صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

thing singular in his history. It has already been noted that he was the tenth child of his parents, and that the Rector of the parish was the famous Dr. Barnard, deservedly celebrated among the literary friends of Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Mrs. Brooks having gone to the dean's one morning, to pay her tithe, took little James in her hand: when she had laid down her money, she observed:—“Sir, you have annually the tenth of all I possess, except my children; it is but justice you should have the tenth of them also. I have eleven, and this is my tenth son, whom I have brought to you as the tithe of my children, as I have brought the tithe of my grain. I hope, Sir, you will take and provide for him.” To this singular address, the dean found it difficult to reply. He could not, at first, suppose the woman to be in earnest: but on her urging her application, and almost insisting on his receiving this tenth of her intellectual live stock, both his benevolence and humanity were affected ;-he immediately accepted the child, had him clothed, &c., let him lodge with the parents for a time, and sent him to school to Mr. John Clarke. In a short time Mr. C. removed from that part of the country; and what became of the interesting young man is not known. He was always called Tithe by the school-boys.

In some children, as well as grown-up persons, certain unaccountable sympathies and atipathies have been observed. Adam had a singular antipathy to large fat men, or men with big bellies, as he phrased it.

A gentleman of the name of Pearce Quinlin, was his father's nearest neighbour: this man was remarkably corpulent; his eyes stood out with fatness, and his belly was enormously · protuberant. With this gentleman Adam was a favorite, yet he ever beheld him with abhorrence; and could hardly be persuaded to receive the little gifts which Mr. Q. brought to obtain his friendship. The following circumstance rendered the dislike more intense.- A dumb man, who pretended to tell fortunes, called there a spac-man, came one day to his father's house. Mrs. Clarke, looked upon such persons with a favourable eye, as it was her opinion, that if God in the course of his providence, deprived a man of one of his senses, he compensated this by either rendering the others more intense and uccurate, or by some particular gift: and she thought, to most that were born dumb, a certain degree of foreknowledge was imparted. She was therefore, ready to entertain persons of this caste; and the man in question was much noted in that country, as having been remarkably fortunate in some of his guesses. Adam, who was conning the wizard's face with an eye of remarkable curiosity, was presented to him, to learn what was to be his lot in life. The artist, after beholding him for some time, gave signs that he would be very fond of the bottle, grow fat and have an enormous belly! These were pre

cisely two of the things that he held in most abhorrence. He had often seen persons drunk, and he considered them as dangerous madmen, or the most brutish of beasts: and his dislike to the big belly has already been stated. He had even then a high opinion of the power and influence of prayer. He thought, that the spae-man might possibly be correct: but he believed there was no evil awaiting him in futurity which God could not avert. He therefore went immediately out into a field, got into a thicket of furze-bushes, and kneeling down he most fervently uttered the following petition :-"O, Lord God, have mercy upon me, and never suffer me to be like Pearce Quinlin!” This he urged, with little variety of language, till he seemed to have a persuasion that the evil would be averted! Strange as it may appear, this prediction left a deep impression upon his mind : and he has hitherto passed through life's pilgrimage, equally dreading the character of the brutal drunkard, and the appearance of the human porpoise. Had it not been for this foolish prediction, he had possibly been less careful; and what the effects might have been we cannot calculate, for no man is impeccable.

There was little remarkable in other parts of his childhood, but that he was a very inapt scholar, and found it very difficult to acquire the knowledge of the Alphabet. For this dulness he was unmercifully censured and unseasonably chastised: and this, so far from eliciting genius, rather produced an increase of hebitude, so that himself began to despair of ever being able to acquire any knowledge by means of letters. When he was about eight years of age, he was led to entertain hopes of future improvement from the following circumstance. A neighbouring schoolmaster calling at the school where he was then endeavouring to put vowels and consonants together; was desired by the teacher to assist in hearing a few of the lads their lessons: Adam was the last that went up, not a little ashamed of his own deficiency: he however hobbled through his lesson, though in a very indifferent man- · ner: and the teacher apologised to the stranger, and remarked that, that lad was a grievous dunce. The assistant, clapping young Clarke on the head, said, Never fear, Sir, this lad will make a good scholar yet. This was the first thing that checked his own despair of learning; and gave him hope. How injudicious is the general mode of dealing with those who are called dull boys. To every child learning must be a task ; and as no young person is able to comprehend the maxim that the acquisition of learning will compensate the toil, encouragement and kind words from the teacher, are indispensably necessary to induce the learner to undergo the toil of these gymnastic exercises. Wilful idleness and neglect should be reprehended and punished; but where genius has not yet been developed, nor reason acquired its proper seat, the mildest

methods are the most likely to be efficient: and the smallest progress should be watched, and commended, that it may excite to farther attention and diligence. With those who are called dull boys, this method rarely fails.

But there are very few teachers who possess the happy art of developing genius. They have not a sufficiency of penetration to find out the bent or characteristic propensity of the minds of their pupils, in order to give them the requisite excitement and direction. In consequence, there have been innumerable native diamonds which have never shone, because they have fallen into such hands as could not distinguish them from common pebbles; and to them neither the hand nor the art of the lapidary, has ever been applied. Many children, not naturally dull, have become so under the influence of the schoolmaster.

As soon as Adam got through the Reading made easy, had learnt to spell pretty correctly, and could read with tolerable ease in the New Testament; his father, who wished if possible to make him a scholar, put him into Lilly's Latin Grammar. This was new and painful work to little Clarke, and he was stumbled by almost the first sentence which he was ordered to get by heart; not because he could not commit it to memory, but because he could not comprehend

“In speech be these eight parts following ; Noun, Pronoun, Verb, Participle, declined ; `Adverb, Conjunction, Preposition, Interjection, undeclined.”

He, however, committed this to memory, and repeated it and many of its fellows, without understanding one tittle of the matter; for no pains were taken to enable him to see the reason of those things which he was commanded to get by rote; and as the understanding was not instructed, the memory was uselessly burthened.

The declensions of nouns were painful, but he overcame them: the conjugations of the verbs he got more easily through, because there he perceived a species of harmony or music, and they were no burthen to his memory; though each verb was required to be conjugated after the manner of Hoole, yet he could pretty readily run through them all, and took delight to puzzle his school-fellows with difficult verbs, especially those which admitted great variety of inflection : e. g. Lavo, lavas, lavi, atque lavavi ; lavare, lavandi, lavando, lavandum ; lautum, lautu, lotum, lotu, atque lavatum, lavatu ; lavans, lauturus, loturus, atque lavaturus.

Propria quæ maribus, he got through with difficulty, at two lines each lesson; which he was to repeat, afterwards construe, and lastly parse. With the As in præsenti, of the same ponderous grammar, he was puzzled beyond measure: he could not well understand the bu fit bi, do fit di, mo fit ui, no fit vi, quo fit qui, to fit ti, &c. &c., and could by no means pro

ceed: of the reason or probable utility of such things, he could form no adequate judgment: and at last this became so intolerable, that he employed two whole days and a part of the third, in fruitless endeavours to commit to memory two lines, with their construction, of what appeared to him, useless and incomprehensible jargon. His distress was indescribable, and he watered his book with his tears : at last he laid it by, with a broken heart, and in utter despair of ever being able to make any progress. He took up an English Testament, sneaked into an English class, and rose with them to say a lesson. The master perceiving it, said in a terrific tone, “Sir, what brought you here? where is your Latin grammar ?" He burst into tears, and said, with a piteous tone, I cannot learn it. He had now reason to expect all the severity of the rod : but the master, getting a little moderate, perhaps moved by his tears, contented himself with saying “Go, Sirrah, and take up your grammar: if you do not speedily get that lesson, I shall pull your ears as long as Jowler's, (a great dog belonging to the premises,) and you shall be a beggar to the day of your death." These were terrible words, and seemed to express the sentence of a ruthless and unavoidable destiny. He retired and sat down by the side of a young gentleman with whom he had been in class, but who, unable to lag behind with his dulness, requested to be separated, that he might advance by himself. Here he was received with the most bitter taunts, and poignant insults. “What! have you not learned that lesson yet? O what a stupid ass! You and I began together: you are now only in As in præsenti, and I am in Syntax !" and then with cruel mockings, began to repeat the last lesson he had learned. The effect of this was astonishing—young Clarke was roused as from a lethargy; he felt, as he expressed himself, as if something had broken within him: his mind in a moment was all light. Though he felt indescribably mortified, he did not feel indignant: what, said he to himself, shall I ever be a dunce, and the butt of those fellows' insults! He snatched up his book, in a few moments committed the lesson to memory, got the construction speedily; went up and said it, without missing a word !-took up another lesson, acquired it almost immediately, said this also without a blemish, and in the course of that day wearied the master with his so often repeated returns to say lessons; and committed to memory all the Latin verses with their English construction, in which heavy and tedious Lilly has described the four conjugations, with their rules, exceptions, &c. &c. Nothing like this had ever appeared in the school before-the boys were astonished-admiration took the place of mockings and insult, and from that hour, it may be said from that moment, he found his memory at least capable of embracing every subject

that was brought before it, and his own long sorrow was turned into instant joy!

For such a revolution in the mind of a child, it will not be easy to account. He was not idle, and though playful never wished to indulge this disposition at the expense of instruction-his own felt incapacity was a most oppressive burthen; and the anguish of his heart was evidenced by the tears which often flowed from his eyes. Reproof and punishment produced neither change nor good, for there was nothing to be corrected to which they could apply. Threatenings were equally unavailing, because there was no wilful indisposition to study and application; and the fruitless desire to learn, shewed at least the regret of the want of that ability for the acquisition of which, he would have been willing to have made any kind of sacrifices.

At last this ability was strangely acquired, but not by slovo degrees; there was no conquest over inaptitude and dulness by persevering and gradual conflict ; the power seemed generated in a moment, and in a moment there was a transition from darkness to light, from mental imbecility to intellectual vigour, and no means nor excitements were brought into operation but those mentioned above. The reproaches of his school-fellow were the spark which fell on the gunpowder and inflamed it instantly. The inflammable matter was there before, but the spark was wanting. This would be a proper subject for the discussion of those who write on the philosophy of the human mind.

This detail has been made the more particular, because he ever considered it as one of the most important circumstances in his life; and he has often mentioned it as a singular Providence which gave a strong characteristic colouring to his subsequent life. This account may not be unuseful to those who have the care of youth; and it may teach the masters of the rod and ferula, that these are not the instruments of instruction, though extremely proper for the correction of the obstinate and indolent ;—that motives exciting to emulation and to the prevention of disgrace may be, at least in some cases, more powerful and efficient than any punishment that can be inflicted on the flesh. A thorough study of the philosophy of the human mind and what constitutes individual character, seem essentially necessary qualifications for all those to whom the instruction of the rising generation is confided; and if this be so, there are few persons properly qualified to be competent Schoolmasters.

Let not the reader imagine from this detail, that from the time mentioned above, A. C. found no difficulty to cultivate his mind in the acquisition of knowledge; it was not so: he ever found an initial difficulty to comprehend any thing; and till he could comprehend in some measure the reason of the

« السابقةمتابعة »