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Child culture in the home. A book for mothers online

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" The gain of lying," wrote Sir Walter
Raleigh to his son," is not to be trusted again,
not to be believed when we say truth." Mon-
taigne says of it " Can we imagine anything
more vile than to be cowards with regard to
men and base with regard to God."

He who has not a good memory cannot in-
dulge in lying, "For," says Pope, u he will be
forced to invent twenty more to keep up the
one."

Children also speak falsely from confused
perception, and from carelessness. In narrating
circumstances, if the child has not observed
accurately, or does not remember, he supplies
the deficiency with imagined details. He is not,
until so instructed, aware of the imperfections
in his statements ; he must therefore be taught
accuracy of observation and of expression, and
when he deviates ever so little from the fact as
it actually occurred his attention should be
called to the defective statement. If the par-



1 20 Child Culture

ents and the child's associates appreciate the
value and beauty of truthfulness, and them-
selves never depart from its practice, the child
will develop no untruthful tendencies in
thought or speech. Untruthfulness is oftener
the result of bad example, of the indifference
of parents to the virtue, of imperfect observa-
tion and heedlessness, than of innate depravity,
which it however becomes if indulged in
with impunity.

Great characters are always replete with
power of self-direction and of large resolution.
The names that stand forth as conspicuous ex-
amples of these attributes in our own country,
Benjamin Franklin, Washington, Grant and
Lincoln, though they were of different charac-
teristics, held in common a great determining
power. Franklin was perhaps the most con-
scious of this group he more directly sought
the growth of his virtues, and he tells us in his
autobiography how he practiced what he deemed
his most necessary virtue exclusively for a time
until he felt he had acquired that one, and then
lie proceeded to the next ; how he daily made
self-examinations to ascertain the degree of
progress he was making. He ascribes to Tem-
perance his long continued health and a good
constitution ; to Industry and Frugality the
early easiness of his circumstances and the ac-
quisition of his fortune with all that enabled



Character 121

him to be a useful citizen ; to Sincerity and
Justice, the confidence of his country and the
honorable employs it conferred upon him ; and
to the joint influence of the whole mass of the
virtues even in the imperfect state he was able
to acquire them, all that evenness of temper
and that cheerfulness in conversation which
made his company sought and agreeable even
to his younger acquaintance.

Grant's predominant trait was perhaps his
power of heroic resolution and his perseverance
in executing it. Lincoln's power of self-gov-
ernment was the trait that gave him such power
over others, but the salient, most admirable
feature of his great character was his deter-
mination never to shirk a responsibility; he
was always ready to recognize and accept his
duty, and to take the blame for any part that
was unfulfilled or that miscarried.

Through Shakespeare's characters we learn
that men are touched only by the external good or
evil that has a responsive chord in their breasts.

It is the ambition latent in Macbeth that was
touched into action by the prophecies of the
witches ; and the still greater ambition of Lady
Macbeth which held him to the fulfilment of
the deed. The witches represent the tempta-
tion, which, however, makes no appeal to a man
except at the point of his existing weakness.
In all Shakespeare's plays the tragedies are the



122 Child Culture

results of the incompleteness of man's charac-
ter, his letting the lower forces of being occupy
the places that the higher forces should occupy.
So in man's life, his incompleteness results in
soul tragedies, though they may not prove
tragedies before the world.

In Hamlet, we have the lesson of the sin of
omission; all the graces of heart and mind
slip through the grasp of an infirm purpose.
The sin of omission may be as fatal as the sin
of commission ; it is as evil not to do the work
man feels called upon to do as to make a false
step. One must call forth all the powers of
being for right doing as well as for resistance
of evil, and weakness becomes sin unless one
uses human and superhuman effort to resist it.

Power is the supreme test of a man's char-
acter ; it is easy for the weak to be gentle, for
the man in adversity to be meek, but when a
man becomes prosperous and forceful he reveals
his true nature.

Activity, sobriety, justice, energy and love of
humanity are indispensable qualities of a great
character.

The value of great men lies not alone in
their direct accomplishments not so much in
what they do as in what they are and the
strength which they supply their fellows. One
Howard purifies the prisons of the world ; one
Hampden strengthens a whole nation.



Character 123

DecisioD of mind is found a prime charac-
teristic of all great men, and many otherwise
good and noble men fail all through life from
lack of resolution to plan, and courage to
firmly execute a course of action. This power
requires a union of calm judgment, moral cour-
age and unvarying purpose. Weak vacillation
of purpose may arise from lack of self-confi-
dence, from too great caution, or from strong
and varying impulse. The first should consider
that it is better for a man to err in judgment
sometimes than to go through life in trepida-
tion and hesitation. The man who is swayed
by his feelings should delay judgment in mo-
ments of impulse. The early education should
train the child to abstain from speech and ac-
tion in periods of intense feeling and of fever-
ish excitement.

Strength of character gives a man the power
to detach himself from his deed when finished
and from his decision when reached. He will
consider the question in all its bearings, weigh
various suggestions, and listen to the opinion
of others, but it is most important that he form
his own decisions. After full enlightenment
and due deliberation, the conclusions to which
he is compelled should be final, and he should
learn to rest on them. Many persons utterly
lack this ability, but continually perplex them-
selves by retraversing the same ground and



124 Child Culture

reconsidering the same question. The power
to finally settle and dismiss questions which
demand self-sacrifice, and the refusal to revise
present decisions is a supreme test of a man's
strength of character, and it is a great economy
to the mind and heart. A man should reflect
on his past actions, and indeed cannot divorce
himself from their consequences, but it is use-
less to waste one's thought and feeling revising
one's best decisions.

The self-confidence which enables one to ac-
cept one's own decisions has allied to it the
danger of overvaluing one's own judgments.
Self-confidence may exist with a truly humble
mind and heart. Was Mr. Disraeli conceited
when he said that the house of commons would
one da}' listen to him ? A man who is conscious
of his own integrity, high motives, and earnest
endeavor may feel and express a confidence in
the ultimate result of his desires which they
who do not recognize them, cannot appreciate.
Such confidence may be the sole consolation
and support of a brave and noble mind in an
hour of temporary defeat. Courage and pluck
should command high admiration. Napoleon
said of the English that they did not know
when they were beaten. This is sometimes an
advantage, and one which all great nations and
great individuals have experienced.

There is, however, an egotism that renders a



Character 1 25

man unteachable and incapable of melioration,
for it leads him to think himself already suffi-
ciently perfect.

Some men of great character have had this
self-pride in an inordinate degree, but the
greatest minds have been humble and willing
to receive instruction from any true source.
Emerson says : " Every man I meet is my
master in some point and can instruct me
therein ; " this attitude renders one receptive to
all the good and wisdom one meets, and is an
important condition of self-improvement.

The rude experience which contact with the
world brings a man, usually rubs down the
salient angularities of his own importance and
subdues his conceit to the point of its benefits.
In the formation of a virtuous character, a man
must constantly steer between the Scylla of
his virtues in exaggeration, and the Charybdis
of their allied vices, but he must not let this
necessity paralyze him.

The activity of brain, the effort to do and not
to wrap one's talent in a napkin and bury it,
but to put it out to usury, has been a feature of
all great men.

" No matter how full a reservoir of MAXIMS
one may possess and no matter how good one's
SENTIMENTS may be, if one has not taken advan-
tage of every concrete opportunity to ACT, one's
character may remain entirely unaffected for



126 Child Culture

the better. With men's good intentions, hell
is proverbially paved. A "character," as J. S.
Mills says, " is a completely fashioned will ; "
and a will, in the sense in which he means it,
is an aggregate of tendencies to act in a firm,
prompt and definite way in all the principal
emergencies of life. A tendency to act only
becomes effectually ingrained in us in propor-
tion to the uninterrupted frequency with which
the actions take place, and the brain grows to
their use. When a resolve or a fine glow of
feeling is allowed to evaporate without bearing
practical fruit, it is worse than a chance lost ;
it works so as positively to hinder future reso-
lutions and emotions from taking the normal
path of discharge.

" There is no more contemptible type of
human character than that of the nerveless
sentimentalist and dreamer, who spends his life
in a weltering sea of sensibility and emotion,
but who never does a manly concrete deed.
Rousseau, inflaming by his eloquence all the
mothers of France to follow nature and nurse
their babies themselves, while he sends his own
children to the foundling hospital, is a classical
example of what I mean. But every one of us
in his measure, whenever, after glowing for an
abstractly formulated good, he practically ig-
nores some actual case among the squalid
" other particulars " among which that same



Character 127

good lurks disguised, treads straight in Rous-
seau's path. All good is disguised by the vul-
garity of its concomitants in this workaday
world ; but woe to him who can recognize them
only when he thinks of them in their own pure
and abstract form.

" The habit of excessive novel reading and
theatre going will produce true monsters in this
line. The weeping of the Russian lady over
the fictitious personages in the play, while her
coachman is freezing to death outside, is the
sort of thing that everywhere happens on a
less glaring scale. One becomes filled with
emotions which habitually pass without prompt-
ing to any deed, and so the inertly sentimental
condition is kept up. The remedy would be
never to suffer oneself to have an emotion
without expressing it afterward in SOME active
way. Let the expression be the least thing in
the world speaking genially to one's grand-
mother, or giving up one's seat in a horse car,
if nothing more heroic offers but let it not fail
to take place.

" Just as we let our emotions evaporate they
get in a way of evaporating, so there is no rea-
son to suppose that if we often flinch from mak-
ing an effort, before we know it, the effort-mak-
ing capacity will be gone." l

Neither good will, fine emotions nor right

>Prof. William James: ''Psychology," p. 147.



128 Child Culture

feeling avail unless a man realizes on them, and
this realization has been a mark of all the great
characters to whom the world has given recog-
nition.



CULTURE

BACON'S oft quoted saying that " Knowledge
is power " has been usually interpreted as mean-
ing that knowledge is a beneficent power. It
may be a power for good, and it may be as surely
a power for evil, for there is no connection be-
tween perfect familiarity with facts and an ap-
preciation of the great principles of life.
Knowledge of what is good and what is evil
avails nothing unless supported by the wisdom
to follow the one and to avoid the other. Hux-
ley says : " If I am a knave or a fool, teaching
me to write and read won't make me less of
either the one or the other, unless somebody
shows me how to put my reading and writing
to wise and good purposes." But add wisdom
and moral apprehension to the mental faculties,
and we have the power of virtue and the begin-
ning of culture.

That education does not culminate in virtue
is sadly exemplified by the moral standard of
some of the best educated people, lawyers, phy-
sicians, preachers, different professions, whose
members we find in the daily records of ras-
cality, and above all the politicians, whose
129



130 Child Culture

names have become almost synonymous with
moral corruption. Education bears fruit only
where it is planted ; if it is sown in the mental
field alone, it reaps only in the mental ; if it is
sown in the physical field, it will be reaped
only in the physical. The professional man's
education may not extend beyond the nar-
rowest professional requirements, and in such
case bears no fruit in any other direction.
There must be the harmonious training of all
the faculties to make acquired knowledge effica-
cious for good.

Parkes speaks wisely when he says : " The
positive things which we chiefly need are first
education, next education, and the next EDUCA-
TION, a vigorous development of the mind, the
conscience, of the affections; to assume that
any amount of intellectual education will pro-
duce rectitude without a parallel education of
the moral sense is a blunder ; in the union of
the two we have wisdom. Wisdom has been
well defined as " learning transformed to fac-
ulty," that is a fusion of knowledge, intellect
and morality, and he who blends these may be-
come a cultured man ; but it must be admitted
that the moral sentiment is the basis of true
culture.

Culture does not consist in a large accumula-
tion of knowledge, nor in profound learning,
though they serve it with nourishment, but it-



Culture 131

self is an unfolding of the human spirit, and has
more relation to quality than to quantity of
knowledge.

It comes not by additions from without, but
is a development from within ; it is not the re-
sult of scholarship, but of growth, and is re-
vealed in the ripe sound nature it bestows. A
man may have vast knowledge and remain
without cultivation, or he may have a little
knowledge and a great deal of cultivation. To
be cultured is to absorb what one knows until
the heart and mind are saturated with it, until
it is a part of one, and one's whole nature is
matured by it. The green fruit and the ripe
fruit are of the same substance, but what a
difference in the flavor of the two ; the same
difference distinguishes the cultured and the
uncultured man. The cult is one of slow
growth, and cannot be forced without loss of
flavor, but grows steadily in the man who is re-
ceptive to its quality. To be a source of cul-
ture knowledge should be transformed into per-
sonality, and should not only refresh but also
enrich the man's nature.

The pedant's knowledge goes no further than
his mind ; that of the cultured man enters his
soul. It is the result of profound thought and
of imagination, of a perfect assimilation of his
facts, and such intimacy with them that they
are incorporated with his mind. The pedant is



132 Child Culture

full of facts which he does not absorb, lacking
the receptive heart which would enable him to
do so. It is only by meditation on the vital re-
lation of the elements of a man's knowledge, by
connecting them with his soul that they become
thoroughly his own. The value of his culture
depends on the character of his reveries; if
they are on high and noble themes they enrich
his mind; if on idle and insignificant affairs,
the profit is small. But man can control his
meditations, and though they are largely un-
conscious they can also be largely directed to
worthy subjects. The training of one's mind
to dwell on great things instead of wasting it-
self in idle reverie is one of the most fruitful
sources of culture. Another deep source is the
contact with rich personalities ; nothing is more
educative than association with persons of high
intelligence ; he who has such opportunity gains
a high interpretation of life which illumines and
expands his own.

By contact with great ideas the individual
mind puts itself in touch with the universal
mind which broadens and enriches it. Culture
is based on ideas rather than on knowledge, the
latter being valuable to it in providing material
for its development. It is at once the highest
product of education, and the test of its power;
by it, man puts himself into heart relations
with the movements he is trying to understand;



Culture 133

to comprehend thoroughly persons or situations
one must pass beyond their mental attitude into
the heart of them.

A salient characteristic of the man of culture
is his breadth ; he is by his superior develop-
ment delivered from a narrow horizon, a re-
stricted world, and becomes a citizen of the
Universe ; such men do not accept local ex-
periences and standards for universal experience
and standards, the mistake which the unculti-
vated man makes ; the former takes a wide sur-
vey and his experience gives him poise and bal-
ance. By its wider knowledge and clearer
vision culture destroys philistinism to the core
and all other 4 isms ' except altruism.

Another essential is genuineness, sincerity of
purpose. The man of culture must feel sin-
cerely, must appreciate truly the truths he
elevates. He who is only playing a part, who
wishes merely to shine before men, who is not
frank only vain, is soon revealed to the gen-
uine man. The latter does not mistake the
veneer for the real article ; the latter consists
in though tfulness of others, generosity, mod-
esty, self-respect, true grace, and graciousness
of manner, all of which are truer tests than
knowledge of books, mental accomplishments
or any artificial acquirement. It is not much
more difficult to be than to pretend; if the
pretender made as great effort to secure the



134 Child Culture

reality as he exerts in the make believe, the
semblance would be unnecessary.

Culture has its root in egotism. We seldom
find a cultured man, who has not a strong ego,
a strong individuality, and it is this which has
secured him his mental advancement. The de-
sire to make self a worthy self, an enlightened
self, gives the man the determination which is
necessary for the effort and accomplishment.
Then, a man needs a large ego, that he may not
be lost in his books and arts, that he may ac-
quire them and not they acquire him. Culture
does not destroy his egotism, but trains away the
unhealthy elements, those, which if entertained
would prove a distemper, and preserves what is
necessary to sustain individual persistence.

Though generated and propelled by self-love,
culture should not and does not result in it.
It widens a man's horizon, it enlarges the scope
of his intellect so that he can take a just esti-
mate of himself, and that estimate is humility.
Egotism, therefore, exists as a cardinal neces-
sity, but must not be indulged beyond its
legitimate purpose. A man who lives on the
circumference of himself, HIS ideas, HIS fine
points, His possessions and circumstances is not
admirable. There is a limit to the interest
which a man's personal affairs, private history
has for another, to say nothing of the very bad
taste of making his affairs, accomplishments,



Culture 135

talents and achievements paramount in every
conversation. Egotism is not a product of
culture, and having served as a valuable ad-
junct, should be whipped into the background.
The cultivated man's views are impersonal,
catholic, unrelated to self ; he sees freely and
without prejudice, and has larger sources of
conversation than himself and his neighbors.

Emerson says : " Incapacity of melioration
is the only mortal distemper. There are people
who can never understand any second or ex-
panded sense given to your words, or any hu-
mor, but remain literalists after hearing music,
poetry, rhetoric and art for seventy or eighty
years. They are past the hope of surgeon or
clergy. But even they can understand pitch-
forks and the cry of * fire ! ' and I have noticed
in some of this class a marked dislike to earth-
quakes." Culture presupposes a fertile, capa-
cious soil. There are some substances that
cannot be wrought or moulded, ("one cannot
make a statue out of punk "), and there are
minds that admit of little culture or improve-
ment. However, because a soil will not grow
all things, it need not be deserted.



" But if my lot be sand where nothing grows? "

" Nay, who hath said it ? Tune a thankful psalm,
For, though thy desert bloom not as the rose,
It yet can rear thy palm."



136 Child Culture

Open to the growing youth the delights of
the intellect, the joys of thought, imagination,
truth and beauty, and you emancipate him
from the slavery of his lower nature. Culture
is an antiseptic for materialism. " For the
young woman who has learned to find pleasure
in the great souls of the earth," says Heber
Newton, " the garish glory of Vanity Fair will
pale with the cheap tinsel and appear like the
spangled splendors of the stage when the gas is
turned off and the daylight steals in upon the
scene. Let a young man realize how much
solid pleasure he can find in books, and he will
apprise stocks and bonds on a lower scale than
that quoted in the exchanges."

Books, as the records of human thoughts,
are leading factors in the cultivation of the
mind. One's opinion gains in weight as one
has knowledge of many opinions, and culture is
familiarity with the best thought of the world.

The great books of the world perceive and
interpret the life of the world ; they are our
most constant teachers because they contain
the most complete experience of the thought,
acts, and passions of mankind. They bring the
past out of its grave, and bring us in vital con-
tact with it and its experiences.

The great literary Bibles of Homer, Dante,
Goethe and Shakespeare have the universal
element which connects them with all time and



Culture 137

all places, which is the essential of all great
books and the feature which renders them im-
mortal. To read for culture one must get at
the heart of- books, must live with them and in
them, meditate on them and view the contents
from various sides. By such assimilation only
are one's soul and mind enriched by them.

Books are of value to a child only when he
is ready for them, when his faculties of per-
ception and observation are well developed to
the point of assimilation. In his early years
his playmates, his games, his everyday life are
his best instructors. Children are not ani-
mated vessels to be pumped into ad libitum ;
their consciousness, their power of realization
is at first very weak and not capable of grasp-
ing abstract thoughts. Let the hands touch,
the ears hear, the eyes see as much as possible
what the brain is to know. Bridge the chasm
between the abstract and the concrete, and let
the child read nothing, recite nothing in ad-
vance of his perfect understanding. Only
knowledge and ideas which we have fully real-
ized and comprehended nourish the mind ; the
others make no impression or produce mental
dyspepsia. A child that is crammed with facts
unrelated to his experience, never develops a
taste for knowledge ; a healthy instinct rebels
against receiving that which it cannot digest.
A boy always enjoys and makes greater strides



138 Child Culture

in the studies which as he expresses it " he sees
the good of ; " he is by nature eager to know,
but this desire is often rendered passive by
forcing him prematurely. He is perfectly will-
ing to wear the clothes that fit him, or which
he feels may ever fit him, but he rebels against
working for those that are not shaped for him,
and to which he will never grow.

A man of deep culture is a citizen of the
world, and his craving for the deeper experi-
ence and wider knowledge which travel affords
is the result of this citizenship. A well poised


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Online LibraryMartha B MosherChild culture in the home. A book for mothers → online text (page 7 of 13)