ePub 版

pressions are then made, they are like figures drawn in the sand which the next tide obliterates, or are even lighter and more evanescent than this.

Let me add, that the existence of the child for two or three years from the period of his birth, is almost entirely a state of vegetation. The impressions that are made upon his sensorium come and go, without either their advent or departure being anticipated, and without the interference of the will. It is only under some express excitement, that the faculty of will mounts its throne, and exercises its empire. When the child smiles, that act is involuntary; but, when he cries, will presently comes to mix itself with the phenomenon. Wilfulness, impatience and rebellion are infallible symptoms of a mind on the alert. And, as the child in the first stages of its existence puts forth the faculty of will only at intervals, so for a similar reason this period is but rarely accompanied with memory, or leaves any traces of recollection for our after-life.

There are other memorable states of the intellectual powers, which if I did not mention, the survey here taken would seem to be glaringly imperfect. The first of these is madness. In this humiliating condition of our nature the sovereignty of reason is deposed:

Chaos umpire sits, And by decision more embroils the fray. The mind is in a state of turbulence and tempest in one instant, and in another subsides into

the deepest imbecility; and, even when the will is occasionally roused, the link which preserved its union with good sense and sobriety is dissolved, and the views by which it has the appearance of being regulated, are all based in misconstruction and delusion.

Next to madness occur the different stages of spleen, dejection and listlessness. The essence of these lies in the passiveness and neutrality of the intellectual powers. In as far as the unhappy sufferer could be roused to act, the disease would be essentially diminished, and might finally be expelled. But long days and months are spent by the patient in the midst of all harassing imaginations, and an everlasting nightmare seems to sit on the soul, and lock up its powers in interminable inactivity, Almost the only interruption to this, is when the demands of nature require our attention, or we pay a slight and uncertain attention to the decencies of cleanliness and attire.

In all these considerations then we find abundant occasion to humble the pride and vain-glory of man. But they do not overturn the principles delivered in the preceding Essay respecting the duration of human life, though they certainly interpose additional boundaries to limit the prospects of indi-, vidual improvement.



The river of human life is divided into two streams; occupation and leisure—or, to express the thing more accurately, that occupation, which is prescribed, and may be called the business of life; and that occupation, which arises contingently, and not so much of absolute and set purpose, not being prescribed : such being the more exact description of these two divisions of human life, inasmuch as the latter is often not less earnest and intent in its

pursuits than the former.

It would be a curious question to ascertain which of these is of the highest value.

To this enquiry I hear myself loudly and vehemently answered from all hands in favour of the first. “This,” I am told by unanimous acclamation, " is the business of life.”

The decision in favour of what we primarily called occupation, above what we called leisure, may in a mitigated sense be entertained as true. Man can live with little or no leisure, for millions of human beings do so live: but the species to which we belong, and of consequence the individuals of that species, cannot exist as they ought to exist, without occupation.

Granting however the paramount claims that occupation has to our regard, let us endeavour to arrive at a just estimate of the value of leisure.

It has been said by some one, with great appearance of truth, that schoolboys learn as much, perhaps more, of beneficial knowledge in their hours of play, as in their hours of study.

The wisdom of ages has been applied to ascertain what are the most desirable topics for the study of the schoolboy. They are selected for the most part by the parent. There are few parents that do not feel a sincere and disinterested desire for the welfare of their children. It is an unquestionable niaxim, that we are the best judges of that of which we have ourselves had experience; and all parents have been children. It is therefore idle and ridiculous to suppose that those studies which have for centuries been chosen by the enlightened mature for the occupation of the young, have not for the most part been well chosen. Of these studies the earliest consist in the arts of reading and writing. Next follows arithmetic, with perhaps some rudiments of algebra and geometry. Afterward comes in due order the acquisition of languages, particularly the dead languages; a most fortunate occupation for those years of man, in which the

memory is most rétentive, and the reasoning powers have yet acquired neither solidity nor enlargement. Such are the occupations of the schoolboy in his prescribed hours of study.

But the schoolboy is cooped up in an apartment,

it inay be 'with a mumber of his fellows. He is seated at a desk, diligently conning the portion of learning that is doled out to him, or, when he has mastered his lesson, reciting it with anxious brow and unassured lips to the senior, who is to correct his errors, and pronounce upon the sufficiency of his industry. All this may be well: but it is a new and more exhilarating spectacle that presents itself to our observation, when he is dismissed from his temporary labours, and rushes impetuously out to the open air, and gives free scope to his limbs and his voice, and is no longer under the eye of a censor that shall make him feel his subordination and dependence.

Meanwhile the question under consideration was, not in which state he experienced the most happiness, but which was productive of the greatest improvement.

The review of the human subject is conveniently divided under the heads of body and mind. i There can be no doubt that the health of the body is most promoted by those exercises in which the schoolboy is engaged during the hours of play. And it is further to be considered that health is required, not only that we may be serene, contented and happy, but that we inay be enabled effectually to exert the faculties of the mind.

But there is another way, in which we are called upon to consider the division of the human subject under the heads of body and mind.

« 上一頁繼續 »