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Let us inspire children with kindly feelings for the weak and helpless, respect for old age and misfortune, a due deference for rank and station; and they will express these sentiments better from the dictates of their own hearts, than from any code of rules, which enfeeble the powers, and occupy too great a portion of attention, to the exclusion of matter more suited to the dignity of man: not to mention the danger that such rules may generate stiffness, affectation, and insincerity.
Do you wish to intimidate a gentle and refined mind, so as to dispossess it, perhaps for ever, of its full powers, in the presence of superiors, whether in rank or station? You need only show too much anxiety for their captivating those superiors; lay too much stress on their suffrages; and this practice will, as assuredly in worldly and insensible characters, lay the foundation of fawning to those above, for which the actor usually repays himself by insolence to those below.
But some who are at ease with their equals, and with persons of higher rank than themselves, are unaccountably embarrassed in addressing those in humble life. This may arise from having been too sedulously restrained, in early life, from knowing anything of this class, and imbibing their notions of it from affectedly sentimental productions, where every inhabitant of a cottage is a model of patience and refinement, every landlord a tyrant, and every steward an oppressor. Many little novelets*, written expressly for youth, seem composed only to exemplify these assertions, and to show that poverty and virtue, riches and vice, are synonymous terms. All their labourers are saints or heroes, and all their gentlemen wholly worthless; except one great leviathan, who scatters about his hundreds without reflection or inquiry, in a way that, in real life, would probably be rewarded with a statute of lunacy, or, at least, would deserve one. These books are well intended, but they are not sources whence real kindliness will ever flow. They may prepare one in a hundred,
* Great as is the improvement in this class of books since these pages were written ; yet, the false notions of religion and morality conveyed in many popular, and, in some respects, useful works of the present day, are very extraordinary.
with a very soft heart, or a very weak head, for being a dupe ; but they will not assist in giving habits of enlightened, efficient, and persevering benevolence.
False ideas of the poorer classes are peculiarly inconvenient to women. Louisa had never been permitted to speak to any such, except a few confidential servants, till womanhood, and involuntarily expected them all to assimilate, in some degree, with those she had read of in novels and romances. Upon her marriage, when a desire of being useful led her to converse with her poorer neighbours in the country, she found some difficulties arise : first, from an acquired habit of considering them all as unfortunates; and next, from supposing that her kindness would awaken in their hearts that exquisite tenderness, and deep respect, so affectingly described in works of fiction. She feared that her generosity, united to that delicacy, sweetness, intellect, and beauty, of which she had heard so much, would almost overpower their feelings; and she dreaded the pathos of their gratitude. What was her surprise at finding, that too apparent a consideration for them sometimes awakened only a desire to
impose ; and that they were not so feelingly alive to the appearance and manners of their benefactors, as in novels, where every dying sufferer invariably mistakes the youthful female who relieves him for an angel. She discovered also, that when “reality was dealing” with the children of sorrow, outward show had no effect ;that a gift bore the same value to a starving family, whether the donor was sixty or sixteen ;and that those who would serve the poor effectually, must, in general, rather conceal than display any excess of sensibility.
Suffering children to associate with servants, is justly condemned; dispensing wholly with attendance, as recommended by some, is more desirable than practicable; but commanding the young never to speak to those from whom they daily receive assistance, as proposed by others, is to require what is nearly impossible, and to cherish the seeds of pride. It is of some importance never to allow their attendants to be called “ Miss Mary's” or “ Master John's maid." On the contrary, we should say: “They are not your servants: they are mine, whom I allow to assist you, while you behave to them with pro
priety.” We have lately heard of a plantation in the West Indies, where all the slaves were in the habit of falling on their knees to their proprietor's eldest boy, when he returned, after an absence from home. This, we hope, is an extreme case ; it is certainly an awful one.
All prudent and affectionate parents must feel the incalculable advantage of being the companions of their children, to the utmost limit their situations will admit*; and they will consider morals, discretion and piety, as the most valuable qualities the attendants or instructors of youth, or infancy, can possess; always preferring a moderate degree of skill, with a high
* From the mode of life usually adopted by the highest classes of our countrymen, this advantage is denied to their children. They see them, doubtless, daily, but how rarely alone. Until a young person is come out, she is the companion of her governess, not of her mother. And doubtless this exchange may, in some cases, be valuable to the child; but how shall the mother answer for her personal neglect of the precious talent committed to her!
I am aware that a mother, who does devote the largest portion of her time to her children, will be assailed and perplexed by the reproaches of most of her acquaintance. Her friends will urge the claims of society upon her; and it will be well, therefore, if she settle honestly with her own conscience what these claims really are. They are