Abbildungen der Seite

modern parent is at heart deplorably known nothing of such heartburnings. unregenerate-but we do not think our- Mrs. Dearmer's lady finds her children selves entitled to think so. I cannot troublesome at times—which is quite illustrate the modern mother's frame natural-but she is inclined to think of mind better than by quoting some that it is very wrong of her to be verses written by Mrs. Dearmer, a so intolerant. Her grandmother would lady whose picture-books are one of have packed the infants promptly out the many things which make the child of the room, and never troubled to of to-day much luckier than his fore- justify herself for doing so. To be with runners:

their elders was a privilege which chil

dren had to merit by good behavior, I think the world is really sad,

and being good meant being quiet. I can do nothing but annoy;

Even Miss Edgeworth, who in many For little boys are all born bad,

ways anticipated the modern theories, And I am born a little boy.

was quite clear about that. To her It doesn't matter what's the game,

mind the duty of children not to annoy Whether it's Indians, trains, or ball;

their parents was much more perempI always know I am to blame

tory than the duty of parents to amuse If I amuse myself at all.

their children; whereas nowadays we

are distinctly taught that parents have I said one day on mother's knee,

no right to be annoyed. I should greatly If you would send us right away

like to call up Miss Edgeworth from To foreign lands across the sea,

the shades and ask her to comment, for You wouldn't see us every day.

instance, on Mrs. Dearmer's poem. She “We shouldn't worry any more

would explain, I think, to the parent In those strange lands with queer how, by a judicious mixture of rewards new toys;

and punishment, even a person who But here we stamp and play and roar, has the misfortune to be born a little And wear your life out with our

boy can be induced to enjoy himself noise.

quietly in a corner; and to the little

boy, undoubtedly, she would say, that "The savages would never mind,

if he wishes other people to be agreeAnd you'd be glad to have us go; There nobody would be unkind

able to him he must be agreeable to For you dislike your children so." other people, and consequently must

not shake the table when his mother is Then mother turned, and looked quite writing (see "Little Frank,” passim). red

She certainly would never insist, as a I do not think she could have heard;

good many people do nowadays, that it She put me off her knee instead

is essential to the health of little boys Of answering one single word.

that they should "stamp and play and

roar," and consequently that grown-up Sbe went, and did not even nod.

people have just got to put up with it. What had I said that could annoy? Mothers are really very odd

The case of the Edgeworths is really If you are born a little boy.

instructive. “It was the lot of Maria

Edgeworth," observes Mrs. Oliphant, The mother's contrition, which Mrs. in a very charming chapter of the Dearmer indicates in this delicate, "Literary History of England," "to be roundabout way, is quite true to life trained in one of tbose somewhat apnowadays; but the average matron of palling family seminaries of all the the early Victorian period would have virtues, where nothing escapes the system of education, and everything is the modern mother is so profoundly made subservient to the moral disci- convinced that this business of edupline of the house." Mr. Edgeworth cation is a difficult and subtle business, was a gentleman of independent means only to be conducted by an expert, that and no occupation, who had a turn for she packs her children out of the house natural science and a passion for lec- as soon as they can walk, and salves turing his company; and this passion her conscience by paying the bill. In he indulged for the benefit of his chil- Miss Edgeworth's novels you find dren. The most exacting Froebelian innumerable complaints of the fashion. could not expect any parent to take able lady who made over her child to himself more seriously as a parent than a foster-mother, and found the little did Mr. Edgeworth, and it is only fair creature a great nuisance when it reto say that his children adored him. turned to her. Nowadays those ladies Yet I do not feel the least desire to would have no trouble in the matter; emulate the virtues of this model father, they could commit their infants to a I do not find that he made any en- system, and explain to the next person deavor to enter into his children's pleas- who took them into dinner how essenures; he did his best to make them take tial it was that the early training of a up his own whims, and to become little human creature should be entrusted to patterns of the great exemplar who a person who had minutely studied the sat daily at the head of the long break- mental processes of children and underfast table. The model parent, in short, stood the harmoniously proportionate in this instance, was a prig and a development of body and mind. Mrs. maker of prigs; and that is, in my Rawdon Crawley would have been an humble judgment, what the model par- enthusiastic advocate of the Kinderent is fatally apt to become.

garten if it had existed in her time, "Come, now, let us live for our chil- and if she could have found some one dren.” Such, it appears, was the mes- to pay the fees for her. Still, the peosage which Froebel, the great apostle ple who merely find in modern theories of modern theories on education, deliv- an excuse for washing their hands en. ered. Let us educate them so that, tirely of parental duties are rare; the I suppose, they in their turn may live average mother desires her children's for their children, and the world be presence; so does the average fatherperpetually full of parents sacrificing in moderation. But the parent who is their own lives to make their children theory-bitten is apt to turn a pleasure so moral that these in their turn will into a duty and to destroy the whole repeat the sacrifice, and so on ad infin- value of domestic intercourse. The itum. For if there is one thing about other day a friend of mind was talking which the modern theorist is more clear to a proud father about his child-a than another, it is that character, not delightful little girl, fresh and dainty, instruction, is the object of education. as charming as a kitten. “What good We are to teach our children, not how company she must be for you!” said to be good-for the assumption is that my friend. “Yes," the father answered, children are not bad, and that if they "and how sad to think there will be an do what they ought not to, it is the end of it all in a year!”. My friend fault of their education, or of their he- naturally inquired if there was any reditary tendencies-but how to be ob- reason to be alarmed-any impending servant, how to be cheerful, even how separation. It was not that. In a year to play. In many cases the adoption the little girl would reach the age of of these theories has an ironical result; three. “And, you know, it is recognized

that when a child comes to three you must never say anything before it without thinking of the effect that will be produced on the child's character."

This is a true story, and the man was an intelligent man, and quite serious. Can one conceive of anything more lamentable? A person in ordinary society who should never speak or act without weighing the probable moral effect of his word or action would be simply intolerable; but his neighbors would, in all likelihood, never find him out; they would simply put him down as a bore. Now, one of the facts that we all admit is the perfectly appalling insight of the pupil into the teacher's mind-an insight narrow and unjust, but all the more appalling on that account. If a parent were to assume this attitude in his intercourse with his child, the child would find him out instinctively before it was five years old; it would know that it was being consciously moulded, and it would resent the fact, as it ought to. And if, instead of a child, there were children, they would talk it over among themselves and laugh at the inefficacy of the method. No human being likes to be "influenced," least of all by some one who is trying to conceal the process; and the modern theory is, I imagine, that children should not be preached to or exhorted, but that they should be unconsciously guided in a desirable direction. The result would be one of two things: either the child would submit knowingly to the process, and would thereby lose much of its natural and invaluable instinct of self-assertion-would be trained, in short, to undervalue and diminish its own individuality; or else --and this would be, happily, a much more frequent occurrence-it would develop character by an instinctive rebellion against the directing influence. Character is not a thing that can be given or imposed from without; it can only grow; though it is quite possible

to produce a morbid and unhealthy growth, like that of a flower in a greenhouse. The people who talk about developing character are like those who seek to create health by administering a succession of drugs; for my own part, I believe that both character and health are best promoted by judicious letting alone. There is often worse mischief done by parental interference than by parental neglect; I appeal to Mr. George Meredith and the example of Richard Feverel. The best thing that can happen to a boy is to be brought up in a simple and natural way-living, that is to say, for the early part of his life among people who are kind to him, but whose orders he has to obey without questioning, and who are for the most part occupied with their own interests—who live their own lives and let him live his. But if from the moment a child comes into the room the father and mother have to put a constraint upon themselves-to shape their conduct and tion for the particular end of his moral advantage — instantly the conditions become forced

and unnatural. The behavior and talk of ordinary decent people have in them nothing that can hurt a child; for the most part, if they go on without reference to him, the child is sublimely unconscious of them, engrossed in his own concerns; for the rest, they appeal to his curiosity, as they ought to do, and wakens in him that vague speculation which is the beginning of independent thought. His character is forming itself, both by obedience to rules and by collision with them, and it does not need the administration of perpetual moral prescriptions-prescriptions of which no doctor can foretell the effect. Nothing can compensate to a child for the loss of a country bring. ing up; not because in the country he learns to observe Nature (one of the things about which the modern theorist


[ocr errors]

is stark mad)-for the same child who comes to be a man by the simple fact
in the country picks up the names of of thinking too much about it; and I
wild flowers, and can tell you the should greatly fear that the little girl
markings of every bird's egg, will get whose father sets a watch upon his lips
by heart in London all the regimental in her presence from the time she is
facings or the list of river steamers, three years old, will grow up into a
information quite as valuable as the moral valetudinarian, who is the worst
other-but because in the country he type of prig. Happily the best meant
is far more left to himself. He can experiments on character often lead to
run about and associate with the farm results as widely different from those
laborers, learning something of a class that are naturally to be expected as
whom he may never come across in they are from the consummation con-
after life; contract friendships with un- templated by the experimentalist.
washed and ragged little boys, and in Nature is too hard for any theory or
their company continually get his feet system. It is quite possible that chil-
wet-physically and morally, too, if dren who have been brought up to ex-
you likewithout the least apprehen- pect that a reason shall be given them
sion of catching cold. In town he is for whatever they are told to do, or
under observation all the time, watched even children who have been taught to
over by some one possessing a theory believe that obedience is not necessary
of what is good for his soul and body. unless they approve of the reasons
It is in town chiefly that children suffer given, may take their place in life with.
from that physical and moral coddling out friction or annoyance to themselves
which is the deadly vice of the modern or their neighbors. They have inher-
parent. A lady was explaining the other ited instincts of self-adaptation, which
day that a certain portrait of her son will guide them a great deal
had been completed only with great diffi- surely than their own crude reasonings.
culty. At every sitting the child's tem- But in all probability they will have
perature went up to such a degree that been a nuisance to themselves while
she almost feared that the portrait they were growing up, and certainly
must be given up; it was too strong an will have been a nuisance to their par-

ents. I believe in the experience of Indeed a chief objection to the plan of the race as against any individual theliving for our children is the tendency ory, and the experience of the race adof anxious parents to create some occu- vises that children should be taught to pation for their anxiety. An old-fash- do what they are bid without asking ioned mother would have had other for reasons. They will infallibly reathings to do than to run about taking son for themselves on the injunctions; her little boy's temperature at odd they will judge their parents, and if times. If we are to be continually the orders are unreasonable, will judge fussing over our children's health, there them adversely; that is the menace results a formidable demand upon our which it behooves parents to bear ip actual time, and what is worse, upon mind. But a child does not expect to the leisure of our thoughts. This is in be considered in all things; and it seems itself undesirable; but the worst is that to me that if we set out to live for our we are now in a fair way to bring up a children, instead of living for our own race of valetudinarians. The little boy ideas and work in the world, we shall who is used to have his temperature be putting things on a topsy-turvy taken when he sits for his picture, will basis, and sending our children out into certainly injure his health when he life equipped with a terribly undue


sense of their own importance. The will be taught to regard the alphabet adult mind has other work to do than as a very advanced branch of knowlto concentrate itself exclusively upon edge. They will be taught educational the interests of a domestic circle; and games; a whole class of them lie down I think the best plan is for decent, on the floor and crawl, pretending to be clean-minded people to go their own caterpillars; then they get up and flap way in freedom, not constrained by their hands about because they have the presence of their children, nor con- become butterflies; that is a lesson in tinually condescending to the undevel- the life-history of the insect world. oped intelligence. Depend upon it (as They model in clay in order that they the Spectator says), this continual may learn that a pig has four legs and stooping of the back is good neither a tail; they plait rushes in order that for the one who stoops nor for the one they may contribute to the harmonious who is stooped to. Mr. Edgeworth (to development of all their faculties by acrevert to our great example of the quiring manual dexterity; they build model parent) acquired a habit of im- houses with bricks that they may learn parting instruction which made him in- how to carry out a design. I have tolerable in all societies, and while he heard of an instructress of Kindergarwas teaching to his children (there ten teachers who made her pupils dewere nineteen or twenty of them by vote an hour a day to learning how to four or five successive spouses) the hop like frogs, that they might be able theory of soap-bubbles and how to to impart that accomplishment. Even make a model of a water-mill, he left if you do not send your children to a the entire management of his estate Kindergarten, its theories invade your to his eldest daughter; and upon his domestic happiness. People give you death the eldest son, imbued with all complicated Kindergarten toys, and the this valuable mechanical knowledge, unfortunate parent has first to learn proved perfectly incompetent to deal how to work the toys, and then to teach with troublesome tenants, and directly the children how to work them. But as a land crisis came handed the books for reading, that is considered to be too of the estate back to the much-over- great a strain on the budding intelliworked Maria. His intelligence had gence. been studiously developed, as Froebel By Froebel's system even the rudiwould have dictated, along the line of ments are expressly prohibited till a least resistance; he had not been taught child is six, and, so far as I can make the lesson of doing something that he out, reading is discouraged afterwards. understood nothing about, just because A very clever parent was explaining to he had got to do it.

not long ago that his very That is where the modern theorists clever little son was not taught to read seem to me hopelessly in error. Both because little boys invariably put themfor the moral and the intellectual part selves into unhygienic attitudes over a they adopt a system of spoon-feeding. book. They read doubled up, and that They do not trust nature, which if you is bad for their digestion; or they read provide food, will generally provide the lying on their stomachs, and that is bad digestion. And the modern parent, so for their eyes. For my own part, I far as I can see, gulps down wholesale would risk the hygiene for the sake of what one may call the mud-pie theory the education. The only valuable of education. Education used to begin knowledge is the knowledge which with the A B C; but if you send your we acquire for ourselves; and to children to a Kindergarten, the children teach child how to read is to



« ZurückWeiter »