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in their sufferings, created by education. One child comes to the dentist, pale and trembling, in tears, like a criminal going to execution; another enters firm, cheerful, animated; not from ostentation of courage or hope of a bribe, but because she, who never deceived him, has declared it would conduce to his future comfort, and her present satisfaction. One tooth is extracted: the dentist and mamma propose drawing others to-morrow. “No,” cries the more sensible boy, in a cheerful tone; “pray, mamma, let all be finished to-day.” We were present at this incident, and much pleased with the little stoic, who was just seven years old.
But it may be said, “ Are children to burn, drown, or wound themselves, without receiving a caution from the lips of experience ?" By no means: we must require their strict obedience,
dispositions, some are by constitution positively more susceptible of pain than others; and some from their nervous temperament are more exposed to a dread of it. I know a child who does come to the dentist pale and in tears, but determined to undergo the suffering, because he thinks it is his duty. I believe that he actually exerts greater selfcommand than his sister, who sits down cheerfully to the same operation.
in avoiding such real hazards as we cannot remove. But it is better, if possible, to ward off danger by our own precautions than their fears, or even their obedience. Rather let us bar our windows, than terrify a child from leaping out, by frightful descriptions of his fate, were he to fall and break his neck.
In his father's absence, when a boy is educated by his mother, (“a woman, therefore, full of fears,") how, it may be said, can she teach a virtue, of which she cannot show the example ?
Let her recollect, that although children should be impressed with a high degree of respect for their parents, it is not necessary, even if it were possible, that they should consider them as perfect. Where she has not self-command enough to conceal her fears, let her ascribe them to their real cause; and if this should happen to be a mistaken education, let her express a hope that her son, who is so fortunate as to be more judiciously brought up, and can feel no similar weakness, will one day be her protector.
Thus the child's affection may superadd fresh motives to the exertion of firmness; and the
mother's sincerity prove, as usual, more politic than any subterfuge or partial concealment.
Let not death be spoken of as necessarily attended with every circumstance of horror and pain, but mentioned simply as a change of being, or a voyage to a distant country,—a change and a voyage productive of nothing but good to those who endeavour to obey their Creator.
They who are unwilling to admit that courage is natural to man, assert, that a self-reared individual would be the most cowardly of beings; but of these we can never observe a sufficient number, to obtain absolute proof on the subject. A boy, about fifteen, was shown in Paris, in the winter of 1809, who had been found two years before in a wood, where he had probably been exposed when old enough to obtain subsistence by seeking wild fruits, roots, salads, and eggs. He was incapable of articulating, but his countenance and gestures showed a restless anxiety wholly distinct from fear. He seemed actuated merely by a vague desire of escaping to his native woods, and his attitudes and movements resembled those of a wild beast shut up in a menagerie. There was the same soft, unquiet step, continued waving restlessness, and sullen consciousness of powers deprived of opportunities of exertion.
As to fears of supernatural agency, they will never exist where just ideas of the Supreme Being are entertained. True religion is the parent of courage as well as cheerfulness. “ Je crains Dieu, cher Abner, et n'ai point d'autre crainte,” like a line from our own Shakspeare, in describing a particular feeling, marks a general effect with beauty and precision.
Johnson is sometimes cited as an instance of the depressing nature of religious feeling* ; but had his mother confined herself to the topic of the delights of heaven, and reserved her terrors till her son was old enough to require, in addition to the allurements of hope, the stronger restraints of fear, she had acted more wisely, and more in unison with the scripture precept, of giving“ milk to babes,”—of teaching the young and ignorant such doctrines as are best suited to their limited conceptions, and least likely to overpower weak minds.
* See p. 20.