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Miss Peabody, when treating of geography, speaks of maps as necessary evils, but certainly evils, so far as they preclude the mind from forming within itself a real picture of the original. There is a good deal of truth in this remark; but it is still more applicable to these maps of the mind, especially when they are parcelled out so minutely, and into so many imaginary departments.
Mr. Alcott's readings of the Bible are most of them admirable, and a great deal of his purely moral instruction excellent. Then he has evidently a care and love of the minds committed to his charge, which makes him very watchful over himself in all that may affect them. For instance, in all the attempts of the little children at any thing new, he carefully forbore from criticism, lest it should produce discouragement, unfavorable to future excellence. He proceeds, too, upon a very wise principle which should be forever present in the mind, and recognised in the practice of every parent and teacher, that in moral as well as physical diseases, ' prevention is better than cure.'
Some very beautiful, and some very sagacious replies, are occasionally elicited from one and another of the children:
"One little girl being asked to tell a child how to improve and do better, said :' You must set your heart to work.' A little boy being asked how the word ' Try' shaped itself to his mind, said, 'As a strong man.' Another, only five years old, said to Mr. Alcott:' Will you let me tell_you what part of Pilgrim's Progress I like bek 1' 'Yes.' 'It is where Mr. Great Heart kills the giant Despair.' 'Is there any Mr. Great Heart in you 1' 'Yes, and he is just killing the giant Despair; for once I thought I should never be good. Why, I would get tired sitting, and so leave off doing something and look around.' 'Should you like to be very good V 'O yes.' The following incident was related of the same child: Mr. Alcott, after telling the children that from God's having made the world so beautiful we might infer his love and mercy, said: 'When you see any thing that is beautiful, you should follow after and find what true thing it leads to, and then follow on and find what good thing it is the sign of, and then you are very near God:' and then asked: 'What did I say, little boy?' The child replied i ' You said that beauty is the sign of truth, and truth the sign of love— and God is love.'"
One word more, in the conclusion of this article, already, perhaps, too long. In pointing out what seems to us as some of the errors in Mr. Alcott's teaching, we hope we shall not be considered as wishing to disparage, or do him injustice. It would be a poor lesson of virtue to inculcate upon our own children or others, not to acknowledge with gratitude, not to treat with respect, the labors of a person, who is devoting his time and talents, with disinterested and ardent zeal, to a cause in which the best interests of humanity are so nearly concerned. As a praiseworthy reformer in a most important department, as a benefactor to that most interesting and no little neglected race, the race of children, he has established a claim to public and private regard, which no opinions of ours can have any tendency to impair. We have the satisfaction of believing, that Mr. Alcott will be the first to thank us, if by any hint, derived from our strictures, he shall be induced to study more carefully what has been happily termed, 'the balance of character,' to consider man as placed in a world, full of beauty, certainty, and stored with the wherewithal to feed and nourish his spiritual nature, but full, too, of physical obstructions, and with an immense variety of animal wants to supply.
In all places and modes of education, we should never lose sight of the great fact, that the mass of mankind must be brought up to labor, in some sort, with their hands : and in regard to those who are so fortunate as to be relieved from this necessity, the first lesson to be inculcated is, that it is a shame, even for them, to eat the bread of idleness; that even they must give back to the world, in some form, the advantages they have derived from their superior condition; that if they do not cut down the forest, or plough, and sow, and dig, they must do what in them lies to facilitate the labors, lessen the privations, and increase the enjoyments of those to whom this task is assigned by Providence.
It is in this view of the subject, that we are disposed to find a good deal of fault with Mr. Alcott's theory and practice, as a teacher. There is a prodigious deal of hard work to be done in the world, and we think it is the tendency of his system — in attaching almost exclusive importance to the ideal and the beautiful — to lessen the resolution and energy with which the various duties of life must be entered upon and prosecuted.
It is well to keep the body under, but it is not well, and it is entirely in vain, to endeavour to keep it out of sight. Although not the best, it is a good and essential part of the human composition, and in our humble opinion those persons are most sure of lasting spiritual good, who are made first acquainted with the hard realities of life, and are prepared to encounter them.
We hope Mr. Alcott will accomplish his mission — such as we have described the enthusiast's mission to be — and therefore wish that the Record of his school should be extensively circulated.
Miss Peabody deserves all praise for the method she has adopted, in order to exhibit this school in actual operation. It is indicative not only of good sense, but of uncommon fairness of mind, for in no other way could the school have been so well, so fully, and so justly compre* bended.
She is evidently a woman of genius, and her remarks, when not too deeply spiritual in their character to be unintelligible to the uninitiated, are very fine. We should like to quote several pages, and especially a page or two very admirably written upon the subject of composition, but we had prescribed to ourselves a limit in this article, which has already been transgressed.
It seems to us unfortunate, that the assistant of Mr. Alcott should so much resemble him in the degree and character of her enthusiasm; that she should believe with him, that all the outward world may, even to children, become ' defined and lost' in the inward and spiritual world. Checks and balances are good in the machinery of all systems, but especially so, it seems to us, in such a system of instruction as this, in which there is so strong and powerful a tendency to ullraism, to go beyond not only all customary and prescribed, but, (if we may be pardoned what may seem paradoxical,) all practicable limits. Miss Peabody is even more prone, if possible, to the mystical, or to a departure from all common modes of expression and illustration, than Mr. Alcott; suggesting to us, whenever she endeavors to improve upon him, the idea of a person endeavoring to render a dim glass clearer, by wiping it over with a wet cloth.
For ourselves, we have no fancy for the mystical, in the regions of imagination or philosophy, and far less in the common-places of life; and we are accustomed to consider language as appproaching most
Vol. vn. 17
nearly to perfection, in proportion as it becomes a perfectly transparent medium.
Mr. Coleridge, who is considered, we suppose, one of the most eminent disciples of the spiritual school, says: 'We do not reverence what we comprehend thoroughly;' and thereby betrays, we think, that he cultivated the mystical both in thought and expression. His illustration, in this instance, is particularly unfortunate, viz: that 'if we could comprehend the Deity as perfectly as we do a tree, we should not reverence him.' Hence it follows, that in the future life, when, as is supposed, we shall comprehend him more and more, we shall reverence him less; an idea which the spiritualists, we think, would be the last to admit.
With a burning brow and weary limb,
From the parting glance of day,
Till the east with dawn is gray;
His spirit is far away.
He seeks, in fancy, the halls of light
Where his lady leads the dance,
Lit up by her sunny glance;
She thinketh of him — perchance!
Yet many a gallant knight is by,
To dwell on each gushing tone,
Which should beam on him alone;
The heart that he claims nis own.
The student bends o'er the snowy page,
That he may write him a lesson sage,
But softer lessons his thoughts engage,
The student's orisons must arise
At the vesper's solemn peal,
Which no angel forms reveal,
\l" I his whispered prayers will steal.
In vain his spirit would now recur
To his little study dim,
In the cloister cold and grim;
Doth his lady think ofhim?
Then up he looks to the clear cold moon,
But no calm to him she brings;
And loosened its countless strings;
To his lady love he sings:
I had travelled several hours in a stage, on a cold winter's day, with an individual who had observed an entire silence. Wrapped in his cloak, nothing was visible but a large eye, and a high forehead. In the evening, as we stopped for the night, I had an opportunity of observing him more definitely. With a person rather tall and slender, were combined thin and attenuated features, and an expression at once sensitive, thoughtful, and benevolent. The whole, however, seemed to be shrouded by an abiding feeling of melancholy and regret; not that which arises from mere personal disappointment or unhappiness, but rather the sadness of a philosopher, who has formed an ideal scheme of general well-being, and has at last found, by too convincing experience, that, in this bad world, it is utterly impracticable. During the evening, he observed the same silence, and seemed carefully to avoid engaging in the different subjects of conversation, that were just started and then abandoned. If his tongue was silent, his eye was not inactive. With deep and rapid glances, he ran over the individuals before him, and seemed instantly to read their characters. All the other members of the party had retired, and left us alone at a very comfortable fire-side. Still he did not address me. Unwilling to part with one who seemed so peculiar, I ventured to remark, that' the weather was unusually severe for the season.'
'Yes, but it will be succeeded by weather as unusually mild. The principle of compensation is at work with our climate. A turn of very cold weather is quite sure to be followed by the reverse. The long steady winters of old times are at an end.''And what cause would you assign for the change V'Our business, as men of science, is not first with causes. We must observe and collect facts, compare and arrange them, and then perhaps we may discover causes. If we do not, a body of facts, methodically arranged, is a science, and as such, capable of the most useful application. But our philosophers and men of science, so called, are continually hastening back to first causes. They mistake hypotheses for conclusions, and so involve themselves, and all who follow their dicta, in a false light, which is but darkness.'
'But these remarks rather apply to physical investigations than to moral.'
'Equally to all. Impatience of prolonged research, incapacity for far extended views, and an eagerness to arrive at some final conclusion, however hasty or insufficient, are the prevailing characteristics of minds that pretend to investigate. Men will act, and act according to their immediate views; and hence the true philosopher, who extends his plans through all space and time, is met at every turn by obstacles, small indeed in themselves, but all combined, like the cords of the Lilliputians, completely fettering his purposes. It is in vain to do more than palliate, and that slightly, the evils of society.'
'But would you, therefore, because you cannot eradicate the disease, refuse all assistance?^
'Certainly not. The great principle of existence is action; and this action, in sentient creatures, will always be directed to the attainment of well-being — with the unreflecting or the unprincipled, to the momentary and the selfish — with more enlarged, more considerate, and better balanced natures, to the common and the enduring. But act we must, or we shall be annihilated among the forces that act around and against us. And here is one great source of the accumulation of evil. Wrong action has brought evil to a head, and induced an overwhelming calamity. A pause, reflection, combination, and then renewed action, in a truer and better direction, would not only prevent the recurrence of calamity, but tend to a positive accumulation of good ; yet the necessity of immediate action urges on to commence at once the old career in the old way, and we arrive at the point before gained, or far transcend it, and so prepare for a more fatal catastrophe.'
'But does not all this tend to increased activity 1 Is not the very necessity of remedying evil in itself a good?'
'If we were made only to overcome difficulties and obstacles by exertion, then a life of storms and disasters, might be the most desirable, as most conducive to activity. But we are formed with natures, at least some of us are so formed, which can use and enjoy positive good — intellectual and moral good; and how painful, to one imbued with the feeling of such good, to see human effort all wasted in a region below it.'
'But are all capable of realizing or enjoying such good V
'Perhaps not, — certainly not all equally; but the attachment of the great body to other good, and their perverted activity in pursuit of it, thwart and render almost inefficient the efforts of higher natures to secure the good they desire. Still the mind is a kingdom to itself, and it is better to stand aloof on the cold and bare rocks, in the sunshine, than to descend to the plain, and mingle in the smoke and dust of the rushing conflict, though the prize may be an empire.'
'Is it not better to follow in the train, and extend relief to the sufferers left behind in the strife?'