« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE EDUCATION COMPARED.
Could mankind lead their lives in that solitude which is so favorable to many of our most virtuous affections, I should be clearly on the side of a private education. But most of us, when we go out into the world, find difficulties in our way, which good principles and innocence alone will not qualify us to encounter; we must have some address and knowledge of the world different from what is to be learned in books, or we shall soon be puzzled, disheartened, or disgusted. The foundation of this knowledge is laid in the intercourse of schoolboys, or at least of young men of the same age. When a boy is always under the direction of a parent or tutor, he acquires such a habit of looking up to them for advice, that he never learns to think or act for himself; his memory is exercised, indeed, in retaining their advice, but his invention is suffered to languish, till at last it becomes totally inactive. He knows, perhaps, a great deal of history or science; but he knows not how to conduct himself on those ever-changing emergencies which are too minute and too numerous to be comprehended in any system of advice. He is astonished at the most common appearances, and discouraged with the most trifling (because unexpected) obstacles; and he is often at his wits' end, where a boy of much less knowledge, but more experience, would instantly devise a thousand expedients.
Another inconvenience attending private education is the suppressing of the principle of emulation, without which it rarely happens that a boy prosecutes his studies with alacrity or success. I have heard private tutors complain that they were obliged to have recourse to flattery or bribery to engage the attention of their pupil; and I need not observe how improper it is to set the example of such practices before children. True emulation, especially in young and ingenious minds, is a noble principle; Í have known the happiest effects produced by it; I never knew it to be productive of any vice. In all public schools it is, or ought to be, carefully cherished. ** I shall only observe further, that when boys pursue their studies at home, they are apt to contract either a habit of idleness, or too close an attachment to reading: the former breeds innumerable diseases, both in the body and soul; the latter, by filling young and tender minds with more knowledge than they can either retain or arrange properly, is apt to make them superficial and inattentive, or, what is worse, to strain, and consequently impair the faculties, by overstretching tbem. I have known several instances of both.
The great inconvenience of public education arises from its being dangerous to morals. And, indeed, every condition and period of human life is liable to temptation. Nor will I deny that our innocence, during the first part of life, is much more secure at home than anywhere else; yet even at home, when we reach a certain age, it is not perfectly secure. Let young men be kept at the greatest distance from bad company; it will not be easy to keep them from bad books, to which, in these days, all persons may have easy access at all times
. Let us, however, suppose the best; that both bad books and bad company keep away, and that the young man never leaves his parents' or tutor's side till his mind be well furnished with good principles, and himself arrived at the age of reflection and caution : yet temptations must come at last; and when they come, will they have the less strength because they are new, unexpected, and surprising? I fear not. The more the young man is surprised, the more apt will he be to lose his presence of mind, and consequently the less capable of self-government. Besides, if his passions are strong, he will be disposed to form comparisons between his past state of restraint and his present of liberty, very much to the disadvantage of the former. His new associates will laugh at him for his reserve and preciseness; and his unacquaintance with their manners, and with the world, as it will render him the more obnoxious to their ridicule, will also disqualify him the more both for supporting it with dignity, and also for defending himself against it. А young man, kept by himself at home, is never well known, even by his parents; because he is never placed in those circumstances which alone are able effectually to rouse and interest his passions, and consequently to make his character appear. His parents, therefore, or tutors, never know his weak side, nor what particular advices or cautions he stands most in need of; whereas, if he had attended a public school, and mingled in the amusements and pursuits of his equals, his virtues and his vices would have been disclosing themselves every day; and his teachers would have known what particular precepts and examples it was most expedient to inculcate upon him. Compare those who have had a public education with those who have been educated at home; and it will not be found, in fact, that the latter are, either in virtue or in talents, superior to the former.
THE SUPERSTITIONS AND MUSIC OF THE HIGHLANDERS.
The Highlands of Scotland are a picturesque, but in general a melancholy country. Long tracts of mountainous desert, covered with dark heath, and often obscured by misty weather; narrow valleys, thinly inhabited, and bounded by precipices resounding with the fall of torrents; a soil so rugged, and a climate so dreary, as in many parts to admit neither the amusements of pasturage nor the labors of agriculture; the mournful dashing of waves along the friths and lakes that intersect the country; the portentous noises which every change of the wind and every increase and diminution of the waters is apt to raise in a lonely region, full of echoes, and rocks, and caverns; the grotesque and ghastly appearance of such a landscape by the light of the moon ;-objects like these diffuse a gloom over the fancy, which may be compatible enough with occasional and social merriment, but cannot fail to tincture the thoughts of a native in the hour of silence and solitude. If these people, notwithstanding their reformation in religion, and more frequent intercourse with strangers, do still retain many of their old superstitions, we need not doubt but in former times they must have been more enslaved to the horrors of imagination, when beset with the bugbears of popery and the darkness of paganism. Most of their superstitions are of a melancholy cast. That second sight wherewith some of them are still supposed to be haunted, is considered by themselves as a misfortune, on account of the many dreadful images it is said to obtrude upon the fancy. I have been told that the inhabitants of some of the Alpine regions do likewise lay claim to a sort of second sight. Nor is it wonderful that persons of lively imagination, immured in deep solitude, and surrounded with the stupendous scenery of clouds, precipices, and torrents, should dream, even when they think themselves awake, of those few striking ideas with which their lonely lives are diversified; of corpses, funeral processions, and other objects of terror; or of marriages and the arrival of strangers, and such like matters of more agreeable curiosity. Let it be observed, also, that the ancient Highlanders of Scotland had hardly any other way of supporting themselves than by hunting, fishing, or war, professions that are continually exposed to fatal accidents. And hence, no doubt, additional horrors would often baunt their solitude, and a deeper gloom overshadow the imagination even of the hardiest native.
What then would it be reasonable to expect from the fanciful tribe, from the musicians and poets, of such a region ? Strains expressive of joy, tranquillity, or the softer passions ? No: their style must have been better suited to their circumstances. And so we find in fact that their music is. The wildest irregularity appears in its composition : the expression is warlike and melancholy, and approaches even to the terrible. And that their poetry is almost uniformly mournful, and their views of nature dark and dreary, will be allowed by all who admit of the authenticity of Ossian; and not doubted by any who believe those fragments of Highland poetry to be genuine, which many old people, now alive, of that country, remember to have heard in their youth, and were then taught to refer to a pretty high antiquity.
OPENING STANZAS OF THE MINSTREL."
Ah! who can tell how hard it is to climb'
In life's low vale remote has pined alone,
And yet the languor of inglorious day
The rolls of fame I will not now explore;
Which to the whistling wind responsive rung:
Fret not thyself, thou glittering child of pride,
16. The conception of the commencement of the Minstrel is fine, and highly poetical; and it is beautifully and vigorously executed; but he already falls off in the second canto, boih in invention and expression.". Read a very genial critique on Beattie's Poems, in Sir Egerton Brydges' “Imaginative Biography," vol. i. pp. 153–173.
Where through wild groves at eve the lonely swain
The parasite their influence ne'er warms,
THE POET'S CHILDHOOD.
There lived in Gothic days, as legends tell,
Patient of toil; serene amidst alarms;
The shepherd-swain of whom I mention made,
And he, though oft with dust and sweat besprent,
From labor health, from health contentment springs :
For on his vows the blameless Phæbe smiled,
No jealousy their dawn of love o'ercast,
Where peace and love are canker'd by the worm
· There is hardly an ancient ballad or romance, wherein the minstrel or harper who appears, is not declared, by way of eminence, to have been “of the porth countrie." It is probable that under this appellation were formerly comprehended all the provinces to the north of the Trent.