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Art. X. Tracts and Observations in Natural History and Physiology
With Seven Plates. By Robert Townson, LL.D. &c. 8vos pp. 232.
7s. Boards. White. 1799. TH
His volume contains a few miscellaneous and rather desul
tory notices, on subjects of natural history : indeed, the author fairly confesses, in his introductory advertisement, that' the greater part of them are thrown in for the purpose of making a sizeable volume. This is candid: but it is no apology for printing unimportant matter. In such a case, we may ask, with the French satirist, “ Are you condemn’d, Sir, under pain of corporal punishment, to publish a book ?"
In the tracts concerning the respiration of the amphibia, Dra' Townson acknowleges that he has been anticipated by Swammerdam, and other naturalists, in his opinione respecting the respiration of amphibious animals; which he conceives to be in a great measure voluntary, and to depend on the action of the muscles on the throat. There are several experiments, detailed at great length, designed to prove that frogs and some lizards absorb a great quantity of moisture by the skin, and that it transpires again by the same medium. We shall transcribe the general conclusion, and the Doctor's observation respecting a vulgar error :
• From whence it appears, that these animals sometimes absorba nearly their own weight of water, and, as in the third experiment, in the short time of an hour and a half, and by the under surface of the body alone, this certainly is truly remarkable.'
This ejection of water is no new observation, though it has beers chiefly noticed in Tuads. It has been considered as their urine, and as poisonous, and they are accused of ejecting it with a mischievous intent. As far as my observations extend, it is common to all the Frog-tribe, but I conjecture that it is neither urine, nor ejected as an ordinary evacuation, nor given them by nature as a poisonous and mise bile weapon, to be used in their defence ; but that it is pure water, and only voided as an incumbrance previous to their efforts to escape. To all of them, on such occasions, so much liquid in the bladder would certainly be very inconvenient, and particularly to those whicla leap.
A sketch of the mineralogy of Shropshire forms the only other part of the book which deserves particular notice.
The plates, which are very well executed, representi 1. The respiratory muscles of the Salamander; 2. The lungs of the Lacerta lacustris; and the scapula of the Salamander. 3. The
* For an account of Dr. Townson's “ Philosophy of Mineralogy," see the xvth article in our Review for the preceding month, p. 326. REV. DEC. 1799.
urinary organs of the common frog. 4. An under-view of the muscles of respiration of the tortoise. 5.
A view of the inset. tion of those muscles into the shell of the tortoise. 6. The Sarcite, a crystallization found on the Calton-Hill at Edinburgh, and considered by the author as a non-descript. Fer...
Art. XI. Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education.
With a View of the Principles and Conduct prevalent among
2 Vols. 1os. Boards. Cadell jun. and Davies. 1799.
than that of education; and, as our physical and moral well-being is eminently concerned in obtaining just sentiments respecting it, we wish that we were enabled to compliment our fellow-creatures on their clear and rational views of it: but, notwithstanding our improvements, it yet remains imperfectly understood. The narrow conceptions and degrading prejudices of grown children mislead the rising generation ; and we proceed, from age to age, displaying a degree of imbecility and vice which cannot be deemed natural to the human character. Man, abstractedly considered, is a being to be admired, not vilified; he is capable of vast attainments; and there is every reason for supposing that he is far from having reached the perfection of his nature, either in body or in mind. Man in cultivated society incomparably surpasses man in his savage state : but there are still many errors and vices in society which demand and admit a remedy, and the removal of which must tend to a farther advancement of his being. In making this remark, we would not be thought to abet any wild and Utopian speculations : but we would encourage every reasonable and virtuous effort for the amelioration of humanity.
We wish that the superior as well as the subordinate institụtions of society were more propitious to general virtue, and. to that conduct which tends to make man in every condition an healthy, rational, moral, and happy animal. In the attainment of this end, much depends on his education and early habits, but not all. We soon find something in THE WORLD which influences us more than any ideas formed in the nursery, the school, the college, or in the circle of our family; and, if the principles and practices of this Great Seminary of Man be inimical to his improvement, the lectures of the private and the academical preceptor will have no powerful and important effect, if they prove not absolutely useless.
The instructors of youth, however, must not be discouraged, By prudent, combined, and persevering efforts, they may make some impression on the mass of impiety, profligacy, and folly: but, in these attempts, they must elevate themselves above all little and enervating prejudices, and must attend to the conduct of their own understandings. Let them display literature associated with soundness of judgment; and be am, bitious of praise, not from imbeciles who are leaving the world, but from the vigorous intellects which are springing to perfection under liberal and genial care. The trembling coward is not less qualified to lead an army into action, than the weak and superstitious are to direct the formation of mind.
Of the purity of Mrs. More's views, and of the commenda ableness of her motive in writing these •Strictures on Female Education,' we should think ourselves inexcusable were we to entertain any doubt. We have carefully perused her remarks, and find in them much to, applaud :--but we must candidly confess that we cannot bestow on them unalloyed praise. She writes with elegance, variety, and ease, and lays down a number of excellent rules for the conduct of women: but her sentiments appear to us to be too much narrowed by her religious system, and the world seems to be too often viewed by her through the mists of-we had almost said-methodism.
It must be observed that the fair writer does not profess to delineate a plan of education for females, but only to furnish a few strictures on the existing mode ; that she considers instruction only as it is connected with objects of a moral and religious nature ; and that she regards the great business of education as being 'to communicate knowledge, to form a correct taste and a sound judgment, to resist evil propensities, and, above all, to seize the favourable season for infusing principles and confirming habits. This is a clear and enlarged representation of the subject; and we farther agree with her when she says that, in training our daughters, we should carefully cultivate intellect, implant religion, and cherish modesty :' (vol. i. p. 69.) but it concerns us to be under the necessity of adding that some parts of her advice do not, in our opinion, comport with a correct taste and a sound judgment;' that her religion is of too rigid a cast for enlightened society; and that she is not, in our apprehension, justified by the Gospel in the views which she exhibits of Christianity.
It is Mrs. More's object to discuss the principles and conduct prevalent among women of rank and fortune'; and, in order to stimulate their exertions to raise the depressed tone of public morals,' she advances the maxim that the general state of civilized society depends greatly on the sentiments and habits of women.' (Vol. i. p. 2.). This is an inducement to ladies to put themselves forwards in the great work of reformation, and we wish them success : but, in some respects, we should be desirous of their acting on advice different from that which these Strictures furnish. * We do not believe that'a strong impression of the corruption of human nature is the most important quality in an instructor of youth,' (see vol. i. p.57.) nor perceive the necessity of this lady's becoming an advocate for the devil's personality and power (see vol. ii. p. 283). We could not but smile at the writer's condemnation of baby-balls, as 'a triple conspiracy against the innocence, the health, and the happiness of children ;' and at her puritanical objections to innocent avocations on the sabbath. Notwithstanding her solemn remark that the Gospel rescued the Lord's day from the rigorous bondage of the Jewish sabbath, but never lessened the obligation to keep it holy,' (vol. i. p. 126,) we find no rule in the Gospel for changing the day, nor any particular directions for its observance. The general maxim, “ The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath,” sanctions no peculiar austerity. We are left to regulate our observance of it by a sense of propriety and decorum; and why should the day appointed for the public acknowlegement and adoration of the Supreme Being be a day of gloominess and severity, of metaphysical and devotional abstraction? Why may not love to God, and innocent social intercourse, be vnited on the day of rest from labour? We are persuaded that Sunday may be kept both religiously and cheerfully; while absurd strictness will
* In vol. i. p. 48. she objects to restoring a repentant criminal of her own sex to public society, and endeavours to reconcile the fair penitent to this rigid decree, by telling her that she will joyfully commute an carthly for an everlasting reprobation :'-—but is there any necessity for this commutation ? Must society be severe that Heaven may be merciful? Does Mrs. More believe the story of the woman taken in adultery to be genuine? If she does, can she think that our Saviour's conduct justifies the treatment which she recommends, respecting those who have unhappily departed from virtue's paths, but are repentant? We are fully aware that there are niceties in this point; and while we would not maintain one side of the guesa, tion without limitations and distinctions, we think that Mrs. More supports the other side with a decision too comprehensive and unrestricted, + Mrs. More seems to be a pupil of Mr. Wilberforce on this suð.
She quotes texts of Scripture to prove this doctrine, but which bear no relation to it : vize that “ foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child ;»» and our Lord's reproof to: Peter, “thon savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of man"
render our sabbaths the most uncomfortable and most unwela come days of our lives.
We apprehend that there is much truth in Mrs. More's observation (vol. i. p. 73), 'that, in all polished countries, an entire devotedness to the fine arts has been one grand source of the corruption of women. The whole time of a young lady is now consumed either in the acquisition or in the display of what are termed accomplishments; and she seems to regard the end of existence as being to shine rather than to be useful. "If (says the author) the life of a young lady formerly too much resembled the life of a confectioner, it now too much resembles that of an actress. This is a fatal extreme for female domestic virtue, and the sphere for the display of female virtue is the domestic circle.
• 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 ready to be applied and appropriated, as occasion may demand, to each of these respective situations : for though the arts which merely embellish life mast claim admiration ; yet when a man of sense comes to marry, it is a companion 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 discourse, and discriminate ; one who can assist him in his af. fairs, lighten his cares, sooth his sorrows, strengthen his principles, and educate his children.'
These observations must be admired by all who feel the importance of the female sex. It is certainly the duty of mothers to superintend the education of their daughters; and, perhaps, if this were more generally done, and daughters were only allowed to attend day-schools for the purpose of acquiring accomplishments, they would not be so frequently educated above their station in life ; and the mind of a reputable tradesman's child would not be filled with notions of pride, caught by associating with the daughters of the great and the fashionable. According to Mrs. More, however, mothers should be educated by some Divine, before they can be qualified for the religious instruction of their children. She advises the mother to read a course of lectures on the Lord's Prayer; and to require that the child should furnish, by her answers, a considerable part of the commentary. Surely this would be a very strange requisi. tion! It is however consistent with recommending the perusal of Butler's Analogy, while she disclaims the design of making scholastic ladies,