Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter ii - Observations upon Liberal Education, in All its Branches
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chapter ii - George Turnbull, Observations upon Liberal Education, in All its Branches 
Observations upon Liberal Education, in All its Branches, ed. Terrence O. Moore, Jr. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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Concerning the formation of good habits in young minds; the proper methods of cultivating virtuous dispositions; and the practices by which the vices are early engendered and strengthened, and of the best means for correcting and reforming them.
What we have hitherto been recommending is not instruction in any particular notional system of opinions or tenets, but in facts relating to the frame and government of the natural world, and to the constitution of the human mind of the greatest importance, ascertainable by experience only, and to be deduced and confirmed from thence; and which, tho’ of different kinds, are so closely connected, that the transition from observations of either kind to the other is exceeding easy and natural. And we have not yet finished this article, but must return to it again, and treat more fully of the true philosophy, and the best methods of instructing youth in it. However, before we go further, because a great deal may be done towards the right formation of youth, of the last consequence to their happiness, before they can understand maxims or rules; nay, because, unless the mind be prepared for wholesome instruction by previous culture, instruction will fare like good seed cast into foul, weedy or stony ground, we shall therefore here treat a little of what ought to be the first and most early care in education, the formation of a right temper, by carefully nursing and cherishing good dispositions in young minds. Socrates, and other ancients, seem to have had particular pleasure in running a parallel between agriculture and the improvement of the mind: But in no respect does the comparison or likeness hold more exactly than in this, that as the ground must be properly prepared for the reception and nourishment of good seed, so the mind must by apposite care be moulded into a fit temperament or disposition for embracing and cherishing the seeds of good doctrine. In both cases, the first or previous care is of the greatest moment. Instruction will be but thrown away, it cannot sink into the mind, or take firm root there, so as to fructify, if the mind be not pure and clean, pliable, or docile and open to truth and knowledge, but will quickly be chocked by the opposite illiberal temperature. The human mind cannot continue long quite a tabula rasa; some images must of course be gaining upon its affections, and consequently, forming some propensities or habits. And we may leave it to any thinking person, who is acquainted with the world, and has but reflected, that reason must be artfully invited and drawn forth into action, and requires much culture in order to ripen and strengthen it, whereas our senses, from the first dawn of life, are continually assailed by outward objects, and speedily rush up to their maturity.—We may leave to such to judge what chance there is for the virtues getting the start of all vitious appetites and habits in young minds, if particular care be not taken, from their first entrance into the world, of adhibiting proper culture and discipline, and of steadily watching and directing all their ideas, desires and movements. Some philosophers, indeed, have represented vice as cogenial with the mind, not considering how absurd it is to suppose a work to come depraved and vitiated from the hands of the all-perfect Creator, were it conceivable, as it is not, that habits or passions of any kind could precede ideas, or be engendered otherwise than by association of ideas and repetition of acts. But, on the contrary, it is virtue, not vice, that is natural to the mind, in any sense that any habit can be said to be so, since originally the affections in the human mind stand right with regard to moral objects; since long before we are able to reason or draw inferences, from the first moment that good actions and characters are set before or perceived by us, virtue is a fair and lovely species, and immediately begets our esteem and approbation, whereas vice is an ugly form, and creates our aversion and abhorrence. There is no necessity of supposing the mind naturally biassed towards vice, in order to account for the ill humours, the crossness and peevishness, or the sensuality and interestedness and lust of power which so early discover themselves in children. If we but consider not only to whom the care of the nursery is generally committed, and with whom children are most habitually conversant, but even the common methods of conduct in very wise and good parents themselves towards their infants, our wonder at the general early corruption of young minds will cease, and we will find that tutors and preceptors have ground to complain, that their task is weeding work; and that children are given into their hands not to be educated, but to be cleansed and purged from bad habits, which, till they are effaced and rooted out, shut the door against all sound instruction, or disappoint the effects of the best teaching. For in what vice are not children generally trained up? or what evil affection is not fostered and cherished in their minds? I have elsewhere13 treated of this subject at some length; and therefore I shall here only transcribe a few observations upon it from an excellent author,14 well worth the most attentive perusal of parents, and all who are employed in the important business of forming youth. And is it not indeed very strange, that the power of habit or custom should be so universally known and confessed, and yet that so little attention should be paid to this very powerful principle in the institution of youth?
“The great mistake, says he, I have observed in people’s breeding their children, is that care hath not been taken, in its due season, to render their minds obedient to discipline and pliant to reason, when at first they were most tender and easy to be bowed. Parents being wisely ordained by nature to love their children, are very apt, if reason watch not that natural affection very warily, to let it run into fondness. They love their little ones, and it is their duty: But they often with them cherish their faults too. They must not be crossed, forsooth, they must be permitted to have their wills in all things; and they being in their infancy not capable of great vices, their parents think they may safely enough indulge their little irregularities, and make themselves sport with that pretty perverseness which they think well enough becomes that innocent age. But to a fond parent, that would not have his child corrected for a perverse trick, but excused it, saying, it was a small matter, Solon very well replied, ‘Ay, but custom is a great one.’ The fondling must be taught to strike, and call names, must have what he cries for, and do what he pleases. Thus parents, by humouring and cockering them when little, corrupt the principles of nature in their children, and wonder afterwards to taste the bitter waters when they themselves have poisoned the fountain. For when their children are grown up, and these ill habits with them, when they are now too big to be dandled, and their parents can no longer make use of them as play-things, then they complain that the brats are untoward and perverse; then they are offended to see them wilful, and are troubled with those ill humours which they themselves infused and fomented in them; and then, perhaps too late, would be glad to get out those weeds which their own hands have planted, and which now have taken too deep root to be easily extirpated. For he that has been used to have his will in every thing, as long as he was in coats, why should we think it strange, that he should desire it, and contend for it still when he is in breeches? Indeed, as he grows more towards a man, age shews his faults the more, so that there be few parents then so blind as not to see them; few so insensible as not to feel the ill effects of their own indulgence. He had the will of his mind before he could speak or go; he had the mastery of his parents ever since he could prattle; and why, now he is grown up, and is stronger and wiser than he was then, why now of a sudden must he be restrained and curbed? Why must he at seven, fourteen, or twenty years old, lose the privilege which the parents indulgence till then so largely allowed him? Try it in a dog, or a horse, or any other creature, and see whether the ill and resty tricks they have learned when young, are easily to be mended when they are knit; and yet none of those creatures are half so wilful and proud, or half so desirous to be masters of themselves and others, as man. We are generally wise enough to begin with them when they are very young, and discipline betimes those other creatures we would make useful and good for somewhat. They are only our own offspring that we neglect in this point; and having made them ill children, we foolishly expect they should be good men. For if the child must have grapes and sugar-plumbs, when he has a-mind to them, rather than make the poor baby cry, or be out of humour; when he is grown up, must he not be satisfied too, if his desires carry him to wine and women? They are objects as suitable to the longing of one of more years, as what he cried for, when little, was to the inclinations of a child. The having desires accommodated to the apprehensions and relish of these several ages, is not the fault, but the not having them subject to the rules and restraints of reason: The difference lies not in the having or not having appetites, but in the power to govern or deny ourselves in them. He that is not used to submit his will to the reason of others, when he is young, will scarce hearken or submit to his own reason, when he is of an age to make use of it. And what a kind of man such a one is like to prove, is easy to foresee.
“These are oversights usually committed by those who seem to take the greatest care of their children’s education. But if we look into the common management of children, we shall have reason to wonder, in the great dissoluteness of manners which the world complains of, that there are any footsteps at all left of virtue. I desire to know what vice can be named, which parents, and those about children do not reason them into, and drop into them the seeds of, as soon as they are capable to receive them.
“Our author observes how they are taught, and encouraged in cruelty and violence; how their vanity and love of dress is fostered; and then he adds: Those of the meaner sort are hindered by the straitness of their fortunes from encouraging intemperance in their children, by the temptation of their diet, or invitations to eat and drink more than enough. But their own ill examples, whenever plenty comes in their way, shew that ’tis not the dislike of drunkenness and gluttony that keeps them from excess, but want of materials. But if we look into the houses of those who are a little warmer in their fortunes, their eating and drinking are made so much the business and happiness of life, that children are thought neglected if they have not their share of it. Sauces and ragousts, and food disguised by all the arts of cookery, must tempt their palates, when their bellies are full: And then, for fear the stomach should be overcharged, a pretence is found for t’other glass of wine to help digestion, tho’ it only serves to increase the surfeit. Is my young master a little out of order, the first question is, what will my dear eat? What shall I get for thee? Eating and drinking are instantly pressed: And every body’s invention is set on work to find out something luscious and delicate enough to prevail over the want of appetite, which nature has wisely ordered in the beginning of distempers, as a defence against their increase, that being freed from the ordinary labour of digesting any new load in the stomach, she may be at leisure to correct and master the peccant humours. And where children are so happy in the case of their parents, as by their prudence to be kept from the excess of their tables, to the sobriety of a plain and simple diet; yet there too, they are scarce to be preserved from the contagion that poisons the mind; tho’ by a discreet management, while they are under their tuition, their healths may perhaps be pretty well secured, yet their desires must needs yield to the lessons which every where will be read to them upon this part of epicurism. The commendation that eating well has every where, cannot fail to be a successful incentive to natural appetite, and bring them quickly to the liking and expence of a fashionable table. This shall have from every one, even the reprovers of vice, the title of living well. And what shall sullen reason dare to say against the public testimony? Or can it hope to be heard, if it should call that luxury which is so much owned, and universally practiced by those of the best quality? This is now so grown a vice, and has so great supports, that I know not whether it does not put in for the name of virtue, and whether it will not be thought folly, or want of knowledge of the world, to open one’s mouth against it. And truly I should suspect, that what I have here said of it might be censured as a little satire out of my way, did I not mention it with this view, that it might awaken the care and watchfulness of parents in the education of their children: when they see how they are beset on every side, not only with temptations but instructors to vice, and that perhaps in those they thought places of security. I shall not dwell any longer on this subject, much less run over all the particulars, that would shew what pains are used to corrupt children, and instil principles of vice into them. But I desire parents soberly to consider what irregularity or vice there is, which children are not visibly taught, and whether it be not their duty and wisdom to provide them other instructors.”
This author after these remarks, which will lead every thinking person to many others of the same kind, goes on to consider how good habits may be formed in young minds.15 “It seems plain to me, says he, that the principle of all virtue and excellency lies in the power of denying ourselves the satisfaction of our own desires, where reason does not authorize them. This power is to be got and improved by custom, and made easy and familiar by an early practice. If therefore I might be heard, I would advise, that contrary to the ordinary way, children should be used to submit their desires, and go without their longings, even from their very cradles. The very first thing they should learn to know should be, that they were not to have any thing, because it pleased them, but because it was thought fit for them. If things suitable to their wants were supplied to them, so that they were never suffered to have what they once cried for, they would learn to be content without it; would never with bawling and peevishness contend for mastery; nor be half so uneasy to themselves and others as they are, because from the beginning they are not thus handled. I say not this, as if children were not to be indulged in any thing, or that I expected they should in hanging-sleeves, have the reason and conduct of counsellors. I consider them as children who must be tenderly used, who must play and have play-things. That which I mean is, that whenever they craved what was not fit for them to have or do, they should not be permitted it, because they were little and desired it. Nay, whatever they were importunate for, they should be sure, for that very reason, to be denied. The younger they are, the less, I think, are their unruly and disorderly appetites to be complied with; and the less reason they have of their own, the more are they to be under the absolute power of those in whose hands they are. From which, I confess it will follow, that none but discreet people should be about them. If the world commonly does otherwise, I cannot help that. I am saying what I think should be, which if it were already in fashion, I should not need to trouble the world with a discourse on this subject. But yet I doubt not, but when it is considered, there will be others of opinion with me, that the sooner this way is begun with children, the easier it will be for them and their governors too. And that this ought to be observed as an inviolable maxim, That whatever once is denied them, they are certainly not to attain it by crying or importunity, unless one has a mind to teach them to be impatient and troublesome, by rewarding them for it when they are so. Those, therefore, that intend ever to govern their children should begin it whilst they are very little, and look that they perfectly comply with the will of their parents. Would you have your son obedient to you when past a child? Be sure then to establish the authority of a father, as soon as he is capable of submission, and can understand in whose power he is. If you would have him to stand in awe of you, imprint it in his infancy; and as he approaches more to a man, admit him nearer to your familiarity: So shall you have him your obedient subject, as is fit, whilst he is a child, and your affectionate friend when he is a man. For methinks they mightily misplace the treatment due to their children, who are indulgent and familiar when they are little, but severe to them, and keep them at a distance when they are grown up. For liberty and indulgence can do no good to children: Their want of judgment makes them stand in need of restraint and discipline. And, on the contrary, imperiousness and severity is but an ill way of treating men, who have reason of their own to guide them, unless you have a mind to make your children, when grown up, weary of you, and secretly wish your death.—If a strict hand be kept over children from the beginning, they will in that age be tractable, and quietly submit to it, as never having known any other: And if, as they grow up to use of reason, the rigour of government, be, as they deserve it, greatly relaxed, the father’s brow more smoothed to them, and the distance by degrees abated, his former restraints will increase their love, when they find it was only a kindness to them, and a care to make them capable to deserve the favour of their parents, and the esteem of every body else. Thus much for the settling your authority over your children in general. Fear and awe ought to give you the first power over their minds, love and friendship in riper years to hold it: For the time must come when they will be past the rod and correction; and then, if the love of you make them not obedient and dutiful, if the love of virtue and reputation keep them not in laudable courses, I ask what hold will you have upon them to turn them to it? Indeed, fear of having a scanty portion if they displease you, may make them slaves to your estate, but they will be never the less ill and wicked in private; and that restraint will not last always. Every man must some time or other be trusted to himself and his own conduct; and to be a good, a virtuous and able man, one must be made so within. And therefore, what he is to receive from education, what is to sway and influence his life, must be something put into him betimes: Habits woven into the very principles of his nature, and not a counterfeit carriage and dissembled outside, put on by fear, only to avoid the present anger of a father, who may perhaps disinherit him. This being laid down in general, as the course that ought to be taken, ’tis fit we now come to consider the parts of the discipline to be used. I have spoken so much of carrying a strict hand over children, that perhaps, I shall be suspected of not considering enough, what is due to their tender age and constitutions. But that opinion will vanish when you have heard me a little farther. For I am very apt to think, that great severity of punishment does but very little good, nay great harm in education: And I believe it will be found, that caeteris paribus, those children who have been most chastised, seldom make the best men. All that I have hitherto contended for is, That whatsoever rigour is necessary, it is more to be used the younger children are, and having by a due application wrought its effect, it is to be relaxed and changed into a milder sort of government. A compliance and suppleness of their wills being, by a steady hand, introduced by parents, before children have memories to retain the beginnings of it, will seem natural to them, and work afterwards in them, as if it were so, preventing all occasions of struggling or repining. The only care is, that it be begun early, and inflexibly kept to, till awe and respect be grown familiar, and there appears not the least reluctancy in the submission and ready obedience of their minds. When this reverence is once thus established (which it must be early, or else it will cost pains and blows to recover it, the longer it is deferred) ’tis by it, mixed still with as much indulgence as they made not an ill use of, and not by beating, chiding, or servile punishments, they are for the future to be governed, as they grow up to more understanding.” Our author, after bringing several arguments to prove that corporal punishment contributes not at all to the mastery of our natural propensity to indulge present pleasure, and to avoid pain at any rate, but rather encourages it, and thereby strengthens that in us which is the root from whence spring all vitious actions and all the irregularities of life. That this sort of correction naturally breeds an aversion to that which ’tis the tutor’s business to create a liking to.—And if it does prevail, and works a cure upon the present unruly distemper, it is often bringing in the room of it a worse and more dangerous disease, by breaking the mind, or producing a slavish temper and dissimulation—he proceeds to observe:16 “On the other side, to flatter children, by rewards of things that are pleasant to them, is as carefully to be avoided. For this but authorizes the child’s love of pleasure, and cockers up that dangerous propensity which we ought by all means to subdue and stifle in him. You can never hope to teach him to master it, whilst you compound for the check you give his inclination in one place, by the satisfaction you propose to it in another. To make a good, a wise, or a virtuous man, ’tis fit he should learn to cross his appetite, and deny his inclination to riches, finery, or pleasing his palate, &c. But when you draw him to do any thing that is fit, by the offer of money, or reward the pains of learning his book by the pleasure of a luscious morsel, when you promise him a lace-cravat, or a fine new suit, upon the performance of some of his little tasks, what do you, by proposing these rewards, but allow them to be good things he should aim at, and thereby encourage his longing for them, and accustom him to place his happiness in them.—I say not this, that I would have children kept from the conveniencies or pleasures of life, that are not injurious to their health or virtue. On the contrary, I would have their lives made as pleasant and as agreeable to them as may be, by a plentiful enjoyment of whatsoever might innocently delight them, provided it be with this caution, that they have those enjoyments, only as the consequences of the state of esteem and acceptation they are in with the parents and governors; but they should never be offered or bestowed on them as the rewards of this or that particular performance, that they shew an aversion to, or to which they would not have applied themselves without that temptation.—Rewards, I grant, and punishments must be proposed to children, if we intend to work upon them. The mistake, I imagine is, that those that are generally made use of, are ill-chosen. The pains and pleasures of the body, are, I think, of ill consequence, when made the rewards and punishments whereby men would prevail on their children. For, as I said before, they serve but to increase and strengthen those inclinations, which it is our business to subdue and master. What principle of virtue do you lay in a child, if you will remedy his desire of one pleasure by the proposal of another? This is but to enlarge his appetite and instruct it to wander. By this way of proceeding, you foment and cherish in him that which is the spring from whence all the evil flows, which will be sure on the next occasion to break out again with more violence, give him stronger longings, and you more trouble. The rewards and punishments then, whereby we should keep children in order, are quite of another kind, and of that force, that when we can get them once to work, the business, I think, is done, and the difficulty is over. Esteem and disgrace are of all others the most powerful incentives to the mind, when once it is brought to relish them. If you can once get into children a love of credit, and an apprehension of shame and disgrace, you have put into them the true principle, which will constantly work and incline them to the right.—Children, earlier perhaps than we think, are very sensible of praise and commendation. They find pleasure in being esteemed and valued, especially by their parents, and those whom they depend on. If therefore the father caress and commend them when they do well, shew a cold and neglectful countenance when they do ill, and this accompanied by a like carriage of the mother, and all others that are about them, will in a little time make them sensible of the difference; and this, if constantly observed, I doubt not but will of itself work more than threats and blows, which lose their force when once grown common, and are of no use when shame does not attend them. But to make the sense of esteem or disgrace sink the deeper and be of more weight, other agreeable or disagreeable things should constantly accompany these different states, not as particular rewards and punishments of this or that particular action, but as necessarily belonging to, and constantly attending one, who by his carriage has brought himself into a state of disgrace or commendation. By this way of treating them, children will, as much as possible, be brought to conceive, that those that are commended, and in esteem for doing well, are necessarily beloved and cherished by every body, and have all other good things as a consequence of it, and on the other side, that when any one by miscarriage falls into disesteem, and cares not to preserve his credit, he will unavoidably fall under neglect and contempt; and in that state, the want of whatever might satisfy or delight him will follow. In this way, the objects of their desires are made assisting to virtue; when a settled experience from the beginning teaches children, that the things they delight in, belong to, and are to be enjoyed by those only who are in a state of reputation. If by these means you come once to shame them out of their faults (for besides that I would willingly have no punishment) and make them in love with the pleasure of being well thought on, you may turn them as you please, and they will be in love with all the ways of virtue. Concerning reputation, I shall only remark this one thing more, That tho’ it be not the true principle and measure of virtue (for that is the knowledge of a man’s duty, and the satisfaction it is to obey his Maker in following the dictates of that light God has given him, with the hopes of acceptation and reward) yet it is that which comes nearest to it; and being the testimony and applause that other people’s reason, as it were by a common consent, gives to virtuous well-ordered actions, it is the proper guide and encouragement of children, till they grow able to judge for themselves, and to find what is right by their own reason. This consideration may direct parents how to manage themselves in reproving and commending their children. The rebukes and chidings which their faults will sometimes make hardly to be avoided, should not only be in grave, sober, and compassionate words, but also alone and in private. But the commendations children deserve, they should receive before others. This doubles the reward by spreading their praise: The backwardness shewn in divulging their faults will make them set a greater value on their credit themselves, and teach them to be more careful to preserve the good opinion of others, whilst they think they have it. But when being exposed to shame, by publishing their miscarriages, they give it up for lost, that check upon them is taken off; and they will be the less earnest to preserve others good thoughts of them, the more that they suspect their reputation with them is already blemished.”
Thus we see education must begin, in order to gain its ends, much more early than is commonly imagined, otherwise the nursery will so spoil and corrupt children, that it will hardly be possible ever to reclaim or reform them. ’Tis in vain to heap rules on children; ’tis impossible for poor little ones to remember a tenth part of them, much less to observe them. But would you have them speak, read, pronounce, and behave gracefully, let them be formed by good example and practice, to intelligent graceful speaking and reading, and genteel behaviour. “Pray remember,” says Mr. Locke,17 for it is from his treatise on education I have been all this while copying, “children are not to be taught by rules which will be always slipping out of their memories. What you think fit for them to do, settle in them by an indispensible practice, as often as the occasion returns, and if it be possible, make occasions. This will beget habits in them, which, being once established, operate of themselves easily and naturally, without the assistance of the memory. But here let me give two cautions. 1. The one is that you keep them to the practice of what you would have grow into a habit in them by kind words and gentle admonitions, rather as minding them of what they forget, than by harsh rebukes and chiding, as if they were wilfully guilty. 2. Another thing you are to take care of is, not to endeavour to settle too many habits at once, lest by variety you confound them, and so perfect none. When constant custom has made any one thing easy and natural to them, and they practice it without reflection, you may then go on to another. By this method of treating children, by a repeated practice, we shall see whether what is required of a child be adapted to his capacity, and any way suited to the child’s natural genius and constitution. For that too must be considered in a right education. We must not hope wholly to change their original tempers, nor make the gay pensive and grave, nor the melancholly sportive without spoiling them. God has stamp’d certain characters upon men’s minds, which, like their shapes, may, perhaps, be a little mended, but can hardly be totally altered and transformed into the contrary. He therefore, that is about children, should well study their natures and aptitudes, and see by often trials what turn they easily take, and what becomes them; observe what their native stock is, how it may be improved, and what it is fit for: He should consider what they want, whether they be capable of having it wrought into them by industry, and incorporated there by practice, and whether it be worth while to endeavour it. For in many cases, all that we can do, or should aim at, is to make the best of what nature has given, to prevent the vices and faults to which such a constitution is most inclined, and give it all the advantage it is capable of. Every one’s natural genius should be carried as far as it can, but to attempt the putting another upon him will be but labour in vain. And what is so plaister’d on, will at last sit but untowardly, and have always hanging to it the ungracefulness of restraint and affectation. Affectation is not, I confess, an early fault of childhood, or the product of untaught nature: It is of that sort of weeds which grow not in the wild uncultivated waste, but in garden-plots under the negligent hand, or unskilful care of a gardener. Management and instruction, and some sense of the necessity of breeding, are requisite to make any one capable of affectation, which endeavours to correct natural defects, and has always the laudable aim of pleasing, tho’ it always misses it, and the more it labours to put on gracefulness, the farther it is from it. For this reason, it is the more carefully to be watched, because it is the proper fault of education, a perverted education indeed, but such as young people often fall into, either by their own mistake, or the ill conduct of those about them. He that will examine wherein that gracefulness lies which always pleases, will find it arises from that natural coherence which appears between the thing done and such a temper of mind as cannot but be approved of as suitable to the occasion. We cannot but be pleased with an humane, friendly, civil temper, wherever we meet with it. A mind free, and master of itself and all its actions, not low and narrow, not haughty and insolent, not blemished with any great defect, is what every one is taken with. The actions which naturally flow from such a well-formed mind, please us also, as the genuine marks of it; and being, as it were, natural emanations from the spirit within, cannot but be easy and unconstrained. This seems to me to be that beauty which shines through some men’s actions, sets off all they do, and takes with all they come near, when, by a constant practice they have fashioned their carriage, and made all those little expressions of civility and respect which nature or custom has established in conversation so easy to themselves, that they seem not artificial or studied, but naturally to flow from a sweetness of mind, and a well-turned disposition. Affectation, on the other side, is an awkward and forced imitation of what should be genuine and easy, wanting the beauty that accompanies what is natural, because there is always a disagreement between the outward action and the mind within, one of these two ways; either, when a man would outwardly put on a disposition of mind, which then he really has not, but endeavours by a forced carriage to make a shew of, yet so, that the constraint he is under discovers itself: And thus men affect sometimes to appear sad, merry, or kind, when in truth they are not so. The other is, when they do not endeavour to make shew of dispositions which they have not, but to express those they have by a carriage not suited to them: And such in conversation are all constrained motions, actions, words or looks, which, tho’ designed to shew their respect or civility to the company, or their satisfaction and easiness in it, are not yet natural nor genuine marks of the one or the other, but rather of some defect or mistake within. Imitation of others, without discerning what is graceful in them, or what is peculiar to their characters, often makes a great part of this. But affectation of all kinds, whencesoever it proceeds, is always offensive; because we naturally hate whatever is counterfeit, and condemn those who have nothing better to recommend themselves by. Plain rough nature left to itself, is much better than an artificial ungracefulness, and such studied ways of being ill-fashioned. The want of an accomplishment, or some defect in our behaviour, coming short of the utmost gracefulness, often escapes observation and censure. But affectation, in any part of our carriage, is lighting up a candle to our defects, and never fails to make us be taken notice of, as either wanting sense, or wanting sincerity. This governors ought the more diligently to look after; because, as I have above observed, it is an acquired ugliness, owing to mistaken education, few being guilty of it, but those who pretend to breeding, and would not be thought ignorant of what is fashionable and becoming in conversation. And if I mistake not, it has often taken its rise from the lazy admonitions of those who give rules, and propose examples without joining practice with their instructions, and making their pupils repeat the action in their sight, that they may correct what is indecent or constrained in it, till it be perfected into an habitual and becoming easiness.”
Our author goes on in the same manner, shewing how civility, deference, liberality, fortitude, and every virtue may early be formed in young minds. What I have quoted from him will send those who are in earnest about the education of their children to his excellent work itself, and lead the thinking into a very useful train of reflections on this important subject. And his observations upon this more essential part of education are compleat; nothing can be added to them.
A skilful tutor, who understands the anatomy, so to speak, of the human mind, the several natures, and the mutual bearings and dependencies of our affections, and that sound balance of them, in which the health, the vigour, the beauty and grace of the mind consist, will take, or rather make occasions for drawing them all forth, after their proper objects and in their proper tones; he will teach his pupil to admire, and to love, to compassionate, and even to be angry in due measures and on fit occasions. He will carefully nourish love of truth, desire of knowledge, aversion to falshood and cruelty, a manly intrepidity, and a sweet yet not servile complaisance and docility. And these qualities make a proper soil for receiving instructions: In such minds, the seeds of wisdom will find a warm and friendly reception, take firm root, and soon bring forth the most excellent fruits. But till such a temper as hath been described is become habitual, natural, for custom is a second nature, the mind is hard and impenetrable, light and sandy, or rank with poisonous weeds; and therefore instructions will either make no impressions, be quickly dissipated, or chocked and corrupted. Our Saviour’s parable of the sower18 is an excellent similitude or allegory for the illustration and confirmation of this important truth. When the precepts of virtue, for these are the good seed he came to sow, are heard carelessly and without regard, so that the first idle fancy or wanton appetite quickly drives them out of the mind, they are as seed that falls upon the beaten road, and never entering at all into the ground is picked up by the birds.—If they meet with a genius that snatches them up through the love of novelty, but hath not constancy or firmness enough to weigh and ponder them, and so deeply enforce and rivet them upon the heart, they are as seed that falls upon ground, where the earth being very shallow, it springs up indeed very quickly, but having no depth of root, as soon as the sun shines hot, it withers away: in this case the smallest amusement carries off the mind, and the good seed abideth not.—But if the mind be over-run with carnal desires, instruction is then like seed that falls among weeds and thorns, which springing up with it, overgrow and kill it.—Finally, a well-disposed mind, not disturbed by irregular passions, but deeply impregnated with the love of truth, knowledge and virtue, firmly and warmly embraces good precepts and institutions; and there the seed dies not but is fruitful, and like corn that falls into a good, well manured, clean soil, bringeth forth a plentiful, a beautiful, an useful harvest. By proper care the temper may be formed before children are capable of understanding rules or reasonings. And indeed, if it is not, it is as absurd to expect much from lessons, as for the husbandman to hope for a good crop from the good grain he sows, if he hath been at no previous pains to dress and prepare his fields. This is an essential part in both husbandries. But yet in education who thinks of it? Who dreams of extending their concern about children even to their birth, by proper care about the first objects and ideas that are presented to their minds, and the exercise, discipline, or training of their appetites and passions? Who considers it as the essential part of education, to convey proper ideas early into young minds, or by fit means of trial and exercise to teach due affections to sprout, pullulate and strengthen? This, however, is the principal art: Nor will it be found a difficult one, by any who is conversant in the structure of the human mind, and the manners in which associations of ideas are formed, and passions are called forth into exercise. Right practice is the chief thing, as our Author observes. Let them have good example continually before their eyes, and let them be encouraged to imitate it, and to reiterate good actions by rendering them praise, and all marks of love and esteem when they do well, and by gentle tender admonitions when they mistake or slip.—Let them hear often other children commended for their docility, their reasonableness, their manliness, their goodness, sweetness and grace.—Let them be kept from all infectious company; but yet let them be inured to treat even their servants with kindness and gentleness.—Let them, in fine, be habituated to see nothing, or hear nothing but what is good, graceful, liberal and praise-worthy—And let their minds be early inflamed with the desire of the love, esteem, approbation and praise of the wise and experienced; and by such care and practice we shall quickly see every virtue begin to bud, and be surprized to find how soon reason itself will dawn, call for information, relish instruction, and lovingly embrace every opportunity of expanding and satisfying itself. Such a mind will love light: There is nothing in it that light can discover but what will yield it thorough satisfaction. For the first moral reasonings that are presented to one of such a disposition, will shew to his mind the reasonableness and beauty of the train and temperature it is in, and fill it with gratitude to its formers for their care to make him, before his own reason could do it, what they knew his reason must approve, so soon as it should be awaked and cleared up, to discern the comeliness of well-disciplin’d affections, and a rightly disposed heart. We are the shorter upon this head, because Mr. Locke has treated so fully of it. To what he says of the example of parents, and of the choice of a tutor, let me but add the sentiments of one of the best men, as well as the politest writers in the later ages, at least, of the Roman state.
Pliny the younger to Corellia Hispulla on choosing a tutor for her son.19“Since I paid so great a respect to your father (who was a person of uncommon virtue and merit) that I can’t say whether my admiration or love of him was superior; and since I carry on that affection to you in his memory and honour, I can’t help desiring and endeavouring, as far as I can, to make your son resemble his grandfather. I prefer indeed him by the mother’s side, tho’ he by the father’s was a man well approved and reputed; and his father himself and his uncle are distinguished by a particular fame. His growth will be equal to them, if he be trained up in a liberal education; and the hand that is to form him is of the first importance to it. As yet his tender age has confined him to your eye and domestic tutors, where there is little or no room to go astray. But now his studies are to be carried beyond the threshold, you must look about for a Latin master of rhetoric, whose school maintains a due severity, and a chaste regular management. For our youth is possess’d, among other gifts of nature and fortune, of a great personal beauty, that requires, in this slippery state of life, not only an instructor, but a guardian and a governor. I think I can warrant Julius Genitor to you. I love the man, yet my esteem for him, which is founded upon judgment, is no prejudice to that judgment. He is a man of correct life and prudent, indeed somewhat too austere and hard for this libertine age. You may plentifully find his mastery in eloquence; for an open and plain faculty of speaking is presently discerned. Human life has a variety of depths and caverns in it; in all which, take my word for Genitor. Your son will hear nothing from him that will not be useful, and learn nothing which it were not better to know. He will be admonished by him as frequently as by you and myself, what images of his ancestors he is to honour, what celebrated names he must answer. And therefore, by the favour of heaven, commit him to a master, who will first give a frame to his manners, and then to his eloquence, which is ill learned without them.”The character of a proper person for the formation of youth in their earliest years, as well as when they are qualified by a right temper of mind for institution in the liberal sciences, is yet more fully drawn by the same excellent hand, in another letter, wherein he describes the many excellent qualities of Euphrates, and recommends him to Atrius Clemens.
To Atrius Clemens.20
“Whatever figure this city of ours may have formerly made in the belles- lettres, she seems in this age to exceed herself; for which I could produce you abundance of shining instances, but shall at present content myself with one, and I mean the learned Euphrates.
“‘Twas my good fortune to be thoroughly and intimately acquainted with him in Syria, when I was but a young and raw soldier, at my studies in those parts, who finding me resolv’d on sparing no pains to court his friendship, soon saved me that trouble, by his unreserved openness and compleat practice of that humanity which he makes it his business to teach.
“And now I feelingly wish I had ever been able to accomplish those hopes, which he was then pleased to conceive of me, in any proportion to that augmentation, which he himself has since added to the stock of his own merits: Or perhaps I may at this day admire them the more, because I understand them somewhat better; tho’ even still I am far from pretending that I sufficiently do so. For as in painting, sculpture, or statuary, the very parallel case is in literature, none but a master can adequately judge of him that is so. And yet, if I be not mightily mistaken, there are more than a few talents so exalted, and so bright in Euphrates, as cannot well miss catching and delighting the eye, even of the tender-sighted.
“His disputations are acute, weighty and elegant; frequently not short of the stretch and loftiness of Plato himself. As to his manner of speaking, ’tis fluent, with a perpetual variety, charming and sweet to the last degree, and equally effectual for leading or driving an opponent.
“What I shall mention next is, That his stature is tall and his face comely, with a long head of hair, and a large white beard; which tho’ but accidental, and generally insignificant circumstances, yet in him are peculiarly venerable. There is nothing shocking in his aspect; no melancholly, yet a great gravity. Should you happen to meet him, you’d instantly reverence him, without being the least dash’d at the sight of him.
“ ’Tis a question, whether the strict probity of his life, or the affable ease of his behaviour be most remarkable? His method is ever to rebuke the vice, not the man, and to mend faults rather than rub hard upon them. He could scarce give you a piece of advice, but you would be apt to run after him and hang upon him for more. There is such a pleasure in being convinced by him, one would almost beg him to go back and argue it over again.
“And now, except it be to vex myself the more, why do I dwell on the thoughts of a man whom I am debarr’d from enjoying? Ty’d, as I am, to a state-office of no less slavery than grandeur; my fate is to be attending at a treasury-board, signing petitions, auditing accompts, scribling whole packets of letters, and between you and me, no very wise ones neither.
“Nor indeed can I sometimes, as opportunity offers, forbear making this very complaint to Euphrates himself; but he truly spurs me on, and encourages me, insisting upon it, that the dispatch of public business, the hearing of causes, the passing decrees, the research and distribution of justice, and lastly, the putting into practice the theory of the schools, are not barely parts, but the most glorious branches of human understanding.
“This, however, is the only point in which he and I shall be likely to differ, it being next to impossible to allow any of these matters equivalent with the hearing from morning to night, and improving by his own inimitable lectures.
“I therefore take the liberty of advising you, who are a happy master of your own time, directly to submit yourself to this filing and polishing, as soon as you come next to town, and, if I was you I should not be long of coming.
“To conclude, I am none of those who too often are inclinable to envy and grudge others all advantages unenjoyed by themselves; but can, on the contrary, be sensible of no little pleasure from seeing any of my friends overflow and abound in what, perhaps, it is my own misfortune to want even a competency of.”
What care the ancient Greeks and Romans took of choosing proper persons to place about their children from their earliest years, and of the whole of their formation, we learn from Plutarch in his treatise on education. And a passage in an excellent writer21 relating to the education of Cicero well deserves our attention.
“His father Marcius also was a wise and learned man, whose merit recommended him to the familiarity of the principal magistrates of the republic, especially Cato, L. Crassus, and L. Caesar; but being of an infirm and tender constitution, he spent his life chiefly at Arpinum, in an elegant retreat, and the study of polite letters.
“But his chief employment, from the time of his having sons, was to give them the best education which Rome could afford, in hopes to excite in them an ambition of breaking through the indolence of the family, and aspiring to the honours of the state. They were bred up with their cousins, the younger Aculeo’s, in a method approved and directed by L. Crassus, a man of the first dignity, as well as the first eloquence in Rome, and by those very masters whom Crassus himself made use of. The Romans were, of all people, the most careful and exact in the education of their children: Their attention to it began from the moment of their birth; when they committed them to the care of some prudent matron of reputable character and condition, whose business it was to form their first habits of acting and speaking; to watch their growing passions, and direct them to their proper objects; to superintend their sports, and suffer nothing immodest or indecent to enter into them; that the mind preserved in its innocence, nor depraved by a taste of false pleasure, might be at liberty to pursue whatever was laudable, and apply its whole strength to that profession in which it desired to excel. It was the opinion of some of the old masters, that children should not be instructed in letters till they were seven years old; but the best judges advised, that no time of culture should be lost, and their literary instruction should keep pace with their moral; that three years only should be allowed to the nurses, and when they first began to speak, that they should also begin to learn. It was reckoned a matter of great importance what kind of language they were first accustomed to hear at home, and in what manner not only their nurses but their fathers spoke;22 since their first habits were then necessarily formed, either of a pure or corrupt elocution: Thus the two Gracchi were thought to owe that elegance of speaking for which they were famous, to the institution of their mother Cornelia, a woman of great politeness, whose epistles were read and admired long after her death for the purity of her language. This probably was part of that domestic discipline in which Cicero was trained, and of which he often speaks: But as soon as he was capable of a more enlarged and liberal institution, his father brought him to Rome, where he had a house of his own, and placed him in a public school, under an eminent Greek master, which was thought the best way of educating one, who was designed to appear on the public stage, and, as Quintilian observes, ought to be so bred as not to fear the sight of men, since that can never be rightly learned in solitude, which is to be produced before crowds. Here he gave the first specimen of those shining abilities which rendered him afterwards so illustrious; and his school-fellows carried home such stories of his extraordinary parts and quickness in learning, that their parents were often induced to visit the school for the sake of seeing a youth of such surprizing talents.” The subsequent parts of this great man’s education shall be described afterwards, from the same admirable writer of his life. Mean time, we see how much, in the opinion of all wise men, depends upon the first dressing or culture of minds, their earliest habits and lessons. ’Tis owing to the neglect of this most essential part of institution, that education is now, generally speaking, mere weeding or cleansing work. Youth are now sent to masters with minds full sown with prejudices and passions, fond of every thing but instruction, quite heedless and dissipated, if not obstinate and perverse. And in such a corrupt soil must not the best seed be lost, be quickly choaked! But since this is commonly the case, we must not leave this most difficult part of our subject quite untouched. Plutarch, in his lives of the ten orators tells us, that one Antiphon, who had long professed philosophy and education, at last not only wrote upon the method of curing all distempers of the mind, but set up a shop at Corinth with a sign-piece, promising to heal all intellectual diseases by certain words, if the patients would tell their cases honestly, and follow his prescriptions. Perhaps Horace may have had this mental physician and his placade in view, when he says,23
But this spiritual-doctor, either for want of business or of success soon quit this trade. The task is indeed very unpleasant and very difficult: It is not however desperate. There is no disorder of the mind, no inward ail or perturbation which may not be considerably mitigated, if the distempered person can but once be brought to feel his disease, desire cure, and to listen to advice and follow discipline, as Horace beautifully tells us in the lines immediately following that just mentioned.
Hard indeed would it be for mankind were not this true, considering how exposed we lie from our infancy to manifold perversions and seducements! And however corrupt the world is, we have had at all times examples, glorious examples of the power of the human soul to subdue and master the worst and most inveterate habits, the most tumultuous and irregular passions. And the bold efforts of reason to conquer vice and establish and maintain the authority over our affections and appetites due to it as a rational and governing principle, are accompanied with such a self- approving sense of true fortitude as sufficiently rewards them. No triumphs are equal to the triumphings of the mind in its inward conquests. But what is the method of cure? The first step to freedom from captivity to any evil passion or habit, is willingness to receive advice, and conviction of the unreasonableness, deformity, and pernicious consequences of such a slavery: For these will soon be followed with courage and resolution to rescue ourselves from it. Indeed when docility and tractability, and the patience of thinking and hearing reason are once gained, victory is at hand; the hardest part of the warfare is accomplished. Mr. Locke, in the same treatise we have already praised, hath several excellent remarks upon some very dangerous diseases of the mind, and the proper methods of curing them. We may learn from him how cowardice is introduced into young minds, and how it may be extirpated, and true fortitude established.26 “Fear is a passion, saith he, that, if rightly governed, has its use. And tho’ self-love seldom fails to keep it watchful and high enough in us, yet there may be an excess on the daring side: Fool-hardiness and insensibility of danger, being as little reasonable, as trembling and shrinking at the approach of every little evil. Fear was given us as a monitor to quicken our industry and keep us upon our guard against the approaching of evil: And therefore, to have no apprehension of mischief at hand, not to make a just estimate of the danger, but to run heedlesly into it, be the hazard what it will, without considering of what use or consequence it may be, is not the resolution of a rational nature, but brutish fury. Those who have children of this temper have nothing to do, but a little to awaken their reason, which self- preservation will quickly dispose them to hearken to, unless, which is usually the case, some other passion hurries them on headlong without sense and without consideration. A dislike of evil is so natural to mankind, that no body, I think, can be without the fear of it: Fear being nothing but an uneasiness under an apprehension of that coming upon us which we dislike. And therefore, whenever any one runs into danger, we may say, it is under the conduct of ignorance, or the command of some more imperious passion, no body being so much an enemy to himself, as to come within the reach of evil out of free choice, and court danger for danger’s sake. If it be therefore pride, or vain-glory, or rage that silences a child’s fear, or makes him not hearken to its advice, those are by fit means to be abated; that a little consideration may allay his heat, and make him bethink himself whether this attempt be worth the venture. But this being a fault that children are not so often guilty of, I shall not be more particular in its cure: Weakness of spirit is the more common defect, and therefore will require the greater care.
“Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues, and without courage a man will scarce keep steadily to his duty, and fill up the character of a truly worthy man. Courage, that makes us bear up against dangers that we fear, and evils that we feel, is of great use; an estate, as ours is in this life, exposed to assaults on all hands: And therefore, it is very advisable to get children into this armour as early as we can. Natural temper does here, I confess, a great deal. But even where that is defective, and the heart is in itself weak and timorous, it may, by a right management, be brought to a better resolution. What is to be done to prevent breaking children’s spirits by frightful apprehensions instilled into them, when young, or bemoaning them under any little suffering, I have already taken notice. How to harden their tempers, and raise their courage, if we find them too much subject to fear, is farther to be considered. True fortitude, I take, to be the quiet possession of a man’s self, and an undisturb’d doing his duty, whatever evil beset, or danger lies in his way. This there are so few men attain to, that we are not to expect it from children. But yet something may be done; and a wise conduct, by insensible degrees, may carry them farther than one expects. The neglect of this great care of them, whilst they are young, is the reason, perhaps, why there are so few that have this virtue in its full latitude when they are men. I should not say this in a nation so naturally brave as ours is, did I think that true fortitude required nothing but courage in the field, and a contempt of life in the face of an enemy. This, I confess, is not the least part of it, nor can be denied the lawrels and honours always justly due to the valour of those who ventured their lives for their country. But yet this is not all. Dangers attack us in other places besides the field of battle; and tho’ death be the king of terrors, yet pain, disgrace, and poverty have frightful looks, able to discompose most men whom they seem ready to seize on: And there are those who contemn some of these, and yet are heartily frightened with the other. True fortitude is prepared for dangers of all kinds, and unmoved whatsoever evil it be that threatens. I do not mean unmoved with any fear at all. Where danger shews itself, apprehension cannot without stupidity be wanting. Where danger is, sense of danger should be; and so much fear as should keep us awake, and excite our attention, industry and vigour, but not disturb the calm use of our reason, nor hinder the execution of what that dictates.
“The first step to get this noble and manly steadiness is, what I have above mentioned, carefully to keep children from frights of all kinds, when they are young. Let not any fearful apprehensions be talked into them, nor terrible objects surprize them. This often so shatters and discomposes the spirit, that they never recover it again, but during their whole life, upon the first suggestion, or appearance of any terrifying idea, are scattered and confounded; the body is enervated, and the mind disturbed, and the man scarce himself, or capable of any composed or rational action. Whether this be from an habitual motion of the animal spirits, introduced by the first strong impression, or from the alteration of the constitution by some more unaccountable way, this is certain, that so it is. Instances of such, who in a weak and timorous mind, have born all their whole lives through, the effects of a fright when they were young, are every where to be seen, and therefore, as much as may be, to be prevented.
“The next thing, is by gentle degrees to accustom children to those things of which they are too much afraid. But here caution is to be used that you do not make too much haste, nor attempt this cure too early, for fear lest you increase the mischief, instead of remedying it. Little ones in arms may be easily kept out of the way of terrifying objects, and till they can talk and understand what is said to them, are scarce capable of that reasoning and discourse, which should be used to let them know there is no harm in those frightful objects which we would make them familiar with, and do, to that purpose, bring nearer and nearer to them. And therefore, ’tis seldom there is need of any application to them of this kind, till after they can run about and talk. But yet, if it should happen, that infants should have taken offence at any thing, which cannot be easily kept out of their way; and that they shew marks of terror as often as it comes in sight, all the allays of fright, by diverting their thoughts, or mixing pleasant and agreeable appearances with it, must be used, till it be grown familiar and inoffensive to them.
“The only thing we are naturally afraid of is pain or loss of pleasure. And because these are not annexed to any shape, colour or size of visible objects, we are frighted with none of them, till either we have felt pain from them, or have notions put into us that they will do us harm. The pleasant brightness and lustre of flame and fire so delights children, that at first they are always desirous to be handling of it: But when constant experience has convinced them, by the exquisite pain it has put them to, how cruel and unmerciful it is, they are afraid to touch it and carefully avoid it. This being the ground of fear, ’tis not hard to find whence it arises, and how it is to be cured in all mistaken objects of terror. And when the mind is confirmed against them, and has got a mastery over itself and its usual fears on lighter occasions, it is in good preparation to meet more real dangers. Your child shrinks and runs away at the sight of a frog; let another catch it, and lay it down at a good distance from him: At first accustom him to look upon it; when he can do that, then to come nearer to it, and see it leap without emotion; then to touch it lightly when it is held fast in another’s hand, and so on till he can come to handle it as confidently as a butterfly or a sparrow. By the same way any other vain terrors may be removed, if care be taken that you go not too fast, and push not the child on to a new degree of assurance, till he be thoroughly confirmed in the former. And thus the young soldier is to be trained on to the warfare of life, wherein care is to be taken that more things be not represented as dangerous than really are so; and then, that whatever you observe him to be more frightened at than he should, you be sure to lead him on to by insensible degrees, till he at last quitting his fears, masters the difficulty, and comes off with applause. Successes of this kind, often repeated, will make him find that evils are not always so certain or so great as our fears represent them; and that the way to avoid them, is not to run away or be discomposed, dejected, or deterred by fear, where either our credit or our duty requires us to go on.
“But since the great foundation of fear in children is pain, the way to harden and fortify children against fear and danger, is to accustom them to suffer pain.—Not to bemoan them, or permit them to bemoan themselves on every little pain they suffer, is the first step to be made. The next thing, is sometimes designedly to put them in pain: But care must be taken that this be done when the child is in good humour, and satisfied of the good will and kindness of him that hurts him, at the same time that he does it. There must no marks of anger or displeasure on the one side, nor compassion or repenting on the other go along with it: And it must be sure to be no more than the child can bear without repining or taking it amiss, or for a punishment. Managed by these degrees, and with such circumstances, I have seen a child run away laughing with good smart blows of a wand on his back, who would have cried for an unkind word, and have been very sensible of the chastisement of a cold look from the same person. Satisfy a child by a constant course of your care and kindness that you perfectly love him, and he may, by degrees, be accustomed to bear very painful and rough usage from you, without flinching or complaining. The softer you find your child, the more you are to seek occasions, at fit times, to harden him. How much education may reconcile young people to pain and sufferance, the examples of Sparta sufficiently shew: And they who have once brought themselves not to think bodily pain the greatest of evils, or that which they ought most to stand in fear of, have made no small advances towards virtue. I am not so foolish as to propose the Lacedemonian discipline in our age or constitution. But yet I do say, that inuring children gently to suffer some degrees of pain without shrinking, is a way to gain firmness to their minds, and to lay a foundation for courage and resolution in the future part of their lives.”
Our author, after other observations upon fortitude and timorousness to the same purpose, goes on to consider how children usually become cruel, and how that temper may be remedied. But I shall only take notice of a few things he says concerning one of the most incurable of all the diseases young minds are incident to.27 “Contrary to the busy inquisitive temper there is sometimes observable in children a listless carelesness, a want of regard to any thing, and a sort of trifling even at their business. This sauntering humour I look on as one of the worst qualities can appear in a child, as well as one of the hardest to be cured, where it is natural. But it being liable to be mistaken in some cases, care must be taken to make a right judgment concerning that trifling at their books or business, which may sometimes be complained of in a child. Upon the first suspicion a father has, that his son is of a sauntering temper, he must carefully observe him, whether he be listless and indifferent in all his actions, or whether in some things alone he be sluggish or slow, but in others vigorous and eager. For tho’ he finds that he does loiter at his book, and let a good deal of the time he spends in his chamber or study run idly away, he must not presently conclude that this is from a sauntering humour in his temper. It may be childishness, and a prefering something to his study which his thoughts run on: And he dislikes his book, as is natural, because it is forced upon him as a task. To know this perfectly, you must watch him at play, when he is out of his place and time of study, following his own inclinations; and see there whether he be stirring and active; whether he designs any thing, and with labour and eagerness pursues it, till he has accomplished what he aimed at, or whether he lazily and listlesly dreams away his time. If this sloth be only when he is about his toil, I think it may be easily cured. If it be in his temper, it will require more pains and attention to remedy it. If you are satisfied by his earnestness at play or any thing else he sets his mind on, in the intervals between his hours of business, that he is not of himself inclined to laziness, but that only want of relish of his book makes him negligent and sluggish in his application to it; the first step is, to try by talking with him kindly of the folly and impertinence of it, whereby he loses a good part of his time, which he might have for his diversion: But be sure to talk calmly and kindly, and not much at first, but only those plain reasons in short. If this prevails, you have gained the point in the most desirable way, which is that of reason and kindness. If this softer application prevails not, try to shame him out of it, by laughing at him for it, asking every day when he comes to table, if there be no strangers there, how long he was that day about his business? And if he has not done it in the time he might well be supposed to have dispatched it, expose him and turn him into ridicule for it, but mix not chiding; only put on a pretty cold look towards him, and keep it till he reform, and let his mother and tutor, and all about him do so too. If this work not the effect you desire, then tell him he shall be no longer troubled with a tutor to take care of his education; you will not be at the charge to have him spend his time idly with him; but since he prefers this or that (whatever play he delights in) to his book, that only he shall do; and so in earnest set him to work on his beloved play, till he be fully surfeited, and would at any rate change it for some hours at his book again. But when you thus set him his task of play, you must be sure to look after him yourself, or set somebody else to do it, that may constantly see him employed in it, and that he be not permitted to be idle at that too. This is what I propose, if it be idleness, not from his general temper, but a peculiar or acquired aversion to learning, which you must carefully distinguish. To be clear in this point, the observation must be made when you are out of the way, and he not so much under the restraint of a suspicion that any body has an eye upon him. In those seasons of perfect freedom, let some body you can trust mark how he spends his time, whether he unactively loiters it away, when without any check he is left to his own inclination. Thus, by his employing of such times of liberty, you will easily discern whether it be listlesness in his temper, or aversion to his book that makes him saunter away his time of study. If some defect in his constitution has cast a damp on his mind, and he be naturally listless and dreaming, this unpromising disposition is none of the easiest to be dealt with, because generally carrying with it an unconcernedness for the future, it wants the two great springs of action, foresight and desire, which how to plant and increase, when nature has given a cold and contrary temper will be the question. As soon as you are satisfied that this is the case, you must carefully enquire whether there be nothing he delights in: Inform yourself what it is he is most pleased with; and if you can find any particular tendency his mind hath, increase it all you can, and make use of that to set him on work, and to excite his industry. If he loves praise or play, or fine cloaths, &c. or on the other hand dreads pain, disgrace, or your displeasure, &c. whatever it be he loves most, except it be sloth, (for that will never set him on work) let that be made use of to quicken him, and make him bestir himself. For in this listless temper you are not to fear an excess of appetite (as in all other cases) by cherishing it. ’Tis that which you want, and therefore must labour to raise and increase; for where there is no desire, there will be no industry. If you have not hold enough of him in this way to stir up vigour and activity in him, you must employ him in some constant bodily labour, whereby he may get the habit of doing something. The keeping him hard to some study were the better way to get him an habit of exercising and applying his mind. But because this is an invisible attention, and no body can tell when he is, or is not idle at it, you must find bodily employments for him, which he must be constantly busied in, and kept to; and if they have some little hardship and shame in them, it may not be the worse, that they may the sooner weary him, and make him desire to return to his book. But be sure, when you exchange his book for his other labour, set him such a task to be done, in such a time, as may allow him no opportunity to be idle. Only, after you have by this way brought him to be attentive and industrious at his book, you may, upon his dispatching his study within the time set him, give him as a reward some respite from his other labour, which you may diminish, as you find him grow more and more steady in his application, and at last, wholly take off, when his sauntering at his book is cured.”
From these few examples, we learn how every distemper of the mind ought to be treated, or what are the proper, the most likely methods of reclaiming from bad habits. Gentle admonitions, mild reasoning, a fair and tender representation of the dangers into which a bad habit may plunge, confirmed by examples, and pleasant polite raillery mixed with these, are the first remedies that ought to be tried. And if all sense of shame, and all sense of danger be not totally erazed out of young minds, these methods will gradually have their due effect. Let the fatal consequences of the particular vitious propensity that is to be cured, be set before the young man’s eyes; shew him in proper characters the beauty of the opposite virtue, and by other examples, the pernicious tendency of his vice, and if he can be alarmed or piqued, if he be sensible to disgrace or to peril, he will listen, provided the admonitions are given with all the marks of love and affection. I have known fables, or feigned stories artfully told to, or thrown in the way of youth, of very strong passions, and in great danger from them, have admirable success. Some tutors, with pupils grown up to an age, in which, if the mind be not very well disposed, it is generally very impetuous and obstinate, have been of great use to them, by applying this remedy in a discreet, well-bred, polite manner, and have thus prevented their running into very great extravagancies, nay reclaimed them when they were on the very brink of ruin. Generally speaking, reproof or advice is best administered by a tale: Few out of their hanging- sleeves can bear a direct attack: And fables and stories may be suited to every age, as well as to every vice. But if the habits be such, as if not corrected, must expose to very great mischiefs, to vices that must be punished in all well-governed states, surely it is necessary to leave no methods of curing them untried. Corporal punishment for any thing but downright vice, such as lying, injustice, cruelty, ingratitude, or indocility and obstinacy, ought never to be used. In the schools abroad, whipping or beating is never employed but to correct vices by punishment, which all magistrates must punish, and that with almost the same forms civil chastisements are ordered and inflicted, that is, with a form of trial and judgment resembling the methods in civil courts. And there are instances in our own country, even of numerous schools which have produced excellent scholars, in which whipping into learning was never practised. Mr. Locke hath, by unanswerable arguments, shewn the bad consequences of corporal punishments, except for the correction of very bad habits, of obstinacy in particular: And indeed, if youth are quite deaf to reason, and absolutely irreclaimable by its soft methods, unless we would suffer them to run headlong into infamy and ruin, not to try all ways of making them feel by disgrace and suffering the danger they run, is cruel. But let them know the dangers and punishments in society, their vices, if not reformed, must expose them to, and that it is to prevent these greater ones, that the more tolerable are now employed. And to add to the disgrace, in imitation of the method generally practised in civil governments, let the punishment be executed by some of the lowest servants. He that spareth the rod, saith the wise man, hateth the child, i.e. he does not take the necessary methods of preventing his otherwise unavoidable ruin. This, we have reason to presume is Solomon’s meaning; for he hath often most emphatically recommended all the softer and milder methods of reasoning or shaming young men out of their follies, and of gaining them to hearken to wise counsel, and to love knowledge and understanding. He therefore is to be understood as commanding corporal chastisement, when all other gentler means have proved fruitless, and vices that must render one very hurtful to society, and can hardly escape punishment in society, cannot otherwise be reformed. Let parents carefully distinguish between childishness and levity almost natural to that age, since it is only reason, thinking and experience, that can cure them, and direct vice, such as disregard to truth, for instance, and they will quickly see a necessity of making a distinction likewise in punishment between the one and the other. I do not say that the domestic discipline may not extend to several vices, such as ingratitude, for example, which most civil governments have found inconvenient to punish: But let it be vice alone to which punishments are applied in the discipline or correction of youth, that they may perceive and feel themselves the difference between vices and other lighter follies. In fine, all the reasons for punishing vices in society hold so much the more strongly for the discipline in education we have been pleading for; because it may happily prevent bad habits from going to a height, that must force society to exert its coercive or vindictive authority. For good order, and the general welfare of mankind will require, that examples of terror be made to the rest of the citizens, by severely animadverting upon the crimes of those, who not having been properly corrected in their youth for vices, so soon as they shewed themselves to be too obstinate to yield to admonition and reproof, are become insufferable pests. But all these matters are so fully handled by Mr. Locke, that we need not insist longer upon them; especially, since we shall have occasion to take up this subject afresh in the following chapter.
[13. ]In the discourses intitled, Plutarchus Plasmatias, &c.
[14. ][John Locke, Some Thoughts Concerning Education, §§34–37.]
[15. ][Locke, Education, §§38–44.]
[16. ][Locke, Education, §§52–62.]
[17. ][Locke, Education, §66.]
[18. ][Matthew 13:3–9.]
[19. ][Pliny, Letters, 3.3.]
[20. ][Pliny, Letters, 1.10.]
[21. ][Conyers Middleton, The History of the Life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, 3rd ed., 3 vols. (London: W. Innys, R. Manby, 1742), 1:8–11.]
[22. ]That this was the general practice and care in the best times of that republic, we learn from Cicero in his Brutus, and elsewhere, from Quintilian, and the author of the dialogue de causis corruptae eloq. attributed by some to Tacitus, and many other ancient writers.
[23. ]This is the more probable that he manifestly sneers at a prevailing superstitious regard to the number three in the following lines.
[24. ][See note 10 in Part III, above.]
[25. ][Horace, Epistles, 1.1.38–40: “The slave to envy, anger, sloth, wine, lewdness—no one is so savage that he cannot be tamed, if only he lend to treatment a patient ear.”]
[26. ][Locke, Education, §115.]
[27. ][Locke, Education, §§123–27.]