Lincoln Phelps.

Lectures to young ladies, comprising outlines and applications of the different branches of female education, for the use of female schools, and private libraries online

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Online LibraryLincoln PhelpsLectures to young ladies, comprising outlines and applications of the different branches of female education, for the use of female schools, and private libraries → online text (page 22 of 27)
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c t &c. are commonly employed to stand for known
quantities the last, as z, y t &c. for unknown. By this
process, many questions are solved, which could not have
been done by simple arithmetic. A knowledge of .alge-
bra is necessary in geometry, mechanics, astronomy, and
all branches of science which depend on mathemnucal
demonstration. To those who desire a thorough educa-
tion, a knowledge of algebra must therefore be deemed
of importance, since it leads the way to so many other
sciences. Not that some knowledge of astronomy,
natural philosophy, and geometry may not bo ac-
quired without the assistance of algebra ; but this know-
ledge must necessarily be limited and imperfect.

Arithmetic may be considered as a germ, which con-
tains within it the principles of algebra. The two
sciences are intimately connected ; a knowledge of the
one throws light upon the other. Arithmetic being the
more simple, some knowledge of it should be possessed
before commencing algebra. Every step then taken in
the v latter science, will throw light upon the former,
and processes which, performed by arithmetical rules, ap-
peared tedious and complicated, may, by algebraic prin-
ciples, be rendered clear and simple. Besides the prac-


tical uses of this science, the accurate analysis which it
teaches, is an important means of intellectual discipline.
Some would refer the origin of algebra to Plato,
because he first taught the principles of analysis, which are
so necessary to the existence of this science ; but it is
generally attributed to the Arabians, from whose lan-
guage the word algebra is taken. In its original mean-
ing, it signifies a reduction of fractions. The first
treatise on algebra is said to have been written by Dio-
phantes, a philosopher of Alexandria, who lived in the
reign of Antoninus, toward the middle of the second
century. In the fifth century, Hypasia, the daughter of
Theon, a celebrated geometrician, published a comment
on the treatise of Diophantes. This comment a learned
French mathematician notices as * exhibiting a depth of
thought, of which few men are capable/ Hypasia may be
considered the first, who brought the science of algebra
into a regular system, This woman, whom the same
writer calls the * honor of her sex,' was professor in the
famous school at Alexandria, and filled with distinguish-
ed credit, a place which had been rendered illustrious
by many great and learned men. The people, stirred up
by some persons, envious of Hypasia' s fame, accused her
of political intrigues, and cruelly murdered her in the
professor's chair. As the acquirements of this woman
are recorded in history, as a wonderful phenomenon, we
infer the general prevalence of ignorance among the
females of that period.


Geometry, an important branch of mathematical
science, takes its name from two Greek words, ge, land
or earth, and metron, measure, signifying to measure land.
This science is supposed to have originated in Egypt
According to two very ancient historians, Herodotus and
Strabo, the inundations of the Nile carrying away their
land-marks, the Egyptians invented the art of measuring
and dividing their lands, in order that each might dis-
tinguish his own territory, by its particular figure,
and the surface which it was known to contain.


Thus imperfect was geometry in its origin, commenc-
ing by a. series of observations which were confined
to actual substances. By degrees mankind began to
generalize their observations of particular facts, and
geometry became a noble and exact science, constituting
a firm basis on which many other sciences are founded.

Geometry is the science of extension, and not only
signifies the measuring of land, but of the heavens
also ; for by its aid, astronomers have been able to ascer-
tain the dimensions of the heavenly bodies, the space
through which they travel, and their distance from each
other. All the truths and reasonings of geometry are
founded on a few simple truths which are self-evident to
all who possess common understanding. They cannot
be explained, since there are no truths of a more sim-
ple kind by which they may be illustrated. Any person
who does not perceive that a whole is greater than a
part, or that two things equal to a third, must be equal
to one another, must be considered as wanting in what
is expressively termed common sense. Thus it is that
in children who prove to be idiots, it is usually first ob-
served that they do not understand these simple, or as
philosophers call them self-evident truths. If a child
old enough to comprehend the term one, does not under-
stand that one and one make two, we have reason to
fear that it has no understanding, or, in other words, is
a fool. Thus the ready comprehension of self-evident
mathematical truths, and the power to reason from these
to less simple truths, is considered as a test of a clear
and sound understanding.

Our sex have been allowed to possess the faculty of
imagination, and the affections of the heart, in a superior
degree ; but we have been thought deficient in reasoning
powers. Now it is the reasoning faculty which distin-
guishes the human species from the brutes : if woman
is in reality devoid of this noble faculty, then is she a
kind of intermediate link between man and the brute
creation and the Christian religion, like the Mahome-
tan, should have provided in a future state some middle
region for this being, who is neither to be, like the brutes
annihilated, nor like the nobler part of creation, entitled


to a rank among superior intelligencies. But it is unne-
cessary to urge anything on this point : women have now
little to complain of, with respect to liberality of feeling
towards them, on the subject of education. Advantages
are now placed before them ; they may prove the strength
of their reasoning powers, in the study of mathematics,
of logic, and even metaphysics, without fear of reproach
for attempting to pass the limits, which nature has
assigned for the operations of their minds. It is for you,
young ladies, who are here assembled, to prove by your
own example, that knowledge is not to be a curse to
your sex ; that it is to lead them in the path of duty, not
out of it ; that it is to make them better daughters, wives,
and mothers; better qualified for usefulness in every path
within the sphere of female exertions. By being enabled
to see more clearly the peculiar obligations which devolve
upon you in your various relations, and to discern the
boundary between your duties, and those of the other
sex, shall it be that you will the more seek to pass that
barrier, which the Almighty himself in the peculiarities
of physical as well as mental constitution, has estab-
lished between the sexes ? You are not called upon to
lead armies, to make and execute laws, and to preside
over public safety. But you may be called upon to pre-
side over the domestic circle, to regulate families by your
wisdom, and to guide and enlighten the youthful mind:
in the proper performance of these duties, will you
need all that clearness of reason, and solidity of judg-
ment to which a thorough and well-conducted education
may conduce. The object in all attempted improvements
in female education, should not be to lead woman from
her own proper sphere, but to qualify her for the better
discharge of those duties which lie within it. It is for you
to prove by meek and gentle manners, by your pious walk
and conversation, that the daughters of Eve may eat of
the tree of knowledge, without danger or sin. No law,
divine or human, forbids that the female mind should
seek to penetrate the mysteries of science and may we
not hope that the sad consequences of the disobedience
of the first woman, will, in some degree, be averted from
the earth, by enlightening the minds of her daughters ?


But we have wandered from our immediate subject,
in following a train of thought which naturally presented
itself. We have spoken of the origin and meaning of
geometry. It remains briefly to trace its progress. From
Egypt, it is said to have been carried to Greece by Thales,
who, not satisfied to teach the Greeks what he had learn-
ed from the Egyptians, enriched the science with many
propositions of his own. Pythagoras afterwards success-
fully cultivated geometry, and added to it, among other
propositions, that of the square of the hypothenuse.
Anaxagoras and Plato studied to explain the quadrature
of the circle ; but Euclid, who lived four hundred years
before Christ, and fifty after Plato, collecting all the truths
that his predecessors had discovered, and adding many of
his own propositions, may be considered as having estab-
lished the science on a firm foundation. Of all sciences,
none now remains so nearly as it existed in ancient days
as that of geometry. The work of Euclid, although many
improvements have professedly been made, still remains
much as he left it.

We shall not consider the subject of Mixed Mathemat-
ics separately. Those of you who are now studying these
subjects, as illustrated in Enfield's Philosophy, are mak-
ing a practical application of algebra and geometry.
You should as far as possible connect with your investi-
gations the idea of actual substances; for the mere
theory of mechanics or optics is of little use, without a
knowledge of their applications to the common objects
around you. I recently heard a young lady, who had
studied optics, call that a shadow upon the water,
which was a reflection. Females are not, in general,
as practical as the other sex; they are much less abroad,
where the operations and phenomena of nature may be
observed, and they find it more difficult to transfer their
views from their books to nature. Those of you who are
studying Enfield, might learn much practical science
from an unlettered farmer or mechanic, who, although he
could not explain the principles of motion and force by
mathematical demonstrations, might yet teach you many
useful facts, learned by experience and observation.
In concluding this lecture, I would remark that it is far


from my intention to depreciate those many excellent and
elevated women, who have honorably discharged their
duties in life, without a knowledge of mathematics, or
without those advantages for mental improvement which
females at the present day enjoy ; such cases do not
invalidate any of the arguments we have offered on this
subject. These are the very women, who, with lofty views
of female duty and influence, and a strong sense of the
weakness of their sex, would be the first to plead that
they might be better fitted to discharge their duties, to
exert a beneficial influence, and that their minds might
be strengthened and fortified by a judicious and liberal


HJwtoric, Criticism, Composition*

THR studies of Rhetoric and Criticism, are more es-
pecially designed for the cultivation of those faculties of
mind, called taste and imagination. Taste has by many
writers been termed a simple independent power or sense ;
but by Dr. Brown it is considered as a complex state of
mind, which may be analyzed into judgment and an ewo-
tion. The human mind is formed with a susceptibility of
certain emotions, as beauty, sublimity and ludicrousness ;
these emotions are those on which taste chiefly depends, or
which, in conjunction with judgment, constitute taste.
Thus a painter, having experienced the emotion of beauty,
exercises his judgment in forming such combinations as
may produce in others the same emotion. A poet must have
experienced emotions, before he can by an effort of art
produce them in others ; and he exercises his judgment
no less in the selection and combination of his images,
than the chemist, who puts together substances in order
to produce a certain result. That is, both the poet and
chemist judge of the fitness of ideas and of objects to pro-
duce their determinate effects. *"


For a clear and interesting explanation of the elements
of taste, and of its three most essential qualities, refinement,
delicacy and correctness, I would refer you to the inter-
esting and useful system of Rhetoric, now adopted as a
class book in this Institution.* The author of this work
has taken up the subject in a philosophical and practical
manner. He at once informs the student that the art of
writing well, is not to be obtained by a set of rules, but
that ' the store-house of the mind must be well filled ; and
he must have that command of his treasures which will
enable him to bring forward, whenever the occasion may
require, what has been accumulated, for future use.' He
dwells particularly upon the necessity of mental discipline,
especially the previous cultivation of the reasoning pow-
ers; and observes that ' the student who, in the course of
his education is called to search for truth in the labyrinth
of metaphysical and moral reasonings, and to toil in the
wearisome study of the long and intricate solutions of
mathematical principles, is acquiring that discipline of
the mind, which fits him to distinguish himself as an able

You will perceive that the different branches of know-
ledge we have already considered, are all conducive to
one great end, that of enabling a person to compose with
elegance and facility. And is this an object of little im-
portance, even to our sex ? We are permitted to use the
pen as our tastes, genius, or mental acquirements may
direct. Even the composition of a simple note of
ceremony, attests the fact of mental cultivation, or the
want of it; and a letter on the most common subject,
plainly indicates the nature of the writer's education.
Higher efforts of mind, such as stories for children, re-
ligious tracts, and works in the various departments con-
nected with education, are all now considered as offering
proper employment for the exertion of female talents.
But it must be remembered that these talents should be
cultivated with the most assiduous c-ire that the various
fields of knowledge should be explored, as far as possible,
in order to become a successful candidate for literary
distinction. The time has gone by, when a publication

* Newman's Rhetoric.


meets with indulgence, because its author is a woman ;
we must now expect to be judged by our real merits, and
our titles to approbation.

Grammar and rhetoric bear to each other an intimate
relation ; the former teaches the method of speaking and
writing with accuracy, the latter of arranging our thoughts
with propriety and elegance. The science of rhetoric is
founded upon observations made by philosophers, of the
nature and operations of the human mind, and by a criti-
cal analysis of the style, and an examination of the meth-
ods of arrangement of those authors whose works have
been most generally approved. The chapter on Litera-
ry Taste in Newman's Rhetoric is well written, and cal-
culated to give just ideas of the peculiar merits of dif-
ferent authors ; it also happily illustrates the proper use
of rhetorical figures. The chapter on style, is an inter-
esting exposition of the qualities of a good style, and the
modes of writing which characterize different individu-
als. This little work leads the pupil to a knowledge
of the rules and principles of rhetoric, in an easy and
simple manner, and has the merit of more originality than
many school books, which profess to be improvements.

Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric have been deservedly pop-
ular : they are writen in a pure and concise style ; but the
larger work is too voluminous for beginners, and the
abridgement, as is usually the case, is a mere skeleton,
without suitable illustrations.

In pursuing the study of rhetoric, you should make it
your constant aim to render your knowledge practical :
you should examine authors, with a view of discovering
their peculiar beauties or defects, and notice their use of
the various figures of speech ; each of which you should
accustom yourself to distinguish, wherever you meet them.
This might be rendered interesting as an amusement.
When several young ladies are passing leisure hours togeth-
er, one might ask others to point out, in a certain page or
chapter of a book, all the comparisons, metaphors, an-
titheses, &/c. which could be found. The suggestion and
proper uses of figures, must be the result of much prac-
tice in composition, as well as the fruit of learning. The
study of rhetoric will not at once give you the power of


writing with ease and elegance : this requires a know-
ledge of nature and of the human heart, a habit of deep
and serious reflection, and a taste at once delicate and

Criticism is ranked in this institution as a higher study
than the elementary works on rhetoric ; it is indeed a de-
partment of rhetoric, but so extensive, that it has been
treated separately by some distinguished writers. The
best works on this subject which are now before the pub-
lic are those of Kames, Alison, and Campbell. Kames'
Criticism contains much valuable philosophy ; the author
appears to have studied the human heart with considera-
ble success : his style is agreeable and he carries his read-
er along with him in an easy companionship. The stu-
dy of this work is an excellent preparation for mental
philosophy ; indeed it was, by the author, designed to hold
a middle rank between moral speculations and the study
of the natural and mathematical sciences. Without at-
tempting a theory and classification of the passions, Lord
Kames gives a variety of practical illustrations of their
operations and moving principles ; and such as are cal-
culated to be of great use to a young person on entering
into life. The greatest objection to his work on criticism
is the occasional obsoleteness of the style, (the third edi-
tion was published as far back as 1761) and a want of
system in his arrangements. These faults may be rem-
edied by the remarks of teachers, and care on their part
to make a better arrangement. The practical part of
criticism will not probably be acquired in a very great
degree by the study of Kames, or any other author ; but
a new stock of ideas may be gained, and the power of
making for yourselves critical distinctions.

Alison is a writer of peculiar beauty and sweetness :
the fault in his work, as a text-book on criticism, is that
he confines himself to the subjects of beauty and sublim-
ity, a sphere too circumscribed for so extensive a science.
The politeness and respect with which Alison speaks of
the ' profound remarks of Lord Kames/ furnish a pleas-
ant contrast to the illiberality with which writers often
speak of those who have preceded them in any particular
department of literature. The whole work of Alison is


replete with beautiful passages, calculated to inspire the
reader with noble and just sentiments. In his essays up-
on the beauty and sublimity of the material world, he
leads the mind to the delightful contemplation of nature
and the Author of nature. After expatiating on the
moral effect of the study of nature upon the mind, he
finely and piously observes * there is yet, however, a
greater expression which the appearances of the material
world are fitted to convey, and a more important influ-
ence which, in the design of nature, they are destined to
produce upon us : their influence, I mean, in leading us
directly to religious sentiment. Had organic enjoyment
been the only object of our formation, it would have been
sufficient to establish senses for the reception of these
enjoyments. But if the promises of our nature are great-
er if it is destined to a nobler conclusion if it is ena-
bled to look to the Author of Being himself, and to feel
its proud relation to- Him; then nature, in all its aspects
around us, ought only to be felt as signs of his providence,
and as conducting us, by the universal language of these
signs, to the throne of the DEITY.'

After remarking upon the effect of natural scenery
upon elevated minds, he adds : ' Even the thoughtless anM
the dissipated yield unconsciously to this beneficent in-
stinct ; and in the pursuit of pleasure, return, without
knowing it, to the first and the noblest sentiments of their
nature. They leave the society of cities, and all the ar-
tificial pleasures, which they feel to have occupied, with-
out satiating their imagination. They hasten into those
solitary, and those uncultivated scenes, where they seem
to breathe a purer air, and to experience more profound
delight. They leave behind them all the arts, and all
the labors of man, to meet nature in her primeval mag-
nificence and beauty. Amid the slumber of their usual
thoughts, they love to feel themselves awakened to those
deep and majestic emotions which give a new and a no-
bler expansion to their hearts, and amid the tumult and
astonishment of their imagination,

To behold the present God
On the rocks by man untrod,



On the hill-tops wild and rude,
On the cliff's deep solitude.
Where the roaring waters move,
In the darkness of the grove.'

It is particularly on account of its moral effect that it
is of so much consequence to encourage their instinctive
taste for the beauty and sublimity of nature. While it
opens to the mind of childhood, or youth, a source of pure
and of permanent enjoyment, it has consequences on the
character and happiness of future life, which they are
enabled to foresee. It is to provide them, amid all the
agitations and trials of society, with one gentle and an-
reproaching friend, whose voice is ever in alliance with
goodness and virtue, and which, when once understood,
is able both to soothe misfortune, and to reclaim from
folly. It is to identify them with the happiness of that
nature to which they belong ; to give them an interest in
every species of being which surrounds them \ and, amid
the hours of curiosity and delight, to awaken those latent
feelings of benevolence and of sympathy, from which all
the moral or intellectual greatness of man finally arises,
It is to lay the foundation of an early and of a manly
piety : amid the magnificent system of material signs in
which they reside, to give them the mighty key which
can interpret them ; and to make them look upon the
universe which they inhabit, not as the abode of human
cares, or human joys only, but as the temple of the LIV-
ING GOD, in which praise is due, and where service is to
be performed.


The study of Belles Lettres, or of rhetoric and criticism
is introduced into education, principally for the purpose
of improving the young in the art of composition. It is
indeed pleasant to be able to judge of the performances
of others, to know the causes of our approbation or dis-
approbation of literary works, to enter into the secrets of
the mind, and explore its mysterious laws, to compare the
productions of genius with those rules which nature sug-
gests, and to observe the uniformity of her operations in


all well organized minds : all this is agreeable ; but it is still
more desirable, still more delightful to be able of our-
selves to execute, to be able to catch the ideal train, as
they glide through our minds, and paint them in all their
freshness and originality for our own future examination,
or for the inspection of others.

Of all the enjoyments granted to mortals, this is prob-
ably the most exquisite and the most elevated ; to behol d
before us the image of our own minds, the glowing tran-
scripts of our own thoughts, as delineated by ourselves ; it
seems to assimilate us in some degree with the great
Creator of mind, when we are able to render its opera-
tions visible. Many who are conscious of elevated
thoughts are destitute of a power of expression suited to
these , many in whom the fire of genius is smothered by ig-
norance and prejudice, feeling within themselves the work-
ings of a latent intellect, sigh for education as the great-
est of human blessings, the means of elevating the mind
and rendering its operations sources of the highest enjoy-
ment. Under the greatest disadvantages, the light of genius
has occasionally burst forth, discovering upon the shoe-
maker's bench a tuneful and sentimental Bloomfield, or at
the plough a noble and high-souled Burns. But instances
are rare in which unaided genius acquires the confidence
to come forth, and try her pinions : education is required
by most minds in order to give the courage and skill ne-

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Online LibraryLincoln PhelpsLectures to young ladies, comprising outlines and applications of the different branches of female education, for the use of female schools, and private libraries → online text (page 22 of 27)