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TO THE READER.
Tell me, gentle Reader, whether thou hast not heard of the box of Pandora, which was no sooner opened by the unhappy Epimetheus, than it gave flight to a troop of malevolent spirits, which have ever since tormented the human race.-BEHOLD !—I here present you with a magic casket, containing a GENIUS alone capable of counteracting their direful spells. Thou mayst, perhaps, say that its aspect but ill accords with the richness of its promised treasure; so appeared the copper vessel found by the fisherman, as related in the Arabian tale; but, remember, that no sooner had he broken its mystic seal, than the imprisoned genius spread itself over the ocean and raised its giant limbs above the clouds. But this was an evil and treacherous spirit; mine is as benevolent as he is mighty, and seeks communion with our race for no other object than to render mortals virtuous and happy. His name is — PhilosoPHY.
— TO be plain, for you must already, my young friends, have unriddled my allegory, in your progress through life, be not so vain as to believe that you will escape the evils with which its path is beset. Arm yourselves, therefore, with the talisman that can, at once, deprive adversity of its sting, and prosperity of its dangers ; for such, believe me, is the rare privilege of philosophy. I must now take leave of
for a short time, in order that I may address a few words to your parents and preceptors; but, as I have no plot to abridge your liberties, or lengthen your hours of study, you may listen to my address without alarm, and to my plan without suspicion. Imagine not, however, that I shall recommend the dismissal of the cane, or the whip; on the contrary, I shall insist upon them as necessary and indispensable instruments for the accomplishment of my design. But the method of applying them will be changed ; with the one I shall construct the bow of the kite, with the other I shall spin the top.
The object of the present work is to inculcate that early love of science which can never be derived from the sterner productions. Youth is naturally addicted to amusement, and in this item his expenditure too often exceeds his allotted income. I have, therefore, taken the liberty to draw a draft upon Philosophy, with the full assurance that it will be gratefully repaid, with compound interest, ten years after date. But, to be serious; those who superintend the education of youth should be apprized of the great importance of the first impressions. Rousseau has said, that the seeds of future vices or virtues are more frequently sown by the mother than the tutor; thereby intimating, that the characters of men are often determined by the first impressions. There is much truth in this observation; and those who do not com
mence their study of nature at an early season, will afterwards have many unnecessary obstacles to encounter. The difficulty of comprehending the principles of Natural Philosophy frequently arises from their being at variance with those false ideas which early associations have impressed upon the mind; the first years of study are, therefore, expended in unlearning, and in clearing away the weeds, which would never have taken root in a properly cultivated soil. Writers on practical education have repeatedly enforced the advantages of the plan I am so anxious to advocate; but, strange to say, it is only within a few years that any works have appeared at all calculated to afford the necessary assistance. In short, previous to the labours of Mrs. Marcet, the productions published for the purpose of juvenile instruction may be justly charged with the grossest errors; and must have proved as destructive to the mind of the young reader, as the book presented by the physician Douban is said to have been to the body of the
Grecian king, who, as the Arabian tale relates, imbibed fresh poison as he turned over each leaf, until he fell lifeless in the presence of his courtiers : but these days have happily passed away, and the next generation will demonstrate the importance of the reformation.
Allow me, friendly Reader, before I conclude my address, to say a few words upon the plan and execution of the work before you. It is not intended to supersede or clash with any of the elementary treatises to which I have alluded ; indeed, its plan is so peculiar, that I apprehend such a charge cannot be brought against it. The author originally composed it for the exclusive use of his children, and would certainly never have consigned it to the press, but at the earnest solicitations of those friends
whose judgment he places the utmost reliance.
It is scarcely necessary to offer any arguments in defence of the conversational plan of instruction; the success of Mrs. Marcet's