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dled by the flame of genius ;-To say nothing of these, and of a thousand other absurdities, it is impossible to pardon the total want of principle which pervades the whole detestable system. In a few words, it may be thus explained. Life is a jeft; therefore, to aim at the advancement of human happiness, as your grand object, and at the approbation of your Maker as your ultimate reward, must of course be ridiculous. To put on the appearance of generosity, humanity, and difinterestedness, is indeed no bad policy ; but the sole end which you ought ever to pursue, either directly or indirectly, is the promotion of
your own interest. Many things are useful or valuable as means ; but the great end to which they are all to be considered as subservient, is to rise in the world; for which purpose you need not fcruple to make use of the established modes of the court; artifice, dissimulation, and debauchery. Vice and virtue are antiquated distinctions ; do not perplex yourself by attending to them; the grand distinction, which it is necessary to keep continually in view, is between that which is fashionable and that which is vulgar. So far as virtue is connected with fashion, it is to be followed; fo far as vice implies vulgarity, it is to be shunned. There are some things, however, of universal and perpetual obligation; and though a strict obfervance of the articles of the Decalogue may be dispensed with, never hope for advancement, or even for pardon, if you fail to enter gracefully into a
room, to dance a good minuet, to make a genteel bow, to pare your nails close, and to keep your teeth clean.
Having thus freely declared my disapprobation of a plan I regard as essentially wrong, I shall concisely state my sentiments respecting that which I believe to be right. I am clearly of opinion, that the culture of the human mind cannot commence at too early a period. An infant who has attained to the use of language is capable of receiving numberless ideas; and it is of
grea importance that the first ideas with which the mind of a child is impressed, should be such as are favourable to virtue. The light of reason begins to dawn much sooner than is perhaps generally imagined ; and the difference between children who have not passed the years of infancy, with respect both to virtue and knowledge, is such as can scarcely be believed but by those who have examined them with philosophical atten. tion. Never was there an idea more monstrously absurd and pernicious than that started by Roulfeau, respecting the propriety of keeping children in ignorance till they have attained to an age in which they may judge without prejudice. Ignorance in this case can only mean ignorance of what is good; for if the blossoms of virtue and knowledge do not appear in consequence of early diligence in sowing the feed, the weeds of idleness and vice will infallibly overspread the soil; weels
which it will afterwards be found difficult if not impossible to eradicate; besides, if the human mind could be retained in a state of perfect neutrality to the age specified by Rousseau, how absurd is it to expect that it should then be capable of deciding upon questions which have divided mankind for ages. ' In fact, the first opinions we emę brace, at whatever time of life we may commence our enquiries, are, and must be, those of our im, mediate instructors : Nor is the evil in the least diminished by delaying the period of that commencement. Happy is it when those instặuctors encourage their pupils impartialļy to investigate the opinions which they inculcate, and take a real fatisfaction in diffusing the liberal spirit of free enquiry and unbounded discussion.
I acknowledge myself an advocate for a very high degree of indulgence in the treatment of youth Some very worthy and respectable people have unfortunately imbibed a notion, that the parental authority ought to be exercised with rigour, and that implicit obedience is almost the only lesson which needs to be inculcated. Of the fatal effects of this plan experience exhibits the most melancholy proofs. Virtue is indeed with such persons the great object of this, as it ought to be of every plan of Education; but it is associated with ideas fo gloomy, it presents an aspect so harsh and disgusting, that youțh, naturally averse to seriousness, and much more to austerity, flies to vice as to a refuge;
and at that critical period of life when the reItraints so long impatiently submitted to, must at last suffer relaxation, is too often seen to throw off every appearance of regard to that which has ever been the object of its secret aversion. I presume I scarcely need to say, that I do not mean to recommend that absurd and pernicious species of indulgence by which temporary caprice is gratified at the expence of future happiness, but that which aims and is calculated to excite af fection and confidence. All recreations, tending either to health or rational amusement, should be not only allowed but encouraged :-An unreserved intercourse of conversation, promoted by kindness, condescension, and a flattering appear. ance of regard and attention. The first principles of knowledge and virtue may be inculcated in a thousand different ways, by a skilful and watchful instructor; and the understanding will make rapid and vigorous shoots where it has free scope to expand itself in all directions; and if the early blossoms appear somewhat luxuriant, it is far better than that “ Nature's wild vigour “ working at the root” should be chilled by neglect, or blasted by severity. Mildness and indulgence, guided by good sense and prudence, on the part of the parent, must necessarily generate affection and gratitude in the breasts of the children; and I will venture to lay it down as an almost infallible maxim, that if children are chargeable with a failure of duty in those re$ 4
spects, it is owing to some radical error in the conduct of the parents.
As to the long-contested question respecting the fuperior eligibility of a public or private Education, I cannot but give a decided opi nion in favour of the former. All the powers and faculties of the mind have a freer scope and a wider range in a public than a private seminary; and a man who has had the advantage of a public Education, will in general retain through life a certain fuperiority over another of equal abilities and knowledge brought up under the care of a domestic tutor. I think, also, that with respect to learning, i, e, classical learning, public schools have a manifest advantage over private seminaries; and though the general rule, in this case, must after all admit of many ex, ceptions, and the true question is not, whether. a public or private Education is best, but whe, ther one or the other is best for a particular individual ; yet I repeat, that I have no doubt but, for the majority, a public Education will be found most eligible. In order to secure the advantages which may, with proper care and caution, be expected from this mode of Education, the most affiduous endeavours should, doubtless, be used, from the earliest dawn of reafon, to inculcate just and noble principles of action; and for some years previous to the entrance of a youth into this interesting scene, perhaps from the age of seven or eight, to twelve or