« السابقةمتابعة »
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 inany, 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—bis Keys and his Catechisms-and the pockets of parents are severely taxed in purchasing new
school-books which differ from the old ones merely in a trans-
Recent times have produced many works in which vast exertion bas been made to bring down the difficulties of science to the comprehension of childhood; but without depreciating the
intention, we are inclined to regard the pains expended as, in great measure, labour lost. Any one concerned in the education of children must soon become aware that all matters of science, however familiarly put, must depend mainly on the explanation of the teacher. There is no reason, therefore, why the best books should not be used at once; and this, in point of fact, is most generally done by those who teach such things with any success.
We must, we suppose, include under the category of schoolbooks—at least we know not where else to place them-those 'much-ado-about-nothing' systems—those ingenious teachers who 'climb o'er the house to unlock the little gate,' who care not how vague an idea their pupils may possess of the multiplication-table, or of the number of the commandments, but sternly insist on their accuracy of distinction between a horse and a cow,* and on their clearness of apprehension of the kingdom of a needle,' and 'the parts and properties of a halfpenny!' By which we beg to observe no allusion is intended to the conventional province of the one, or the fugitive disposition of the other-no assistance tendered as to the use of the needle, or the disposal of the halfpenny, but, on the contrary, the attention is solely concentred on certain minutiæ, which the negligence of all former ages had unaccountably left children to find out for themselves. Indeed it is sad to think how many a needle has been plied in mere vulgar mechanical industry, without one thought of its being 'mineral, artificial, metallic, opaque, bright, cold, taper, pointed, slender, useful, fusible, grey or steel-colour, hard, brittle, solid, steel.' It is painful to reflect how many a halfpenny has been pocketed, and, what is worse, spent too, without the slightest attention to its surfaces, edges, milling, impression, image, superscription, reverse, date,' &c. What has the world been about?
Another feature of this novel system is a species of exercise which, we understand, in those particular schools where they teach long words and little matters, is called Elliptical Questions,' but in a printed form assumes the name of Rational Readings.' The recipe consists in leaving blank spaces in the narrative, whether verse, or prose, for the child's imagination to fill up-a plan which combines the twofold advantage of requiring_no thought to do, and conferring no instruction when done. instance
James and Richard. James, to every indulgence in his power, and up, was quite a fine
A London merchant had from a boy accustomed when he was
He dressed expen
* See Aids to Development. + Dr. Mayo's Lessons on Objects.
Now what can possibly be gained by such exercises as these? A clever child might possibly conceive that the blanks in the prose piece were typical of certain lapses in James's life; but the gaps in Miss Aikin would decidedly be too much for him. If puzzling the brain in search of a word be a necessary portion of education, a few charades from old pocket-books will answer the purpose much better. There is no child but who would look upon this kind of exercise as mere play, and get sick of it on that very account. And yet, reader, these are Rational Readings! and are mixed up pari passu with lessons on astronomy and hydraulics, &c., requiring a mind of about thrice the age.
Equally absurd in principle, but older we believe in practice, are those specimens of false spelling, the rectification of which is supposed to be instrumental in promoting a correct idea of such matters; but which, in reality, much more generally succeed in leaving impressions of the wrong way than of the right. This would hardly be worth mentioning here had we not observed a recent advertisement announcing the pains which have been taken to supply the present rising generation with quotations from the best poets, and the choicest sentences from our great writers,' all spelt wrong! So that it may be reasonably expected that for the sake of a t too little or an e too much, the best ideas of writing will henceforward be inseparably connected in their minds with the worst of spelling. It is like cutting a Sir Joshua to shreds to show them the texture of the canvas.
Having thus expressed our opinion of the majority of modern juvenile books, it may be urged upon us, that, with few excep
* A Series of Lessons in Prose and Verse, by J. M'Culloch, D.D.
tions, the minds of children are far more healthily exercised and generally cultivated than in a former generation. But, while gladly admitting this to be the fact, we are inclined to attribute it far more to the liberty now allowed them in promiscuous reading than to any efforts which have been made of late in their own department-far more to the power of ranging free over field and pasture than to all the little racks of ready-cut hay that have been so officiously supplied them. Children seem to possess an inherent conviction that when the hole is big enough for the cat, no smaller one at the side is needed for the kitten. They don't really care for Glimpses' of this, or 'Gleanings' of that, or Footsteps' to the other-but would rather stretch and pull, and get on tiptoe to reach the sweeter fruit above them, than confine themselves to the crabs which grow to their level. The truth is, though seldom apprehended by juvenile book-writers, that children are distinguished from ourselves less by an inferiority than by a difference in capacity-that the barriers between manhood and childhood are marked less by the progress of every power than by the exchange of many. A mere weaker decoction of the same ideas and subjects that suit us will be very unsuitable to them. A genuine child's book is as little like a book for grown people cut down, as the child himself is like a little old man. The beauty and popularity of Lamb's 'Shakspeare's Tales are attributable to the joint excellences of both author and transposer, but this is a rare exception :-generally speaking, the way in which Froissart is cut into spoon-meat, and Josephus put into swaddling-clothes, has only degraded these authors from their old positions, without in any way benefiting the rising generation by their new. The real secret of a child's book consists not merely in its being less dry and less difficult, but more rich in interest- —more true to nature-more exquisite in art-more abundant in every quality that replies to childhood's keener and fresher perceptions. Such being the case, the best of juvenile reading will be found in libraries belonging to their elders, while the best of juvenile writing will not fail to delight those who are no longer children. Robinson Crusoe,' the standing favourite of above a century, was not originally written for children; and Sir Walter Scott's Tales of a Grandfather,' addressed solely to them, are the pleasure and profit of every age, from childhood upwards. Our little friends tear Pope's 'Odyssey' from mamma's hands, while she takes up their 'Agathos' with an admiration which no child's can exceed. Upon the whole the idea of a book being too old for a child is one which rests upon very false foundations. If we do not mistake his department of enjoyment, we can hardly overrate his powers of it. With