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Child culture in the home. A book for mothers online

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intelligently directed life, stands both in local
and universal relations and is thereby rendered
vital, rich, and broad. Travel as a means of
culture is advantageous only to those who have
mental equipment for it ; it is robbed of half its
educational value unless one carries with him a
knowledge of what he is to see, and in propor-
tion to that knowledge is his mind enriched.
No American abroad sees in what he beholds
more than he carries in his memory and imagi-
nation. What can Westminster Abbey signify
to the man who is ignorant of the biographies
of its memorials ; or Venice and Florence, to
one who knows not their past? One who knows
and understands the life and art of the past, even
though he see not their visible records has more
culture than he who sees but comprehends
them not.

Culture 139

A mark of the man of culture is his absence
of pretension. The more real value a man has
the less he cares about an exhibition of it. To
the unitiated man appearances are all ; if you
show no appreciation of him, he forces your at-
tentions by boasting of his eminence in some
direction ; he promises much, and the one ob-
ject of his life is to be conspicuous. Boys and
girls who have been brought up with well-in-
formed people show in their manner an un-
speakable grace ; they are retiring, modest, self-
respecting ; promise little and perform much,
and possess that repose of manner which is the
badge of the perfect lady and gentleman. Self-
command, cheerfulness arid perfect repose are
the great elegances of the best society. All
that adds sweetness and polish to society, that
softens the asperities of life, discloses a civiliza-
tion in flower.

Every nature has in its depths a fund of en-
thusiasm which seeks expansion, and the object
of education should be to direct this to worthy
objects the good and the beautiful.

Art is the expression of the culture of the
imagination through the artist's personality. It
contains the thought and life of the race to
which it belongs, the last results of its experi-
ences. " The interpretations of life which the
Greek, the Roman and Hebrew races have left
us are revelations of their character and life ;

140 Child Culture

they symbolize their highest thoughts, the deep-
est feeling, the most searching experience, the
most strenuous activity of these races. In them
are experienced and represented the inner and
essential life of each race, in them the soul of
the older world survives." These interpreta-
tions constitute in their highest forms the su-
preme art of the world and are the richest educa-
tional material accessible to man. Every cul-
tured person is at least an interpreter and
appreciator of art, admires expressions of the
beautiful, and should be capable of imagining
beautiful and graceful things. Because art is a
product of the imagination it can also be a pro-
ducer of it ; one who is lacking in imagination
can find no better school for its development
than the study of works of art.

Poetry expresses the relation of form to emo-
tion and thought, " the spirit of things," " the in-
finite in things," and is within the scope of the
youngest and of the ripest minds. In this
scientific age there is danger of utilitarianism
drawing into its vortex all the intellectual life
and interest ; let us not permit it ; let us instil
into our youth an appreciation of the beautiful
as well as of the useful. Help them to know
and to understand the poetry, to which at some
periods of life we delight to return, sometimes
for soothing in sorrow, sometimes for stimulus
to hope.

Culture 141

In young people appeal must be made to the
heart and imagination before addressing the in-
tellect. The child feels its mother's love before
it has any intellectual conception of what love
is ; her gentleness and tenderness are the poe-
try of its young life. Life is full of poetry, if
we only apprehend it.

Beautiful pictures full of sense and sentiment
are valuable means for instructing the child's
taste and poetic understanding. JEsthetic qual-
ities are transmitted from generation to genera-
tion, and should be regarded as a precious
heritage, to be fostered and developed where
they exist, and to be created where they do not.

A desire for artistic enjoyment exists in some
degree in all human beings ; it is a legitimate
craving and should be gratified. Uncultivated
persons are better pleased with a flaring daub
than with a fine engraving, with the rhythm of
dance music than with sublime song and ora-
torio ; they understand the one and do not the
other; the taste needs refining and educating.
The conditions which made Greek art were the
education of an art-appreciating public as well
as of art-producing artists. Art gives to the
mind pure ideals; Goethe, Ruskin and Tolstoi
have claimed a close connection between artis-
tic and moral beauty ; in both are expressed a
sense of the perfect, the harmonious, the ideal.

Works of art that are simple, healthy and


142 Child Culture

elevating should be placed within the reach of
all. "If it is true," says a French writer, "that
the imagination of children, and especially of
the children of the masses is always more de-
veloped than their reasoning powers, does it not
follow, not merely that a place that it does not
at present occupy should be awarded to the
cultivation of the imagination, but that such
culture should take the most prominent posi-
tion in primary education." He also says,
" Beauty is the watchword of the Universe ;
beauty should be the watchword of education."
It is of great importance that every nascent
faculty be developed, and toward this develop-
ment is the trend of modern education, which
is however not yet perfected. Drawing is often
made dull and uninteresting to children by the
constant copying of technical objects, when
their taste is to give expression to their own
imagination. Drudgery and routine work are
essential, of course, but if the child learns only
to copy he will never acquire creative power,
but be an imitator all his life.

Art and music interpret and embellish life,
are a relaxation from material care, have an
elevating influence on the character beside the
genuine pleasure they afford. An appreciation
of both should be a part of every child's educa-
tion. By excluding trash, and securing to it
views of superior pictures, statues that are full

Culture 143

of grace and symbol, much may be done toward
forming a correct taste even in childhood.

In our tastes we reveal our characters ; if we
did not, they would not be tastes but instincts.
When you enter a stranger's house you can tell
by the furnishing what manner of man he is,
and just as truly does one's apparel reveal the
degree of refinement of the wearer.



THERE has been recently organized in New
York City a " Society for the Improvement of
American Speech," the object of which, as the
name indicates, is to urge a purer, richer, more
correct use of the mother tongue. The neces-
sity of some effort to awaken an appreciation
of the importance and value of grammatically
correct and well selected language for the ex-
pression of thought, has at last impressed itself
on a few earnest persons, and the consideration
is a worthy one.

A striking weakness of the English language
as used in this country is its extreme poverty,
the very limited vocabulary that belongs to the
average boy and girl. Everything that satis-
fies the boy's physical, mental or moral taste
is " fine ; " everything that dissatisfies it is
"rank." With girls, every quality of excel-
lence is expressed in " splendid " or " elegant "
and the reverse is "horrid;" between a well
rendered opera and an ice cream soda there is
no distinction ; they and all their intermediates
are "elegant." The inherent quality of an
article is never analyzed to ascertain its true

Language and Literature 145

distinction and really to define it, but the gen-
eral nomination of " splendid " is supposed to
convey the fullest description. The elderly
principal of a " Young Ladies' Seminary " arose
in a meeting of the society before mentioned
and told of the difficulties he had experienced
in his efforts to enrich the vocabulary of the
pupils of his seminary. He said he had once
shown a young girl a picture of the " Falls of
Lodore," and asked her what she thought of
them ; she said they were " very pretty ; " he
asked her if that was all she could think to say
of them; she replied, "Yes, that is all; they
are very pretty ; " whereupon the old gentle-
man gave the eloquent, characteristic descrip-
tion of the falls with which we are all familiar.
It was most striking, the contrast of that lit-
tle girl's poor "pretty," with the flow of words
and glowing description that followed.

It is not only desirable to have words
promptly at command, but one should en-
deavor to find the word that best conveys the

Benjamin Franklin, in his " Autobiography,"
tells us that when he discovered his need of a
larger vocabulary, he took some of the tales of
the " Spectator " and turned them into verse,
and after a time when he had forgotten the
prose he turned them back into prose again.
Such patience and determined effort for the en-

146 Child Culture

richment of one's power of expression must be
followed by definite results. Where can one
find a more accurate definition of a bat than
that given by a little boy to his teacher : " He's
a nasty little mouse with ingy rubber wings
and shoe string tail, and bites like the devil."
No biologist could better enumerate the char-
acteristics of the little creature.

Emerson said of Montaigne's words that they
were so rich that if you cut them they would

Slang words and expressions are the bar-
nacles that cling to a language, and should be
discouraged for several reasons. Their use is
inelegant, they impoverish the language be-
cause one depends on a few slang phrases to
express many various thoughts ; and the objec-
tion of most importance, they rarely originate
correctly and therefore cannot qualify appro-
priately the subject to which they belong. For
instance : take the expression, " that is a chest-
nut," meaning a stale thought ; there is no con-
nection or appropriateness between the word
"chestnut" and a stale topic; it is not derived
from any radical that bears on the condition to
which it is applied. It is only when a new
word, or a new application of a word, is prop-
erly derived and enhances the quality, or gives
a better description of a subject, that its use is
permissible. Such words are only slang be-

Language and Literature 147

cause they have not been authoritatively rec-
ognized, but they gradually become incorpo-
rated in the language, because of their adapta-
bility, and are the means by which a language
grows and is enriched. For example : the word
" spicy " conversation, indicates a highly fla-
vored conversation, and the word "trap" mean-
ing to ensnare are words that, while deflected
from their original use, are so well applied as
to be unobjectionable.

There are many teachers and otherwise
well educated persons at whose ungrammatical
use of the English language one is astounded ;
they are perfectly familiar with the rules that
prohibit the faults they make, but the contagion
of early surroundings or illiterate associates
bears more fruit than their knowledge, and
they have acquired the habit of saying, " I
seen " and " I done " until it is almost ineradi-
cable. How few there are of even the well
educated class whose conversation is absolutely
free from error, and who use really good, well-
constructed English, while the language of the
average person is replete with the grossest mis-
takes. If the vernacular were given more con-
sideration, and the art of expression inserted
and maintained in the child's curriculum from
the beginning, how many more correct conver-
sationalists there would be, and how the pleas-
ure of conversation would be increased.

148 Child Culture

Next to the practice of speaking and narrat-
ing, composing is the best means of acquiring
a command of well selected words and fluency
in expression ; and the reading of good litera-
ture is also essential to the accomplishment.

One secret of literary power is the art of
putting the right word in the right place, and
White's "Words and Their Uses" and Mat-
thew's similar work are excellent books on the
use and fine distinction of words. A mean
diction weakens any verbal or written produc-
tion, while the right use of words elevates and
adorns the simplest tale. To enlarge one's vo-
cabulary, one must note the new, unfamiliar
words that one hears in conversation, or meets
with in reading. From the time a child is old
enough to handle a dictionary, he should make
constant use of it to ascertain the meaning,
origin, and pronunciation of unfamiliar words.
It is, however, chiefly by associating with intelli-
gent, cultivated persons, and by attending to
their language that one gains a cultured diction.
A knowledge of rules avails little if one does
not see the rules exemplified in models, there-
fore one's models should be sought in the best
literature. The essentials of good diction are
purity, propriety, and precision.

In pronunciation, one of the common errors
of uncultivated persons is the omission of the
final "g;" they say 4 ' readin'," "eatin'," "ridin'."

Language and Literature 149

If the parents are uneducated and cannot aid
their children in acquiring good English and
establishing themselves in the use of it, they
should, if their means permit, secure for the
child the services of an educated governess ; or
if unable to do this, they should supplement
their own imperfect education with a study of
a simple grammar and a rhetoric. Being writ-
ten for young minds, these text-books are so
simple, clear and explicit that anyone can un-
derstand them, and the benefit derived is cer-
tainly commensurate with the labor the study
imposes. Only by repeated practice does one
perfect oneself in any accomplishment, and
to become a master of expression, a fluent and
eloquent speaker, the child or the adult must
have frequent practice. It is therefore advis-
able when the child has read a story to have
him recount it in his own language, with the
best words and phraseology he can command;
a great improvement in style will soon be

When a child has learned to observe for him-
self, has held converse with nature, and has
some familiarity with the concrete world, he is
ready for books. Style is important, even in
the first stages of a child's reading ; he cannot
read slipshod, inferior, poorly expressed prose
without undergoing a degradation of taste ; if
the matter is insipid and the style cheap and

150 Child Culture

tawdry, his standard of taste is lowered, and
his desire for the best things lessened. The
training during the unconscious period is defi-
nite and permanent, and when he is ready to
make conscious selection, he is guided by the
taste already developed.

In recent years the market has been flooded
with juvenile literature of every grade and
quality, much of it estimable and purposeful,
and more of it trashy and weak, if not perni-
cious. The legends and myths, history and
biography of the world have been brought to
the child's level, and are presented in simple
yet attractive form by skilled writers. While
many of these modern productions are merito-
rious, there are many pretended histories which
contain no elements of real value to the child,
but simply retail the vicious deeds of kings,
and fill the pages of the book with exciting
episodes which may gratify the young reader,
but are worse than valueless to him. The
pictures of these histories reveal their quality ;
if they present only brutal battles, and the one
idea is carnage and the clash of war, they will
not inspire him with high ideals or true heroism.
When so much good literature is at the service
of children it is unwise for them to waste their
time on inferior matter. The religious ideal
which sought to make a boy absolutely un-
worldly has been acknowledged an absurdity,

Language and Literature 151

and stories are now substituted, which teach
him how to live worthily, and which instil good
morals and right conduct in a more practical
way. The tone of a book should be healthy
and hopeful, and should avoid morbid senti-
mentality and sensational or false standards.
There are still so-called " children's books "
that are written in language so difficult of com-
prehension, and in a style so mature that an
adult can scarcely understand them, and they
are like Greek to the child. The language for
children should be simple, though it need not
be confined to monosyllables ; it should be choice,
but never ponderous in expression.

" Mother Goose " and other nursery rhymes
are the first loves of children, and though they
do not belong to the highest order of poetry
they are symmetrical and catchy, and seem to
fill an instinctive need of childhood. At a
" Mothers' Convention," recently held in
Chicago, the seal of condemnation was set on
" Mother Goose " and kindred rhymes, but
when mothers over the land stood aghast at the
prospects of such exclusion, and when investi-
gation of the constituency of the convention
was made, it was revealed that it was composed
largely of men and unmarried women, who by
reason of their inexperience were unqualified
to speak in the premises. Childhood in all
ages and all countries has been the same, and

152 Child Culture

we may be sure that from the time of the
small Hebrews and Egyptians, the little folks
have always rhymed and have had some equiv-
alent for " Mother Goose ! "

The " Mothers' Convention " is said to have
objected that the verses were not literal state-
ments of fact ; that there was no reason to be-
lieve for instance that the rhyme, " Hey
diddle diddle, the cat's in the riddle " was a
faithful portrayal of actual circumstance, and
that the statement that the " cow jumped over
the moon" was at best a gross exaggeration.
God pity childhood when fancy must be excluded
from its verses, and they must deal exclusively
with scientific and unyielding facts. It is, how-
ever, consoling to reflect that platform resolu-
tions can never defeat nature, and that little
children will remain as they have always been.
In this realistic generation there are some who
would exclude every tale that is an emanation of
the imagination, all " fairy tales " from child
lore, but the cultivation of the imagination is as
important a part of the development of the
mind as is the training of the faculties of per-
ception, reflection and memory. The child's
imagination needs training more than it needs
exciting, and there is a great deal of truly
pernicious fairy lore. Anderson's and Grimm's
fairy tales are standards, and are mostly un-
objectionable, but the best myths for children

Language and Literature 153

are the classical myths, which filled the im-
agination of the race in its childhood. These
are not only entertaining but also artistic and
instructive, because largely symbolic. Through
them the child is initiated into the art world
and literature of the early Greeks, still the
best art the world has known. Children listen
enraptured to the story of Achilles, of the true
and tender Hector, who could set aside his wife
and baby boy and respond to the call of his coun-
try to duty. They are thrilled with the efforts
of the Greeks to capture Troy and rescue the
beautiful Helen, and all the other heroic fea-
tures of the Trojan war so graphically described
in Homer's noble poem. Other good literature
of this class are Hawthrone's "Tanglewood
Tales " and his " Wonderbook," which are full
of a symbolism which the child may not ap-
preciate at the time, but will appreciate as he
matures. The child's reading should embrace
variety of matter, fact and fiction biography
and romance, science and poetry, the real and
the ideal. One should not always impose one's
selection on him, but let him forage for himself
among a well chosen number.

If parents can remember what books made
the greatest impression on their lives, which
ones awakened healthy sentiment, inspired
them to generous action and enlarged the scope
of their minds, they have a safe practical guide

154 Child Culture

to the books with which to surround their
children. The books that are read in child-
hood, in the formative period, influence the
character more than those that are read after
the character is formed; it is important, there-
fore, wisely to direct the child's reading, and to
note well how he reads. There is danger in
too much fiction ; children and adults may be
omniverous readers for the longest period and
yet not read one book that is of real value to
their lives. The best that can be done for a
child is to cultivate in him a taste for good
reading, for literature that inspires and elevates,
that so impresses his heart and mind, that he
goes forth therefrom a nobler soul and with a
higher purpose. The Bible is preeminently the
book of books ; in it is the aggregation of
wisdom, knowledge, moral teaching and poetry;
it contains the most stately English, the most
complete system of ethics the world has yet
received. The New Testament can be read to a
child as soon as he can understand it, or it may
be given him to read himself, but from the
Old Testament selections only should be given,
for there are passages both in its story and
psalms that are morally unfit for any child to
dwell on. For the study of the Bible, even
children should go straight to the Bible and
not read the children's editions, from which all
real beauty and value have been expurgated ;

Language and Literature 155

the " Book of Books " is a book of life and not
a book of letters.

The field of literature open to youths and
maidens is quite as extensive as that for the
younger children ; for, though not so many
books are written for young people of this age
exclusively, they can read profitably many of
the works written for younger minds, and are
also now ready for many books that adults
read. Good biographies, histories and histori-
cal novels should now enter the catalogue,
though in simpler form many of these are also
understood and relished by the younger chil-
dren. The mother or father should take time
every day to read with the children, if only a
little while, because in the parents' company
children read more intelligently, and in good
reading there are many points that require ex-
planation ; little discussions impress the vital
points on the child's mind, and he more readily
assimilates the ideas. Shakespeare is an author
whose works may profitably be in constant
reading with both young and old.

Some children have little or no taste for
reading; but one need not despair of such, for
books are only one means of culture, and
though they are valuable aids to the mind
there are many sources of knowledge besides.
Shakespeare puts wise words in the mouth of
Corin in "As You Like It" when he says'

156 Child Culture

"He that wants money, means and conduct is
without three good friends that the property
of rain is to wet, and fire to burn that good
pasture makes fat sheep, and a great cause of
the night is lack of sun ; and he that hath
learned no wit by nature nor art may complain
of good breeding, or comes of very dull kin-

Poetry seems in danger of being overlooked
in this materialistic age, and parents should en-
deavor to instil early a taste for this form of
literature. How much the world would have
lost if its sweet singers, Longfellow, Whittier,
Tennyson, Burns and a host of others had not
lived and delighted it with their sweet and en-
nobling thoughts and aspirations. To them,
however, who read them not, who do not pay
heed to their lofty ideas and tender emotions, it
is as if they had not been.

There is as great disadvantage in too much
reading as in too little, for then it usurps
thought instead of feeding it.

The pictures in many of the modern books
are true works of art and are often more educa-
tive than the printed matter ; in others, they
are in the worst sense immoral and degrading.
Books containing such detestable daubs should
never be presented to a child, for his thoughts,
are as much influenced by the pictures as by
the reading matter. A few publishers have

Language and Literature 157

made a specialty of artistic illustrations, and

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Online LibraryMartha B MosherChild culture in the home. A book for mothers → online text (page 8 of 13)