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hitherto been presented in novels, were sketched rather from imagination than from observation, as the writers had not access to the circles which they attempted to describe; now, Lord Normanby, they observed, is a man of birth and fashion, who moves in the best society, and he will give the reader a glimpse at the manners of the great, and a peep into the drawing-rooms of Grosvenor-square.
We being very plain persons, who have only learnt, by the great goodness of Mr. Theodore Hook, that the quality do not eat with steel forks either of two or three prongs, that they eschew malt liquor, and drink wines of the colour of their meats, felt an anxiety to possess ourselves of a standard of the manners and customs of lords and ladies, by which we might measure the justness of such descriptions of these things as appear from day to day in marble-covered bindings. Lord Normanby's Matilda was, according to the representations of the daily critics, exactly the thing; and we therefore got it, read it, and carefully observed his picture of polite life. The result is, that we find, that all the views which have hitherto been presented of the beau monde in the pages of the circulating libraries, are strictly correct; for Lord Normanby's description of these things differs in no essential particular from the descriptions that have emanated from the Minerva Press; whence we discover, that the innumerable authors of summers and winters have been extremely lucky in their guesses. The story of Matilda is sufficiently simple. A girl, whose affections are engaged to one man, is piqued into a marriage with another, by the trite expedient of giving her to believe that her lover has proved faithless. She afterwards meets her first admirer in the world; and in good time, after the usual events, such as attending him in sickness, and flirting with him in a garden, she elopes with him. The guilty pair live together as uncomfortably as all pairs must live together similarly circumstanced; and just as the lady is on the point of being brought to bed, she is killed by a fright, having seen a boat sink in a squall, and fancied incontinently that her paramour must of necessity be in it, because she expected him to come home by water. The tale is meagre enough, but the author shows that he does not want cleverness, and there are shrewd remarks, good observations, and strokes of wit in the book, which would, if collected, fill two of our closely printed pages. Against the noble author's attempts at broad humour, we must however enter our most serious protest; it is forced and vulgar to the last degree. His family of Hobsons, who furnish the buffoonery of the piece, is a stupid caricature of stale caricatures. We will say no more, for it is not our wish to discourage Lord Normanby, who is a very clever and promising young nobleman, though Mr. Colburn does write such cruelly unctuous critiques on his book; and we shall be sincerely glad to see his Lordship again on the field of literature, where a little exercise will develop his powers and improve his execution. If he persevere we shall have better things from him than Matildas; and he will not stand in need of Colburn's extreme unction on his passage to a glorious immortality.
MISS EDGEWORTH'S HARRY AND LUCY.*
LOOKING merely at its literary merits this is a delightful book; considered with a view to its object it is a very important one. What books of amusement for young people have hitherto been, with a very few exceptions, we need not explain; every body has read them and nobody has acquired any thing from them but the mechanical art of reading, and perhaps an early and depraved appetite for fiction, which having commenced with the tales of Mr. Tabbart, has ended with the novels and romances of Mr. Colburn. Miss Edgeworth, in her Harry and Lucy, makes use of fiction as the mere vehicle of instruction: this is no new undertaking, but it is the most successful one we have ever met with. Nothing is so common as attempts of this kind, except the failure of them; the young reader generally greedily devouring the invention, and leaving the instruction, if not untouched, at least untasted. Miss Edgeworth has managed the book before us with such skill as to render this separation impossible, the business of the characters is the communication or the acquirement of knowledge, and one cannot follow them without becoming entangled in their pursuits. But what is the nature of the information thus conveyed, it will be asked? Something of the rudiments of mechanics, something of the rudiments of chemistry, something of the rudiments of natural philosophy, and a thousand things that children may understand, and that nine hundred and ninety-nine grown people out of a thousand are utterly ignorant of. It is notorious that writers of Magazines and Reviews know every thing; but, to set a good example, we will frankly confess that we, even we have profited by the information of these volumes, and we would hint to parents, guardians, teachers, &c. who do not care to be behind their little boys and girls in elementary knowledge of the principles of some of the most useful inventions, that they will do well to get up Harry and Lucy with all convenient speed. It is astonishing how small is the number of persons who know those common things which, in parlance, every body knows. Every body talks of steamengines, every body cracks jokes on steam, and wonders where its powers will end, and yet we are persuaded that out of any dozen welleducated and well-bred people, congregated together for the purpose of dining, there will not be found two who have the slightest idea where this same power begins, and not more than one who can give so good an account of the matter as Miss Edgeworth's Lucy. The name and the use are familiar to every one, but the principle and the means are hid from the many in the books of mechanics as effectually as if they were buried in the centre of the earth. Who does not talk of high-pressure and low-pressure? but, ask what is high-pressure and what is low-pressure, and the answer in most instances will probably be, that high-pressure blows up the passengers of steam-boats, and that low-pressure is thought less dangerous, some how or other. Ask our well-educated and wellbred people assembled at dinner, how the glasses out of which they drink, are made, how the plates from which they eat are shaped, and
Harry and Lucy concluded; being the last part of Early Lessons. By Maria Edgeworth. In four Volumes. London: Hunter; Baldwin and Co. 1825.
coloured, how the napkins across their laps are fabricated, and they will be found to have about as much knowledge of these matters as of the principle of the steam-engine. And yet this sort of information may be more profitable, and more easy of attainment to a man, than an imperfect acquaintance with Greek metres. If any one of our supposed well-educated and well-bred company were by any chance to come in contact with one of the now common Wedgwood plates,* and to consider its fine bright blue pattern, and all the glories of its landscape, in which is seen a man fishing in a river which runs up a hill, with a dog bigger than himself by his side, whose nose towers over a church steeple, were he, we say, to consider these elaborate works in comparison with the price of the article, and to take into account the convenient channel sunk in the brim for the reception of the salt, and the depositary for the gravy, he would be filled with admiration, and the production of such a master-piece at such a cost would seem to him an inexplicable mystery. Let it not be imagined that we are exaggerating the ignorance of people about common things, as they are called, (the knowledge of which is, in fact, very uncommon,) let the experiment be tried, whether persons taken in the mass are better informed about such matters than we have assumed them to be, and we are sure that the result will not differ very materially from our representation. The instances of ignorance that frequently appear in society are astounding. We have heard, on excellent authority, that a worthy country gentleman, for some time a Member of Parliament, a representative of a county, an integral part of the collective wisdom, suggested to Sir Humphrey Davy that as a balloon of silk filled with hydrogen will go up to the clouds, if he would but make one of copper and fill it with water, it would go, heaven knows where. The good gentleman argued, a fortiori, that if silk and air could do so much, the more solid bodies of copper and water would do so much more. This sounds incredible, and it must be allowed it is of a rare ignorance, but from our knowledge of the parliamentary philosopher, and also of the exactness of our informant, we believe it to be true. Better things, it may be objected, are not to be expected from Members of Parliament. What then shall we say to the case of a celebrated engineer, who, when examined respecting the projected New London Bridge, gravely stated in evidence that the flood-tide ran up to London at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour? The committee were astonished at this news; not that they knew more about the nature of tides than the engineer, but as they could not reconcile the alleged fact with their experience of the rate of tide which had helped them
* All honour to Wedgwood, for much do we owe to him! Well will his claims on the regards of a grateful posterity of carvers be appreciated on reading the following account from the pages under review of what he has done for us :—
"Mr. Wedgwood made a number of little every-day useful contrivances; that dish, in which there is a well for the gravy. In the olden times, unhappy carvers were obliged to poke under the heavy sirloin for gravy; or to raise and slope the dish, at the imminent hazard of overturning the sirloin, and splashing the spectators. Knife, fork, spoon, slipping all the while, one after another, into the dish! And, ten to one, no gravy to be had after all! Nothing but cakes of cold grease. But now, without poking, slopping, splashing, the happy carver, free from these miseries of life, has only to dip his spoon into a well of pure gravy. Thanks to the invention of one man, all men, women, and children, may now have gravy without stooping the dish. So I give you, gentlemen and ladies, for a toast, The late Mr. Wedgwood, and the comforts of life."" ~(Vol. ii. p. 2.)
so slowly to their dinners of white-bait, at Blackwall or Greenwich, or, peradventure, to the joys of Margate; when the witness was therefore called upon to explain the curious phenomenon he had described, he argued thus:-It is flood at the Nore at twelve o'clock to-day; it is flood at London Bridge at two o'clock to-day: the Nore is about fifty miles from London Bridge, and as the tide makes up this distance in two hours, it must run, by the rules of arithmetic, twenty-five miles an hour! Now this was an intelligent man, belonging to an eminently intelligent class; he had built bridges over rivers, and seen the yellow tide of the golden* Thames draining up and down every day of his life, and yet he never found out that the tide of our river does not run faster than from three to four miles an hour, even though it is flood in London two hours after it has been flood at the Nore! A few moments' thought must have explained this problem; but people don't care to think about "common things which every fool knows." We shall refrain from presenting other particular instances in support of our argument. For examples of the ignorance of people in general (and people too that are called well-informed) concerning the nature of things which are the daily objects of their sight, and their touch, and the subjects of their conversation, we would say, CIRCUMSPICEthere is no circle that will not furnish ample evidence of this fact. Such works as Miss Edgeworth's Harry and Lucy, put into the hands of young people, are calculated to remedy this deplorable deficiency. She proposes not to teach any one science, but to insinuate first principles, and to excite the powers of attention, observation, reasoning, and invention; and we think she has discovered the act of accomplishing this purpose. Her motto from Locke is the principle on which she works "The business of education, in respect of knowledge, is not, as I think, to perfect a learner in all or any one of the sciences; but to give his mind that disposition, and those habits, that may enable him to attain any part of knowledge he shall stand in need of in the future course of his life."+ Acting on this principle, Miss Edgeworth
A river is never mentioned without an epithet; and we will not say silver, which is the received one, because the Thames, though a highly respectable river, is, in truth, not in the least like silver, but, on the contrary, much more like a Nabob, both in respect of its wealth and its yellowness.
There is not a more vulgar error than that of supposing that education is knowledge. Education is no more knowledge than the foundation for a building is a house. This fallacy meets us at every turn. Question the knowledge of a man, and the reply is, that it is not to be doubted, for that he received an excellent education. The best education is but a mean to an end, and the worst is a very bad mean, a wrong road which has given the tyro some wholesome exercise, perhaps, but has rather led him from the goal, for which better trained men are making. What is the condition of a young man who has finished his education, as the phrase goes, according to the old fashion of our schools and universities. He is commonly, if of abilities, a passably good Latin scholar, and an indifferent Greek one; if a genius, or a man of first-rate parts, he has a reputation for making Greek and Latin verses: with these acquirements he comes into the world, where he finds that he must suppress his Greek and Latin, under pain of ridicule for pedantry, and that there is no sort of demand for his verses; knowledge new to him, connected with the business of men, is in request, and of this he knows nothing. In three or four years the Greek is as much gone from his possession as if it had never been there, and he only retains enough of the Latin for the translation of mottoes and stray quotations. If he wish to be any thing, he must begin another course of education for the superstructure of another and a more available kind of knowledge. The labours of his youth have been of the least possible profit to his manhood.
has endeavoured to create an appetite for knowledge, and to direct the first steps in the pursuit of it. If we may be allowed so rude an illustration, as a hunter bloods a young hound she bloods the 'pupil, gives him a relish for the game, and then leaves him to himself, relying on his excited taste for the further prosecution of the chace. She disclaims any intention to go much below the surface of any one thing; her business is with the A. B. C. of the useful arts and sciences, and she accordingly communicates some first principles with extraordinary clearness, and illustrates them in a way which will be comprehended by the meanest capacity, and admired by the highest.
The Harry and Lucy before us is a continuation and conclusion of a Harry and Lucy written by Miss Edgeworth's father, with the design of furnishing a series of Early Lessons. With unaffected modesty Miss Edgeworth remarks, that this undertaking, now completed by herself, is an humble work from which no literary fame can be acquired, but which she has been most desirous to complete from the belief that it will be more useful than any other in her power. If literary fame is not to be acquired from the book, it is only because its literary merit is merged in the higher merit of its utility. It is essentially dramatic, and abounds in fine strokes of nature, and the results of a nice observation of character; the composition is easy and full of the graces of idiom which appear to fall as unconsciously from the accomplished author, as the diamonds and pearls did from the lips of the gifted lady in the fairy tale. Nothing can be simpler than the machinery of the book; we find ourselves in the company of Harry and Lucy (the children of sensible, well-informed parents) and are in a very short time as well acquainted with them as if they were our own dear grand-children, and we follow them through all their little cares, and interest ourselves warmly in their pursuits. Lucy is delightfully drawn:-an honest sailor swore that he knew Captain Lemuel Gulliver perfectly well, and that he lived at Rotherhithe-we are equally ready to make oath that we know no less than six Lucys, and our sole perplexity is which of these six Lucys is the individual Lucy whose likeness the author has so truly painted. Lucy is naturally what ten thousand girls are, all giddiness, vivacity, and spirits; always alive to the ridiculous, and of a restless attention which hovers about every object and fixes upon none. But we will not attempt to pourtray her, for though there are ten thousand of these Lucys in the kingdom of England, and in every other kingdom, we cannot with any exactness describe one of them-the reader will know more of Lucy from seeing her in the pages before us, dying of laughing at the bare mention of the great panjandrum, than from a hundred pages of our clumsy portraiture. He-writers cannot hit off these things, and there is but one of the other sex who can achieve them in perfection. Harry is not so great a favourite with us as Lucy; he is somewhat priggish, and rather too good. The author has not made him a clever boy, (that would not have answered her purpose,) but of fair capacity and a patient industry-slow but sure, he does not apprehend a thing, but he understands it. There is not a more mischievous mistake in parents than that of delighting in, and encouraging the precocious quickness of children. There is indeed more truth than will be allowed in the saying of Rousseau, corroborated by the observation of other