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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feeling, taste and information. You can understand,


that, important as this attainment is, it is dependent on
almost every other branch of education. By the general
improvement of your minds, therefore, can you be ex-
pected to arrive at that perfection in this accomplish-
ment, which a well educated woman ought to exhibit.

It is not unusual for parents on committing their
daughters to our care, to express a wish that they may be-
come good readers, before they proceed to other branches
of education. But reason and experience pronounce it
impossible for an ignorant person to read well ; such an
one may acquire an habit of calling words correctly, of
minding stops and marks, and observing all the artificial
rules for reading, but the soul will be wanting ! I would
rather hear a person read, who did not even know that a
comma was a pause of one syllable and a semicolon two,
and yet could comprehend an author's meaning, and ap-
ply the rules which nature suggests, than one who had
acquired a servile habit of applying arbitrary rules,
without taste or feeling. Not that I would have you
disregard rules, but you should remember that they
have been suggested by nature, as that the sense of
a passage, and not its punctuation, should guide your read-
ing. Nothing is more common than errors in printing^
by which, owing to the misplacing of a comma, or other
pause, the sense of a sentence is destroyed. You must
then learn to judge for yourselves where the sense requires
a pause ; and as to emphasis and intonations, they must
absolutely be left to your own judgement. In selecting
passages to read before the school,* let me advise you
never to begin with any thing you do not well understand.
A knowledge of languages, particularly the Latin and
French, is of great use in assisting a reader in the pro-
nunciation of words derived from foreign sources.

This however is not an occasion for particular di-
rections as to your improvement in reading ; the in-
structions which you are receivingf in this branch,

* On Wednesdays a certain number of pupils read before the
whole school pieces of their own selection.

t The excellent treatise on elocution, by Porter, is made a text
book for reading exercises and instructions.



added to your general course of education can scarcely
fail of giving you this accomplishment. Some ladies
have appeared to think it un feminine to read or speak
in an audible manner, affecting a low and lisping tone y
probably from the idea that this is an indication of a gen-
tle and delicate spirit; but I trust you have all too much
taste and good sense, not to feel how false and ridiculous
are such notions of female delicacy. The time has gone
by, when it was necessary for a female to seem ignorant
or childish in order to be interesting. Women are now
looked upon as rational beings, endowed with faculties
capable of improvement, and bound in duty to as-
sume a high rank in the scale of intelligence. Even
beauty has learned, that connected with ignorance and
folly, she must give precedence to the plainest features
irradiated with intelligence and good sense. I speak
not now of a ball or a fashionable party, where ex-
ternal appearance chiefly is regarded, but of the great
theatre of human life, where character developes itself,
and where all find their own proper level, intellect and
morals being the graduating scale.

I shall close this lecture by a quotation from an au-
thor,* who has done much for the education, and has
ever shown himself interested in the improvement of our
sex. * Elocution is not sufficiently attended to, in the
course of female education. I know, great improvements
have been made of late, in this respect, but much yet
remains to be done. It is not enough that a young lady
should be taught to read with a correct pronunciation,
and emphasis, and without any palpable fault. She
should be taught to enter into the feelings of the author;
and to make the hearers feel as if he was really address-
ing them. One very striking fault in the reading of ma-
ny persons is, that they do not adapt their manner to the
peculiar character of the composition, but always read
in one uniform style. Perhaps there are some reasons
why young ladies are in danger of doing this more than
the other sex ; or rather, why it is more difficult, in their
case, to remedy this defect. Their reading is confined

* Gallaudet.


to the fire-side, and to the domestic circle ; and there
seems to be, therefore, less of inducement for them to aim
at the life, and variety, and force, so essential in public
speaking. Still, these, and every other good quality of
the most eloquent delivery, ought to hold a high rank
among female accomplishments. I cannot understand,
why it should be thought, as it sometimes is, a departure
from female delicacy to read in a promiscuous, social cir-
cle, if called upon to do so from any peculiar circumstan-
ces; and to read, too, as well as Gfarrick himself would
have done, if the young lady possessed the power of do-
ing it. Why may she not do this with as much genuine
modesty, and with as much desire to oblige her friends,
and with as little ostentation, as to sit down, in the same
circle, to the piano, and play and sing in the style of the
first masters'? If to do the former is making too much
of a display of her talents, why should not the latter be
so ? Nothing but some strange freaks of fashion have
made the difference. But, at any rate, amid her family
and friends, to how many otherwise tedious, or useless,
hours of life, may a female impart both delight and im-
provement by the charm of reading well. If a wife, she
can solace many a season of a husband's weariness or
sickness. If a mother, what an advantage to her off-
spring, to have before them, as they are growing up, a
living model, in the person of one whom they are led to
reverence and love, of an accomplishment which our
schools, and academies, and colleges, find it so difficult
to impart. This latter consideration, in my view, has
immense weight ; for our habits of pronunciation, speak-
ing, and reading, are first formed in childhood, and in
the domestic circle ; and being once formed, it is a task
of extreme difficulty to alter them/

It has been observed that a person may have genius
without being a good reader, but no one can be a good
reader without genius. When you find how many are
the requisites for this accomplishment, you will learn not
to esteem it lightly, or as a thing which may be gained
in childhood, but one towards whose perfection all the
different branches of knowledge tend. If you were
sailed upon to give a preference either to reading or


music, I hope you would all prefer returning to your
friends perfected in the former rather than the latter ac-
complishment ; for although music is a refined and in-
tellectual enjoyment, the occasions for it in ordinary
life, are far less frequent than for reading aloud. In all
the pursuits of youth this should ever be the main object
of inquiry, What attainments will render me most useful
and agreeable to others, and tend most to my own eleva-
tion and happiness ?



IT is not until after a child has learned to use nouns,
verbs, prepositions, and other parts of speech, that he
knows them as such ; in other words, he becomes famil-
iar with language before he learns its philosophy. So it
is with much of our knowledge ; we are conversant with
the subjects, before we understand their natures.

The mechanic becomes familiar with the of the- pul-
ley, wedge and inclined plane, and is able to perform various
operations by their aid, without knowing any thing of
mechanical philosophy. We exercise our various mental
faculties, reason, remember, and compare, long before
we are able to comprehend the nature of these operations.

Language was not formed according to the rules of
grammar, but grammar was made to conform itself to those
forms of language which had previously been established.
A child learns to speak without knowing anything of the
rules of grammar ; and people ignorant of the principles
and rules of language, are often able to write with toler-
able accuracy. Such persons, however, feel their own
deficiency in this respect ; they know that they are contin-
ually liable to errors. A mariner might chance to steer
his bark aright without a compass, but he would feel
much more secure if provided with the means of as-
certaining the correctness of his course.

tSftAMMAR, 89

Man perceiving effects, is led to trace them to their
causes, though in this process he often proceeds by
slow degrees. God views the first as 'first; that is,
causes, and the effects following them. Human na-
ture must be satisfied to advance from the more im-
perfect and complex, to the more perfect and simple;
for in general, objects are first familiar to us as complex.
A child can readily understand this proposition, the
sun shines ; but it requires study and reflection to be
able to analyze it into an article, a noun, and a verb;
to separate these again into syllables, the syllables into
letters, and then to explain the difference in the sounds
and powers of these letters. The lowest human beings in
the scale. of knowledge, (with the exception of the deaf
and dumb,) have some kind of spoken language. Many
savage tribes know nothing of written language. In our
country there are, however, few so ignorant as not to know
how to read and write ; but there are many who know
nothing of grammar, or those rules and principles on
which their own language is founded ; and there are
still fewer who comprehend those broad and general
principles of grammar, which are common to all lan-
guages, and make up the science of universal gram-

No person can be considered as having a liberal educa-
tion, who has not studied, at least one language besides
his own; and yet there are pedantic grammarians, who,
with no other knowledge than that gained from the
study of the English language, assume to understand
the principles on which it is founded, and to be able to
give rules for every doubtful case in parsing : more
knowledge of the intricacies of language would teach
such, that the English being composed of a mixture of
other languages, on principles common to them, and yet
in many cases essentially varying from these principles,
necessarily presents many irregularities; instead, there-
fore, of attempting to prove all cases to be conformable
to rules, we must often cut the gordian knot, by admitting
a case to be anomalous, or sanctioned only by cus-



The study of languages, then, besides affording an ex
cellent discipline for the mind, and presenting new and
rich sources of knowledge, is important in teaching the
principles of our own language. But all cannot enjoy
the opportunities necessary for this acquisition ; many
enter this institution restricted to a few months, during
which it is desirable that they should make such attain-
ments as will be most important in after life. It would
be absurd for a person to attempt to lay a broad founda-
tion, knowing that he should never be able to erect a su-
perstructure upon it.

A young lady having merely received the rudiments
of an English education, as afforded by a common
school, and who is allowedd, for six months or a year,
the advantage of a higher school, should not be encour-
aged to attempt more than she can accomplish within
the allotted period. The higher branches of education,
and the accomplishments of music, drawing, foe., should
not take the place of grammar, geography, arithmetic,
and history. The natural sciences, are within the reach
of every one, who can count the stamens of a flower, can
see the difference between quartz and mica, or can
observe the different properties of oxygen and nitrogen.
In these sciences, every lecture is exhibiting nature in a
new aspect, and storing the mind with facts arid observa-
tions which will be useful and interesting in every
station and under every circumstance of life.

English grammar is becoming a very common study.
It is now almost universally taught in our common
schools, and constitutes one of the earliest, as well
as the latest pursuits of all classes of students. It
has its simple distinctions which can be understood by
the child, and it contains subtleties which elude the
grasp of the strongest and most mature intellect.

In the former and less improved state of education, a
pupil commencing the study of grammar, was required
to commit to memory page after page of principles,
rules and exceptions: these he was required to repeat
before commencing the important process of parsing.
In some cases, teachers continued to keep their pupils


to the recitation of grammar lessons, concealing their
own want of knowledge of the science, by pretend*
ing that it was necessary to understand every word
of their book before they could begin to make an
application of its principles and rules* Other teachers
there were, who really believed that this repeating by
rote constituted the whole mystery of the science, and
doubted not but in hearing their pupils recite, they were
teaching grammar in the most profitable manner.

Since those days of grammatical darkness and error,
books have been prepared on new principles of teaching,
and the inductive method has been generally adopt-
ed.* Here the pupil begins at once (o distinguish
a sentence into its different parts. Rules are not pre-
serited until the mind is led to perceive their applica-
tion. There is, however, still a tendency to a great fault
in both the teaching and learning of grammar; this is,
to make parsing the ultimate object, instead of the
application of grammatical rules to writing and con-

We do not often hear people say I is, you am, fyc.
But ladies who claim to be well educated not unfre-
quently say * I will lay down,' using the word lay, which
is the past tense of the verb to lie, as if it were the future.
We often hear adjectives improperly used as adverbs, as
f she looks beautiful,' instead of beautifully. Will is used
for shall, as * / will not have time ; ' the improper use of
these two auxiliaries is well illustrated in the anecdote
of the foreigner, who falling into a river, piteously
exclaimed, 'I will drown, nobody shall help me.' That
foreigners should thus mistake the power of two words
so analogous in many respects, is not strange; but those

* No elementary work has probably been of greater general
utility than i Greenleafs Grammar Simplified.' The teacher who
is ignorant, of the science, cannot but be made acquainted with it
by the simple and easy manner in which parsing, or the analyti-
cal part of grammar is taught. A smaller work on the same
principles has been prepared by Mr. Greenleaf, with the inten-
tion of having it afforded at so low a rate as may enable even the
poorest scholar of a common school to possess a copy. Brown's
and Kirkham's grammars are valuable for more .advanced pupils.


who study the English grammar should apply in practice
their knowledge, that shall used in the first person,
singular, simply foretels, while will, in the same person
and number, implies a resolution or determination.

It is necessary then that you should bear in mind
that parsing, and learning rules, are mechanical and
useless, unless you make the application of these
exercises, to writing and conversation. The slightest
offence against grammatical accuracy should be avoided
by people of education, and yet such offences are much
more common than you may at first imagine. The
substituting which for who, the use of the perfect for
the imperfect tense] or the imperfect for the pluper-
fect 9 the improper use of the potential mode, &,c. give
rise to errors, which though not of the grossest kind,
are yet quickly perceived by a philologist. Perhaps
I have here used a term not familiar to all of you ; I will
therefore observe that philology is derived from the
Greek phileo, I love, and logos, a word, and signifies a
love for, or a knowledge of words. According to the
present acceptation of the term, philology implies a criti-
cal knowledge of language, considered both rhetorically
and gramctically. To be a philologist requires a higher
effort of mind, a more enlarged view of language than to
be a grammarian. But in order to be a grammarian, it
is not sufficient that you should be able to parse
sentences in that kind of parrot-like manner which
is often acquired ; you must be able to perceive the
meaning of an author, the connexion between the words
of a sentence, however distant, and to supply words
in elliptical cases. Some of the English poets are pecu-
liar, for their great use of ellipsis, some especially, in
the expression of sudden passion, leaving not one word
merely, but several, to be supplied by the reader.

A fashion has too much prevailed among you of consid-
ering English grammar as a study only proper for young-
er pupils, and some have exhibited a degree of impa-
tince at being occasionally called upon to devote some
time to the review of this science. But no young lady
need fear that grammar can present to her nothing new,
or that one hour in a week devoted to the analysis of


English poetry, will not afford her an opportunity for
intellectual exertion.

You may say, ' If grammar requires deep thought, why
are children so early put to the study of it? ' We would
answer, that there are simple truths in this science which
children can soon comprehend, as the distinction be-
tween the parts of speech ; they can readily understand
the nature of a noun, and this knowledge gives them
many new ideas. We tell them that every tiling in ex-
istence is a noun, all that they can see, hear, touch,
smell, or taste, are nouns; at first, it might seem to them
that no other words would be necessary but the names of
these things ; but of the names of real objects in nature,
how small a part of our vocabulary of words consists.
The child soon learns that we must have words to ex*
press actions done to, or done by these things which we
call nouns, and thus the mind can readily comprehend
that there may be words which do riot stand for things,
but relate to their manner of acting, or their state of ex-
istence, and that these words are called verbs. It is easy
also for a child to understand that these things called
nouns have different qualities ; as fire is hot, snow is
white; that one person is good, and another bad, and
that the words denoting these qualities are called adjec-
tives, which means words added to nouns. Thus you
observe the young mind, by the study of grammar, is led
to form an idea of things or material objects, of actions
or modes of existence, and of qualities which do not ex-
ist of themselves but are inseparable from the things in
which they are found. Now all this is philosophy, but it
may be easily comprehended by a child old enough to
understand the difference between two and four.

Thus simple are the elements of grammar. But it
contains divisions and subdivisions, exceptions to general
rules, and exceptions differently modified ; so that, as be-
fore remarked, while children can understand its ele-
ments, the philosopher is lost in its intricacies. While
employed in this study, you are giving exercise to your
mental powers, invigorating them for new labors, and at
the same time are gaining knowledge, which will be
called into use with every sentence you speak or write.


It is very important that those who are preparing them-
selves for teachers, should obtain a thorough knowledge
of English grammar. In correcting the inaccuracies in
spoken and written language, a teacher should not only
be able to point out defects, but the rules which are vio-

In concluding my remarks upon a branch of educa-
tion so important, and yet, through inattention and care-
lessness, so often pursued with little advantage, let me
admonish you against that mental indolence which fre-
quently defeats the efforts of parents and teachers.
Knowledge cannot, like houses and lands, be purchased
by money. All that your parents or teachers can do,
is to place within your reach the instruments of ac-
quiring it ; if you refuse to use them, if your minds are
not active, to observe, compare, and remember, it will be
in vain that you are placed in situations where facilities
for. improvement are offered. Books and lectures are of
no avail to that mind which is too inert to rouse itself into
action, and seize the truths which are exhibited. There
is in the mind a tendency to sloth, but it also con-
tains principles which counteract this love of ease.
Of these are a desire for knowledge, an ambition
to excel, and in many persons the higher moral mo-
tive of cultivating the talents committed to their charge,
from a sense of duty to God. But these incitements to
action are sometimes feeble ; how often arc the minds
of some pupils slumbering in a torpid inactivity, while
others are exerting all the energies of their faculties to
impart instruction to them ; how often is the listless eye
fixed in vacancy of thought upon some trifling object, or
the mind wandering on some past pleasure, or anticipat-
ing some future enjoyment, while their teachers, with in-
tense anxiety to discharge their high responsibilities, are
exerting all their powers to explain something which they
feared might not be understood, or to communicate such
knowledge as the pupil will need in her future progress in
life. Would not a spectator, ignorant of the truth, sup-
pose that the teacher, and not themselves, was to be the
gainer by their attention ?


I have read of a certain professor,* who always lec-
tured to one particular student, regulating his dis-
courses by his appearance : when he looked as if he
did not comprehend the subject, the professor per-
ceived that his explanation had not been clear, and
endeavored to illustrate his ideas more fully ; when
the student's countenance was illumined with the glow
of intelligence, the professor knew that he was under-
stood, and that his instructions had taken effect. How
many different expressions do I at this moment behold
before me ! How many youthful countenances, lighted
up by the spirit within, animate me in the discharge of
my duties !

Would that all of you could realize the importance of
this present season of preparation for your future lives.
The scriptures point out two classes of people, the wise
and the foolish. Though intellectual gifts are not al-
ways most conspicuous in the most virtuous, it is gener-
ally the case that the latter more assiduously seek to
make a suitable improvement of advantages afforded
them. In every large collection of human beings assem-
bled for the purpose of instruction, we are struck by con-
trasts ; some seek to know the truth and to learn their
duty, while others, alas, too many, appear forgetful of
the momentous interests which hang upon the present
moment. Have we not reason to believe that these
will at last be found among those to whom it will be
said, ' Depart from me ; ye have chosen your own
ways, ye have loved pleasure rather than wisdom/


Ancient Languages.

IN proceeding to consider the study of the ancient
languages, I would wish you to understand that I do not
recommend them, except where circumstances permit a

* Professor Jardine, of Edinburgh.


liberal course of education. You will recollect the re-
marks on this subject in our last lecture, and will not
therefore be likely to imbibe the mistaken idea, that all
young ladies are called upon to become Latin and Greek
scholars, or even to attempt acquiring the rudiments of
any other language than their own.

It is the pride of this institution, that the daughter of
the most humble mechanics and farmers, and of the wealth-
iest and most powerful of our citizens, here meet on
terms of equality, except as virtue and talents make a
distinction. Our country is probably the only one in the
world which exhibits such a scene. In England, the
nobility would feel it a degradation to have their daugh-
ters educated in common with the untitled. The gentry
who may not aspire to mingle with the nobility, still re-
coil from plebeian contamination. In the English univer-
sities, it is true, all may find admittance who are suitably
qualified for entrance, but the sons of the nobility have

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 8 of 27)