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easily made the subject of experiment. A child may
be allowed to find out for himself that boiling water will scald his fingers, and mustard bite his tongue; but he must be prejudiced against ratsbane, because the experiment would be too costly. In like manner it may do him good to have experienced that little instances of inattention or perverseness draw upon him the displeasure of his parent; but that profligacy is attended with loss of character, is a truth one would rather wish him to take upon trust.
There is no occasion to inculcate by prejudices those truths which it is of no importance for us to know till our powers are able to investigate them. Thus the metaphysical questions of space and time, necessity and free-will, and a thousand others, may safely be left for that age which delights in such discussions. They have no connexion with conduct; and none have any business with them at all but those who are able by such studies to exercise and sharpen their mental powers : but it is not so with those truths on which our well-being depends; these must be taught to all, not only before they can reason upon them, but independently of the consideration whether they will ever be able to reason upon them as long as they live. What has hitherto been said relates only to instilling prejudices into
others; how far a man is to allow them in himself, or, as a celebrated writer expresses it, to cherish them, is a different question, on which perhaps I may some time offer my thoughts*. In the mean time I cannot help concluding, that to reject the influence of prejudice in education is itself one of the most unreasonable of prejudices.
* It is to be regretted that Mrs. Barbauld never fulfilled the intention here intimated.-EDITOR.
DIALOGUE IN THE SHADES.
Clio.—THERE is no help for it,—they must go. The river Lethe is here at hand; I shall tear them off and throw them into the stream.
Mercury.—Illustrious daughter of Mnemosyne, Clio! the most respected of the Muses,—you seem disturbed. What is it that brings us the honour of a visit from you in these infernal regions ?
Clio.—You are a god of expedients, Mercury; I want to consult you. I am oppressed with the continually increasing demands upon me: I have had more business for these last twenty years than I have often had for two centuries; and if I had, as old Homer says, “a throat of brass and adamantine lungs,” I could never get through it. And what did he want this throat of brass for? for a paltry list of ships, canoes rather, which would be laughed at in the Admiralty Office of London. But I must inform you, Mercury, that my
roll is so full, and I have so many applications which cannot in decency be refused, that I see no other way than striking off some hundreds of
names in order to make room; and I am come to inform the shades of my determination.
Mercury. I believe, Clio, you will do right: and as one end of your roll is a little mouldy, no doubt you will begin with that; but the ghosts will raise a great clamour.
Clio.-I expect no less; but necessity has no law. All the parchment in Pergamus is used up, , --my roll is long enough to reach from earth to heaven; it is grown quite cumbrous; it takes a life, as mortals reckon lives, to unroll it.
Mercury.--Yet consider, Clio, how many of these have passed a restless life, and encountered all manner of dangers, and bled and died only to be placed upon your list, and now to be struck off!
Clio.--And committed all manner of crimes, you might have added ;-but go they must. Besides, they have been sufficiently recompensed. Have they not been praised, and sung; and admired for some thousands of years ? Let them give place to others : What! have they no conscience? no modesty? Would Xerxes, think you, have reason to complain, when his parading expeditions have already procured him above two thousand years of fame, though a Solyman or a Zingis Khan should fill
his place? Mercury.--Surely you are not going to blot out Xerxes from your list of names?
Clio. I do not say that I am: but that I keep him is more for the sake of his antagonists than his own. And yet their places might be well supplied by the Swiss heroes of Morgarten, or the brave though unsuccessful patriot Aloys Reding. -But
what noise is that at the gate ? Mercury.—A number of the shades, who have received an intimation of your purpose, and are come to remonstrate against it.
Clio.—In the name of all the gods whom have we here?---Hercules, Theseus, Jason, Edipus, Bacchus, Cadmus with a bag of dragon's teeth, and a whole tribe of strange shadowy figures ! I shall expect to see the Centaurs and Lapithæ, or Perseus on his flying courser. Away with them; they belong to my sisters, not to me; Melpomene will receive them gladly.
Mercury.--You forget, Clio, that Bacchus conquered India.
Clio.—And had horns like Moses, as Vossius is pleased to say. No, Mercury, I will have nothing to do with these; if ever I received them, it was when I was young and credulous.-As I have said, let my sisters take them; or let them be celebrated in tales for children.
Mercury. That will not do, Clio; children in this age read none but wise books: stories of giants and dragons are all written for grown-up children now.