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THE FOX AND THE CROW A FABLE - Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, or Education 
Emile, or Education. Translated by Barbara Foxley, M.A. (London & Toronto: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1921; New York: E.P. Dutton, 1921).
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THE FOX AND THE CROW
“Maître corbeau, sur un arbre perché” (Mr. Crow perched on a tree).—“Mr.!” what does that word really mean? What does it mean before a proper noun? What is its meaning here? What is a crow? What is “un arbre perché”? We do not say “on a tree perched,” but perched on a tree. So we must speak of poetical inversions, we must distinguish between prose and verse.
“Tenait dans son bec un fromage” (Held a cheese in his beak).—What sort of a cheese? Swiss, Brie, or Dutch? If the child has never seen crows, what is the good of talking about them? If he has seen crows will he believe that they can hold a cheese in their beak? Your illustrations should always be taken from nature.
“Maître renard, par l’odeur alléché” (Mr. Fox, attracted by the smell).—Another Master! But the title suits the fox, who is master of all the tricks of his trade. You must explain what a fox is, and distinguish between the real fox and the conventional fox of the fables.
“Alléché.” The word is obsolete; you will have to explain it. You will say it is only used in verse. Perhaps the child will ask why people talk differently in verse. How will you answer that question?
“Alléché, par l’odeur d’un fromage.” The cheese was held in his beak by a crow perched on a tree; it must indeed have smelt strong if the fox, in his thicket or his earth, could smell it. This is the way you train your pupil in that spirit of right judgment, which rejects all but reasonable arguments, and is able to distinguish between truth and falsehood in other tales.
“Lui tient à peu près ce langage” (Spoke to him after this fashion).—“Ce langage.” So foxes talk, do they! They talk like crows! Mind what you are about, oh, wise tutor; weigh your answer before you give it, it is more important than you suspect.
“Eh! Bonjour, Monsieur le Corbeau!” (“Good-day, Mr. Crow!”)—Mr.! The child sees this title laughed to scorn before he knows it is a title of honour. Those who say “Monsieur du Corbeau” will find their work cut out for them to explain that “du.”
“Que vous êtes joli! Que vous me semblez beau!” (“How handsome you are, how beautiful in my eyes!”)—Mere padding. The child, finding the same thing repeated twice over in different words, is learning to speak carelessly. If you say this redundance is a device of the author, a part of the fox’s scheme to make his praise seem all the greater by his flow of words, that is a valid excuse for me, but not for my pupil.
“Sans mentir, si votre ramage” (“Without lying, if your song”).—“Without lying.” So people do tell lies sometimes. What will the child think of you if you tell him the fox only says “Sans mentir” because he is lying?
“Repondait à votre plumage” (“Answered to your fine feathers”).—“Answered!” What does that mean? Try to make the child compare qualities so different as those of song and plumage; you will see how much he understands.
“Vous seriez le phénix des hôtes de ces bois!” (“You would be the phœnix of all the inhabitants of this wood!”)—The phœnix! What is a phœnix? All of a sudden we are floundering in the lies of antiquity—we are on the edge of mythology.
“The inhabitants of this wood.” What figurative language! The flatterer adopts the grand style to add dignity to his speech, to make it more attractive. Will the child understand this cunning? Does he know, how could he possibly know, what is meant by grand style and simple style?
“A ces mots le corbeau ne se sent pas de joie” (At these words, the crow is beside himself with delight).—To realise the full force of this proverbial expression we must have experienced very strong feeling.
“Et, pour montrer sa belle voix” (And, to show his fine voice).—Remember that the child, to understand this line and the whole fable, must know what is meant by the crow’s fine voice.
“Il ouvre un large bec. laisse tomber sa proie” (He opens his wide beak and drops his prey).—This is a splendid line; its very sound suggests a picture. I see the great big ugly gaping beak, I hear the cheese crashing through the branches; but this kind of beauty is thrown away upon children.
“Le renard s’en saisit, et dit, ‘Mon bon monsieur’ ” (The fox catches it, and says, “My dear sir”).—So kindness is already folly. You certainly waste no time in teaching your children.
“Apprenez que tout flatteur” (“You must learn that every flatterer”).—A general maxim. The child can make neither head nor tail of it.
“Vit au depens de celui qui l’écoute” (“Lives at the expense of the person who listens to his flattery”).—No child of ten ever understood that.
“Ce leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute” (“No doubt this lesson is well worth a cheese”).—This is intelligible and its meaning is very good. Yet there are few children who could compare a cheese and a lesson, few who would not prefer the cheese. You will therefore have to make them understand that this is said in mockery. What subtlety for a child!
“Le corbeau, honteux et confus” (The crow, ashamed and confused).—Anothing pleonasm, and there is no excuse for it this time.
“Jura, mais un peu tard, qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus” (Swore, but rather too late, that he would not be caught in that way again).—“Swore.” What master will be such a fool as to try to explain to a child the meaning of an oath?
What a host of details! but much more would be needed for the analysis of all the ideas in this fable and their reduction to the simple and elementary ideas of which each is composed. But who thinks this analysis necessary to make himself intelligible to children? Who of us is philosopher enough to be able to put himself in the child’s place? Let us now proceed to the moral.
Should we teach a six-year-old child that there are people who flatter and lie for the sake of gain? One might perhaps teach them that there are people who make fools of little boys and laugh at their foolish vanity behind their backs. But the whole thing is spoilt by the cheese. You are teaching them how to make another drop his cheese rather than how to keep their own. This is my second paradox, and it is not less weighty than the former one.
Watch children learning their fables and you will see that when they have a chance of applying them they almost always use them exactly contrary to the author’s meaning; instead of being on their guard against the fault which you would prevent or cure, they are disposed to like the vice by which one takes advantage of another’s defects. In the above fable children laugh at the crow, but they all love the fox. In the next fable you expect them to follow the example of the grasshopper. Not so, they will choose the ant. They do not care to abase themselves, they will always choose the principal part—this is the choice of self-love, a very natural choice. But what a dreadful lesson for children! There could be no monster more detestable than a harsh and avaricious child, who realised what he was asked to give and what he refused. The ant does more; she teaches him not merely to refuse but to revile.
In all the fables where the lion plays a part, usually the chief part, the child pretends to be the lion, and when he has to preside over some distribution of good things, he takes care to keep everything for himself; but when the lion is overthrown by the gnat, the child is the gnat. He learns how to sting to death those whom he dare not attack openly.
From the fable of the sleek dog and the starving wolf he learns a lesson of licence rather than the lesson of moderation which you profess to teach him. I shall never forget seeing a little girl weeping bitterly over this tale, which had been told her as a lesson in obedience. The poor child hated to be chained up; she felt the chain chafing her neck; she was crying because she was not a wolf.
So from the first of these fables the child learns the basest flattery; from the second, cruelty; from the third, injustice; from the fourth, satire; from the fifth, insubordination. The last of these lessons is no more suitable for your pupils than for mine, though he has no use for it. What results do you expect to get from your teaching when it contradicts itself? But perhaps the same system of morals which furnishes me with objections against the fables supplies you with as many reasons for keeping to them. Society requires a rule of morality in our words; it also requires a rule of morality in our deeds; and these two rules are quite different. The former is contained in the Catechism and it is left there; the other is contained in La Fontaine’s fables for children and his tales for mothers. The same author does for both.
Let us make a bargain, M. de la Fontaine. For my own part, I undertake to make your books my favourite study; I undertake to love you, and to learn from your fables, for I hope I shall not mistake their meaning. As to my pupil, permit me to prevent him studying any one of them till you have convinced me that it is good for him to learn things three-fourths of which are unintelligible to him, and until you can convince me that in those fables he can understand he will never reverse the order and imitate the villain instead of taking warning from his dupe.
When I thus get rid of children’s lessons, I get rid of the chief cause of their sorrows, namely their books. Reading is the curse of childhood, yet it is almost the only occupation you can find for children. Emile, at twelve years old, will hardly know what a book is. “But,” you say, “he must, at least, know how to read.” When reading is of use to him, I admit he must learn to read, but till then he will only find it a nuisance.
If children are not to be required to do anything as a matter of obedience, it follows that they will only learn what they perceive to be of real and present value, either for use or enjoyment; what other motive could they have for learning? The art of speaking to our absent friends, of hearing their words; the art of letting them know at first hand our feelings, our desires, and our longings, is an art whose usefulness can be made plain at any age. How is it that this art, so useful and pleasant in itself, has become a terror to children? Because the child is compelled to acquire it against his will, and to use it for purposes beyond his comprehension. A child has no great wish to perfect himself in the use of an instrument of torture, but make it a means to his pleasure, and soon you will not be able to keep him from it.
People make a great fuss about discovering the best way to teach children to read. They invent “bureaux”1 and cards, they turn the nursery into a printer’s shop. Locke would have them taught to read by means of dice. What a fine idea! And the pity of it! There is a better way than any of those, and one which is generally overlooked—it consists in the desire to learn. Arouse this desire in your scholar and have done with your “bureaux” and your dice—any method will serve.
Present interest, that is the motive power, the only motive power that takes us far and safely. Sometimes Emile receives notes of invitation from his father or mother, his relations or friends; he is invited to a dinner, a walk, a boating expedition, to see some public entertainment. These notes are short, clear, plain, and well written. Some one must read them to him, and he cannot always find anybody when wanted; no more consideration is shown to him than he himself showed to you yesterday. Time passes, the chance is lost. The note is read to him at last, but it is too late. Oh! if only he had known how to read! He receives other notes, so short, so interesting, he would like to try to read them. Sometimes he gets help, sometimes none. He does his best, and at last he makes out half the note; it is something about going to-morrow to drink cream—Where? With whom? He cannot tell—how hard he tries to make out the rest! I do not think Emile will need a “bureau.” Shall I proceed to the teaching of writing? No, I am ashamed to toy with these trifles in a treatise on education.
I will just add a few words which contain a principle of great importance. It is this—What we are in no hurry to get is usually obtained with speed and certainty. I am pretty sure Emile will learn to read and write before he is ten, just because I care very little whether he can do so before he is fifteen; but I would rather he never learnt to read at all, than that this art should be acquired at the price of all that makes reading useful. What is the use of reading to him if he always hates it? “Id imprimis cavere oportebit, ne studia, qui amare nondum potest, oderit, et amaritudinem semel perceptam etiam ultra rudes annos reformidet.”—Quintil.
The more I urge my method of letting well alone, the more objections I perceive against it. If your pupil learns nothing from you, he will learn from others. If you do not instil truth he will learn falsehoods; the prejudices you fear to teach him he will acquire from those about him, they will find their way through every one of his senses; they will either corrupt his reason before it is fully developed or his mind will become torpid through inaction, and will become engrossed in material things. If we do not form the habit of thinking as children, we shall lose the power of thinking for the rest of our life.
I fancy I could easily answer that objection, but why should I answer every objection? If my method itself answers your objections, it is good; if not, it is good for nothing. I continue my explanation.
If, in accordance with the plan I have sketched, you follow rules which are just the opposite of the established practice, if instead of taking your scholar far afield, instead of wandering with him in distant places, in far-off lands, in remote centuries, in the ends of the earth, and in the very heavens themselves, you try to keep him to himself, to his own concerns, you will then find him able to perceive, to remember, and even to reason; this is nature’s order. As the sentient being becomes active his discernment develops along with his strength. Not till his strength is in excess of what is needed for self-preservation, is the speculative faculty developed, the faculty adapted for using this superfluous strength for other purposes. Would you cultivate your pupil’s intelligence, cultivate the strength it is meant to control. Give his body constant exercise, make it strong and healthy, in order to make him good and wise; let him work, let him do things, let him run and shout, let him be always on the go; make a man of him in strength, and he will soon be a man in reason.
Of course by this method you will make him stupid if you are always giving him directions, always saying come here, go there, stop, do this, don’t do that. If your head always guides his hands, his own mind will become useless. But remember the conditions we laid down; if you are a mere pedant it is not worth your while to read my book.
It is a lamentable mistake to imagine that bodily activity hinders the working of the mind, as if these two kinds of activity ought not to advance hand in hand, and as if the one were not intended to act as guide to the other.
There are two classes of men who are constantly engaged in bodily activity, peasants and savages, and certainly neither of these pays the least attention to the cultivation of the mind. Peasants are rough, coarse, and clumsy; savages are noted, not only for their keen senses, but for great subtility of mind. Speaking generally, there is nothing duller than a peasant or sharper than a savage. What is the cause of this difference? The peasant has always done as he was told, what his father did before him, what he himself has always done; he is the creature of habit, he spends his life almost like an automaton on the same tasks; habit and obedience have taken the place of reason.
The case of the savage is very different; he is tied to no one place, he has no prescribed task, no superior to obey, he knows no law but his own will; he is therefore forced to reason at every step he takes. He can neither move nor walk without considering the consequences. Thus the more his body is exercised, the more alert is his mind; his strength and his reason increase together, and each helps to develop the other.
Oh, learned tutor, let us see which of our two scholars is most like the savage and which is most like the peasant. Your scholar is subject to a power which is continually giving him instruction; he acts only at the word of command; he dare not eat when he is hungry, nor laugh when he is merry, nor weep when he is sad, nor offer one hand rather than the other, nor stir a foot unless he is told to do it; before long he will not venture to breathe without orders. What would you have him think about, when you do all the thinking for him? He rests securely on your foresight, why should he think for himself? He knows you have undertaken to take care of him, to secure his welfare, and he feels himself freed from this responsibility. His judgment relies on yours; what you have not forbidden that he does, knowing that he runs no risk. Why should he learn the signs of rain? He knows you watch the clouds for him. Why should he time his walk? He knows there is no fear of your letting him miss his dinner hour. He eats till you tell him to stop, he stops when you tell him to do so; he does not attend to the teaching of his own stomach, but yours. In vain do you make his body soft by inaction; his understanding does not become subtle. Far from it, you complete your task of discrediting reason in his eyes, by making him use such reasoning power as he has on the things which seem of least importance to him. As he never finds his reason any use to him, he decides at last that it is useless. If he reasons badly he will be found fault with; nothing worse will happen to him; and he has been found fault with so often that he pays no attention to it, such a common danger no longer alarms him.
Yet you will find he has a mind. He is quick enough to chatter with the women in the way I spoke of further back; but if he is in danger, if he must come to a decision in difficult circumstances, you will find him a hundredfold more stupid and silly than the son of the roughest labourer.
As for my pupil, or rather Nature’s pupil, he has been trained from the outset to be as self-reliant as possible, he has not formed the habit of constantly seeking help from others, still less of displaying his stores of learning. On the other hand, he exercises discrimination and forethought, he reasons about everything that concerns himself. He does not chatter, he acts. Not a word does he know of what is going on in the world at large, but he knows very thoroughly what affects himself. As he is always stirring he is compelled to notice many things, to recognise many effects; he soon acquires a good deal of experience. Nature, not man, is his schoolmaster, and he learns all the quicker because he is not aware that he has any lesson to learn. So mind and body work together. He is always carrying out his own ideas, not those of other people, and thus he unites thought and action; as he grows in health and strength he grows in wisdom and discernment. This is the way to attain later on to what is generally considered incompatible, though most great men have achieved it, strength of body and strength of mind, the reason of the philosopher and the vigour of the athlete.
Young teacher, I am setting before you a difficult task, the art of controlling without precepts, and doing everything without doing anything at all. This art is, I confess, beyond your years, it is not calculated to display your talents nor to make your value known to your scholar’s parents; but it is the only road to success. You will never succeed in making wise men if you do not first make little imps of mischief. This was the education of the Spartans; they were not taught to stick to their books, they were set to steal their dinners. Were they any the worse for it in after life? Ever ready for victory, they crushed their foes in every kind of warfare, and the prating Athenians were as much afraid of their words as of their blows.
When education is most carefully attended to, the teacher issues his orders and thinks himself master, but it is the child who is really master. He uses the tasks you set him to obtain what he wants from you, and he can always make you pay for an hour’s industry by a week’s complaisance. You must always be making bargains with him. These bargains, suggested in your fashion, but carried out in his, always follow the direction of his own fancies, especially when you are foolish enough to make the condition some advantage he is almost sure to obtain, whether he fulfils his part of the bargain or not. The child is usually much quicker to read the master’s thoughts than the master to read the child’s feelings. And that is as it should be, for all the sagacity which the child would have devoted to self-preservation, had he been left to himself, is now devoted to the rescue of his native freedom from the chains of his tyrant; while the latter, who has no such pressing need to understand the child, sometimes finds that it pays him better to leave him in idleness or vanity.
Take the opposite course with your pupil; let him always think he is master while you are really master. There is no subjection so complete as that which preserves the forms of freedom; it is thus that the will itself is taken captive. Is not this poor child, without knowledge, strength, or wisdom, entirely at your mercy? Are you not master of his whole environment so far as it affects him? Cannot you make of him what you please? His work and play, his pleasure and pain, are they not, unknown to him, under your control? No doubt he ought only to do what he wants, but he ought to want to do nothing but what you want him to do. He should never take a step you have not foreseen, nor utter a word you could not foretell.
Then he can devote himself to the bodily exercises adapted to his age without brutalising his mind; instead of developing his cunning to evade an unwelcome control, you will then find him entirely occupied in getting the best he can out of his environment with a view to his present welfare, and you will be surprised by the subtlety of the means he devises to get for himself such things as he can obtain, and to really enjoy things without the aid of other people’s ideas. You leave him master of his own wishes, but you do not multiply his caprices. When he only does what he wants, he will soon only do what he ought, and although his body is constantly in motion, so far as his sensible and present interests are concerned, you will find him developing all the reason of which he is capable, far better and in a manner much better fitted for him than in purely theoretical studies.
Thus when he does not find you continually thwarting him, when he no longer distrusts you, no longer has anything to conceal from you, he will neither tell you lies nor deceive you; he will show himself fearlessly as he really is, and you can study him at your ease, and surround him with all the lessons you would have him learn, without awaking his suspicions.
Neither will he keep a curious and jealous eye on your own conduct, nor take a secret delight in catching you at fault. It is a great thing to avoid this. One of the child’s first objects is, as I have said, to find the weak spots in its rulers. Though this leads to spitefulness, it does not arise from it, but from the desire to evade a disagreeable control. Overburdened by the yoke laid upon him, he tries to shake it off, and the faults he finds in his master give him a good opportunity for this. Still the habit of spying out faults and delighting in them grows upon people. Clearly we have stopped another of the springs of vice in Emile’s heart. Having nothing to gain from my faults, he will not be on the watch for them, nor will he be tempted to look out for the faults of others.
All these methods seem difficult because they are new to us, but they ought not to be really difficult. I have a right to assume that you have the knowledge required for the business you have chosen; that you know the usual course of development of the human thought, that you can study mankind and man, that you know beforehand the effect on your pupil’s will of the various objects suited to his age which you put before him. You have the tools and the art to use them; are you not master of your trade?
You speak of childish caprice; you are mistaken. Children’s caprices are never the work of nature, but of bad discipline; they have either obeyed or given orders, and I have said again and again, they must do neither. Your pupil will have the caprices you have taught him; it is fair you should bear the punishment of your own faults. “But how can I cure them?” do you say? That may still be done by better conduct on your own part and great patience. I once undertook the charge of a child for a few weeks; he was accustomed not only to have his own way, but to make every one else do as he pleased; he was therefore capricious. The very first day he wanted to get up at midnight, to try how far he could go with me. When I was sound asleep he jumped out of bed, got his dressing-gown, and waked me up. I got up and lighted the candle, which was all he wanted. After a quarter of an hour he became sleepy and went back to bed quite satisfied with his experiment. Two days later he repeated it, with the same success and with no sign of impatience on my part. When he kissed me as he lay down. I said to him very quietly, “My little dear, this is all very well, but do not try it again.” His curiosity was aroused by this, and the very next day he did not fail to get up at the same time and woke me to see whether I should dare to disobey him. I asked what he wanted, and he told me he could not sleep. “So much the worse for you,” I replied, and I lay quiet. He seemed perplexed by this way of speaking. He felt his way to the flint and steel and tried to strike a light. I could not help laughing when I heard him strike his fingers. Convinced at last that he could not manage it, he brought the steel to my bed; I told him I did not want it, and I turned my back to him. Then he began to rush wildly about the room, shouting, singing, making a great noise, knocking against chairs and tables, but taking, however, good care not to hurt himself seriously, but screaming loudly in the hope of alarming me. All this had no effect, but I perceived that though he was prepared for scolding or anger, he was quite unprepared for indifference.
However, he was determined to overcome my patience with his own obstinacy, and he continued his racket so successfully that at last I lost my temper. I foresaw that I should spoil the whole business by an unseemly outburst of passion. I determined on another course. I got up quietly, went to the tinder box, but could not find it; I asked him for it, and he gave it me, delighted to have won the victory over me. I struck a light, lighted the candle, took my young gentleman by the hand and led him quietly into an adjoining dressing-room with the shutters firmly fastened, and nothing he could break.
I left him there without a light; then locking him in I went back to my bed without a word. What a noise there was! That was what I expected, and took no notice. At last the noise ceased; I listened, heard him settling down, and I was quite easy about him. Next morning I entered the room at daybreak, and my little rebel was lying on a sofa enjoying a sound and much needed sleep after his exertions.
The matter did not end there. His mother heard that the child had spent a great part of the night out of bed. That spoilt the whole thing; her child was as good as dead. Finding a good chance for revenge, he pretended to be ill, not seeing that he would gain nothing by it. They sent for the doctor. Unluckily for the mother, the doctor was a practical joker, and to amuse himself with her terrors he did his best to increase them. However, he whispered to me, “Leave it to me, I promise to cure the child of wanting to be ill for some time to come.” As a matter of fact he prescribed bed and dieting, and the child was handed over to the apothecary. I sighed to see the mother cheated on every hand except by me, whom she hated because I did not deceive her.
After pretty severe reproaches, she told me her son was delicate, that he was the sole heir of the family, his life must be preserved at all costs, and she would not have him contradicted. In that I thoroughly agreed with her, but what she meant by contradicting was not obeying him in everything. I saw I should have to treat the mother as I had treated the son. “Madam,” I said coldly, “I do not know how to educate the heir to a fortune, and what is more, I do not mean to study that art. You can take that as settled.” I was wanted for some days longer, and the father smoothed things over. The mother wrote to the tutor to hasten his return, and the child, finding he got nothing by disturbing my rest, nor yet by being ill, decided at last to get better and to go to sleep.
You can form no idea of the number of similar caprices to which the little tyrant had subjected his unlucky tutor; for his education was carried on under his mother’s eye, and she would not allow her son and heir to be disobeyed in anything. Whenever he wanted to go out, you must be ready to take him, or rather to follow him, and he always took good care to choose the time when he knew his tutor was very busy. He wished to exercise the same power over me and to avenge himself by day for having to leave me in peace at night. I gladly agreed and began by showing plainly how pleased I was to give him pleasure; after that when it was a matter of curing him of his fancies I set about it differently.
In the first place, he must be shown that he was in the wrong. This was not difficult; knowing that children think only of the present, I took the easy advantage which foresight gives; I took care to provide him with some indoor amusement of which he was very fond. Just when he was most occupied with it, I went and suggested a short walk, and he sent me away. I insisted, but he paid no attention. I had to give in, and he took note of this sign of submission.
The next day it was my turn. As I expected, he got tired of his occupation; I, however, pretended to be very busy. That was enough to decide him. He came to drag me from my work, to take him at once for a walk. I refused; he persisted. “No,” I said, “when I did what you wanted, you taught me how to get my own way; I shall not go out.” “Very well,” he replied eagerly, “I shall go out by myself.” “As you please,” and I returned to my work.
He put on his things rather uneasily when he saw I did not follow his example. When he was ready he came and made his bow; I bowed too; he tried to frighten me with stories of the expeditions he was going to make; to hear him talk you would think he was going to the world’s end. Quite unmoved, I wished him a pleasant journey. He became more and more perplexed. However, he put a good face on it, and when he was ready to go out he told his footman to follow him. The footman, who had his instructions, replied that he had no time, and that he was busy carrying out my orders, and he must obey me first. For the moment the child was taken aback. How could he think they would really let him go out alone, him, who, in his own eyes, was the most important person in the world, who thought that everything in heaven and earth was wrapped up in his welfare? However, he was beginning to feel his weakness, he perceived that he should find himself alone among people who knew nothing of him. He saw beforehand the risks he would run; obstinacy alone sustained him; very slowly and unwillingly he went downstairs. At last he went out into the street, consoling himself a little for the harm that might happen to himself, in the hope that I should be held responsible for it.
This was just what I expected. All was arranged beforehand, and as it meant some sort of public scene I had got his father’s consent. He had scarcely gone a few steps, when he heard, first on this side then on that, all sorts of remarks about himself. “What a pretty little gentleman, neighbour? Where is he going all alone? He will get lost! I will ask him into our house.” “Take care you don’t. Don’t you see he is a naughty little boy, who has been turned out of his own house because he is good for nothing? You must not stop naughty boys; let him go where he likes.” “Well, well; the good God take care of him. I should be sorry if anything happened to him.” A little further on he met some young urchins of about his own age who teased him and made fun of him. The further he got the more difficulties he found. Alone and unprotected he was at the mercy of everybody, and he found to his great surprise that his shoulder knot and his gold lace commanded no respect.
However, I had got a friend of mine, who was a stranger to him, to keep an eye on him. Unnoticed by him, this friend followed him step by step, and in due time he spoke to him. The role, like that of Sbrigani in Pourceaugnac, required an intelligent actor, and it was played to perfection. Without making the child fearful and timid by inspiring excessive terror, he made him realise so thoroughly the folly of his exploit that in half an hour’s time he brought him home to me, ashamed and humble, and afraid to look me in the face.
To put the finishing touch to his discomfiture, just as he was coming in his father came down on his way out and met him on the stairs. He had to explain where he had been, and why I was not with him.1 The poor child would gladly have sunk into the earth. His father did not take the trouble to scold him at length, but said with more severity than I should have expected, “When you want to go out by yourself, you can do so, but I will not have a rebel in my house, so when you go, take good care that you never come back.”
As for me, I received him somewhat gravely, but without blame and without mockery, and for fear he should find out we had been playing with him, I declined to take him out walking that day. Next day I was well pleased to find that he passed in triumph with me through the very same people who had mocked him the previous day, when they met him out by himself. You may be sure he never threatened to go out without me again.
By these means and other like them I succeeded during the short time I was with him in getting him to do everything I wanted without bidding him or forbidding him to do anything, without preaching or exhortation, without wearying him with unnecessary lessons. So he was pleased when I spoke to him, but when I was silent he was frightened, for he knew there was something amiss, and he always got his lesson from the thing itself. But let us return to our subject.
The body is strengthened by this constant exercise under the guidance of nature herself, and far from brutalising the mind, this exercise develops in it the only kind of reason of which young children are capable, the kind of reason most necessary at every age. It teaches us how to use our strength, to perceive the relations between our own and neighbouring bodies, to use the natural tools, which are within our reach and adapted to our senses. Is there anything sillier than a child brought up indoors under his mother’s eye, who, in his ignorance of weight and resistance, tries to uproot a tall tree or pick up a rock. The first time I found myself outside Geneva I tried to catch a galloping horse, and I threw stones at Mont Salève, two leagues away; I was the laughing stock of the whole village, and was supposed to be a regular idiot. At eighteen we are taught in our natural philosophy the use of the lever; every village boy of twelve knows how to use a lever better than the cleverest mechanician in the academy. The lessons the scholars learn from one another in the playground are worth a hundredfold more than what they learn in the class-room.
Watch a cat when she comes into a room for the first time; she goes from place to place, she sniffs about and examines everything, she is never still for a moment; she is suspicious of everything till she has examined it and found out what it is. It is the same with the child when he begins to walk, and enters, so to speak, the room of the world around him. The only difference is that, while both use sight, the child uses his hands and the cat that subtle sense of smell which nature has bestowed upon it. It is this instinct, rightly or wrongly educated, which makes children skilful or clumsy, quick or slow, wise or foolish.
As a man’s first natural impulse is to measure himself with his environment, to discover in every object he sees those sensible qualities which may concern himself, so his first study is a kind of experimental physics for his own preservation. He is turned away from this and sent to speculative studies before he has found his proper place in the world. While his delicate and flexible limbs can adjust themselves to the bodies upon which they are intended to act, while his senses are keen and as yet free from illusions, then is the time to exercise both limbs and senses in their proper business. It is the time to learn to perceive the physical relations between ourselves and things. Since everything that comes into the human mind enters through the gates of sense, man’s first reason is a reason of sense-experience. It is this that serves as a foundation for the reason of the intelligence; our first teachers in natural philosophy are our feet, hands, and eyes. To substitute books for them does not teach us to reason, it teaches us to use the reason of others rather than our own; it teaches us to believe much and know little.
Before you can practise an art you must first get your tools; and if you are to make good use of those tools, they must be fashioned sufficiently strong to stand use. To learn to think we must therefore exercise our limbs, our senses, and our bodily organs, which are the tools of the intellect; and to get the best use out of these tools, the body which supplies us with them must be strong and healthy. Not only is it quite a mistake that true reason is developed apart from the body, but it is a good bodily constitution which makes the workings of the mind easy and correct.
While I am showing how the child’s long period of leisure should be spent, I am entering into details which may seem absurd. You will say, “This is a strange sort of education, and it is subject to your own criticism, for it only teaches what no one needs to learn. Why spend your time in teaching what will come of itself without care or trouble? Is there any child of twelve who is ignorant of all you wish to teach your pupil, while he also knows what his master has taught him.”
Gentlemen, you are mistaken. I am teaching my pupil an art the acquirement of which demands much time and trouble, an art which your scholars certainly do not possess; it is the art of being ignorant; for the knowledge of any one who only thinks he knows, what he really does know is a very small matter. You teach science; well and good; I am busy fashioning the necessary tools for its acquisition. Once upon a time, they say the Venetians were displaying the treasures of the Cathedral of Saint Mark to the Spanish ambassador; the only comment he made was, “Qui non o’e la radice.” When I see a tutor showing off his pupil’s learning, I am always tempted to say the same to him.
Every one who has considered the manner of life among the ancients, attributes the strength of body and mind by which they are distinguished from the men of our own day to their gymnastic exercises. The stress laid by Montaigne upon this opinion, shows that it had made a great impression on him; he returns to it again and again. Speaking of a child’s education he says, “To strengthen the mind you must harden the muscles; by training the child to labour you train him to suffering; he must be broken in to the hardships of gymnastic exercises to prepare him for the hardships of dislocations, colics, and other bodily ills.” The philosopher Locke, the worthy Rollin, the learned Fleury, the pedant De Crouzas, differing as they do so widely from one another, are agreed in this one matter of sufficient bodily exercise for children. This is the wisest of their precepts, and the one which is certain to be neglected. I have already dwelt sufficiently on its importance, and as better reasons and more sensible rules cannot be found than those in Locke’s book, I will content myself with referring to it, after taking the liberty of adding a few remarks of my own.
The limbs of a growing child should be free to move easily in his clothing; nothing should cramp their growth or movement; there thould be nothing tight, nothing fitting closely to the body, no belts of any kind. The French style of dress, uncomfortable and unhealthy for a man, is especially bad for children. The stagnant humours, whose circulation is interrupted, putrify in a state of inaction, and this process proceeds more rapidly in an inactive and sedentary life; they become corrupt and give rise to scurvy; this disease, which is continually on the increase among us, was almost unknown to the ancients, whose way of dressing and living protected them from it. The hussar’s dress, far from correcting this fault, increases it, and compresses the whole of the child’s body, by way of dispensing with a few bands. The best plan is to keep children in frocks as long as possible and then to provide them with loose clothing, without trying to define the shape which is only another way of deforming it. Their defects of body and mind may all be traced to the same source, the desire to make men of them before their time.
There are bright colours and dull; children like the bright colours best, and they suit them better too. I see no reason why such natural suitability should not be taken into consideration; but as soon as they prefer a material because it is rich, their hearts are already given over to luxury, to every caprice of fashion, and this taste is certainly not their own. It is impossible to say how much education is influenced by this choice of clothes, and the motives for this choice. Not only do short-sighted mothers offer ornaments as rewards to their children, but there are foolish tutors who threaten to make their pupils wear the plainest and coarsest clothes as a punishment. “If you do not do your lessons better, if you do not take more care of your clothes, you shall be dressed like that little peasant boy.” This is like saying to them, “Understand that clothes make the man.” Is it to be wondered at that our young people profit by such wise teaching, that they care for nothing but dress, and that they only judge of merit by its outside.
If I had to bring such a spoilt child to his senses, I would take care that his smartest clothes were the most uncomfortable, that he was always cramped, constrained, and embarrassed in every way; freedom and mirth should flee before his splendour. If he wanted to take part in the games of children more simply dressed, they should cease their play and run away. Before long I should make him so tired and sick of his magnificence, such a slave to his gold-laced coat, that it would become the plague of his life, and he would be less afraid to behold the darkest dungeon than to see the preparations for his adornment. Before the child is enslaved by our prejudices his first wish is always to be free and comfortable. The plainest and most comfortable clothes, those which leave him most liberty, are what he always likes best.
There are habits of body suited for an active life and others for a sedentary life. The latter leaves the humours an equable and uniform course, and the body should be protected from changes in temperature; the former is constantly passing from action to rest, from heat to cold, and the body should be inured to these changes. Hence people, engaged in sedentary pursuits indoors, should always be warmly dressed, to keep their bodies as nearly as possible at the same temperature at all times and seasons. Those, however, who come and go in sun, wind, and rain, who take much exercise, and spend most of their time out of doors, should always be lightly clad, so as to get used to the changes in the air and to every degree of temperature without suffering inconvenience. I would advise both never to change their clothes with the changing seasons, and that would be the invariable habit of my pupil Emile. By this I do not mean that he should wear his winter clothes in summer like many people of sedentary habits, but that he should wear his summer clothes in winter like hard-working folk. Sir Isaac Newton always did this, and he lived to be eighty.
Emile should wear little or nothing on his head all the year round. The ancient Egyptians always went bareheaded; the Persians used to wear heavy tiaras and still wear large turbans, which according to Chardin are required by their climate. I have remarked elsewhere on the difference observed by Herodotus on a battle-field between the skulls of the Persians and those of the Egyptians. Since it is desirable that the bones of the skull should grow harder and more substantial, less fragile and porous, not only to protect the brain against injuries but against colds, fever, and every influence of the air, you should therefore accustom your children to go bareheaded winter and summer, day and night. If you make them wear a night-cap to keep their hair clean and tidy, let it be thin and transparent like the nets with which the Basques cover their hair. I am aware that most mothers will be more impressed by Chardin’s observations than my arguments, and will think that all climates are the climate of Persia, but I did not choose a European pupil to turn him into an Asiatic.
Children are generally too much wrapped up, particularly in infancy. They should be accustomed to cold rather than heat; great cold never does them any harm, if they are exposed to it soon enough; but their skin is still too soft and tender and leaves too free a course for perspiration, so that they are inevitably exhausted by excessive heat. It has been observed that infant mortality is greatest in August. Moreover, it seems certain from a comparison of northern and southern races that we become stronger by bearing extreme cold rather than excessive heat. But as the child’s body grows bigger and his muscles get stronger, train him gradually to bear the rays of the sun. Little by little you will harden him till he can face the burning heat of the tropics without danger.
Locke, in the midst of the manly and sensible advice he gives us, falls into inconsistencies one would hardly expect in such a careful thinker. The same man who would have children take an ice-cold bath summer and winter, will not let them drink cold water when they are hot, or lie on damp grass. But he would never have their shoes water-tight; and why should they let in more water when the child is hot than when he is cold, and may we not draw the same inference with regard to the feet and body that he draws with regard to the hands and feet and the body and face? If he would have a man all face, why blame me if I would have him all feet?
To prevent children drinking when they are hot, he says they should be trained to eat a piece of bread first. It is a strange thing to make a child eat because he is thirsty; I would as soon give him a drink when he is hungry. You will never convince me that our first instincts are so ill-regulated that we cannot satisfy them without endangering our lives. Were that so, the man would have perished over and over again before he had learned how to keep himself alive.
Whenever Emile is thirsty let him have a drink, and let him drink fresh water just as it is, not even taking the chill off it in the depths of winter and when he is bathed in perspiration. The only precaution I advise is to take care what sort of water you give him. If the water comes from a river, give it him just as it is; if it is spring-water let it stand a little exposed to the air before he drinks it. In warm weather rivers are warm; it is not so with springs, whose water has not been in contact with the air. You must wait till the temperature of the water is the same as that of the air. In winter, on the other hand, spring water is safer than river water. It is, however, unusual and unnatural to perspire greatly in winter, especially in the open air, for the cold air constantly strikes the skin and drives the perspiration inwards, and prevents the pores opening enough to give it passage. Now I do not intend Emile to take his exercise by the fireside in winter, but in the open air and among the ice. If he only gets warm with making and throwing snowballs, let him drink when he is thirsty, and go on with his game after drinking, and you need not be afraid of any ill effects. And if any other exercise makes him perspire let him drink cold water even in winter provided he is thirsty. Only take care to take him to get the water some little distance away. In such cold as I am supposing, he would have cooled down sufficiently when he got there to be able to drink without danger. Above all, take care to conceal these precautions from him. I would rather he were ill now and then, than always thinking about his health.
Since children take such violent exercise they need a great deal of sleep. The one makes up for the other, and this shows that both are necessary. Night is the time set apart by nature for rest. It is an established fact that sleep is quieter and calmer when the sun is below the horizon, and that our senses are less calm when the air is warmed by the rays of the sun. So it is certainly the healthiest plan to rise with the sun and go to bed with the sun. Hence in our country man and all the other animals with him want more sleep in winter than in summer. But town life is so complex, so unnatural, so subject to chances and changes, that it is not wise to accustom a man to such uniformity that he cannot do without it. No doubt he must submit to rules; but the chief rule is this—be able to break the rule if necessary. So do not be so foolish as to soften your pupil by letting him always sleep his sleep out. Leave him at first to the law of nature without any hindrance, but never forget that under our conditions he must rise above this law; he must be able to go to bed late and rise early, be awakened suddenly, or sit up all night without ill effects. Begin early and proceed gently, a step at a time, and the constitution adapts itself to the very conditions which would destroy it if they were imposed for the first time on the grown man.
In the next place he must be accustomed to sleep in an uncomfortable bed, which is the best way to find no bed uncomfortable. Speaking generally, a hard life, when once we have become used to it, increases our pleasant experiences; an easy life prepares the way for innumerable unpleasant experiences. Those who are too tenderly nurtured can only sleep on down; those who are used to sleep on bare boards can find them anywhere. There is no such thing as a hard bed for the man who falls asleep at once.
The body is, so to speak, melted and dissolved in a soft bed where one sinks into feathers and eider-down. The reins when too warmly covered become inflamed. Stone and other diseases are often due to this, and it invariably produces a delicate constitution, which is the seed-ground of every ailment.
The best bed is that in which we get the best sleep. Emile and I will prepare such a bed for ourselves during the daytime. We do not need Persian slaves to make our beds; when we are digging the soil we are turning our mattresses. I know that a healthy child may be made to sleep or wake almost at will. When the child is put to bed and his nurse grows weary of his chatter, she says to him, “Go to sleep.” That is much like saying, “Get well,” when he is ill. The right way is to let him get tired of himself. Talk so much that he is compelled to hold his tongue, and he will soon be asleep. Here is at least one use for sermons, and you may as well preach to him as rock his cradle; but if you use this narcotic at night, do not use it by day.
I shall sometimes rouse Emile, not so much to prevent his sleeping too much, as to accustom him to anything—even to waking with a start. Moreover, I should be unfit for my business if I could not make him wake himself, and get up, so to speak, at my will, without being called.
If he wakes too soon, I shall let him look forward to a tedious morning, so that he will count as gain any time he can give to sleep. If he sleeps too late I shall show him some favourite toy when he wakes. If I want him to wake at a given hour I shall say, “Tomorrow at six I am going fishing,” or “I shall take a walk to such and such a place. Would you like to come too?” He assents, and begs me to wake him. I promise, or do not promise, as the case requires. If he wakes too late, he finds me gone. There is something amiss if he does not soon learn to wake himself.
Moreover, should it happen, though it rarely does, that a sluggish child desires to stagnate in idleness, you must not give way to this tendency, which might stupefy him entirely, but you must apply some stimulus to wake him. You must understand that is no question of applying force, but of arousing some appetite which leads to action, and such an appetite, carefully selected on the lines laid down by nature, kills two birds with one stone.
If one has any sort of skill, I can think of nothing for which a taste, a very passion, cannot be aroused in children, and that without vanity, emulation, or jealousy. Their keenness, their spirit of imitation, is enough of itself; above all, there is their natural liveliness, of which no teacher so far has contrived to take advantage. In every game, when they are quite sure it is only play, they endure without complaint, or even with laughter, hardships which they would not submit to otherwise without floods of tears. The sports of the young savage involve long fasting, blows, burns, and fatigue of every kind, a proof that even pain has a charm of its own, which may remove its bitterness. It is not every master, however, who knows how to season this dish, nor can every scholar eat it without making faces. However, I must take care or I shall be wandering off again after exceptions.
It is not to be endured that man should become the slave of pain, disease, accident, the perils of life, or even death itself; the more familiar he becomes with these ideas the sooner he will be cured of that over-sensitiveness which adds to the pain by impatience in bearing it; the sooner he becomes used to the sufferings which may overtake him, the sooner he shall, as Montaigne has put it, rob those pains of the sting of unfamiliarity, and so make his soul strong and invulnerable; his body will be the coat of mail which stops all the darts which might otherwise find a vital part. Even the approach of death, which is not death itself, will scarcely be felt as such; he will not die, he will be, so to speak, alive or dead and nothing more. Montaigne might say of him as he did of a certain king of Morocco, “No man ever prolonged his life so far into death.” A child serves his apprenticeship in courage and endurance as well as in other virtues; but you cannot teach children these virtues by name alone; they must learn them unconsciously through experience.
But speaking of death, what steps shall I take with regard to my pupil and the smallpox? Shall he be inoculated in infancy, or shall I wait till he takes it in the natural course of things? The former plan is more in accordance with our practice, for it preserves his life at a time when it is of greater value, at the cost of some danger when his life is of less worth; if indeed we can use the word danger with regard to inoculation when properly performed.
But the other plan is more in accordance with our general principles—to leave nature to take the precautions she delights in, precautions she abandons whenever man interferes. The natural man is always ready; let nature inoculate him herself, she will choose the fitting occasion better than we.
Do not think I am finding fault with inoculation, for my reasons for exempting my pupil from it do not in the least apply to yours. Your training does not prepare them to escape catching smallpox as soon as they are exposed to infection. If you let them take it anyhow, they will probably die. I perceive that in different lands the resistance to inoculation is in proportion to the need for it; and the reason is plain. So I scarcely condescend to discuss this question with regard to Emile. He will be inoculated or not according to time, place, and circumstances; it is almost a matter of indifference, as far as he is concerned. If it gives him smallpox, there will be the advantage of knowing what to expect, knowing what the disease is; that is a good thing, but if he catches it naturally it will have kept him out of the doctor’s hands, which is better.
An exclusive education, which merely tends to keep those who have received it apart from the mass of mankind, always selects such teaching as is costly rather than cheap, even when the latter is of more use. Thus all carefully educated young men learn to ride, because it is costly, but scarcely any of them learn to swim, as it costs nothing, and an artisan can swim as well as any one. Yet without passing through the riding school, the traveller learns to mount his horse, to stick on it, and to ride well enough for practical purposes; but in the water if you cannot swim you will drown, and we cannot swim unless we are taught. Again, you are not forced to ride on pain of death, while no one is sure of escaping such a common danger as drowning. Emile shall be as much at home in the water as on land. Why should he not be able to live in every element? If he could learn to fly, he should be an eagle; I would make him a salamander, if he could bear the heat.
People are afraid lest the child should be drowned while he is learning to swim; if he dies while he is learning, or if he dies because he has not learnt, it will be your own fault. Foolhardiness is the result of vanity; we are not rash when no one is looking. Emile will not be foolhardy, though all the world were watching him. As the exercise does not depend on its danger, he will learn to swim the Hellespont by swimming, without any danger, a stream in his father’s park; but he must get used to danger too, so as not to be flustered by it. This is an essential part of the apprenticeship I spoke of just now. Moreover, I shall take care to proportion the danger to his strength, and I shall always share it myself, so that I need scarcely fear any imprudence if I take as much care for his life as for my own.
A child is smaller than a man; he has not the man’s strength or reason, but he sees and hears as well or nearly as well; his sense of taste is very good, though he is less fastidious, and he distinguishes scents as clearly though less sensuously. The senses are the first of our faculties to mature; they are those most frequently overlooked or neglected.
To train the senses it is not enough merely to use them; we must learn to judge by their means, to learn to feel, so to speak; for we cannot touch, see, or hear, except as we have been taught.
There is a mere natural and mechanical use of the senses which strengthens the body without improving the judgment. It is all very well to swim, run, jump, whip a top, throw stones; but have we nothing but arms and legs? Have we not eyes and ears as well; and are not these organs necessary for the use of the rest? Do not merely exercise the strength, exercise all the senses by which it is guided; make the best use of every one of them, and check the results of one by the other. Measure, count, weigh, compare. Do not use force till you have estimated the resistance; let the estimation of the effect always precede the application of the means. Get the child interested in avoiding insufficient or superfluous efforts. If in this way you train him to calculate the effects of all his movements, and to correct his mistakes by experience, is it not clear that the more he does the wiser he will become?
Take the case of moving a heavy mass; if he takes too long a lever, he will waste his strength; if it is too short, he will not have strength enough; experience will teach him to use the very stick he needs. This knowledge is not beyond his years. Take, for example, a load to be carried; if he wants to carry as much as he can, and not to take up more than he can carry, must he not calculate the weight by the appearance? Does he know how to compare masses of like substance and different size, or to choose between masses of the same size and different substances? he must set to work to compare their specific weights. I have seen a young man, very highly educated, who could not be convinced, till he had tried it, that a bucket full of blocks of oak weighed less than the same bucket full of water.
All our senses are not equally under our control. One of them, touch, is always busy during our waking hours; it is spread over the whole surface of the body, like a sentinel ever on the watch to warn us of anything which may do us harm. Whether we will or not, we learn to use it first of all by experience, by constant practice, and therefore we have less need for special training for it. Yet we know that the blind have a surer and more delicate sense of touch than we, for not being guided by the one sense, they are forced to get from the touch what we get from sight. Why, then, are not we trained to walk as they do in the dark, to recognise what we touch, to distinguish things about us; in a word, to do at night and in the dark what they do in the daytime without sight? We are better off than they while the sun shines; in the dark it is their turn to be our guide. We are blind half our time, with this difference: the really blind always know what to do, while we are afraid to stir in the dark. We have lights, you say. What! always artificial aids. Who can insure that they will always be at hand when required. I had rather Emil’s eyes were in his finger tips, than in the chandler’s shop.
If you are shut up in a building at night, clap your hands, you will know from the sound whether the space is large or small, if you are in the middle or in one corner. Half a foot from a wall the air, which is refracted and does not circulate freely, produces a different effect on your face. Stand still in one place and turn this way and that; a slight draught will tell you if there is a door open. If you are on a boat you will perceive from the way the air strikes your face not merely the direction in which you are going, but whether the current is bearing you slow or fast. These observations and many others like them can only be properly made at night; however much attention we give to them by daylight, we are always helped or hindered by sight, so that the results escape us. Yet here we use neither hand nor stick. How much may be learnt by touch, without ever touching anything!
I would have plenty of games in the dark! This suggestion is more valuable than it seems at first sight. Men are naturally afraid of the dark; so are some animals.1 Only a few men are freed from this burden by knowledge, determination, and courage. I have seen thinkers, unbelievers, philosophers, exceedingly brave by daylight, tremble like women at the rustling of a leaf in the dark. This terror is put down to nurses’ tales; this is a mistake; it has a natural cause. What is this cause? What makes the deaf suspicious and the lower classes superstitious? Ignorance of the things about us, and of what is taking place around us.2 Accustomed to perceive things from a distance and to calculate their effects, how can I help supposing, when I cannot see, that there are hosts of creatures and all sorts of movements all about me which may do me harm, and against which I cannot protect myself? In vain do I know I am safe where I am; I am never so sure of it as when I can actually see it, so that I have always a cause for fear which did not exist in broad daylight. I know, indeed, that a foreign body can scarcely act upon me without some slight sound, and how intently I listen! At the least sound which I cannot explain, the desire of self-preservation makes me picture everything that would put me on my guard, and therefore everything most calculated to alarm me.
I am just as uneasy if I hear no sound, for I might be taken unawares without a sound. I must picture things as they were before, as they ought to be; I must see what I do not see. Thus driven to exercise my imagination, it soon becomes my master, and what I did to reassure myself only alarms me more. I hear a noise, it is a robber; I hear nothing, it is a ghost. The watchfulness inspired by the instinct of self-preservation only makes me more afraid. Everything that ought to reassure me exists only for my reason, and the voice of instinct is louder than that of reason. What is the good of thinking there is nothing to be afraid of, since in that case there is nothing we can do?
The cause indicates the cure. In everything habit overpowers imagination; it is only aroused by what is new. It is no longer imagination, but memory which is concerned with what we see every day, and that is the reason of the maxim, “Ab assuetis non fit passio,” for it is only at the flame of imagination that the passions are kindled. Therefore do not argue with any one whom you want to cure of the fear of darkness; take him often into dark places and be assured this practice will be of more avail than all the arguments of philosophy. The tiler on the roof does not know what it is to be dizzy, and those who are used to the dark will not be afraid.
There is another advantage to be gained from our games in the dark. But if these games are to be a success I cannot speak too strongly of the need for gaiety. Nothing is so gloomy as the dark; do not shut your child up in a dungeon, let him laugh when he goes into a dark place, let him laugh when he comes out, so that the thought of the game he is leaving and the games he will play next may protect him from the fantastic imagination which might lay hold on him.
There comes a stage in life beyond which we progress backwards. I feel I have reached this stage. I am, so to speak, returning to a past career. The approach of age makes us recall the happy days of our childhood. As I grow old I become a child again, and I recall more readily what I did at ten than at thirty. Reader, forgive me if I sometimes draw my examples from my own experience. If this book is to be well written, I must enjoy writing it.
I was living in the country with a pastor called M. Lambercier. My companion was a cousin richer than myself, who was regarded as the heir to some property, while I, far from my father, was but a poor orphan. My big cousin Bernard was unusually timid, especially at night. I laughed at his fears, till M. Lambercier was tired of my boasting, and determined to put my courage to the proof. One autumn evening, when it was very dark, he gave me the church key, and told me to go and fetch a Bible he had left in the pulpit. To put me on my mettle he said something which made it impossible for me to refuse.
I set out without a light; if I had had one, it would perhaps have been even worse. I had to pass through the graveyard; I crossed it bravely, for as long as I was in the open air I was never afraid of the dark.
As I opened the door I heard a sort of echo in the roof; it sounded like voices and it began to shake my Roman courage. Having opened the door I tried to enter, but when I had gone a few steps I stopped. At the sight of the profound darkness in which the vast building lay I was seized with terror and my hair stood on end. I turned, I went out through the door, and took to my heels. In the yard I found a little dog, called Sultan, whose caresses reassured me. Ashamed of my fears, I retraced my steps, trying to take Sultan with me, but he refused to follow. Hurriedly I opened the door and entered the church. I was hardly inside when terror again got hold of me and so firmly that I lost my head, and though the pulpit was on the right, as I very well knew, I sought it on the left, and entangling myself among the benches I was completely lost. Unable to find either pulpit or door, I fell into an indescribable state of mind. At last I found the door and managed to get out of the church and run away as I had done before, quite determined never to enter the church again except in broad daylight.
I returned to the house; on the doorstep I heard M. Lambercier laughing, laughing, as I supposed, at me. Ashamed to face his laughter, I was hesitating to open the door, when I heard Miss Lambercier, who was anxious about me, tell the maid to get the lantern, and M. Lambercier got ready to come and look for me, escorted by my gallant cousin, who would have got all the credit for the expedition. All at once my fears departed, and left me merely surprised at my terror. I ran, I fairly flew, to the church; without losing my way, without groping about, I reached the pulpit, took the Bible, and ran down the steps. In three strides I was out of the church, leaving the door open. Breathless, I entered the room and threw the Bible on the table, frightened indeed, but throbbing with pride that I had done it without the proposed assistance.
You will ask if I am giving this anecdote as an example, and as an illustration, of the mirth which I say should accompany these games. Not so, but I give it as a proof that there is nothing so well calculated to reassure any one who is afraid in the dark as to hear sounds of laughter and talking in an adjoining room. Instead of playing alone with your pupil in the evening, I would have you get together a number of merry children; do not send them alone to begin with, but several together, and do not venture to send any one quite alone, until you are quite certain beforehand that he will not be too frightened.
I can picture nothing more amusing and more profitable than such games, considering how little skill is required to organise them. In a large room I should arrange a sort of labyrinth of tables, armchairs, chairs, and screens. In the inextricable windings of this labyrinth I should place some eight or ten sham boxes, and one real box almost exactly like them, but well filled with sweets. I should describe clearly and briefly the place where the right box would be found. I should give instructions sufficient to enable people more attentive and less excitable than children to find it.1 Then having made the little competitors draw lots, I should send first one and then another till the right box was found. I should increase the difficulty of the task in proportion to their skill.
Picture to yourself a youthful Hercules returning, box in hand, quite proud of his expedition. The box is placed on the table and opened with great ceremony. I can hear the bursts of laughter and the shouts of the merry party when, instead of the looked-for sweets, he finds, neatly arranged on moss or cotton-wool, a beetle, a snail, a bit of coal, a few acorns, a turnip, or some such thing. Another time in a newly whitewashed room, a toy or some small article of furniture would be hung on the wall and the children would have to fetch it without touching the wall. When the child who fetches it comes back, if he has failed ever so little to fulfil the conditions, a dab of white on the brim of his cap, the tip of his shoe, the flap of his coat or his sleeve, will betray his lack of skill.
This is enough, or more than enough, to show the spirit of these games. Do not read my book if you expect me to tell you everything.
What great advantages would be possessed by a man so educated, when compared with others. His feet are accustomed to tread firmly in the dark, and his hands to touch lightly; they will guide him safely in the thickest darkness. His imagination is busy with the evening games of his childhood, and will find it difficult to turn towards objects of alarm. If he thinks he hears laughter, it will be the laughter of his former playfellows, not of frenzied spirits; if he thinks there is a host of people, it will not be the witches’ sabbath, but the party in his tutor’s study. Night only recalls these cheerful memories, and it will never alarm him; it will inspire delight rather than fear. He will be ready for a military expedition at any hour, with or without his troop. He will enter the camp of Saul, he will find his way, he will reach the king’s tent without waking any one, and he will return unobserved. Are the steeds of Rhesus to be stolen, you may trust him. You will scarcely find a Ulysses among men educated in any other fashion.
I have known people who tried to train the children not to fear the dark by startling them. This is a very bad plan; its effects are just the opposite of those desired, and it only makes children more timid. Neither reason nor habit can secure us from the fear of a present danger whose degree and kind are unknown, nor from the fear of surprises which we have often experienced. Yet how will you make sure that you can preserve your pupil from such accidents? I consider this the best advice to give him beforehand. I should say to Emile, “This is a matter of self-defence, for the aggressor does not let you know whether he means to hurt or frighten you, and as the advantage is on his side you cannot even take refuge in flight. Therefore seize boldly anything, whether man or beast, which takes you unawares in the dark. Grasp it, squeeze it with all your might; if it struggles, strike, and do not spare your blows; and whatever he may say or do, do not let him go till you know just who he is. The event will probably prove that you had little to be afraid of, but this way of treating practical jokers would naturally prevent their trying it again.
Although touch is the sense oftenest used, its discrimination remains, as I have already pointed out, coarser and more imperfect than that of any other sense, because we always use sight along with it; the eye perceives the thing first, and the mind almost always judges without the hand. On the other hand, discrimination by touch is the surest just because of its limitations; for extending only as far as our hands can reach, it corrects the hasty judgments of the other senses, which pounce upon objects scarcely perceived, while what we learn by touch is learnt thoroughly. Moreover, touch, when required, unites the force of our muscles to the action of the nerves; we associate by simultaneous sensations our ideas of temperature, size, and shape, to those of weight and density. Thus touch is the sense which best teaches us the action of foreign bodies upon ourselves, the sense which most directly supplies us with the knowledge required for self-preservation.
As the trained touch takes the place of sight, why should it not, to some extent, take the place of hearing, since sounds set up, in sonorous bodies, vibrations perceptible by touch? By placing the hand on the body of a ’cello one can distinguish without the use of eye or ear, merely by the way in which the wood vibrates and trembles, whether the sound given out is sharp or flat, whether it is drawn from the treble string or the base. If our touch were trained to note these differences, no doubt we might in time become so sensitive as to hear a whole tune by means of our fingers. But if we admit this, it is clear that one could easily speak to the deaf by means of music; for tone and measure are no less capable of regular combination than voice and articulation, so that they might be used as the elements of speech.
There are exercises by which the sense of touch is blunted and deadened, and others which sharpen it and make it delicate and discriminating. The former, which employ much movement and force for the continued impression of hard bodies, make the skin hard and thick, and deprive it of its natural sensitiveness. The latter are those which give variety to this feeling, by slight and repeated contact, so that the mind is attentive to constantly recurring impressions, and readily learns to discern their variations. This difference is clear in the use of musical instruments. The harsh and painful touch of the ’cello, bass-viol, and even of the violin, hardens the finger-tips, although it gives flexibility to the fingers. The soft and smooth touch of the harpsichord makes the fingers both flexible and sensitive. In this respect the harpsichord is to be preferred.
The skin protects the rest of the body, so it is very important to harden it to the effects of the air that it may be able to bear its changes. With regard to this I may say I would not have the hand roughened by too servile application to the same kind of work, nor should the skin of the hand become hardened so as to lose its delicate sense of touch which keeps the body informed of what is going on, and by the kind of contact sometimes makes us shudder in different ways even in the dark.
Why should my pupil be always compelled to wear the skin of an ox under his foot? What harm would come of it if his own skin could serve him at need as a sole. It is clear that a delicate skin could never be of any use in this way, and may often do harm. The Genevese, aroused at midnight by their enemies in the depth of winter, seized their guns rather than their shoes. Who can tell whether the town would have escaped capture if its citizens had not been able to go barefoot?
Let a man be always fore-armed against the unforeseen. Let Emile run about barefoot all the year round, upstairs, downstairs, and in the garden. Far from scolding him, I shall follow his example; only I shall be careful to remove any broken glass. I shall soon proceed to speak of work and manual occupations. Meanwhile, let him learn to perform every exercise which encourages agility of body; let him learn to hold himself easily and steadily in any position, let him practise jumping and leaping, climbing trees and walls. Let him always find his balance, and let his every movement and gesture be regulated by the laws of weight, long before he learns to explain them by the science of statics. By the way his foot is planted on the ground, and his body supported on his leg, he ought to know if he is holding himself well or ill. An easy carriage is always graceful, and the steadiest positions are the most elegant. If I were a dancing master I would refuse to play the monkey tricks of Marcel, which are only fit for the stage where they are performed; but instead of keeping my pupil busy with fancy steps, I would take him to the foot of a cliff. There I would show him how to hold himself, how to carry his body and head, how to place first a foot then a hand, to follow lightly the steep, toilsome, and rugged paths, to leap from point to point, either up or down. He should emulate the mountain-goat, not the ballet dancer.
As touch confines its operations to the man’s immediate surroundings, so sight extends its range beyond them; it is this which makes it misleading; man sees half his horizon at a glance. In the midst of this host of simultaneous impressions and the thoughts excited by them, how can he fail now and then to make mistakes? Thus sight is the least reliable of our senses, just because it has the widest range; it functions long before our other senses, and its work is too hasty and on too large a scale to be corrected by the rest. Moreover, the very illusions of perspective are necessary if we are to arrive at a knowledge of space and compare one part of space with another. Without false appearances we should never see anything at a distance; without the gradations of size and tone we could not judge of distance, or rather distance would have no existence for us. If two trees, one of which was a hundred paces from us and the other ten, looked equally large and distinct, we should think they were side by side. If we perceived the real dimensions of things, we should know nothing of space; everything would seem close to our eyes.
The angle formed between any objects and our eye is the only means by which our sight estimates their size and distance, and as this angle is the simple effect of complex causes, the judgment we form does not distinguish between the several causes; we are compelled to be inaccurate. For how can I tell, by sight alone, whether the angle at which an object appears to me smaller than another, indicates that it is really smaller or that it is further off.
Here we must just reverse our former plan. Instead of simplifying the sensation, always reinforce it and verify it by means of another sense. Subject the eye to the hand, and, so to speak, restrain the precipitation of the former sense by the slower and more reasoned pace of the latter. For want of this sort of practice our sight measurements are very imperfect. We cannot correctly, and at a glance, estimate height, length, breadth, and distance; and the fact that engineers, surveyors, architects, masons, and painters are generally quicker to see and better able to estimate distances correctly, proves that the fault is not in our eyes, but in our use of them. Their occupations give them the training we lack, and they check the equivocal results of the angle of vision by its accompanying experiences, which determine the relations of the two causes of this angle for their eyes.
Children will always do anything that keeps them moving freely. There are countless ways of rousing their interest in measuring, perceiving, and estimating distance. There is a very tall cherry tree; how shall we gather the cherries? Will the ladder in the barn be big enough? There is a wide stream; how shall we get to the other side? Would one of the wooden planks in the yard reach from bank to bank? From our windows we want to fish in the moat; how many yards of line are required? I want to make a swing between two trees; will two fathoms of cord be enough? They tell me our room in the new house will be twenty-five feet square; do you think it will be big enough for us? Will it be larger than this? We are very hungry; here are two villages, which can we get to first for our dinner?
An idle, lazy child was to be taught to run. He had no liking for this or any other exercise, though he was intended for the army. Somehow or other he had got it into his head that a man of his rank need know nothing and do nothing—that his birth would serve as a substitute for arms and legs, as well as for every kind of virtue. The skill of Chiron himself would have failed to make a fleet-footed Achilles of this young gentleman. The difficulty was increased by my determination to give him no kind of orders. I had renounced all right to direct him by preaching, promises, threats, emulation, or the desire to show off. How should I make him want to run without saying anything? I might run myself, but he might not follow my example, and this plan had other drawbacks. Moreover, I must find some means of teaching him through this exercise, so as to train mind and body to work together. This is how I, or rather how the teacher who supplied me with this illustration, set about it.
When I took him a walk of an afternoon I sometimes put in my pocket a couple of cakes, of a kind he was very fond of; we each ate one while we were out, and we came back well pleased with our outing. One day he noticed I had three cakes; he could have easily eaten six, so he ate his cake quickly and asked for the other. “No,” said I, “I could eat it myself, or we might divide it, but I would rather see those two little boys run a race for it.” I called them to us, showed them the cake, and suggested that they should race for it. They were delighted. The cake was placed on a large stone which was to be the goal; the course was marked out, we sat down, and at a given signal off flew the children! The victor seized the cake and ate it without pity in the sight of the spectators and of his defeated rival.
The sport was better than the cake; but the lesson did not take effect all at once, and produced no result. I was not discouraged, nor did I hurry; teaching is a trade at which one must be able to lose time and save it. Our walks were continued, sometimes we took three cakes, sometimes four, and from time to time there were one or two cakes for the racers. If the prize was not great, neither was the ambition of the competitors. The winner was praised and petted, and everything was done with much ceremony. To give room to run and to add interest to the race I marked out a longer course and admitted several fresh competitors. Scarcely had they entered the lists than all the passers-by stopped to watch. They were encouraged by shouting, cheering, and clapping. I sometimes saw my little man trembling with excitement, jumping up and shouting when one was about to reach or overtake another—to him these were the Olympian games.
However, the competitors did not always play fair, they got in each other’s way, or knocked one another down, or put stones on the track. That led us to separate them and make them start from different places at equal distances from the goal. You will soon see the reason for this, for I must describe this important affair at length.
Tired of seeing his favourite cakes devoured before his eyes, the young lord began to suspect that there was some use in being a quick runner, and seeing that he had two legs of his own, he began to practise running on the quiet. I took care to see nothing, but I knew my stratagem had taken effect. When he thought he was good enough (and I thought so too), he pretended to tease me to give him the other cake. I refused; he persisted, and at last he said angrily, “Well, put it on the stone and mark out the course, and we shall see.” “Very good,” said I, laughing, “You will get a good appetite, but you will not get the cake.” Stung by my mockery, he took heart, won the prize, all the more easily because I had marked out a very short course and taken care that the best runner was out of the way. It will be evident that, after the first step, I had no difficulty in keeping him in training. Soon he took such a fancy for this form of exercise that without any favour he was almost certain to beat the little peasant boys at running, however long the course.
The advantage thus obtained led unexpectedly to another. So long as he seldom won the prize, he ate it himself like his rivals, but as he got used to victory he grew generous, and often shared it with the defeated. That taught me a lesson in morals and I saw what was the real root of generosity.
While I continued to mark out a different starting place for each competitor, he did not notice that I had made the distances unequal, so that one of them, having farther to run to reach the goal, was clearly at a disadvantage. But though I left the choice to my pupil he did not know how to take advantage of it. Without thinking of the distance, he always chose the smoothest path, so that I could easily predict his choice, and could almost make him win or lose the cake at my pleasure. I had more than one end in view in this stratagem; but as my plan was to get him to notice the difference himself, I tried to make him aware of it. Though he was generally lazy and easy going, he was so eager in his sports and trusted me so completely that I had great difficulty in making him see that I was cheating him. When at last I managed to make him see it in spite of his excitement, he was angry with me. “What have you to complain of?” said I. “In a gift which I propose to give of my own free will am not I master of the conditions? Who makes you run? Did I promise to make the courses equal? Is not the choice yours? Do not you see that I am favouring you, and that the inequality you complain of is all to your advantage, if you knew how to use it?” That was plain to him; and to choose he must observe more carefully. At first he wanted to count the paces, but a child measures paces slowly and inaccurately; moreover, I decided to have several races on one day; and the game having become a sort of passion with the child, he was sorry to waste in measuring the portion of time intended for running. Such delays are not in accordance with a child’s impatience; he tried therefore to see better and to reckon the distance more accurately at sight. It was now quite easy to extend and develop this power. At length, after some months’ practice, and the correction of his errors, I so trained his power of judging at sight that I had only to place an imaginary cake on any distant object and his glance was nearly as accurate as the surveyor’s chain.
Of all the senses, sight is that which we can least distinguish from the judgments of the mind; so it takes a long time to learn to see. It takes a long time to compare sight and touch, and to train the former sense to give a true report of shape and distance. Without touch, without progressive motion, the sharpest eyes in the world could give us no idea of space. To the oyster the whole world must seem a point, and it would seem nothing more to it even if it had a human mind. It is only by walking, feeling, counting, measuring the dimensions of things, that we learn to judge them rightly; but, on the other hand, if we were always measuring, our senses would trust to the instrument and would never gain confidence. Nor must the child pass abruptly from measurement to judgment; he must continue to compare the parts when he could not compare the whole; he must substitute his estimated aliquot parts for exact aliquot parts, and instead of always applying the measure by hand he must get used to applying it by eye alone. I would, however, have his first estimates tested by measurement, so that he may correct his errors, and if there is a false impression left upon the senses he may correct it by a better judgment. The same natural standards of measurement are in use almost everywhere, the man’s foot, the extent of his outstretched arms, his height. When the child wants to measure the height of a room, his tutor may serve as a measuring rod; if he is estimating the height of a steeple let him measure it by the house; if he wants to know how many leagues of road there are, let him count the hours spent in walking along it. Above all, do not do this for him; let him do it himself.
One cannot learn to estimate the extent and size of bodies without at the same time learning to know and even to copy their shape; for at bottom this copying depends entirely on the laws of perspective, and one cannot estimate distance without some feeling for these laws. All children in the course of their endless imitation try to draw; and I would have Emile cultivate this art; not so much for art’s sake, as to give him exactness of eye and flexibility of hand. Generally speaking, it matters little whether he is acquainted with this or that occupation, provided he gains clearness of sense-perception and the good bodily habits which belong to the exercise in question. So I shall take good care not to provide him with a drawing master, who would only set him to copy copies and draw from drawings. Nature should be his only teacher, and things his only models. He should have the real thing before his eyes, not its copy on paper. Let him draw a house from a house, a tree from a tree, a man from a man; so that he may train himself to observe objects and their appearance accurately and not to take false and conventional copies for truth. I would even train him to draw only from objects actually before him and not from memory, so that, by repeated observation, their exact form may be impressed on his imagination, for fear lest he should substitute absurd and fantastic forms for the real truth of things, and lose his sense of proportion and his taste for the beauties of nature.
Of course I know that in this way he will make any number of daubs before he produces anything recognisable, that it will be long before he attains to the graceful outline and light touch of the draughtsman; perhaps he will never have an eye for picturesque effect or a good taste in drawing. On the other hand, he will certainly get a truer eye, a surer hand, a knowledge of the real relations of form and size between animals, plants, and natural objects, together with a quicker sense of the effects of perspective. That is just what I wanted, and my purpose is rather that he should know things than copy them. I would rather he showed me a plant of acanthus even if he drew a capital with less accuracy.
Moreover, in this occupation as in others, I do not intend my pupil to play by himself; I mean to make it pleasanter for him by always sharing it with him. He shall have no other rival; but mine will be a continual rivalry, and there will be no risk attaching to it; it will give interest to his pursuits without awaking jealousy between us. I shall follow his example and take up a pencil; at first I shall use it as unskilfully as he. I should be an Apelles if I did not set myself daubing. To begin with, I shall draw a man such as lads draw on walls, a line for each arm, another for each leg, with the fingers longer than the arm. Long after, one or other of us will notice this lack of proportion; we shall observe that the leg is thick, that this thickness varies, that the length of the arm is proportionate to the body. In this improvement I shall either go side by side with my pupil, or so little in advance that he will always overtake me easily and sometimes get ahead of me. We shall get brushes and paints, we shall try to copy the colours of things and their whole appearance, not merely their shape. We shall colour prints, we shall paint, we shall daub; but in all our daubing we shall be searching out the secrets of nature, and whatever we do shall be done under the eye of that master.
We badly needed ornaments for our room, and now we have them ready to our hand. I will have our drawings framed and covered with good glass, so that no one will touch them, and thus seeing them where we put them, each of us has a motive for taking care of his own. I arrange them in order round the room, each drawing repeated some twenty or thirty times, thus showing the author’s progress in each specimen, from the time when the house is merely a rude square, till its front view, its side view, its proportions, its light and shade are all exactly portrayed. These gradations will certainly furnish us with pictures, a source of interest to ourselves and of curiosity to others, which will spur us on to further emulation. The first and roughest drawings I put in very smart gilt frames to show them off; but as the copy becomes more accurate and the drawing really good, I only give it a very plain dark frame; it needs no other ornament than itself, and it would be a pity if the frame distracted the attention which the picture itself deserves. Thus we each aspire to a plain frame, and when we desire to pour scorn on each other’s drawings, we condemn them to a gilded frame. Some day perhaps “the gilt frame” will become a proverb among us, and we shall be surprised to find how many people show what they are really made of by demanding a gilt frame.
I have said already that geometry is beyond the child’s reach; but that is our own fault. We fail to perceive that their method is not ours, that what is for us the art of reasoning, should be for them the art of seeing. Instead of teaching them our way, we should do better to adopt theirs, for our way of learning geometry is quite as much a matter of imagination as of reasoning. When a proposition is enunciated you must imagine the proof; that is, you must discover on what proposition already learnt it depends, and of all the possible deductions from that proposition you must choose just the one required.
In this way the closest reasoner, if he is not inventive, may find himself at a loss. What is the result? Instead of making us discover proofs, they are dictated to us; instead of teaching us to reason, our memory only is employed.
Draw accurate figures, combine them together, put them one upon another, examine their relations, and you will discover the whole of elementary geometry in passing from one observation to another, without a word of definitions, problems, or any other form of demonstration but super-position. I do not profess to teach Emile geometry; he will teach me; I shall seek for relations, he will find them, for I shall seek in such a fashion as to make him find. For instance, instead of using a pair of compasses to draw a circle, I shall draw it with a pencil at the end of bit of string attached to a pivot. After that, when I want to compare the radii one with another, Emile will laugh at me and show me that the same thread at full stretch cannot have given distances of unequal length. If I wish to measure an angle of 60° I describe from the apex of the angle, not an arc, but a complete circle, for with children nothing must be taken for granted. I find that the part of the circle contained between the two lines of the angle is the sixth part of a circle. Then I describe another and larger circle from the same centre, and I find the second arc is again the sixth part of its circle. I describe a third concentric circle with a similar result, and I continue with more and more circles till Emile, shocked at my stupidity, shows me that every arc, large or small, contained by the same angle will always be the sixth part of its circle. Now we are ready to use the protractor.
To prove that two adjacent angles are equal to two right angles people describe a circle. On the contrary I would have Emile observe the fact in a circle, and then I should say, “If we took away the circle and left the straight lines, would the angles have changed their size, etc.?”
Exactness in the construction of figures is neglected; it is taken for granted and stress is laid on the proof. With us, on the other hand, there will be no question of proof. Our chief business will be to draw very straight, accurate, and even lines, a perfect square, a really round circle. To verify the exactness of a figure we will test it by each of its sensible properties, and that will give us a chance to discover fresh properties day by day. We will fold the two semi-circles along the diameter, the two halves of the square by the diagonal; he will compare our two figures to see who has got the edges to fit most exactly, i.e., who has done it best; we should argue whether this equal division would always be possible in parallelograms, trapezes, etc. We shall sometimes try to forecast the result of an experiment, to find reasons, etc.
Geometry means to my scholar the successful use of the rule and compass; he must not confuse it with drawing, in which these instruments are not used. The rule and compass will be locked up, so that he will not get into the way of messing about with them, but we may sometimes take our figures with us when we go for a walk, and talk over what we have done, or what we mean to do.
I shall never forget seeing a young man at Turin, who had learnt as a child the relations of contours and surfaces by having to choose every day isoperimetric cakes among cakes of every geometrical figure. The greedy little fellow had exhausted the art of Archimedes to find which were the biggest.
When the child flies a kite he is training eye and hand to accuracy; when he whips a top, he is increasing his strength by using it, but without learning anything. I have sometimes asked why children are not given the same games of skill as men; tennis, mall, billiards, archery, football, and musical instruments. I was told that some of these are beyond their strength, that the child’s senses are not sufficiently developed for others. These do not strike me as valid reasons; a child is not as tall as a man, but he wears the same sort of coat; I do not want him to play with our cues at a billiard-table three feet high; I do not want him knocking about among our games, nor carrying one of our racquets in his little hand; but let him play in a room whose windows have been protected; at first let him only use soft balls, let his first racquets be of wood, then of parchment, and lastly of gut, according to his progress. You prefer the kite because it is less tiring and there is no danger. You are doubly wrong. Kite-flying is a sport for women, but every woman will run away from a swift ball. Their white skins were not meant to be hardened by blows and their faces were not made for bruises. But we men are made for strength; do you think we can attain it without hardship, and what defence shall we be able to make if we are attacked? People always play carelessly in games where there is no danger. A falling kite hurts nobody, but nothing makes the arm so supple as protecting the head, nothing makes the sight so accurate as having to guard the eye. To dash from one end of the room to another, to judge the rebound of a ball before it touches the ground, to return it with strength and accuracy, such games are not so much sports fit for a man, as sports fit to make a man of him.
The child’s limbs, you say, are too tender. They are not so strong as those of a man, but they are more supple. His arm is weak, still it is an arm, and it should be used with due consideration as we use other tools. Children have no skill in the use of their hands. That is just why I want them to acquire skill; a man with as little practice would be just as clumsy. We can only learn the use of our limbs by using them. It is only by long experience that we learn to make the best of ourselves, and this experience is the real object of study to which we cannot apply ourselves too early.
What is done can be done. Now there is nothing commoner than to find nimble and skilful children whose limbs are as active as those of a man. They may be seen at any fair, swinging, walking on their hands, jumping, dancing on the tight rope. For many years past, troops of children have attracted spectators to the ballets at the Italian Comedy House. Who is there in Germany and Italy who has not heard of the famous pantomime company of Nicolini? Has it ever occurred to any one that the movements of these children were less finished, their postures less graceful, their ears less true, their dancing more clumsy than those of grown-up dancers? If at first the fingers are thick, short, and awkward, the dimpled hands unable to grasp anything, does this prevent many children from learning to read and write at an age when others cannot even hold a pen or pencil? All Paris still recalls the little English girl of ten who did wonders on the harpsichord. I once saw a little fellow of eight, the son of a magistrate, who was set like a statuette on the table among the dishes, to play on a fiddle almost a big as himself, and even artists were surprised at his execution.
To my mind, these and many more examples prove that the supposed incapacity of children for our games is imaginary, and that if they are unsuccessful in some of them, it is for want of practice.
You will tell me that with regard to the body I am falling into the same mistake of precocious development which I found fault with for the mind. The cases are very different: in the one, progress is apparent only; in the other it is real. I have shown that children have not the mental development they appear to have, while they really do what they seem to do. Besides, we must never forget that all this should be play, the easy and voluntary control of the movements which nature demands of them, the art of varying their games to make them pleasanter, without the least bit of constraint to transform them into work; for what games do they play in which I cannot find material for instruction for them? And even if I could not do so, so long as they are amusing themselves harmlessly and passing the time pleasantly, their progress in learning is not yet of such great importance. But if one must be teaching them this or that at every opportunity, it cannot be done without constraint, vexation, or tedium.
What I have said about the use of the two senses whose use is most constant and most important, may serve as an example of how to train the rest. Sight and touch are applied to bodies at rest and bodies in motion, but as hearing is only affected by vibrations of the air, only a body in motion can make a noise or sound; if everything were at rest we should never hear. At night, when we ourselves only move as we choose, we have nothing to fear but moving bodies; hence we need a quick ear, and power to judge from the sensations experienced whether the body which causes them is large or small, far off or near, whether its movements are gentle or violent. When once the air is set in motion, it is subject to repercussions which produce echoes, these renew the sensations and make us hear a loud or penetrating sound in another quarter. If you put your ear to the ground you may hear the sound of men’s voices or horses’ feet in a plain or valley much further off than when you stand upright.
As we have made a comparison between sight and touch, it will be as well to do the same for hearing, and to find out which of the two impressions starting simultaneously from a given body first reaches the sense-organ. When you see the flash of a cannon, you have still time to take cover; but when you hear the sound it is too late, the ball is close to you. One can reckon the distance of a thunderstorm by the interval between the lightning and the thunder. Let the child learn all these facts, let him learn those that are within his reach by experiment, and discover the rest by induction; but I would far rather he knew nothing at all about them, than that you should tell him.
In the voice we have an organ answering to hearing; we have no such organ answering to sight, and we do not repeat colours as we repeat sounds. This supplies an additional means of cultivating the ear by practising the active and passive organs one with the other.
Man has three kinds of voice, the speaking or articulate voice, the singing or melodious voice, and the pathetic or expressive voice, which serves as the language of the passions, and gives life to song and speech. The child has these three voices, just as the man has them, but he does not know how to use them in combination. Like us, he laughs, cries, laments, shrieks, and groans, but he does not know how to combine these inflexions with speech or song. These three voices find their best expression in perfect music. Children are incapable of such music, and their singing lacks feeling. In the same way their spoken language lacks expression; they shout, but they do not speak with emphasis, and there is as little power in their voice as there is emphasis in their speech. Our pupil’s speech will be plainer and simpler still, for his passions are still asleep, and will not blend their tones with his. Do not, therefore, set him to recite tragedy or comedy, nor try to teach declamation so-called. He will have too much sense to give voice to things he cannot understand, or expression to feelings he has never known.
Teach him to speak plainly and distinctly, to articulate clearly, to pronounce correctly and without affectation, to perceive and imitate the right accent in prose and verse, and always to speak loud enough to be heard, but without speaking too loud—a common fault with school-children. Let there be no waste in anything.
The same method applies to singing; make his voice smooth and true, flexible and full, his ear alive to time and tune, but nothing more. Descriptive and theatrical music is not suitable at his age—I would rather he sang no words; if he must have words, I would try to compose songs on purpose for him, songs interesting to a child, and as simple as his own thoughts.
You may perhaps suppose that as I am in no hurry to teach Emile to read and write, I shall not want to teach him to read music. Let us spare his brain the strain of excessive attention, and let us be in no hurry to turn his mind towards conventional signs. I grant you there seems to be a difficulty here, for if at first sight the knowledge of notes seems no more necessary for singing than the knowledge of letters for speaking, there is really this difference between them: When we speak, we are expressing our own thoughts; when we sing we are expressing the thoughts of others. Now in order to express them we must read them.
But at first we can listen to them instead of reading them, and a song is better learnt by ear than by eye. Moreover, to learn music thoroughly we must make songs as well as sing them, and the two processes must be studied together, or we shall never have any real knowledge of music. First give your young musician practice in very regular, well-cadenced phrases; then let him connect these phrases with the very simplest modulations; then show him their relation one to another by correct accent, which can be done by a fit choice of cadences and rests. On no account give him anything unusual, or anything that requires pathos or expression. A simple, tuneful air, always based on the common chords of the key, with its bass so clearly indicated that it is easily felt and accompanied, for to train his voice and ear he should always sing with the harpsichord.
We articulate the notes we sing the better to distinguish them; hence the custom of sol-faing with certain syllables. To tell the keys one from another they must have names and fixed intervals; hence the names of the intervals, and also the letters of the alphabet attached to the keys of the clavier and the notes of the scale. C and A indicate fixed sounds, invariable and always rendered by the same keys; Ut and La are different. Ut is always the dominant of a major scale, or the leading-note of a minor scale. La is always the dominant of a minor scale or the sixth of a major scale. Thus the letters indicate fixed terms in our system of music, and the syllables indicate terms homologous to the similar relations in different keys. The letters show the keys on the piano, and the syllables the degrees in the scale. French musicians have made a strange muddle of this. They have confused the meaning of the syllables with that of the letters, and while they have unnecessarily given us two sets of symbols for the keys of the piano, they have left none for the chords of the scales; so that Ut and C are always the same for them; this is not and ought not to be; if so, what is the use of C? Their method of sol-faing is, therefore, extremely and needlessly difficult, neither does it give any clear idea to the mind; since, by this method, Ut and Me, for example, may mean either a major third, a minor third, an augmented third, or a diminished third. What a strange thing that the country which produces the finest books about music should be the very country where it is hardest to learn music!
Let us adopt a simpler and clearer plan with our pupil; let him have only two scales whose relations remain unchanged, and indicated by the same symbols. Whether he sings or plays, let him learn to fix his scale on one of the twelve tones which may serve as a base, and whether he modulates in D, C, or G, let the close be always Ut or La, according to the scale. In this way he will understand what you mean, and the essential relations for correct singing and playing will always be present in his mind; his execution will be better and his progress quicker. There is nothing funnier than what the French call “natural sol-faing;” it consists in removing the real meaning of things and putting in their place other meanings which only distract us. There is nothing more natural than sol-faing by transposition, when the scale is transposed. But I have said enough, and more than enough, about music; teach it as you please, so long as it is nothing but play.
We are now thoroughly acquainted with the condition of foreign bodies in relation to our own, their weight, form, colour, density, size, distance, temperature, stability, or motion. We have learnt which of them to approach or avoid, how to set about overcoming their resistance or to resist them so as to prevent ourselves from injury; but this is not enough. Our own body is constantly wasting and as constantly requires to be renewed. Although we have the power of changing other substances into our own, our choice is not a matter of indifference. Everything is not food for man, and what may be food for him is not all equally suitable; it depends on his racial constitution, the country he lives in, his individual temperament, and the way of living which his condition demands.
If we had to wait till experience taught us to know and choose fit food for ourselves, we should die of hunger or poison; but a kindly providence which has made pleasure the means of self-preservation to sentient beings teaches us through our palate what is suitable for our stomach. In a state of nature there is no better doctor than a man’s own appetite, and no doubt in a state of nature man could find the most palateable food the most wholesome.
Nor is this all. Our Maker provides, not only for those needs he has created, but for those we create for ourselves; and it is to keep the balance between our wants and our needs that he has caused our tastes to change and vary with our way of living. The further we are from a state of nature, the more we lose our natural tastes; or rather, habit becomes a second nature, and so completely replaces our real nature, that we have lost all knowledge of it.
From this it follows that the most natural tastes should be the simplest, for those are more easily changed; but when they are sharpened and stimulated by our fancies they assume a form which is incapable of modification. The man who so far has not adapted himself to one country can learn the ways of any country whatsoever; but the man who has adopted the habits of one particular country can never shake them off.
This seems to be true of all our senses, especially of taste. Our first food is milk; we only become accustomed by degrees to strong flavours; at first we dislike them. Fruit, vegetables, herbs, and then fried meat without salt or seasoning, formed the feasts of primitive man. When the savage tastes wine for the first time, he makes a grimace and spits it out; and even among ourselves a man who has not tasted fermented liquors before twenty cannot get used to them; we should all be sober if we did not have wine when we were children. Indeed, the simpler our tastes are, the more general they are; made dishes are those most frequently disliked. Did you ever meet with any one who disliked bread or water? Here is the finger of nature, this then is our rule. Preserve the child’s primitive tastes as long as possible; let his food be plain and simple, let strong flavours be unknown to his palate, and do not let his diet be too uniform.
I am not asking, for the present, whether this way of living is healthier or no; that is not what I have in view. It is enough for me to know that my choice is more in accordance with nature, and that it can be more readily adapted to other conditions. In my opinion, those who say children should be accustomed to the food they will have when they are grown up are mistaken. Why should their food be the same when their way of living is so different? A man worn out by labour, anxiety, and pain needs tasty foods to give fresh vigour to his brain; a child fresh from his games, a child whose body is growing, needs plentiful food which will supply more chyle. Moreover the grown man has already a settled profession, occupation, and home, but who can tell what Fate holds in store for the child? Let us not give him so fixed a bent in any direction that he cannot change it if required without hardship. Do not bring him up so that he would die of hunger in a foreign land if he does not take a French cook about with him; do not let him say at some future time that France is the only country where the food is fit to eat. By the way, that is a strange way of praising one’s country. On the other hand, I myself should say that the French are the only people who do not know what good food is, since they require such a special art to make their dishes eatable.
Of all our different senses, we are usually most affected by taste. Thus it concerns us more nearly to judge aright of what will actually become part of ourselves, than of that which will merely form part of our environment. Many things are matters of indifference to touch, hearing, and sight; but taste is affected by almost everything. Moreover the activity of this sense is wholly physical and material; of all the senses, it alone makes no appeal to the imagination, or at least, imagination plays a smaller part in its sensations; while imitation and imagination often bring morality into the impressions of the other senses. Thus, speaking generally, soft and pleasure-loving minds, passionate and truly sensitive dispositions, which are easily stirred by the other senses, are usually indifferent to this. From this very fact, which apparently places taste below our other senses and makes our inclination towards it the more despicable, I draw just the opposite conclusion—that the best way to lead children is by the mouth. Greediness is a better motive than vanity; for the former is a natural appetite directly dependent on the senses, while the latter is the outcome of convention, it is the slave of human caprice and liable to every kind of abuse. Believe me the child will cease to care about his food only too soon, and when his heart is too busy, his palate will be idle. When he is grown up greediness will be expelled by a host of stronger passions, while vanity will only be stimulated by them; for this latter passion feeds upon the rest till at length they are all swallowed up in it. I have sometimes studied those men who pay great attention to good eating, men whose first waking thought is—What shall we have to eat to-day? men who describe their dinner with as much detail as Polybius describes a combat. I have found these so-called men were only children of forty, without strength or vigour—fruges consumere nati. Gluttony is the vice of feeble minds. The gourmand has his brains in his palate, he can do nothing but eat; he is so stupid and incapable that the table is the only place for him, and dishes are the only things he knows anything about. Let us leave him to this business without regret; it is better for him and for us.
It is a small mind that fears lest greediness should take root in the child who is fit for something better. The child thinks of nothing but his food, the youth pays no heed to it at all; every kind of food is good, and we have other things to attend to. Yet I would not have you use the low motive unwisely. I would not have you trust to dainties rather than to the honour which is the reward of a good deed. But childhood is, or ought to be, a time of play and merry sports, and I do not see why the rewards of purely bodily exercises should not be material and sensible rewards. If a little lad in Majorca sees a basket on the tree-top and brings it down with his sling, is it not fair that he should get something by this, and a good breakfast should repair the strength spent in getting it. If a young Spartan, facing the risk of a hundred stripes, slips skilfully into the kitchen, and steals a live fox-cub, carries it off in his garment, and is scratched, bitten till the blood comes, and for shame lest he should be caught the child allows his bowels to be torn out without a movement or a cry, is it not fair that he should keep his spoils, that he should eat his prey after it has eaten him? A good meal should never be a reward; but why should it not be sometimes the result of efforts made to get it. Emile does not consider the cake I put on the stone as a reward for good running; he knows that the only way to get the cake is to get there first.
This does not contradict my previous rules about simple food; for to tempt a child’s appetite you need not stimulate it, you need only satisfy it; and the commonest things will do this if you do not attempt to refine children’s taste. Their perpetual hunger, the result of their need for growth, will be the best sauce. Fruit, milk, a piece of cake just a little better than ordinary bread, and above all the art of dispensing these things prudently, by these means you may lead a host of children to the world’s end, without on the one hand giving them a taste for strong flavours, nor on the other hand letting them get tired of their food.
The indifference of children towards meat is one proof that the taste for meat is unnatural; their preference is for vegetable foods, such as milk, pastry, fruit, etc. Beware of changing this natural taste and making children flesh-eaters, if not for their health’s sake, for the sake of their character; for how can one explain away the fact that great meat-eaters are usually fiercer and more cruel than other men; this has been recognised at all times and in all places. The English are noted for their cruelty1 while the Gaures2 are the gentlest of men. All savages are cruel, and it is not their customs that tend in this direction; their cruelty is the result of their food. They go to war as to the chase, and treat men as they would treat bears. Indeed in England butchers are not allowed to give evidence in a court of law,3 no more can surgeons. Great criminals prepare themselves for murder by drinking blood. Homer makes his flesh-eating Cyclops a terrible man, while his Lotus-eaters are so delightful that those who went to trade with them forgot even their own country to dwell among them.
“You ask me,” said Plutarch, “why Pythagoras abstained from eating the flesh of beasts, but I ask you, what courage must have been needed by the first man who raised to his lips the flesh of the slain, who broke with his teeth the bones of a dying beast, who had dead bodies, corpses, placed before him and swallowed down limbs which a few moments ago were bleating, bellowing, walking, and seeing? How could his hand plunge the knife into the heart of a sentient creature, how could his eyes look on murder, how could he behold a poor helpless animal bled to death, scorched, and dismembered? how can he bear the sight of this quivering flesh? does not the very smell of it turn his stomach? is he not repelled, disgusted, horror-struck, when he has to handle the blood from these wounds, and to cleanse his fingers from the dark and viscous bloodstains?
“Thus must he have felt the first time he did despite to nature and made this horrible meal; the first time he hungered for the living creature, and desired to feed upon the beast which was still grazing; when he bade them slay, dismember, and cut up the sheep which licked his hands. It is those who began these cruel feasts, not those who abandon them, who should cause surprise, and there were excuses for those primitive men, excuses which we have not, and the absence of such excuses multiplies our barbarity a hundredfold.
“ ‘Mortals, beloved of the gods,’ says this primitive man, ‘compare our times with yours; see how happy you are, and how wretched were we. The earth, newly formed, the air heavy with moisture, were not yet subjected to the rule of the seasons. Three-fourths of the surface of the globe was flooded by the ever-shifting channels of rivers uncertain of their course, and covered with pools, lakes, and bottomless morasses. The remaining quarter was covered with woods and barren forests. The earth yielded no good fruit, we had no instruments of tillage, we did not even know the use of them, and the time of harvest never came for those who had sown nothing. Thus hunger was always in our midst. In winter, mosses and the bark of trees were our common food. A few green roots of dogs-bit or heather were a feast, and when men found beech-mast, nuts, or acorns, they danced for joy round the beech or oak, to the sound of some rude song, while they called the earth their mother and their nurse. This was their only festival, their only sport; all the rest of man’s life was spent in sorrow, pain, and hunger.
“ ‘At length, when the bare and naked earth no longer offered us any food, we were compelled in self-defence to outrage nature, and to feed upon our companions in distress, rather than perish with them. But you, oh, cruel men! who forces you to shed blood? Behold the wealth of good things about you, the fruits yielded by the earth, the wealth of field and vineyard; the animals give their milk for your drink and their fleece for your clothing. What more do you ask? What madness compels you to commit such murders, when you have already more than you can eat or drink? Why do you slander our mother earth, and accuse her of denying you food? Why do you sin against Ceres, the inventor of the sacred laws, and against the gracious Bacchus, the comforter of man, as if their lavish gifts were not enough to preserve mankind? Have you the heart to mingle their sweet fruits with the bones upon your table, to eat with the milk the blood of the beasts which gave it? The lions and panthers, wild beasts as you call them, are driven to follow their natural instinct, and they kill other beasts that they may live. But, a hundredfold fiercer than they, you fight against your instincts without cause, and abandon yourselves to the most cruel pleasures. The animals you eat are not those who devour others; you do not eat the carnivorous beasts, you take them as your pattern. You only hunger for the sweet and gentle creatures which harm no one, which follow you, serve you, and are devoured by you as the reward of their service.
“ ‘O unnatural murderer! if you persist in the assertion that nature has made you to devour your fellow-creatures, beings of flesh and blood, living and feeling like yourself, stifle if you can that horror with which nature makes you regard these horrible feasts; slay the animals yourself, slay them, I say, with your own hands, without knife or mallet; tear them with your nails like the lion and the bear, take this ox and rend him in pieces, plunge your claws into his hide; eat this lamb while it is yet alive, devour its warm flesh, drink its soul with its blood. You shudder! you dare not feel the living throbbing flesh between your teeth? Ruthless man; you begin by slaying the animal and then you devour it, as if to slay it twice. It is not enough. You turn against the dead flesh, it revolts you, it must be transformed by fire, boiled and roasted, seasoned and disguised with drugs; you must have butchers, cooks, turnspits, men who will rid the murder of its horrors, who will dress the dead bodies so that the taste deceived by these disguises will not reject what is strange to it, and will feast on corpses, the very sight of which would sicken you.’ ”
Although this quotation is irrelevant, I cannot resist the temptation to transcribe it, and I think few of my readers will resent it.
In conclusion, whatever food you give your children, provided you accustom them to nothing but plain and simple dishes, let them eat and run and play as much as they want; you may be sure they will never eat too much and will never have indigestion; but if you keep them hungry half their time, when they do contrive to evade your vigilance, they will take advantage of it as far as they can; they will eat till they are sick, they will gorge themselves till they can eat no more. Our appetite is only excessive because we try to impose on it rules other than those of nature, opposing, controlling, prescribing, adding, or substracting; the scales are always in our hands, but the scales are the measure of our caprices not of our stomachs. I return to my usual illustration; among peasants the cupboard and the apple-loft are always left open, and indigestion is unknown alike to children and grown-up people.
If, however, it happened that a child were too great an eater, though, under my system, I think it is impossible, he is so easily distracted by his favourite games that one might easily starve him without his knowing it. How is it that teachers have failed to use such a safe and easy weapon. Herodotus records that the Lydians,1 under the pressure of great scarcity, decided to invent sports and other amusements with which to cheat their hunger, and they passed whole days without thought of food. Your learned teachers may have read this passage time after time without seeing how it might be applied to children. One of these teachers will probably tell me that a child does not like to leave his dinner for his lessons. You are right, sir—I was not thinking of that sort of sport.
The sense of smell is to taste what sight is to touch; it goes before it and gives it warning that it will be affected by this or that substance; and it inclines it to seek or shun this experience according to the impressions received beforehand. I have been told that savages receive impressions quite different from ours, and that they have quite different ideas with regard to pleasant or unpleasant odours. I can well believe it. Odours alone are slight sensations; they affect the imgination rather than the senses, and they work mainly through the anticipations they arouse. This being so, and the tastes of savages being so unlike the taste of civilised men, they should lead them to form very different ideas with regard to flavours and therefore with regard to the odouts which announce them. A Tartar must enjoy the smell of a haunch of putrid horseflesh, much as a sportsman enjoys a very high partridge.
Our idle sensations, such as the scents wafted from the flower beds, must pass unnoticed among men who walk too much to care for strolling in a garden, and do not work enough to find pleasure in repose. Hungry men would find little pleasure in scents which did not proclaim the approach of food.
Smell is the sense of the imagination; as it gives tone to the nerves it must have a great effect on the brain; that is why it revives us for the time, but eventually causes exhaustion. Its effects on love are pretty generally recognised. The sweet perfumes of a dressing-room are not so slight a snare as you may fancy them, and I hardly know whether to congratulate or condole with that wise and somewhat insensible person whose senses are never stirred by the scent of the flowers his mistress wears in her bosom.
Hence the sense of smell should not be over-active in early childhood; the imagination, as yet unstirred by changing passions, is scarcely susceptible of emotion, and we have not enough experience to discern beforehand from one sense the promise of another. This view is confirmed by observation, and it is certain that the sense of smell is dull and almost blunted in most children. Not that their sensations are less acute than those of grown-up people, but that there is no idea associated with them; they do not easily experience pleasure or pain, and are not flattered or hurt as we are. Without going beyond my system, and without recourse to comparative anatomy, I think we can easily see why women are generally fonder of perfumes than men.
It is said that from early childhood the Redskins of Canada train their sense of smell to such a degree of subtlety that, although they have dogs, they do not condescend to use them in hunting—they are their own dogs. Indeed I believe that if children were trained to scent their dinner as a dog scents game, their sense of smell might be nearly as perfect; but I see no very real advantage to be derived from this sense, except by teaching the child to observe the relation between smell and taste. Nature has taken care to compel us to learn these relations. She has made the exercise of the latter sense practically inseparable from that of the former, by placing their organs close together, and by providing, in the mouth, a direct pathway between them, so that we taste nothing without smelling it too. Only I would not have these natural relations disturbed in order to deceive the child, e.g., to conceal the taste of medicine with an aromatic odour, for the discord between the senses is too great for deception, the more active sense overpowers the other, the medicine is just as distasteful, and this disagreeable association extends to every sensation experienced at the time; so the slightest of these sensations recalls the rest to his imagination and a very pleasant perfume is for him only a nasty smell; thus our foolish precautions increase the sum total of his unpleasant sensations at the cost of his pleasant sensations.
In the following books I have still to speak of the training of a sort of sixth sense, called common-sense, not so much because it is common to all men, but because it results from the well-regulated use of the other five, and teaches the nature of things by the sum-total of their external aspects. So this sixth sense has no special organ, it has its seat in the brain, and its sensations which are purely internal are called percepts or ideas. The number of these ideas is the measure of our knowledge; exactness of thought depends on their clearness and precision; the art of comparing them one with another is called human reason. Thus what I call the reasoning of the senses, or the reasoning of the child, consists in the formation of simple ideas through the associated experience of several sensations; what I call the reasoning of the intellect, consists in the formation of complex ideas through the association of several simple ideas.
If my method is indeed that of nature, and if I am not mistaken in the application of that method, we have led our pupil through the region of sensation to the bounds of the child’s reasoning; the first step we take beyond these bounds must be the step of a man. But before we make this fresh advance, let us glance back for a moment at the path we have hitherto followed. Every age, every station in life, has a perfection, a ripeness, of its own. We have often heard the phrase “a grown man;” but we will consider “a grown child.” This will be a new experience and none the less pleasing.
The life of finite creatures is so poor and narrow that the mere sight of what is arouses no emotion. It is fancy which decks reality, and if imagination does not lend its charm to that which touches our senses, our barren pleasure is confined to the senses alone, while the heart remains cold. The earth adorned with the treasures of autumn displays a wealth of colour which the eye admires; but this admiration fails to move us, it springs rather from thought than from feeling. In spring the country is almost bare and leafless, the trees give no shade, the grass has hardly begun to grow, yet the heart is touched by the sight. In this new birth of nature, we feel the revival of our own life; the memories of past pleasures surround us; tears of delight, those companions of pleasure ever ready to accompany a pleasing sentiment, tremble on our eyelids. Animated, lively, and delightful though the vintage may be, we behold it without a tear.
And why is this? Because imagination adds to the sight of spring the image of the seasons which are yet to come; the eye sees the tender shoot, the mind’s eye beholds its flowers, fruit, and foliage, and even the mysteries they may conceal. It blends successive stages into one moment’s experience; we see things, not so much as they will be, but as we would have them be, for imagination has only to take her choice. In autumn, on the other hand, we only behold the present; if we wish to look forward to spring, winter bars the way, and our shivering imagination dies away among its frost and snow.
This is the source of the charm we find in beholding the beauties of childhood, rather than the perfection of manhood. When do we really delight in beholding a man? When the memory of his deeds leads us to look back over his life and his youth is renewed in our eyes. If we are reduced to viewing him as he is, or to picturing him as he will be in old age, the thought of declining years destroys all our pleasure. There is no pleasure in seeing a man hastening to his grave; the image of death makes all hideous.
But when I think of a child of ten or twelve, strong, healthy, well-grown for his age, only pleasant thoughts are called up, whether of the present or the future. I see him keen, eager, and full of life, free from gnawing cares and painful forebodings, absorbed in this present state, and delighting in a fullness of life which seems to extend beyond himself. I look forward to a time when he will use his daily increasing sense, intelligence and vigour, those growing powers of which he continually gives fresh proof. I watch the child with delight, I picture to myself the man with even greater pleasure. His eager life seems to stir my own pulses, I seem to live his life and in his vigour I renew my own.
The hour strikes, the scene is changed. All of a sudden his eye grows dim, his mirth has fled. Farewell mirth, farewell untrammelled sports in which he delighted. A stern, angry man takes him by the hand, saying gravely, “Come with me, sir,” and he is led away. As they are entering the room, I catch a glimpse of books. Books, what dull food for a child of his age! The poor child allows himself to be dragged away; he casts a sorrowful look on all about him, and departs in silence, his eyes swollen with the tears he dare not shed, and his heart bursting with the sighs he dare not utter.
You who have no such cause for fear, you for whom no period of life is a time of weariness and tedium, you who welcome days without care and nights without impatience, you who only reckon time by your pleasures, come, my happy kindly pupil, and console us for the departure of that miserable creature. Come! Here he is and at his approach I feel a thrill of delight which I see he shares. It is his friend, his comrade, who meets him; when he sees me he knows very well that he will not be long without amusement; we are never dependent on each other, but we are always on good terms, and we are never so happy as when together.
His face, his bearing, his expression, speak of confidence and contentment; health shines in his countenance, his firm step speaks of strength; his colour, delicate but not sickly, has nothing of softness or effeminacy. Sun and wind have already set the honourable stamp of manhood on his countenance; his rounded muscles already begin to show some signs of growing individuality; his eyes, as yet unlighted by the flame of feeling, have at least all their native calm. They have not been darkened by prolonged sorrow, nor are his cheeks furrowed by ceaseless tears. Behold in his quick and certain movements the natural vigour of his age and the confidence of independence. His manner is free and open, but without a trace of insolence or vanity; his head which has not been bent over books does not fall upon his breast; there is no need to say, “Hold your head up,” he will neither hang his head for shame or fear.
Make room for him, gentlemen, in your midst; question him boldly; have no fear of importunity, chatter, or impertinent questions. You need not be afraid that he will take possession of you and expect you to devote yourself entirely to him, so that you cannot get rid of him.
Neither need you look for compliments from him; nor will he tell you what I have taught him to say; expect nothing from him but the plain, simple truth, without addition or ornament and without vanity. He will tell you the wrong things he has done and thought as readily as the right, without troubling himself in the least as to the effect of his words upon you; he will use speech with all the simplicity of its first beginnings.
We love to augur well of our children, and we are continually regretting the flood of folly which overwhelms the hopes we would fain have rested on some chance phrase. If my scholar rarely gives me cause for such prophecies, neither will he give me cause for such regrets, for he never says a useless word, and does not exhaust himself by chattering when he knows there is no one to listen to him. His ideas are few but precise, he knows nothing by rote but much by experience. If he reads our books worse than other children, he reads far better in the book of nature; his thoughts are not in his tongue but in his brain; he has less memory and more judgment; he can only speak one language, but he understands what he is saying, and if his speech is not so good as that of other children his deeds are better.
He does not know the meaning of habit, routine, and custom; what he did yesterday has no control over what he is doing1 to-day; he follows no rule, submits to no authority, copies no pattern, and only acts or speaks as he pleases. So do not expect set speeches or studied manners from him, but just the faithful expression of his thoughts and the conduct that springs from his inclinations.
You will find he has a few moral ideas concerning his present state and none concerning manhood; what use could he make of them, for the child is not, as yet, an active member of society. Speak to him of freedom, of property, or even of what is usually done; he may understand you so far; he knows why his things are his own, and why other things are not his, and nothing more. Speak to him of duty or obedience; he will not know what you are talking about; bid him do something and he will pay no attention; but say to him, “If you will give me this pleasure, I will repay it when required,” and he will hasten to give you satisfaction, for he asks nothing better than to extend his domain, to acquire rights over you, which will, he knows, be respected. Maybe he is not sorry to have a place of his own, to be reckoned of some account; but if he has formed this latter idea, he has already left the realms of nature, and you have failed to bar the gates of vanity.
For his own part, should he need help, he will ask it readily of the first person he meets. He will ask it of a king as readily as of his servant; all men are equals in his eyes. From his way of asking you will see he knows you owe him nothing, that he is asking a favour. He knows too that humanity moves you to grant this favour; his words are few and simple. His voice, his look, his gesture are those of a being equally familiar with compliance and refusal. It is neither the crawling, servile submission of the slave, nor the imperious tone of the master, it is a modest confidence in mankind; it is the noble and touching gentleness of a creature, free, yet sensitive and feeble, who asks aid of a being, free, but strong and kindly. If you grant his request he will not thank you, but he will feel he has incurred a debt. If you refuse he will neither complain nor insist; he knows it is useless; he will not say, “They refused to help me,” but “It was impossible,” and as I have already said, we do not rebel against necessity when once we have perceived it.
Leave him to himself and watch his actions without speaking; consider what he is doing and how he sets about it. He does not require to convince himself that he is free, so he never acts thoughtlessly and merely to show that he can do what he likes; does he not know that he is always his own master? He is quick, alert, and ready; his movements are eager as befits his age, but you will not find one which has no end in view. Whatever he wants, he will never attempt what is beyond his powers, for he has learnt by experience what those powers are; his means will always be adapted to the end in view, and he will rarely attempt anything without the certainty of success; his eye is keen and true; he will not be so stupid as to go and ask other people about what he sees; he will examine it on his own account, and before he asks he will try every means at his disposal to discover what he wants to know for himself. If he lights upon some unexpected difficulty, he will be less upset than others; if there is danger he will be less afraid. His imagination is still asleep and nothing has been done to arouse it; he only sees what is really there, and rates the danger at its true worth; so he never loses his head. He does not rebel against necessity, her hand is too heavy upon him; he has borne her yoke all his life long, he is well used to it; he is always ready for anything.
Work or play are all one to him, his games are his work; he knows no difference. He brings to everything the cheerfulness of interest, the charm of freedom, and he shows the bent of his own mind and the extent of his knowledge. Is there anything better worth seeing, anything more touching or more delightful, than a pretty child, with merry, cheerful glance, easy contented manner, open smiling countenance, playing at the most important things, or working at the lightest amusements?
Would you now judge him by comparison? Set him among other children and leave him to himself. You will soon see which has made most progress, which comes nearer to the perfection of childhood. Among all the children in the town there is none more skilful and none so strong. Among young peasants he is their equal in strength and their superior in skill. In everything within a child’s grasp he judges, reasons, and shows a forethought beyond the rest. Is it a matter of action, running, jumping, or shifting things, raising weights or estimating distance, inventing games, carrying off prizes; you might say, “Nature obeys his word,” so easily does he bend all things to his will. He is made to lead, to rule his fellows; talent and experience take the place of right and authority. In any garb, under any name, he will still be first, everywhere he will rule the rest, they will always feel his superiority, he will be master without knowing it, and they will serve him unawares.
He has reached the perfection of childhood; he has lived the life of a child; his progress has not been bought at the price of his happiness, he has gained both. While he has acquired all the wisdom of a child, he has been as free and happy as his health permits. If the Reaper Death should cut him off and rob us of our hopes, we need not bewail alike his life and death, we shall not have the added grief of knowing that we caused him pain; we will say, “His childhood, at least, was happy; we have robbed him of nothing that nature gave him.”
The chief drawback to this early education is that it is only appreciated by the wise; to vulgar eyes the child so carefully educated is nothing but a rough little boy. A tutor thinks rather of the advantage to himself than to his pupil; he makes a point of showing that there has been no time wasted; he provides his pupil with goods which can be readily displayed in the shop window, accomplishments which can be shown off at will; no matter whether they are useful, provided they are easily seen. Without choice or discrimination he loads his memory with a pack of rubbish. If the child is to be examined he is set to display his wares; he spreads them out, satisfies those who behold them, packs up his bundle and goes his way. My pupil is poorer, he has no bundle to display, he has only himself to show. Now neither child nor man can be read at a glance. Where are the observers who can at once discern the characteristics of this child? There are such people, but they are few and far between; among a thousand fathers you will scarcely find one.
Too many questions are tedious and revolting to most of us and especially to children. After a few minutes their attention flags, they cease to listen to your everlasting questions and reply at random. This way of testing them is pedantic and useless; a chance word will often show their sense and intelligence better than much talking, but take care that the answer is neither a matter of chance nor yet learnt by heart. A man must needs have a good judgment if he is to estimate the judgment of a child.
I heard the late Lord Hyde tell the following story about one of his friends. He had returned from Italy after a three years’ absence, and was anxious to test the progress of his son, a child of nine or ten. One evening he took a walk with the child and his tutor across a level space where the schoolboys were flying their kites. As they went, the father said to his son, “Where is the kite that casts this shadow?” Without hesitating and without glancing upwards the child replied, “Over the high road.” “And indeed,” said Lord Hyde, “the high road was between us and the sun.” At these words, the father kissed his child, and having finished his examination he departed. The next day he sent the tutor the papers settling an annuity on him in addition to his salary.
What a father! and what a promising child! The question is exactly adapted to the child’s age, the answer is perfectly simple; but see what precision it implies in the child’s judgment. Thus did the pupil of Aristotle master the famous steed which no squire had ever been able to tame.
THE whole course of man’s life up to adolescence is a period of weakness; yet there comes a time during these early years when the child’s strength overtakes the demands upon it, when the growing creature, though absolutely weak, is relatively strong. His needs are not fully developed and his present strength is more than enough for them. He would be a very feeble man, but he is a strong child.
What is the cause of man’s weakness? It is to be found in the disproportion between his strength and his needs. It is our passions that make us weak, for our natural strength is not enough for their satisfaction. To limit our desires comes to the same thing, therefore, as to increase our strength. When we can do more than we want, we have strength enough and to spare, we are really strong. This is the third stage of childhood, the stage with which I am about to deal. I still speak of childhood for want of a better word; for our scholar is approaching adolescence, though he has not yet reached the age of puberty.
About twelve or thirteen the child’s strength increases far more rapidly than his needs. The strongest and fiercest of the passions is still unknown, his physical development is still imperfect and seems to await the call of the will. He is scarcely aware of extremes of heat and cold and braves them with impunity. He needs no coat, his blood is warm; no spices, hunger is his sauce, no food comes amiss at this age; if he is sleepy he stretches himself on the ground and goes to sleep; he finds all he needs within his reach; he is not tormented by any imaginary wants; he cares nothing what others think; his desires are not beyond his grasp; not only is he self-sufficing, but for the first and last time in his life he has more strength than he needs.
I know beforehand what you will say. You will not assert that the child has more needs than I attribute to him, but you will deny his strength. You forget that I am speaking of my own pupil, not of those puppets who walk with difficulty from one room to another, who toil indoors and carry bundles of paper. Manly strength, you say, appears only with manhood; the vital spirits, distilled in their proper vessels and spreading through the whole body, can alone make the muscles firm, sensitive, tense, and springy, can alone cause real strength. This is the philosophy of the study; I appeal to that of experience. In the country districts, I see big lads hoeing, digging, guiding the plough, filling the wine-cask, driving the cart, like their fathers; you would take them for grown men if their voices did not betray them. Even in our towns, iron-workers’, tool makers’, and blacksmiths’ lads are almost as strong as their masters and would be scarcely less skilful had their training begun earlier. If there is a difference, and I do not deny that there is, it is, I repeat, much less than the difference between the stormy passions of the man and the few wants of the child. Moreover, it is not merely a question of bodily strength, but more especially of strength of mind, which reinforces and directs the bodily strength.
This interval in which the strength of the individual is in excess of his wants is, as I have said, relatively though not absolutely the time of greatest strength. It is the most precious time in his life; it comes but once; it is very short, all too short, as you will see when you consider the importance of using it aright.
He has, therefore, a surplus of strength and capacity which he will never have again. What use shall he make of it? He will strive to use it in tasks which will help at need. He will, so to speak, cast his present surplus into the storehouse of the future; the vigorous child will make provision for the feeble man; but he will not store his goods where thieves may break in, nor in barns which are not his own. To store them aright, they must be in the hands and the head, they must be stored within himself. This is the time for work, instruction, and inquiry. And note that this is no arbitrary choice of mine, it is the way of nature herself.
Human intelligence is finite, and not only can no man know everything, he cannot even acquire all the scanty knowledge of others. Since the contrary of every false proposition is a truth, there are as many truths as falsehoods. We must, therefore, choose what to teach as well as when to teach it. Some of the information within our reach is false, some is useless, some merely serves to puff up its possessor. The small store which really contributes to our welfare alone deserves the study of a wise man, and therefore of a child whom one would have wise. He must know not merely what is, but what is useful.
From this small stock we must also deduct those truths which require a full grown mind for their understanding, those which suppose a knowledge of man’s relations to his fellow-men—a knowledge which no child can acquire; these things, although in themselves true, lead an inexperienced mind into mistakes with regard to other matters.
We are now confined to a circle, small indeed compared with the whole of human thought, but this circle is still a vast sphere when measured by the child’s mind. Dark places of the human understanding, what rash hand shall dare to raise your veil? What pitfalls does our so-called science prepare for the miserable child. Would you guide him along this dangerous path and draw the veil from the face of nature? Stay your hand. First make sure that neither he nor you will become dizzy. Beware of the specious charms of error and the intoxicating fumes of pride. Keep this truth ever before you—Ignorance never did any one any harm, error alone is fatal, and we do not lose our way through ignorance but through self-confidence.
His progress in geometry may serve as a test and a true measure of the growth of his intelligence, but as soon as he can distinguish between what is useful and what is useless, much skill and discretion are required to lead him towards theoretical studies. For example, would you have him find a mean proportional between two lines, contrive that he should require to find a square equal to a given rectangle; if two mean proportionals are required, you must first contrive to interest him in the doubling of the cube. See how we are gradually approaching the moral ideas which distinguish between good and evil. Hitherto we have known no law but necessity, now we are considering what is useful; we shall soon come to what is fitting and right.
Man’s diverse powers are stirred by the same instinct. The bodily activity, which seeks an outlet for its energies, is succeeded by the mental activity which seeks for knowledge. Children are first restless, then curious; and this curiosity, rightly directed, is the means of development for the age with which we are dealing. Always distinguish between natural and acquired tendencies. There is a zeal for learning which has no other foundation than a wish to appear learned, and there is another which springs from man’s natural curiosity about all things far or near which may affect himself. The innate desire for comfort and the impossibility of its complete satisfaction impel him to the endless search for fresh means of contributing to its satisfaction. This is the first principle of curiosity; a principle natural to the human heart, though its growth is proportional to the development of our feeling and knowledge. If a man of science were left on a desert island with his books and instruments and knowing that he must spend the rest of his life there, he would scarcely trouble himself about the solar system, the laws of attraction, or the differential calculus. He might never even open a book again; but he would never rest till he had explored the furthest corner of his island, however large it might be. Let us therefore omit from our early studies such knowledge as has no natural attraction for us, and confine ourselves to such things as instinct impels us to study.
Our island is this earth; and the most striking object we behold is the sun. As soon as we pass beyond our immediate surroundings, one or both of these must meet our eye. Thus the philosophy of most savage races is mainly directed to imaginary divisions of the earth or to the divinity of the sun.
What a sudden change you will say. Just now we were concerned with what touches ourselves, with our immediate environment, and all at once we are exploring the round world and leaping to the bounds of the universe. This change is the result of our growing strength and of the natural bent of the mind. While we were weak and feeble, self-preservation concentrated our attention on ourselves; now that we are strong and powerful, the desire for a wider sphere carries us beyond ourselves as far as our eyes can reach. But as the intellectual world is still unknown to us, our thoughts are bounded by the visible horizon, and our understanding only develops within the limits of our vision.
Let us transform our sensations into ideas, but do not let us jump all at once from the objects of sense to objects of thought. The latter are attained by means of the former. Let the senses be the only guide for the first workings of reason. No book but the world, no teaching but that of fact. The child who reads ceases to think, he only reads. He is acquiring words not knowledge.
Teach your scholar to observe the phenomena of nature; you will soon rouse his curiosity, but if you would have it grow, do not be in too great a hurry to satisfy this curiosity. Put the problems before him and let him solve them himself. Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learnt it for himself. Let him not be taught science, let him discover it. If ever you substitute authority for reason he will cease to reason; he will be a mere plaything of other people’s thoughts.
You wish to teach this child geography and you provide him with globes, spheres, and maps. What elaborate preparations! What is the use of all these symbols; why not begin by showing him the real thing so that he may at least know what you are talking about?
One fine evening we are walking in a suitable place where the wide horizon gives us a full view of the setting sun, and we note the objects which mark the place where it sets. Next morning we return to the same place for a breath of fresh air before sun-rise. We see the rays of light which announce the sun’s approach; the glow increases, the east seems afire, and long before the sun appears the light leads us to expect its return. Every moment you expect to see it. There it is at last! A shining point appears like a flash of lightning and soon fills the whole space; the veil of darkness rolls away, man perceives his dwelling place in fresh beauty. During the night the grass has assumed a fresher green; in the light of early dawn, and gilded by the first rays of the sun, it seems covered with a shining network of dew reflecting the light and colour. The birds raise their chorus of praise to greet the Father of life, not one of them is mute; their gentle warbling is softer than by day, it expresses the langour of a peaceful waking. All these produce an impression of freshness which seems to reach the very soul. It is a brief hour of enchantment which no man can resist; a sight so grand, so fair, so delicious, that none can behold it unmoved.
Fired with this enthusiasm, the master wishes to impart it to the child. He expects to rouse his emotion by drawing attention to his own. Mere folly! The splendour of nature lives in man’s heart; to be seen, it must be felt. The child sees the objects themselves, but does not perceive their relations, and cannot hear their harmony. It needs knowledge he has not yet acquired, feelings he has not yet experienced, to receive the complex impression which results from all these separate sensations. If he has not wandered over arid plains, if his feet have not been scorched by the burning sands of the desert, if he has not breathed the hot and oppressive air reflected from the glowing rocks, how shall he delight in the fresh air of a fine morning. The scent of flowers, the beauty of foliage, the moistness of the dew, the soft turf beneath his feet, how shall all these delight his senses. How shall the song of the birds arouse voluptuous emotion if love and pleasure are still unknown to him? How shall he behold with rapture the birth of this fair day, if his imagination cannot paint the joys it may bring in its track? How can he feel the beauty of nature, while the hand that formed it is unknown?
Never tell the child what he cannot understand: no descriptions, no eloquence, no figures of speech, no poetry. The time has not come for feeling or taste. Continue to be clear and cold; the time will come only too soon when you must adopt another tone.
Brought up in the spirit of our maxims, accustomed to make his own tools and not to appeal to others until he has tried and failed, he will examine everything he sees carefully and in silence. He thinks rather than questions. Be content, therefore, to show him things at a fit season; then, when you see that his curiosity is thoroughly aroused, put some brief question which will set him trying to discover the answer.
On the present occasion when you and he have carefully observed the rising sun, when you have called his attention to the mountains and other objects visible from the same spot, after he has chattered freely about them, keep quiet for a few minutes as if lost in thought and then say, “I think the sun set over there last night; it rose here this morning. How can that be?” Say no more; if he asks questions, do not answer them; talk of something else. Let him alone, and be sure he will think about it.
To train a child to be really attentive so that he may be really impressed by any truth of experience, he must spend anxious days before he discovers that truth. If he does not learn enough in this way, there is another way of drawing his attention to the matter. Turn the question about. If he does not know how the sun gets from the place where it sets to where it rises, he knows at least how it travels from sunrise to sunset, his eyes teach him that. Use the second question to throw light on the first; either your pupil is a regular dunce or the analogy is too clear to be missed. This is his first lesson in cosmography.
As we always advance slowly from one sensible idea to another, and as we give time enough to each for him to become really familiar with it before we go on to another, and lastly as we never force our scholar’s attention, we are still a long way from a knowledge of the course of the sun or the shape of the earth; but as all the apparent movements of the celestial bodies depend on the same principle, and the first observation leads on to all the rest, less effort is needed, though more time, to proceed from the diurnal revolution to the calculation of eclipses, than to get a thorough understanding of day and night.
Since the sun revolves round the earth it describes a circle, and every circle must have a centre; that we know already. This centre is invisible, it is in the middle of the earth, but we can mark out two opposite points on the earth’s surface which correspond to it. A skewer passed through the three points and prolonged to the sky at either end would represent the earth’s axis and the sun’s daily course. A round teetotum revolving on its point represents the sky turning on its axis, the two points of the teetotum are the two poles; the child will be delighted to find one of them, and I show him the tail of the Little bear. Here is a another game for the dark. Little by little we get to know the stars, and from this comes a wish to know the planets and observe the constellations.
We saw the sun rise at midsummer, we shall see it rise at Christmas or some other fine winter’s day; for you know we are no lie-a-beds and we enjoy the cold. I take care to make this second observation in the same place as the first, and if skilfully lead up to, one or other will certainly exclaim, “What a funny thing! The sun is not rising in the same place; here are our landmarks, but it is rising over there. So there is the summer east and the winter east, etc.” Young teacher, you are on the right track. These examples should show you how to teach the sphere without any difficulty, taking the earth for the earth and the sun for the sun.
As a general rule—never substitute the symbol for the thing signified, unless it is impossible to show the thing itself; for the child’s attention is so taken up with the symbol that he will forget what it signifies.
I consider the armillary sphere a clumsy disproportioned bit of apparatus. The confused circles and the strange figures described on it suggest witchcraft and frighten the child. The earth is too small, the circles too large and too numerous, some of them, the colures, for instance, are quite useless, and the thickness of the pasteboard gives them an appearance of solidity so that they are taken for circular masses having a real existence, and when you tell the child that these are imaginary circles, he does not know what he is looking at and is none the wiser.
We are unable to put ourselves in the child’s place, we fail to enter into his thoughts, we invest him with our own ideas, and while we are following our own chain of reasoning, we merely fill his head with errors and absurdities.
Should the method of studying science be analytic or synthetic? People dispute over this question, but it is not always necessary to choose between them. Sometimes the same experiments allow one to use both analysis and synthesis, and thus to guide the child by the method of instruction when he fancies he is only analysing. Then, by using both at once, each method confirms the results of the other. Starting from opposite ends, without thinking of following the same road, he will unexpectedly reach their meeting place and this will be a delightful surprise. For example, I would begin geography at both ends and add to the study of the earth’s revolution the measurement of its divisions, beginning at home. While the child is studying the sphere and is thus transported to the heavens, bring him back to the divisions of the globe and show him his own home.
His geography will begin with the town he lives in and his father’s country house, then the places between them, the rivers near them, and then the sun’s aspect and how to find one’s way by its aid. This is the meeting place. Let him make his own map, a very simple map, at first containing only two places; others may be added from time to time, as he is able to estimate their distance and position. You see at once what a good start we have given him by making his eye his compass.
No doubt he will require some guidance in spite of this, but very little, and that little without his knowing it. If he goes wrong let him alone, do not correct his mistakes; hold your tongue till he finds them out for himself and corrects them, or at most arrange something, as opportunity offers, which may show him his mistakes. If he never makes mistakes he will never learn anything thoroughly. Moreover, what he needs is not an exact knowledge of local topography, but how to find out for himself. No matter whether he carries maps in his head provided he understands what they mean, and has a clear idea of the art of making them. See what a difference there is already between the knowledge of your scholars and the ignorance of mine. They learn maps, he makes them. Here are fresh ornaments for his room.
Remember that this is the essential point in my method—Do not teach the child many things, but never to let him form inaccurate or confused ideas. I care not if he knows nothing provided he is not mistaken, and I only acquaint him with truths to guard him against the errors he might put in their place. Reason and judgment come slowly, prejudices flock to us in crowds, and from these he must be protected. But if you make science itself your object, you embark on an unfathomable and shoreless ocean, an ocean strewn with reefs from which you will never return. When I see a man in love with knowledge, yielding to its charms and flitting from one branch to another unable to stay his steps, he seems to me like a child gathering shells on the sea-shore, now picking them up, then throwing them aside for others which he sees beyond them, then taking them again, till overwhelmed by their number and unable to choose between them, he flings them all away and returns empty handed.
Time was long during early childhood; we only tried to pass our time for fear of using it ill; now it is the other way; we have not time enough for all that would be of use. The passions, remember, are drawing near, and when they knock at the door your scholar will have no ear for anything else. The peaceful age of intelligence is so short, it flies so swiftly, there is so much to be done, that it is madness to try to make your child learned. It is not your business to teach him the various sciences, but to give him a taste for them and methods of learning them when this taste is more mature. That is assuredly a fundamental principle of all good education.
This is also the time to train him gradually to prolonged attention to a given object; but this attention should never be the result of constraint, but of interest or desire; you must be very careful that it is not too much for his strength, and that it is not carried to the point of tedium. Watch him, therefore, and whatever happens, stop before he is tired, for it matters little what he learns; it does matter that he should do nothing against his will.
If he asks questions let your answers be enough to whet his curiosity but not enough to satisfy it; above all, when you find him talking at random and overwhelming you with silly questions instead of asking for information, at once refuse to answer; for it is clear that he no longer cares about the matter in hand, but wants to make you a slave to his questions. Consider his motives rather than his words. This warning, which was scarcely needed before, becomes of supreme importance when the child begins to reason.
There is a series of abstract truths by means of which all the sciences are related to common principles and are developed each in its turn. This relationship is the method of the philosophers. We are not concerned with it at present. There is quite another method by which every concrete example suggests another and always points to the next in the series. This succession, which stimulates the curiosity and so arouses the attention required by every object in turn, is the order followed by most men, and it is the right order for all children. To take our bearings so as to make our maps we must find meridians. Two points of intersection between the equal shadows morning and evening supply an excellent meridian for a thirteen-year-old astronomer. But these meridians disappear, it takes time to trace them, and you are obliged to work in one place. So much trouble and attention will at last become irksome. We foresaw this and are ready for it.
Again I must enter into minute and detailed explanations. I hear my readers murmur, but I am prepared to meet their disapproval; I will not sacrifice the most important part of this book to your impatience. You may think me as long-winded as you please; I have my own opinion as to your complaints.
Long ago my pupil and I remarked that some substances such as amber, glass, and wax, when well rubbed, attracted straws, while others did not. We accidentally discover a substance which has a more unusual property, that of attracting filings or other small particles of iron from a distance and without rubbing. How much time do we devote to this game to the exclusion of everything else! At last we discover that this property is communicated to the iron itself, which is, so to speak, endowed with life. We go to the fair one day1 and a conjuror has a wax duck floating in a basin of water, and he makes it follow a bit of bread. We are greatly surprised, but we do not call him a wizard, never having heard of such persons. As we are continually observing effects whose causes are unknown to us, we are in no hurry to make up our minds, and we remain in ignorance till we find an opportunity of learning.
When we get home we discuss the duck till we try to imitate it. We take a needle thoroughly magnetised, we imbed it in white wax, shaped as far as possible like a duck, with the needle running through the body, so that its eye forms the beak. We put the duck in water and put the end of a key near its beak, and you will readily understand our delight when we find that our duck follows the key just as the duck at the fair followed the bit of bread. Another time we may note the direction assumed by the duck when left in the basin; for the present we are wholly occupied with our work and we want nothing more.
The same evening we return to the fair with some bread specially prepared in our pockets, and as soon as the conjuror has performed his trick, my little doctor, who can scarcely sit still, exclaims, “The trick is quite easy; I can do it myself.” “Do it then.” He at once takes the bread with a bit of iron hidden in it from his pocket; his heart throbs as he approaches the table and holds out the bread, his hand trembles with excitement. The duck approaches and follows his hand. The child cries out and jumps for joy. The applause, the shouts of the crowd, are too much for him, he is beside himself. The conjuror, though disappointed, embraces him, congratulates him, begs the honour of his company on the following day, and promises to collect a still greater crowd to applaud his skill. My young scientist is very proud of himself and is beginning to chatter, but I check him at once and take him home overwhelmed with praise.
The child counts the minutes till to-morrow with absurd anxiety. He invites every one he meets, he wants all mankind to behold his glory; he can scarcely wait till the appointed hour. He hurries to the place; the hall is full already; as he enters his young heart swells with pride. Other tricks are to come first. The conjuror surpasses himself and does the most surprising things. The child sees none of these; he wriggles, perspires, and hardly breathes; the time is spent in fingering with a trembling hand the bit of bread in his pocket. His turn comes at last; the master announces it to the audience with all ceremony; he goes up looking somewhat shamefaced and takes out his bit of bread. Oh fleeting joys of human life! the duck, so tame yesterday, is quite wild to-day; instead of offering its beak it turns tail and swims away; it avoids the bread and the hand that holds it as carefully as it followed them yesterday. After many vain attempts accompanied by derisive shouts from the audience the child complains that he is being cheated, that is not the same duck, and he defies the conjuror to attract it.
The conjuror, without further words, takes a bit of bread and offers it to the duck, which at once follows it and comes to the hand which holds it. The child takes the same bit of bread with no better success; the duck mocks his efforts and swims round the basin. Overwhelmed with confusion he abandons the attempt, ashamed to face the crowd any longer. Then the conjuror takes the bit of bread the child brought with him and uses it as successfully as his own. He takes out the bit of iron before the audience—another laugh at our expense—then with this same bread he attracts the duck as before. He repeats the experiment with a piece of bread cut by a third person in full view of the audience. He does it with his glove, with his finger-tip. Finally he goes into the middle of the room and in the emphatic tones used by such persons he declares that his duck will obey his voice as readily as his hand; he speaks and the duck obeys; he bids him go to the right and he goes, to come back again and he comes. The movement is as ready as the command. The growing applause completes our discomfiture. We slip away unnoticed and shut ourselves up in our room, without relating our successes to everybody as we had expected.
Next day there is a knock at the door. When I open it there is the conjuror, who makes a modest complaint with regard to our conduct. What had he done that we should try to discredit his tricks and deprive him of his livelihood? What is there so wonderful in attracting a duck that we should purchase this honour at the price of an honest man’s living? “My word, gentlemen! had I any other trade by which I could earn a living I would not pride myself on this. You may well believe that a man who has spent his life at this miserable trade knows more about it than you who only give your spare time to it. If I did not show you my best tricks at first, it was because one must not be so foolish as to display all one knows at once. I always take care to keep my best tricks for emergencies; and I have plenty more to prevent young folks from meddling. However, I have come, gentlemen, in all kindness, to show you the trick that gave you so much trouble; I only beg you not to use it to my hurt, and to be more discreet in future.”
He then shows us his apparatus, and to our great surprise we find it is merely a strong magnet in the hand of a boy concealed under the table. The man puts up his things, and after we have offered our thanks and apologies, we try to give him something. He refuses it. “No, gentlemen,” says he, “I owe you no gratitude and I will not accept your gift. I leave you in my debt in spite of all, and that is my only revenge. Generosity may be found among all sorts of people, and I earn my pay by doing my tricks not by teaching them.”
As he is going he blames me out-right. “I can make excuses for the child,” he says, “he sinned in ignorance. But you, sir, should know better. Why did you let him do it? As you are living together and you are older than he, you should look after him and give him good advice. Your experience should be his guide. When he is grown up he will reproach, not only himself, but you, for the faults of his youth.”
When he is gone we are greatly downcast. I blame myself for my easy-going ways. I promise the child that another time I will put his interests first and warn him against faults before he falls into them, for the time is coming when our relations will be changed, when the severity of the master must give way to the friendliness of the comrade; this change must come gradually, you must look ahead, and very far ahead.
We go to the fair again the next day to see the trick whose secret we know. We approach our Socrates, the conjuror, with profound respect, we scarcely dare to look him in the face. He overwhelms us with politeness, gives us the best places, and heaps coals of fire on our heads. He goes through his performance as usual, but he lingers affectionately over the duck, and often glances proudly in our direction. We are in the secret, but we do not tell. If my pupil did but open his mouth he would be worthy of death.
There is more meaning than you suspect in this detailed illustration. How many lessons in one! How mortifying are the results of a first impulse towards vanity! Young tutor, watch this first impulse carefully. If you can use it to bring about shame and disgrace, you may be sure it will not recur for many a day. What a fuss you will say. Just so; and all to provide a compass which will enable us to dispense with a meridian!
Having learnt that a magnet acts through other bodies, our next business is to construct a bit of apparatus similar to that shown us. A bare table, a shallow bowl placed on it and filled with water, a duck rather better finished than the first, and so on. We often watch the thing and at last we notice that the duck, when at rest, always turns the same way. We follow up this observation; we examine the direction, we find that it is from south to north. Enough! we have found our compass or its equivalent; the study of physics is begun.
There are various regions of the earth, and these regions differ in temperature. The variation is more evident as we approach the poles; all bodies expand with heat and contract with cold; this is best measured in liquids and best of all in spirits; hence the thermometer. The wind strikes the face, then the air is a body, a fluid; we feel it though we cannot see it. I invert a glass in water; the water will not fill it unless you leave a passage for the escape of the air; so air is capable of resistance. Plunge the glass further in the water; the water will encroach on the air-space without filling it entirely; so air yields somewhat to pressure. A ball filled with compressed air bounces better than one filled with anything else; so air is elastic. Raise your arm horizontally from the water when you are lying in your bath; you will feel a terrible weight on it; so air is a heavy body. By establishing an equilibrium between air and other fluids its weight can be measured, hence the barometer, the siphon, the air-gun, and the air-pump. All the laws of statics and hydrostatics are discovered by such rough experiments. For none of these would I take the child into a physical cabinet; I dislike that array of instruments and apparatus. The scientific atmosphere destroys science. Either the child is frightened by these instruments or his attention, which should be fixed on their effects, is distracted by their appearance.
We shall make all our apparatus ourselves, and I would not make it beforehand, but having caught a glimpse of the experiment by chance we mean to invent step by step an instrument for its verification. I would rather our apparatus was somewhat clumsy and imperfect, but our ideas clear as to what the apparatus ought to be, and the results to be obtained by means of it. For my first lesson in statics, instead of fetching a balance, I lay a stick across the back of a chair, I measure the two parts when it is balanced; add equal or unequal weights to either end; by pulling or pushing it as required, I find at last that equilibrium is the result of a reciprocal proportion between the amount of the weights and the length of the levers. Thus my little physicist is ready to rectify a balance before ever he sees one.
Undoubtedly the notions of things thus acquired for oneself are clearer and much more convincing than those acquired from the teaching of others; and not only is our reason not accustomed to a slavish submission to authority, but we develop greater ingenuity in discovering relations, connecting ideas and inventing apparatus, than when we merely accept what is given us and allow our minds to be enfeebled by indifference, like the body of a man whose servants always wait on him, dress him and put on his shoes, whose horse carries him, till he loses the use of his limbs. Boileau used to boast that he had taught Racine the art of rhyming with difficulty. Among the many short cuts to science, we badly need some one to teach us the art of learning with difficulty.
The most obvious advantage of these slow and laborious inquiries is this: the scholar, while engaged in speculative studies, is actively using his body, gaining suppleness of limb, and training his hands to labour so that he will be able to make them useful when he is a man. Too much apparatus, designed to guide us in our experiments and to supplement the exactness of our senses, makes us neglect to use those senses. The theodolite makes it unnecessary to estimate the size of angles; the eye which used to judge distances with much precision, trusts to the chain for its measurements; the steel yard dispenses with the need of judging weight by the hand as I used to do. The more ingenious our apparatus, the coarser and more unskilful are our senses. We surround ourselves with tools and fail to use those with which nature has provided every one of us.
But when we devote to the making of these instruments the skill which did instead of them, when for their construction we use the intelligence which enabled us to dispense with them, this is gain not loss, we add art to nature, we gain ingenuity without loss of skill. If instead of making a child stick to his books I employ him in a workshop, his hands work for the development of his mind. While he fancies himself a workman he is becoming a philosopher. Moreover, this exercise has other advantages of which I shall speak later; and you will see how, through philosophy in sport, one may rise to the real duties of man.
I have said already that purely theoretical science is hardly suitable for children, even for children approaching adolescence; but without going far into theoretical physics, take care that all their experiments are connected together by some chain of reasoning, so that they may follow an orderly sequence in the mind, and may be recalled at need; for it is very difficult to remember isolated facts or arguments, when there is no cue for their recall.
In your inquiry into the laws of nature always begin with the commonest and most conspicuous phenomena, and train your scholar not to accept these phenomena as causes but as facts. I take a stone and pretend to place it in the air; I open my hand, the stone falls. I see Emile watching my action and I say, “Why does this stone fall?”
What child will hesitate over this question? None, not even Emile, unless I have taken great pains to teach him not to answer. Every one will say, “The stone falls because it is heavy.” “And what do you mean by heavy?” “That which falls.” “So the stone falls because it falls?” Here is a poser for my little philosopher. This is his first lesson in systematic physics, and whether he learns physics or no it is a good lesson in common-sense.
As the child develops in intelligence other important considerations require us to be still more careful in our choice of his occupations. As soon as he has sufficient self-knowledge to understand what constitutes his well-being, as soon as he can grasp such far-reaching relations as to judge what is good for him and what is not, then he is able to discern the difference between work and play, and to consider the latter merely as relaxation. The objects of real utility may be introduced into his studies and may lead him to more prolonged attention than he gave to his games. The ever-recurring law of necessity soon teaches a man to do what he does not like, so as to avert evils which he would dislike still more. Such is the use of foresight, and this foresight, well or ill used, is the source of all the wisdom or the wretchedness of mankind.
Every one desires happiness, but to secure it he must know what happiness is. For the natural man happiness is as simple as his life; it consists in the absence of pain; health, freedom, the necessaries of life are its elements. The happiness of the moral man is another matter, but it does not concern us at present. I cannot repeat too often that it is only objects which can be perceived by the senses which can have any interest for children, especially children whose vanity has not been stimulated nor their minds corrupted by social conventions.
As soon as they foresee their needs before they feel them, their intelligence has made a great step forward, they are beginning to know the value of time. They must then be trained to devote this time to useful purposes, but this usefulness should be such as they can readily perceive and should be within the reach of their age and experience. What concerns the moral order and the customs of society should not yet be given them, for they are not in a condition to understand it. It is folly to expect them to attend to things vaguely described as good for them, when they do not know what this good is, things which they are assured will be to their advantage when they are grown up, though for the present they take no interest in this so-called advantage, which they are unable to understand.
Let the child do nothing because he is told; nothing is good for him but what he recognises as good. When you are always urging him beyond his present understanding, you think you are exercising a foresight which you really lack. To provide him with useless tools which he may never require, you deprive him of man’s most useful tool—common-sense. You would have him docile as a child; he will be a credulous dupe when he grows up. You are always saying, “What I ask is for your good, though you cannot understand it. What does it matter to me whether you do it or not; my efforts are entirely on your account.” All these fine speeches with which you hope to make him good, are preparing the way, so that the visionary, the tempter, the charlatan, the rascal, and every kind of fool may catch him in his snare or draw him into his folly.
A man must know many things which seem useless to a child, but need the child learn, or can he indeed learn, all that the man must know? Try to teach the child what is of use to a child and you will find that it takes all his time. Why urge him to the studies of an age he may never reach, to the neglect of those studies which meet his present needs? “But,” you ask, “will it not be too late to learn what he ought to know when the time comes to use it?” I cannot tell; but this I do know, it is impossible to teach it sooner, for our real teachers are experience and emotion, and man will never learn what befits a man except under its own conditions. A child knows he must become a man; all the ideas he may have as to man’s estate are so many opportunities for his instruction, but he should remain in complete ignorance of those ideas which are beyond his grasp. My whole book is one continued argument in support of this fundamental principle of education.
As soon as we have contrived to give our pupil an idea of the word “Useful,” we have got an additional means of controlling him, for this word makes a great impression on him, provided that its meaning for him is a meaning relative to his own age, and provided he clearly sees its relation to his own well-being. This word makes no impression on your scholars because you have taken no pains to give it a meaning they can understand, and because other people always undertake to supply their needs so that they never require to think for themselves, and do not know what utility is.
“What is the use of that?” In future this is the sacred formula, the formula by which he and I test every action of our lives. This is the question with which I invariably answer all his questions; it serves to check the stream of foolish and tiresome questions with which children weary those about them. These incessant questions produce no result, and their object is rather to get a hold over you than to gain any real advantage. A pupil, who has been really taught only to want to know what is useful, questions like Socrates; he never asks a question without a reason for it, for he knows he will be required to give his reason before he gets an answer.
See what a powerful instrument I have put into your hands for use with your pupil. As he does not know the reason for anything you can reduce him to silence almost at will; and what advantages do your knowledge and experience give you to show him the usefulness of what you suggest. For, make no mistake about it, when you put this question to him, you are teaching him to put it to you, and you must expect that whatever you suggest to him in the future he will follow your own example and ask, “What is the use of this?”
Perhaps this is the greatest of the tutor’s difficulties. If you merely try to put the child off when he asks a question, and if you give him a single reason he is not able to understand, if he finds that you reason according to your own ideas, not his, he will think what you tell him is good for you but not for him; you will lose his confidence and all your labour is thrown away. But what master will stop short and confess his faults to his pupil? We all make it a rule never to own to the faults we really have. Now I would make it a rule to admit even the faults I have not, if I could not make my reasons clear to him; as my conduct will always be intelligible to him, he will never doubt me and I shall gain more credit by confessing my imaginary faults than those who conceal their real defects.
In the first place do not forget that it is rarely your business to suggest what he ought to learn; it is for him to want to learn, to seek and to find it. You should put it within his reach, you should skilfully awaken the desire and supply him with means for its satisfaction. So your questions should be few and well-chosen, and as he will always have more questions to put to you than you to him, you will always have the advantage and will be able to ask all the oftener, “What is the use of that question?” Moreover, as it matters little what he learns provided he understands it and knows how to use it, as soon as you cannot give him a suitable explanation give him none at all. Do not hesitate to say, “I have no good answer to give you; I was wrong, let us drop the subject.” If your teaching was really ill-chosen there is no harm in dropping it altogether; if it was not, with a little care you will soon find an opportunity of making its use apparent to him.
I do not like verbal explanations. Young people pay little heed to them, nor do they remember them. Things! Things! I cannot repeat it too often. We lay too much stress upon words; we teachers babble, and our scholars follow our example.
Suppose we are studying the course of the sun and the way to find our bearings, when all at once Emile interrupts me with the question, “What is the use of that?” what a fine lecture I might give, how many things I might take occasion to teach him in reply to his question, especially if there is any one there. I might speak of the advantages of travel, the value of commerce, the special products of different lands and the peculiar customs of different nations, the use of the calendar, the way to reckon the seasons for agriculture, the art of navigation, how to steer our course at sea, how to find our way without knowing exactly where we are. Politics, natural history, astronomy, even morals and international law are involved in my explanation, so as to give my pupil some idea of all these sciences and a great wish to learn them. When I have finished I shall have shown myself a regular pedant, I shall have made a great display of learning, and not one single idea has he understood. He is longing to ask me again, “What is the use of taking one’s bearings?” but he dare not for fear of vexing me. He finds it pays best to pretend to listen to what he is forced to hear. This is the practical result of our fine systems of education.
But Emile is educated in a simpler fashion. We take so much pains to teach him a difficult idea that he will have heard nothing of all this. At the first word he does not understand, he will run away, he will prance about the room, and leave me to speechify by myself. Let us seek a more commonplace explanation; my scientific learning is of no use to him.
We were observing the position of the forest to the north of Montmorency when he interrupted me with the usual question, “What is the use of that?” “You are right,” I said. “Let us take time to think it over, and if we find it is no use we will drop it, for we only want useful games.” We find something else to do and geography is put aside for the day.
Next morning I suggest a walk before breakfast; there is nothing he would like better; children are always ready to run about, and he is a good walker. We climb up to the forest, we wander through its clearings and lose ourselves; we have no idea where we are, and when we want to retrace our steps we cannot find the way. Time passes, we are hot and hungry; hurrying vainly this way and that we find nothing but woods, quarries, plains, not a landmark to guide us. Very hot, very tired, very hungry, we only get further astray. At last we sit down to rest and to consider our position. I assume that Emile has been educated like an ordinary child. He does not think, he begins to cry; he has no idea we are close to Montmorency, which is hidden from our view by a mere thicket; but this thicket is a forest to him, a man of his size is buried among bushes. After a few minutes’ silence I begin anxiously—
My dear Emile, what shall we do to get out?
I am sure I do not know. I am tired, I am hungry, I am thirsty. I cannot go any further.
Do you suppose I am any better off? I would cry too if I could make my breakfast off tears. Crying is no use, we must look about us. Let us see your watch; what time is it?
It is noon and I am so hungry!
Just so; it is noon and I am so hungry too.
You must be very hungry indeed.
Unluckily my dinner won’t come to find me. It is twelve o’clock. This time yesterday we were observing the position of the forest from Montmorency. If only we could see the position of Montmorency from the forest—
But yesterday we could see the forest, and here we cannot see the town.
That is just it. If we could only find it without seeing it.
Oh! my dear friend!
Did not we say the forest was—
North of Montmorency.
Then Montmorency must lie—
South of the forest.
We know how to find the north at midday.
Yes, by the direction of the shadows.
But the south?
What shall we do?
The south is opposite the north.
That is true; we need only find the opposite of the shadows. That is the south! That is the south! Montmorency must be over there! Let us look for it there!
Perhaps you are right; let us follow this path through the wood.
(Clapping his hands.) Oh, I can see Montmorency! there it is, quite plain, just in front of us! Come to luncheon, come to dinner, make haste! Astronomy is some use after all.
Be sure that he thinks this if he does not say it; no matter which, provided I do not say it myself. He will certainly never forget this day’s lesson as long as he lives, while if I had only led him to think of all this at home, my lecture would have been forgotten the next day. Teach by doing whenever you can, and only fall back upon words when doing is out of the question.
The reader will not expect me to have such a poor opinion of him as to supply him with an example of every kind of study; but, whatever is taught, I cannot too strongly urge the tutor to adapt his instances to the capacity of his scholar; for once more I repeat the risk is not in what he does not know, but in what he thinks he knows.
I remember how I once tried to give a child a taste for chemistry. After showing him several metallic precipitates, I explained how ink was made. I told him how its blackness was merely the result of fine particles of iron separated from the vitriol and precipitated by an alkaline solution. In the midst of my learned explanation the little rascal pulled me up short with the question I myself had taught him. I was greatly puzzled. After a few moments’ thought I decided what to do. I sent for some wine from the cellar of our landlord, and some very cheap wine from a wine-merchant. I took a small1 flask of an alkaline solution, and placing two glasses before me filled with the two sorts of wine, I said—
Food and drink are adulterated to make them seem better than they really are. These adulterations deceive both the eye and the palate, but they are unwholesome and make the adulterated article even worse than before in spite of its fine appearance.
All sorts of drinks are adulterated, and wine more than others; for the fraud is more difficult to detect, and more profitable to the fraudulent person.
Sour wine is adulterated with litharge; litharge is a preparation of lead. Lead in combination with acids forms a sweet salt which corrects the harsh taste of the sour wine, but it is poisonous. So before we drink wine of doubtful quality we should be able to tell if there is lead in it. This is how I should do it.
Wine contains not merely an inflammable spirit as you have seen from the brandy made from it; it also contains an acid as you know from the vinegar made from it.
This acid has an affinity for metals, it combines with them and forms salts, such as iron-rust, which is only iron dissolved by the acid in air or water, or such as verdegris, which is only copper dissolved in vinegar.
But this acid has a still greater affinity for alkalis than for metals, so that when we add alkalis to the above-mentioned salts, the acid sets free the metal with which it had combined, and combines with the alkali.
Then the metal, set free by the acid which held it in solution, is precipitated and the liquid becomes opaque.
If then there is litharge in either of these glasses of wine, the acid holds the litharge in solution. When I pour into it an alkaline solution, the acid will be forced to set the lead free in order to combine with the alkali. The lead, no longer held in solution, will reappear, the liquor will become thick, and after a time the lead will be deposited at the bottom of the glass.
Then I poured my alkaline solution first into one glass and then into the other. The wine from our own house remained clear and unclouded, the other at once became turbid, and an hour later the lead might be plainly seen, precipitated at the bottom of the glass.
“This,” said I, “is a pure natural wine and fit to drink; the other is adulterated and poisonous. You wanted to know the use of knowing how to make ink. If you can make ink you can find out what wines are adulterated.”
I was very well pleased with my illustration, but I found it made little impression on my pupil. When I had time to think about it I saw I had been a fool, for not only was it impossible for a child of twelve to follow my explanations, but the usefulness of the experiment did not appeal to him; he had tasted both glasses of wine and found them both good, so he attached no meaning to the word “adulterated” which I thought I had explained so nicely. Indeed, the other words, “unwholesome” and “poison,” had no meaning whatever for him; he was in the same condition as the boy who told the story of Philip and his doctor. It is the condition of all children.
The relation of causes and effects whose connection is unknown to us, good and ill of which we have no idea, the needs we have never felt, have no existence for us. It is impossible to interest ourselves in them sufficiently to make us do anything connected with them. At fifteen we become aware of the happiness of a good man, as at thirty we become aware of the glory of Paradise. If we had no clear idea of either we should make no effort for their attainment; and even if we had a clear idea of them, we should make little or no effort unless we desired them and unless we felt we were made for them. It is easy to convince a child that what you wish to teach him is useful, but it is useless to convince if you cannot also persuade. Pure reason may lead us to approve or censure, but it is feeling which leads to action, and how shall we care about that which does not concern us?
Never show a child what he cannot see. Since mankind is almost unknown to him, and since you cannot make a man of him, bring the man down to the level of the child. While you are thinking what will be useful to him when he is older, talk to him of what he knows he can use now. Moreover, as soon as he begins to reason let there be no comparison with other children, no rivalry, no competition, not even in running races. I would far rather he did not learn anything than have him learn it through jealousy or self-conceit. Year by year I shall just note the progress he had made, I shall compare the results with those of the following year, I shall say, “You have grown so much; that is the ditch you jumped, the weight you carried, the distance you flung a pebble, the race you ran without stopping to take breath, etc.; let us see what you can do now.”
In this way he is stimulated to further effort without jealousy. He wants to excel himself as he ought to do; I see no reason why he should not emulate his own performances.
I hate books; they only teach us to talk about things we know nothing about. Hermes, they say, engraved the elements of science on pillars lest a deluge should destroy them. Had he imprinted them on men’s hearts they would have been preserved by tradition. Well-trained minds are the pillars on which human knowledge is most deeply engraved.
Is there no way of correlating so many lessons scattered through so many books, no way of focussing them on some common object, easy to see, interesting to follow, and stimulating even to a child? Could we but discover a state in which all man’s needs appear in such a way as to appeal to the child’s mind, a state in which the ways of providing for these needs are as easily developed, the simple and stirring portrayal of this state should form the earliest training of the child’s imagination.
Eager philosopher, I see your own imagination at work. Spare yourself the trouble; this state is already known, it is described, with due respect to you, far better than you could describe it, at least with greater truth and simplicity. Since we must have books, there is one book which, to my thinking, supplies the best treatise on an education according to nature. This is the first book Emile will read; for a long time it will form his whole library, and it will always retain an honoured place. It will be the text to which all our talks about natural science are but the commentary. It will serve to test our progress towards a right judgment, and it will always be read with delight, so long as our taste is unspoilt. What is this wonderful book? Is it Aristotle? Pliny? Buffon? No; it is Robinson Crusoe.
Robinson Crusoe on his island, deprived of the help of his fellowmen, without the means of carrying on the various arts, yet finding food, preserving his life, and procuring a certain amount of comfort; this is the thing to interest people of all ages, and it can be made attractive to children in all sorts of ways. We shall thus make a reality of that desert island which formerly served as an illustration. The condition, I confess, is not that of a social being, nor is it in all probability Emile’s own condition, but he should use it as a standard of comparison for all other conditions. The surest way to raise him above prejudice and to base his judgments on the true relations of things, is to put him in the place of a solitary man, and to judge all things as they would be judged by such a man in relation to their own utility.
This novel, stripped of irrelevant matter, begins with Robinson’s shipwreck on his island, and ends with the coming of the ship which bears him from it, and it will furnish Emile with material, both for work and play, during the whole period we are considering. His head should be full of it, he should always be busy with his castle, his goats, his plantations. Let him learn in detail, not from books but from things, all that is necessary in such a case. Let him think he is Robinson himself; let him see himself clad in skins, wearing a tall cap, a great cutlass, all the grotesque get-up of Robinson Crusoe, even to the umbrella which he will scarcely need. He should anxiously consider what steps to take; will this or that be wanting. He should examine his hero’s conduct; has he omitted nothing; is there nothing he could have done better? He should carefully note his mistakes, so as not to fall into them himself in similar circumstances, for you may be sure he will plan out just such a settlement for himself. This is the genuine castle in the air of this happy age, when the child knows no other happiness but food and freedom.
What a motive will this infatuation supply in the hands of a skilful teacher who has aroused it for the purpose of using it. The child who wants to build a storehouse on his desert island will be more eager to learn than the master to teach. He will want to know all sorts of useful things and nothing else; you will need the curb as well as the spur. Make haste, therefore, to establish him on his island while this is all he needs to make him happy; for the day is at hand, when, if he must still live on his island, he will not be content to live alone, when even the companionship of Man Friday, who is almost disregarded now, will not long suffice.
The exercise of the natural arts, which may be carried on by one man alone, leads on to the industrial arts which call for the cooperation of many hands. The former may be carried on by hermits, by savages, but the others can only arise in a society, and they make society necessary. So long as only bodily needs are recognised man is self-sufficing; with superfluity comes the need for division and distribution of labour, for though one man working alone can earn (illegible) man’s living, one hundred men working together can earn (illegible) living of two hundred. As soon as some men are idle, others must work to make up for their idleness.
Your main object should be to keep out of your scholar’s way all idea of such social relations as he cannot understand, but when the development of knowledge compels you to show him the mutual dependence of mankind, instead of showing him its moral side, turn all his attention at first towards industry and the mechanical arts which make men useful to one another. While you take him from one workshop to another, let him try his hand at every trade you show him, and do not let him leave it till he has thoroughly learnt why everything is done, or at least everything that has attracted his attention. With this aim you should take a share in his work and set him an example. Be yourself the apprentice that he may become a master; you may expect him to learn more in one hour’s work than he would retain after a whole day’s explanation.
The value set by the general public on the various arts is in inverse ratio to their real utility. They are even valued directly according to their uselessness. This might be expected. The most useful arts are the worst paid, for the number of workmen is regulated by the demand, and the work which everybody requires must necessarily be paid at a rate which puts it within the reach of the poor. On the other hand, those great people who are called artists, not artisans, who labour only for the rich and idle, put a fancy price on their trifles; and as the real value of this vain labour is purely imaginary, the price itself adds to their market value, and they are valued according to their costliness. The rich think so much of these things, not because they are useful, but because they are beyond the reach of the poor. Nolo habere bona, nisi quibus populus inviderit.
What will become of your pupils if you let them acquire this foolish prejudice, if you share it yourself? If, for instance, they see you show more politeness in a jeweller’s shop than in a locksmith’s. What idea will they form of the true worth of the arts and the real value of things when they see, on the one hand, a fancy price and, on the other, the price of real utility, and that the more a thing costs the less it is worth? As soon as you let them get hold of these ideas, you may give up all attempt at further education; in spite of you they will be like all the other scholars—you have wasted fourteen years.
Emile, bent on furnishing his island, will look at things from another point of view. Robinson would have thought more of a toolmaker’s shop than all Saide’s trifles put together. He would have reckoned the toolmaker a very worthy man, and Saide little more than a charlatan.
“My son will have to take the world as he finds it, he will not live among the wise but among fools; he must therefore be acquainted with their follies, since they must be led by this means. A real knowledge of things may be a good thing in itself, but the knowledge of men and their opinions is better, for in human society man is the chief tool of man, and the wisest man is he who best knows the use of this tool. What is the good of teaching children an imaginary system, just the opposite of the established order of things, among which they will have to live? First teach them wisdom, then show them the follies of mankind.”
These are the specious maxims by which fathers, who mistake them for prudence, strive to make their children the slaves of the prejudices in which they are educated, and the puppets of the senseless crowd, which they hope to make subservient to their passions. How much must be known before we attain to a knowledge of man. This is the final study of the philosopher, and you expect to make it the first lesson of the child! Before teaching him our sentiments, first teach him to judge of their worth. Do you perceive folly when you mistake it for wisdom? To be wise we must discern between good and evil. How can your child know men, when he can neither judge of their judgments nor unravel their mistakes? It is a misfortune to know what they think, without knowing whether their thoughts are true or false. First teach him things as they really are, afterwards you will teach him how they appear to us. He will then be able to make a comparison between popular ideas and truth, and be able to rise above the vulgar crowd; for you are unaware of the prejudices you adopt, and you do not lead a nation when you are like it. But if you begin to teach the opinions of other people before you teach how to judge of their worth, of one thing you may be sure, your pupil will adopt those opinions whatever you may do, and you will not succeed in uprooting them. I am therefore convinced that to make a young man judge rightly, you must form his judgment rather than teach him your own.
So far you see I have not spoken to my pupil about men; he would have too much sense to listen to me. His relations to other people are as yet not sufficiently apparent to him to enable him to judge others by himself. The only person he knows is himself, and his knowledge of himself is very imperfect. But if he forms few opinions about others, those opinions are correct. He knows nothing of another’s place, but he knows his own and keeps to it. I have bound him with the strong cord of necessity, instead of social laws, which are beyond his knowledge. He is still little more than a body; let us treat him as such.
Every substance in nature and every work of man must be judged in relation to his own use, his own safety, his own preservation, his own comfort. Thus he should value iron far more than gold, and glass than diamonds; in the same way he has far more respect for a shoemaker or a mason than for a Lempereur, a Le Blanc, or all the jewellers in Europe. In his eyes a confectioner is a really great man, and he would give the whole academy of sciences for the smallest pastrycook in Lombard Street. Goldsmiths, engravers, gilders, and embroiderers, he considers lazy people, who play at quite useless games. He does not even think much of a clockmaker. The happy child enjoys Time without being a slave to it; he uses it, but he does not know its value. The freedom from passion which makes every day alike to him, makes any means of measuring time unnecessary. When I assumed that Emile had a watch,1 just as I assumed that he cried, it was a commonplace Emile that I chose to serve my purpose and make myself understood. The real Emile, a child so different from the rest, would not serve as an illustration for anything.
There is an order no less natural and even more accurate, by which the arts are valued according to bonds of necessity which connect them; the highest class consists of the most independent, the lowest of those most dependent on others. This classification, which suggests important considerations on the order of society in general, is like the preceding one in that it is subject to the same inversion in popular estimation, so that the use of raw material is the work of the lowest and worst paid trades, while the oftener the material changes hands, the more the work rises in price and in honour. I do not ask whether industry is really greater and more deserving of reward when engaged in the delicate arts which give the final shape to these materials, than in the labour which first gave them to man’s use; but this I say, that in everything the art which is most generally useful and necessary, is undoubtedly that which most deserves esteem, and that art which requires the least help from others, is more worthy of honour than those which are dependent on other arts, since it is freer and more nearly independent. These are the true laws of value in the arts; all others are arbitrary and dependent on popular prejudice.
Agriculture is the earliest and most honourable of arts; metal work I put next, then carpentry, and so on. This is the order in which the child will put them, if he has not been spoilt by vulgar prejudices. What valuable considerations Emile will derive from his Robinson in such matters. What will he think when he sees the arts only brought to perfection by sub-division, by the infinite multiplication of tools. He will say, “All those people are as silly as they are ingenious; one would think they were afraid to use their eyes and their hands, they invent so many tools instead. To carry on one trade they become the slaves of many others; every single workman needs a whole town. My friend and I try to gain skill; we only make tools we can take about with us; these people, who are so proud of their talents in Paris, would be no use at all on our island; they would have to become apprentices.”
Reader, do not stay to watch the bodily exercises and manual skill of our pupil, but consider the bent we are giving to his childish curiosity; consider his common-sense, his inventive spirit, his foresight; consider what a head he will have on his shoulders. He will want to know all about everything he sees or does, to learn the why and the wherefore of it; from tool to tool he will go back to the first beginning, taking nothing for granted; he will decline to learn anything that requires previous knowledge which he has not acquired. If he sees a spring made he will want to know how they got the steel from the mine; if he sees the pieces of a chest put together, he will want to know how the tree was cut down; when at work he will say of each tool, “If I had not got this, how could I make one like it, or how could I get along without it?”
It is, however, difficult to avoid another error. When the master is very fond of certain occupations, he is apt to assume that the child shares his tastes; beware lest you are carried away by the interest of your work, while the child is bored by it, but is afraid to show it. The child must come first, and you must devote yourself entirely to him. Watch him, study him constantly, without his knowing it; consider his feelings beforehand, and provide against those which are undesirable, keep him occupied in such a way that he not only feels the usefulness of the thing, but takes a pleasure in understanding the purpose which his work will serve.
The solidarity of the arts consists in the exchange of industry, that of commerce in the exchange of commodities, that of banks in the exchange of money or securities. All these ideas hang together, and their foundation has already been laid in early childhood with the help of Robert the gardener. All we have now to do is to substitute general ideas for particular, and to enlarge these ideas by means of numerous examples, so as to make the child understand the game of business itself, brought home to him by means of particular instances of natural history with regard to the special products of each country, by particular instances of the arts and sciences which concern navigation and the difficulties of transport, greater or less in proportion to the distance between places, the position of land, seas, rivers, etc.
There can be no society without exchange, no exchange without a common standard of measurement, no common standard of measurement without equality. Hence the first law of every society is some conventional equality either in men or things.
Conventional equality between men, a very different thing from natural equality, leads to the necessity for positive law, i.e., government and kings. A child’s political knowledge should be clear and restricted; he should know nothing of government in general, beyond what concerns the rights of property, of which he has already some idea.
Conventional equality between things has led to the invention of money, for money is only one term in a comparison between the values of different sorts of things; and in this sense money is the real bond of society; but anything may be money; in former days it was cattle; shells are used among many tribes at the present day; Sparta used iron; Sweden, leather; while we use gold and silver.
Metals, being easier to carry, have generally been chosen as the middle term of every exchange, and these metals have been made into coin to save the trouble of continual weighing and measuring, for the stamp on the coin is merely evidence that the coin is of given weight; and the sole right of coining money is vested in the ruler because he alone has the right to demand the recognition of his authority by the whole nation.
The stupidest person can perceive the use of money when it is explained in this way. It is difficult to make a direct comparison between various things, for instance, between cloth and corn; but when we find a common measure, in money, it is easy for the manufacturer and the farmer to estimate the value of the goods they wish to exchange in terms of this common measure. If a given quantity of cloth is worth a given some of money, and a given quantity of corn is worth the same sum of money, then the seller, receiving the corn in exchange for his cloth, makes a fair bargain. Thus by means of money it becomes possible to compare the values of goods of various kinds.
Be content with this, and do not touch upon the moral effects of this institution. In everything you must show clearly the use before the abuse. If you attempt to teach children how the sign has led to the neglect of the thing signified, how money is the source of all the false ideas of society, how countries rich in silver must be poor in everything else, you will be treating these children as philosophers, and not only as philosophers but as wise men, for you are professing to teach them what very few philosophers have grasped.
What a wealth of interesting objects, towards which the curiosity of our pupil may be directed without ever quitting the real and material relations he can understand, and without permitting the formation of a single idea beyond his grasp! The teacher’s art consists in this: To turn the child’s attention from trivial details and to guide his thoughts continually towards relations of importance which he will one day need to know, that he may judge rightly of good and evil in human society. The teacher must be able to adapt the conversation with which he amuses his pupil to the turn already given to his mind. A problem which another child would never heed will torment Emile half a year.
We are going to dine with wealthy people; when we get there everything is ready for a feast, many guests, many servants, many dishes, dainty and elegant china. There is something intoxicating in all these preparations for pleasure and festivity when you are not used to them. I see how they will affect my young pupil. While dinner is going on, while course follows course, and conversation is loud around us, I whisper in his ear, “How many hands do you suppose the things on this table passed through before they got here?” What a crowd of ideas is called up by these few words. In a moment the mists of excitement have rolled away. He is thinking, considering, calculating, and anxious. The child is philosophising, while philosophers, excited by wine or perhaps by female society, are babbling like children. If he asks questions I decline to answer and put him off to another day. He becomes impatient, he forgets to eat and drink, he longs to get away from table and talk as he pleases. What an object of curiosity, what a text for instruction. Nothing has so far succeeded in corrupting his healthy reason; what will he think of luxury when he finds that every quarter of the globe has been ransacked, that some 2,000,000 men have laboured for years, that many lives have perhaps been sacrificed, and all to furnish him with fine clothes to be worn at midday and laid by in the wardrobe at night.
Be sure you observe what private conclusions he draws from all his observations. If you have watched him less carefully than I suppose, his thoughts may be tempted in another direction; he may consider himself a person of great importance in the world, when he sees so much labour concentrated on the preparation of his dinner. If you suspect his thoughts will take this direction you can easily prevent it, or at any rate promptly efface the false impression. As yet he can only appropriate things by personal enjoyment, he can only judge of their fitness or unfitness by their outward effects. Compare a plain rustic meal, preceded by exercise, seasoned by hunger, freedom, and delight, with this magnificent but tedious repast. This will suffice to make him realise that he has got no real advantage from the splendour of the feast, that his stomach was as well satisfied when he left the table of the peasant, as when he left the table of the banker; from neither had he gained anything he could really call his own.
Just fancy what a tutor might say to him on such an occasion. Consider the two dinners and decide for yourself which gave you most pleasure, which seemed the merriest, at which did you eat and drink most heartily, which was the least tedious and required least change of courses? Yet note the difference—this black bread you so enjoy is made from the peasant’s own harvest; his wine is dark in colour and of a common kind, but wholesome and refreshing; it was made in his own vineyard; the cloth is made of his own hemp, spun and woven in the winter by his wife and daughters and the maid; no hands but theirs have touched the food. His world is bounded by the nearest mill and the next market. How far did you enjoy all that the produce of distant lands and the service of many people had prepared for you at the other dinner? If you did not get a better meal, what good did this wealth do you? how much of it was made for you? Had you been the master of the house, the tutor might say, it would have been of still less use to you; for the anxiety of displaying your enjoyment before the eyes of others would have robbed you of it; the pains would be yours, the pleasure theirs.
This may be a very fine speech, but it would be thrown away upon Emile, as he cannot understand it, and he does not accept second-hand opinions. Speak more simply to him. After these two experiences, say to him some day, “Where shall we have our dinner to-day? Where that mountain of silver covered three quarters of the table and those beds of artificial flowers on looking glass were served with the dessert, where those smart ladies treated you as a toy and pretended you said what you did not mean; or in that village two leagues away, with those good people who were so pleased to see us and gave us such delicious cream?” Emile will not hesitate; he is not vain and he is no chatterbox; he cannot endure constraint, and he does not care for fine dishes; but he is always ready for a run in the country and is very fond of good fruit and vegetables, sweet cream and kindly people.1 On our way, the thought will occur to him, “All those people who laboured to prepare that grand feast were either wasting their time or they have no idea how to enjoy themselves.”
My example may be right for one child and wrong for the rest. If you enter into their way of looking at things you will know how to vary your instances as required; the choice depends on the study of the individual temperament, and this study in turn depends on the opportunities which occur to show this temperament. You will not suppose that, in the three or four years at our disposal, even the most gifted child can get an idea of all the arts and sciences, sufficient to enable him to study them for himself when he is older; but by bringing before him what he needs to know, we enable him to develop his own tastes, his own talents, to take the first step towards the object which appeals to his individuality and to show us the road we must open up to aid the work of nature.
There is another advantage of these trains of limited but exact bits of knowledge; he learns by their connection and interdependence how to rank them in his own estimation and to be on his guard against those prejudices, common to most men, which draw them towards the gifts they themselves cultivate and away from those they have neglected. The man who clearly sees the whole, sees where each part should be; the man who sees one part clearly and knows it thoroughly may be a learned man, but the former is a wise man, and you remember it is wisdom rather than knowledge that we hope to acquire.
However that may be, my method does not depend on my examples; it depends on the amount of a man’s powers at different ages, and the choice of occupations adapted to those powers. I think it would be easy to find a method which appeared to give better results, but if it were less suited to the type, sex, and age of the scholar, I doubt whether the results would really be as good.
At the beginning of this second period we took advantage of the fact that our strength was more than enough for our needs, to enable us to get outside ourselves. We have ranged the heavens and measured the earth; we have sought out the laws of nature; we have explored the whole of our island. Now let us return to ourselves, let us unconsciously approach our own dwelling. We are happy indeed if we do not find it already occupied by the dreaded foe, who is preparing to seize it.
What remains to be done when we have observed all that lies around us? We must turn to our own use all that we can get, we must increase our comfort by means of our curiosity. Hitherto we have provided ourselves with tools of all kinds, not knowing which we require. Perhaps those we do not want will be useful to others, and perhaps we may need theirs. Thus we discover the use of exchange; but for this we must know each other’s needs, what tools other people use, what they can offer in exchange. Given ten men, each of them has ten different requirements. To get what he needs for himself each must work at ten different trades; but considering our different talents, one will do better at this trade, another at that. Each of them, fitted for one thing, will work at all, and will be badly served. Let us form these ten men into a society, and let each devote himself to the trade for which he is best adapted, and let him work at it for himself and for the rest. Each will reap the advantage of the others’ talents, just as if they were his own; by practice each will perfect his own talent, and thus all the ten, well provided for, will still have something to spare for others. This is the plain foundation of all our institutions. It is not my aim to examine its results here; I have done so in another book (Discours sur l’inégalité).
According to this principle, any one who wanted to consider himself as an isolated individual, self-sufficing and independent of others, could only be utterly wretched. He could not even continue to exist, for finding the whole earth approprited by others while he had only himself, how could he get the means of subsistence? When we leave the state of nature we compel others to do the same; no one can remain in a state of nature in spite of his fellow-creatures, and to try to remain in it when it is no longer practicable, would really be to leave it, for self-preservation is nature’s first law.
Thus the idea of social relations is gradually developed in the child’s mind, before he can really be an active member of human society. Emile sees that to get tools for his own use, other people must have theirs, and that he can get in exchange what he needs and they possess. I easily bring him to feel the need of such exchange and to take advantage of it.
“Sir, I must live,” said a miserable writer of lampoons to the minister who reproved him for his infamous trade. “I do not see the necessity,” replied the great man coldly. This answer, excellent from the minister, would have been barbarous and untrue in any other mouth. Every man must live; this argument, which appeals to every one with more or less force in proportion to his humanity, strikes me as unanswerable when applied to oneself. Since our dislike of death is the strongest of those aversions nature has implanted in us, it follows that everything is permissible to the man who has no other means of living. The principles, which teach the good man to count his life a little thing and to sacrifice it at duty’s call, are far removed from this primitive simplicity. Happy are those nations where one can be good without effort, and just without conscious virtue. If in this world there is any condition so miserable that one cannot live without wrong-doing, where the citizen is driven into evil, you should hang, not the criminal, but those who drove him into crime.
As soon as Emile knows what life is, my first care will be to teach him to preserve his life. Hitherto I have made no distinction of condition, rank, station, or fortune; nor shall I distinguish between them in the future, since man is the same in every station; the rich man’s stomach is no bigger than the poor man’s, nor is his digestion any better; the master’s arm is neither longer nor stronger than the slave’s; a great man is no taller than one of the people, and indeed the natural needs are the same to all, and the means of satisfying them should be equally within the reach of all. Fit a man’s education to his real self, not to what is no part of him. Do you not see that in striving to fit him merely for one station, you are unfitting him for anything else, so that some caprice of Fortune may make your work really harmful to him? What could be more absurd than a nobleman in rags, who carries with him into his poverty the prejudices of his birth? What is more despicable than a rich man fallen into poverty, who recalls the scorn with which he himself regarded the poor, and feels that he has sunk to the lowest depth of degradation? The one may become a professional thief, the other a cringing servant, with this fine saying, “I must live.”
You reckon on the present order of society, without considering that this order is itself subject to inscrutable changes, and that you can neither foresee nor provide against the revolution which may affect your children. The great become small, the rich poor, the king a commoner. Does fate strike so seldom that you can count on immunity from her blows? The crisis is approaching, and we are on the edge of a revolution.1 Who can answer for your fate? What man has made, man may destroy. Nature’s characters alone are ineffaceable, and nature makes neither the prince, the rich man, nor the nobleman. This satrap whom you have educated for greatness, what will become of him in his degradation? This farmer of the taxes who can only live on gold, what will he do in poverty? This haughty fool who cannot use his own hands, who prides himself on what is not really his, what will he do when he is stripped of all? In that day, happy will he be who can give up the rank which is no longer his, and be still a man in Fate’s despite. Let men praise as they will that conquered monarch who like a madman would be buried beneath the fragments of his throne; I behold him with scorn; to me he is merely a crown, and when that is gone he is nothing. But he who loses his crown and lives without it, is more than a king; from the rank of a king, which may be held by a coward, a villain, or madman, he rises to the rank of a man, a position few can fill. Thus he triumphs over Fortune, he dares to look her in the face; he depends on himself alone, and when he has nothing left to show but himself he is not a nonentity, he is somebody. Better a thousandfold the king of Corinth a schoolmaster at Syracuse, than a wretched Tarquin, unable to be anything but a king, or the heir of the ruler of three kingdoms, the sport of all who would scorn his poverty, wandering from court to court in search of help, and finding nothing but insults, for want of knowing any trade but one which he can no longer practise.
The man and the citizen, whoever he may be, has no property to invest in society but himself, all his other goods belong to society in spite of himself, and when a man is rich, either he does not enjoy his wealth, or the public enjoys it too; in the first case he robs others as well as himself; in the second he gives them nothing. Thus his debt to society is still unpaid, while he only pays with his property. “But my father was serving society while he was acquiring his wealth.” Just so; he paid his own debt, not yours. You owe more to others than if you had been born with nothing, since you were born under favourable conditions. It is not fair that what one man has done for society should pay another’s debt, for since every man owes all that he is, he can only pay his own debt, and no father can transmit to his son any right to be of no use to mankind. “But,” you say, “this is just what he does when he leaves me his wealth, the reward of his labour.” The man who eats in idleness what he has not himself earned, is a thief, and in my eyes, the man who lives on an income paid him by the state for doing nothing, differs little from a highwayman who lives on those who travel his way. Outside the pale of society, the solitary, owing nothing to any man, may live as he pleases, but in society either he lives at the cost of others, or he owes them in labour the cost of his keep; there is no exception to this rule. Man in society is bound to work; rich or poor, weak or strong, every idler is a thief.
Now of all the pursuits by which a man may earn his living, the nearest to a state of nature is manual labour; of all stations that of the artisan is least dependent on Fortune. The artisan depends on his labour alone, he is a free man while the ploughman is a slave; for the latter depends on his field where the crops may be destroyed by others. An enemy, a prince, a powerful neighbour, or a law-suit may deprive him of his field; through this field he may be harassed in all sorts of ways. But if the artisan is ill-treated his goods are soon packed and he takes himself off. Yet agriculture is the earliest, the most honest of trades, and more useful than all the rest, and therefore more honourable for those who practise it. I do not say to Emile, “Study agriculture,” he is already familiar with it. He is acquainted with every kind of rural labour, it was his first occupation, and he returns to it continually. So I say to him, “Cultivate your father’s lands, but if you lose this inheritance, or if you have none to lose, what will you do? Learn a trade.”
“A trade for my son! My son a working man! What are you thinking of, sir?” Madam, my thoughts are wiser than yours; you want to make him fit for nothing but a lord, a marquis, or a prince; and some day he may be less than nothing. I want to give him a rank which he cannot lose, a rank which will always do him honour; I want to raise him to the status of a man, and, whatever you may say, he will have fewer equals in that rank than in your own.
The letter killeth, the spirit giveth life. Learning a trade matters less than overcoming the prejudices he despises. You will never be reduced to earning your livelihood; so much the worse for you. No matter; work for honour, not for need; stoop to the position of a working man, to rise above your own. To conquer Fortune and everything else, begin by independence. To rule through public opinion, begin by ruling over it.
Remember I demand no talent, only a trade, a genuine trade, a mere mechanical art, in which the hands work harder than the head, a trade which does not lead to fortune but makes you independent of her. In households far removed from all danger of want I have known fathers carry prudence to such a point as to provide their children not only with ordinary teaching but with knowledge by means of which they could get a living if anything happened. These far-sighted parents thought they were doing a great thing. It is nothing, for the resources they fancy they have secured depend on that very fortune of which they would make their children independent; so that unless they found themselves in circumstances fitted for the display of their talents, they would die of hunger as if they had none.
As soon as it is a question of influence and intrigue you may as well use these means to keep yourself in plenty, as to acquire, in the depths of poverty, the means of returning to your former position. If you cultivate the arts which depend on the artist’s reputation, if you fit yourself for posts which are only obtained by favour, how will that help you when, rightly disgusted with the world, you scorn the steps by which you must climb. You have studied politics and state-craft, so far so good; but how will you use this knowledge, if you cannot gain the ear of the ministers, the favourites, or the officials? if you have not the secret of winning their favour, if they fail to find you a rogue to their taste? You are an architect or a painter; well and good; but your talents must be displayed. Do you suppose you can exhibit in the salon without further ado? That is not the way to set about it. Lay aside the rule and the pencil, take a cab and drive from door to door; there is the road to fame. Now you must know that the doors of the great are guarded by porters and flunkeys, who only understand one language, and their ears are in their palms. If you wish to teach what you have learned, geography, mathematics, languages, music, drawing, even to find pupils, you must have friends who will sing your praises. Learning, remember, gains more credit than skill, and with no trade but your own none will believe in your skill. See how little you can depend on these fine “Resources,” and how many other resources are required before you can use what you have got. And what will become of you in your degradation? Misfortune will make you worse rather than better. More than ever the sport of public opinion, how will you rise above the prejudices on which your fate depends? How will you despise the vices and the baseness from which you get your living? You were dependent on wealth, now you are dependent on the wealthy; you are still a slave and a poor man into the bargain. Poverty without freedom, can a man sink lower than this!
But if instead of this recondite learning adapted to feed the mind, not the body, you have recourse, at need, to your hands and your handiwork, there is no call for deceit, your trade is ready when required. Honour and honesty will not stand in the way of your living. You need no longer cringe and lie to the great, nor creep and crawl before rogues, a despicable flatterer of both, a borrower or a thief, for there is little to choose between them when you are penniless. Other people’s opinions are no concern of yours, you need not pay court to any one, there is no fool to flatter, no flunkey to bribe, no woman to win over. Let rogues conduct the affairs of state; in your lowly rank you can still be an honest man and yet get a living. You walk into the first workshop of your trade. “Master, I want work.” “Comrade, take your place and work.” Before dinner-time you have earned your dinner. If you are sober and industrious, before the week is out you will have earned your keep for another week; you will have lived in freedom, health, truth, industry, and righteousness. Time is not wasted when it brings these returns.
Emile shall learn a trade. “An honest trade, at least,” you say. What do you mean by honest? Is not every useful trade honest? I would not make an embroiderer, a gilder, a polisher of him, like Locke’s young gentleman. Neither would I make him a musician, an actor, or an author.1 With the exception of these and others like them, let him choose his own trade, I do not mean to interfere with his choice. I would rather have him a shoemaker than a poet, I would rather he paved streets than painted flowers on china. “But,” you will say, “policemen, spies, and hangmen are useful people.” There would be no use for them if it were not for the government. But let that pass. I was wrong. It is not enough to choose an honest trade, it must be a trade which does not develop detestable qualities in the mind, qualities incompatible with humanity. To return to our original expression, “Let us choose an honest trade,” but let us remember there can be no honesty without usefulness.
A famous writer of this century, whose books are full of great schemes and narrow views, was under a vow, like the other priests of his communion, not to take a wife. Finding himself more scrupulous than others with regard to his neighbour’s wife, he decided, so they say, to employ pretty servants, and so did his best to repair the wrong done to the race by his rash promise. He thought it the duty of a citizen to breed children for the state, and he made his children artisans. As soon as they were old enough they were taught whatever trade they chose; only idle or useless trades were excluded, such as that of the wigmaker who is never necessary, and may any day cease to be required, so long as nature does not get tired of providing us with hair.
This spirit shall guide our choice of trade for Emile, or rather, not our choice but his; for the maxims he has imbibed make him despise useless things, and he will never be content to waste his time on vain labours; his trade must be of use to Robinson on his island.
When we review with the child the productions of art and nature, when we stimulate his curiosity and follow its lead, we have great opportunities of studying his tastes and inclinations, and perceiving the first spark of genius, if he has any decided talent in any direction. You must, however, be on your guard against the common error which mistakes the effects of environment for the ardour of genius, or imagines there is a decided bent towards any one of the arts, when there is nothing more than that spirit of emulation, common to men and monkeys, which impels them instinctively to do what they see others doing, without knowing why. The world is full of artisans, and still fuller of artists, who have no native gift for their calling, into which they were driven in early childhood, either through the conventional ideas of other people, or because those about them were deceived by an appearance of zeal, which would have led them to take to any other art they saw practised. One hears a drum and fancies he is a general; another sees a building and wants to be an architect. Every one is drawn towards the trade he sees before him if he thinks it is held in honour.
I once knew a footman who watched his master drawing and painting and took it into his head to become a designer and artist. He seized a pencil which he only abandoned for a paint-brush, to which he stuck for the rest of his days. Without teaching or rules of art he began to draw everything he saw. Three whole years were devoted to these daubs, from which nothing but his duties could stir him, nor was he discouraged by the small progress resulting from his very mediocre talents. I have seen him spend the whole of a broiling summer in a little ante-room towards the south, a room where one was suffocated merely passing through it; there he was, seated or rather nailed all day to his chair, before a globe, drawing it again and again and yet again, with invincible obstinacy till he had reproduced the rounded surface to his own satisfaction. At last with his master’s help and under the guidance of an artist he got so far as to abandon his livery and live by his brush. Perseverance does instead of talent up to a certain point; he got so far, but no further. This honest lad’s perseverance and ambition are praiseworthy; he will always be respected for his industry and steadfastness of purpose, but his paintings will always be third-rate. Who would not have been deceived by his zeal and taken it for real talent? There is all the difference in the world between a liking and an aptitude. To make sure of real genius or real taste in a child calls for more accurate observations than is generally suspected, for the child displays his wishes not his capacity, and we judge by the former instead of considering the latter. I wish some trustworthy person would give us a treatise on the art of child-study. This art is well worth studying, but neither parents nor teachers have mastered its elements.
Perhaps we are laying too much stress on the choice of a trade; as it is a manual occupation, Emile’s choice is no great matter, and his apprenticeship is more than half accomplished already, through the exercises which have hitherto occupied him. What would you have him do? He is ready for anything. He can handle the spade and hoe, he can use the lathe, hammer, plane, or file; he is already familiar with these tools which are common to many trades. He only needs to acquire sufficient skill in the use of any one of them to rival the speed, the familiarity, and the diligence of good workmen, and he will have a great advantage over them in suppleness of body and limb, so that he can easily take any position and can continue any kind of movements without effort. Moreover his senses are acute and well-practised, he knows the principles of the various trades; to work like a master of his craft he only needs experience, and experience comes with practice. To which of these trades which are open to us will he give sufficient time to make himself master of it? That is the whole question.
Give a man a trade befitting his sex, to a young man a trade befitting his age. Sedentary indoor employments, which make the body tender and effeminate, are neither pleasing nor suitable. No lad ever wanted to be a tailor. It takes some art to attract a man to this woman’s work.1 The same hand cannot hold the needle and the sword. If I were king I would only allow needlework and dressmaking to be done by women and cripples who are obliged to work at such trades. If eunuchs were required I think the Easterns were very foolish to make them on purpose. Why not take those provided by nature, that crowd of base persons without natural feeling? There would be enough and to spare. The weak, feeble, timid man is condemned by nature to a sedentary life, he is fit to live among women or in their fashion. Let him adopt one of their trades if he likes; and if there must be eunuchs let them take those men who dishonour their sex by adopting trades unworthy of it. Their choice proclaims a blunder on the part of nature; correct it one way or other, you will do no harm.
An unhealthy trade I forbid to my pupil, but not a difficult or dangerous one. He will exercise himself in strength and courage; such trades are for men not women, who claim no share in them. Are not men ashamed to poach upon the women’s trades?
Women are not seen in shops in Italy, and to persons accustomed to the streets of England and France nothing could look gloomier. When I saw drapers selling ladies ribbons, pompons, net, and chenille, I thought these delicate ornaments very absurd in the coarse hands fit to blow the bellows and strike the anvil. I said to myself, “In this country women should set up as steel-polishers and armourers.” Let each make and sell the weapons of his or her own sex; knowledge is acquired through use.
I know I have said too much for my agreeable contemporaries, but I sometimes let myself be carried away by my argument. If any one is ashamed to be seen wearing a leathern apron or handling a plane, I think him a mere slave of public opinion, ready to blush for what is right when people poke fun at it. But let us yield to parents’ prejudices so long as they do not hurt the children. To honour trades we are not obliged to practise every one of them, so long as we do not think them beneath us. When the choice is ours and we are under no compulsion, why not choose the pleasanter, more attractive and more suitable trade. Metal work is useful, more useful, perhaps, than the rest, but unless for some special reason Emile shall not be a blacksmith, a locksmith nor an ironworker. I do not want to see him a Cyclops at the forge. Neither would I have him a mason, still less a shoemaker. All trades must be carried on, but when the choice is ours, cleanliness should be taken into account; this is not a matter of class prejudice, our senses are our guides. In conclusion, I do not like those stupid trades in which the workmen mechanically perform the same action without pause and almost without mental effort. Weaving, stocking-knitting, stone-cutting; why employ intelligent men on such work? it is merely one machine employed on another.
All things considered, the trade I should choose for my pupil, among the trades he likes, is that of a carpenter. It is clean and useful; it may be carried on at home; it gives enough exercise; it calls for skill and industry, and while fashioning articles for everyday use, there is scope for elegance and taste. If your pupil’s talents happened to take a scientific turn, I should not blame you if you gave him a trade in accordance with his tastes, for instance, he might learn to make mathematical instruments, glasses, telescopes, etc.
When Emile learns his trade I shall learn it too. I am convinced he will never learn anything thoroughly unless we learn it together. So we shall both serve our apprenticeship, and we do not mean to be treated as gentlemen, but as real apprentices who are not there for fun; why should not we actually be apprenticed? Peter the Great was a ship’s carpenter and drummer to his own troops; was not that prince at least your equal in birth and merit? You understand this is addressed not to Emile but to you—to you, whoever you may be.
Unluckily we cannot spend the whole of our time at the workshop. We are not only ’prentice-carpenters but ’prentice-men—a trade whose apprenticeship is longer and more exacting than the rest. What shall we do? Shall we take a master to teach us the use of the plane and engage him by the hour like the dancing-master? In that case we should be not apprentices but students, and our ambition is not merely to learn carpentry but to be carpenters. Once or twice a week I think we should spend the whole day at our master’s; we should get up when he does, we should be at our work before him, we should take our meals with him, work under his orders, and after having had the honour of supping at his table we may if we please return to sleep upon our own hard beds. This is the way to learn several trades at once, to learn to do manual work without neglecting our apprenticeship to life.
Let us do what is right without ostentation; let us not fall into vanity through our efforts to resist it. To pride ourselves on our victory over prejudice is to succumb to prejudice. It is said that in accordance with an old custom of the Ottomans, the sultan is obliged to work with his hands, and, as every one knows, the handiwork of a king is a masterpiece. So he royally distributes his masterpieces among the great lords of the Porte and the price paid is in accordance with the rank of the workman. It is not this so-called abuse to which I object; on the contrary, it is an advantage, and by compelling the lords to share with him the spoils of the people it is so much the less necessary for the prince to plunder the people himself. Despotism needs some such relaxation, and without it that hateful rule could not last.
The real evil in such a custom is the idea it gives that poor man of his own worth. Like King Midas he sees all things turn to gold at his touch, but he does not see the ass’ ears growing. Let us keep Emile’s hands from money lest he should become an ass, let him take the work but not the wages. Never let his work be judged by any standard but that of the work of a master. Let it be judged as work, not because it is his. If anything is well done, I say, “That is a good piece of work,” but do not ask who did it. If he is pleased and proud and says, “I did it,” answer indifferently, “No matter who did it, it is well done.”
Good mother, be on your guard against the deceptions prepared for you. If your son knows many things, distrust his knowledge; if he is unlucky enough to be rich and educated in Paris he is ruined. As long as there are clever artists he will have every talent, but apart from his masters he will have none. In Paris a rich man knows everything, it is the poor who are ignorant. Our capital is full of amateurs, especially women, who do their work as M. Gillaume invents his colours. Among the men I know three striking exceptions, among the women I know no exceptions, and I doubt if there are any. In a general way a man becomes an artist and a judge of art as he becomes a Doctor of Laws and a magistrate.
If then it is once admitted that it is a fine thing to have a trade, your children would soon have one without learning it. They would become postmasters like the councillors of Zurich. Let us have no such ceremonies for Emile; let it be the real thing not the sham. Do not say what he knows, let him learn in silence. Let him make his masterpiece, but not be hailed as master; let him be a workman not in name but in deed.
If I have made my meaning clear you ought to realise how bodily exercise and manual work unconsciously arouse thought and reflexion in my pupil, and counteract the idleness which might result from his indifference to men’s judgments, and his freedom from passion. He must work like a peasant and think like a philosopher, if he is not to be as idle as a savage. The great secret of education is to use exercise of mind and body as relaxation one to the other.
But beware of anticipating teaching which demands more maturity of mind. Emile will not long be a workman before he discovers those social inequalities he had not previously observed. He will want to question me in turn on the maxims I have given him, maxims he is able to understand. When he derives everything from me, when he is so nearly in the position of the poor, he will want to know why I am so far removed from it. All of a sudden he may put scathing questions to me. “You are rich, you tell me, and I see you are. A rich man owes his work to the community like the rest because he is a man. What are you doing for the community?” What would a fine tutor say to that? I do not know. He would perhaps be foolish enough to talk to the child of the care he bestows upon him. The workshop will get me out of the difficulty. “My dear Emile that is a very good question; I will undertake to answer for myself, when you can answer for yourself to your own satisfaction. Meanwhile I will take care to give what I can spare to you and to the poor, and to make a table or a bench every week, so as not to be quite useless.”
We have come back to ourselves. Having entered into possession of himself, our child is now ready to cease to be a child. He is more than ever conscious of the necessity which makes him dependent on things. After exercising his body and his senses you have exercised his mind and his judgment. Finally we have joined together the use of his limbs and his faculties. We have made him a worker and a thinker; we have now to make him loving and tender-hearted, to perfect reason through feeling. But before we enter on this new order of things, let us cast an eye over the stage we are leaving behind us, and perceive as clearly as we can how far we have got.
At first our pupil had merely sensations, now he has ideas; he could only feel, now he reasons. For from the comparison of many successive or simultaneous sensations and the judgment arrived at with regard to them, there springs a sort of mixed or complex sensation which I call an idea.
The way in which ideas are formed gives a character to the human mind. The mind which derives its ideas from real relations is thorough; the mind which relies on apparent relations is superficial. He who sees relations as they are has an exact mind; he who fails to estimate them aright has an inaccurate mind; he who concocts imaginary relations, which have no real existence, is a madman; he who does not perceive any relation at all is an imbecile. Clever men are distinguished from others by their greater or less aptitude for the comparison of ideas and the discovery of relations between them.
Simple ideas consist merely of sensations compared one with another. Simple sensations involve judgments, as do the complex sensations which I call simple ideas. In the sensation the judgment is purely passive; it affirms that I feel what I feel. In the percept or idea the judgment is active; it connects, compares, it discriminates between relations not perceived by the senses. That is the whole difference; but it is a great difference. Nature never deceives us; we deceive ourselves.
I see some one giving an ice-cream to an eight-year-old child; he does not know what it is and puts the spoon in his mouth. Struck by the cold he cries out, “Oh, it burns!” He feels a very keen sensation, and the heat of the fire is the keenest sensation he knows, so he thinks that is what he feels. Yet he is mistaken; cold hurts, but it does not burn; and these two sensations are different, for persons with more experience do not confuse them. So it is not the sensation that is wrong, but the judgment formed with regard to it.
It is just the same with those who see a mirror or some optical instrument for the first time, or enter a deep cellar in the depths of winter or at midsummer, or dip a very hot or cold hand into tepid water, or roll a little ball between two crossed fingers. If they are content to say what they really feel, their judgment, being purely passive, cannot go wrong; but when they judge according to appearances, their judgment is active; it compares and establishes by induction relations which are not really perceived. Then these inductions may or may not be mistaken. Experience is required to correct or prevent error.
Show your pupil the clouds at night passing between himself and the moon; he will think the moon is moving in the opposite direction and that the clouds are stationary. He will think this through a hasty induction, because he generally sees small objects moving and larger ones at rest, and the clouds seems larger than the moon, whose distance is beyond his reckoning. When he watches the shore from a moving boat he falls into the opposite mistake and thinks the earth is moving because he does not feel the motion of the boat and considers it along with the sea or river as one motionless whole, of which the shore, which appears to move, forms no part.
The first time a child sees a stick half immersed in water he thinks he sees a broken stick; the sensation is true and would not cease to be true even if he knew the reason of this appearance. So if you ask him what he sees, he replies, “A broken stick,” for he is quite sure he is experiencing this sensation. But when deceived by his judgment he goes further and, after saying he sees a broken stick, he affirms that it really is broken he says what is not true. Why? Because he becomes active and judges no longer by observation but by induction, he affirms what he does not perceive, i.e., that the judgment he receives through one of his senses would be confirmed by another.
Since all our errors arise in our judgment, it is clear, that had we no need for judgment, we should not need to learn; we should never be liable to mistakes, we should be happier in our ignorance than we can be in our knowledge. Who can deny that a vast number of things are known to the learned, which the unlearned will never know? Are the learned any nearer truth? Not so, the further they go the further they get from truth, for their pride in their judgment increases faster than their progress in knowledge, so that for every truth they acquire they draw a hundred mistaken conclusions. Every one knows that the learned societies of Europe are mere schools of falsehood, and there are assuredly more mistaken notions in the Academy of Sciences than in a whole tribe of American Indians.
The more we know, the more mistakes we make; therefore ignorance is the only way to escape error. Form no judgments and you will never be mistaken. This is the teaching both of nature and reason. We come into direct contact with very few things, and these are very readily perceived; the rest we regard with profound indifference. A savage will not turn his head to watch the working of the finest machinery or all the wonders of electricity. “What does that matter to me?” is the common saying of the ignorant; it is the fittest phrase for the wise.
Unluckily this phrase will no longer serve our turn. Everything matters to us, as we are dependent on everything, and our curiosity naturally increases with our needs. This is why I attribute much curiosity to the man of science and none to the savage. The latter needs no help from anybody; the former requires every one, and admirers most of all.
You will tell me I am going beyond nature. I think not. She chooses her instruments and orders them, not according to fancy, but necessity. Now a man’s needs vary with his circumstances. There is all the difference in the world between a natural man living in a state of nature, and a natural man living in society. Emile is no savage to be banished to the desert, he is a savage who has to live in the town. He must know how to get his living in a town, how to use its inhabitants, and how to live among them, if not of them.
In the midst of so many new relations and dependent on them, he must reason whether he wants to or no. Let us therefore teach him to reason correctly.
The best way of learning to reason aright is that which tends to simplify our experiences, or to enable us to dispense with them altogether without falling into error. Hence it follows that we must learn to confirm the experiences of each sense by itself, without recourse to any other, though we have been in the habit of verifying the experience of one sense by that of another. Then each of our sensations will become an idea, and this idea will always correspond to the truth. This is the sort of knowledge I have tried to accumulate during this third phase of man’s life.
This method of procedure demands a patience and circumspection which few teachers possess; without them the scholar will never learn to reason. For example, if you hasten to take the stick out of the water when the child is deceived by its appearance, you may perhaps undeceive him, but what have you taught him? Nothing more than he would soon have learnt for himself. That is not the right thing to do. You have not got to teach him truths so much as to show him how to set about discovering them for himself. To teach him better you must not be in such a hurry to correct his mistakes. Let us take Emile and myself as an illustration.
To begin with, any child educated in the usual way could not fail to answer the second of my imaginary questions in the affirmative. He will say, “That is certainly a broken stick.” I very much doubt whether Emile will give the same reply. He sees no reason for knowing everything or pretending to know it; he is never in a hurry to draw conclusions. He only reasons from evidence and on this occasion he has not got the evidence. He knows how appearances deceive us, if only through perspective.
Moreover, he knows by experience that there is always a reason for my slightest questions, though he may not see it at once; so he has not got into the habit of giving silly answers; on the contrary, he is on his guard, he considers things carefully and attentively before answering. He never gives me an answer unless he is satisfied with it himself, and he is hard to please. Lastly we neither of us take any pride in merely knowing a thing, but only in avoiding mistakes. We should be more ashamed to deceive ourselves with bad reasoning, than to find no explanation at all. There is no phrase so appropriate to us, or so often on our lips, as, “I do not know;” neither of us are ashamed to use it. But whether he gives the silly answer or whether he avoids it by our convenient phrase “I do not know,” my answer is the same. “Let us examine it.”
This stick immersed half way in the water is fixed in an upright position. To know if it is broken, how many things must be done before we take it out of the water or even touch it.
1. First we walk round it, and we see that the broken part follows us. So it is only our eye that changes it; looks do not make things move.
2. We look straight down on that end of the stick which is above the water, the stick is no longer bent,1 the end near our eye exactly hides the other end. Has our eye set the stick straight?
3. We stir the surface of the water; we see the stick break into several pieces, it moves in zigzags and follows the ripples of the water. Can the motion we gave the water suffice to break, soften, or melt the stick like this?
4. We draw the water off, and little by little we see the stick straightening itself as the water sinks. Is not this more than enough to clear up the business and to discover refraction? So it is not true that our eyes deceive us, for nothing more has been required to correct the mistakes attributed to it.
Suppose the child were stupid enough not to perceive the result of these experiments, then you must call touch to the help of sight. Instead of taking the stick out of the water, leave it where it is and let the child pass his hand along it from end to end; he will feel no angle, therefore the stick is not broken.
You will tell me this is not mere judgment but formal reasoning. Just so; but do not you see that as soon as the mind has got any ideas at all, every judgment is a process of reasoning? So that as soon as we compare one sensation with another, we are beginning to reason. The art of judging and the art of reasoning are one and the same.
Emile will never learn dioptrics unless he learns with this stick. He will not have dissected insects nor counted the spots on the sun; he will not know what you mean by a microscope or a telescope. Your learned pupils will laugh at his ignorance and rightly. I intend him to invent these instruments before he uses them, and you will expect that to take some time.
This is the spirit of my whole method at this stage. If the child rolls a little ball between two crossed fingers and thinks he feels two balls, I shall not let him look until he is convinced there is only one.
This explanation will suffice, I hope, to show plainly the progress made by my pupil hitherto and the route followed by him. But perhaps the number of things I have brought to his notice alarms you. I shall crush his mind beneath this weight of knowledge. Not so, I am rather teaching him to be ignorant of things than to know them. I am showing him the path of science, easy indeed, but long, far-reaching and slow to follow. I am taking him a few steps along this path, but I do not allow him to go far.
Compelled to learn for himself, he uses his own reason not that of others, for there must be no submission to authority if you would have no submission to convention. Most of our errors are due to others more than ourselves. This continual exercise should develop a vigour of mind like that acquired by the body through labour and weariness. Another advantage is that his progress is in proportion to his strength, neither mind nor body carries more than it can bear. When the understanding lays hold of things before they are stored in the memory, what is drawn from that store is his own; while we are in danger of never finding anything of our own in a memory over-burdened with undigested knowledge.
Emile knows little, but what he knows is really his own; he has no half-knowledge. Among the few things he knows and knows thoroughly this is the most valuable, that there are many things he does not know now but may know some day, many more that other men know but he will never know, and an infinite number which nobody will ever know. He is large-minded, not through knowledge, but through the power of acquiring it; he is open-minded, intelligent, ready for anything, and, as Montaigne says, capable of learning if not learned. I am content if he knows the “Wherefore” of his actions and the “Why” of his beliefs. For once more my object is not to supply him with exact knowledge, but the means of getting it when required, to teach him to value it at its true worth, and to love truth above all things. By this method progress is slow but sure, and we never need to retrace our steps.
Emile’s knowledge is confined to nature and things. The very name of history is unknown to him, along with metaphysics and morals. He knows the essential relations between men and things, but nothing of the moral relations between man and man. He has little power of generalisation, he has no skill in abstraction. He perceives that certain qualities are common to certain things, without reasoning about these qualities themselves. He is acquainted with the abstract idea of space by the help of his geometrical figures; he is acquainted with the abstract idea of quantity by the help of his algebraical symbols. These figures and signs are the supports on which these ideas may be said to rest, the supports on which his senses repose. He does not attempt to know the nature of things, but only to know things in so far as they affect himself. He only judges what is outside himself in relation to himself, and his judgment is exact and certain. Caprice and prejudice have no part in it. He values most the things which are of use to himself, and as he never departs from this standard of values, he owes nothing to prejudice.
Emile is industrious, temperate, patient, stedfast, and full of courage. His imagination is still asleep, so he has no exaggerated ideas of danger; the few ills he feels he knows how to endure in patience, because he has not learnt to rebel against fate. As to death, he knows not what it means; but accustomed as he is to submit without resistance to the law of necessity, he will die, if die he must, without a groan and without a struggle; that is as much as we can demand of nature, in that hour which we all abhor. To live in freedom, and to be independent of human affairs, is the best way to learn how to die.
In a word Emile is possessed of all that portion of virtue which concerns himself. To acquire the social virtues he only needs a knowledge of the relations which make those virtues necessary; he only lacks knowledge which he is quite ready to receive.
He thinks not of others but of himself, and prefers that others should do the same. He makes no claim upon them, and acknowledges no debt to them. He is alone in the midst of human society, he depends on himself alone, for he is all that a boy can be at his age. He has no errors, or at least only such as are inevitable; he has no vices, or only those from which no man can escape. His body is healthy, his limbs are supple, his mind is accurate and unprejudiced, his heart is free and untroubled by passion. Pride, the earliest and the most natural of passions, has scarcely shown itself. Without disturbing the peace of others, he has passed his life contented, happy, and free, so far as nature allows. Do you think that the earlier years of a child, who has reached his fifteenth year in this condition, have been wasted?
How swiftly life passes here below! The first quarter of it is gone before we know how to use it; the last quarter finds us incapable of enjoying life. At first we do not know how to live; and when we know how to live it is too late. In the interval between these two useless extremes we waste three-fourths of our time sleeping, working, sorrowing, enduring restraint and every kind of suffering. Life is short, not so much because of the short time it lasts, but because we are allowed scarcely any time to enjoy it. In vain is there a long interval between the hour of death and that of birth; life is still too short, if this interval is not well spent.
We are born, so to speak, twice over; born into existence, and born into life; born a human being, and born a man. Those who regard woman as an imperfect man are no doubt mistaken, but they have external resemblance on their side. Up to the age of puberty children of both sexes have little to distinguish them to the eye, the same face and form, the same complexion and voice, everything is the same; girls are children and boys are children; one name is enough for creatures so closely resembling one another. Males whose development is arrested preserve this resemblance all their lives; they are always big children; and women who never lose this resemblance seem in many respects never to be more than children.
But, speaking generally, man is not meant to remain a child. He leaves childhood behind him at the time ordained by nature; and this critical moment, short enough in itself, has far-reaching consequences.
As the roaring of the waves precedes the tempest, so the murmur of rising passions announces this tumultuous change; a suppressed excitement warns us of the approaching danger. A change of temper, frequent outbreaks of anger, a perpetual stirring of the mind, make the child almost ungovernable. He becomes deaf to the voice he used to obey; he is a lion in a fever; he distrusts his keeper and refuses to be controlled.
With the moral symptoms of a changing temper there are perceptible changes in appearance. His countenance develops and takes the stamp of his character; the soft and sparse down upon his cheecks becomes darker and stiffer. His voice grows hoarse or rather he loses it altogether. He is neither a child nor a man and cannot speak like either of them. His eyes, those organs of the soul which till now were dumb, find speech and meaning; a kindling fire illumines them, there is still a sacred innocence in their ever brightening glance, but they have lost their first meaningless expression; he is already aware that they can say too much; he is beginning to learn to lower his eyes and blush, he is becoming sensitive, though he does not know what it is that he feels; he is uneasy without knowing why. All this may happen gradually and give you time enough; but if his keenness becomes impatience, his eagerness madness, if he is angry and sorry all in a moment, if he weeps without cause, if in the presence of objects which are beginning to be a source of danger his pulse quickens and his eyes sparkle, if he trembles when a woman’s hand touches his, if he is troubled or timid in her presence, O Ulysses, wise Ulysses! have a care! The passages you closed with so much pains are open; the winds are unloosed; keep your hand upon the helm or all is lost.
This is the second birth I spoke of; then it is that man really enters upon life; henceforth no human passion is a stranger to him. Our efforts so far have been child’s play, now they are of the greatest importance. This period when education is usually finished is just the time to begin; but to explain this new plan properly, let us take up our story where we left it.
Our passions are the chief means of self-preservation; to try to destroy them is therefore as absurd as it is useless; this would be to overcome nature, to reshape God’s handiwork. If God bade man annihilate the passions he has given him, God would bid him be and not be; He would contradict himself. He has never given such a foolish commandment, there is nothing like it written on the heart of man, and what God will have a man do, He does not leave to the words of another man, He speaks Himself; His words are written in the secret heart.
Now I consider those who would prevent the birth of the passions almost as foolish as those who would destroy them, and those who think this has been my object hitherto are greatly mistaken.
But should we reason rightly, if from the fact that passions are natural to man, we inferred that all the passions we feel in ourselves and behold in others are natural? Their source, indeed, is natural; but they have been swollen by a thousand other streams; they are a great river which is constantly growing, one in which we can scarcely find a single drop of the original stream. Our natural passions are few in number; they are the means to freedom, they tend to self-preservation. All those which enslave and destroy us have another source; nature does not bestow them on us; we seize on them in her despite.
The origin of our passions, the root and spring of all the rest, the only one which is born with man, which never leaves him as long as he lives, is self-love; this passion is primitive, instinctive, it precedes all the rest, which are in a sense only modifications of it. In this sense, if you like, they are all natural. But most of these modifications are the result of external influences, without which they would never occur, and such modifications, far from being advantageous to us, are harmful. They change the original purpose and work against its end; then it is that man finds himself outside nature and at strife with himself.
Self-love is always good, always in accordance with the order of nature. The preservation of our own life is specially entrusted to each one of us, and our first care is, and must be, to watch over our own life; and how can we continually watch over it, if we do not take the greatest interest in it?
Self-preservation requires, therefore, that we shall love ourselves; we must love ourselves above everything, and it follows directly from this that we love what contributes to our preservation. Every child becomes fond of its nurse; Romulus must have loved the she-wolf who suckled him. At first this attachment is quite unconscious; the individual is attracted to that which contributes to his welfare and repelled by that which is harmful; this is merely blind instinct. What transforms this instinct into feeling, the liking into love, the aversion into hatred, is the evident intention of helping or hurting us. We do not become passionately attached to objects without feeling, which only follow the direction given them; but those from which we expect benefit or injury from their internal disposition, from their will. Those we see acting freely for or against us, inspire us with like feelings to those they exhibit towards us. Something does us good, we seek after it; but we love the person who does us good; something harms us and we shrink from it, but we hate the person who tries to hurt us.
The child’s first sentiment is self-love, his second, which is derived from it, is love of those about him; for in his present state of weakness he is only aware of people through the help and attention received from them. At first his affection for his nurse and his governess is mere habit. He seeks them because he needs them and because he is happy when they are there; it is rather perception than kindly feeling. It takes a long time to discover not merely that they are useful to him, but that they desire to be useful to him, and then it is that he begins to love them.
So a child is naturally disposed to kindly feeling because he sees that every one about him is inclined to help him, and from this experience he gets the habit of a kindly feeling towards his species; but with the expansion of his relations, his needs, his dependence, active or passive, the consciousness of his relations to others is awakened, and leads to the sense of duties and preferences. Then the child becomes masterful, jealous, deceitful, and vindictive. If he is not compelled to obedience, when he does not see the usefulness of what he is told to do, he attributes it to caprice, to an intention of tormenting him, and he rebels. If people give in to him, as soon as anything opposes him he regards it as rebellion, as a determination to resist him; he beats the chair or table for disobeying him. Self-love, which concerns itself only with ourselves, is content to satisfy our own needs; but selfishness, which is always comparing self with others, is never satisfied and never can be; for this feeling, which prefers ourselves to others, requires that they should prefer us to themselves, which is impossible. Thus the tender and gentle passions spring from self-love, while the hateful and angry passions spring from selfishness. So it is the fewness of his needs, the narrow limits within which he can compare himself with others, that makes a man really good; what makes him really bad is a multiplicity of needs and dependence on the opinions of others. It is easy to see how we can apply this principle and guide every passion of children and men towards good or evil. True, man cannot always live alone, and it will be hard therefore to remain good; and this difficulty will increase of necessity as his relations with others are extended. For this reason, above all, the dangers of social life demand that the necessary skill and care shall be devoted to guarding the human heart against the depravity which springs from fresh needs.
Man’s proper study is that of his relation to his environment. So long as he only knows that environment through his physical nature, he should study himself in relation to things; this is the business of his childhood; when he begins to be aware of his moral nature, he should study himself in relation to his fellow-men; this is the business of his whole life, and we have now reached the time when that study should be begun.
As soon as a man needs a companion he is no longer an isolated creature, his heart is no longer alone. All his relations with his species, all the affections of his heart, come into being along with this. His first passion soon arouses the rest.
The direction of the instinct is uncertain. One sex is attracted by the other; that is the impulse of nature. Choice, preferences, individual likings, are the work of reason, prejudice, and habit; time and knowledge are required to make us capable of love; we do not love without reasoning or prefer without comparison. These judgments are none the less real, although they are formed unconsciously. True love, whatever you may say, will always be held in honour by mankind; for although its impulses lead us astray, although it does not bar the door of the heart to certain detestable qualities, although it even gives rise to these, yet it always presupposes certain worthy characteristics, without which we should be incapable of love. This choice, which is supposed to be contrary to reason, really springs from reason. We say Love is blind because his eyes are better than ours, and he perceives relations which we cannot discern. All women would be alike to a man who had no idea of virtue or beauty, and the first comer would always be the most charming. Love does not spring from nature, far from it; it is the curb and law of her desires; it is love that makes one sex indifferent to the other, the loved one alone excepted.
We wish to inspire the preference we feel; love must be mutual. To be loved we must be worthy of love; to be preferred we must be more worthy than the rest, at least in the eyes of our beloved. Hence we begin to look around among our fellows; we begin to compare ourselves with them, there is emulation, rivalry, and jealousy. A heart full to overflowing loves to make itself known; from the need of a mistress there soon springs the need of a friend. He who feels how sweet it is to be loved, desires to be loved by everybody; and there could be no preferences if there were not many that fail to find satisfaction. With love and friendship there begin dissensions, enmity, and hatred. I behold deference to other people’s opinions enthroned among all these divers passions, and foolish mortals, enslaved by her power, base their very existence merely on what other people think.
Expand these ideas and you will see where we get that form of selfishness which we call natural selfishness, and how selfishness ceases to be a simple feeling and becomes pride in great minds, vanity in little ones, and in both feeds continually at our neighbour’s cost. Passions of this kind, not having any germ in the child’s heart, cannot spring up in it of themselves; it is we who sow the seeds, and they never take root unless by our fault. Not so with the young man; they will find an entrance in spite of us. It is therefore time to change our methods.
Let us begin with some considerations of importance with regard to the critical stage under discussion. The change from childhood to puberty is not so clearly determined by nature but that it varies according to individual temperament and racial conditions. Everybody knows the differences which have been observed with regard to this between hot and cold countries, and every one sees that ardent temperaments mature earlier than others; but we may be mistaken as to the causes, and we may often attribute to physical causes what is really due to moral: this is one of the commonest errors in the philosophy of our times. The teaching of nature comes slowly; man’s lessons are mostly premature. In the former case, the senses kindle the imagination, in the latter the imagination kindles the senses; it gives them a precocious activity which cannot fail to enervate the individual and, in the long run, the race. It is a more general and more trustworthy fact than that of climatic influences, that puberty and sexual power is always more precocious among educated and civilised races, than among the ignorant and barbarous.1 Children are preternaturally quick to discern immoral habits under the cloak of decency with which they are concealed. The prim speech imposed upon them, the lessons in good behaviour, the veil of mystery you profess to hang before their eyes, serve but to stimulate their curiosity. It is plain, from the way you set about it, that they are meant to learn what you profess to conceal; and of all you teach them this is most quickly assimilated.
Consult experience and you will find how far this foolish method hastens the work of nature and ruins the character. This is one of the chief causes of physical degeneration in our towns. The young people, prematurely exhausted, remain small, puny, and misshapen, they grow old instead of growing up, like a vine forced to bear fruit in spring, which fades and dies before autumn.
To know how far a happy ignorance may prolong the innocence of children, you must live among rude and simple people. It is a sight both touching and amusing to see both sexes, left to the protection of their own hearts, continuing the sports of childhood in the flower of youth and beauty, showing by their very familiarity the purity of their pleasures. When at length those delightful young people marry, they bestow on each other the first fruits of their person, and are all the dearer therefore. Swarms of strong and healthy children are the pledges of a union which nothing can change, and the fruit of the virtue of their early years.
If the age at which a man becomes conscious of his sex is deferred as much by the effects of education as by the action of nature, it follows that this age may be hastened or retarded according to the way in which the child is brought up; and if the body gains or loses strength in proportion as its development is accelerated or retarded, it also follows that the more we try to retard it the stronger and more vigorous will the young man be. I am still speaking of purely physical consequences; you will soon see that this is not all.
From these considerations I arrive at the solution of the question so often discussed—Should we enlighten children at an early period as to the objects of their curiosity, or is it better to put them off with decent shams? I think we need do neither. In the first place, this curiosity will not arise unless we give it a chance. We must therefore take care not to give it an opportunity. In the next place, questions one is not obliged to answer do not compel us to deceive those who ask them; it is better to bid the child hold his tongue than to tell him a lie. He will not be greatly surprised at this treatment if you have already accustomed him to it in matters of no importance. Lastly, if you decide to answer his questions, let it be with the greatest plainness, without mystery or confusion, without a smile. It is much less dangerous to satisfy a child’s curiosity than to stimulate it.
Let your answers be always grave, brief, decided, and without trace of hesitation. I need not add that they should be true. We cannot teach children the danger of telling lies to men without realising, on the man’s part, the danger of telling lies to children. A single untruth on the part of the master will destroy the results of his education.
Complete ignorance with regard to certain matters is perhaps the best thing for children; but let them learn very early what it is impossible to conceal from them permanently. Either their curiosity must never be aroused, or it must be satisfied before the age when it becomes a source of danger. Your conduct towards your pupil in this respect depends greatly on his individual circumstances, the society in which he moves, the position in which he may find himself, etc. Nothing must be left to chance; and if you are not sure of keeping him in ignorance of the difference between the sexes till he is sixteen, take care you teach him before he is ten.
I do not like people to be too fastidious in speaking with children, nor should they go out of their way to avoid calling a spade a spade; they are always found out if they do. Good manners in this respect are always perfectly simple; but an imagination soiled by vice makes the ear suspicious and compels us to be constantly refining our expressions. Plain words do not matter; it is lascivious ideas which must be avoided.
Although modesty is natural to man, it is not natural to children. Modesty only begins with the knowledge of evil; and how should children without this knowledge of evil have the feeling which results from it? To give them lessons in modesty and good conduct is to teach them that there are things shameful and wicked, and to give them a secret wish to know what these things are. Sooner or later they will find out, and the first spark which touches the imagination will certainly hasten the awakening of the senses. Blushes are the sign of guilt; true innocence is ashamed of nothing.
Children have not the same desires as men; but they are subject like them to the same disagreeable needs which offend the senses, and by this means they may receive the same lessons in propriety. Follow the mind of nature which has located in the same place the organs of secret pleasures and those of disgusting needs; she teaches us the same precautions at different ages, sometimes by means of one idea and sometimes by another; to the man through modesty, to the child through cleanliness.
I can only find one satisfactory way of preserving the child’s innocence, to surround him by those who respect and love him. Without this all our efforts to keep him in ignorance fail sooner or later; a smile, a wink, a careless gesture tells him all we sought to hide; it is enough to teach him to perceive that there is something we want to hide from him. The delicate phrases and expressions employed by persons of politeness assume a knowledge which children ought not to possess, and they are quite out of place with them, but when we truly respect the child’s innocence we easily find in talking to him the simple phrases which befit him. There is a certain directness of speech which is suitable and pleasing to innocence; this is the right tone to adopt in order to turn the child from dangerous curiosity. By speaking simply to him about everything you do not let him suspect there is anything left unsaid. By connecting coarse words with the unpleasant ideas which belong to them, you quench the first spark of imagination; you do not forbid the child to say these words or to form these ideas; but without his knowing it you make him unwilling to recall them. And how much confusion is spared to those who speaking from the heart always say the right thing, and say it as they themselves have felt it!
“Where do little children come from?” This is an embarrassing question, which occurs very naturally to children, one which foolishly or wisely answered may decide their health or their morals for life. The quickest way for a mother to escape from it without deceiving her son is to tell him to hold his tongue. That will serve its turn if he has always been accustomed to it in matters of no importance, and if he does not suspect some mystery from this new way of speaking. But the mother rarely stops there. “It is the married people’s secret,” she will say, “little boys should not be so curious.” That is all very well so far as the mother is concerned, but she may be sure that the little boy, piqued by her scornful manner, will not rest till he has found out the married people’s secret, which will very soon be the case.
Let me tell you a very different answer which I heard given to the same question, one which made all the more impression on me, coming, as it did, from a woman, modest in speech and behaviour, but one who was able on occasion, for the welfare of her child and for the cause of virtue, to cast aside the false fear of blame and the silly jests of the foolish. Not long before the child had passed a small stone which had torn the passage, but the trouble was over and forgotten. “Mamma,” said the eager child, “where do little children come from?” “My child,” replied his mother without hesitation, “women pass them with pains that sometimes cost their life.” Let fools laugh and silly people be shocked; but let the wise inquire if it is possible to find a wiser answer and one which would better serve its purpose.
In the first place the thought of a need of nature with which the child is well acquainted turns his thoughts from the idea of a mysterious process. The accompanying ideas of pain and death cover it with a veil of sadness which deadens the imagination and suppresses curiosity; everything leads the mind to the results, not the causes, of child-birth. This is the information to which this answer leads. If the repugnance inspired by this answer should permit the child to inquire further, his thoughts are turned to the infirmities of human nature, disgusting things, images of pain. What chance is there for any stimulation of desire in such a conversation? And yet you see there is no departure from truth, no need to deceive the scholar in order to teach him.
Your children read; in the course of their reading they meet with things they would never have known without reading. Are they students, their imagination is stimulated and quickened in the silence of the study. Do they move in the world of society, they hear a strange jargon, they see conduct which makes a great impression on them; they have been told so continually that they are men that in everything men do in their presence they at once try to find how that will suit themselves; the conduct of others must indeed serve as their pattern when the opinions of others are their law. Servants, dependent on them, and therefore anxious to please them, flatter them at the expense of their morals; giggling governesses say things to the four-year-old child which the most shameless woman would not dare to say to them at fifteen. They soon forget what they said, but the child has not forgotten what he heard. Loose conversation prepares the way for licentious conduct; the child is debauched by the cunning lacquey, and the secret of the one guarantees the secret of the other.
The child brought up in accordance with his age is alone. He knows no attachment but that of habit, he loves his sister like his watch, and his friend like his dog. He is unconscious of his sex and his species; men and women are alike unknown; he does not connect their sayings and doings with himself, he neither sees nor hears, or he pays no heed to them; he is no more concerned with their talk than their actions; he has nothing to do with it. This is no artificial error induced by our method, it is the ignorance of nature. The time is at hand when that same nature will take care to enlighten her pupil, and then only does she make him capable of profiting by the lessons without danger. This is our principle; the details of its rules are outside my subject; and the means I suggest with regard to other matters will still serve to illustrate this.
Do you wish to establish law and order among the rising passions, prolong the period of their development, so that they may have time to find their proper place as they arise. Then they are controlled by nature herself, not by man; your task is merely to leave it in her hands. If your pupil were alone, you would have nothing to do; but everything about him enflames his imagination. He is swept along on the torrent of conventional ideas; to rescue him you must urge him in the opposite direction. Imagination must be curbed by feeling and reason must silence the voice of conventionality. Sensibility is the source of all the passions, imagination determines their course. Every creature who is aware of his relations must be disturbed by changes in these relations and when he imagines or fancies he imagines others better adapted to his nature. It is the errors of the imagination which transmute into vices the passions of finite beings, of angels even, if indeed they have passions; for they must needs know the nature of every creature to realise what relations are best adapted to themselves.
This is the sum of human wisdom with regard to the use of the passions. First, to be conscious of the true relations of man both in the species and the individual; second, to control all the affections in accordance with these relations.
But is man in a position to control his affections according to such and such relations? No doubt he is, if he is able to fix his imagination on this or that object, or to form this or that habit. Moreover, we are not so much concerned with what a man can do for himself, as with what we can do for our pupil through our choice of the circumstances in which he shall be placed. To show the means by which he may be kept in the path of nature is to show plainly enough how he might stray from that path.
So long as his consciousness is confined to himself there is no morality in his actions; it is only when it begins to extend beyond himself that he forms first the sentiments and then the ideas of good and ill, which make him indeed a man, and an integral part of his species. To begin with we must therefore confine our observations to this point.
These observations are difficult to make, for we must reject the examples before our eyes, and seek out those in which the successive developments follow the order of nature.
A child sophisticated, polished, and civilised, who is only awaiting the power to put into practice the precocious instruction he has received, is never mistaken with regard to the time when this power is acquired. Far from awaiting it, he accelerates it; he stirs his blood to a premature ferment; he knows what should be the object of his desires long before those desires are experienced. It is not nature which stimulates him; it is he who forces the hand of nature; she has nothing to teach him when he becomes a man; he was a man in thought long before he was a man in reality.
The true course of nature is slower and more gradual. Little by little the blood grows warmer, the faculties expand, the character is formed. The wise workman who directs the process is careful to perfect every tool before he puts it to use; the first desires are preceded by a long period of unrest, they are deceived by a prolonged ignorance, they know not what they want. The blood ferments and bubbles; overflowing vitality seeks to extend its sphere. The eye grows brighter and surveys others, we begin to be interested in those about us, we begin to feel that we are not meant to live alone; thus the heart is thrown open to human affection, and becomes capable of attachment.
The first sentiment of which the well-trained youth is capable is not love but friendship. The first work of his rising imagination is to make known to him his fellows; the species affects him before the sex. Here is another advantage to be gained from prolonged innocence; you may take advantage of his dawning sensibility to sow the first seeds of humanity in the heart of the young adolescent. This advantage is all the greater because this is the only time in his life when such efforts may be really successful.
I have always observed that young men, corrupted in early youth and addicted to women and debauchery, are inhuman and cruel; their passionate temperament makes them impatient, vindictive, and angry; their imagination fixed on one object only, refuses all others; mercy and pity are alike unknown to them; they would have sacrificed father, mother, the whole world, to the least of their pleasures. A young man, on the other hand, brought up in happy innocence, is drawn by the first stirrings of nature to the tender and affectionate passions; his warm heart is touched by the sufferings of his fellow-creatures; he trembles with delight when he meets his comrade, his arms can embrace tenderly, his eyes can shed tears of pity; he learns to be sorry for offending others through his shame at causing annoyance. If the eager warmth of his blood makes him quick, hasty, and passionate, a moment later you see all his natural kindness of heart in the eagerness of his repentance; he weeps, he groans over the wound he has given; he would atone for the blood he has shed with his own; his anger dies away, his pride abases itself before the consciousness of his wrong-doing. Is he the injured party, in the height of his fury an excuse, a word, disarms him; he forgives the wrongs of others as whole-heartedly as he repairs his own. Adolescence is not the age of hatred or vengeance; it is the age of pity, mercy, and generosity. Yes, I maintain, and I am not afraid of the testimony of experience, a youth of good birth, one who has preserved his innocence up to the age of twenty, is at that age the best, the most generous, the most loving, and the most lovable of men. You never heard such a thing; I can well believe that philosophers such as you, brought up among the corruption of the public schools, are unaware of it.
Man’s weakness makes him sociable. Our common sufferings draw our hearts to our fellow-creatures; we should have no duties to mankind if we were not men. Every affection is a sign of insufficiency; if each of us had no need of others, we should hardly think of associating with them. So our frail happiness has its roots in our weakness. A really happy man is a hermit; God only enjoys absolute happiness; but which of us has any idea what that means? If any imperfect creature were self-sufficing, what would he have to enjoy? To our thinking he would be wretched and alone. I do not understand how one who has need of nothing could love anything, nor do I understand how he who loves nothing can be happy.
Hence it follows that we are drawn towards our fellow-creatures less by our feeling for their joys than for their sorrows; for in them we discern more plainly a nature like our own, and a pledge of their affection for us. If our common needs create a bond of interest our common sufferings create a bond of affection. The sight of a happy man arouses in others envy rather than love, we are ready to accuse him of usurping a right which is not his, of seeking happiness for himself alone, and our selfishness suffers an additional pang in the thought that this man has no need of us. But who does not pity the wretch when he beholds his sufferings? who would not deliver him from his woes if a wish could do it? Imagination puts us more readily in the place of the miserable man than of the happy man; we feel that the one condition touches us more nearly than the other. Pity is sweet, because, when we put ourselves in the place of one who suffers, we are aware, nevertheless, of the pleasure of not suffering like him. Envy is bitter, because the sight of a happy man, far from putting the envious in his place, inspires him with regret that he is not there. The one seems to exempt us from the pains he suffers, the other seems to deprive us of the good things he enjoys.
Do you desire to stimulate and nourish the first stirrings of awakening sensibility in the heart of a young man, do you desire to incline his disposition towards kindly deed and thought, do not cause the seeds of pride, vanity, and envy to spring up in him through the misleading picture of the happiness of mankind; do not show him to begin with the pomp of courts, the pride of palaces, the delights of pageants; do not take him into society and into brilliant assemblies; do not show him the outside of society till you have made him capable of estimating it at its true worth. To show him the world before he is acquainted with men, is not to train him, but to corrupt him; not to teach, but to mislead.
By nature men are neither kings, nobles, courtiers, nor millionaires. All men are born poor and naked, all are liable to the sorrows of life, its disappointments, its ills, its needs, its suffering of every kind; and all are condemned at length to die. This is what it really means to be a man, this is what no mortal can escape. Begin then with the study of the essentials of humanity, that which really constitutes mankind.
At sixteen the adolescent knows what it is to suffer, for he himself has suffered; but he scarcely realises that others suffer too; to see without feeling is not knowledge, and as I have said again and again the child who does not picture the feelings of others knows no ills but his own; but when his imagination is kindled by the first beginnings of growing sensibility, he begins to perceive himself in his fellow-creatures, to be touched by their cries, to suffer in their sufferings. It is at this time that the sorrowful picture of suffering humanity should stir his heart with the first touch of pity he has ever known.
If it is not easy to discover this opportunity in your scholars, whose fault is it? You taught them so soon to play at feeling, you taught them so early its language, that speaking continually in the same strain they turn your lessons against yourself, and give you no chance of discovering when they cease to lie, and begin to feel what they say. But look at Emile; I have led him up to this age, and he has neither felt nor pretended to feel. He has never said, “I love you dearly,” till he knew what it was to love; he has never been taught what expression to assume when he enters the room of his father, his mother, or his sick tutor; he has not learnt the art of affecting a sorrow he does not feel. He has never pretended to weep for the death of any one, for he does not know what it is to die. There is the same insensibility in his heart as in his manners. Indifferent, like every child, to every one but himself, he takes no interest in any one; his only peculiarity is that he will not pretend to take such an interest; he is less deceitful than others.
Emile having thought little about creatures of feeling will be a long time before he knows what is meant by pain and death. Groans and cries will begin to stir his compassion, he will turn away his eyes at the sight of blood; the convulsions of a dying animal will cause him I know not what anguish before he knows the source of these impulses. If he were still stupid and barbarous he would not feel them; if he were more learned he would recognise their source; he has compared ideas too frequently already to be insensible, but not enough to know what he feels.
So pity is born, the first relative sentiment which touches the human heart according to the order of nature. To become sensitive and pitiful the child must know that he has fellow-creatures who suffer as he has suffered, who feel the pains he has felt, and others which he can form some idea of, being capable of feeling them himself. Indeed, how can we let ourselves be stirred by pity unless we go beyond ourselves, and identify ourselves with the suffering animal, by leaving, so to speak, our own nature and taking his. We only suffer so far as we suppose he suffers; the suffering is not ours but his. So no one becomes sensitive till his imagination is aroused and begins to carry him outside himself.
What should we do to stimulate and nourish this growing sensibility, to direct it, and to follow its natural bent? Should we not present to the young man objects on which the expansive force of his heart may take effect, objects which dilate it, which extend it to other creatures, which take him outside himself? should we not carefully remove everything that narrows, concentrates, and strengthens the power of the human self? that is to say, in other words, we should arouse in him kindness, goodness, pity, and beneficence, all the gentle and attractive passions which are naturally pleasing to man; those passions prevent the growth of envy, covetousness, hatred, all the repulsive and cruel passions which make our sensibility not merely a cipher but a minus quantity, passions which are the curse of those who feel them.
I think I can sum up the whole of the preceding reflections in two or three maxims, definite, straightforward, and easy to understand.
First Maxim.—It is not in human nature to put ourselves in the place of those who are happier than ourselves, but only in the place of those who can claim our pity.
If you find exceptions to this rule, they are more apparent than real. Thus we do not put ourselves in the place of the rich or great when we become fond of them; even when our affection is real, we only appropriate to ourselves a part of their welfare. Sometimes we love the rich man in the midst of misfortunes; but so long as he prospers he has no real friend, except the man who is not deceived by appearances, who pities rather than envies him in spite of his prosperity.
The happiness belonging to certain states of life appeals to us; take, for instance, the life of a shepherd in the country. The charm of seeing these good people so happy is not poisoned by envy; we are genuinely interested in them. Why is this? Because we feel we can descend into this state of peace and innocence and enjoy the same happiness; it is an alternative which only calls up pleasant thoughts, so long as the wish is as good as the deed. It is always pleasant to examine our stores, to contemplate our own wealth, even when we do not mean to spend it.
From this we see that to incline a young man to humanity you must not make him admire the brilliant lot of others: you must show him life in its sorrowful aspects and arouse his fears. Thus it becomes clear that he must force his own way to happiness, without interfering with the happiness of others.
Second Maxim.—We never pity another’s woes unless we know we may suffer in like manner ourselves.
“Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco.”
I know nothing so fine, so full of meaning, so touching, so true as these words.
Why have kings no pity on their people? Because they never expect to be ordinary men. Why are the rich so hard on the poor? Because they have no fear of becoming poor. Why do the nobles look down upon the people? Because a nobleman will never be one of the lower classes. Why are the Turks generally kinder and more hospitable than ourselves? Because, under their wholly arbitrary system of government, the rank and wealth of individuals are always uncertain and precarious, so that they do not regard poverty and degradation as conditions with which they have no concern; to-morrow, any one may himself be in the same position as those on whom he bestows alms to-day. This thought, which occurs again and again in eastern romances, lends them a certain tenderness which is not to be found in our pretentious and harsh morality.
So do not train your pupil to look down from the height of his glory upon the sufferings of the unfortunate, the labours of the wretched, and do not hope to teach him to pity them while he considers them as far removed from himself. Make him thoroughly aware of the fact that the fate of these unhappy persons may one day be his own, that his feet are standing on the edge of the abyss, into which he may be plunged at any moment by a thousand unexpected irresistible misfortunes. Teach him to put no trust in birth, health, or riches; show him all the changes of fortune; find him examples—there are only too many of them—in which men of higher rank than himself have sunk below the condition of these wretched ones. Whether by their own fault or another’s is for the present no concern of ours; does he indeed know the meaning of the word fault? Never interfere with the order in which he acquires knowledge, and teach him only through the means within his reach; it needs no great learning to perceive that all the prudence of mankind cannot make certain whether he will be alive or dead in an hour’s time, whether before nightfall he will not be grinding his teeth in the pangs of nephritis, whether a month hence he will be rich or poor, whether in a year’s time he may not be rowing an Algerian galley under the lash of the slave-driver. Above all do not teach him this, like his catechism, in cold blood; let him see and feel the calamities which overtake men; surprise and startle his imagination with the perils which lurk continually about a man’s path; let him see the pitfalls all about him, and when he hears you speak of them, let him cling more closely to you for fear lest he should fall. “You will make him timid and cowardly,” do you say? We shall see; let us make him kindly to begin with, that is what matters most.
Third Maxim.—The pity we feel for others is proportionate, not to the amount of the evil, but to the feelings we attribute to the sufferers.
We only pity the wretched so far as we think they feel the need of pity. The bodily effect of our sufferings is less than one would suppose; it is memory that prolongs the pain, imagination which projects it into the future, and makes us really to be pitied. This is, I think, one of the reasons why we are more callous to the sufferings of animals than of men, although a fellow-feeling ought to make us identify ourselves equally with either. We scarcely pity the cart-horse in his shed, for we do not suppose that while he is eating his hay he is thinking of the blows he has received and the labours in store for him. Neither do we pity the sheep grazing in the field, though we know it is about to be slaughtered, for we believe it knows nothing of the fate in store for it. In this way we also become callous to the fate of our fellow-men, and the rich console themselves for the harm done by them to the poor, by the assumption that the poor are too stupid to feel. I usually judge of the value any one puts on the welfare of his fellow-creatures by what he seems to think of them. We naturally think lightly of the happiness of those we despise. It need not surprise you that politicians speak so scornfully of the people, and philosophers profess to think mankind so wicked.
The people are mankind; those who do not belong to the people are so few in number that they are not worth counting. Man is the same in every station of life; if that be so, those ranks to which most men belong deserve most honour. All distinctions of rank fade away before the eyes of a thoughtful person; he sees the same passions, the same feelings in the noble and the guttersnipe; there is merely a slight difference in speech, and more or less artificiality of tone; and if there is indeed any essential difference between them, the disadvantage is all on the side of those who are more sophisticated. The people show themselves as they are, and they are not attractive; but the fashionable world is compelled to adopt a disguise; we should be horrified if we saw it as it really is.
There is, so our wiseacres tell us, the same amount of happiness and sorrow in every station. This saying is as deadly in its effects as it is incapable of proof; if all are equally happy why should I trouble myself about any one? Let every one stay where he is; leave the slave to be ill-treated, the sick man to suffer, and the wretched to perish; they have nothing to gain by any change in their condition. You enumerate the sorrows of the rich, and show the vanity of his empty pleasures; what barefaced sophistry! The rich man’s sufferings do not come from his position, but from himself alone when he abuses it. He is not to be pitied were he indeed more miserable than the poor, for his ills are of his own making, and he could be happy if he chose. But the sufferings of the poor man come from external things, from the hardships fate has imposed upon him. No amount of habit can accustom him to the bodily ills of fatigue, exhaustion, and hunger. Neither head nor heart can serve to free him from the sufferings of his condition. How is Epictetus the better for knowing beforehand that his master will break his leg for him; does he do it any the less? He has to endure not only the pain itself but the pains of anticipation. If the people were as wise as we assume them to be stupid, how could they be other than they are? Observe persons of this class; you will see that, with a different way of speaking, they have as much intelligence and more common-sense than yourself. Have respect then for your species; remember that it consists essentially of the people that if all the kings and all the philosophers were removed they would scarcely be missed, and things would go on none the worse. In a word, teach your pupil to love all men, even those who fail to appreciate him; act in such way that he is not a member of any class, but takes his place in all alike: speak in his hearing of the human race with tenderness, and even with pity, but never with scorn. You are a man; do not dishonour mankind.
It is by these ways and others like them—how different from the beaten paths—that we must reach the heart of the young adolescent and stimulate in him the first impulses of nature; we must develop that heart and open its doors to his fellow-creatures, and there must be as little self-interest as possible mixed up with these impulses; above all, no vanity, no emulation, no boasting, none of those sentiments which force us to compare ourselves with others; for such comparisons are never made without arousing some measure of hatred against those who dispute our claim to the first place, were it only in our own estimation. Then we must be either blind or angry, a bad man or a fool; let us try to avoid this dilemma. Sooner or later these dangerous passions will appear, so you tell me, in spite of us. I do not deny it. There is a time and place for everything; I am only saying that we should not help to arouse these passions.
This is the spirit of the method to be laid down. In this case examples and illustrations are useless, for here we find the beginning of the countless differences of character, and every example I gave would possibly apply to only one case in a hundred thousand. It is at this age that the clever teacher begins his real business, as a student and a philosopher who knows how to probe the heart and strives to guide it aright. While the young man has not learnt to pretend, while he does not even know the meaning of pretence, you see by his look, his manner, his gestures, the impression he has received from any object presented to him; you read in his countenance every impulse of his heart; by watching his expression you learn to protect his impulses and actually to control them.
It has been commonly observed that blood, wounds, cries and groans, the preparations for painful operations, and everything which directs the senses towards things connected with suffering, are usually the first to make an impression on all men. The idea of destruction, a more complex matter, does not have so great an effect; the thought of death affects us later and less forcibly, for no one knows from his own experience what it is to die; you must have seen corpses to feel the agonies of the dying. But when once this idea is established in the mind, there is no spectacle more dreadful in our eyes, whether because of the idea of complete destruction which it arouses through our senses, or because we know that this moment must come for each one of us and we feel ourselves all the more keenly affected by a situation from which we know there is no escape.
These various impressions differ in manner and in degree, according to the individual character of each one of us and his former habits, but they are universal and no one is altogether free from them. There are other impressions less universal and of a later growth, impressions most suited to sensitive souls, such impressions as we receive from moral suffering, inward grief, the sufferings of the mind, depression, and sadness. There are men who can be touched by nothing but groans and tears; the suppressed sobs of a heart labouring under sorrow would never win a sigh; the sight of a downcast visage, a pale and gloomy countenance, eyes which can weep no longer, would never draw a tear from them. The sufferings of the mind are as nothing to them; they weigh them, their own mind feels nothing; expect nothing from such persons but inflexible severity, harshness, cruelty. They may be just and upright, but not merciful, generous, or pitiful. They may, I say, be just, if a man can indeed be just without being merciful.
But do not be in a hurry to judge young people by this standard, more especially those who have been educated rightly, who have no idea of the moral sufferings they have never had to endure; for once again they can only pity the ills they know, and this apparent insensibility is soon transformed into pity when they begin to feel that there are in human life a thousand ills of which they know nothing. As for Emile, if in childhood he was distinguished by simplicity and good sense, in his youth he will show a warm and tender heart; for the reality of the feelings depends to a great extent on the accuracy of the ideas.
But why call him hither? More than one reader will reproach me no doubt for departing from my first intention and forgetting the lasting happiness I promised my pupil. The sorrowful, the dying, such sights of pain and woe, what happiness, what delight is this for a young heart on the threshold of life? His gloomy tutor, who proposed to give him such a pleasant education, only introduces him to life that he may suffer. This is what they will say, but what care I? I promised to make him happy, not to make him seem happy. Am I to blame if, deceived as usual by the outward appearances, you take them for the reality?
Let us take two young men at the close of their early education, and let them enter the world by opposite doors. The one mounts at once to Olympus, and moves in the smartest society; he is taken to court, he is presented in the houses of the great, of the rich, of the pretty women. I assume that he is everywhere made much of, and I do not regard too closely the effect of this reception on his reason; I assume it can stand it. Pleasures fly before him, every day provides him with fresh amusements; he flings himself into everything with an eagerness which carries you away. You find him busy, eager, and curious; his first wonder makes a great impression on you; you think him happy; but behold the state of his heart; you think he is rejoicing, I think he suffers.
What does he see when first he opens his eyes? all sorts of so-called pleasures, hitherto unknown. Most of these pleasures are only for a moment within his reach, and seem to show themselves only to inspire regret for their loss. Does he wander through a palace; you see by his uneasy curiosity that he is asking why his father’s house is not like it. Every question shows you that he is comparing himself all the time with the owner of this grand place. And all the mortification arising from this comparison at once revolts and stimulates his vanity. If he meets a young man better dressed than himself, I find him secretly complaining of his parents’ meanness. If he is better dressed than another, he suffers because the latter is his superior in birth or in intellect, and all his gold lace is put to shame by a plain cloth coat. Does he shine unrivalled in some assembly, does he stand on tiptoe that they may see him better, who is there who does not secretly desire to humble the pride and vanity of the young fop? Everybody is in league against him; the disquieting glances of a solemn man, the biting phrases of some satirical person, do not fail to reach him, and if it were only one man who despised him, the scorn of that one would poison in a moment the applause of the rest.
Let us grant him everything, let us not grudge him charm and worth; let him be well-made, witty, and attractive; the women will run after him; but by pursuing him before he is in love with them, they will inspire rage rather than love; he will have successes, but neither rapture nor passion to enjoy them. As his desires are always anticipated; they never have time to spring up among his pleasures, so he only feels the tedium of restraint. Even before he knows it he is disgusted and satiated with the sex formed to be the delight of his own; if he continues its pursuit it is only through vanity, and even should he really be devoted to women, he will not be the only brilliant, the only attractive young man, nor will he always find his mistresses prodigies of fidelity.
I say nothing of the vexation, the deceit, the crimes, and the remorse of all kinds, inseparable from such a life. We know that experience of the world disgusts us with it; I am speaking only of the drawbacks belonging to youthful illusions.
Hitherto the young man has lived in the bosom of his family and his friends, and has been the sole object of their care; what a change to enter all at once into a region where he counts for so little; to find himself plunged into another sphere, he who has been so long the centre of his own. What insults, what humiliation, must he endure, before he loses among strangers the ideas of his own importance which have been formed and nourished among his own people! As a child everything gave way to him, everybody flocked to him; as a young man he must give place to every one, or if he preserves ever so little of his former airs, what harsh lessons will bring him to himself! Accustomed to get everything he wants without any difficulty, his wants are many, and he feels continual privations. He is tempted by everything that flatters him; what others have, he must have too; he covets everything, he envies every one, he would always be master. He is devoured by vanity, his young heart is enflamed by unbridled passions, jealousy and hatred among the rest; all these violent passions burst out at once; their sting rankles in him in the busy world, they return with him at night, he comes back dissatisfied with himself, with others; he falls asleep among a thousand foolish schemes disturbed by a thousand fancies, and his pride shows him even in his dreams those fancied pleasures; he is tormented by a desire which will never be satisfied. So much for your pupil; let us turn to mine.
If the first thing to make an impression on him is something sorrowful his first return to himself is a feeling of pleasure. When he sees how many ills he has escaped he thinks he is happier than he fancied. He shares the suffering of his fellow-creatures, but he shares it of his own free will and finds pleasure in it. He enjoys at once the pity he feels for their woes and the joy of being exempt from them; he feels in himself that state of vigour which projects us beyond ourselves, and bids us carry elsewhere the superfluous activity of our well-being: To pity another’s woes we must indeed know them, but we need not feel them. When we have suffered, when we are in fear of suffering, we pity those who suffer; but when we suffer ourselves, we pity none but ourselves. But if all of us, being subject ourselves to the ills of life, only bestow upon others the sensibility we do not actually require for ourselves, it follows that pity must be a very pleasant feeling, since it speaks on our behalf; and, on the other hand, a hard-hearted man is always unhappy, since the state of his heart leaves him no superfluous sensibility to bestow on the sufferings of others.
We are too apt to judge of happiness by appearances; we suppose it is to be found in the most unlikely places, we seek for it where it cannot possibly be; mirth is a very doubtful indication of its presence. A merry man is often a wretch who is trying to deceive others and distract himself. The men who are jovial, friendly, and contented at their club are almost always gloomy grumblers at home, and their servants have to pay for the amusement they give among their friends. True contentment is neither merry nor noisy; we are jealous of so sweet a sentiment, when we enjoy it we think about it, we delight in it for fear it should escape us. A really happy man says little and laughs little; he hugs his happiness, so to speak, to his heart. Noisy games, violent delight, conceal the disappointment of satiety. But melancholy is the friend of pleasure; tears and pity attend our sweetest enjoyment, and great joys call for tears rather than laughter.
If at first the number and variety of our amusements seem to contribute to our happiness, if at first the even tenor of a quiet life seems tedious, when we look at it more closely we discover that the pleasantest habit of mind consists in a moderate enjoyment which leaves little scope for desire and aversion. The unrest of passion causes curiosity and fickleness; the emptiness of noisy pleasures causes weariness. We never weary of our state when we know none more delightful. Savages suffer less than other men from curiosity and from tedium; everything is the same to them—themselves, not their possessions—and they are never weary.
The man of the world almost always wears a mask. He is scarcely ever himself and is almost a stranger to himself; he is ill at ease when he is forced into his own company. Not what he is, but what he seems, is all he cares for.
I cannot help picturing in the countenance of the young man I have just spoken of an indefinable but unpleasant impertinence, smoothness, and affectation, which is repulsive to a plain man, and in the countenance of my own pupil a simple and interesting expression which indicates the real contentment and the calm of his mind; an expression which inspires respect and confidence, and seems only to await the establishment of friendly relations to bestow his own confidence in return. It is thought that the expression is merely the development of certain features designed by nature. For my own part I think that over and above this development a man’s face is shaped, all unconsciously, by the frequent and habitual influence of certain affections of the heart. These affections are shown on the face, there is nothing more certain; and when they become habitual, they must surely leave lasting traces. This is why I think the expression shows the character, and that we can sometimes read one another without seeking mysterious explanations in powers we do not possess.
A child has only two distinct feelings, joy and sorrow; he laughs or he cries; he knows no middle course, and he is constantly passing from one extreme to the other. On account of these perpetual changes there is no lasting impression on the face, and no expression; but when the child is older and more sensitive, his feelings are keener or more permanent, and these deeper impressions leave traces more difficult to erase; and the habitual state of the feelings has an effect on the features which in course of time becomes ineffaceable. Still it is not uncommon to meet with men whose expression varies with their age. I have met with several, and I have always found that those whom I could observe and follow had also changed their habitual temper. This one observation thoroughly confirmed would seem to me decisive, and it is not out of place in a treatise on education, where it is a matter of importance, that we should learn to judge the feelings of the heart by external signs.
I do not know whether my young man will be any the less amiable for not having learnt to copy conventional manners and to feign sentiments which are not his own; that does not concern me at present, I only know he will be more affectionate; and I find it difficult to believe that he, who cares for nobody but himself, can so far disguise his true feelings as to please as readily as he who finds fresh happiness for himself in his affection for others. But with regard to this feeling of happiness, I think I have said enough already for the guidance of any sensible reader, and to show that I have not contradicted myself.
I return to my system, and I say, when the critical age approaches, present to young people spectacles which restrain rather than excite them; put off their dawning imagination with objects which, far from inflaming their senses, put a check to their activity. Remove them from great cities, where the flaunting attire and the boldness of the women hasten and anticipate the teaching of nature, where everything presents to their view pleasures of which they should know nothing till they are of an age to choose for themselves. Bring them back to their early home, where rural simplicity allows the passions of their age to develop more slowly; or if their taste for the arts keeps them in town, guard them by means of this very taste from a dangerous idleness. Choose carefully their company, their occupations, and their pleasures; show them nothing but modest and pathetic pictures which are touching but not seductive, and nourish their sensibility without stimulating their senses. Remember also, that the danger of excess is not confined to any one place, and that immoderate passions always do irreparable damage. You need not make your pupil a sick-nurse or a Brother of Pity; you need not distress him by the perpetual sight of pain and suffering; you need not take him from one hospital to another, from the gallows to the prison. He must be softened, not hardened, by the sight of human misery. When we have seen a sight it ceases to impress us, use is second nature, what is always before our eyes no longer appeals to the imagination, and it is only through the imagination that we can feel the sorrows of others; this is why priests and doctors who are always beholding death and suffering become so hardened. Let your pupil therefore know something of the lot of man and the woes of his fellow-creatures, but let him not see them too often. A single thing, carefully selected and shown at the right time, will fill him with pity and set him thinking for a month. His opinion about anything depends not so much on what he sees, but on how it reacts on himself; and his lasting impression of any object depends less on the object itself than on the point of view from which he regards it. Thus by a sparing use of examples, lessons, and pictures, you may blunt the sting of sense and delay nature while following her own lead.
As he acquires knowledge, choose what ideas he shall attach to it; as his passions awake, select scenes calculated to repress them. A veteran, as distinguished for his character as for his courage, once told me that in early youth his father, a sensible man but extremely pious, observed that through his growing sensibility he was attracted by women, and spared no pains to restrain him; but at last when, in spite of all his care, his son was about to escape from his control, he decided to take him to a hospital, and, without telling him what to expect, he introduced him into a room where a number of wretched creatures were expiating, under a terrible treatment, the vices which had brought them into this plight. This hideous and revolting spectacle sickened the young man. “Miserable libertine,” said his father vehemently, “begone; follow your vile tastes; you will soon be only too glad to be admitted to this ward, and a victim to the most shameful sufferings, you will compel your father to thank God when you are dead.”
These few words, together with the striking spectacle he beheld, made an impression on the young man which could never be effaced. Compelled by his profession to pass his youth in garrison, he preferred to face all the jests of his comrades rather than to share their evil ways. “I have been a man,” he said to me, “I have had my weaknesses, but even to the present day the sight of a harlot inspires me with horror.” Say little to your pupil, but choose time, place, and people; then rely on concrete examples for your teaching, and be sure it will take effect.
The way childhood is spent is no great matter; the evil which may find its way is not irremediable, and the good which may spring up might come later. But it is not so in those early years when a youth really begins to live. This time is never long enough for what there is to be done, and its importance demands unceasing attention; this is why I lay so much stress on the art of prolonging it. One of the best rules of good farming is to keep things back as much as possible. Let your progress also be slow and sure; prevent the youth from becoming a man all at once. While the body is growing the spirits destined to give vigour to the blood and strength to the muscles are in process of formation and elaboration. If you turn them into another channel, and permit that strength which should have gone to the perfecting of one person to go to the making of another, both remain in a state of weakness and the work of nature is unfinished. The workings of the mind, in their turn, are affected by this change, and the mind, as sickly as the body, functions languidly and feebly. Length and strength of limb are not the same thing as courage or genius, and I grant that strength of mind does not always accompany strength of body, when the means of connection between the two are otherwise faulty. But however well planned they may be, they will always work feebly if for motive power they depend upon an exhausted, impoverished supply of blood, deprived of the substance which gives strength and elasticity to all the springs of the machinery. There is generally more vigour of mind to be found among men whose early years have been preserved from precocious vice, than among those whose evil living has begun at the earliest opportunity; and this is no doubt the reason why nations whose morals are pure are generally superior in sense and courage to those whose morals are bad. The latter shine only through I know not what small and trifling qualities, which they call wit, sagacity, cunning; but those great and noble features of goodness and reason, by which a man is distinguished and honoured through good deeds, virtues, really useful efforts, are scarcely to be found except among the nations whose morals are pure.
Teachers complain that the energy of this age makes their pupils unruly; I see that it is so, but are not they themselves to blame? When once they have let this energy flow through the channel of the senses, do they not know that they cannot change its course? Will the long and dreary sermons of the pedant efface from the mind of his scholar the thoughts of pleasure when once they have found an entrance; will they banish from his heart the desires by which it is tormented; will they chill the heat of a passion whose meaning the scholar realises? Will not the pupil be roused to anger by the obstacles opposed to the only kind of happiness of which he has any notion? And in the harsh law imposed upon him before he can understand it, what will he see but the caprice and hatred of a man who is trying to torment him? Is it strange that he rebels and hates you too?
I know very well that if one is easy-going one may be tolerated, and one may keep up a show of authority. But I fail to see the use of an authority over the pupil which is only maintained by fomenting the vices it ought to repress; it is like attempting to soothe a fiery steed by making it leap over a precipice.
Far from being a hindrance to education, this enthusiasm of adolescence is its crown and coping-stone; this it is that gives you a hold on the youth’s heart when he is no longer weaker than you. His first affections are the reins by which you control his movements; he was free, and now I behold him in your power. So long as he loved nothing, he was independent of everything but himself and his own necessities; as soon as he loves, he is dependent on his affections. Thus the first ties which unite him to his species are already formed. When you direct his increasing sensibility in this direction, do not expect that it will at once include all men, and that the word “mankind” will have any meaning for him. Not so; this sensibility will at first confine itself to those like himself, and these will not be strangers to him, but those he knows, those whom habit has made dear to him or necessary to him, those who are evidently thinking and feeling as he does, those whom he perceives to be exposed to the pains he has endured, those who enjoy the pleasures he has enjoyed; in a word, those who are so like himself that he is the more disposed to self-love. It is only after long training, after much consideration as to his own feelings and the feelings he observes in others, that he will be able to generalise his individual notions under the abstract idea of humanity, and add to his individual affections those which may identify him with the race.
When he becomes capable of affection, he becomes aware of the affection of others,1 and he is on the lookout for the signs of that affection. Do you not see how you will acquire a fresh hold on him? What bands have you bound about his heart while he was yet unaware of them! What will he feel, when he beholds himself and sees what you have done for him; when he can compare himself with other youths, and other tutors with you! I say, “When he sees it,” but beware lest you tell him of it; if you tell him he will not perceive it. If you claim his obedience in return for the care bestowed upon him, he will think you have over-reached him; he will see that while you profess to have cared for him without reward, you meant to saddle him with a debt and to bind him to a bargain which he never made. In vain you will add that what you demand is for his own good; you demand it, and you demand it in virtue of what you have done without his consent. When a man down on his luck accepts the shilling which the sergeant professes to give him, and finds he has enlisted without knowing what he was about, you protest against the injustice; is it not still more unjust to demand from your pupil the price of care which he has not even accepted?
Ingratitude would be rarer if kindness were less often the investment of a usurer. We love those who have done us a kindness; what a natural feeling! Ingratitude is not to be found in the heart of man, but self-interest is there; those who are ungrateful for benefits received are fewer than those who do a kindness for their own ends. If you sell me your gifts, I will haggle over the price; but if you pretend to give, in order to sell later on at your own price, you are guilty of fraud; it is the free gift which is beyond price. The heart is a law to itself; if you try to bind it, you lose it; give it its liberty, and you make it your own.
When the fisherman baits his line, the fish come round him without suspicion; but when they are caught on the hook concealed in the bait, they feel the line tighten and they try to escape. Is the fisherman a benefactor? Is the fish ungrateful? Do we find a man forgotten by his benefactor, unmindful of that benefactor? On the contrary, he delights to speak of him, he cannot think of him without emotion; if he gets a chance of showing him, by some unexpected service, that he remembers what he did for him, how delighted he is to satisfy his gratitude; what a pleasure it is to earn the gratitude of his benefactor. How delightful to say, “It is my turn now.” This is indeed the teaching of nature; a good deed never caused ingratitude.
If therefore gratitude is a natural feeling, and you do not destroy its effects by your blunders, be sure your pupil, as he begins to understand the value of your care for him, will be grateful for it, provided you have not put a price upon it; and this will give you an authority over his heart which nothing can overthrow. But beware of losing this advantage before it is really yours, beware of insisting on your own importance. Boast of your services and they become intolerable; forget them and they will not be forgotten. Until the time comes to treat him as a man let there be no question of his duty to you, but his duty to himself. Let him have his freedom if you would make him docile; hide yourself so that he may seek you; raise his heart to the noble sentiment of gratitude by only speaking of his own interest. Until he was able to understand I would not have him told that what was done was for his good; he would only have understood such words to mean that you were dependent on him and he would merely have made you his servant. But now that he is beginning to feel what love is, he also knows what a tender affection may bind a man to what he loves; and in the zeal which keeps you busy on his account, he now sees not the bonds of a slave, but the affection of a friend. Now there is nothing which carries so much weight with the human heart as the voice of friendship recognised as such, for we know that it never speaks but for our good. We may think our friend is mistaken, but we never believe he is deceiving us. We may reject his advice now and then, but we never scorn it.
We have reached the moral order at last; we have just taken the second step towards manhood. If this were the place for it, I would try to show how the first impulses of the heart give rise to the first stirrings of conscience, and how from the feelings of love and hatred spring the first notions of good and evil. I would show that justice and kindness are no mere abstract terms, no mere moral conceptions framed by the understanding, but true affections of the heart enlightened by reason, the natural outcome of our primitive affections; that by reason alone, unaided by conscience, we cannot establish any natural law, and that all natural right is a vain dream if it does not rest upon some instinctive need of the human heart.1 But I do not think it is my business at present to prepare treatises on metaphysics and morals, nor courses of study of any kind whatsoever; it is enough if I indicate the order and development of our feelings and our knowledge in relation to our growth. Others will perhaps work out what I have here merely indicated.
Hitherto my Emile has thought only of himself, so his first glance at his equals leads him to compare himself with them; and the first feeling excited by this comparison is the desire to be first. It is here that self-love is transformed into selfishness, and this is the starting point of all the passions which spring from selfishness. But to determine whether the passions by which his life will be governed shall be humane and gentle or harsh and cruel, whether they shall be the passions of benevolence and pity or those of envy and covetousness, we must know what he believes his place among men to be, and what sort of obstacles he expects to have to overcome in order to attain to the position he seeks.
To guide him in this inquiry, after we have shown him men by means of the accidents common to the species, we must now show him them by means of their differences. This is the time for estimating inequality natural and civil, and for the scheme of the whole social order.
Society must be studied in the individual and the individual in society; those who desire to treat politics and morals apart from one another will never understand either. By confining ourselves at first to the primitive relations, we see how men should be influenced by them and what passions should spring from them; we see that it is in proportion to the development of these passions that a man’s relations with others expand or contract. It is not so much strength of arm as moderation of spirit which makes men free and independent. The man whose wants are few is dependent on but few people, but those who constantly confound our vain desires with our bodily needs, those who have made these needs the basis of human society, are continually mistaking effects for causes, and they have only confused themselves by their own reasoning.
Since it is impossible in the state of nature that the difference between man and man should be great enough to make one dependent on another, there is in fact in this state of nature an actual and indestructible equality. In the civil state there is a vain and chimerical equality of right; the means intended for its maintenance, themselves serve to destroy it; and the power of the community, added to the power of the strongest for the oppression of the weak, disturbs the sort of equilibrium which nature has established between them.1 From this first contradiction spring all the other contradictions between the real and the apparent, which are to be found in the civil order. The many will always be sacrificed to the few, the common weal to private interest; those specious words—justice and subordination—will always serve as the tools of violence and the weapons of injustice; hence it follows that the higher classes which claim to be useful to the rest are really only seeking their own welfare at the expense of others; from this we may judge how much consideration is due to them according to right and justice. It remains to be seen if the rank to which they have attained is more favourable to their own happiness to know what opinion each one of us should form with regard to his own lot. This is the study with which we are now concerned; but to do it thoroughly we must begin with a knowledge of the human heart.
If it were only a question of showing young people man in his mask, there would be no need to point him out, and he would always be before their eyes; but since the mask is not the man, and since they must not be led away by its specious appearance, when you paint men for your scholar, paint them as they are, not that he may hate them, but that he may pity them and have no wish to be like them. In my opinion that is the most reasonable view a man can hold with regard to his fellow-men.
With this object in view we must take the opposite way from that hitherto followed, and instruct the youth rather through the experience of others than through his own. If men deceive him he will hate them; but if, while they treat him with respect, he sees them deceiving each other, he will pity them. “The spectacle of the world,” said Pythagoras, “is like the Olympic games; some are buying and selling and think only of their gains; others take an active part and strive for glory; others, and these not the worst, are content to be lookers-on.”
I would have you so choose the company of a youth that he should think well of those among whom he lives, and I would have you so teach him to know the world that he should think ill of all that takes place in it. Let him know that man is by nature good, let him feel it, let him judge his neighbour by himself; but let him see how men are depraved and perverted by society; let him find the source of all their vices in their preconceived opinions; let him be disposed to respect the individual, but to despise the multitude; let him see that all men wear almost the same mask, but let him also know that some faces are fairer than the mask that conceals them.
It must be admitted that this method has its drawbacks, and it is not easy to carry it out; for if he becomes too soon engrossed in watching other people, if you train him to mark too closely the actions of others, you will make him spiteful and satirical, quick and decided in his judgments of others; he will find a hateful pleasure in seeking bad motives, and will fail to see the good even in that which is really good. He will, at least, get used to the sight of vice, he will behold the wicked without horror, just as we get used to seeing the wretched without pity. Soon the perversity of mankind will be not so much a warning as an excuse; he will say, “Man is made so,” and he will have no wish to be different from the rest.
But if you wish to teach him theoretically to make him acquainted, not only with the heart of man, but also with the application of the external causes which turn our inclinations into vices; when you thus transport him all at once from the objects of sense to the objects of reason, you employ a system of metaphysics which he is not in a position to understand; you fall back into the error, so carefully avoided hitherto, of giving him lessons which are like lessons, of substituting in his mind the experience and the authority of the master for his own experience and the development of his own reason.
To remove these two obstacles at once, and to bring the human heart within his reach without risk of spoiling his own, I would show him men from afar, in other times or in other places, so that he may behold the scene but cannot take part in it. This is the time for history; with its help he will read the hearts of men without any lessons in philosophy; with its help he will view them as a mere spectator, dispassionate and without prejudice; he will view them as their judge, not as their accomplice or their accuser.
To know men you must behold their actions. In society we hear them talk; they show their words and hide their deeds; but in history the veil is drawn aside, and they are judged by their deeds. Their sayings even help us to understand them; for comparing what they say and what they do, we see not only what they are but what they would appear; the more they disguise themselves the more thoroughly they stand revealed.
Unluckily this study has its dangers, its drawbacks of several kinds. It is difficult to adopt a point of view which will enable one to judge one’s fellow-creatures fairly. It is one of the chief defects of history to paint men’s evil deeds rather than their good ones; it is revolutions and catastrophes that make history interesting; so long as a nation grows and prospers quietly in the tranquillity of a peaceful government, history says nothing; she only begins to speak of nations when, no longer able to be self-sufficing, they interfere with their neighbours’ business, or allow their neighbours to interfere with their own; history only makes them famous when they are on the downward path; all our histories begin where they ought to end. We have very accurate accounts of declining nations; what we lack is the history of those nations which are multiplying; they are so happy and so good that history has nothing to tell us of them; and we see indeed in our own times that the most successful governments are least talked of. We only hear what is bad; the good is scarcely mentioned. Only the wicked become famous, the good are forgotten or laughed to scorn, and thus history, like philosophy, is for ever slandering mankind.
Moreover, it is inevitable that the facts described in history should not give an exact picture of what really happened; they are transformed in the brain of the historian, they are moulded by his interests and coloured by his prejudices. Who can place the reader precisely in a position to see the event as it really happened? Ignorance or partiality disguises everything. What a different impression may be given merely by expanding or contracting the circumstances of the case without altering a single historical incident. The same object may be seen from several points of view, and it will hardly seem the same thing, yet there has been no change except in the eye that beholds it. Do you indeed do honour to truth when what you tell me is a genuine fact, but you make it appear something quite different? A tree more or less, a rock to the right or to the left, a cloud of dust raised by the wind, how often have these decided the result of a battle without any one knowing it? Does that prevent history from telling you the cause of defeat or victory with as much assurance as if she had been on the spot? But what are the facts to me, while I am ignorant of their causes, and what lessons can I draw from an event, whose true cause is unknown to me? The historian indeed gives me a reason, but he invents it; and criticism itself, of which we hear so much, is only the art of guessing, the art of choosing from among several lies, the lie that is most like truth.
Have you ever read Cleopatra or Cassandra or any books of the kind? The author selects some well-known event, he then adapts it to his purpose, adorns it with details of his own invention, with people who never existed, with imaginary portraits; thus he piles fiction on fiction to lend a charm to his story. I see little difference between such romances and your histories, unless it is that the novelist draws more on his own imagination, while the historian slavishly copies what another has imagined; I will also admit, if you please, that the novelist has some moral purpose good or bad, about which the historian scarcely concerns himself.
You will tell me that accuracy in history is of less interest than a true picture of men and manners; provided the human heart is truly portrayed, it matters little that events should be accurately recorded; for after all you say, what does it matter to us what happened two thousand years ago? You are right if the portraits are indeed truly given according to nature; but if the model is to be found for the most part in the historian’s imagination, are you not falling into the very error you intended to avoid, and surrendering to the authority of the historian what you would not yield to the authority of the teacher? If my pupil is merely to see fancy pictures, I would rather draw them myself; they will, at least, be better suited to him.
The worst historians for a youth are those who give their opinions. Facts! Facts! and let him decide for himself; this is how he will learn to know mankind. If he is always directed by the opinion of the author, he is only seeing through the eyes of another person, and when those eyes are no longer at his disposal he can see nothing.
I leave modern history on one side, not only because it has no character and all our people are alike, but because our historians, wholly taken up with effect, think of nothing but highly coloured portraits, which often represent nothing.1 The old historians generally give fewer portraits and bring more intelligence and common-sense to their judgments; but even among them there is plenty of scope for choice, and you must not begin with the wisest but with the simplest. I would not put Polybius or Sallust into the hands of a youth; Tacitus is the author of the old, young men cannot understand him; you must learn to see in human actions the simplest features of the heart of man before you try to sound its depths. You must be able to read facts clearly before you begin to study maxims. Philosophy in the form of maxims is only fit for the experienced. Youth should never deal with the general, all its teaching should deal with individual instances.
To my mind Thucydides is the true model of historians. He relates facts without giving his opinion; but he omits no circumstance adapted to make us judge for ourselves. He puts everything that he relates before his reader; far from interposing between the facts and the readers, he conceals himself; we seem not to read but to see. Unfortunately he speaks of nothing but war, and in his stories we only see the least instructive part of the world, that is to say the battles. The virtues and defects of the Retreat of the Ten Thousand and the Commentaries of Cæsar are almost the same. The kindly Herodotus, without portraits, without maxims, yet flowing, simple, full of details calculated to delight and interest in the highest degree, would be perhaps the best historian if these very details did not often degenerate into childish folly, better adapted to spoil the taste of youth than to form it; we need discretion before we can read him. I say nothing of Livy, his turn will come; but he is a statesman, a rhetorician, he is everything which is unsuitable for a youth.
History in general is lacking because it only takes note of striking and clearly marked facts which may be fixed by names, places, and dates; but the slow evolution of these facts, which cannot be definitely noted in this way, still remains unknown. We often find in some battle, lost or won, the ostensible cause of a revolution which was inevitable before this battle took place. War only makes manifest events already determined by moral causes, which few historians can perceive.
The philosophic spirit has turned the thoughts of many of the historians of our times in this direction; but I doubt whether truth has profited by their labours. The rage for systems has got possession of all alike, no one seeks to see things as they are, but only as they agree with his system.
Add to all these considerations the fact that history shows us actions rather than men, because she only seizes men at certain chosen times in full dress; she only portrays the statesman when he is prepared to be seen; she does not follow him to his home, to his study, among his family and his friends; she only shows him in state; it is his clothes rather than himself that she describes.
I would prefer to begin the study of the human heart with reading the lives of individuals; for then the man hides himself in vain, the historian follows him everywhere; he never gives him a moment’s grace nor any corner where he can escape the piercing eye of the spectator; and when he thinks he is concealing himself, then it is that the writer shows him up most plainly.
“Those who write lives,” says Montaigne, “in so far as they delight more in ideas than in events, more in that which comes from within than in that which comes from without, these are the writers I prefer; for this reason Plutarch is in every way the man for me.”
It is true that the genius of men in groups or nations is very different from the character of the individual man, and that we have a very imperfect knowledge of the human heart if we do not also examine it in crowds; but it is none the less true that to judge of men we must study the individual man, and that he who had a perfect knowledge of the inclinations of each individual might foresee all their combined effects in the body of the nation.
We must go back again to the ancients, for the reasons already stated, and also because all the details common and familiar, but true and characteristic, are banished by modern stylists, so that men are as much tricked out by our modern authors in their private life as in public. Propriety, no less strict in literature than in life, no longer permits us to say anything in public which we might not do in public; and as we may only show the man dressed up for his part, we never see a man in our books any more than we do on the stage. The lives of kings may be written a hundred times, but to no purpose; we shall never have another Suetonius.
The excellence of Plutarch consists in these very details which we are no longer permitted to describe. With inimitable grace he paints the great man in little things; and he is so happy in the choice of his instances that a word, a smile, a gesture, will often suffice to indicate the nature of his hero. With a jest Hannibal cheers his frightened soldiers, and leads them laughing to the battle which will lay Italy at his feet; Agesilaus riding on a stick makes me love the conqueror of the great king; Cæsar passing through a poor village and chatting with his friends unconsciously betrays the traitor who professed that he only wished to be Pompey’s equal. Alexander swallows a draught without a word—it is the finest moment in his life; Aristides writes his own name on the shell and so justifies his title; Philopœmen, his mantle laid aside, chops firewood in the kitchen of his host. This is the true art of portraiture. Our disposition does not show itself in our features, nor our character in our great deeds; it is trifles that show what we really are. What is done in public is either too commonplace or too artificial, and our modern authors are almost too grand to tell us anything else.
M. de Turenne was undoubtedly one of the greatest men of the last century. They have had the courage to make his life interesting by the little details which make us know and love him; but how many details have they felt obliged to omit which might have made us know and love him better still? I will only quote one which I have on good authority, one which Plutarch would never have omitted, and one which Ramsai would never have inserted had he been acquainted with it.
On a hot summer’s day Viscount Turenne in a little white vest and nightcap was standing at the window of his antechamber; one of his men came up and, misled by the dress, took him for one of the kitchen lads whom he knew. He crept up behind him and smacked him with no light hand. The man he struck turned round hastily. The valet saw it was his master and trembled at the sight of his face. He fell on his knees in desperation. “Sir, I thought it was George.” “Well, even if it was George,” exclaimed Turenne rubbing the injured part, “you need not have struck so hard.” You do not dare to say this, you miserable writers! Remain for ever without humanity and without feeling; steel your hard hearts in your vile propriety, make yourselves contemptible through your high-mightiness. But as for you, dear youth, when you read this anecdote, when you are touched by all the kindliness displayed even on the impulse of the moment, read also the littleness of this great man when it was a question of his name and birth. Remember it was this very Turenne who always professed to yield precedence to his nephew, so that all men might see that this child was the head of a royal house. Look on this picture and on that, love nature, despise popular prejudice, and know the man as he was.
There are few people able to realise what an effect such reading, carefully directed, will have upon the unspoilt mind of a youth. Weighed down by books from our earliest childhood, accustomed to read without thinking, what we read strikes us even less, because we already bear in ourselves the passions and prejudices with which history and the lives of men are filled; all that they do strikes us as only natural, for we ourselves are unnatural and we judge others by ourselves. But imagine my Emile, who has been carefully guarded for eighteen years with the sole object of preserving a right judgment and a healthy heart, imagine him when the curtain goes up casting his eyes for the first time upon the world’s stage; or rather picture him behind the scenes watching the actors don their costumes, and counting the cords and pulleys which deceive with their feigned shows the eyes of the spectators. His first surprise will soon give place to feelings of shame and scorn of his fellow-man; he will be indignant at the sight of the whole human race deceiving itself and stooping to this childish folly; he will grieve to see his brothers tearing each other limb from limb for a mere dream, and transforming themselves into wild beasts because they could not be content to be men.
Given the natural disposition of the pupil, there is no doubt that if the master exercises any sort of prudence or discretion in his choice of reading, however little he may put him in the way of reflecting on the subject-matter, this exercise will serve as a course in practical philosophy, a philosophy better understood and more thoroughly mastered than all the empty speculations with which the brains of lads are muddled in our schools. After following the romantic schemes of Pyrrhus, Cineas asks him what real good he would gain by the conquest of the world, which he can never enjoy without such great sufferings; this only arouses in us a passing interest as a smart saying; but Emile will think it a very wise thought, one which had already occurred to himself, and one which he will never forget, because there is no hostile prejudice in his mind to prevent it sinking in. When he reads more of the life of this madman, he will find that all his great plans resulted in his death at the hands of a woman, and instead of admiring this pinchbeck heroism, what will he see in the exploits of this great captain and the schemes of this great statesman but so many steps towards that unlucky tile which was to bring life and schemes alike to a shameful death?
All conquerors have not been killed; all usurpers have not failed in their plans; to minds imbued with vulgar prejudices many of them will seem happy, but he who looks below the surface and reckons men’s happiness by the condition of their hearts will perceive their wretchedness even in the midst of their successes; he will see them panting after advancement and never attaining their prize, he will find them like those inexperienced travellers among the Alps, who think that every height they see is the last, who reach its summit only to find to their disappointment there are loftier peaks beyond.
Augustus, when he had subdued his fellow-citizens and destroyed his rivals, reigned for forty years over the greatest empire that ever existed; but all this vast power could not hinder him from beating his head against the walls, and filling his palace with his groans as he cried to Varus to restore his slaughtered legions. If he had conquered all his foes what good would his empty triumphs have done him, when troubles of every kind beset his path, when his life was threatened by his dearest friends, and when he had to mourn the disgrace or death of all near and dear to him? The wretched man desired to rule the world and failed to rule his own household. What was the result of this neglect? He beheld his nephew, his adopted child, his son-in-law, perish in the flower of youth, his grandson reduced to eat the stuffing of his mattress to prolong his wretched existence for a few hours; his daughter and his granddaughter, after they had covered him with infamy, died, the one of hunger and want on a desert island, the other in prison by the hand of a common archer. He himself, the last survivor of his unhappy house, found himself compelled by his own wife to acknowledge a monster as his heir. Such was the fate of the master of the world, so famous for his glory and his good fortune. I cannot believe that any one of those who admire his glory and fortune would accept them at the same price.
I have taken ambition as my example, but the play of every human passion offers similar lessons to any one who will study history to make himself wise and good at the expense of those who went before. The time is drawing near when the teaching of the life of Anthony will appeal more forcibly to the youth than the life of Augustus. Emile will scarcely know where he is among the many strange sights in his new studies; but he will know beforehand how to avoid the illusion of passions before they arise, and seeing how in all ages they have blinded men’s eyes, he will be forewarned of the way in which they may one day blind his own should he abandon himself to them.1 These lessons, I know, are unsuited to him, perhaps at need they may prove scanty and ill-timed; but remember they are not the lessons I wished to draw from this study. To begin with, I had quite another end in view; and indeed, if this purpose is unfulfilled, the teacher will be to blame.
Remember that, as soon as selfishness has developed, the self in its relations to others is always with us, and the youth never observes others without coming back to himself and comparing himself with them. From the way young men are taught to study history I see that they are transformed, so to speak, into the people they behold, that you strive to make a Cicero, a Trajan, or an Alexander of them, to discourage them when they are themselves again, to make every one regret that he is merely himself. There are certain advantages in this plan which I do not deny; but, so far as Emile is concerned, should it happen at any time when he is making these comparisons that he wishes to be any one but himself—were it Socrates or Cato—I have failed entirely; he who begins to regard himself as a stranger will soon forget himself altogether.
It is not philosophers who know most about men; they only view them through the preconceived ideas of philosophy, and I know no one so prejudiced as philosophers. A savage would judge us more sanely. The philosopher is aware of his own vices, he is indignant at ours, and he says to himself, “We are all bad alike;” the savage beholds us unmoved and says, “You are mad.” He is right, for no one does evil for evil’s sake. My pupil is that savage, with this difference: Emile has thought more, he has compared ideas, seen our errors at close quarters, he is more on his guard against himself, and only judges of what he knows.
It is our own passions that excite us against the passions of others; it is our self-interest which makes us hate the wicked; if they did us no harm we should pity rather than hate them. We should readily forgive their vices if we could perceive how their own heart punishes those vices. We are aware of the offence, but we do not see the punishment; the advantages are plain, the penalty is hidden. The man who thinks he is enjoying the fruits of his vices is no less tormented by them than if they had not been successful; the object is different, the anxiety is the same; in vain he displays his good fortune and hides his heart; in spite of himself his conduct betrays him; but to discern this, our own heart must be utterly unlike his.
We are led astray by those passions which we share; we are disgusted by those that militate against our own interests; and with a want of logic due to these very passions, we blame in others what we fain would imitate. Aversion and self-deception are inevitable when we are forced to endure at another’s hands what we ourselves would do in his place.
What then is required for the proper study of men? A great wish to know men, great impartiality of judgment, a heart sufficiently sensitive to understand every human passion, and calm enough to be free from passion. If there is any time in our life when this study is likely to be appreciated, it is this that I have chosen for Emile; before this time men would have been strangers to him; later on he would have been like them. Convention, the effects of which he already perceives, has not yet made him its slave, the passions, whose consequences he realises, have not yet stirred his heart. He is a man; he takes an interest in his brethren; he is a just man and he judges his peers. Now it is certain that if he judges them rightly he will not want to change places with any one of them, for the goal of all their anxious efforts is the result of prejudices which he does not share, and that goal seems to him a mere dream. For his own part, he has (illegible) he wants within his reach. How should he be dependent on any one when he is self-sufficing and free from prejudice? Strong arms, good health,1 moderation, few needs, together with the means to satisfy those needs, are his. He has been brought up in complete liberty and servitude is the greatest ill he understands. He pities these miserable kings, the slaves of all who obey them; he pities these false prophets fettered by their empty fame; he pities these rich fools, martyrs to their own pomp; he pities these ostentatious voluptuaries, who spend their life in deadly dullness that they may seem to enjoy its pleasures. He would pity the very foe who harmed him, for he would discern his wretchedness beneath his cloak of spite. He would say to himself, “This man has yielded to his desire to hurt me, and this need of his places him at my mercy.”
One step more and our goal is attained. Selfishness is a dangerous tool though a useful one; it often wounds the hand that uses it, and it rarely does good unmixed with evil. When Emile considers his place among men, when he finds himself so fortunately situated, he will be tempted to give credit to his own reason for the work of yours, and to attribute to his own deserts what is really the result of his good fortune. He will say to himself, “I am wise and other men are fools.” He will pity and despise them and will congratulate himself all the more heartily; and as he knows he is happier than they, he will think his deserts are greater. This is the fault we have most to fear, for it is the most difficult to eradicate. If he remained in this state of mind, he would have profited little by all our care; and if I had to choose, I hardly know whether I would not rather choose the illusions of prejudice than those of pride.
Great men are under no illusion with respect to their superiority; they see it and know it, but they are none the less modest. The more they have, the better they know what they lack. They are less vain of their superiority over us than ashamed by the consciousness of their weakness, and among the good things they really possess, they are too wise to pride themselves on a gift which is none of their getting. The good man may be proud of his virtue for it is his own, but what cause for pride has the man of intellect? What has Racine done that he is not Pradon, and Boileau that he is not Cotin?
The circumstances with which we are concerned are quite different. Let us keep to the common level. I assumed that my pupil had neither surpassing genius nor a defective understanding. I chose him of an ordinary mind to show what education could do for man. Exceptions defy all rules. If, therefore, as a result of my care, Emile prefers his way of living, seeing, and feeling to that of others, he is right; but if he thinks because of this that he is nobler and better born than they, he is wrong; he is deceiving himself; he must be undeceived, or rather let us prevent the mistake, lest it be too late to correct it.
Provided a man is not mad, he can be cured of any folly but vanity; there is no cure for this but experience, if indeed there is any cure for it at all; when it first appears we can at least prevent its further growth. But do not on this account waste your breath on empty arguments to prove to the youth that he is like other men and subject to the same weaknesses. Make him feel it or he will never know it. This is another instance of an exception to my own rules; I must voluntarily expose my pupil to every accident which may convince him that he is no wiser than we. The adventure with the conjurer will be repeated again and again in different ways; I shall let flatterers take advantage of him; if rash comrades draw him into some perilous adventure, I will let him run the risk; if he falls into the hands of sharpers at the card-table, I will abandon him to them as their dupe.1 I will let them flatter him, pluck him, and rob him; and when having sucked him dry they turn and mock him, I will even thank them to his face for the lessons they have been good enough to give him. The only snares from which I will guard him with my utmost care are the wiles of wanton women. The only precaution I shall take will be to share all the dangers I let him run, and all the insults I let him receive. I will bear everything in silence, without a murmur or reproach, without a word to him, and be sure that if this wise conduct is faithfully adhered to, what he sees me endure on his account will make more impression on his heart than what he himself suffers.
I cannot refrain at this point from drawing attention to the sham dignity of tutors, who foolishly pretend to be wise, who discourage their pupils by always professing to treat them as children, and by emphasising the difference between themselves and their scholars in everything they do. Far from damping their youthful spirits in this fashion, spare no effort to stimulate their courage; that they may become your equals, treat them as such already, and if they cannot rise to your level, do not scruple to come down to theirs without being ashamed of it. Remember that your honour is no longer in your own keeping but in your pupil’s. Share his faults that you may correct them, bear his disgrace that you may wipe it out; follow the example of that brave Roman who, unable to rally his fleeing soldiers, placed himself at their head, exclaiming, “They do not flee, they follow their captain!” Did this dishonour him? Not so; by sacrificing his glory he increased it. The power of duty, the beauty of virtue, compel our respect in spite of all our foolish prejudices. If I received a blow in the course of my duties to Emile, far from avenging it I would boast of it; and I doubt whether there is in the whole world a man so vile as to respect me any the less on this account.
I do not intend the pupil to suppose his master to be as ignorant, or as liable to be led astray, as he is himself. This idea is all very well for a child who can neither see nor compare things, who thinks everything is within his reach, and only bestows his confidence on those who know how to come down to his level. But a youth of Emile’s age and sense is no longer so foolish as to make this mistake, and it would not be desirable that he should. The confidence he ought to have in his tutor is of another kind; it should rest on the authority of reason, and on superior knowledge, advantages which the young man is capable of appreciating while he perceives how useful they are to himself. Long experience has convinced him that his tutor loves him, that he is a wise and good man who desires his happiness and knows how to procure it. He ought to know that it is to his own advantage to listen to his advice. But if the master lets himself be taken in like the disciple, he will lose his right to expect deference from him, and to give him instruction. Still less should the pupil suppose that his master is purposely letting him fall into snares or preparing pitfalls for his inexperience. How can we avoid these two difficulties? Choose the best and most natural means; be frank and straightforward like himself; warn him of the dangers to which he is exposed, point them out plainly and sensibly, without exaggeration, without temper, without pedantic display, and above all without giving your opinions in the form of orders, until they have become such, and until this imperious tone is absolutely necessary. Should he still be obstinate as he often will be, leave him free to follow his own choice, follow him, copy his example, and that cheerfully and frankly; if possible fling yourself into things, amuse yourself as much as he does. If the consequences become too serious, you are at hand to prevent them; and yet when this young man has beheld your foresight and your kindliness, will he not be at once struck by the one and touched by the other? All his faults are but so many bands with which he himself provides you to restrain him at need. Now under these circumstances the great art of the master consists in controlling events and directing his exhortations so that he may know beforehand when the youth will give in, and when he will refuse to do so, so that all around him he may encompass him with the lessons of experience, and yet never let him run too great a risk.
Warn him of his faults before he commits them; do not blame him when once they are committed; you would only stir his self-love to mutiny. We learn nothing from a lesson we detest. I know nothing more foolish than the phrase, “I told you so.” The best way to make him remember what you told him is to seem to have forgotten it. Go further than this, and when you find him ashamed of having refused to believe you, gently smooth away the shame with kindly words. He will indeed hold you dear when he sees how you forget yourself on his account, and how you console him instead of reproaching him. But if you increase his annoyance by your reproaches he will hate you, and will make it a rule never to heed you, as if to show you that he does not agree with you as to the value of your opinion.
The turn you give to your consolation may itself be a lesson to him, and all the more because he does not suspect it. When you tell him, for example, that many other people have made the same mistakes, this is not what he was expecting; you are administering correction under the guise of pity; for when one thinks oneself better than other people it is a very mortifying excuse to console oneself by their example; it means that we must realise that the most we can say is that they are no better than we.
The time of faults is the time for fables. When we blame the guilty under the cover of a story we instruct without offending him; and he then understands that the story is not untrue by means of the truth he finds in its application to himself. The child who has never been deceived by flattery understands nothing of the fable I recently examined; but the rash youth who has just become the dupe of a flatterer perceives only too readily that the crow was a fool. Thus he acquires a maxim from the fact, and the experience he would soon have forgotten is engraved on his mind by means of the fable. There is no knowledge of morals which cannot be acquired through our own experience or that of others. When there is danger, instead of letting him try the experiment himself, we have recourse to history. When the risk is comparatively slight, it is just as well that the youth should be exposed to it; then by means of the apologue the special cases with which the young man is now acquainted are transformed into maxims.
It is not, however, my intention that these maxims should be explained, nor even formulated. Nothing is so foolish and unwise as the moral at the end of most of the fables; as if the moral was not, or ought not to be so clear in the fable itself that the reader cannot fail to perceive it. Why then add the moral at the end, and so deprive him of the pleasure of discovering it for himself. The art of teaching consists in making the pupil wish to learn. But if the pupil is to wish to learn, his mind must not remain in such a passive state with regard to what you tell him that there is really nothing for him to do but listen to you. The master’s vanity must always give way to the scholars; he must be able to say, I understand, I see it, I am getting at it, I am learning something. One of the things which makes the Pantaloon in the Italian comedies so wearisome is the pains taken by him to explain to the audience the platitudes they understand only too well already. We must always be intelligible, but we need not say all there is to be said. If you talk much you will say little, for at last no one will listen to you. What is the sense of the four lines at the end of La Fontaine’s fable of the frog who puffed herself up. Is he afraid we should not understand it? Does this great painter need to write the names beneath the things he has painted? His morals, far from generalising, restrict the lesson to some extent to the examples given, and prevent our applying them to others. Before I put the fables of this inimitable author into the hands of a youth, I should like to cut out all the conclusions with which he strives to explain what he has just said so clearly and pleasantly. If your pupil does not understand the fable without the explanation, he will not understand it with it.
Moreover, the fables would require to be arranged in a more didactic order, one more in agreement with the feelings and knowledge of the young adolescent. Can you imagine anything so foolish as to follow the mere numerical order of the book without regard to our requirements or our opportunities. First the grasshopper, then the crow, then the frog, then the two mules, etc. I am sick of these two mules; I remember seeing a child who was being educated for finance; they never let him alone, but were always insisting on the profession he was to follow; they made him read this fable, learn it, say it, repeat it again and again without finding in it the slightest argument against his future calling. Not only have I never found children make any real use of the fables they learn, but I have never found anybody who took the trouble to see that they made such a use of them. The study claims to be instruction in morals; but the real aim of mother and child is nothing but to set a whole party watching the child while he recites his fables; when he is too old to recite them and old enough to make use of them, they are altogether forgotten. Only men, I repeat, can learn from fables, and Emile is now old enough to begin.
I do not mean to tell you everything, so I only indicate the paths which diverge from the right way, so that you may know how to avoid them. If you follow the road I have marked out for you, I think your pupil will buy his knowledge of mankind and his knowledge of himself in the cheapest market; you will enable him to behold the tricks of fortune without envying the lot of her favourites, and to be content with himself without thinking himself better than others. You have begun by making him an actor that he may learn to be one of the audience; you must continue your task, for from the theatre things are what they seem, from the stage they seem what they are. For the general effect we must get a distant view, for the details we must observe more closely. But how can a young man take part in the business of life? What right has he to be initiated into its dark secrets? His interests are confined within the limits of his own pleasures, he has no power over others, it is much the same as if he had no power at all. Man is the cheapest commodity on the market, and among all our important rights of property, the rights of the individual are always considered last of all.
When I see the studies of young men at the period of their greatest activity confined to purely speculative matters, while later on they are suddenly plunged, without any sort of experience, into the world of men and affairs, it strikes me as contrary alike to reason and to nature, and I cease to be surprised that so few men know what to do. How strange a choice to teach us so many useless things, while the art of doing is never touched upon! They profess to fit us for society, and we are taught as if each of us were to live a life of contemplation in a solitary cell, or to discuss theories with persons whom they did not concern. You think you are teaching your scholars how to live, and you teach them certain bodily contortions and certain forms of words without meaning. I, too, have taught Emile how to live; for I have taught him to enjoy his own society and, more than that, to earn his own bread. But this is not enough. To live in the world he must know how to get on with other people, he must know what forces move them, he must calculate the action and re-action of self-interest in civil society, he must estimate the results so accurately that he will rarely fail in his undertakings, or he will at least have tried in the best possible way. The law does not allow young people to manage their own affairs nor to dispose of their own property; but what would be the use of these precautions if they never gained any experience until they were of age. They would have gained nothing by the delay, and would have no more experience at five-and-twenty than at fifteen. No doubt we must take precautions, so that a youth, blinded by ignorance or misled by passion, may not hurt himself; but at any age there are opportunities when deeds of kindness and of care for the weak may be performed under the direction of a wise man, on behalf of the unfortunate who need help.
Mothers and nurses grow fond of children because of the care they lavish on them; the practice of social virtues touches the very heart with the love of humanity; by doing good we become good; and I know no surer way to this end. Keep your pupil busy with the good deeds that are within his power, let the cause of the poor be his own, let him help them not merely with his money, but with his service; let him work for them, protect them, let his person and his time be at their disposal; let him be their agent; he will never all his life long have a more honourable office. How many of the oppressed, who have never got a hearing, will obtain justice when he demands it for them with that courage and firmness which the practice of virtue inspires; when he makes his way into the presence of the rich and great, when he goes, if need be, to the footstool of the king himself, to plead the cause of the wretched, the cause of those who find all doors closed to them by their poverty, those who are so afraid of being punished for their misfortunes that they do not dare to complain?
But shall we make of Emile a knight-errant, a redresser of wrongs, a paladin? Shall he thrust himself into public life, play the sage and the defender of the laws before the great, before the magistrates, before the king? Shall he lay petitions before the judges and plead in the law courts? That I cannot say. The nature of things is not changed by terms of mockery and scorn. He will do all that he knows to be useful and good. He will do nothing more, and he knows that nothing is useful and good for him which is unbefitting his age. He knows that his first duty is to himself; that young men should distrust themselves; that they should act circumspectly; that they should show respect to those older than themselves, reticence and discretion in talking without cause, modesty in things indifferent, but courage in well doing, and boldness to speak the truth. Such were those illustrious Romans who, having been admitted into public life, spent their days in bringing criminals to justice and in protecting the innocent, without any motives beyond those of learning, and of the furtherance of justice and of the protection of right conduct.
Emile is not fond of noise or quarrelling, not only among men, but among animals.1 He will never set two dogs to fight, he will never set a dog to chase a cat. This peaceful spirit is one of the results of his education, which has never stimulated self-love or a high opinion of himself, and so has not encouraged him to seek his pleasure in domination and in the sufferings of others. The sight of suffering makes him suffer too; this is a natural feeling. It is one of the after effects of vanity that hardens a young man and makes him take a delight in seeing the torments of a living and feeling creature; it makes him consider himself beyond the reach of similar sufferings through his superior wisdom or virtue. He who is beyond the reach of vanity cannot fall into the vice which results from vanity. So Emile loves peace. He is delighted at the sight of happiness, and if he can help to bring it about, this is an additional reason for sharing it. I do not assume that when he sees the unhappy he will merely feel for them that barren and cruel pity which is content to pity the ills it can heal. His kindness is active and teaches him much he would have learnt far more slowly, or he would never have learnt at all, if his heart had been harder. If he finds his comrades at strife, he tries to reconcile them; if he sees the afflicted, he inquires as to the cause of their sufferings; if he meets two men who hate each other, he wants to know the reason of their enmity; if he finds one who is down-trodden, groaning under the oppression of the rich and powerful, he tries to discover by what means he can counteract this oppression, and in the interest he takes with regard to all these unhappy persons, the means of removing their sufferings are never out of his sight. What use shall we make of this disposition so that it may re-act in a way suited to his age? Let us direct his efforts and his knowledge, and use his zeal to increase them.
I am never weary of repeating: let all the lessons of young people take the form of doing rather than talking; let them learn nothing from books which they can learn from experience. How absurd to attempt to give them practice in speaking when they have nothing to say, to expect to make them feel, at their school desks, the vigour of the language of passion and all the force of the arts of persuasion when they have nothing and nobody to persuade! All the rules of rhetoric are mere waste of words to those who do not know how to use them for their own purposes. How does it concern a schoolboy to know how Hannibal encouraged his soldiers to cross the Alps? If instead of these grand speeches you showed him how to induce his prefect to give him a holiday, you may be sure he would pay more attention to your rules.
If I wanted to teach rhetoric to a youth whose passions were as yet undeveloped, I would draw his attention continually to things that would stir his passions, and I would discuss with him how he should talk to people so as to get them to regard his wishes favourably. But Emile is not in a condition so favourable to the art of oratory. Concerned mainly with his physical well-being, he has less need of others than they of him; and having nothing to ask of others on his own account, what he wants to persuade them to do does not affect him sufficiently to awake any very strong feeling. From this it follows that his language will be on the whole simple and literal. He usually speaks to the point and only to make himself understood. He is not sententious, for he has not learnt to generalise; he does not speak in figures, for he is rarely impassioned.
Yet this is not because he is altogether cold and phlegmatic, neither his age, his character, nor his tastes permit of this. In the fire of adolescence the life-giving spirits, retained in the blood and distilled again and again, inspire his young heart with a warmth which glows in his eye, a warmth which is felt in his words and perceived in his actions. The lofty feeling with which he is inspired gives him strength and nobility; imbued with tender love for mankind his words betray the thoughts of his heart; I know not how it is, but there is more charm in his open-hearted generosity than in the artificial eloquence of others; or rather this eloquence of his is the only true eloquence, for he has only to show what he feels to make others share his feelings.
The more I think of it the more convinced I am that by thus translating our kindly impulses into action, by drawing from our good or ill success conclusions as to their cause, we shall find that there is little useful knowledge that cannot be imparted to a youth; and that together with such true learning as may be got at college he will learn a science of more importance than all the rest together, the application of what he has learned to the purposes of life. Taking such an interest in his fellow-creatures, it is impossible that he should fail to learn very quickly how to note and weigh their actions, their tastes, their pleasures, and to estimate generally at their true value what may increase or diminish the happiness of men; he should do this better than those who care for nobody and never do anything for any one. The feelings of those who are always occupied with their own concerns are too keenly affected for them to judge wisely of things. They consider everything as it affects themselves, they form their ideas of good and ill solely on their own experience, their minds are filled with all sorts of absurd prejudices, and anything which affects their own advantage ever so little, seems an upheaval of the universe.
Extend self-love to others and it is transformed into virtue, a virtue which has its root in the heart of every one of us. The less the object of our care is directly dependent on ourselves, the less we have to fear from the illusion of self-interest; the more general this interest becomes, the juster it is; and the love of the human race is nothing but the love of justice within us. If therefore we desire Emile to be a lover of truth, if we desire that he should indeed perceive it, let us keep him far from self-interest in all his business. The more care he bestows upon the happiness of others the wiser and better he is, and the fewer mistakes he will make between good and evil; but never allow him any blind preference founded merely on personal predilection or unfair prejudice. Why should he harm one person to serve another? What does it matter to him who has the greater share of happiness, providing he promotes the happiness of all? Apart from self-interest this care for the general well-being is the first concern of the wise man, for each of us forms part of the human race and not part of any individual member of that race.
To prevent pity degenerating into weakness we must generalise it and extend it to mankind. Then we only yield to it when it is in accordance with justice, since justice is of all the virtues that which contributes most to the common good. Reason and self-love compel us to love mankind even more than our neighbour, and to pity the wicked is to be very cruel to other men.
Moreover, you must bear in mind that all these means employed to project my pupil beyond himself have also a distinct relation to himself; since they not only cause him inward delight, but I am also endeavouring to instruct him, while I am making him kindly disposed towards others.
First I showed the means employed, now I will show the result. What wide prospects do I perceive unfolding themselves before his mind! What noble feelings stifle the lesser passions in his heart! What clearness of judgment, what accuracy in reasoning, do I see developing from the inclinations we have cultivated, from the experience which concentrates the desires of a great heart within the narrow bounds of possibility, so that a man superior to others can come down to their level if he cannot raise them to his own! True principles of justice, true types of beauty, all moral relations between man and man, all ideas of order, these are engraved on his understanding; he sees the right place for everything and the causes which drive it from that place; he sees what may do good, and what hinders it. Without having felt the passions of mankind, he knows the illusions they produce and their mode of action.
I proceed along the path which the force of circumstances compels me to tread, but I do not insist that my readers shall follow me. Long ago they have made up their minds that I am wandering in the land of chimeras, while for my part I think they are dwelling in the country of prejudice. When I wander so far from popular beliefs I do not cease to bear them in mind; I examine them, I consider them, not that I may follow them or shun them, but that I may weigh them in the balance of reason. Whenever reason compels me to abandon these popular beliefs, I know by experience that my readers will not follow my example; I know that they will persist in refusing to go beyond what they can see, and that they will take the youth I am describing for the creation of my fanciful imagination, merely because he is unlike the youths with whom they compare him; they forget that he must needs be different, because he has been brought up in a totally different fashion; he has been influenced by wholly different feelings, instructed in a wholly different manner, so that it would be far stranger if he were like your pupils than if he were what I have supposed. He is a man of nature’s making, not man’s. No wonder men find him strange.
When I began this work I took for granted nothing but what could be observed as readily by others as by myself; for our starting-point, the birth of man, is the same for all; but the further we go, while I am seeking to cultivate nature and you are seeking to deprave it, the further apart we find ourselves. At six years old my pupil was not so very unlike yours, whom you had not yet had time to disfigure; now there is nothing in common between them; and when they reach the age of manhood, which is now approaching, they will show themselves utterly different from each other, unless all my pains have been thrown away. There may not be so very great a difference in the amount of knowledge they possess, but there is all the difference in the world in the kind of knowledge. You are amazed to find that the one has noble sentiments of which the others have not the smallest germ, but remember that the latter are already philosophers and theologians while Emile does not even know what is meant by a philosopher and has scarcely heard the name of God.
But if you come and tell me, “There are no such young men, young people are not made that way; they have this passion or that, they do this or that,” it is as if you denied that a pear tree could ever be a tall tree because the pear trees in our gardens are all dwarfs.
I beg these critics who are so ready with their blame to consider that I am as well acquainted as they are with everything they say, that I have probably given more thought to it, and that, as I have no private end to serve in getting them to agree with me, I have a right to demand that they should at least take time to find out where I am mistaken. Let them thoroughly examine the nature of man, let them follow the earliest growth of the heart in any given circumstances, so as to see what a difference education may make in the individual; then let them compare my method of education with the results I ascribe to it; and let them tell me where my reasoning is unsound, and I shall have no answer to give them.
It is this that makes me speak so strongly, and as I think with good excuse: I have not pledged myself to any system, I depend as little as possible on arguments, and I trust to what I myself have observed. I do not base my ideas on what I have imagined, but on what I have seen. It is true that I have not confined my observations within the walls of any one town, nor to a single class of people; but having compared men of every class and every nation which I have been able to observe in the course of a life spent in this pursuit, I have discarded as artificial what belonged to one nation and not to another, to one rank and not to another; and I have regarded as proper to mankind what was common to all, at any age, in any station, and in any nation whatsoever.
Now if in accordance with this method you follow from infancy the course of a youth who has not been shaped to any special mould, one who depends as little as possible on authority and the opinions of others, which will he most resemble, my pupil or yours? It seems to me that this is the question you must answer if you would know if I am mistaken.
It is not easy for a man to begin to think; but when once he has begun he will never leave off. Once a thinker, always a thinker, and the understanding once practised in reflection will never rest. You may therefore think that I do too much or too little; that the human mind is not by nature so quick to unfold; and that after having given it opportunities it has not got, I keep it too long confined within a circle of ideas which it ought to have outgrown.
But remember, in the first place, that when I want to train a natural man, I do not want to make him a savage and to send him back to the woods, but that living in the whirl of social life it is enough that he should not let himself be carried away by the passions and prejudices of men; let him see with his eyes and feel with his heart, let him own no sway but that of reason. Under these conditions it is plain that many things will strike him; the oft-recurring feelings which affect him, the different ways of satisfying his real needs, must give him many ideas he would not otherwise have acquired or would only have acquired much later. The natural progress of the mind is quickened but not reversed. The same man who would remain stupid in the forests should become wise and reasonable in towns, if he were merely a spectator in them. Nothing is better fitted to make one wise than the sight of follies we do not share, and even if we share them, we still learn, provided we are not the dupe of our follies and provided we do not bring to them the same mistakes as the others.
Consider also that while our faculties are confined to the things of sense, we offer scarcely any hold to the abstractions of philosophy or to purely intellectual ideas. To attain to these we require either to free ourselves from the body to which we are so strongly bound, or to proceed step by step in a slow and gradual course, or else to leap across the intervening space with a gigantic bound of which no child is capable, one for which grown men even require many steps hewn on purpose for them; but I find it very difficult to see how you propose to construct such steps.
The Incomprehensible embraces all, he gives its motion to the earth, and shapes the system of all creatures, but our eyes cannot see him nor can our hands search him out, he evades the efforts of our senses; we behold the work, but the workman is hidden from our eyes. It is no small matter to know that he exists, and when we have got so far, and when we ask. What is he? Where is he? our mind is overwhelmed, we lose ourselves, we know not what to think.
Locke would have us begin with the study of spirits and go on to that of bodies. This is the method of superstition, prejudice, and error; it is not the method of nature, nor even that of well-ordered reason; it is to learn to see by shutting our eyes. We must have studied bodies long enough before we can form any true idea of spirits, or even suspect that there are such beings. The contrary practice merely puts materialism on a firmer footing.
Since our senses are the first instruments to our learning, corporeal and sensible bodies are the only bodies we directly apprehend. The word “spirit” has no meaning for any one who has not philosophised. To the unlearned and to the child a spirit is merely a body. Do they not fancy that spirits groan, speak, fight, and make noises? Now you must own that spirits with arms and voices are very like bodies. This is why every nation on the face of the earth, not even excepting the Jews, have made to themselves idols. We, ourselves, with our words, Spirit, Trinity, Persons, are for the most part quite anthropomorphic. I admit that we are taught that God is everywhere; but we also believe that there is air everywhere, at least in our atmosphere; and the word Spirit meant originally nothing more than breath and wind. Once you teach people to say what they do not understand, it is easy enough to get them to say anything you like.
The perception of our action upon other bodies must have first induced us to suppose that their action upon us was effected in like manner. Thus man began by thinking that all things whose action affected him were alive. He did not recognise the limits of their powers, and he therefore supposed that they were boundless; as soon as he had supplied them with bodies they became his gods. In the earliest times men went in terror of everything and everything in nature seemed alive. The idea of matter was developed as slowly as that of spirit, for the former is itself an abstraction. Thus the universe was peopled with gods like themselves. The stars, the winds and the mountains, rivers, trees, and towns, their very dwellings, each had its soul, its god, its life. The teraphim of Laban, the manitos of savages, the fetishes of the negroes, every work of nature and of man, were the first gods of mortals; polytheism was their first religion and idolatry their earliest form of worship. The idea of one God was beyond their grasp, till little by little they formed general ideas, and they rose to the idea of a first cause and gave meaning to the word “substance,” which is at bottom the greatest of abstractions. So every child who believes in God is of necessity an idolater or at least he regards the Deity as a man, and when once the imagination has perceived God, it is very seldom that the understanding conceives him. Locke’s order leads us into this same mistake.
Having arrived, I know not how, at the idea of substance, it is clear that to allow of a single substance it must be assumed that this substance is endowed with incompatible and mutually exclusive properties, such as thought and size, one of which is by its nature divisible and the other wholly incapable of division. Moreover it is assumed that thought or, if you prefer it, feeling is a primitive quality inseparable from the substance to which it belongs, that its relation to the substance is like the relation between substance and size. Hence it is inferred that beings who lose one of these attributes lose the substance to which it belongs, and that death is, therefore, but a separation of substances, and that those beings in whom the two attributes are found are composed of the two substances to which those two qualities belong.
But consider what a gulf there still is between the idea of two substances and that of the divine nature, between the incomprehensible idea of the influence of our soul upon our body and the idea of the influence of God upon every living creature. The ideas of creation, destruction, ubiquity, eternity, almighty power, those of the divine attributes—these are all ideas so confused and obscure that few men succeed in grasping them; yet there is nothing obscure about them to the common people, because they do not understand them in the least; how then should they present themselves in full force, that is to say in all their obscurity, to the young mind which is still occupied with the first working of the senses, and fails to realise anything but what it handles? In vain do the abysses of the Infinite open around us, a child does not know the meaning of fear; his weak eyes cannot gauge their depths. To children everything is infinite, they cannot assign limits to anything; not that their measure is so large, but because their understanding is so small. I have even noticed that they place the infinite rather below than above the dimensions known to them. They judge a distance to be immense rather by their feet than by their eyes; infinity is bounded for them, not so much by what they can see, but how far they can go. If you talk to them of the power of God, they will think he is nearly as strong as their father. As their own knowledge is in everything the standard by which they judge of what is possible, they always picture what is described to them as rather smaller than what they know. Such are the natural reasonings of an ignorant and feeble mind. Ajax was afraid to measure his strength against Achilles, yet he challenged Jupiter to combat, for he knew Achilles and did not know Jupiter. A Swiss peasant thought himself the richest man alive; when they tried to explain to him what a king was, he asked with pride, “Has the king got a hundred cows on the high pastures?”
I am aware that many of my readers will be surprised to find me tracing the course of my scholar through his early years without speaking to him of religion. At fifteen he will not even know that he has a soul, at eighteen even he may not be ready to learn about it. For if he learns about it too soon, there is the risk of his never really knowing anything about it.
If I had to depict the most heart-breaking stupidity, I would paint a pedant teaching children the catechism; if I wanted to drive a child crazy I would set him to explain what he learned in his catechism. You will reply that as most of the Christian doctrines are mysteries, you must wait, not merely till the child is a man, but till the man is dead, before the human mind will understand those doctrines. To that I reply, that there are mysteries which the heart of man can neither conceive nor believe, and I see no use in teaching them to children, unless you want to make liars of them. Moreover, I assert that to admit that there are mysteries, you must at least realise that they are incomprehensible, and children are not even capable of this conception! At an age when everything is mysterious, there are no mysteries properly so-called.
“We must believe in God if we would be saved.” This doctrine wrongly understood is the root of bloodthirsty intolerance and the cause of all the futile teaching which strikes a deadly blow at human reason by training it to cheat itself with mere words. No doubt there is not a moment to be lost if we would deserve eternal salvation; but if the repetition of certain words suffices to obtain it, I do not see why we should not people heaven with starlings and magpies as well as with children.
The obligation of faith assumes the possibility of belief. The philosopher who does not believe is wrong, for he misuses the reason he has cultivated, and he is able to understand the truths he rejects. But the child who professes the Christian faith—what does he believe? Just what he understands; and he understands so little of what he is made to repeat that if you tell him to say just the opposite he will be quite ready to do it. The faith of children and the faith of many men is a matter of geography. Will they be rewarded for having been born in Rome rather than in Mecca? One is told that Mahomet is the prophet of God and he says, “Mahomet is the prophet of God.” The other is told that Mahomet is a rogue and he says, “Mahomet is a rogue.” Either of them would have said just the opposite had he stood in the other’s shoes. When they are so much alike to begin with, can the one be consigned to Paradise and the other to Hell? When a child says he believes in God, it is not God he believes in, but Peter or James who told him that there is something called God, and he believes it after the fashion of Euripides—
“O Jupiter, of whom I know nothing but thy name.”1
We hold that no child who dies before the age of reason will be deprived of everlasting happiness; the Catholics believe the same of all children who have been baptised, even though they have never heard of God. There are, therefore, circumstances in which one can be saved without belief in God, and these circumstances occur in the case of children or madmen when the human mind is incapable of the operations necessary to perceive the Godhead. The only difference I see between you and me is that you profess that children of seven years old are able to do this and I do not think them ready for it at fifteen. Whether I am right or wrong depends, not on an article of the creed, but on a simple observation in natural history.
From the same principle it is plain that any man having reached old age without faith in God will not, therefore, be deprived of God’s presence in another life if his blindness was not wilful; and I maintain that it is not always wilful. You admit that it is so in the case of lunatics deprived by disease of their spiritual faculties, but not of their manhood, and therefore still entitled to the goodness of their Creator. Why then should we not admit it in the case of those brought up from infancy in seclusion, those who have led the life of a savage and are without the knowledge that comes from intercourse with other men.2 For it is clearly impossible that such a savage could ever raise his thoughts to the knowledge of the true God. Reason tells that man should only be punished for his wilful faults, and that invincible ignorance can never be imputed to him as a crime. Hence it follows that in the sight of the Eternal Justice every man who would believe if he had the necessary knowledge is counted a believer, and that there will be no unbelievers to be punished except those who have closed their hearts against the truth.
Let us beware of proclaiming the truth to those who cannot as yet comprehend it, for to do so is to try to inculcate error. It would be better to have no idea at all of the Divinity than to have mean, grotesque, harmful, and unworthy ideas; to fail to perceive the Divine is a lesser evil than to insult it. The worthy Plutarch says, “I would rather men said, ‘There is no such person as Plutarch,’ than that they should say, ‘Plutarch is unjust, envious, jealous, and such a tyrant that he demands more than can be performed.’ ”
The chief harm which results from the monstrous ideas of God which are instilled into the minds of children is that they last all their life long, and as men they understand no more of God than they did as children. In Switzerland I once saw a good and pious mother who was so convinced of the truth of this maxim that she refused to teach her son religion when he was a little child for fear lest he should be satisfied with this crude teaching and neglect a better teaching when he reached the age of reason. This child never heard the name of God pronounced except with reverence and devotion, and as soon as he attempted to say the word he was told to hold his tongue, as if the subject were too sublime and great for him. This reticence aroused his curiosity and his self-love; he looked forward to the time when he would know this mystery so carefully hidden from him. The less they spoke of God to him, the less he was himself permitted to speak of God, the more he thought about Him; this child beheld God everywhere. What I should most dread as the result of this unwise affectation of mystery is this: by over-stimulating the youth’s imagination you may turn his head, and make him at the best a fanatic rather than a believer.
But we need fear nothing of the sort for Emile, who always declines to pay attention to what is beyond his reach, and listens with profound indifference to things he does not understand. There are so many things of which he is accustomed to say, “That is no concern of mine,” that one more or less makes little difference to him; and when he does begin to perplex himself with these great matters, it is because the natural growth of his knowledge is turning his thoughts that way.
We have seen the road by which the cultivated human mind approaches these mysteries, and I am ready to admit that it would not attain to them naturally, even in the bosom of society, till a much later age. But as there are in this same society inevitable causes which hasten the development of the passions, if we did not also hasten the development of the knowledge which controls these passions we should indeed depart from the path of nature and disturb her equilibrium. When we can no longer restrain a precocious development in one direction we must promote a corresponding development in another direction, so that the order of nature may not be inverted, and so that things should progress together, not separately, so that the man, complete at every moment of his life, may never find himself at one stage in one of his faculties and at another stage in another faculty.
What a difficulty do I see before me! A difficulty all the greater because it depends less on actual facts than on the cowardice of those who dare not look the difficulty in the face. Let us at least venture to state our problem. A child should always be brought up in his father’s religion; he is always given plain proofs that this religion, whatever it may be, is the only true religion, that all others are ridiculous and absurd. The force of the argument depends entirely on the country in which it is put forward. Let a Turk, who thinks Christianity so absurd at Constantinople, come to Paris and see what they think of Mahomet. It is in matters of religion more than in anything else that prejudice is triumphant. But when we who profess to shake off its yoke entirely, we who refuse to yield any homage to authority, decline to teach Emile anything which he could not learn for himself in any country, what religion shall we give him, to what sect shall this child of nature belong? The answer strikes me as quite easy. We will not attach him to any sect, but we will give him the means to choose for himself according to the right use of his own reason
No matter! Thus far zeal and prudence have taken the place of caution. I hope that these guardians will not fail me now. Reader, do not fear lest I should take precautions unworthy of a lover of truth; I shall never forget my motto, but I distrust my own judgment all too easily. Instead of telling you what I think myself, I will tell you the thoughts of one whose opinions carry more weight than mine. I guarantee the truth of the facts I am about to relate; they actually happened to the author whose writings I am about to transcribe; it is for you to judge whether we can draw from them any considerations bearing on the matter in hand. I do not offer you my own idea or another’s as your rule; I merely present them for your examination.
Thirty years ago there was a young man in an Italian town; he was an exile from his native land and found himself reduced to the depths of poverty. He had been born a Calvinist, but the consequences of his own folly had made him a fugitive in a strange land; he had no money and he changed his religion for a morsel of bread. There was a hostel for proselytes in that town to which he gained admission. The study of controversy inspired doubts he had never felt before, and he made acquaintance with evil hitherto unsuspected by him; he heard strange doctrines and he met with morals still stranger to him; he beheld this evil conduct and nearly fell a victim to it. He longed to escape, but he was locked up; he complained, but his complaints were unheeded; at the mercy of his tyrants, he found himself treated as a criminal because he would not share their crimes. The anger kindled in a young and untried heart by the first experience of violence and injustice may be realised by those who have themselves experienced it. Tears of anger flowed from his eyes, he was wild with rage; he prayed to heaven and to man, and his prayers were unheard; he spoke to every one and no one listened to him. He saw no one but the vilest servants under the control of the wretch who insulted him, or accomplices in the same crime who laughed at his resistance and encouraged him to follow their example. He would have been ruined had not a worthy priest visited the hostel on some matter of business. He found an opportunity of consulting him secretly. The priest was poor and in need of help himself, but the victim had more need of his assistance, and he did not hesitate to help him to escape at the risk of making a dangerous enemy.
Having escaped from vice to return to poverty, the young man struggled vainly against fate: for a moment he thought he had gained the victory. At the first gleam of good fortune his woes and his protector were alike forgotten. He was soon punished for this ingratitude; all his hopes vanished; youth indeed was on his side, but his romantic ideas spoiled everything. He had neither talent nor skill to make his way easily, he could neither be commonplace nor wicked, he expected so much that he got nothing. When he had sunk to his former poverty, when he was without food or shelter and ready to die of hunger, he remembered his benefactor.
He went back to him, found him, and was kindly welcomed; the sight of him reminded the priest of a good deed he had done; such a memory always rejoices the heart. This man was by nature humane and pitiful; he felt the sufferings of others through his own, and his heart had not been hardened by prosperity; in a word, the lessons of wisdom and an enlightened virtue had reinforced his natural kindness of heart. He welcomed the young man, found him a lodging, and recommended him; he shared with him his living which was barely enough for two. He did more, he instructed him, consoled him, and taught him the difficult art of bearing adversity in patience. You prejudiced people, would you have expected to find all this in a priest and in Italy?
This worthy priest was a poor Savoyard clergyman who had offended his bishop by some youthful fault; he had crossed the Alps to find a position which he could not obtain in his own country. He lacked neither wit nor learning, and with his interesting countenance he had met with patrons who found him a place in the household of one of the ministers, as tutor to his son. He preferred poverty to dependence, and he did not know how to get on with the great. He did not stay long with this minister, and when he departed he took with him his good opinion; and as he lived a good life and gained the hearts of everybody, he was glad to be forgiven by his bishop and to obtain from him a small parish among the mountains, where he might pass the rest of his life. This was the limit of his ambition.
He was attracted by the young fugitive and he questioned him closely. He saw that ill-fortune had already seared his heart, that scorn and disgrace had overthrown his courage, and that his pride, transformed into bitterness and spite, led him to see nothing in the harshness and injustice of men but their evil disposition and the vanity of all virtue. He had seen that religion was but a mask for selfishness, and its holy services but a screen for hypocrisy; he had found in the subtleties of empty disputations heaven and hell awarded as prizes for mere words; he had seen the sublime and primitive idea of Divinity disfigured by the vain fancies of men; and when, as he thought, faith in God required him to renounce the reason God himself had given him, he held in equal scorn our foolish imaginings and the object with which they are concerned. With no knowledge of things as they are, without any idea of their origins, he was immersed in his stubborn ignorance and utterly despised those who thought they knew more than himself.
The neglect of all religion soon leads to the neglect of a man’s duties. The heart of this young libertine was already far on this road. Yet his was not a bad nature, though incredulity and misery were gradually stifling his natural disposition and dragging him down to ruin; they were leading him into the conduct of a rascal and the morals of an atheist.
The almost inevitable evil was not actually consummated. The young man was not ignorant, his education had not been neglected. He was at that happy age when the pulse beats strongly and the heart is warm, but is not yet enslaved by the madness of the senses. His heart had not lost its elasticity. A native modesty, a timid disposition restrained him, and prolonged for him that period during which you watch your pupil so carefully. The hateful example of brutal depravity, of vice without any charm, had not merely failed to quicken his imagination, it had deadened it. For a long time disgust rather than virtue preserved his innocence, which would only succumb to more seductive charms.
The priest saw the danger and the way of escape. He was not discouraged by difficulties, he took a pleasure in his task; he determined to complete it and to restore to virtue the victim he had snatched from vice. He set about it cautiously; the beauty of the motive gave him courage and inspired him with means worthy of his zeal. Whatever might be the result, his pains would not be wasted. We are always successful when our sole aim is to do good.
He began to win the confidence of the proselyte by not asking any price for his kindness, by not intruding himself upon him, by not preaching at him, by always coming down to his level, and treating him as an equal. It was, so I think, a touching sight to see a serious person becoming the comrade of a young scamp, and virtue putting up with the speech of licence in order to triumph over it more completely. When the young fool came to him with his silly confidences and opened his heart to him, the priest listened and set him at his ease; without giving his approval to what was bad, he took an interest in everything; no tactless reproof checked his chatter or closed his heart; the pleasure which he thought was given by his conversation increased his pleasure in telling everything; thus he made his general confession without knowing he was confessing anything.
After he had made a thorough study of his feelings and disposition, the priest saw plainly that, although he was not ignorant for his age, he had forgotten everything that he most needed to know, and that the disgrace which fortune had brought upon him had stifled in him all real sense of good and evil. There is a stage of degradation which robs the soul of its life; and the inner voice cannot be heard by one whose whole mind is bent on getting food. To protect the unlucky youth from the moral death which threatened him, he began to revive his self-love and his good opinion of himself. He showed him a happier future in the right use of his talents; he revived the generous warmth of his heart by stories of the noble deeds of others; by rousing his admiration for the doers of these deeds he revived his desire to do like deeds himself. To draw him gradually from his idle and wandering life, he made him copy out extracts from well-chosen books; he pretended to want these extracts, and so nourished in him the noble feeling of gratitude. He taught him indirectly through these books, and thus he made him sufficiently regain his good opinion of himself so that he would no longer think himself good for nothing, and would not make himself despicable in his own eyes.
A trifling incident will show how this kindly man tried, unknown to him, to raise the heart of his disciple out of its degradation, without seeming to think of teaching. The priest was so well known for his uprightness and his discretion, that many people preferred to entrust their alms to him, rather than to the wealthy clergy of the town. One day some one had given him some money to distribute among the poor, and the young man was mean enough to ask for some of it on the score of poverty. “No,” said he, “we are brothers, you belong to me and I must not touch the money entrusted to me.” Then he gave him the sum he had asked for out of his own pocket. Lessons of this sort seldom fail to make an impression on the heart of young people who are not wholly corrupt.
I am weary of speaking in the third person, and the precaution is unnecessary; for you are well aware, my dear friend, that I myself was this unhappy fugitive; I think I am so far removed from the disorders of my youth that I may venture to confess them, and the hand which rescued me well deserves that I should at least do honour to its goodness at the cost of some slight shame.
What struck me most was to see in the private life of my worthy master, virtue without hypocrisy, humanity without weakness, speech always plain and straightforward, and conduct in accordance with this speech. I never saw him trouble himself whether those whom he assisted went to vespers or confession, whether they fasted at the appointed seasons and went without meat; nor did he impose upon them any other like conditions, without which you might die of hunger before you could hope for any help from the devout.
Far from displaying before him the zeal of a new convert, I was encouraged by these observations and I made no secret of my way of thinking, nor did he seem to be shocked by it. Sometimes I would say to myself, he overlooks my indifference to the religion I have adopted because he sees I am equally indifferent to the religion in which I was brought up; he knows that my scorn for religion is not confined to one sect. But what could I think when I sometimes heard him give his approval to doctrines contrary to those of the Roman Catholic Church, and apparently having but a poor opinion of its ceremonies. I should have thought him a Protestant in disguise if I had not beheld him so faithful to those very customs which he seemed to value so lightly; but I knew he fulfilled his priestly duties as carefully in private as in public, and I knew not what to think of these apparent contradictions. Except for the fault which had formerly brought about his disgrace, a fault which he had only partially overcome, his life was exemplary, his conduct beyond reproach, his conversation honest and discreet. While I lived on very friendly terms with him, I learnt day by day to respect him more; and when he had completely won my heart by such great kindness, I awaited with eager curiosity the time when I should learn what was the principle on which the uniformity of this strange life was based.
This opportunity was a long time coming. Before taking his disciple into his confidence, he tried to get the seeds of reason and kindness which he had sown in my heart to germinate. The most difficult fault to overcome in me was a certain haughty misanthropy, a certain bitterness against the rich and successful, as if their wealth and happiness had been gained at my own expense, and as if their supposed happiness had been unjustly taken from my own. The foolish vanity of youth, which kicks against the pricks of humiliation, made me only too much inclined to this angry temper; and the self-respect, which my mentor strove to revive, led to pride, which made men still more vile in my eyes, and only added scorn to my hatred.
Without directly attacking this pride, he prevented it from developing into hardness of heart; and without depriving me of my self-esteem, he made me less scornful of my neighbours. By continually drawing my attention from the empty show, and directing it to the genuine sufferings concealed by it, he taught me to deplore the faults of my fellows and feel for their sufferings, to pity rather than envy them. Touched with compassion towards human weaknesses through the profound conviction of his own failings, he viewed all men as the victims of their own vices and those of others; he beheld the poor groaning under the tyranny of the rich, and the rich under the tyranny of their own prejudices. “Believe me,” said he, “our illusions, far from concealing our woes, only increase them by giving value to what is in itself valueless, in making us aware of all sorts of fancied privations which we should not otherwise feel. Peace of heart consists in despising everything that might disturb that peace; the man who clings most closely to life is the man who can least enjoy it; and the man who most eagerly desires happiness is always most miserable.”
“What gloomy ideas!” I exclaimed bitterly. “If we must deny ourselves everything, we might as well never have been born; and if we must despise even happiness itself who can be happy?” “I am,” replied the priest one day, in a tone which made a great impression on me. “You happy! So little favoured by fortune, so poor, an exile and persecuted, you are happy! How have you contrived to be happy?” “My child,” he answered, “I will gladly tell you.”
Thereupon he explained that, having heard my confessions, he would confess to me. “I will open my whole heart to yours,” he said, embracing me. “You will see me, if not as I am, at least as I seem to myself. When you have heard my whole confession of faith, when you really know the condition of my heart, you will know why I think myself happy, and if you think as I do, you will know how to be happy too. But these explanations are not the affair of a moment, it will take time to show you all my ideas about the lot of man and the true value of life; let us choose a fitting time and a place where we may continue this conversation without interruption.”
I showed him how eager I was to hear him. The meeting was fixed for the very next morning. It was summer time; we rose at daybreak. He took me out of the town on to a high hill above the river Po, whose course we beheld as it flowed between its fertile banks; in the distance the landscape was crowned by the vast chain of the Alps; the beams of the rising sun already touched the plains and cast across the fields long shadows of trees, hillocks, and houses, and enriched with a thousand gleams of light the fairest picture which the human eye can see. You would have thought that nature was displaying all her splendour before our eyes to furnish a text for our conversation. After contemplating this scene for a space in silence, the man of peace spoke to me.
[1 ]Translator’s note.—The “bureau” was a sort of case containing letters to be put together to form words. It was a favourite device for the teaching of reading and gave its name to a special method, called the bureau-method, of learning to read.
[1 ] In a case like this there is no danger in asking a child to tell the truth, for he knows very well that it cannot be hid, and that if he ventured to tell a lie he would be found out at once.
[1 ] This terror is very noticeable during great eclipses of the sun.
[2 ] Another cause has been well explained by a philosopher, often quoted in this work, a philosopher to whose wide views I am very greatly indebted.
“When under special conditions we cannot form a fair idea of distance, when we can only judge things by the size of the angle or rather of the image formed in our eyes, we cannot avoid being deceived as to the size of these objects. Every one knows by experience how when we are travelling at night we take a bush near at hand for a great tree at a distance, and vice versa. In the same way, if the objects were of a shape unknown to us, so that we could not tell their size in that way, we should be equally mistaken with regard to it. If a fly flew quickly past a few inches from our eyes, we should think it was a distant bird; a horse standing still at a distance from us in the midst of open country, in a position somewhat like that of a sheep, would be taken for a large sheep, so long as we did not perceive that it was a horse; but as soon as we recognise what it is, it seems as large as a horse, and we at once correct our former judgment.
“Whenever one finds oneself in unknown places at night where we cannot judge of distance, and where we cannot recognise objects by their shape on account of the darkness, we are in constant danger of forming mistaken judgments as to the objects which present themselves to our notice. Hence that terror, that kind of inward fear experienced by most people on dark nights. This is foundation for the supposed appearances of spectres, or gigantic and terrible forms which so many people profess to have seen. They are generally told that they imagined these things, yet they may really have seen them, and it is quite possible they really saw what they say they did see; for it will always be the case that when we can only estimate the size of an object by the angle it forms in the eye, that object will swell and grow as we approach it; and if the spectator thought it several feet high when it was thirty or forty feet away, it will seem very large indeed when it is a few feet off; this must indeed astonish and alarm the spectator until he touches it and perceives what it is, for as soon as he perceives what it is, the object which seemed so gigantic will suddenly shrink and assume its real size, but if we run away or are afraid to approach, we shall certainly form no other idea of the thing than the image formed in the eye, and we shall have really seen a gigantic figure of alarming size and shape. There is, therefore, a natural ground for the tendency to see ghosts, and these appearances are not merely the creation of the imagination, as the men of science would have us think.”—Buffon, Nat. Hist.
In the text I have tried to show that they are always partly the creation of the imagination, and with regard to the cause explained in this quotation, it is clear that the habit of walking by night should teach us to distinguish those appearances which similarity of form and diversity of distance lend to the objects seen in the dark. For if the air is light enough for us to see the outlines there must be more air between us and them when they are further off, so that we ought to see them less distinctly when further off, which should be enough, when we are used to it, to prevent the error described by M. Buffon. Whichever explanation you prefer, my mode of procedure is still efficacious, and experience entirely confirms it.
[1 ] To practise them in attention, only tell them things which it is clearly to their present interest that they should understand thoroughly; above all be brief, never say a word more than is necessary. But neither let your speech be obscure nor of doubful meaning.
[1 ] I am aware that the English make a boast of their humanity and of the kindly disposition of their race, which they call “good-natured people;” but in vain do they proclaim this fact; no one else says it of them.
[2 ] The Banians, who abstain from flesh even more completely than the Gaures, are almost as gentle as the Gaures themselves, but as their morality is less pure and their form of worship less reasonable they are not such good men.
[3 ] One of the English translators of my book has pointed out my mistake, and both of them have corrected it. Butchers and surgeons are allowed to give evidence in the law courts, but butchers may not serve on juries in criminal cases, though surgeons are allowed to do so.
[1 ] The ancient historians are full of opinions which may be useful, even if the facts which they present are false. But we do not know how to make any real use of history. Criticism and erudition are our only care; as if it mattered more that a statement were true or false than that we should be able to get a useful lesson from it. A wise man should consider history a tissue of fables whose morals are well adapted to the human heart.
[1 ] Habit owes its charm to man’s natural idleness, and this idleness grows upon us if indulged; it is easier to do what we have already done, there is a beaten path which is easily followed. Thus we may observe that habit is very strong in the aged and in the indolent, and very weak in the young and active. The rule of habit is only good for feeble hearts, and it makes them more and more feeble day by day. The only useful habit for children is to be accustomed to submit without difficulty to necessity, and the only useful habit for man is to submit without difficulty to the rule of reason. Every other habit is a vice.
[1 ] I could not help laughing when I read an elaborate criticism of this little tale by M. de Formy. “This conjuror,” says he, “who is afraid of a child’s competition and preaches to his tutor is the sort of person we meet with in the world in which Emile and such as he are living.” This witty M. de Formy could not guess that this little scene was arranged beforehand, and that the juggler was taught his part in it; indeed I did not state this fact. But I have said again and again that I was not writing for people who expected to be told everything.
[1 ] Before giving any explanation to a child a little ‘bit of apparatus serves to fix his attention.
[2 ] The wine sold by retail dealers in Paris is rarely free from lead, though some of it does not contain litharge, for the counters are covered with lead and when the wine is poured into the measures and some of it spilt upon the counter and the measures left standing on the counter, some of the lead is always dissolved. It is strange that so obvious and dangerous an abuse should be tolerated by the police. But indeed well-to-do people, who rarely drink these wines, are not likely to be poisoned by them.
[1 ] The vegetable acid is very gentle in its action. If it were a mineral acid and less diluted, the combination would not take place without effervescence.
[1 ] When our hearts are abandoned to the sway of passion, then it is that we need a measure of time. The wise man’s watch is his equable temper and his peaceful heart. He is always punctual, and he always knows the time.
[1 ] This taste, which I assume my pupil to have acquired, is a natural result of his education. Moreover, he has nothing foppish or affected about him, so that the ladies take little notice of him and he is less petted than other children; therefore he does not care for them, and is less spoilt by their company; he is not yet of an age to feel its charm. I have taken care not to teach him to kiss their hands, to pay them compliments, or even to be more polite to them than to men. It is my constant rule to ask nothing from him but what he can understand, and there is no good reason why a child should treat one sex differently from the other.
[1 ] In my opinion it is impossible that the great kingdoms of Europe should last much longer. Each of them has had its period of splendour, after which it must inevitably decline. I have my own opinions as to the special applications of this general statement, but this is not the place to enter into details, and they are only too evident to everybody.
[1 ] You are an author yourself, you will reply. Yes, for my sins; and my ill deeds, which I think I have fully expiated, are no reason why others should be like me. I do not write to excuse my faults, but to prevent my readers from copying them.
[1 ] There were no tailors among the ancients; men’s clothes were made at home by the women.
[1 ] I have since found by more exact experiment that this is not the case. Refraction acts in a circle, and the stick appears larger at the end which is in the water, but this makes no difference to the strength of the argument, and the conclusion is correct.
[1 ] “In towns,” says M. Buffon, “and among the well-to-do classes, children accustomed to plentiful and nourishing food sooner reach this state; in the country and among the poor, children are more backward, because of their poor and scanty food.” I admit the fact but not the explanation, for in the districts where the food of the villagers is plentiful and good, as in the Valais and even in some of the mountain districts of Italy, such as Friuli, the age of puberty for both sexes is quite as much later than in the heart of the towns, where, in order to gratify their vanity, people are often extremely parsimonious in the matter of food, and where most people, in the words of the proverb, have a velvet coat and an empty belly. It is astonishing to find in these mountainous regions big lads as strong as a man with shrill voices and smooth chins, and tall girls, well developed in other respects, without any trace of the periodic functions of their sex. This difference is, in my opinion, solely due to the fact that in the simplicity of their manners the imagination remains calm and peaceful, and does not stir the blood till much later, and thus their temperament is much less precocious.
[1 ] Affection may be unrequited; not so friendship. Friendship is a bargain, a contract like any other; though a bargain more sacred than the rest. The word “friend” has no other correlation. Any man who is not the friend of his friend is undoubtedly a rascal; for one can only obtain friendship by giving it, or pretending to give it.
[1 ] The precept “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” has no true foundation but that of conscience and feeling; for what valid reason is there why I, being myself, should do what I would do if I were some one else, especially when I am morally certain I never shall find myself in exactly the same case; and who will answer for it that if I faithfully follow out this maxim I shall get others to follow it with regard to me? The wicked takes advantage both of the uprightness of the just and of his own injustice; he will gladly have everybody just but himself. This bargain, whatever you may say, is not greatly to the advantage of the just. But if the enthusiasm of an overflowing heart identifies me with my fellow-creature, if I feel, so to speak, that I will not let him suffer lest I should suffer too, I care for him because I care for myself, and the reason of the precept is found in nature herself, which inspires me with the desire for my own welfare wherever I may be. From this I conclude that it is false to say that the precepts of natural law are based on reason only; they have a firmer and more solid foundation. The love of others, springing from self-love, is the source of human justice. The whole of morality is summed up in the gospel in this summary of the law.
[1 ] The universal spirit of the laws of every country is always to take the part of the strong against the weak, and the part of him who has against him who has not; this defect is inevitable, and there is no exception to it.
[1 ] Take, for instance, Guicciardini, Streda, Solis, Machiavelli, and sometimes even De Thou himself. Vertot is almost the only one who knows how to describe without giving fancy portraits.
[1 ] It is always prejudice which stirs up passion in our heart. He who only sees what really exists and only values what he knows, rarely becomes angry. The errors of our judgment produce the warmth of our desires.
[1 ] I think I may fairly reckon health and strength among the advantages he has obtained by his education, or rather among the gifts of nature which his education has preserved for him.
[1 ] Moreover our pupil will be little tempted by this snare; he has so many amusements about him, he has never been bored in his life, and he scarcely knows the use of money. As children have been led by these two motives, self-interest and vanity, rogues and courtesans use the same means to get hold of them later. When you see their greediness encouraged by prizes and rewards, when you find their public performances at ten years old applauded at school or college, you see too how at twenty they will be induced to leave their purse in a gambling hell and their health in a worse place. You may safely wager that the sharpest boy in the class will become the greatest gambler and debauchee. Now the means which have not been employed in childhood have not the same effect in youth. But we must bear in mind my constant plan and take the thing at its worst. First I try to prevent the vice; then I assume its existence in order to correct it.
[1 ] “But what will he do if any one seeks a quarrel with him?” My answer is that no one will ever quarrel with him, he will never lend himself to such a thing. But, indeed, you continue, who can be safe from a blow, or an insult from a bully, a drunkard, a bravo, who for the joy of killing his man begins by dishonouring him? That is another matter. The life and honour of the citizens should not be at the mercy of a bully, a drunkard, or a bravo, and one can no more insure oneself against such an accident than against a falling tile. A blow given, or a lie in the teeth, if he submit to them, have social consequences which no wisdom can prevent and no tribunal can avenge. The weakness of the laws, therefore, so far restores a man’s independence; he is the sole magistrate and judge between the offender and himself, the sole interpreter and administrator of natural law. Justice is his due, and he alone can obtain it, and in such a case there is no government on earth so foolish as to punish him for so doing. I do not say he must fight; that is absurd; I say justice is his due, and he alone can dispense it. If I were king, I promise you that in my kingdom no one would ever strike a man or call him a liar, and yet I would do without all those useless laws against duels; the means are simple and require no law courts. However that may be, Emile knows what is due to himself in such a case, and the example due from him to the safety of men of honour. The strongest of men cannot prevent insult, but he can take good care that his adversary has no opportunity to boast of that insult.
[1 ] Plutarch. It is thus that the tragedy of Menalippus originally began, but the clamour of the Athenians compelled Euripides to change these opening lines.
[2 ] For the natural condition of the human mind and its slow development, cf. the first part of the Discours sur Inégalité.