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“ In this branch of religious instruction, there is one view to which the minds of the young ought to be particularly directed : I mean the character of our Saviour. His connexion with a higher nature than ours, renders him an object of peculiar reverence to the young mind to which he is first introduced; but the simplicity and the gentleness of his virtues, render him still more an object of love and confidence. It is not, perhaps, one of the least wonderful circumstances in this divine character, that while it is encompassed with the rays of Deity, and in all the trying circumstances of human life carries a form so lofty and commanding, it is yet quite level to the capacity of a child. The fact is, I believe it is more capable of being felt by children than by ourselves : for this plain reason, that, in some of its most striking peculiarities, their minds are as yet less distantly removed from it.”
ON FORMING THE MANNERS.
“ MANNERS are all,” was the favourite maxim of a prudent matron, well known in her little circle, as an adept in worldly wisdom. Without subscribing to her opinion, one is willing to allow that, in things indifferent, an action identically the same, may please or displease, according to the method of doing it.
Those who desire to improve the manners of their children, should rarely speak to them on the subject. After they have been taught those obvious rules which prevent them from being unnecessarily troublesome, example can do much, but precept may destroy its good effects. In ameliorating hearts, you polish manners. Good nature, good humour, gentleness, the habit of respecting one's self “soberly," and, if attended to, the feelings of others, will, without the formality of precept, give sweetness, courtesy, and
that higher species of grace which depends on the mind.
Forms are so insignificant, that no one ever missed or was awkward in adopting them, except by laying too much or too little stress on their performance. The first is the more common cause of failure, as our instinctively imitative habits usually preserve us from any ill effects arising from contempt or neglect of common forms. But if a child has been led to think too highly of the effects of his bow, his mode of entering or leaving a room, of picking up a fan, or giving a tea-cup, a great step has been taken towards lowering his mind, and throwing restraint on his manners. That person was proverbially deficient in “the graces," to whom the most elaborate lectures ever written on the subject were addressed : lectures which formed, for some years, a code of manners for the nation, and founded a school, of which the remaining professors still think themselves superior to all who went before, and all who may follow after. Yet his instructor, the head of that school, united the highest polish, and habits of the best society, in every sense of the word, with admirable talents and extensive knowledge; therefore he was peculiarly qualified to impress whatever he desired to teach, both by precept and example. Where he failed, who can expect to succeed? The graces seldom flourish, unless indigenous to the soil. Ease and self-possession are advantages universally attractive, and peculiarly sought for by all who make manners a study, either as masters or scholars. These are essential parts of good breeding, without which it can scarcely be said to exist; and they belong, in a very high degree, to many of the members of the Society of Friends, who often possess a graceful simplicity of address that emperors might envy. May not this partly arise from their being, from youth upwards, unincumbered by forms, while, at the same time, a pleasing serenity is ensured by the mildness of their habits, and the peaceful, benevolent tenour of their occupations?
“She glides in like a spirit, and is by your side before you know she is in the room,” was the description given to us of that heroine of humanity we are not permitted to name, by a man of talent*, who had attended her levee in
* The late Mr. Parnell, the friend of Ireland, the friend of the poor, the affectionate relative, the sincere Christian,
London last spring, when rank, and worth, and influence, and taste, (all who were something, and all who would be something) sought for an audience from this harbinger of mercy, this bearer of the olive-branch, penetrating into the dungeon like a ray of light—"a sun-beam that had lost its way.”
There is, in essentials, more resemblance between some of our most polished members of general society, our Corinthian pillars, and well-educated individuals of this sect, than one could have imagined before the comparison was made. Both are placid, serene, still, or, at least, free from impatient or affected gesticulation: both keep self out of sight, are minutely attentive to the feelings and wishes of others, and make no secret of their pain at hearing of any instance, in any quarter, of harshness, cruelty, or injustice.
The French idea of studying to adapt our manners to different classes of life, to shade them, (les nuancer,) sometimes makes the society of individuals of that nation uninteresting to persons of lively imagination, and seems never to succeed when transplanted into English education.