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rational creatures and free citizens...
The good effects resulting from attention to private
education will ever be very confined, and the parent who really puts
his own hand to the plough, will always, in some degree, be disappointed,
till education becomes a grand national concern.
A child very soon contracts a benumbing indolence of mind, which he has seldom sufficient vigour afterwards to shake off, when he only asks a question instead of seeking for information, and then relies implicitly on the answer he receives. With his equals in age this could never be the case, and the subjects of inquiry, though they might be influenced, would not be entirely under the direction of men, who frequently damp, if not destroy, abilities, by bringing them forward too hastily: and too hastily they will infallibly be brought forward, if the child be confined to the society of a man, however sagacious that man may be.
Besides, in you the seeds of every affection should
be sown, and the respectful regard, which is felt for a parent, is very
different from the social affections that are to constitute the happiness
of life as it advances. Of these equality is the basis, and an intercourse
of sentiments unclogged by that observant seriousness which prevents disputation,
though it may not enforce submission.
Forcibly impressed by the reflections which the sight of schools, as they are at present conducted, naturally suggested, I have formerly delivered my opinion rather warmly in favour of a private education; but further experience has led me to view the subject in a different light. I still, however, think schools, as they are now regulated, the hot-beds of vice and folly, and the knowledge of human nature, supposed to be attained there, merely cunning selfishness.
At school boys become gluttons and slovens, and, instead of cultivating domestic affections, very early rush into the libertinism which destroys the constitution before it is formed; hardening the heart as it weakens the understanding.
I should, in fact, be averse to boarding-schools, if it were for no other reason than the unsettled state of mind which the expectation of the vacations produces. On these the children's thoughts are fixed with eager anticipating hopes, for, at least, to speak with moderation, half of the time, and when they arrive they are spent in total dissipation and beastly indulgence.
But, on the contrary, when they are brought up at home, though they may pursue a plan of study in a more orderly manner than can be adopted when near a fourth part of the year is actually spent in idleness, and as much more in regret and anticipation; yet they there acquire too high an opinion of their own importance, from birth, allowed to tyrannise over servants, and from the anxiety expressed by most mothers, on the score of manners, who, eager to teach the accomplishments of a gentleman, stifle, in their birth, the virtues of a man. Thus brought into company when they ought to be seriously employed, and treated like men when they are still boys, they become vain and effeminate.
The only way to avoid two extremes equally injurious
to morality would be to contrive some way of combining a public and private
I still recollect, with pleasure, the country day-school;
where a boy trudged in the morning, wet or dry, carrying his books, and
his dinner, if it were at a considerable distance; a servant did not then
lead master by the hand, for, when he had once put on coat and breeches,
he was allowed to shift for himself, and return alone in the evening to
recount the feats of the day close at the parental knee.
But, what boy ever recollected with pleasure the
years he spent in close confinement, at an academy near London? unless,
indeed, he should, by chance, remember the poor scarecrow of an usher,
whom he tormented; or, the tartman, from whom he caught a cake, to devour
it with a cattish appetite of selfishness.
But the fear of innovation, in this country,
extends to everything. This is only a covert fear, the apprehensive
timidity of indolent slugs, who guard, by sliming it over, the snug place,
which they consider in the light of an hereditary estate; and eat, drink,
and enjoy themselves, instead of fulfilling the duties, excepting a few
empty forms, for which it was endowed.
No, wise in their generation, they venerate the prescriptive right of
possession, as a stronghold, and still let the sluggish bell tinkle to
prayers, as during the days when the elevation of the host was supposed
to atone for the sins of the people, lest one reformation should lead to
another, and the spirit kill the letter.
Nothing, indeed, can be more irreverent than the
cathedral service as it is now performed in this country, neither does
it contain a set of weaker men than those who are the slaves of this childish
Amongst remarks on national education, such observations
cannot be misplaced, especially as the supporters of these establishments,
degenerated into puerilities, affect to be the champions of religion. Religion,
pure source of comfort in this vale of tears! how has thy clear stream
been muddied by the dabblers, who have presumptuously endeavoured to confine
in one narrow channel, the living waters that ever flow towards God - the
sublime ocean of existence!
In public schools, however, religion, confounded with irksome ceremonies and unreasonable restraints, assumes the most ungracious aspect: not the sober austere one that commands respect whilst it inspires fear; but a ludicrous cast, that serves to point a pun. For, in fact, most of the good stories and smart things will enliven the spirits that have been concentrated at whist, are manufactured out of the incidents to which the very men labour to give a droll turn who countenance the abuse to live on the spoil.
There is not, perhaps, in the kingdom, a more
dogmatical, or luxurious set of men, than the pedantic tyrants who reside
in colleges and preside at public schools. The vacations are equally
injurious to the morals of the masters and pupils, and the intercourse,
which the former keep up with the nobility, introduces the same vanity
and extravagance into their families, which banish domestic duties and
comforts from the lordly mansion, whose state is awkwardly aped.
Can it then be a matter of surprise that boys become selfish and vicious who are thus shut out from social converse? or that a mitre often graces the brow of one of these diligent pastors?
The desire of living in the same style, as the
rank just above them, infects each individual and every class of people,
and meanness is the concomitant of this ignoble ambition; but those professions
are most debasing whose ladder is patronage; yet, out of one of these professions
the tutors of youth are, in general, chosen.
So far, however, from thinking of the morals of boys, I have heard several masters of schools argue, that they only undertook to teach Latin and Greek; and that they had fulfilled their duty, by sending some good scholars to college.
A few good scholars, I grant, may have been formed by emulation and discipline; but, to bring forward these clever boys, the health and morals of a number have been sacrificed. The sons of our gentry and wealthy commoners are mostly educated at these seminaries, and will anyone pretend to assert that the majority, making every allowance, come under the description of tolerable scholars?
It is not for the benefit of society that a few
brilliant men should be brought forward at the expense of the multitude.
It is true, that great men seem to start up, as great revolutions occur,
at proper intervals, to restore order, and to blow aside the clouds that
thicken over the face of truth; but let more reason and virtue prevail
in society, and these strong winds would not be necessary.
Few, I believe, have had much affection for
mankind, who did not first love their parents, their brothers, sisters,
and even the domestic brutes, whom they first played with. The exercise
of youthful sympathies forms the moral temperature; and it is the recollection
of these first affections and pursuits that gives life to those that are
afterwards more under the direction of reason.
In order then to inspire a love of home and domestic pleasures, children ought to be educated at home for riotous holidays only make them fond of home for their own sakes. Yet, the vacations, which do not foster domestic affections, continually disturb the course of study, and render any plan of improvement abortive which includes temperance; still, were they abolished, children would be entirely separated from their parents, and I question whether they would become better citizens by sacrificing the preparatory affections, by destroying the force of relationships that render the marriage state as necessary as respectable. But, if a private education produce self-importance, or insulate a man in his family, the evil is only shifted, not remedied.
This train of reasoning brings me back to a subject, on which mean to dwell, the necessity of establishing proper day-schools.
But, these should be national
establishments, for whilst schoolmasters are dependent on the caprice of
parents, little exertion can be expected from them, more than is necessary
to please ignorant people. Indeed, the necessity of a master's giving the
parents some sample of the boy's abilities, which during the vacation is
shown to every visitor,  is productive of more
mischief than would at first be supposed. For it is seldom done entirely,
to speak with moderation, by the child itself; thus the master countenances
falsehood, or winds the poor machine up to some extraordinary exertion,
that injures the wheels, and stops the progress of gradual improvement.
How much time is lost in teaching them to recite
what they do not understand? whilst, seated on benches, all in their best
array, the mammas listen with astonishment to the parrot like prattle,
uttered in solemn cadences, with all the pomp of ignorance and folly.
Yet, how can these things be remedied whilst schoolmaster depend entirely on parents for a subsistence; and, when so many rival schools hang out their lures, to catch the attention of vain fathers and mothers, whose parental affection only leads them to wish that their children should outshine those of their neighbours?
Without great good luck, a sensible, conscientious man, would starve before he could raise a school, if he disdained to bubble weak parents by practising the secret tricks of the craft.
In the best regulated schools, however, where swarms
are not crammed together, many bad habits must be acquired; but, at common
schools, the body, heart, and understanding, are equally stunted, for parents
are often only in quest of the cheapest school, and the master could not
live, if he did not take a much greater number than he could manage himself;
nor will the scanty pittance, allowed for each child, permit him to hire
ushers sufficient to assist in the discharge of the mechanical part of
With what disgust have I heard
sensible women, for girls are more restrained and cowed than boys, speak
of the wearisome confinement, which they endured at school.
The little respect paid to chastity in the male world is, I am persuaded, the grand source of many of the physical and moral evils that torment mankind, as well as of the vices and follies that degrade and destroy women; yet, at school, boys infallibly lose that decent bashfulness, which might have ripened into modesty, at home.
And what nasty indecent tricks do they not also
learn from each other, when a number of them pig together in the same bedchamber,
not to speak of the vices, which render the body weak, whilst they effectually
prevent the acquisition of any delicacy of mind.
I have already animadverted on the bad habits which
females acquire when they are shut up together; and, I think, that the
observation may fairly be extended to the other sex, till the natural inference
is drawn which I have had in view throughout - that to improve both
sexes they ought, not only in private families, but in public schools,
to be educated together.
Were boys and girls permitted to pursue the same
studies together, those graceful decencies might early be inculcated which
produce modesty without those sexual distinctions that taint the mind.
A taste for the fine arts requires great cultivation,
but not more than a taste for the virtuous affections, and both suppose
that enlargement of mind which opens so many sources of mental pleasure.
This argument may be carried further than philosophers are rare of, for if nature destined woman, in particular, for the discharge of domestic duties, she made her susceptible of the attached affections in a great degree. Now women are notoriously fond of pleasure, and naturally must be so according to my definition, because they cannot enter into the minutia of domestic taste, lacking judgment, the foundation of all taste; for the understanding, in spite of sensual cavillers, reserves to itself the privilege of conveying pure joy to the heart.
With what a languid yawn have I seen an admirable
poem thrown down that a man of true taste returns to again and again with
rapture; and whilst melody has almost suspended respiration, a lady has
asked me where I bought my gown.
To illustrate this remark I must be allowed to observe that men of the first genius and most cultivated minds have appeared to have the highest relish for the simple beauties of nature; and they must have forcibly felt, what they have so well described, the charm which natural affections and unsophisticated feelings spread round the human character. It is this power of looking into the heart, and responsively vibrating with each emotion, that enables the poet to personify each passion, and the painter to sketch with a pencil of fire.
True taste is ever the work of the understanding employed in observing natural effects; and till women have more understanding, it is vain to expect them to possess domestic taste. Their lively senses will ever be at work to harden their hearts, and the emotions struck out of them will continue to be vivid and transitory, unless a proper education store their mind with knowledge.
It is the want of domestic taste, and not the acquirement
of knowledge, that takes women out of their families, and tears the smiling
babe from the breast that ought to afford it nourishment.
History brings forward a fearful catalogue of the
crimes which their cunning has produced, when the weak slaves nave had
sufficient address to overreach their masters.
When therefore I call women slaves, I mean in a political and civil sense; for indirectly they obtain too much power, and are debased by their exertions to obtain illicit sway.
Let an enlightened nation 
then try what effect reason would have to bring them back to nature, and
their duty; and allowing them to share the advantages of education and
government with man, see whether they will become better, as they grow
wiser and become free.
To render this practicable, day-schools for particular ares should be established by Government, in which boys and girls might be educated together. The school for the younger children, from five to nine years of age, ought to be absolutely free and open to all classes.  A sufficient number of masters should also be chosen by a select committee in each parish, to whom any complaint of negligence, etc., might be made, if signed by six of the children's parents.
Ushers would then be unnecessary; for I believe
experience will ever prove that this kind of subordinate authority is particularly
injurious to the morals of youth. What, indeed, can tend to deprave the
character more than outward submission and inward contempt?
But nothing of this kind could occur in an elementary
day school, where boys and girls, the rich and poor, should meet together.
And to prevent any of the distinctions of vanity, they should be dressed
alike, and all obliged to submit to the same discipline, or leave the school.
The schoolroom ought to be surrounded by a large piece of ground, in which
the children might be usefully exercised, for at this age they should not
be confined to any sedentary employment for more than an hour at a time.
But these relaxations might all be rendered a part
of elementary education, for many things improve and amuse the senses,
when introduced as a kind of show, to the principles of which, dryly laid
down, children would turn a deaf ear.
After the age of nine, girls and boys, intended for domestic employments, or mechanical trades, ought to be removed to other schools, and receive instruction in some measure appropriated to the destination of each individual, the two sexes being still together in the morning; but in the afternoon the girls should attend a school, where plain work, mantua-making, millinery, etc., would be their employment.
The young people of superior abilities, or fortune, might now be taught, in another school, the dead and living languages, the elements of science, and continue the study of history and politics, on a more extensive scale, which would not exclude polite literature.
Girls and boys still together? I hear some readers
Besides, this would be a sure way to promote early
marriages, from early marriages the most salutary physical and moral effects
naturally flow. What a different character does a married citizen assume
from the selfish coxcomb, who lives but for himself, and who is often afraid
to marry lest he should not be able to live in a certain style.
In this plan of education the constitution of boys would not be ruined by the early debaucheries, which now make men so selfish, or girls rendered weak and vain, by indolence, and frivolous pursuits. But, I presuppose, that such a degree of equality should be established between the sexes as would shut out gallantry and coquetry, yet allow friendship and love to temper the heart for the discharge of higher duties.
These would be schools of morality - and the happiness of man, allowed to flow from the pure springs of duty and affection, what advances might not the human mind make? Society can only be happy and free in proportion as it is virtuous; but the present distinctions, established in society, corrode all private, and blast all public virtue.
I have already inveighed against the custom of confining girls to their needle, and shutting them out from all political and civil employments; for by thus narrowing their minds they are rendered unfit to fulfil the peculiar duties which Nature has assigned them.
Only employed about the little incidents of the
day, they necessarily grow up cunning.
But these littlenesses would not degrade their
character, if women were led to respect themselves, if political and moral
subjects were opened to them; and, I will venture to affirm, that this
is the only way to make them properly attentive to their domestic duties.
Besides, what can be more indelicate than a girl's
coming out in the fashionable world? Which, in other words, is to bring
to market a marriageable miss, whose person is taken from one public place
to another, richly caparisoned.
I only drop these observations at present, as hints; rather, indeed, as an outline of the plan I mean, than a digested one; but I must add, that I highly approve of one regulation mentioned in the pamphlet  already alluded to, that of making the children and youths independent of the masters respecting punishments. They should be tried by their peers, which would be an admirable method of fixing sound principles of justice in the mind, and might have the happiest effect on the temper, which is very early soured or irritated by tyranny, till it becomes peevishly cunning, or ferociously overbearing.
My imagination darts forward with benevolent fervour to greet these amiable and respectable groups, in spite of the sneering of cold hearts, who are at liberty to utter, with frigid self-importance, the damning epithet - romantic; the force of which I shall endeavour to blunt by repeating the words of an eloquent moralist: "I know not whether the allusions of a truly humane heart, whose zeal renders everything easy, be not preferable to that rough and repulsing reason, which always finds an indifference for the public good, the first obstacle to whatever would promote it."
I know that libertines will also exclaim, that
woman would be unsexed by acquiring strength of body and mind, and that
beauty, soft bewitching beauty! would no longer adorn the daughters of
I do not forget the popular opinion that the Grecian
statues were not modelled after nature. I mean, not according to the proportion
of a particular man; but that beautiful limbs and features were selected
from various bodies to form an harmonious whole. This might, in some degree,
be true. The fine ideal picture of an exalted imagination might be superior
to the materials which the statuary found in nature, and thus it might
with propriety be termed rather the model of mankind than of a man.
I observed that it was not mechanical because a
whole was produced - a model of that grand simplicity, of those concurring
energies, which arrest our attention and command our reverence.
Humanity to animals should be particularly inculcated as a part of national education, for it is not at present one of our national virtues. Tenderness for their humble dumb domestics, amongst the lower class, is oftener to be found in a savage than a civilised state. For civilisation prevents that intercourse which creates affection in the rude hut, or mud hovel, and leads uncultivated minds who are only depraved by the refinements which prevail in the society, where they are trodden under foot by the rich, to domineer over them to revenge the insults that they are obliged to bear from their superiors.
This habitual cruelty is first caught at school,
where it is one of the rare sports of the boys to torment the miserable
brutes that fall in their way. The transition, as they grow up, from barbarity
to brutes to domestic tyranny over wives, children, and servants, is very
The vulgar are swayed by present feelings, and
the habits which they have accidentally acquired; but on partial feelings
much dependence cannot be placed, though they be just; for, when they are
not invigorated by reflection, custom weakens them, till they are scarcely
But, when I used the epithet vulgar, I did not mean to confine my remark to the poor, for partial humanity, founded on present sensations, or whim, is quite as conspicuous, if not more so, amongst the rich.
The lady who sheds tears for the bird starved in
a snare, and execrates the devils in the shape of men, who goad to madness
the poor ox, or whip the patient ass, tottering under a burden above its
strength, will nevertheless keep her coachman and horses whole hours waiting
for her, when the sharp frost bites, or the rain beats against the well-closed
windows which do not admit a breath of air to tell her how roughly the
wind blows without.
I do not like to make a distinction without a difference, and I own that I have been as much disgusted by the fine lady who took her lap-dog to her bosom instead of her child; as by the ferocity of a man, who, beating his horse, declared, that he knew as well when he did wrong, as a Christian.
This brood of folly shows how mistaken they are
who, if they allow women to leave their harems, do not cultivate their
understandings, in order to plant virtues in their hearts.
My observations on national education are obviously hints; but I principally wish to enforce the necessity of educating the sexes together to perfect both, and of making children sleep at home that they may learn to love home; yet to make private support, instead of smothering, public affections, they should be sent to school to mix with a number of equals, for only by the jostlings of equality can we form a just opinion of ourselves.
To render mankind more virtuous, and happier of
course, both sexes must act from the same principle; but how can that be
expected when only one is allowed to see the reasonableness of it?
It is plain from the history of all nations, that women cannot be confined to merely domestic pursuits, for they will not fulfil family duties, unless their minds take a wider range, and whilst they are kept in ignorance they become in the same proportion the slaves of pleasure as they are the slaves of man. Nor can they be shut out of great enterprises, though the narrowness of their minds often make them mar, what they are unable to comprehend.
The libertinism, and even the virtues of superior
men, will always give women, of some description, great power over them;
and these weak women, under the influence of childish passions and selfish
vanity, will throw a false light over the objects which the very men view
with their eyes, who ought to enlighten their judgment.
For in the transactions of business it is much
better to have to deal with a knave than a fool, because a knave adheres
to some plan; and any plan of reason may be seen through much sooner than
a sudden flight of folly.
Whoever drew a more exalted female character than
Rousseau? though in the lump he constantly endeavoured to degrade the sex.
And why was he thus anxious? Truly to justify to himself the affection
which weakness and virtue had made him cherish for that fool Theresa. He
could not raise her to the common level of her sex; and therefore he laboured
to bring woman down to hers. He found her a convenient humble companion,
and pride made him determine to find some superior virtues in the being
whom he chose to live with; but did not her conduct during his life, and
after his death, clearly show how grossly he was mistaken who called her
a celestial innocent?
Men are, however, often gratified by this kind of fondness, which is confined in a beastly manner to themselves; but should they ever become more virtuous, they will wish to converse at their fireside with a friend after they cease to play with a mistress.
Besides, understanding is necessary to give variety
and interest to sensual enjoyments, for low indeed in the intellectual
scale is the mind that can continue to love when neither virtue nor sense
give a human appearance to an animal appetite. will always preponderate;
and if women be not, in general, brought more on a level with men, some
superior like the Greek courtesans, will assemble the men of abilities
around them, and draw from their families many citizens, who would have
stayed at home had their wives had more sense, or the graces which result
from the exercise of the understanding and fancy, the legitimate parents
In France or Italy, have the women confined themselves
to domestic life?
Make them free, and they will quickly become wise and virtuous, as men become more so, for the improvement must be mutual, or the injustice which one-half of the human race are obliged to submit to retorting on their oppressors, the virtue of man will be worm-eaten by the insect whom he keeps under his feet.
Let men take their choice. Man and woman were made for each other, though not to become one being; and if they will not improve women, they will deprave them.
I speak of the improvement and emancipation of
the whole sex, for I know that the behaviour of a few women, who, by accident,
or following a strong bent of nature, have acquired a portion of knowledge
superior to that of the rest of their sex, has often been overbearing;
but there have been instances of women who, attaining knowledge, have not
discarded modesty, nor have they always pedantically appeared to despise
the ignorance which they laboured to disperse in their own minds.
But, allowing what is very natural to man, that
the possession of rare abilities is really calculated to excite over-weening
pride, disgusting in both men and women, in what a state of inferiority
must the female faculties have rusted when such a small portion of knowledge
as those women attained, who have sneeringly been termed learned women,
could be singular? - sufficiently so to puff up the possessor, and excite
envy in her contemporaries, and some of the other sex.
Indeed, if it were only on this account, the national
education of women is of the utmost consequence, for what a number of human
sacrifices are made to that Moloch prejudice!
So forcibly does this truth strike me that I would rest the whole tendency of my reasoning upon it, for whatever tends to incapacitate the maternal character, takes woman out of her sphere.
But it is vain to expect the present race of weak
mothers either to take that reasonable care of a child's body, which is
necessary to lay the foundation of a good constitution, supposing that
it do not suffer for the sins of its fathers; or to manage its temper so
judiciously that the child will not have, as it grows up, to throw off
all that its mother, its first instructor directly or indirectly taught;
and unless the mind have uncommon vigour, womanish follies will stick to
the character throughout life.
In public schools women, to guard against the errors
of ignorance, should be taught the elements of anatomy and medicine, not
only to enable them to take proper care of their own health, but to make
them rational nurses of their infants, parents, and husbands; for the bills
of mortality are swelled by the blunders of self-willed old women, who
give nostrums of their own without knowing anything of the human frame.
A man has been termed a microcosm, and every family might also be called a state. States, it is true, have mostly been governed by arts that disgrace the character of man, and the want of a just constitution and equal laws have so perplexed the notions of the worldly wise, that they more than question the reasonableness of contending for the rights of humanity. Thus morality, polluted in the national reservoir, sends off streams of vice to corrupt the constituent parts of the body politic; but should more noble, or rather more just, principles regulate the laws, which ought to be the government of society, and not those who execute them, duty might become the rule of private conduct.
Besides, by the exercise of their bodies and minds
women would acquire that mental activity so necessary in the maternal character,
united with the fortitude that distinguishes steadiness of conduct from
the obstinate perverseness of weakness.
But fortitude presupposes strength of mind, and
is strength of mind to be acquired by indolent acquiescence? by asking
advice instead of exerting the judgment? by obeying through fear, instead
of practising the forbearance which we all stand in need of ourselves?
Discussing the advantages which a public and private education combined, as I have sketched, might rationally be expected to produce, I have dwelt most on such as are particularly relative to the female world, because I think the female world pressed; yet the gangrene, which the vices engendered by oppression have produced, is not confined to the morbid part, but pervades society at large; so that when I wish to see my sex become more like moral agents, my heart bounds with the anticipation of the general diffusion of that sublime contentment which only morality can diffuse.
 I now particularly allude to the numerous academies in and about London, and to the behaviour of the trading part of this city. RETURN TO TEXT
 I remember a circumstance that once came
under my own observation, and raised my indignation. I went to visit a
little boy at a school where young children were prepared for a large one.
 France. RETURN TO TEXT
 Treating this part of the subject, I have borrowedsome hints from a very sensible pamphlet, written by the late Bishop of Autun, on "Public Education." RETURN TO TEXT
 The Bishop of Autun's. RETURN TO TEXT
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