Henry J. (Henry John) Van-Lennep.

The American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading online

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry John) Van-LennepThe American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading → online text (page 5 of 18)
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she cannot fail ot deriving immense advantages
from it.

4th. An acquaintance with geography and
some instruction with chronology will enable a
young lady to read history, biography, and travels
with advantage j and thereby qualify her not only
for a general intercourse with the world, but to be
an agreeable companion for a sensible man. To
these branches of knowledge may be added, in
some instances, a general acquaintance with the
first principles of astronomy, natural philosophy
and chemistry, particularly, with such parts of
them as are calculated to prevent superstition, by
explaining the causes, or obviating the effects of
natural evil, and such, as are capable of being ap-
plied to domestic, and culinary purposes.

5th. Vocal music should never be neglected in
the education of a young lady in this country.—-
Besides preparing her to join in that part of pub-
lic worship vv hich consists in psalmody, it will en-
able her to soothe the cares of dom.estic life. The
distress and vexation of a husband — the noise of
a nursery, and even the sorrows that will some-
times intrude into her own bosom, may all be re-
lieved b a song, where sound and sentiment unite
to act upon the mind. I hope it will not be
thought foreign to this part of our stibject to in-
troduce a fact here which has been suggested to
me by my profession, and that is, that the exer-
cise of the organs of the breast, by singing, con-
tributes very much to defend them from those dis-
eases to which our climate and other causes,
have of late exposed them. — Our German fellow


citizens are seldom afflicted with consumptions,
nor have I ever known but one instance of spitting
of blood among them. This, I believe, is in part
occasioned by the strength which their lungs ac-
quire, by exercising them, frequently in vocal
music, for this constitutes an essential branch of
their education. The music-master of our acade-
my has furnished me with an observation still more
in favour of this opinion. He informed me that
he had known several instances of persons who
were strongly disposed to the consumption, who
were restored to health, by the moderate exercise
of their lungs in singing.

6th. Dancing is by no means an improper
branch of education for an American lady. It
promotes health, and renders the figure and mo-
tions of the body easy and agreeable. I antici-
pate the time when the resources of conversation
shall be so far multiplied, that the amusement of
dancing shall be wholly confined to children. But
in oui* present state of society and knowledge, I
conceive it to be an agreeable substitute for the
ignoble pleasures of drinking, and gaming, in our
assemblies of grown people.

7th. The attention of our young ladies should
be directed, as soon as they are prepared for it,
to the reading of history — travels^ — poetry^ — and
moral essays. These studies are accommodated,
in a peculiar manner, to the present state of socie-
ty in America, and when a relish is excited for
them, in early life, they subdue that passion for
reading novels, which so generally prevails among
the fair sex. I cannot dismiss this species of writ-
ing and reading without observing, that the sub-
jects of novels are by no means accommodated to
our present manners. They hold up life^ it is true,
but it is not as yet life in America. Our passions


have not as yet " overstepped the modesty of na-
ture," nor are they " torn to tatters,'' to use the
expressions of the poet, by extravagant love, jea-
lousy, ambition, or revenge. As yet the intrigues
of a British novel, ar^ as foreign to our manners,
as the refinements of Asiatic vice. Let it not be
said, that the tales of distress, which fill modern
novels, have a tendency to soften the female heart
into acts of humanity. The fact is the reverse of
this. The abortive sympathy which is excited
by the recital of imaginary distress, blunts the
heart to that which is real ; and, hence, we some-
times see instances of young ladies, who weep
away a whole -forenoon over the criminal sorrows
of a fictious Charlotte or Werter, turning with
disdain at three o'clock from the sight of a beg-
gar, who solicits in feeble accents or signs, a small
portion only of the crumbs which fall from their
father's tables.

8th. It will be necessary to connect all these
branches of education with regular instruction in
the christian religion. For this purpose the prin-
ciples of the different sects of christians should be
taught and explained, and our pupils should ear-
ly be furnished with some of the most simple ar-
guments in favour of the truth of Christianity.*
A portion of the bible (of late improperly banish-
ed from our schools) should be read by them eve-
ry day, and such questions should be asked, after
reading it as are calculated to imprint upon their
minds the interesting stories contained in it.

Rousseau has asserted that the great secret of
education consists in " wasting the time of children

* iSaron Haller'sletters to his daughter on the truths
of the christian religion, and Dr Beatie's " evidence
of the christian religion briefly and plainly stated," are
«?xc»llent little tracts, and well adapted for this purpose.


profitably." There is some truth in this observa-
tion. I believe that we often impair their health,
and '.veaken their capacities by imposing studies
upon them, which are not proportioned to their
years. But this objection does not apply to reli-
gious instruction. There are certain simple pre-
positions in the christian religion, which are suit-
ed in a peculiar manner, to the infant state of rea-
son and moral sensibilit}^ A clergyman of long
experience in the instruction of youth informed
me, that he always found children acquired reli-
gious knowledge more easily than knowledge up-
on other subjects ; and that young girls acquired
this kind of knowledge more readily tlian boys.
The female breast is the natural soil of Christiani-
ty ; and while our women are taught to believe
its doctrines, and obey its precepts, the wit of Vol-
taire, and the sV le of Bolingbroke, will never be
able to destroy its influence upon our citizens.

I cannot help remarking in this place, that Chris-
tianity exerts the most friendly influence upon
science, as well as upon the morals and manners
of mankind. Whether this be occasioned by the
unity of truth, and the mutual assistance which
truths upon different subjects afford each other,
or whether the faculties of the mind be sharpened
and corrected by embracing the truths of revela-
tion, and thereby prepared to investigate and per-
ceive the truths upon the subjects, I will not de-
termine, but I believe that the greatest discove-
ries in science have been made by christian philo-
sophers, and that there is the most knowledge in
those countries vv here there is the most Christiani-
ty. If this remark be well founded, then those
philosophers who rejected Christianity, and those
christians, whether parents or school-masters, who
neglect the religious instruction of their children


and pupils, reject and neglect the most effectual
means of promoting knowledge in our country.

9th. If the measures that have been recom-
mended for inspiring our pupils with a sense of
i-eligious and moral obligation be adopted, the
government of them will be easy and agreeable.
I shall only remark under this head, that strictness
of discipline will ahvays render severity unneces-
sary, and that there will be the most instruction
in that school, where there is the most order.

I have said nothing in favour of instrumental
music as a branch of female education, because
I conceive it is by no means accomodated
to the present state of society and manners in
America. The price of musical instruments, and
the extravagant fees demanded by the teachers of
instrumental music, form but a small part of my
objections to it.

To perform wdl, upon a musical instrument, re-
quires much time and long practice. From two
to four hours in a day, for three or lour years ap-
propriated to music, are an immense deduction
from that short period of time which is allowed
by the peculiar circumstances of our country for
the acquisition of the useful branches of literature
that have been mentioned. How many useful
ideas migh

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry John) Van-LennepThe American lady's preceptor : a compilation of observations, essays and poetical effusions designed to direct the female mind in a course of pleasing and instructive reading → online text (page 5 of 18)