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when the inequality in natural talents is so small; or why the understanding of women should be lavished upon trifles, when nature has made it capable of higher and better things, we profess ourselves not able to understand. The affectation charged upon female knowledge is best cured by making that knowledge more general: and the economy devolved upon women is best secured by the ruin, disgrace, and inconvenience which proceeds from neglecting it. For the care of children, nature has made a direct and powerful provision; and the gentleness and elegance of women is the natural consequence of that desire to please, which is productive of the greatest part of civilisation and refinement, and which rests upon a foundation too deep to be shaken by any such modifications in education as we have proposed. If you educate women to attend to dignified and important subjects, you are multiplying, beyond measure, the chances of human improvement, by preparing and medicating those early impressions, which always come from the mother; and which, in a great majority of instances, are quite decisive of character and genius. Nor is it only in the business of education that women would influence the destiny of men. — If women knew more, men must learn more — for ignorance would then be shameful — and it would become the fashion to be instructed. The instruction of women improves the stock of national talents, and employs more minds for the instruction and amusement of the world; — it increases the pleasures of society, by multiplying the topics upon which the two sexes take a common interest;- and makes marriage an intercourse of understanding as well as of affection, by giving dignity and importance to the female character. The education of women favours public morals; it provides for every season of life, as well as for the brightest and the best; and leaves a woman when she is stricken by the hand of time, not as she now is, destitute of every thing, and neglected by all; but with the full power and the splendid attractions of knowledge, -diffusing the elegant pleasures of polite literature, and receiving the just homage of learned and accomplished men.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS. (E. Review, 1810.)
Remarks on the System of Education in Public Schools. 8vo. Hatchard. London, 1809.
THERE is a set of well-dressed, prosperous gentlemen, who assemble daily at Mr. Hatchard's shop; — clean, civil personages, well in with people in power, — delighted with every existing institution—and almost with every existing circumstance:—and, every now and then, one of these personages writes a little book; — and the rest praise that little book — expecting to be praised, in their turn, for their own little books: — and of these little books, thus written by these clean, civil personages, so expecting to be praised, the pamphlet before us appears to be one. The subject of it is the advantage of public schools; and the author, very creditably to himself, ridicules the absurd clamour, first set on foot by Dr. Rennel, of the irreligious tendency of public schools: he then proceeds to an investigation of the effects which public schools may produce upon the moral character; and here the subject becomes more difficult, and the pamphlet worse. In arguing any large or general question, it is of infinite importance to attend to the first feelings which the mention of the topic has a tendency to excite; and the name of a public school brings with it immediately the idea of brilliant classical attainments: but, upon the importance of these studies, we are not now offering any opinion. The only points for consideration are, whether boys are put in the way of becoming good and wise men by these schools; and whether they actually gather, there, those attainments, which it pleases mankind, for the time being, to consider as valuable, and to decorate by the name of learning. By a public school, we mean an endowed place of education of old standing, to which the sons of gentlemen resort in considerable numbers, and where they continue to reside, from eight or nine, to eighteen years of age. We do not give this as a definition which would have satisfied Porphyry or Dun-Scotus, but as one sufficiently accurate for our purpose. The characteristic features of these schools are, their antiquity, the numbers, and the ages of the young people who are educated at them. We beg leave, however, to premise, that we have not the slightest intention of insinuating any thing to the disparagement of the present discipline or present rulers of these schools, as compared with other times and other men: we have no reason whatever to doubt that they are as ably governed at this, as they have been at any preceding period. Whatever objections we may have to these institutions, they are to faults, not depending upon present administration, but upon original construction.* At a public school (for such is the system established by immemorial custom), every boy is alternately tyrant and slave. The power which the elder part of these communities exercises over the younger, is exceedingly great —very difficult to be controlled—and accompanied, not unfrequently, with cruelty and caprice. It is the common law of the place, that the young should be implicitly obedient to the elder boys; and this obedience resembles more the submission of a slave to his master, or of a sailor to his captain, than the common and natural deference which would always be shown by one boy to another a few years older than himself. Now, this system we cannot help considering as an evil, -because it inflicts upon boys, for two or three years of their lives, many painful hardships, and much unpleasant servitude. These sufferings might perhaps be of some use in military schools; but, to give to a boy the habit of enduring privations to which he will never again be called upon to submit—to inure him to pains which he will never again feel—and to subject him to the privation of comforts, with which he will always in future abound—is surely not a very useful and valuable severity in education. It is not the life in miniature which he is to lead hereafter—nor does it bear any relation to it: —he will never again be subjected to so much insolence and caprice; nor ever, in all human probability, called upon to make so many sacrifices. The servile obedience which it teaches, might be useful to a menial domestic; or the habits of enterprise which it encourages, prove of importance to a military partisan; but we cannot see what bearing it has upon the calm, regular, civil life, which the sons of gentlemen, destined to opulent idleness, or to any of the three learned professions, are destined to lead. Such a system makes many boys very to miserable; and produces those bad effects upon the temper and disposition, which unjust suffering always does produce;—but what good it does, we are much at a loss to conceive. Reasonable obedience is extremely usefulin forming the disposition. Submission to tyranny lays the foundation of hatred, suspicion, cunning, and avariety of odious passions. We are convinced that those young people will turn out to be the best men, who have been guarded most effectually, in their childhood, from every species of useless vexation: and experienced, in the greatest degree, the blessings of a wise and rational indulgence. But even if these effects upon future character are not produced, still, four or five years in childhood make avery considerable period of human existence: and it is by no means a trifling consideration whether they are past happily or unhappily. The wretchedness of school tyranny is trifling enough to a man who only contemplates it, in ease of body and tranquillity of mind, through the medium of twenty intervening years; but it is quite as real, and quite as acute, while it lasts, as any of the sufferings of mature life: and the utility of these sufferings, or the price paid in compensation for VOI. I. C C
* A public school is thought to be the best cure for the insolence of youthful aristocracy. This insolence, however, is not a little increased by the homage of masters, and would soon meet with its natural check in the world. There can be no occasion to bring 500 boys together to teach to a young nobleman that proper demeanour which he would learn so much better from the first E. gentleman whom he might think proper to insult.
them, should be clearly made out to a conscientious parent, before he consents to expose his children to them. This system also gives to the elder boys an absurd and pernicious opinion of their own importance, which is often with difficulty effaced by a considerable commerce with the world. #. head of a public school is generally a very conceited young man, utterly ignorant of his own dimensions, and losing all that habit of conciliation towards others, and that anxiety for self-improvement, which result from the natural modesty of youth. Nor is this conceit very easily and speedily gotten rid of; — we have seen (if we mistake not) public-school importance lasting through the half of after-life, strutting in lawn, swelling in ermine, and displaying itself, both ridiculously and offensively, in the haunts and business of bearded men. There is a manliness in the athletic exercises of public schools, which is as seductive to the imagination as it is utterly unimportant in itself. Of what importance is it in after-life, whether a boy can play well or ill at cricket; or row a boat with the skill and precision of a waterman If our young lords and esquires were hereafter to wrestle together in public, or the gentlemen of the Bar to exhibit Olympic games in Hilary Term, the glory attached to these exercises at public schools would be rational and important. But of what use is the body of an athlete, when we have good laws over our heads, —or when a pistol, a postchaise, or a porter can be hired for a few shillings? A gentleman does nothing but ride or walk; and yet such a ridiculous stress is laid upon the manliness of the exercises customary at public schools—exercises in which the greatest blockheads commonly excel the most – which often render habits of idleness inveterate—and often lead to foolish expense and dissipation at a more advanced period of life. One of the supposed advantages of a public school, is the greater knowledge of the world which a boy is considered to derive from those situations; but if, by a knowledge of the world, is meant a knowledge of the forms and manners which are found to be the most pleas