« ПредишнаНапред »
proportion, be rejected. Accustomed to the light and spacious apartments, he would not venture into a dark passage without his nurse or governante.
Suppose, on the other hand, a child, the off. spring of laborious and indigent parents; its birth is effected upon the straw, or upon sacking, with. out curtains; the wind blows hard through the casement; the mother lies down contented with her small beer caudle, and on the third and fourth day she is up, and dandling the babe upon her knee, or dancing it in her arms. · The mother of the other, meanwhile, is gradually recovering from the pains of labour, upon a couch of down; stops up every: crevice of air, 6 lest the breeze of heaven should visit her too roughly." Dares not rise till she is sufficiently weakened by the forms of a fashionable lying-in, as it is, in this case, emphatieally called; and, at last, after much effort, and more ceremony, she ventures abroad, on some auspicious, sun shiny Jay, under the fortification of cloaks, hoods, and handkerchiefs, just to take an airing, with the glasses of her carriage drawn up, and then returns to her chamber, shivering at those gales which fan the face of the poor woman, who inhales them as the most natural restoratives of health and beauty.
About the time that the rich child begins to know the delicacy of its condition, the poor one would find itself promising and hardy, and, in some degree inured to the storms of life. Let them be at this period each five years old ; the one has acquired a sensation of softness, the other an habit of hardiness. Suppose then, about this time, it were possible for them to change situations. The pennyless lad shall go into the warm villa, the rich stripling into the cold cottage ;-what would be the consequence? Exactly the same as if the two mothers and fathers, were to exchange. All would be distress, dilemma, confusion, and awkwardness : the pampered youth would crowd over the wretched bit of a blaze, made by two sticks laid across a brick; and the lad who was bred in a tempest, and seasoned to wind and weather, would very probably toss his plaything against the fine sash-window to let in the air, and prevent suffocation.
Thus far I have spoken respecting the influence of early habits on the body. Let us now see what effect they have on the mind. The connection betwixt our mortal and immortal part, is far closer than betwixt man and wife. Nothing can befal the one that is indifferent to the other: sympathy implanted by nature is powerfully reciprocated; and the tie is at once tender and forcible. Consequently, the minds of those two boys, must be affected very sensibly by their respective educations and customs. As they grow up, those customs will so strengthen, that nothing but « death or heaven” can reconcile them to an innovation, either in thought, word, or deed. The poor boy having heard nothing but unpolished language, ate nothing but coarse food, and passed his day amongst clowns and cattle, will continue in the track, and if, by an unlucky stroke of chance, he be called to new pursuits, his misery must be dated from the day on which he deserted the spade, the ploughshare, or the fail. The rich boy, in the mean time, rises into man, amidst the clash of car. riages, the comfort of couches, and the luxuries of laziness. His ears are accustomed to music, fashion, and flattery; his eyes are daily charmed with objects of dissipation or delight. No possible acci. dent could be more fatal to his peace, than a sudden deprivation of these pleasures. Take him again into the hut, he finds himself like a fish upon land, out of his element: the greatest transports of the peasant, are to him agony; and every thing
around, and within him, is as strange as if he had stepped into a new world. Why is all this? Merely because they have been taught to think, and feel, and act differently.
We will proceed, gentle reader, if you please, to further familiar illustrations. Imagine that when these children were five weeks old, the mother of the poorest, reduced to extreme necessity, puts her infant in a basket, and lays it at the door of a person equally celebrated for wealth and bene. volence-the gentleman takes it into his house, clothes, feeds, and educates it as his own-that very infant, which with the parent would be the lout I have described, would, with its protector, be as different a creature as could exist. His pains, passions, pleasures, and ideas, totally reversed-imagine likewise that some gipsy steals, or kidnaps, as it is called, the rich child from the cradle, and strolls with it up and down the country; it will have its education in the open air, its lodging in a barn, and its dirty diet under a hedge. Probably it will imbibe the craft and sub. tlety of the gipsy, and limit its utmost ambition to trick the traveller out of sixpence, cross the palm with silver, and tell the events which have happened (or are still to be brought forward) by the line of life. Thus in every other instance (with a few peculiar exceptions, that have nothing to do with general rules), habit and education form the mind, and colour the human character.
There are, doubtless, some constitutions so adapted by nature to virtue, that no troubles, situat ons, nor temptations, can subdue or extirpate their amiable propensities--but ninety-nine times out of a hundred, a character takes its bias and bearing from inere tuition, and the line it is either led or thrown into in the first stage of the human journey. If there be no innate ideas, it follows
that the mind of every new-born babe is equally pure.-If there be those infantine seeds of the understanding and little embrios of intellect-they are easily turned into what channel the parent thinks proper-so that I cannot but think the fa. ther of a family one of the most awful charges upon earth.
* It is admitted, that many children are unlike their parents both good and bad; yet you will observe, where the notions of parents and children are dissimilar, the dissimilitude arises rather from difference of ages, or improper culture, than any thing else ; in general children are not liker in features than habits, and family-minds are as often transmitted as family-faces. There is a tractability in youth'which receives, like snow, every impression-and it is almost as difficult to erase the impression of one as the other.-If a son be trained up early to decency of manners, and have the example of dignity living and moving before his eyes (unless his temper be particularly untoward) he will turn out an elegant character.-If he be trained up in different principles, he will act accordingly.-The hoyden and the prude, amongst the other sex, take not their tint and character one time in ten from nature, but from a neglect early to give them a proper idea of deportment. It may be opposed that very sedate women have romping, Junaway daughters, and very prudent fathers have very perverse sons.--I mean to say no more than this, that, generally men and women act and think as they are taught whilst they are only able to lisp out their meaning that education will have some influence on the most abandoned ; and that, on the whole, virtue and vice depend very essen: tially on our primary sentiments and examples; which, whether good or ill, will eternally attend us, in some measure, through all possible transi
tions, from the time we leave our cradles, to the time we shall be deposited in our coffins.
Habit operates with equal energy on man and beast. Evidences of the fact appear continually. Cast your eyes on that horse now engaged in duti. ful diudgery, and on the herds and flocks which are grazing or sporting in the adjoining pasture : bnt we will confine ourselves to our own species, which are certainly the most interesting objects of speculation. I was about to observe, that custom bas much to do with our characters. There are certain actions so naturally and palpably good or evil, that neither sophistry nor slander, nor address, can either injure, mend, or mar them. To question the light at noon day, or the dark in the zenith of the night, would argue a malady beyond madness: so in like manner to dispute, whether downright wickedness be wickedness, and evident excellence be excellence, would be a lunacy in ethics, so absurd, that the poetical frenzy of poor Lee would be cool argument to it-on the other hand, if you live and mix long with mankind, you will find many of your fellow-creatures, pining away existence under the lashes,--the bleeding Jashes of reproach, merely because it is the custom to call one thing right and another wrong, without tracing either to the bottom. It is a maxim that the Vox Populi, is the Vox Dei-that " what every body says must be true.”. I know nothing so de serving of refutation as a collection of those old laws and proverbs, which, acquiring force from antiquity, and estimation from rust--for there are virtuosos in letters, as well as in coins--are at length considered as utterly incontestible. Now, certain I am, that on an examination into those very maxims we put so much credit in, some will turn out futile, some disputable, and many un-, faithful. This is not a place for minute scrutinies,