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We are glad to see that a conference has been held in Manchester, with the view of enlarging the Lancashire Public School Association, into the NATIONAL Public School Association ; and that many influential men, both in church and state, are committed, with all their energies, to the noble enterprise of educating the population. The Lancashire men, with Mr Cobden in their ranks, will be the best agitators of the country, and the most cogent advisers of the legislature, on this vital question. The “ Times” says—“ The question is now taken up by practical men, who fight battles in order to win them, and who do actually win them. When a man like Mr Cobilen—a man of practical sagacity, and singular success—throws himself into the breach, and stakes his reputation upon carrying a point, we cannot help regarding it as almost half won. Mr Cobden has declared that he will henceforth devote himself to the establishment of a comprehensive public education ; and, considering the man, we cannot help suspecting that something of the sort will be done." We cannot help thinking that the “ Times”” advocacy is as favourable an omen of success as Mr Cobden's, for that newspaper invariably attaches itself to the winning side. Foreseeing inevitable success in the anti-corn law agitation, it proclaimed the league “a great fact,” and forthwith lent its powerful aid; and now, believing that the attempt at national education is another“ great fact," it has become similarly cordial, and foretells and fights for its adoption.
The Manchester men have made a capital commencement. The speeches, at the public meeting, were admirable, and tore to pieces the figment of bigotry about a secular being a godless education. Mr Cobden, with his usual pertinency and point, remarked, that those national schools were not to be boarding-schools for the complete tuition of children (which would include a religious training, as well as showing them how they should behave at table with knife and fork), but that parents and clergymen would have ample time and opportunity to inculcate upon these children, when out of the national schools, the doctrines of Christianity.
We cannot express a tithe of our wonder at the opposition, on the part of patriots and Christians, to such a scheme of national education. Do they not see that, however desirable, as they think, it may be, that secular and religious training should be combined either nominally (as at present), or really in the same school, yet now, and for an indefinite time to come, such education cannot become national? With so many rival churches in the land, the idea of taking the creed of one church, and incorporating it with the secular instruction to be furnished to the whole population of this country, wbich is split up into so many religious sects, is utterly impracticable. Then is there to be no national education at all? Since there cannot be national schools for secular and religious education, are we to have none for secular? Must the millions either be taught a religious Catechism, along with reading, writing, and arithmetic, or be taught nothing, and get no reading, writing, and arithmetic? The alternative which the bigots give us, is their everything, or nothing! We have clearly shown how their everything can be gained, if taken separately; yes, gained on the very same day, for, immediately after the hours of secular training, they may bave many more hours of religious training. They know that the country cannot, and will not,
adopt their everything, and yet they resolve that the country shall have nothing. Thus, on the part of millions of our fellow-countrymen, crime, pauperism, physical degradation, and wretchedness, and such mental prostration as shall make a smooth road for the rapid advancement and triumph in this country of encroaching Popery, shall be allowed to go on increasingly, to remain Britain's foul disgrace, until Britain's ruin shall have been consummated.
NATURAL HISTORY OF THE IDLER.
Man was made for action. His natural powers plainly indicate that his Maker destined him for a life of activity. There are impulses originating in his inner being which incite to the exercise of his various faculties. The normal development of these faculties, and, indeed, the health of his entire nature, can only be effected and maintained by constant employment; and yet how strangely prone he is to rest, and how frequently do sluggish habits defeat the purposes of his whole existence. Were we disposed philosophically to investigate this seeming anomaly, we should find the theme not unworthy of our research. It must perhaps be attributed to the complexity of his constitution—to the union of two elements diverse in their nature, and governed by different laws. Individuals, indeed, greatly vary in their natural temperaments ; some having more inherent energy about them than others. We could almost believe that some whose habits we have noted are constitutionally subject to a vis inertiæ insuperable, and necessitating their absolute uselessness for all great and good ends. In them, perhaps, matter with its properties may be considered as predominating over spirit. The superior element is overborne and enslaved by the gross and earthy particles to which it is attached. Spiritual substance is active. Spontaneous motion and the power of producing motion appear to appertain to its very essence. But matter is inert. An impulse from without itself must stir it into motion, or its rest will remain undisturbed. That which occasioned the primary movement must be continued, or opposing influences will soon cause it to return to its previous state of repose. In those constitutions, then, where the material subordinates the spiritual, we observe the disposition to a pure passivity, the love of ease, and a strong repugnance to exertion. That laziness has its attractions, who will deny ? and who may not find pages of his autobiography which will attest its evils ? But we are not to treat the subject as philosophers. The theme properly belongs to the province of morals. It bears directly upon human practice. Our essay is a moral one. We aim at practical results. In treating such a subject, we cannot do better than resort to illustrations drawn from real life. Facts embody principles. By adducing those, we best exemplify these, and present them to The mind. To ascertain clearly the injurious effects of idleness, we must note examples of its actual influence. When thus realized, its nature is made apparent It shows itself worthy of earnest reprobation, for,
wherever it prevails, whether at the summit, or the base, or at any stage between the extremes of society, it is everywhere destructive of happiness, and militant against all true success in life.
Borrowing a term from the zoologist, we may regard the several classes of idlers as forming the species Tardigrada. The tribes are numerous ; many varieties exist; individual specimens are frequent. The same elementary character may be found under many diversities of state. The same original propensity to indolence may be developed among any of the ranks and conditions of men. This evil is confined to no specific age, sex, or condition. It pervades society, and affects alike all periods of life and all social grades—the infant and the veteran, the pauper and the opulent. The poor are often charged with being specially addicted to the vice of idling. It rouses our indignation to hear this charge preferred by those who are themselves notoriously addicted to it; whose position has released them from obligation to labour; who, therefore, it may be reasonably concluded, have no very distinct conception of real downright earnest working. It has been remarked that one half of the world has to sweat and groan, that the other half
But it is rather too bad for the latter in their dreams to impute slothfulness to the former. Some, again, have ventured to assign to this vice a place in the category of national characteristics. We know how often it has been imputed to a neighbouring race of Celts. Their peculiar habits have been represented as singularly porcine, so much 80, that the familiar and fraternal footing which is conceded to their pigs is fully warranted. Their indolence and filth are said to entitle that very reputable animal, distinguished as he is by congenial peculiarities, to the social station he enjoys among them. He is a worthy inmate of the cabin, values his domestic privileges, and is seemingly quite conscious of his right to be treated in all respects as one of the family. Now we are really disposed to doubt whether the race in question is naturally, and in virtue of its original constitution, the most indolent of all races ; and we rather suspect that, bad the enterprising Saxon himself been doomed for centuries to a similar training, he would have equally degenerated. But waiving these ethnographical speculations, we maintain that the idler is not a product indigenous and peculiar to any climate or country. His native region is not limited by geographical bounds. Some lands may be more suitable to his production than others; but anywhere it is easy for him to fix his "local habitation," and to get himself a name. The vice which forms his character does not derive its potency from clime, or soil, or scenery, though these things may conduce to its maturity, and may aid its spread in certain regions, and among certain families of mankind. But still it can scarcely be reckoned a national idiosyncrasy. The Esquimaux at the pole, saturated with train-oil, stupidly dozes amid the smoke and filth of his snow-hut; and the Hindoo, within the tropics, replete with rice and ghee, listlessly lounges beneath his banyan. The solemn and motionless Turk embowered in luxurious ottomans, and the variable Yankee on his restless rocking-chair, may both be idlers. But we need not wander so far from home for sketches. An ample supply is furnished in scenes open to every one's inspection,
Let us open our eyes to what is just before us. We find among the
poor a large assortment of idlers. Here are the members of the mendicant fraternity—beggars by profession. Mendicity has its orders. There are those who assume the respectable, who, having seen better days. by a stern adversity, have been reduced to decay and indigence. These ply their beggary with the semblance of a modest blush ; and by their doleful accents, and decent garb, and specious stories of misfortune, they wheedle from the pockets of the charitable a tolerable maintenance. And there are the clamorous and rag-bedight vagrants of the streets, bearing the insignia of their order—their scraps and wallets, their staves and crutches-exposing to public view deformities and sores, or exhibiting unwholesome-looking infants in white gowns and caps, or leading an itinerant choir of juvenile starvelings; and these, by their impudence and importunity, their numerous modes of annoyance, and their very repulsiveness, extort the pence of the passengers. But there are idlers in poverty who have not enrolled themselves in the idle profession. In large towns, you will find groups at the mouth of an alley, or assembled in squalid and confined squares, or thronging the threshold of a gin-palace; or, if the weather be fair, sauntering along the walks, or stretched at full length on the grassy borders of the parks and places of public recreation. In smaller towns, you must look for them during the day bird-catching in the neighbouring fields, or angling in brooks; and when evening approaches, they may be found congregated in low pot-houses, or perhaps at the head of the chief thoroughfare, or in the market place, and the ears of the passer-by are often offended by their coarse jokes, or ribald songs, or derisive merriment. In the villages, you will find them lounging by the gable of a barn, by the smithy, or on the benches of the beer-shop. Wherever observed, you may readily identify the creature. To select an individual from this class for more minute picturing, is somewhat difficult, the varieties are so numerous ; and yet we should like to sketch to you an entire personality, describing faithfully his haunts, and habits, and appearance. We might soon discover many living specimens, were you to accompany us on an exploring tour through your own city or town. It might add somewhat to the interest of our essay, and might spare us some verbal detail, could each of our readers, manage to summon before him a genuine native, in undisguised life, and fresh from his retreat. Alas, our eyes are too well accustomed to behold such objects! Turn towards his well-known haunts. You readily discover him. He may be known by his attire of shreds and patches, his slouching attitude, his animal expression, his dirty and vicious aspect. As to his habits, you perceive at once that he rarely if ever has distressed his features by a serious ablution; the process of cleansing is altogether without the range of his experience—he but vaguely comprehends its nature. His matted locks are innocent of combing, and are straggling from under a superannuated tile. We cannot more briefly or graphically sum up the outfit of his external man, than in the pathetico-comic strain of borrowed language:
"He, poor rake, has no cravat,
A seedy coat, and a hole in that!
His family and abode will be found to correspond. You follow him home to some miserable habitation. In the city, it may be a dark, damp, subterranean cellar, for these men and their households are the troglodytes of civilised communities; or, in the town, you may trace his steps to a dingy room up a narrow and filthy stair. The furniture would be venerable for its antiquity, but each separate article appears to have had its constitution irreparably shattered, and you may readily suspect that the idle and scampish habits of the master have infected the different items of his property. The wife may be a being of better mould, for, unhappily, there is many a tidy woman whose fortunes are inseparably linked to those of a reprobate husband; or, not unlikely, you will find the pair aptly matched! The other half would be a fit study for one who wished to depict the genius of slovenliness. The slattern and the sloth are invariably combined. In the family, of course, no pretensions are made to order. The idea of decorum would be preposterous in such a home. The ragamuffin urchins scout the notion of domestic authority. They glory in undisputed independence. They would riotously resent any infringement upon their liberties. The household economy is communism of the wildest stamp. All are equally free, if all are equally strong; if not, the feeble must yield a servile subjection to the despotic will of the powerful, or, in case of revolt, suffer prompt ejectment. The name of father commands no reverence; that of mother no affection. Kinship with them involves no sympathies, and incites to no endearments. Their nature is stunted in its growth. The lowest instincts are unrestrained ; the animal passions are ascendant. Their views of enjoyment extend not beyond the sensual. The intellectual and moral elements of their being are wholly dormant. The true humanity gives tokens of but a feeble life within them. It is in such abodes of degradation that moral pests are generated and nursed, and, when matured, are sent forth from them to damage and desolate society.
But we charge not alone the sons of penury and want with this vice of indolence. It exists in forms as virulent, though not externally so repulsive, in far higher circles. A large proportion of the noble and wealthy classes are, we fear, incurably addicted to it. Impartiality forbids us to spare them the exposure. Their indolence maintains more respectable appearances, and is known by less objectionable appellations. It is painfully sensitive of any approach to vulgarity. But is it less noxious or criminal? Your genuine fashionable idler indulges his habits after a more refined method than that in which the sluggish creatures crawling among the dregs of society indulge theirs. We cannot but think that what is usually denominated "high life” is most decidedly idle life. Some few enterprising spirits may prove truly noble, and may adorn their rank and serve their generation by becoming workers; but, with too large a portion of these favoured classes,
" Their only labour is to kill the time;
(And labour dire it is, and weary wo);
Where hours on hours they, sighing, lie reclined