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REVIEW OF DISCIPLINE.
And do you think there are any who are influenced by this? Oh lud: yes, sir;-the number of those, who undergo the fatigue of judging for themselves is very small indeed.—Sheridan's Critic. The satirist may laugh, and the moralist declaim, but the novelist continues to weave his tissue, and the world is ready to read. No species of writing is more generally acceptable than the novel; it is the delight of the young, and the amusement of the wise. What then can be more injudicious, than that indiscriminate censure, so lavishly be. stowed where it is likely to produce so little of the desired effect? It cannot be proved that a novel, considered merely as a work of imagination, contains in itself any deleterious principle. Fictitious narrative is a powerful incen. tive to that curiosity which is inherent in every human mind, and, therefore, may be presumed to have been implanted in the heart for beneficial purposes: and may we not, also, observe, with becoming reverence, that instruction not less than divine, has been communicated in this interesting vehicle? That this power has been abused— most grossly abused, we shall not deny: but we are altogether willing to acknowledge our obligation to those who have used the enchantment, not to bewilder the judgment, but to allure our steps to that path where alone true honour may be found. Of the modern works offiction, we believe it can be said, that some, at least, may be read with safety, and even with
advantage; for it is highly creditable to the present race, both of writers and readers, that a reform has commenced. The coarseness and impiety that was disseminated in this fascinating form, but a few years ago, would not be tolerated by the most inconsiderate of the present day in our country. To be read now, an author must tame his imagination—he must refine his sentiments, and purify his language. That, which would once have been an anomaly in letters—a novel recommending, and enforcing by precept and example, an important religious principle—has of late been attempted with the happiest effect. Perhaps it might be assuming too much to infer the taste of the public from the celebrity of Coelebs—the name of Miss More is a talisman which leaves nothing to the judgment of her reader. But may we not fairly try the question on some others that have subsequently appeared—particularly two, the productions of an anonymous author? We allude to the novels entitled Self Control and Discipline. These works have had an extensive circulation, and their merit is attested by the most unqualified approbation; and the object of both, is, expressly, to display the power of religious principle in restraining the passions, and the necessity and advantage of implanting the precious seed in early life. They are both excellent, though we must object, in Self Control, to some incidents which are of a complexion too romantic for the approbation of a sober judgment, and of too rare occurrence to afford a rule of practical observation. But our young female readers may there receive a lesson, the vast importance of which they are scarcely able to appreciate, at an age when the understanding is most liable
to be perverted by the pleadings of the heart—never to commit their happiness to a man who is not governed by “the fear of Him who seeth in secret;” and they are also taught, by a successful example, the power of Christian principle to resist, and finally to eradicate an ill-placed af. fection. But Discipline, which we think the preferable production, it is more immediately our present intention to commend. It is the design of this interesting work to show, that that which was declared by the royal preacher to be true in the day of his reign—that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child,” and that if the “rod of correction” be not employed in infancy to “drive it far from him”—it will probably require the severer discipline of adversity and sorrow in after life, to extract the destructive root. This is not a fashionable doctrine, but it stands upon the immutable basis of truth. It cannot be shaken by scoffers, nor can it be demolished by the doctors in the school of modern philosophy. The heroine, and the subject of “Discipline,” is Ellen Percy, and she is her own biographer. “Having escaped from imminent peril,” she is “prompted to warn others of the danger of their way.” “Proud, petulant, and rebellious from her infancy,” she, more than commonly, required the faithful hand of parental culture and restraint: but this blessing was denied to her; for her father—a very wealthy merchant—had imbibed the opinion that the sum and substance of all merit, consisted in money; and “as she would be the heiress of two hundred thousand pounds, there was no fear of her happiness,” and her equally weak and indul. gent, though better inclined mother, “was too gentle to
bestow even merited reproof!” The unhappy child was accordingly abandoned to her own capricious humours. Caressed, admired, and extolled, it is not to be wondered that she became the miserable slave of her own ungoverned passions, and the tyrant of her family. “Yet let not these relentings of nature,” she says, “be called weakness; or if the stern moralist refuse to spare, let it disarm his severity to learn—that I was an only child.” Here is an important lesson to parents : The very circumstances that give them the ability to bestow the requisite attention, is made the apology for their criminal neglect. Is it not easier, we would ask, to rear a single flower than to cultivate a garden? We have too much respect for the good sense of this author to suppose that she intended to speak in her own person, when she advances so silly an apology for the lamentable weakness of this most unfortunate mother. We know that it is quite a common excuse for the waywardness of a child, that it is the sole inheritor of its paternal name. The argument of such indulgent parents amounts to no more than this: “I had little to do, and therefore, I did nothing;” indeed, it may be pushed further; they do worse than nothing. In the care of a single child a mother is released from the difficulties which arise from the various humours and conflicting tempers of a numerous offspring, and in this instance, she has been blessed by all the stores of affluence with the means of “training up a child in the way it should go.” Her responsibility is, therefore, increased. That excess of affection which seems to be supposed in this case, will not be admitted by her matronly readers, whose days and whose
nights have been spent in a crowded nursery. We never met with a well-principled lady of this description, whose bosom thrilled with the domestic charities that did not contend against this sort of reasoning. Their hearts, they say, are sufficiently capacious to embrace, with equal affection, all that has been intrusted to them. Like the sun they glance on all, and afford to each his share of influence, nutriment and life. The affection of a mother for a single child is more obvious, as the power of this luminary is more striking when its rays are concentrated to a focus: but it shines with the same brilliancy, and diffuses the same heat in every direction in which it is intended to operate. At the very early age of eight years, we find Miss Percy already commencing the “giddy round” of pleasure. She has an invitation to go with a friend to a play. She has been confined to the house by a sore throat, and her mother refused to let her go out;-but, unaccustomed to acquiescence in the will of her parents, she persevered in her determination to be gratified. Entreaties were vain, and commands were resisted;—she prevailed by the well-known artifice of all little masters and misses; she screamed till she terrified both father and mother into submission. “My mother;” she says, “was one of the finer order of spirits—she had an elegant, a tender, a pious mind. Often did she strive to raise my young heart to Him from whom I had so lately received my being. But, alas! her too partial fondness, overlooked in her darling the growth of that pernicious weed whose shade is deadly to every plant of celestial origin. She continued unconsciously to foster in me that spirit of pride, which may indeed admit the transient