John Gregory.

A father's legacy to his daughters : with a biographical sketch of the author online

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duct, or for the actions, of an idiot.

There is no room to doubt but that sufficient care will
be taken to give you a poHto education ; ^bu't a religious
one is of still greater consequence : — ^necessary as the
former is for your making a proper figure in the worid,
and for your lieiug well accepted in it — ^the latter is yet
more so, to secure to you the approbation of the greatest
and best of Beings, <mwliose favor depends your ever-
lasting happiness. — \^t therefore your duty to God
be ever the fiiist and principal object of your care; as
your Creator and Governor, he claims adoration and
obedience — as your Father and Friend, he demands
submissive duty and affection, j Remember that, from
this common Pai-ent of the IJnivei«e, you received your
life — that to liis general providence you owe the contin-
uance of it — ^and, to his Iwunty you are indebted for all
the health, ease, advantages, or enjoyments, whicJi help
to make tliat life agreejible. A sensu of benefits receiveil
naturally inspires a gi-atefiil dispasition, with a desire of
making suitable returns — ail that can here be made, for
iuniunerable favore every moment bestowed, is a thank-
ful acknowledgement, and a willing obedience — in these
be never wanting: make it an invariable rule to begin
and to end the day witli a solemn address to the Deity;
I mean not by this, what is commonly, with too much
- propriety, called saying of prayers^ namely, a customaiy



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TO IIER ABSEi\T DAUGHTERS. 76

ref>etitioii of a few good words, without either devotion
or attfciilion — than which nothing is more inexcusable
and affrontive to the Deity — it is tlie homage of the
heart that can alone be accepted by him. Expressions
of our al)soIute dependence on, and our entire resigna-
tion to him, thanksgivings for the mercies already receiv-
ed, |>etitions for tliose blessings it is fit for us to pray for,
add intercessions for all our fellow-creatures, compose
the princii>al parts of tliis duty ; which may be compris-
ed in very few words, or may be enlarged upon, as the
circumstances of time and disposition may render most
suitable ; for it is- not the length, but the sincerity and
attention of our prayers, that will make them efficacious.
A good heart, joined to a tolerable understanding, will
seldom be at a loss for proper words, with which to
clothe these sentiments — and all pci-sons, being best ac-
quainted witli their own paiticular circumstances, may
reasonably be supposed best qualified for adapting their
{Kjiitions an^ acknowledgements to them ; but for those,
who are of a different opinion, there are many excel-
lent forms of prayer already composed : amongst these,
none, that I know of, are equal to Dr. Hoadley's, the
late Bishop of Winchester, which I recommend to your
perusal and use. In the preface to them, yoy will find
better instructions on this head than I am capable of
giving, and to these T refer you.

It. is acknowledged that our petitions cannot, in any
degree, ^Iter the intention of a Being, who is in himself
invariable, anfl without a possibility of change ; all that
can b« expected from them is, that, by bettering our-



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76 A MOTHEirS ADVICE

selves, they will render us more proper objects of his
favorable regard : and tliis must necessarily be the re-
sult of a serious, regular, and constant discharge of this
branch of our duty — for it is scarcely possible to offer
up our sincere and fervent devotions to Heaven, eveiy
morning and evening, without leaving on olir ininds
such useful impressions, a^ will naturally dispose us to
a rea<ly and cheeiful obedience, and will ins])ire a filial
fear of offending — the best security virtue catv have.
As you value your own happiness, let not the force of
bad examples ever lead you into an habitual disuse of
secret prayer; nor let an unpardonable negligence so
far prevail on you, as to make you rest satisfied with a
formal, customary, inattentive repetition of some well
chosen words — let your heart and attention always go
with your lips, and experience will soon convince*yon,
that this permission of addressing the Supreme Being,
is the most valuable prerogative of human nature — the
chief, naj% the only su[)port, under all the distresses
and calamities unto which this state of sin and misery
is liable : — the highest rational satisfaction the mind is
capable of on this side the grave, and the best prepara-
. tive for everlastjng happiness beyond it. Tliis is a duty
ever in your own power, and therefore you only will
be culpable by the omission of it; jMiblic worship may
not always be so, but, whenever it is, do not wilfully
neglect the service of the church, at least on Sundays,
and let your behavior there be adapted to the solem-
nity of the place, and to the intention .of the meeting.
Regard neither the actions nor tbe dress of others,—



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TO HER AfeSENT DAUGHTERS. T7

let not yoar eyes rove in search of acquaintuice ; but
in the time of divine service avoid, as much as possible,
all complimental civilities, of which there are too great
an intercourse, in most of our churches; — remember
that your only business there is to pay a solemn act of
devotion to Almighty God ; and let every part of your
conduct be suitable to this great end. If you hear a
good sermon, treasure it in your memory, that you
may reap all the benefit it was capable of imparting ;
if you should hear but an indififerent one, some good
things must be in it, retain those, and Tet the remain-
der be buried in oblivion; ridicule not the preacher,
who no doubt has done his best, and who is rather the
objcc>t of pity than of contempt, for having been placed
in a situation of life to which his talents were not equal :
be may, perhaps, be a good man, though he is not a
great orator. I would also recommerfd to you the
early and frequent particii>ation^ of the communion, or,
what is commonly called receiving the sacrament, as
the indispensable duty pf every Christian: there is no
institution of our religion more simple, plain, and intel-
ligible than this, as delivered to us by our Saviour ; and
most of the elaborate treatises written on the subject
have served only to pu^^zle and disturb weak minds, by
throwing the dark veil of superstition, and of huTnan in-
vention, over a plain, positive command, given by him
in so explicit "^ manner, as to be easily comprehended
by the meanest capacity, and which it is doubtless in
the power of all his sincere followers tp pay an accept-
able obedience to. Nothing has more contributed to
7



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78 - A MOTHER'S ADVICE

the neglect of this duty, than the numerous well-mean-
ing books tliat have been written to enjoin a month's
or week's preparation, as previously necessary to tbo
due performance of it ; by these means filling the minds
of many with needless terror, putting it even out of the
power of some to receive* it stall, and inducing great
numbers to rest satisfied with doing it only once or
twice in a year, on some high festival ; whereas it was
certainly the constant custom of the apostles and prim-
itive Christians, on every Sunday,— and it ought to
be received by us, as often as it is administered iu the
church we frequent, which iu most places is but once
in a month ; nor do I think it excusable, at any time,
to turn our backs upon the table we see prepared for
that purpose, on pretence of not beiug fit to partake
worthily of it : — the best, the only true preparation for
this, and for every other pait of religious duty, is a
good and virtuous life, by v^hich the mind is constant-
ly kept in such a devotional frame, as to require but a
little recollection to be suited |o any particular act of
worship or of obedience, that may occasionally offer: —
and, without a good and virtuous life, there cannot be a
greater, or more fatal mistake than to suppose, that a few
days, er weeks, spent in humiliation and prayer, will ren-
der us at all the more acceptable to the Deity ; or, that
we should be thereby better fitted for any one instance
of that duty, which we must universally pay, to be either
ed by him, or to be advantageous to oureelves. 1
not, therefore, advise you to i-ead any of those
f preparatives, which are too apt to lead the mind



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ro HER ABSENT DAUGHTERS. 79

Into error, by teaching it to rest in a mere shadow of
piety, wherein there is nothing rationally satisfactory.
The best books which 1 have ever met with on the sub-
ject, are Bishop Hoadley^s Plain Account of the Mature
and End of the Sa/rajnent of the Lord's Supper, and Mi-
son's Great Duty of frequenting the Christian Sacrifice,
To the ibrmer are annexed the prayei-s which I before
mentioned, — these are well worthy your attentive peru-
sal ; the design of the institution is therein fully explain-
ed, agreeably both to scripture and' to reason,' stripped
of' that veil of mystery, which has been industriously
thrown over it by designing or by mistaken men : and it
is there laid as plainly open to every capacity, as it was
first left us hy our .great Master. Read these hooks with
due attention ; you will there find every necessary in-
struction concerning the rite, and every reatonable in-
ducement to the content, and to the conscientious per-
formance of it.

The sincere practice of religious duties naturally leads
to the proper discharge of the social, which may all be
comprehended in that one great general mle of " doing
unto others as you would they should do unto you:**
but of these more particularly hereafter. I shall first
give you my advice concerning Employment, — ^it being
of great moment to set out in life in such a method as
may be useful to yourself, and beneficial to others.

Time is invaluable: its loss is irretrievable! — there*
membrance of having made an ill use of it must be one
of the sharpest tortures to those who are on the brink of
eternity ! — and, what can yield a more unpleasing ret-



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80 A MOTHER'S ADVICE

rospect, than whole years idled away in an irrational
insiguificanjt manner? exan>ples of which are contuiu-
ally l)efore our eyes. Look on every day as a blank
sheet of paper put into your hands to be filled up ; re-
member, the characters will remain to endless ages, and
that they never can be expunged ; be careful, therefore
not to write any thing but what you taay read with
pleasure a thousand years afler : I would not be un4er-
stood in a sense so strict as might debar you from- any
nnocent amusement, suitable to your age, and agreea-
ble to your inclination: diversions, property regulated,
are not only allowable, t"hey are absolutely necessaiy to
youth, and are never criminal but wlien taken to excess;
— that is, when they engross the whole thought — when
they are made the chief business of hfe, then they give
a distaste to every valuable employment, and, by a sort •
of infatuation, leave the mind in a state of restless impa-
tience, fit>m the conclusion of one, till the commence-
ment of another: — this is the unfortunate disposition of
many ; guard most carefully against it, for notliing can
be attended with more pernicious consequences. A
litde observation will convince you, that there is not,
amongst the human species, a set of more miserable
beings, than those who cannot live out of a constant suc-
cession of diversioi^s ; these people have no comprehen-
aon of the more satisfactory pleasure to be found io
retirement : thought is insupportable, and consequently
solitude must be intolerable to tUem ; tliey are a buiden
to themselves, and a pest to their acquaintance, by vainly
seeking for happiness in company, where they are sel-



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. TO HER ABSENT DAUGHTERS. ' 81

dom acceptable ; I say vaiDly, for tnie happiness exists
only in the mind — nothing foreign can give it. The ut-
most to be attained^ by what is called a gay life, is a
short forgetfulness of misery, to be felt witji accumula-
ted anguish in every interval of reflection. This restless
temper is frequently the product of a too eager pursuit
of pleasure in the early part of life, to the neglect of ^
those valuable improvements which would lay the foun-
dation of a mone solid and permanent felicity.. Youth
is the season for diversions, but it is also the season for
acquiring knowledge, for fixing useful habits, and for
laying in a stock of such well-chosen materials, as may
grow into a serene happiness, which will increase with
every added yeai* of life, and will bloom in the fullest
perfection at the decline of it The^reat art of educa-
tion consists, in assigning to each its proper place, in
such a manner, that the one shall never become irksome
by intrenching on the other. Our separation having
taken from me the pleasing task of endeavoring, to the
best of my ability, to suit them occasionally, as might be
most conducive both to your profit and pleasure, it only
remains for me to give you general rules, which, indeed,
accidents may make it necessary sometimes to vaiy;
these, however, must be left to your own discretion ; and,
I am convinced, you have a sufficient share of under-
standing^ to be very capable of making, advantageously,
such casual regulations to yourself, if the inclination is
not wanting. .

It is an excellent method to appropriate the morning
wholly to improvement ; the afternoon may then be al



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82 A MOTHER'S ADVICE

lowed to diversions. Under the last head, 1 place com-
pany, books of the amifeing kind, and entertaining pro-
ductions of the needle, as well as plays, balls, cards, &c
which more commonly go by the name of diversions:
the afternoon, and evening till supper, may by these be
employed with innocence and propriety ; but let not one
of them ever be suffered to intrude on the f9rmer part
of the day, which should be always devoted to more
useful employments. One half hour, or more, either
before or immediately after breakfast, I would have you
constantly give to tlie attentive perusal of some rational-
ly pious author, or to some part of the New Testament,^
with which, and indeed witli the whole Scripture, you
ought to make yourself perfectly acquainted, as tlie basis
on which your religion is founded. From this practice
^ you will reap more real benefit than can be supposed by
those who have never made the experiment. The other
hours may be divided amongst those necessary and polite
acquisitipns, which are suitable to your sex, age, and to
your rank in life. — Study your oion language thoroughly,
that you may speak correctly, and write grammatically i
— do not content yourself with the common use of
yrords, which custom has taught you from tiie cradle,
but learn Gcom whence they are derived, and what are
their proper significations. French you ought to be as
well acquainted with as with English: and Italian might,
without much difficulty, be added. Acquire a good
knowledge of History — that of your own country first,
then of the other European nations — ^read them not with
a view to amuse,^but to improve your mind — and to that



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TO HER ABSENT DAUGHTERS. 83

end make reflections on what you have reajl, which may
be useful to yourself, and will render your conversation
agreeable to others. Learn so much of Geography, as
to form a just idea of the situation of places, mentioned
in any author, and this will make history more enter-
taining to you.

It is necessary for you to be perfect in the four first
rtdes of Arithmetic : more you can never have occasion
for, and the mind should not be burdened 'with needless
application. Music and Drawing are accomplishments
well Avorth the trouble of attaining, if your inclination
and genius lead to either ; if not, do not attempt them,
for it will be only much time mid great labor unprofita-
bly thrown away, it being next to impossible to arrive
at any degree of perfection in those arts, by. the dint of
perseverance only, if a good ear and a native genius be
wanting. The study of JVdtural Philosophy yi3u will
find both pleasing and instructive — pleasing, from the
continual new discoveries tQ be made of the innumerable
various beauties of nature — a most agreeable gi'atifica-
tion of that desire of knowledge wisely implanted in the
human mind — and, highly instructive, as those discov-
. eries lead to the contemplation of the great Author o;f
nature, whose wisdom and goodness so conspicuously
shine through all his works, that it is impossible to reflect
seriously on them without admiration and gratitude.

These, my dear, are but a few of those mental im-
provements I would recommend to you ; indeed there
is no branch of knowledge that your capacity is equal to,
and which you have an opportunity of acquiring, that, I



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84 A MOTHER'S ADVICE

think, ought to be neglected. ! It has been objected
against all female learning, beyofiJPthat of household
economy, that it tends only to fill the minds of the sex
with a conceited vanity, which sets them above their
proper business — occasions an indiffeisence to, if not a
total neglect of, their family affairs — and seires only to
render them useless wives and impertinent compaiiions.
It must be confessed, that some reading ladies have
given but too much cause for this objection ; and, could
it be proved to hold good throughout the sex, it would
certainly be right to confine their improvements within
the narrow limits of the nurseiy, of the kitchen, and the
confectionary ; but, I believe it will, upon examination,
je found, that such ill consequences proceed chiefly
from too great an imbecility of mind to be capable of
much enlargement, ocJircyn a mere affectation of know
ledge, void of all reality. ? Vanity is never the result of
understanding; a seTislme woman will soon be con-
vinced, that all thclearning her utmost application can
make her mistress o^ will be from the difference of edu-
cation, in many points, inferior to that of a school-boy:
this reflection will keep her always humble, and will
be an effectual check to that loquacity, which renders
some women such insupportable companions.

The management of all domestic afi^irs is certainly
the proper business of women ; and, unfashionably rustic
as such an assertion may be thought, it is not beneath
the dignity of any lady however high her rank, to know
how to educate her children, to govern her servants-
how to order an elegant table with economy, and to



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TO HER ABSENT DAUGHTERS. 85

manage her whole family with prudence, regularity, and
method ; if in these she is defective, whatever may be
her attainments in any other kpd^ of knowledge, she
will act out of character ; andj by not moving in her
proper sphere, she will become hither the object of ridi- ^
cule than of approbations [ But, I believe, it may with
truth be affirmed, that tfelieglect of these domestic con-
cerns has much more frequently proceeded from an ex-
(H-bitant love of divei-sions — from a ridiculous fondness
for dress and gallantry — or, from a mistaken pride that
has placed such duties in a servile* light, from whence
Uieyhave been considered as fit only for tlie emploj-
nient of dependents, and below the attention of a fine
lady, than from too great an attachment to mental im-
provements ; yet, from whatsoever cause such a neglect
proceeds, it is equally unjustifiable. If afly thing can be
urged in vindication of a custom, unknown to our an-
cestor, which the prevalence of fashion has made so
general amongst the modem ladies — 1 mean, that of
committing to the care, and discretionary power of dif-
ferent seiTants, the sole management of their family df-
fairs ; nothing certainly can be alleged in defence of
such an ignorance, in things of this nature, as renders a
lady incapable of giving proper directions on all occa-
sions ; — an ignorance, which, in^ver so exalted a station,
will render her cgntemptible, even to those 8er\'aut8 on
whose understanding and fidelity she, in fact, becomes
dependent for there^larity orher*house ; for the pro-
priety, elegance, and frugality of her table, which last
article is seldom regarded by such sort of people, who



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86 A MOTHER'S ADVICE

too frequently impose on those by whom, they are ttius
implicitly trusted. Make yourself, therefore, 80 thor-
oughly acquainted with the most proper method of con-
ducting a family, aji;i with the necessary expense which
every article, in proportion to their number, wil) occa-
sion, that you may come to a reasonable certainty of not
being materially deceived, without the ridiculous drudg-
ery of following your servants continually, and meanly
peeping into every obscure comer of your house ; nor,
is this at all difEcult to attain, as it requires npthing
more than an attentive observation.

It is of late, in most great families, become too much
the custom, to be long upon the books of every trades-
man they employ : to assign a reason for this is foreign
to nf)^ pur|K>se ; but, I am certain it would, in general,
be better both for themselves, and for the people they
deal with, never to be on them at all ; and what difficul-
ty or. inconvenience can arise, in a well regulated family
from commissioning the steward or housekeeper to pay
for every thing at the time when it is brought in ? This
obsolete practice, though in itself very laudable, is not at
present, and perhaps never itiay be again, authorised by
fashion ; howevpr, let it be a rule with you to contract
as few debts as possible: most things are to be pur-
chased, both better in their kind, and at a lower price,
by paying for them at the time of purchasing : but if, to
avoid the supposed trouble of frequent trifling disburse-
ments, you choose to have the lesser articles thrown
together in a bill, let a note of the quantity and price be
brought with every such parcel ; file these notes, com-



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TO HER ABSENT DAUGHTERS. 87

pare them with the bills when delivered in, and let such
bills be regularly paid every quarter ; for it is not rea-
sonable to expect that a tradesman should give longer
credit, without making up the interest of his money by
an advanced price on what he sells : and, be assured, if
you find it inconvenient to pay at the end of three
months, that inconvenience must arise from living at too
great an expense, and will consequently increase iu six
months, and grow still greater at the end of the year.
By making short payments, you will become the sooner
sensible of such a mistake, and you will find it at first
moi-e easy to retrench any supernumeraries, than after
having been long habituated to them.

If your house is superintended by a housekeeper, and
your servants are accountable to her, let your house-
keeper be accountable to yourself, and let hei* be en-
tirely governed by your directions ; carefully examine
her bills, and suffer no (extravagances or unnecessary
articles to pass unnoticed: let these bills be brought to
70U e^ery morning; what they contain will then be
easily recollected without burdening your memory ; yonr
accounts being short, will be adjusted with less trouble,
and with more exactness. Should you at any time
have an upper servant, who§e family and education were
superior to that state of subjection, to which succeeding
misfortunes may have reduced her, she ought to be treat-
ed with peculiar indulgence: if she has understanding
enough to be conversable, and humility enough al-
ways to keep her proper distance, lessen, as much as
possible, every painful rememf)rance of former prospects^



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6g A MOTHER'S ADVICE

by looking on her as an humble friend, and making her
an occasional companion ; but never descend to converse
with those whose. birth, education, and early views in
life, were not superior to a state of servitude ; their minds
being in general suited to their station, they are apt
to be. intoxicated by any degree of familiarity, and to be-
come useless and impertinent. The habit, which veiy
many ladies have contracted, of talking to and consult-
ing with their women, has so Spoiled that set of servants,
that few of them are to be met with, who do not com-
mence their service, by giving their unasked opinion of
your person, di'ess, or management, artfully conveyed
in the too generally accepted vehicle of flattery ; and, if
they are allowed in this, they will next proceed to offer
their advice on any occasion that may happen to dis-
compose, or ruffle your temper: check, theicfore, ibc


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Online LibraryJohn GregoryA father's legacy to his daughters : with a biographical sketch of the author → online text (page 5 of 10)