Page images

Defence of the PRINciple of Association in educating Youth.

[From the Same.]

-- Bo: I proceed to a further investigation of the subject with which I concluded my last, I shall fully reply to the objections you have so candidly stated. “You say, that “without having * ever read a page of metaphysics, “you can easily comprehend what I ‘mean by the associations of ideas. “But it appears to you, that I have * laid too great a stress upon the ‘strength of those that are given in * infancy; as experience may con“vince us, that the impressions re* ceived in that early period are " slight and evanescent; that the “pleasures and pains of childhood * are not the pleasures and pains of “our riper years, and that this change * of the objects of desire or aversion “shows the early association of ideas ‘to have been slight and transient.” “That thousands of casual associations are of this description, I readily admit; and I believe, on close and accurate examination, we shall find that the permanency of associations depends, in the first place, on the strength of the original impression, and secondly, on the frequency of the repetition. “To give an instance of each kind. First, that the strength of the impression occasioned the associations to be indelibly fixed in the mind. Of this we have a convincing proof in the number of persons who are unhappily through life slaves to the terrors of darkness, from the idea of ghosts and darkness

having been associated together in infancy, and forcibly impressed by means of the passion of fear. Long after reason has pointed out the absurdity of this association, long after the belief in apparitions has ceased to be a part of the creed, has this association continued to operate upon the mind, and to many a brave man, and many a sensible woman; proved a lasting source of misery and disquiet. •. “This is now so well known that servants are 5. cautioned against frightening children by those foolish stories which were once so current in every nursery-But is the fear of ghosts and hobgoblins the only false and permanent association of which the mind is at that early period susceptible? Alas! a thousand others of no lees fatal tendency are often then reseived, engendering prejudices no less dangerous and indelible. . “That all our desires are associ-, ated with the ideas of pleasure, and all our aversions with those of painno one who gives the least observa, tion to what passes in his own minde or that of others, can doubt. Thesy associations take place at an earlin period, for it is by means of thee that a child learns to distinguish th: voice of praise from that of chidingd The pleasurable sensation exciteby praise gives rise to self-complae cency; and the idea of the pleasuro experienced from it will not fail ts be associated with the circumstance


by which it has been most frequently produced; inclining the child to a repetition of the same mode of conduct for which it has been already praised. The idea of pleasure attached to the gratification of selfwill is, however, so much more lively in early life than any other assóciation, that it will, if not properly guarded against, counteract even the love of praise. You desire your little girl to fetch a book from the other end of the room: she obeys, and is caressed and praised for her ready obedience, Thus pleasure becomes associated with obedience. But perhaps in an hour after you desire her to give up a favourite play thing, and go to bed. The pleasure she derives from her amusement will here oppose itself to the pleasure derived from your approbation; and if the association of pleasure with the gratification of self-will has not already been broken, and the desire subdued, there is no doubt but it will here prevail, and triumph over the pleasure of obedience. When the desire of gratifying self will does not interpose, the association of praise and pleasure will recover its influence, and the pleasurable idea connected with praise be extended to all its attending circumstances. For instance. Let your little girl be dressed in new and unusual finery, and brought into company, where every voice shall join in praise of the ornaments with which she has been decorated. Observe the satisfaction with which she eyes the pretty shoes and P. såsh, which are the objects of praise and admiration. The idea of praise may thus be associated with the idea of finery, and thus, no doubt, may the love of dress be generated ; but that it will remain permanent without many repetitions of the

first impression is, I think, a corclusion which experience does not justify. The first impression would be equally strong on the mind of a boy or girl; but on the mind of the boy it will not long have influence, being early and effectually counteracted. On the mind of the poor #. on the contrary, it may be eeply impressed; for she is unhappily exposed to a daily repetition of the same association, and can, therefore, have little chance of escaping its pernicious influence. “From these remarks it appears evident, that the early associations to which our attention ought chiefly to be directed, which we must most scrupulously examine, and most assiduously watch, are, first, those which are powerfully impressed by means of surong sensation; and secondly, those which are fixed by means of frequent repetition. If these are o, guarded against, I think we need be under no apprehension concerning those slight and

transient associations, to which, by

a certain class of philosophers, so

much has been attributed. “To be able to examine and to decide on the tendency offmpressions, does, indeed, seem to require a knowledge of the human mind, which few mothers in the common path of life can be supposed to possess. I say seem to require, for in reality it requires nothing more than strict attention to the subject, directed by that experience which a knowledge of one's own mind, and common observation on the characters of others, must bestow. The more enlightened our. understandings, the more enlarged the sphere of our observation, with so much greater facility shall we be enabled to trace, with so much greater certainty to decide on, the consequences of associations. But it is not to want of knowledge knowledge or ability that our deficiency is most commonly to be ascribed. It is our own indolence, our own selfishness, our unwillingness to counteract our own prejudices, that prevent us from applying to the subject the degree of understanding and information we possess. For a standard whereby to judge of the tendency of associations, no Christian mother can be at a loss. She, indeed, whose notions of religion extend a little further than to the mere forms of the sect in which she was educated, will here be found to possess a very #. advantage. In the morality of the Gospel she has an excellent criterion; and if she conscientiously endeavours to prevent all associations in the minds of her children that are at variance with its precepts, she lays the most probable foundation for their future happiness. “The system of morality established by Jesus Christ does, indeed, in many respects, differ essential from the morality of the world. But till it can be proved that the latter is better suited for advancing the dignity of our nature, is better calculated for promoting individual and social happiness, I do not scruple to give a decided preference to the former. To it, therefore, should I endeavour toform the mind. By it should I try the habits, the prejudices, (for they can scarcely be called opinions) that are adquired in infancy; and while I did so, I would submit my own prejudices, my own opinions, to the same test. “There are few indi

• viduals (says Stewart) whose edu• cation has been conducted in every “respectwith attentionandjudgment. • Almost every man of reflexion is • conscious, when he arrives at ma‘turity, of many defects in his mental ' powers, and of many inconvenient ‘ habits which might have been pre• vented or remedied in his infanc

* or youth. Such a consciousness is • the first step towards improvement; • and the person who feels it, if he is * possessed of resolution and stea• diness, will not scruple to begin a * new course of education for him“self.-It is never too late (he adds) * to think of the improvement of * our faculties.” It is never too late, I would add, to examine our opinions with attention; so that we may be able to discriminate between those which have been adopted by the understanding on a rational conviction of their truth, and those that are the offspring of false associations deeply impressed upon our minds in early life. Without such an examination of our opinions, we shail, in educating our children, be but perpetuating the reign of prejudice and error. If even in our religious sentinents or feelings there are any that will not stand the test I have mentioned “, though we may not immediately be able to detect their fallacy, we ought, at least, to beware of inculcating them ; lest by associating with the sacred name of religion, false and injurious impressions of the Deity, or malevolence and ill-will towards any part of his creation, we inadvertently lay the foundation of a blind and

*“‘There can be nothing in the genuine sentiment, or feelings, occasioned by the Spirit * of God, which is not friendly to man, improving to his nature, and co-operating with * all that sound philosophy and be uignant laws have ever done to advance the happiness * of the human race.”—See Dr. Kuox's adjuitable Treatise of Christian Philosophy,

Tol. i. p. 25%.”

superstitious superstitious bigotry, or perhaps of that very scepticism against which we, with so much zcal, but so little judgment, attempt to guard. “The power of association over the mental faculties is extremely obvious: but I shall postpone the consideration of it, till we come to treat of the cultivation of the understanding ; and at present confine myself to an examination of those early associations which affect the heart”. The influence of these has not, I believe, been generally attended to so much as the importance of the subject seems to require. Love and hatred are the great springs of human action. In their various modifications they give rise to every passion and affection of the human soul; and according to the objects with which they are associated, and to the passions which they produce, will vice or virtue predominate in

the character of the individual. How far the primary passions of love and hatred, with their several dependent passions, oy be, and actually are, influenced by early association, it shall now be my eudeavour to explain by the most obvious and familiar examples.

“By tracing the rise of the malevolent passions, to the earliest stage of i. I shall, as I hope, give a powerful incentive to maternal vigilance; and by showing how the benevolent affections may, at the same early period, be inspired, I give a new motive to maternal virtue. Such at least, is the glorious aim I have in view; and were all mothers possessed with the same zeal for the happiness of their offspring as is felt by my friend, I should not despair of its accomplishment. Adieu.”

“* The reader will observe, that in making the heart the seat of the passions, I make use of the popular language, without contending for its propriety; it is sufficient scr =y

urpose, that it is intelligible.”

[ocr errors]


Meteorological Observations, applicable to PRIvate and noMestic Purposes in GREAT-BRITAIN.

[From CAPPER's Observations on the WINDs and Monsoons.]

- i. HE tables in the Philosophical Transactions, those of bishop Watson, Dr. Robertson, and major Hayman Rooke, all tend to prove, that the rainy season of these islands commences in June, and continues for the two or three subsequent months; and that the greatest quantity of rain falls almost invariably in the month of July. This is the fact: let us consider what use may be derived from it by the farmer. “In the neighbourhood of London, from the great command of manure and the goodness of the roads, the farmer is able to bring forward his grass, and to mow it sometimes at the beginning of June, and always by the .# of the month: thus he completely finishes his hay harvest before the summer solstice; the solsticial rains therefore which follow, but seldom commence before this time, are cxtremely beneficial to him: they bring forward the aftermath, they swell the corn and increase the length of the straw; and having finished one harvest the farmer is completely prepared for the other. But it is only within a few years,

[ocr errors]

that agriculture was in such an imj state, even near the capital, as to admit of an early hay harvest; and I am sorry to say, that nine years in ten at least, in the highly gifted county of Glamorgan, even at the present day, the hay is regularly spoiled in making. Put let not this circumstance be considered as reflecting upon the farners of that country, who are far from deficient either in industry or a competent knowledge of their business. Their country, possessing every possible ...] advantage, has not, until lately, had any good turnpike roads; manure was to be had only in small quantities; the little there was it became difficult and expensive to put on the land, and consequently they could not bring forward their grass to be cut before the middle of July. The rains, therefore, so beneficial to the London farmer were hurtful to them; but as it happened almost every year, they patiently submitted to what they considered irremediable; for being situated near the sea, they supposed it the natural con* of their climate and SQLi. ** But

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »