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The taste may be, and ought to be, cultivated, but by negative rather than positive means,-by placing within reach the best and highest models, on which the imagination and judgment can exercise themselves, and still more by carefully removing all that could corrupt, enfeeble or debase them. For this reason it is obvious that our remarks do not apply to parents who fill their houses with the common trash of circulating libraries and book societies. An informed mind left to itself, among the noxious stimulants, or no less enervating common-place superficiality of a literature written in and for idleness, must come to all the maturity it can ever attain, without having had a glimpse of the great, the heautiful, or the true. These are to be found in the works of genius, purged and sanctified by time. An active, susceptible mind, permitted to hold early converse with antiquity, and with the noble spirits of the best days of modern Europe, will stand the fairest chance of becoming original, discriminating and elevated, and at the same time, simple and reverential. And such reading is the most inviting to a healthy mind. How captivating to children is the simplicity of Herodotus ! We have seen a little girl, who could but just read, leave her children's books and return to him again and again. Xenophon is scarcely less engaging. Plutarch, as full of noble and gentle sentiments as of interesting events, attaches all generous children. The want of good and agreeable translations of these and other writers of antiquity, is a great evil; they would be read by children and by the people, who would not only be won by their simplicity, but elevated by their grandeur. A free acquaintance with great models is absolutely indispensable to the formation of that discriminating sense of the beautiful, which we call taste and this acquaintance cannot begin too soon.
In like manner, it is not by telling a child this or that picture is fine, but by giving it, from the very first, the best copies or prints we can command of the greatest masters, and keeping ont of its way all mediocrity, that a pure, sound and unerring taste can be formed.
We must say here, that we are not in general great friends of "illustrated” books for children-nor indeed, for anybody, but that is beside the purpose. The artist gives his own conceptions, often very prosaic or very false, and this anticipates or thwarts the workings of the child's imagination.No expedient could be more ingeniously contrived to make it dull, cold and barren. Let the images have what merit they may, the mere fact that they are passively received, instead of being created and combined, is enough. The best pictures to children's books, therefore, are the rudest, which are merely suggestive. Pictures without text have a wholly different effect; there the child's imagination furnishes the story, as in the other it furnishes the forms. Otto Speckter's charming designs for “ Puss in Boots' are fitted for adults, not for little children ; they contain traits of wit and humor which cannot be appreciated without a knowledge of the world; such, for instance, as the opprobrious treatment which clearly awaits all dogs under the seline ascendancy, (as exemplified in the last plate -a stroke of political satire which no child, one hopes, could enter into.
Our own language furnishies a boundless store of enticing and invigorating food. The immortal works of Bunyan and Defoe-ihose wells of pure, unadulterated English-have been the delight, the passion of many of the greatest and wisest men of the last generation. We have seen Shakspeare read and re-read by children of seven or eight years old with an intensity of interest and pleasure, very different in kind, no doubt, but equal in degree to any he could excite in the most learned and sagacious of his commentators.What can be more likely to touch the young heart with a love of nature, a tender concern for all that feels, a sense of the wonder and beauty of creation, and the wisdom and love of its Creator, than that most charming and English of books, White's “History of Selbourne?” where the simplicity of the man is so exquisitely set off with the graces of the gentleman and the scholar, and so sanctified by those of the Christian. Where is the child's natural history book coin-, parable to this? Why are such books as Anson's Voyages, and all the host of similar records of skill and intrepidity, to be altered and curtailed till they have lost all truth and vigor ? The relations of travellers have each a characteristic stamp, which is not among their least interesting qualities; this is necessarily effaced in abridgments. One great evil of professed children's books is their short
Children are now so accustomed to the stimulus of incessant variety, to turn from book to book and from subject to subject, that the power of steady and unforced application is daily becoming more rare. At a later age, when the necessities of life require it, this has to be painfully acquired, often to the destruction of health of body and mind. This was not the case when a child had to seek out his
amusement in folio histories or quarto travels, as Gothe tells us he did in Gottfried's Chronicle and the “ Acessa Philologica.” We remember hearing a woman of the last generation, whose intellectnal qualities were only inferior to her moral, (if indeed we can separate what had the same stamp of energy, justness and greatness,) say, that the earliest book she remembered being interested in was Rapin's “ History of England." Her sister, two or three years older than herself, read it to her aloud; it was their free unbidden choice. We imagine the two little girls seated on low stools, the elder with the huge folio on her knees, the younger in all the radiant beauty of a golden-haired English child, with her doll in her arms, listening with fixed attention, and day after day following the driest of historians through his ponderous work. Exquisite and true picture, which we commend to any painter who could conceive it! he will find no living models for it. In this case, not only an intellect and a character of the highest order were developed, but a style of writing and speaking, distinguished for vernacular purity, clearness and precision, was formed, by the mere access to a library composed of the classics of the English language. Nothing else came in her way. She was taught little (which, with an over-estimate of what she did not possess, she always unduly regretted,) nor was she either commanded or forbidden to read anvthing. She had much to do, and little external excitement; it was presumed that reading must be her pleasure, and her father possessed no trash. We have quoted an individual case, because we happen to know it intimately; · but we have had an insight, less near, but still sufficient to corroborate this, into several others, especially among women. Nearly all those we have known who rose much above the average of their sex, had pretty nearly a similar training, or rather growth.
We shall be asked if then we pretend that no books should be written for children ? Certainly not; for though we are convinced that the highest order of minds must be produced by this process of free internal development, yet there remains a vast middle class who are not capable of sufficient independent action to carry them through such a process. These are the children whose imaginations are too feeble and inert to seize on half-understood images, to work on hints, to supply what their imperfect knowledge of facts leaves broken or defective. There are others whose reasoning faculty is too sluggish to delight in combining and inferring, (the never-ceasing occupation of intelligent children,) or whose curiosity is not robust enough to endure the fatigue of much toil in search of sustenance. For such as these, it is necessary to clear away the difficulties which afford wholesome exercise to stronger minds,-to deal in simple, clear, direct narrative,-to give inferences and conclusions ready made, to point out the why and the because. It is not that much will come of such a training; but the faculties, which would never struggle into life if left to themselves, may be nurtured, not into vigor, but at least into existence. What we protest against is the tyranny of prejudging the case, and subjecting all alike to a regimen fit only for the infirm. Let the robust choose their own diet. No test is required but the child's own inclination, provided always that wholesome food, and no other, is within his reach ; if his faculties are of the kind capable of self-development, he will do the rest tor himself.
Of course all this has not the smallest reference or application to the process of learning, properly so called, which is the appropriate labor and duty of childhood--the burden it ought to bear, and will bear, gallantly and well, if there is no attempt at tricks to disguise it. Toil is the portion of us all; this is your present lot of toil; in time it may, if you choose, bring you advantage and pleasure :-such is the language to hold to children, whom it is neither easy nor safe to mystify School, or whatever be the substitute for it, is the appropriate sphere for the exercise of the attention and the memory—for compulsory application to uninviting things, and conformity to rules not understood ; in short, for discipline-great and glorious nurse of men, whose godlike face a womanish and mistaken tenderness has sought to mask ; not perceiving how easily unspoiled childhood learns to love her awful beauty and to trust in her truthful promises; while those of the flatterer, who talks to it of learning without la. bor, are felt to be false long before they are found to be destructive. School-books, therefore, can hardly be too special, nor school methods too rigorously calculated : all latitude or choice is misplaced here.
(Concluded in the next number.)
If you would never have any enemies, never recognise any as such. Treat all as friends, and they will be compelled to treat you the same way.
HISTORICAL BLUNDERS. We often notice some blunders relating to America in foreign papers, or in the speeches or letters of European statesmen, and forthwith we all express our wonder, that foreigners will not take the pains to make themselves better acquainted with our history and institutions.
In Hickey's edition of the Constitution, published under the patronage of the Senate of the United States, and widely distributed, on page 399, occurs the following:
“ RHODE ISLAND.-Embraced under the charters of Massachusetts and continued under the same jurisdiction until July 8, 1662,” &c.
And this blunder has been repeated through two or three editions.
APPOINTMENT OF School COMMISSIONER.–At the last May session of the Legislature of Rhode Island, at Newport, Elisha R. Potter was appointed Commissioner of Public Schools by the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
MEMORANDA, For District Meetings, when a tax is to be assessed. If there is any doubt about the boundaries of the District, have them plainly defined by the School Committee.
Have the meeting notified for five days, and have the notice put up as required by section 30 of the law. The object of calling the meeting must be inserted in the notice, except in case of annual meetings.
Have the officers engaged. See sec. 62. Specify the amount of the tax, and the time when it shall be collected.
The district may give the collection to the collector already appointed, if there be one, or may appoint a special collector; or may vote to have it collected by the town collector. See sec. 37.
If the District require bonds of the collector; or treasurer, they should fix the sum, and approve of the sureties.
They should agree with the collector for his fees. If no agreement, he will be entitled to five per cent.
They may impose a percentage on those who do not pay by a particular time. See pamphlet State laws, page 743, sec. 2.
The location of the house, the plan of the house, or repairs, and the amount of the tax, must be approved by the School Committee, if not already done.
As to Trustee assessing the tax, see sec. 45, and the Index to the law.