating, perhaps, in their own case, this latter topic. It is but a small number, comparatively, of the members of a Senior class in college, who are able to reap decided benefit from the study in question. These few, if they revert to it in subsequent life, are often surprised, alike at the novelty of the thoughts, and at the feeble impression which the previous study made upon them.
Therefore we rejoice in the establishment of this Seminary. If the imperishable mind itself is worthy of patient investigation, then such an institution is of inestimable value. It supplies the only means by which a female education can be, in the highest sense, completed. Nothing short of a systematic, three-years' course can supply that preliminary training which is indispensable for the due appreciation of the labors of the mental philosopher.
III. One advantage of the establishment of a school like the Mount Holyoke Seminary, may be to counteract certain deleterious influences which are exerted on female education, and on the female character, by our large cities.
There can be no doubt that these influences are very great, and that they are fast increasing. The power that the cities of London and Paris exert over the whole civilized, and particularly over the whole fashionable world, cannot be calculated. The laws which emanate from the French mil
liners reach over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces; and they are as despotic, for the time being, as his were who sat in Shushan the palace. In our own country every thing is tending towards centralization, to augment the number and the extent of cities. Boston, with its dozen iron arms, is drawing to itself the population of the country, and, with those same arms, reaching out to the dwellers on a thousand hills, the social and intellectual evils and blessings which cluster there. That this metropolitan influence is, in a measure, salutary, there can be no doubt. It promotes a higher order of civilization. It induces propriety and grace of manners. To a certain extent, and if kept within proper limits, it invests the human form with fresh attraction, and adds flexibility and sprightliness to the somewhat formal and rigid movement which is more peculiarly the growth of the country village.
But what the female population of large towns and cities gain in outward grace and personal accomplishment, they lose in more substantial qualities. The great tendency of a city life is to superficialness, the cultivation of the showy and the ornamental to the neglect of that which is enduring and intrinsically valuable. The spiritual and the immortal are postponed to the fanciful and the temporary. It is a species of refined materialism; or, if it embraces aught which pertains to the higher part of our nature, it is conversant with certain faculties whose growth is apt to be inordinate, and whose sphere of operation is among things that are visible and evanescent. Light-mindedness, impatience of control, a shrinking from vigorous intellectual labor, do not, by any means, characterize all females who reside in our cities; but such is, unquestionably, the decided tendency of things.
This tendency is caused or fostered, in the first place, by the innumerable temptations to superficial reading, which are furnished from circulating libraries and other sources. Those who cannot purchase a standard work on history, can readily borrow the latest romance. Those who would regard Sharon Turner, or Mr. Hallam, as an intolerable annoyance, feel no compunction of conscience in devouring score after score of the productions of Bulwer, or of the feeble imitators of Walter Scott. Much of the religious literature, which swarms in the city bookstores, is no better. It is made up, in no small degree, of books which are a compilation for the thousandth time. No goldleaf was ever spread over an ampler surface than are their few thoughts. The mezzotint and the immaculate linen paper are the chief recommendations in many most popular volumes, which, by a misnomer, are termed religious. The birthday and the new year's present is a miserable, brainless thing called an Annual. Who could be so audacious, as to propose to substitute for it a volume of Edmund Burke or of John Foster? The very hint of the expediency of such a measure would almost ostracize one from good society.
The tendency in question is increased by the arrangement, or rather disarrangement, of time, which prevails in cities. The morning hours, the country over, are dedicated to study. Vigor of mind is enjoyed, if at all, in the forenoon. It appears to be a universal law of our physical system, when it is in a healthful state. We know that some ministers and some lawyers study in the night. Alexander Hamilton labored on his bank bill, under the conjoint influence of the midnight hour and of strong coffee. But such is not the law. The products of these unseasonable hours will be, ordinarily, morbid in their character, if they do not
fail of their effect. The male or the female, who would aspire to the possession of a cultivated and well-furnished mind, must not, in general, permit the early hours of the day to pass unemployed. But, unhappily, such a disposition of time, in our cities, would seem to be impracticable. The conventional usages of society interpose an invincible obstacle. The order of nature is perfectly reversed. The evening is devoted to the popular lecture; several succeeding hours are spent in the exciting festivities which are attendant on each season of the year. The first, and what may be called the intellectual portion of the following day, is employed in recovering the wasted energy, and in attendance upon the calls of fashion, which are alike brief, rapid, and heartless. It is this tyranny of custom which paralyzes intellect. It cuts off every favorable opportunity for selfeducation. Who can discipline her mind while subject to a law, the more despotic because it is unwritten? The weakness and indolence of human nature forbid us to expect, that there will be that self-control, and that love for intellectual pursuits, which will triumph over these formidable impediments.
The same effect is produced by the withdrawal from manual labor, from earnest physical employment, which prevails in the upper class, and in a large portion of the middle class, of the women of cities. The power of the mind is augmented by the exercise of the body. The healthful action of the brain, every one knows, depends on those causes which the indolent and the unemployed never set in motion. The younger females, particularly, need that sense of personal responsibility, and of the worth of time, which cannot be acquired, in general, except they have a regular task, an assigned physical labor to perform.
By the sweat of thy brow thou shalt be able to think, is as true as any proposition which can be stated.
There are, besides, certain general influences in a city which conspire to the same end. All things are in motion, It is the centre of news; it is the terminus of intelligence. It is a theatre for action. A thousand voices invite to effort, not to study. The immediately useful is the idol that most bow down to. Nothing can escape the rage for present effect. The groves of Plato's Academy would be cut down, if they stood in the way of a wharf; the Parthenon would be pulled over, if its stones could be converted into a custom-house; or if its site were convenient for a hay-market. Excitement is the order of the day. The passions, the sensibilities, are in danger of dislodging sober judgment and habits of patient study. What could be less wonderful than that the female portion of this bustling community should not be able to escape from the vortex? Hence we have, what we might expect, less intellectual energy, less solidity of character, among females in a city, than in the country. In other respects, they may be superior. They may win a more fervent admiration. They may approach nearer that ideal of female excellence which floats in the public mind. But the substantial elements of character certainly suffer deterioration. Most of the females, who have been distinguished for the higher qualities of mind, have been born and educated in the country.
Honor, therefore, to any one who resists this pernicious tendency. Prosperity to the institution that shall erect a barrier to the overwhelming and enervating effects of city fashions. Benefactors to their country are those who lay the structure of female education on an ample basis; who insist upon a well-proportioned and protracted course of dis