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It would be far more wise to study the peculiarities of temper and talent, and to adapt our treatment accordingly. It is surely not desirable that the characters of all young women should be as uniform as is their handwriting; and it is as absurd to attempt universal conformity of mind as it is of mode. To make no allowance for moral and intellectual difference is, indeed, a greater mistake, than for a little woman to adopt a French coiffure, or a plain woman a conspicuous dress, merely in compliance with fashion.
On the other hand, how much may be effected by a tender and judicious treatment! How may the timid be encouraged, and the languid stimulated, and the latent spark of genius fanned! How may even the dull be roused to exertion, and be made to feel, at least, sympathy, in what is refined and intellectual !
Adaptation is indeed the great secret in education; adaptation to circumstance as well as to character, and, one might almost say, to inclination as well as to ability. For, though there is a danger in over-indulgence in this respect, there is even more danger in over-restraint
and if the favourite exercise of the mind be not prejudicial, it is surely better to encourage and direct than to thwart it. It is, as in the choice few rise to eminence whose
of a profession;
so few attain pro
ficiency in that to which they are strongly disinclined. And though this may be but an excuse for indolence, and of course must, in such cases, be over-ruled; it may, too, be an intuitive instinct, the intimations of which, at least, merit attention. For as the appetite often points out what the stomach will bear, so the taste often indicates what the intellect will master.
The education of women should, of course, be strictly feminine. Yet this affects more the manner than the matter of instruction; for it is not so much what is taught as the way in which it is taught, and the use made of it, that determines character. Knowledge, in itself, has no tendency to make a woman unfeminine, any more than it has to make a man proud; but it is the self-sufficiency which is sometimes instilled as its accompaniment, which produces assumption and conceit in the one case, and arrogance in the other.
With regard, indeed, to instruction, it is very important that reason, as well as memory, should be brought into play. Every one is aware how often lessons are learnt merely by rote; and as an antidote to this, many useful class books have been added to our youthful libraries: but the principle that has given rise to these, admits of a much wider application than we at first imagine. For instance, we put into our children's hands some of the popular compendiums, of the utility of which, both as aids and lures to attainment, so much is said; and we are presently surprised by their acquaintance with events and names, and are sometimes even made to blush at our own comparative ignorance: but all this may be effected, and yet the little learners may be no better than mere parrots; for broken catechisms may be acquired as mechanically as the less simple forms. The onus of teaching must still rest with ourselves, and we shall be sadly disappointed in the result of any mode of instruction which does not call forth the reasoning faculties.
We do indeed but little, if we do not induce our children to think, to compare, and to apply
-to draw religious and moral inferences;and, in short, to extract from nature, from history, and from every thing they see, read, or experience, lessons which will guide their future conduct, and promote their everlasting welfare. And this is especially true with regard to girls. For, by such intellectual discipline, we shall best correct one great defect in female character; and shall make our daughters not only linguists, historians, naturalists, but THINKERS; capable of applying their minds to any subject, and of turning it to good account.
It is thus that every acquirement may be made useful. Even accomplishment may be a means of strengthening the mind; for the sciences of music and drawing cannot be acquired without much thought; and the study of Crotch and Wood may be made as subservient to the intellectual improvement of our girls, as Aristotle and Euclid are to that of the other sex.
All this only tends to prove the importance of perfect acquirement. Such acquirement does indeed demand time and application: but it
has this good effect, that, while it satisfies and fixes the mind, it does not cheat it into a false estimate of its own powers. On the contrary, superficial knowledge dazzles by the rapidity of its attainment; and, while it impresses us with a notion of our own superiority, leads us to despise those who have travelled by slower steps. It is thus that young women sometimes entertain an overweening idea of their own talents: they are, as the phrase is, well educated; that is, they have been taught a great many things; and they think to impress others with the same opinion of their proficiency with which they delude themselves.
It is indeed no wonder that young women should be so very clever now-a-days. There are so many helps to learning, and steps to Parnassus; there are so many pioneers to pave the way, that it is a libel any longer to call it steep. If grammar be dry and abstruse, its necessity is superseded; — if the dictionary be irksome, there is the interlined translation; if the classic author be obscure and ponderous, there are the lucid paraphrase and the elegant