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It has not been unusual when mothers of rank and rep. utation have been asked how they ventured to intrust their daughters to foreigners, of whose principles they knew nothing, except that they were Roman Catholics, to answer, “That they had taken care to be secure on " that subject; for that it had been stipulated that the 5 question of religion should never be agitated between "the teacher and pupil.” This, it must be confessed, is a most desperate remedly; it is like starving to death, to avoid being poisoned. And one cannot help trembling for the event of that education, from which religion, as far as the governess is concerned, is thus formally and systematically excluded. Surely it would not be exacting too much to suggest at least that an attention no less scrupulous should be exerted to insure the character of our children's instructor, for piety and knowledge, than is thought necessary to ascertain that she has nothing patois in her dialect.
I would rate a correct pronunciation and an elegant phraseology at their just price, and I would not rate them low; but I would not offer up principle as a victim to sounds and accents. And the matter is now made more easy ; for whatever disgrace it might once have brought on an English lady to have had it suspect. ed from her accent that she had the misfortune not to be born in a neighbouring country; some recent events may serve to reconcile her to the suspicion of having been bred in her own: a country to which, (with all its sins, which are many !) the whole world is looking up with envy
and admiration, as the seat of true glory and of comparative happiness; a country in which the exile, driven out by the crimes of his own, finds a home! a country, to obtain the protection of which it was claim enough to be unfortunate; and no impediment to have been the subject of his direst foe! a country, which in this respect humbly imitating the Father of compassion, when it offered mercy to a suppliant enemy, never con. ditioned for merit, nor insisted on the virtues of the miserable as a preliminary to its own bounty !
Comparison of the Mode of Female Education in the
last age with the present.
To return, however, to the subject of general education. A young lady may excel in speaking French and Italian, may repeat a few passages from a volume of extracts; play like a professor, and sing like a syren; have her dressing room decorated with her own draw. ings, tables, stands, screens, and cabinets; nay, she may dance like Sempronia* herself, and yet may have been very badly educated. I am far from meaning to set no value whatever on any or all of these qualifications; they are all of them elegant, and many of them properly tend to the perfecting of a polite education. These things in their measure and degree, may be done, but there are others which should not be left undone. Many things are becoming, but one thing is needful.” Be. sides, as the world seems to be fully apprized of the value of whatever tends to embellish life, there is less occasion here to insist on its importance.
But, though a well-bred young lady, may lawfully learn most of the fashionable arts, yet it does not seem to be the true end of education, to make women of fashion dancers, singers, players, painters, actresses, sculptors, gilders, varnishers, engravers, and embroiderers. Most men are commonly destined to some profession, and their minds are consequently turned each to its respective ob. ject. Would it not be strange if they were called out to exercise their profession, or to set up their trade, with only a little general knowledge of the trades of all other men, and without any previous definite application to their own peculiar calling ? The profession of ladies, to which the bent of their instruction should be turned, is that of daughters, wives, mothers, and mistresses of families. They should be therefore trained with a view to these several conditions, and be furnished with a stock of ideas, and principles, and qualifications, and habits, ready to be applied and appropriated, as occasion may demand, to each of these respective situations : for though the arts which merely embellish life must claim admiration; yet when a man of sense comes to marry, it is a con. panion whom he wants, and not an artist. It is not merely a creature who can paint, and play, and dress, and dance ; it is a being who can comfort and counsel him ; one who can reason, and reflect, and feel, and judge, and act, and discourse, and discriminate ; one who can assist him in his affairs, ligbten his cares, sooth his sorrows, purify his joys, strengthen his principles, and educate his children.
* See Cataline's Conspiracy.
Almost any ornamental talent is a good thing, when it is not the best thing a woman has; and talents are admirable when not made to stand proxy for virtues. The writer of these pages is intimately acquainted with several ladies who, excelling most of their sex in the art of music, but excelling them also in prudence and piety, find little leisure or teinptation, amidst the delights and duties of a large and lovely family, for the exercise of this talent, and regret that so much of their own youth was wasted in acquiring an art which can be turned to so little account in married life; and are now conscien. tiously restricting their daughters in the portion of time allotted to its acquisition.
Far be it from me to discourage the cultivation of any existing talent ; but may it not be suggested to the fond believing mother, that talents, like the spirit of Owen Glendower, though conjured by parental partiality with ever so loud a voice,
Yet will not come when you do call for them? That injudicious practice, therefore, cannot be too much discouraged, of endeavouring to create talents
which do not exist in nature. That their daughters shall learn every thing, is so general a maternal maxim, that even unborn daughters, of whose expected abilities and conjectured faculties, it is presumed, no very accurate judgment can previously be formed, are yet predestined to this universality of accomplishments. This comprehensive maxim, thus almost universally brought into practice, at once weakens the general powers of the mind, by drawing off its strength into to great a variety of directions; and cuts up time into too many portions, by split ing it nto such an endless multiplicity of em. ployments. I know that I am treading on tender ground ; but I cannot help thinking that the restless pains we take to cram up every little vacuity of life, by crowding one new thing upon another, rather creates a thirst for novelty than knowledge; and is but a well. disguised contrivance to keep us in after-life more effect. Hally from conversing with ourselves. The care taken to prevent ennui is but a creditable plan for promoting self-ignorance. We run from one occupation to another (I speak of those arts to which little intellect is applied) with a view to lighten the pressure of time; above all, we fly to them to save us from our own thoughts; whereas were we thrown a little more on our own hands, we might at last be driven, by way of something to do, to try to get acquainted with our own hearts; and though our being less absorbed by this busy trifling, which dignifies its inanity with the imposing name of oc. cupation, might render us somewhat more sensible of the tedium of life ; might not this very sensation tend to quicken our pursuit of a better? For an awful thought here suggests itself. If life be so long that we are driven to set at work every engine to pass away the tediousness of time; how shall we do to get rid of the tediousness of eternity ? an eternity in which not one of the acquis sitions which life has been exhausted in acquiring, will be of the least use? Let not then the soul be starved by feeding it on these empty husks, for it can be no more nourished by them than the body can be fed with ideas and principles.
Among the boasted improvements of the present age, none affords more frequent matter of peculiar exultation,
than the manifest superiority in the employments of the young ladies of our time over those of the good house.. wives of the last century. They glory that they are at present employed in learning the polite arts, or in acquiring liberal accomplishments; while the others wore out their joyless days in adorning the mansion-house with hangings of hideous tapestry and disfiguring tent. stitch. Most cheerfully do I allow to the reigning modes their boasted superiority; for certainly there is no piety in bad taste. Still, granting all the deformity of the exploded ornaments, one advantage attended them: the walls and floors were not vain of their decorations; and it is to be feared that the little person sometimes is. The flattery bestowed on the obsolete employments, for probably even they had their flatterers, furnished less aliment and less gratification to vanity, and was less likely to im. pair the delicacy of modesty, than the exquisite cultiva. tion of personal accomplishments or personal decorations; and every mode which keeps down vanity and keeps back self, has at least a moral use. And while one ad. mires the elegant fingers of a young lady, busied in working or painting her ball dress, one cannot help suspecting that her alacrity may be a little stimulated by the animating idea howo very well she shall look in it. Nor was the industrious matron of Ithaca more soothed at her solitary loom with the sweet reflection that by her labour she was gratifying her filial and conjugal feel. ings,* than the pleasure-loving damsel, by the anticipat. ed admiration which her ingen uity is procuring for her beauty.
Might not this propensity be a little checked, and an interesting feeling combined with her industry, were the fair artist habituated to exercise her skill in adorning some one else rather than herself ? For it will add no lightness to the lightest head, nor vanity to the vainest. heart, to take pleasure in reflecting how exceedingly the gown she is working will become her mother. This suggestion, trifling as it may seem, of habituating young ladies to exercise their taste and devote their leisure, not
* This web a robe for poor Ulysses' sire.