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Children are fond of many employments which neither exert mind nor body, but give pleasant feelings of occupation without any fatigue. These are often condemned as loss of time. Perhaps Miss Edgeworth and Rousseau are too partial to them; and yet it may, possibly, be a greater error to reject them altogether. The hours of youth are long enough to allow a space for these harmless amusements. The day of childhood is long as a polar day,
Which will not see
Its sleepless summer of long light. That of advanced age, in comparison, seems contracted to a span. Nothing is more curious than this apparent, and therefore, as to its effects, real inequality of duration ; this accelerated motion of time, like that which impelled the Caliph Vathek and his companions to the Hall of Eblis : this spiral line, contracting at every turn, till it comes to a point, and concludes all.
The mind is not of necessity idle, because the fingers are busy: while making a screen, or arranging a series of prints, thought may take flight, and the imagination ripen by long excur
sions into the ideal world. The time we pass in reflection is that which improves, not the hours we bend over a book or a pen. Technical employments promote calmness; and of those who are not forced to labour for subsistence, whose wants are supplied, and whose pleasures are prepared, the greater part require to be quieted rather than excited. One would hesitate in proposing these pastimes to a boy of genius, but it is ill-judged to forbid them. His own mind may discern what is good for him, better than any observer, however-clear-sighted; and the mechanical pursuit we condemn, may sheath some corroding sharpness, or tranquillize some irritation, which opposition or neglect might exasperate.
“ Laissez-nous faire” is too much neglected in education, as well as in politics. Parents and governors are too anxious their pupils should be wise, good, and happy, exactly their way.
They forget the infinite variety of existence, and diversity of excellence, this world affords, and would narrow all modes of actions to the breadth of that invisible hair, on which the Mohammedans suppose all true believers must pass, over a fiery gulf, to reach their paradise. In the hands of such instructors, either all the blossoms of moral beauty are crushed, or the pupil, if his mind be ardent, and his sensibility acute, imbibes a silent and deep-rooted disgust towards his teachers ; for which, internally, he sometimes reproaches himself, and sometimes them.
When this disgust occurs, their influence is over. The spell is broken. The vessel is adrift: perhaps to enter on a nobler career; perhaps to perish from the want of a pilot.
LONDON : JOHN W. PARKER, ST. MARTIN'S LANE,
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