Hannah More.

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It is o{ the essence of human things that the
tune objects which are highly useful in their
season, measure, and degree, become mischiev-
ous in their excess, at other periods and under
other circumstances. In a state of barbarism,
the arts are among the best reformers ; and they
go on to be improved themselves, and improving
those who cultivate them, till having reached a
certain point, those very arts which were the in-
struments of civilization and refinement, become
instruments of corruption and decay ; enervating
and depraving in the second instance, by the ex-
cels and universality of their cultivation, as cer-
tainly as they refined in the first They become
a|rent8 of voluptuousness. — ^They excite the ima-
gination ; and the imagination thus excited, and
no longer under the government of sU ict prin-
ciple, becomes the most dangerous stimulant of
the passions; promotes a too keen relish for
I^asure, teaching how to multiply its sources,
and inventing new and pernicious modes of ar-
tificial gratification.

May wc not rank among the present corrupt
consequences oflhis unbounded cultivation, the
unchaste costume, the impure style of dress, and

that indelicate statue-like exhibition of the fe.
male figure, which by its artfuify disposed folds,
its seemingly wet and adhesive drapery, so de.
fines the form as to prevent covering itself from
becoming a veil ? This licentious mode, as the
acute lVu>nte8quieu observed on the dances of
the Spartan virgins, has taught us *to strifr
chastity itself of modesty.*

May the author be allowed to address to our
own country and our own circumstances, to
both of which they seem peculiarly applicable,
the spirit of that beautiful apostrophe of the
most polished poet of antiquity to the most vic-
torious nation 7 * Let us leave to the inhabitant!
of conquered eounirie$ the praise of carrying to
the very highest degree of perfection, sculpture
and the sister arts ; but let thii country dired
her own exertions to the art of governing man
kind in equity and peace, of showing mercy U
the submissive, and of abasing the proud amoof
surrounding nations.**


ExtemalimprovemenL ChUdren*8haU$, French

Let me not however be misunderstood. — ^Tbt
customs which fashion has established, when
they are not in opposition to what is right, when
they are not hostile to virtue, should nnquestion
ablj^ be pursued in the education of ladies. Piety
maintains no natural war with elegance, and
Christianity would be no |rainer by making her
disciples unamiable. Religion does not forbid
that the exterior be made to a certain degree
the object of attention. But the admiratiou be-
stowed, the sums expended, and the time lavish-
ed on arts, which add little to the intrinsic value
of life, should have limitations. While these
arts should be admired, let them not be admired
above their just value : while they are practised,
let it not be to the exclusion of higher employ-
ments : while they are cultivated, let it be to
amuse leisure, not to engross life.

But it happens unfortunately, that to ordinary
observers, the girl who is really receiving the
worst instruction often makes the best figure ;
while in the more correct but less oetensible edu*
cation, the deep and sure foundations to which
the edifice will owe its strength and stability lie
out of sight The outward accomplishments
have the dangerous advantage of addressing
themselves more immediately to the senses, and

* Let me not be suspected of brinfing into any sort of
comparison the gentleness of British govemnent witb
the rapacity of Roman conquests, or the tvraanical prin-
ciples of Roman dominion. To spoil, to butcbcr, and to
commit every kind of violence, Xhoy call, says one of the
ablest of their hisitanans, by the lying name of fontm
ment, and when they have spread a general desolation
tbeycallitpsoce. (I)

With such dictatorial, or as we miaht now read, diree-
torial, inquisitors, wc can have no point of contact : and
if I have applied the senile flattery of a deligbtftil poet
to the purpose of English happiness, it was onlv to show
wherein true national grandeur consists, and that every
country pays too dear a price for those arts and embet-
lishnients of society which endanger the loss <^ its mo-
rals and manners.

(1) Tacitus' Life of Agricola, speech of Galgaoas lo
his soldierst

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of ooorie meet every where with thoae who can
in some measure appreciate as well ai admire
them ; for all can see and hear, but all cannot
scrutinize and discriminate. External acquire-
ments too recommend themselves the more be-
cause they are more rapidly, as well as more
visibly progressive ; while the mind is led on to
improvement by slow motions and impercepti-
ble degrees ; while the heart must now be ad-
monished by reproof^ and now allured by kind-
ness ; its liveliest advances being suddenly im-
peded by obstinacy, and its brightest prospects
oAen obscured by passion ; it is slow in its ac
quisitions of virtue, and reluctant in its ap-
proaches to piety ; and its progress, when any
progress is made, does not obtrude itself to vul-
gar observation. — The unruly and turbulent
propensities of the miod are not so obedient to
the forming hand as defects of manner or awk-
wardness of gait OAen when we fancy that a
troublesome passion is completely crushed, we
have the mortification to find that we have
* 8cotch*d the snake, not kiUM it* One evil tern-
per starts up before another is conquered. The
subduing hand cannot cut off the ever-sprouting
heads so fast as the prolific hydra can reproduce
them, nor fell the stubborn Anteus so of\en as
he can recruit his strength, and rise in vigorous
and repeated opposition.

Hired teachers are also under a disadvantage
resembling tenants at rack-rent ; it is their in-
terest to bring in an immediate revenue of praise
and profit ; and, for the sake of a present rich
crop, those who are not strictly conscientious,
do not care how much the ground is impoverish-
ed for future produce. But parents, who are the
lords of the soil, must look to permanent value,
and to continued fruitfulness. The best effects
of a careful education are oflen very remote ;
they are to be discovered in future scenes, and
exhibited in as yet untried connexions. Every
event of life will be putting Uie heart into fresh
situations, and making new demands on its pru-
dence, its fimmess, its integrity, or its forbear-
ance. Those whose business it is to &rm and
model it, cannot foresee those contingent situa-
tioob specifically and distinctly : yet, as far as
human wisdom will allow, they must enable it
to prepare for them all by ^neral principles,
correct habits, and an unremitted sense of de-
pendence on the Great Disposer of events. As
the soldier must learn and practise all his evo-
lutions, though he do not know on what service
his leader mav command him, by what particu-
lar foe he shall be most assailed, nor what mode
of attack the enemy may employ ; so must the
young Christian militant be prepared by pre-
Tions discipline for actual duty.

But the contrary of all this is the case with
external acquisitions. The master, it is his in-
tercst, will industriously instruct his young pu-
pil to set all her improvements in the most im-
mediate and conspicuous point of view. To at-
tract admiration is the great principle sedu-
lously inculcated into her young heart ; and is
considered as the fundamental maxim : and,
perhaps, if we were required to condense the
reigning system of the brilliant education of a
lady into an aphorism, it mifrht be comprised
into this short sentence. To allure and to thine.

This system however is the fruitful germ, from
which a thousand yet unborn vanities, with all
their multiplied ramifications, will spring. A
tender mother cannot but feel an honest triumph
in contemplating those talents in her daughter,
which will necessarily excite admiration ; but
she will also shudder at the vanity that admira-
tion may excite, and at the new ideas it will
awaken: and, startling as it may sound, the
labours of a wise mother, anxious for her daugh-
ter's best interests, will seem to be at variance
with those of all her teachers. She will indeed
rejoice at her progress, but she will rejoice with
trembling; for she is fully aware that if all pes.
sible accomplishments could be bought at the
price of a single virtue, of a single principle,
the purchase would be infinitely dear, and she
would reject the daxzling but destructive aoqui-
sition. She knows that the superstructure of
the accomplishments can be alone safely erected
on the broad and solid basis of Christian hu-
mility : nay more, that as the materials of which
that superstructure is to be composed, are in
themselves of so unstable and tottering a nature,
the foundation must be deepened and enlarged
with more abundant care, otherwise the fabric
will be overloaded with its own ornaments, and
what was intended only to embellish the build-
ing, will prove the occasion of its fidl.

* To every thing there is a season, and a time
for every purpose under heaven,* said the wise
man; but he said it before the invention of
BABT-BALLS ; an invention which has formed a
kind of sBra, and a most inauspicious one, in
the annals of polished education. This modem
device is a sort of triple conspiracy- against the
innocence, the health, and the happiness of
children. Thus by factitious amusements, to
rob them of a relish for the simple joys, the un-
bought delights, which naturally belong to their
blooming season, is like blotting out spring from
the year. To sacrifice the true and proper en.
joyments of sprightly and happy children, is to
make them pay a dear and disproportionate
price for their artificial pleasures. They step
at once f^om the nursery to the ball-room ; and,
by a change of habits as new as it is prepos-
terous, are thinking of dressing themselves, at
an age when they used to be dressing their
dolls. Instead of bounding with the unrestrain-
ed freedom of little wood-nymphs over hill and
dale, their cheeks flushed with health, and their
hearts overflowing with happiness, these gay
little creatures are shut op all the morning, de-
murely practising tho/ws grmve^ and transacting
the serious business of acquiring a new step for
the evening, with more cost of time and pains
than it would have taken them to acquire twenty

Thus they lose the amusements which proper,
ly belong to their smiling period, and unnatu-
rally anticipate those pleasures (such as they
are) which would come in, too much of course,
on their introduction into fashionable life. The
true pleasures of childhood are cheap and natu-
ral : for every object teems with delight to eyes
and hearts new to the enjoyment of life ; nay,
the hearts of healthy children abound with a
general disposition to mirth and joy fulness, even
without a specific object to excite it : like our

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firat parent, in tbe world*8 first spring, when all
was new and fresh, and gay about hirn,

Ibey lire and raove,

Aad feel that they am happier than they know.
Only furnish them with a few simple and harm«
less materials, and a little, but not too much,
leisure, and thej will manufacture their own
pleasure with more skill and success, and satis-
faction, than they will receive fVom all that your
money can purchase. Their bodily recreations
should be such as will promote their health,
quicken their activity, enltven their spirits, whet
their ingenuity, and qualify them for their men-
tal work. But, if you begin thus early to create
wants, to invent gratifications, to multiply de-
sires, to waken dormant sensibilities, to stir up
kidden fires, yon are studiously laying up for
^our children a store of premature caprice and
irritability, of impatience and discontent

While childhood preserves its native simpli-
eity, every little change is interesting, every
gratification is a luxury. A ride or a walk, a
gailand of fiowers of her own forming, a plant
of her own cultivating, will be a delightful
amusement to a child in her natural state ; but
these harmless and interesting recreations will
be dull and tasteless to a sophisticated little
creature, nursed in such forced, and costly, and
vapid pleasures. Aks ! that we should throw
away this first grand opportunity of working
into a practical habit the moral of this impor-
tant truth, that the chief source of human dis-
content is to be looked for, not in our real, but
in our factitious wants ; not in the demands of
nature, but in the insatiable cravings of artifi-
cial desire !

When we see the growing aeal to crowd the
midnight ball with these pretty fairies, we
should be almost tempted to fiuiey it was a kind
of pbus emulation among the mothers to cure
their infants of a fondness for vain and foolish
pleasures, by tiring them out by this premalure
familiarity with them. And^we should be so
desirous to invent an excuse for a practice so
inexcusable, that we should be ready to hope
that the^ were actuated by something of the
same prmciple which led tKe Spartans to intro-
duce their sons to seenes of riot, that they might
conceive an early disgust at vice ! or possibly,
that they imitated those Scythian mothers who
used to plunge their new-born infants into the
flood, thinking none to be worth saving who
could not stand this early struggle for their lives;
tbe greater part, indeed, as might have been ex-
pectcd, perished ; but the parents took oomfort,
that if they were lost, the few who escaped
would be the stronger for having been thus ex-

To behold Lilliputian coquettes, jntnecting
dresses, studying colours, assorting ribands,
mixing flowers^ and choosing feathers; their
little hearts beating with hopes about partners
and fears about rivals ; to see their fresh cheeks
pale after the midnight supper, their aching
heads and unbraced nerves, disqualifying the
little languid beings for the next day*s task ;
and to hear the grave apology, • that it is owing
to the wine, the crowd, the heated room of the
last night's ball;' all this, I say, would really be
u ludicrous, if the mischief of the thing did not

take off from the merriment of it, as any of the
ridiculous and preposterous disproportions in tlH»
diverting travels of captain Lemuel Gulliver.

Under a just impression d* the evils which
we are sustaining fVom the principles and the
practices of tnod€m FVanoe, we are apt to lose
sight of those deep and lasting mischiefs whitb
so long, 4o regularly, and so systematically we
have been importing from the same country,
though in another form, and under another go-
vernment In one respect, indeed, the first were
the more formidable, because we embraced the
ruin without suspecting it ; while we defeat the
malignity of the latter, bv detecting the turpi,
tude, and deftoduig ourselves against its conta.
gion. This is not the place to descant on that
fevity of manners, that contempt of the sabbath,
that fiital familiarity with loose principles, and
those relaxed notions of conjugal fidelity, which
have ofleen been transplanted into this country
by women of fashion, as a too common c4fect of
a long residence in a neighbouring nation ; but
it is peculiarly suitable to my subject to advert
to another domestic mischief derived from the
same foreign extraction ; I mean the risks that
have been run, and th^ sacrifices which have
been made, in order to fbmish our young ladies
with the means of acquiring the French Ian-
guage in the greatest poesil^ purity. Perfec-
tion in this accomplishment has been so long
established as the supreme object; so long con-
sidered as the predominant excellence to which
all other excellencies must bow down, that it
would be hopeless to attack a la«r which fashioc
has immutably decreed, and which has received
the stamp of long pfescription. We must, there-
fore, be content^ with expressing a wish, that
this indispensable perfoction could have been
attained at the expense of sacrifices less impor-
tant It is with the greater regret I animad
vert on this and some other prevailing practices
as they are errors into which the wise and re-
spectaole have through want of eonsideration.
Of rather through want of firmness to resist the
tyranny of fashion, sometimes fallen. It has
not been unusual when mothers of rank and re-
putation have been asked how they ventureil to
intrust their daughters to foreigners, of whose
principles they knew nothing, except that they
were Roman Catholics, to answer, *' That they
had taken care to be secure on that subject ; for
that it had been stipulated that the question ef
religion should never be agitated between the
teacher and the pupil.* This, it must be con-
fossed, is a most desperate remedy ; it is like
starving to death to avoid being poisoned. And
who can help trembling for the event of that
education, from which religion, as far as tbe go-
verness is concerned, is thus formally and sys-
tematically excluded. Surely it would not be
exacting too much, to suggest at least that an
attention no less scrupulous siiouTd be exerted
to insure the character of our children's in-
structor, for piety and knowledge, than is
thought necessary to ascertain that she has no
thing patois in ner dialect.

I would rate a correct pronunciation and an
elegant phraseology at their just price, and I

I would not rate them low ; but I would not offn
up piety and principle as victims to sounds and

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■eoents. And the matter is now made more^
easy ; for whatever disgrrace it might once have
Drought on an English lady to have had it sus-
pected from her accent that she had the misibr-
tone not to be born in a neighbouring country ;
some recent events may serve to reconcile her
to the suspicion of having been bred in her own.
A country, to which, (with all its sins, which
are many !) the whole world is looking up with
envy and admiration, as the seat of true glory
and of comparative happiness ! A country, in
whbh the exile, driven out by the crimes of his
own, iinds a home ! A country, to obtain the
protection of which it was claim enough to be
unfortunate ; and no impediment to have been
the dubjcct of her direst foe ! A country, which,
in this respect, humbly imitating the Father of
compassion, when it offered mercy to a suppli-
ant enemy, never conditioned for merit, nor in-
sisted on the virtues of the miserable as a pre-
liminary to its own bounty I

'Englaiull witb aU tliy fludts, I love tbee sUU.*


CumparUon of the mode of female education in
the last age with the preeent.

To return, however, to the subject of general
education. We admit that a young lady may
excel in speaking French and lisiian ; may re-
peat a few passages from a volume of extracts ;
Elay like a professor, and sing like a syren ;
ave her dressing-room decorated with her own
drawings, tables, stands, flower-pots, soreiens
and cabinets; nay, she may danee tike Sempro-
nia* hersdif, and yet we shall insist that she
may have been very badly eduealed. I am far
from meaning to set no value whatever on these
qualifications ; they are all of them elegant, and
many of them properly tend to the perfecting
of a polite education. These things in their
measure and degree may be done, but there are
others which should not be lefl nndone. Many
things are becoming, but *one thing is needfuL*
Besides, as the world seems to be fully apprised
of the value of whatever tends to embellish life,
there is less occasion here to insist on its impor

But though a well-bred young lady may law-
folly learn most of the fashionable arts ; yet, let
me ask, does it seem to be the true end of eduea-
tioo to make women of fashion daneer$y smgers,
players, painters, actresses, sculptors, giUers,
varnishere, engravers, and emkrwitrsTS 7 Most
men are commonly destined to some profession,
and their minds are consequently turned each
to its respective object Would it not be strange
if they were called out to exercise tfieir profea.
aion, or to set up their trade, with only a little
general knowledge of the trades ana profes-
aioos of all other men, and without any previous
definite application to their own peculiar call-
ing 7 The professions of ladies, to which the
bent of their instruction should be turned, is
that of daughters, wives, mothers, and mistresses
cf families. They should be therefore trained
irith a view to these several conditions, and be
* Ise CaUline't Conspiracy,

fhmished with a stock of ideas, and principles,
and qualifications and habits, ready to be applied
and appropriated, as occasion may demand, to
each of these respective situations. For though
the arts which merely embellish life must claim
admiration ; yet when a man of sense comes to
marry, it is a companion whom he wants, and
not an sxtist It is not merely a creature who
can paint, and play, and sing, and draw, and
dress, and dance ; it is a being who can com-
fort and counsel him; one who can reason, and
reflect, and feel and judge, and discourse and
discriminate; one who can assist him in his
affairs, lighten his cares, sooth his sorrows,
purify his joys, strengthen his principles, and
educate his chidren.

Almost any ornamental acquirement is a good
thing, when it is not the best thing a woman
has ; and talents are admirable when not made
to stand proxy for virtues. The writer of theso
pages is intimately acquainted with several
ladies who, excelling most of their sex in the art
of music, but excelhng them also in prudence
and piety, find little leisure or temptation amidst
the delights and duty of a large and lovely
family, for the vercise of this charming Ulent ;
they regret that so much of their own youth
was wasted in acquiring an art which can be
turned to so little account in married life, and are
now conscientiously restricting their daughters
in the portion of time allotted to its acquisition.

Far be it from me to discourage the cultivation
of any existing talent; but may it not be ques
tioned of the fond believmg mother, whether
talents like the spirits of Owen Glendower,
though conjured by parental partiality with ever
so loud a voice, *

Yet will tbey eome wben you do call fbr them ?

That injudicious practice, therefore, cannot
be too much discouraged of endeavouring to
create talents which do not exist in nature.
T%at their daughters shall learn every thing, is
so general a maternal maxim,^that even unborn
daughters, of whoso expected abilities and con-
jectured faculties, it is presumed, no very ac-
curate judgment can previously be formed, are
yet predestined to this universality of accom-
plishments. This comprehensive maxim, thua
almost universally brought into practice, at once
weakens the general powers of the mind, by
drawing off its strength into too great a variety
of directions ; and cuts up time into too many
separate portions, by splitting it into such an
endless multiplicity of employments. I know
that I am treading on tender ground ; but I can-
not help thinking that the restless pains we take
to cram up everj little vacuity of life, by crowd-
ing one new thing upon another, rather creates
a thirst for novelty than knowledge ; and is but
a well disguised contrivance to anticipate tho
keeping us in after.Ufe more effectually from
conversing with ourselves. The care taken to
prevent ennui is but a creditabla plan fbr pro-
rooting self.ignorance. We run from one occu-
pation to another (I speak of those arts to wliich
little intellect is applied) with a view to lighten
the pressure of time ; above all we fly to them to
save us from our own thoughts ; we fly to them
to rescue us from ourselves ; whereas we were

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thrown a little more on oar own hands, we
mi^ht at last be driven, by way of something^ to
do, to try to get acquainted widi our own hearts.
But It is only one part of the general inconsis-
tency of the human character, that with the
person of all others we best lore, we least like
to converse and to form an intimacy ; I mean
ourselves. But though our bein^ less absorbed
by this busy trifling, which dignifies its inanity
with the impoein&f name of occupation, might
render us somewhat more sensible of the tedium
of life ; jret might not thb very sensation tend to
quicken our pursuit of a better 7 For an awful

Online LibraryHannah MoreThe complete works of Hannah More → online text (page 77 of 135)