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give their children this kind of information—the world will help them to it soon enough; and who likes it when he has got it? There is no degree of ignorance so unbecoming to a child as the least premature knowledge. At best, an acquaintance with the melancholy truths of this world is only a defensive weapon: why, then, seek to put it into the hands of those who are, or ought to be, under the protection of others? And it were well if such writers stopped here; but in their fear lest the omission of any of the wickednesses, as well as the weaknesses, of mankind should be laid to their charge, or in the anxiety to supply constant novelties for dainty palates, they lay open a side of human life which it might be thought the particular privilege and purpose of parental protection to conceal. For can anybody suppose that it is necessary to acquaint children with those scenes of violence between man and wife which generally terminate in one of the parties being bound over to keep the peace? Does anybody imagine it can be edifying for a child to know that there exists in this world so vile a creature as the grown man son who can lift up his hand against a mother? Children do not require to be shocked into the avoidance of crimes like these; if they are not shocked at such representations, the idea of affecting them in any other way is hopeless; and yet these, and similar occurrences, are by no means uncommon in a set of books which have been admitted into families in lieu of the much vilified fairy tale.

And now that we are on the subject of tale-writing, we must allude to a department of juvenile literature to which it has been much applied-a department so extensive in a numerical amount as to forbid all close analysis, though, from its uniformity of character, it well permit of a few general remarks. We mean may


the juvenile religious reading of the day, which, under one shape or another, frequently engrosses the larger share of a child's bookWe trust there is no danger of our being misunderstood. The high religious tone which pervades some of the best of the modern children's books, we regard as the greatest boon which these times of nominal improvement have bestowed on them: we might almost add the only one-just as the mere deistical morality which pervaded so many beautifully-written books of the last generation might be said to be their only deficiency. The works to which we point are that herd of second and third rate publications which, having religion ostensibly as their theme, are indiscriminately put into the hands of childhood, but which, in point of fact, supply motives as little calculated for the regulation of the heart as the unchristianized elegance of those just mentioned. The usual form is that of a tale: but this seems in general to be adopted not as conveying in itself an illustration


of the writer's doctrines, but merely as providing the necessary foundation work, mechanically speaking, to which they may be affixed a kind of scaffolding by which the expounder holds on-and intended, like any other temporary support or connexion, to be cut away and cast aside as soon as the purpose has been effected. No scruple, therefore, seems to exist

as to the clumsiness or flimsiness of materials which are not wanted for any use or beauty of their own, and which, moreover, no usefulness nor beauty could save from neglect. For the pious reader is evidently expected to be far too impatient to get to the religious parts, to care to look close into a story which only serves to hold them together. Renouncing, therefore, equally from expedience and principle, all the pomps of composition, and vanities of invention, nothing, artistically speaking, can be more contemptible than the construction of such tales; which are generally as grossly unnatural as may be consistent with the strictest common-place. Such indeed, in some, is the boldness of nonconnexion between plot and dénouement, such the utter unconcern with which an individual is made one character in description and another in action, that were it not for the constant interference of Scripture, no deficiency in one source of amusement would be felt.

So much for the secular part of this little tribe-as for their religious side, were we not convinced that children, who are children indeed, will never have the patience of perusal requisite to be much influenced by them, we should stigmatise in no lenient terms that style of writing where they are represented as lisping over all that is most solemn in Revelation with a flippancy that can only lessen their respect for it, and confessing the wickedness of the human heart, upon the most trivial occasions, with an off-hand frequency that can only dull their sense of it :— -where children preach to their elders and betters, without the slightest regard for their being such, and end by keeping an open deathbed for the edification and applause of a crowd of strangers. In the words of one of their own writers, it is so horrid to make religion a matter of show-off, which I really think these stories could teach children to be guilty of.'* And here again much of this evil may be attributed to the dismissal of the imagination as a means of assistance. Everything now-a-days is to be brought home to a child's mind: his eyes are to be opened at any cost, regardless of the film which has been designedly cast over them. Instead, therefore, of taking advantage of that sphere of fictitious or allegorical life, in which his ardent feelings may expatiate freely without risk of wrong personal application, he is intruded

* Children's Friend for 1841.

into a field of reality where no other result can possibly ensue. On this account we hail with the more satisfaction a rising class of religious books where the fancifulness of the story or the remoteness of the times does away with that so-called truth for which a child's mind is not ripe. Personalities are never more dangerous than when pressed into the service of religion; and who can question that it is infinitely safer for a child to read of the conversion of a pagan king or queen than of that of his father, mother, or next-door neighbour?

Another very reprehensible feature in these books is the little tenderness for the sensitive feelings of childhood, evinced in their choice of illustration. In order to impress them with the vices and miseries attendant on an ignorance or disregard of the lessons of Christianity, all the worst abominations of idolatry and tortures of slavery are brought into requisition. Wretched Hindoo mothers in whom the voice of nature is perverted, and execrable slave-drivers to whom the dictates of mercy are unknown, are their favourite topics; and the tender minds and ready imaginations of childhood are harrowed with descriptions which we have known to haunt their hours of sleepless darkness quite as effectually as any of the old apparitions and hobgoblins. While deprecating those works where the legitimate use of an extraneous interest has been denied, or one of a pernicious kind adopted, we are so far from proscribing subjects of a religious nature from the hours of juvenile relaxation, that there are none we should more strenuously encourage. Of all the subjects which fascinate a child, none can compete with those in which religion is the mainspring-the narratives of persecution and conversion, with all their high-souled faith, strong endurance, or deep contrition, have a charm, for the key to which we must look to a higher feeling than imagination. What book is more popular with children than the Pilgrim's Progress? What child will not hang over the tales of the Covenanters in Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life,'-or, to take a soberer example, what young heart has not been impressed with the cheerful piety that animates the Vicar of Wakefield?' How salutary are such representations, compared with those where religion is professed without reverence, and self-condemnation without humility; or where children are made to see sacrifices for which there are no motives, and sufferings under which there is no consolation, and which at this tender age can only harden or wither the heart!

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We may here say a few words upon a set of books which, professing to facilitate and promote the reading of the Scriptures, in reality sometimes exclude them. Endless, now-a-days, are the assistances for the understanding of that which we can neither add


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to nor take from without danger, and which, as far as concerns young and old, is in itself adapted to every capacity. Innumerable are the Guides to Scripture' and Helps to the Bible'the Bible Lessons' and Scripture Stories'-which, though they may faithfully give the spirit of Holy Writ, materially interfere with the letter. Two or three of these are very beautiful, and several more of them, we acknowledge, in some way edifying; but this is not a walk for ordinary writers—and even as to many cleverly executed works of the class it may be justly questioned whether, in the ardour of exemplification, the clearness of the example has not been obscured, and in the exuberance of commentary, the simplicity of the text forgotten. Some are plain enough, but then what can be plainer than Scripture? Too many, however, seek to give a meretricious interest, the taste for which it is of all things most dangerous to encourage. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that the Bible gains anything by a superficial garnish of sentimentality, or a margin of matter-of-fact elucidation-that the pathos of Ruth's devotion is enhanced by any suppositious romance on which the text is silent, or the miracle of Peter's Deliverance by a mechanical description of the lock which burst open. Some commentary is necessary, and that best determined by those most conversant with the individual mind; but nothing, under any pretext, ought to be allowed to interfere with the knowledge of the Scriptures, word for word, as they are. There is enough in them that children can understand, and what they cannot in no way suffers by being acquired young.

We turn to a class of books in which, the aim being more positive and the form more prescribed, less scope is given to the vagaries of modern ingenuity-though at the same time, from the certainty of demand, this line has afforded the utmost scope to the mere book-maker. We mean the genuine schoolbook, in which whatever is most worth having in modern improvement is to be found. Parents and teachers are generally compelled, sooner or later, to acknowledge that, in matters of acquirement intended for wear and tear throughout life, all attempt at ornament is superfluous, if not cumbersome-and the whole fill-page family of the Peter Parleys, with their skin-deep gloss of colloquial familiarity-their well's,' and 'you know's,' and what do you think's,' are, we have reason to believe, waning in estimation. The chief objection, therefore, to the more solid school-books of the day is confined to their needless superfluity of number. And this affects the older rather than the younger generation. Every master of any repute now speculates in his Histories and Geographies-his Keys and his Catechisms-and the pockets of parents are severely taxed in purchasing new

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school-books which differ from the old ones merely in a transposition of words. As regards the department of History, we have at this moment fifteen juvenile Histories of England before us (and these not all), of different degrees of merit-some of them so dry that the pupil has all the task of Hume and Smollett without the honour and glory; while as regards Geography, such are the ramifications into Civil Geography,' Historical Geography,' Political Geography,' Physical Geography,' Natural Geography,' Grammar of Geography,' &c., that among them all the good old common Geography' seems to have but a slender chance. Less harm, however, has been done than might have been supposed. Mere transposers have not the time to alter much more than the name, nor the ability to go far wrong; while, on the other hand, several first-rate writers have employed both, to the great advantage of elementary instruction. Nevertheless, we are inclined to consider that the chief improvement in this department is chiefly attributable to the judicious retaining and remodelling of old works; for much as Goldsmith may require rectification, and Mangnall continuation, no modern work has excelled either. In passing, we must regret that much knowledge that is useful and interesting should be conveyed in the form of conversations. Viva voce, this is a mode of instruction which stands unrivalled; but in the transition to print, it seldom fails to acquire a pedantry and mannerism, which, ever since the days of Tutor, George and Harry,' have been very obnoxious to children. If the subject discussed be merely hard information, these flowery links in no way assist to beguile it—if it be one of amusement and interest, it does not require them. In either case it conveys the idea of filling a book for filling's sake. In private and maternal tuition these roadside endearments are best supplied impromptu, and in school they are somewhat out of place. Mrs. Markham's History of England is one among the few exceptions, but this lady's Conversations have so little talk in them as hardly to come under that denomination. Altogether it is to be feared that in the multiplication of works of instruction now supplied, much time is engaged that might be more profitably spent. Much, it is true, is taught that is worth knowing, but little attention paid to what is worth reading. Young people are directed to authors who will be forgotten in a twelvemonth, to the exclusion of those who have stood for a century; and girls especially leave school with no knowledge of those standard English works which ought to be put into them next to their Bible.

Recent times have produced many works in which vast exertion has been made to bring down the difficulties of science to the comprehension of childhood; but without depreciating the


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