The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Education, the Science of Relations: We are Educated by our Intimacies.
by Charlotte Mason
[This was reorganized and published in Volume 3, School Education, of Charlotte Mason's series.]
SIXTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE AT THE PORTMAN ROOMS, BAKER STREET, W.,
Owing to the unavoidable absence of both the Earl and Countess of Aberdeen, LADY CAMPBELL read MISS MASON'S paper on Education as the Science of Relations, without any introductory remarks.
Education, the Science of Relations: We are Educated by our Intimacies.
"But who shall parcel out
It is with much thankfulness and with much joy that I once again wish a Happy New Year to the Parents' National Educational Union--a New Year because, practically, our year dates from Conference to Conference. It is in May that we pull ourselves together, take some note of the tendency of what we have done and make forecasts for the coming year, not merely in the way of organising branches, arranging lectures and so on, but in the more important way of progress in the though by which, as a Society, we live.
And here let me congratulate you very much on the great gain we have made, or are about to make, through the efforts of our Hon. Org. Secretary, and thanks to the most generous support she has received. An organism must have a voice, and we have all along enjoyed that voice in the Parents' Review. But it has only lately dawned upon us that the Review is not a paying venture, and belongs to the persons who were in the first place generous enough to invest money in it, and to whom we shall always feel deeply indebted.
Now the shares that were originally taken up have in most cases been generously presented to the Union; when this was not feasible, the owners will be reimbursed for their outlay; so that the red Magazine which many of us love may become the property of the P.N.E.U., to have and to hold, for better for worse. We have cause to be very thankful, for when the Magazine was not ours, there was always the possibility of its passing into the hands of a publisher who would not be able to work it on our lines, and might make it pay at the cost of lowering its tone.
I have been asked to urge upon you today that Education is the Science of Relations: and to be really asked to do this, and to know that the whole work of the Conference has been arranged to illustrate and enforce this thesis, gives me unbounded joy, because it is a note of vital growth in the P.N.E.U.
For the first ten years of our existence we worked pretty steadily at learning the use of our tools. I need not say to this audience what these tools are: we know very well that, "Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life." In other words, we know, that parents and teachers should know how to make sensible use of a child's circumstances (atmosphere) to forward his sound education, should train him in the discipline of habits of the good life, and should nourish his life with ideas, the food upon which personality waxes strong.
These three we believe to be the only instruments of which we may make lawful use in the up-bringing of children; and any short cut we take by trading on their sensibilities, emotions, desires, passions, will bring us and our children to grief. The reason is plain; habits, ideas and circumstances are external, and we may all help each other to get the best that is to be had of these; but we may not meddle directly with the personality of child or man. We may not work upon his vanity, his fears, his love, his emulation, or anything that is his by very right, anything that goes to make him a person.
Most thinking people are in earnest about the bringing up of children; but we are in danger of taking too much upon us and not recognising the limitations which confine us to the outworks of personality. Children and grown-up persons are the same with a difference; and a thoughtful writer has done us good service by carefully tracing the method of our Lord's education of the Twelve:--
"Our Lord," says this author, "reverenced whatever the learner had in him of his own, and was tender in fostering this native growth . . . Men, in His eyes, were not mere clay in the hands of the potter, matter to be moulded to shape. They were organic beings, each growing from within, with a life of his own--a personal life which was exceedingly precious in His and His Father's eyes--and He would foster this growth so that it might take after the highest type." [Pastor Pastorum, by H. Latham, M.A., page 6.]
I am not sure that we let life and its circumstances have free play about children. We temper the wind too much to the lambs; pain and sin, want and suffering, disease and death, we shield them from the knowledge of, at all hazards. I do not say that we should wantonly expose the tender souls to distress, but that we should recognise that life has a ministry for them also; and that Nature provides them with a subtle screen, like that of its odour to a violet, from damaging shocks. Some of us will not even let children read fairy tales because these bring the ugly facts of life too suddenly before them. It is worth while to consider Wordsworth's experience on this point. Indeed, I do not think we make enough use of two such priceless boons to parents and teachers as the educational autobiographies of two great philosophers, Wordsworth and Ruskin. The former tells us how, no sooner had he gone to school at Hawkshead, than the body of a suicide was recovered from Esthwaite Lake; a ghastly tale, but full of comfort as showing how children are protected from shock. The little boy was there and saw it all;--
"Yet no soul-debasing fear,
It is delightful to know on the evidence of a child, who went through it, that a terrible scene was separated from him by an atmosphere of poetry--a curtain woven of fairy lore by his etherealising imagination.
But we may run no needless risks, and must keep a quiet matter-of-fact tone in speaking of fire, shipwreck, or any terror. There are children to whom the thought of Joseph in the pit is a nightmare; and many of us elders are unable to endure a ghastly tale in newspaper or novel. All I would urge is a natural treatment of children, and that they be allowed their fair share of life, such as it is; prudence, and not panic, should rule our conduct towards them.
I was charged the other day with putting a habit, the means of life-long discipline allowed to us, in the place of the grace of God. On the contrary, the P.N.E.U. recognises the laws of habit as laws of God, and the forming of good and the hindering of evil habits as among the primary duties of a parent. But it is just as well to be reminded that habits, whether helpful or hindering, only come in into play occasionally while a great deal of spontaneous living is always going on towards which we can do no more than drop in vital ideas as opportunity occurs. All this is old matter, and I must beg you to forgive me for reminding you again that our educational instruments remain the same. We may not leave off the attempt to form good habits with tact and care, to suggest fruitful ideas, without too much insistence, and to make wise use of circumstances.
As we believe that a nation is something more than its population, a school than the sum of its scholars, so we think that our Union, being vital, has a life of its own, not to be measured by the educational vitality of one member here and another there; wherefore the P.N.E.U., having devoted, as I have said, ten years of its being to learning how to use the three instruments of education, some four years ago took a new start in life and asked itself what end it had in view as the result of a wise use of due means.
What is education after all? The answer came in the phrase--Education is the Science of Relations. We do not use this phrase in the Herbartian sense--that things are related to each other, and we must be careful to pack the right things in together so that, having got into the brain of a boy, each thing may fasten on its cousins and together they may make a strong clique or "apperception mass." What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past and all that there will be in the future--with all above us and all about us--and that fulness of living, expansion, expression and serviceableness for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of.
George Herbert says something of what we mean:--
"Man is all symmetry,
* The italics are mine.
Every child is heir to an enormous patrimony, heir to all the ages, inheritor of all the present. The question is, what are the formalities (educational this time, not legal) necessary to put him in possession of that which is his? You perceive the point of view is shifted, and is no longer subjective, but objective, as regards the child.
We do not talk about developing his faculties, training his moral nature, guiding his religious feelings, educating him with a view to his social standing or his future calling. The joys of "child-study" are not for us. We take the child for granted, or rather, we take him as we find him--a person with an enormous number of healthy affinities, embryo attachments; and we think it is our chief business to give him a change to make the largest possible number of these attachments valid.
An infant comes into the world with a thousand such embryonic feelers, which he sets to work to fix with amazing energy:--
He attaches his being to mother, father, sister, brother, nanna, the man in the street whom he calls "dada," cat and dog, spider and fly; earth, air, fire and water attract him perilously; his eyes covet light and colour, his ears sound; his limbs movement; everything concerns him, and out of everything he gets--
"That calm delight
He gets also, when left to himself, the real knowledge about each thing which establishes his relation with that particular thing.
Later, we step in to educate him. In proportion to the range of living relationships we put in his way, will he have wide and vital interests, fulness of joy in living. In proportion as he is made aware of the laws which rule every relationship, will his life be dutiful and serviceable: as he learns that no relation with persons or with things, animate or inanimate, can be maintained without strenuous effort, will he learn the laws of work and the joys of work. Our part is to remove obstructions and to give stimulus and guidance to the child who is trying to get into touch with the universe of things and thoughts which belong to him. Our deadly error is to suppose that we are his showman to the universe, and, not only so, but that there is no community at all between child and universe unless such as we choose to set up. We are the people! and if we choose that a village child's education should be confined to the "three R's," why, what right has he to ask for more? If life means for him his Saturday night in the ale-house, surely that is not our fault! If our own boys go through school and college and come out without quickening interests, without links to the things that are worth while, we are not sure that it is our fault either. We resent that they should be called "muddied oafs" because we know them to be fine fellows. So they are, splendid stuff which has not yet arrived at the making! Quoth Hamlet,--
"Every man hath business and desire."
Doubtless that was true in the spacious days of great Elizabeth; for us, we have business, but have we desire? Are there many keen interests soliciting us outside of our necessary work? Perhaps not, or we should be less enslaved by the vapid joys of Ping-Pong, Patience, Bridge, and their like. The fact is that "interests" are not to be taken up on the spur of the moment, they spring out of affinities we have found and laid hold of. Or, in the words of an old writer:--"In worldly and material things, what is Used is spent; in intellectual and spiritual things, what is not Used is not Had."
Suppose we have realised that we must make provision for the future of our children otherwise than by safe investments, the question remains, How to set about it?
We say a child should have what we will call Dynamic Relations with earth and water, must run and leap and dance, must ride and swim. This is how not to do it, as set forth in Praeterita [John Ruskin]:--
"And so on to the Llanberis and up Snowdon . . . And if only then my father and mother had seen the real strengths and weaknesses of their little John; if they had given me but a shaggy scrap of a Welsh pony, and left me in charge of a good Welsh guide, and of his wife, if I need any coddling, they would have made a man of me there and then . . . If only! But they could no more have done it than thrown me like my cousin Charles into Croydon Canal, trusting me to find my way out by the laws of nature. Instead, they took me back to London, my father spared time from his business hours, once or twice a week, to take me to a four-square, sky-lighted, sawdust floored prison of a riding school in Moorfields, the smell of which, as we turned in at the gate of it, was a terror and horror and abomination to me: and there I was put on big horses that jumped and reared, and circled, and sidled, and fell off them regularly whenever they did any of these things; and was a disgrace to my family, and a burning shame and misery to myself, till at last the riding school was given up on my spraining my right hand fore-finger (it has never come straight again since); and a well-broken Shetland pony bought for me, and the two of us led about the Norwood roads by a riding master with a leading string.
"I used to do pretty well as long as we went straight, and then get thinking of something and fall off as we turned a corner. I might have got some inkling of a seat in heaven's good time, if no fuss had been made about me, nor inquiries instituted whether I had been off or on, but as my mother, the moment I got home, made searching scrutiny into the day's disgraces, I merely got more nervous and helpless after every tumble; and this branch of my education was at last abandoned, my parents consoling themselves as best they might, in the conclusion that my not being able to ride was the sign of my being a singular genius."
Ruskin suffered from the malady of his condition. He was of the suburban dwellers of the rich middle class who think, not wisely but too much, about the bringing up of their children, who choke a good deal of life with care and coddling, and are apt to be persuaded that their children want no outlets but such as it occurs to them to provide. Suburban life is a necessity, but it is also a misfortune, because, in a rich suburb, people live too much with their own sort. They are cut off from the small and the great, from labour, adventure, and privation. Let me commend all rich educated parents who live in suburbs to read Praeterita. With all his chivalrous loyalty to his parents, Ruskin has left here a grave indictment, not of them, but of the limitations of his condition. One hears the cry of the child, like that of Laurence Sterne's caged starling--"I can't get out, I can't get out"--repeated from page to page.
You will say, whatever were the faults of his education, Ruskin emerged from it, such as it was; and we look for no more. But it is not for us to say how much greater an apostle among men even Ruskin would have become had he been allowed his right of free living as a child. And it may be, on the other hand, safe to admit that not every child, born and bred in a villa, will certainly be another Ruskin!
We cannot follow Mr. Ruskin further in the setting up of the dynamic relations proper to him, because his parents forbade, and nothing happened. His mother, he says, "never allowed me to go to the edge of a pond or be in the same field with a pony." But he notes "with thankfulness the good I got out of the tadpole-haunted ditch in Croxted Lane." Camberwell Green had a pond and, he says, "it was one of the most valued privileges of my early life to be permitted by my nurse to contemplate this judicial pond with awe from the other side of the way."
Wordsworth tells us of a much more rough and tumble bringing-up. When he was nine, he was sent to the Grammar School in the little village of Hawkshead and lodged with Dame Tyson in the cottage many of us know; and found most things, at home and abroad, congenial to his soul. He had no lessons in riding and skating, hockey and tennis; but no doubt the other boys made it plain to the little chap that he must do as they did or be thought a fool. But then he went to school a hardy youngster; his mother had let her little boy live:--
"Oh, many a time have I, a five years' child,
Of his childhood, he says,--
"Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up
Ere he had told ten birthdays, he was transplanted to that "beloved Vale" of which he says,--
"There were we let loose
What was there those Hawkshead boys did not do! He tells us of times,--
"When I have hung
The boys skated;--
"All shod with steel,
"From week to week, from month to month, we lived
"When summer came,
The young Wordsworth, too, had his essays on horseback when he and his schoolmates came back rich from the half-yearly holidays and hired horses from "the courteous innkeeper," and off they went "proud to curb, and eager to spur on, the galloping steed"; and then, the home-coming,--
"Through the walls we flew
Of the Affinity for Material, the joy of handling and making, Wordsworth says little, but Ruskin sent out feelers in this direction which began with "two boxes of well cut wooden bricks" and culminated, perhaps, in the road-making of the Oxford days:--
"I was afterwards," he says, "gifted with a two-arched bridge, admirable in fittings of voussoir and keystone, and adjustment of the level courses of masonry with bevelled edges, into which they dove-tailed in the style of Waterloo Bridge. Well-made centrings, and a course of inlaid steps down to the water, made this model largely as accurately, instructive: and I was never weary of building, un-building--(it was too strong to be thrown down, but had always to be taken down)--and re-building it."
We know how he busied himself with making a small dam and reservoir at both the Herne Hill and Denmark Hill homes; and how, while still a boy, he scrubbed down, with pail of water and broom, the dirty steps of the Alpine hotel, because they offended his mother. We feel that in this direction, again, his nature cried aloud for opportunities.
We do not hear much of the intimacy of either boy with Natural Objects, such as birds and flowers, but here, again, we feel that Ruskin was deprived of opportunity. His flower friends were garden dwellers; and could anything be more pathetic than this;--"My chief prayer for the kindness of heaven, in its flowerful seasons, was that the frost might not touch the almond blossom."*
*Students of Love's Meinie and Proserpine will know what rich compensations later life brought for the child's disadvantages.
Wordsworth appears to have waited for his intimacy with wild-flowers until he could say of his sister Dorothy,--"She gave me eyes, she gave me ears." Birds, as we have seen, he knew through the wicked joy of birdsnesting; but not only so, that day when the wild cavalcade rode to Furness Abbey, he marked,--
"That simple wren
If Ruskin had not, as a child, a wide acquaintance with the flowers of the field, he made up perhaps by the enormous attention he gave to such as came in his way; and, just as his toy bricks and his bridge gave him his initiation in the principles of architecture, so perhaps his early flower studies resulted in his power of seeing and expressing detail. He says of flowers,--"My whole time passed in staring at them or into them. In no morbid curiosity, but in admiring wonder, I pulled every flower to pieces till I knew all that could be seen of it with a child's eyes; and used to lay up little treasures of seeds, by way of pearls and beads,--never with any thought of sowing them." He complains that books on Botany were harder than the Latin Grammar.
"Had there been anybody then to teach me anything about plants or pebbles," he says, "it had been good for me." He loved the pebbles of the Tay, and followed up his acquaintance with pebbles at Matlock. "In the glittering white broken spar, speckled with galena, by which the walks of the hotel garden were made bright, and in the slopes of the pretty village, and in many a happy walk along its cliffs, I pursued my mineralogical studies on fluor, calcite, and the ores of lead, and with indescribable rapture when I was allowed to go into a cave."
Later we find him going up Snowdon, "of which ascent I remember, as the most exciting event, the finding for the first time in my life a real 'mineral' for myself, a piece of copper pyrites!" This eagerly sought acquaintance with pebbles resulted in the life-shaping intimacy with minerals to which we owe The Ethics of the Dust.
As for Books, we are told how Ruskin grew up upon the Waverley novels, on Pope's Homer's Iliad, many of Shakespeare's plays, and much else that is delightful; but he does not give us an instance of the sort of thing we are looking for--the sudden keen insatiate delight in a book which means kinship--until he is introduced to Byron. His first acquaintance with Byron he puts "about the beginning of the teen period":--
"But very certainly, by the end of this year 1834, I knew my Byron pretty well all through, all but Cain, Werner, the Deformed Transformed, and Vision of Judgment, none of which I could understand, nor did papa and mamma think it would be well I should try to . . . So far as I could understand it, I rejoiced in all the sarcasm of Don Juan. But my firm decision, as soon as I got well into the later cantos of it, that Byron was to be my master in verse, as Turner in colour, was made of course in that gosling (or say cygnet) epoch of existence, without consciousness of the deeper instincts that prompted it: only two things I consciously recognised, that his truth of observation was most exact, and his chosen expression the most concentrated, that I had yet found in literature . . . But the thing wholly new and precious to me in Byron was his measured and living truth--measured, as compared with Homer; and living, as compared with everybody else . . . He taught me the meaning of Chillon and of Meillerie, and bade me seek first in Venice--the ruined homes of Foscari and Falier . . . Byron told me of, and reanimated for me, the real people whose feet had worn the marble I trod on."
This is how Wordsworth took to his books:--
"A precious treasure had I long possessed
Nor can I omit the counsel that follows;--
"A gracious spirit o'er this earth presides,
and this other counsel:--
"Rarely and with reluctance would I stoop
Later, follows the story of his first enthralment by poetry:--
"Twice five years
The awakening of the Historic Sense in Ruskin appears to be always, and here is a great lesson for us, connected with places: that historic interest and aesthetic delight are one with him, is another thing to take note of. We have seen how Byron served him in this way. Again, he tells us of the "three centres of my life's thought, Rouen, Geneva and Pisa, which have been tutoresses of all I know and were mistresses of all I did from the first moments I entered their gates." These came later, but Abbeville "was entrance for me into immediately healthy labour and joy . . . My most intense happinesses have, of course, been among mountains. But for cheerful, unalloyed, unwearying pleasure, the getting sight of Abbeville on a fine summer afternoon, jumping out in the courtyard of the Hotel de L'Europe and rushing down the street to see St. Wulfran again before the sun was off the towers, are things to cherish the past for--to the end." But Ruskin's want of living touch with the past, except as such touch was given by the newly discovered history of a place he happened to be in, is shown in his first impressions of Rome:--
"My stock of Latin learning, with which to begin my studies of the city, consisted of the two first books of Livy, never well known, and the names of places rememered without ever looking where they were on a map; Juvenal, a page of two of Tacitus, and in Virgil the burning of Troy, the story of Dido, the episode of Euryalus, and the last battle. Of course, I had nominally read the whole Aenid, but thought most of it nonsense. Of later Roman history, I had had read English abstracts of the imperial vices, and supposed the malaria in the Campagna to be the consequence of the Papacy. I had never heard of a good Roman Emperor, or a good Pope; was not quite sure whether Trajan lived before Christ or after, and would have thanked, with a sense of relieved satisfaction, anybody who might have told me that Marcus Antonius was a Roman philosopher contemporary with Socrates . . . We of course drove about the town, and saw the Forum, colisum, and so on. I had no distinct idea what the Forum was or ever had been, or how the three pillars, or the seve, were connected with it, or the Arch of Severus . . . What the Forum or Capitol had been, I did not in the least care; the pillars of the Forum I saw were on the small scale, and their capitals rudely carved, and the houses above them nothing like so interesting as the side of any close of the 'auld toun' of Edinburgh.'
Wordsworth, too, stood aloof. He was aware of
"Old, unhappy, far-off things
But the past of nations did not enthral him; the throes of the French Revolution hardly affected him, though he took a walking tour on the Continent at the moment when, as he himself says,--
"As if awakened from sleep, the nations hailed
But for him,--
I looked upon these things
As for the Knowledge learned in Schools, Ruskin gives us rather dry details of his experiences in Euclid and the Latin grammar and the like, but neither boy appears to have been "stung with the rapture of a sudden thought" in the course of his lessons, unless Hawkshead Grammar School can take this to itself;--
"Many are our joys
But the praise of the unfolding of the seasons follows, I am afraid it is the lore they brought with them the poet had in his mind's eye.
We have all been interested in the late Mr. [Cecil] Rhode's illuminating will, and I suppose most mothers have pondered the four groups of qualifications for [Rhodes] scholarships. In (3) we have "fellowship," in (4) "instincts to lead and take an interest in his schoolmates." It is well that a talent for Comradeship should be brought before us in this prominent way as a sine qua non. Here is the rock upon which Ruskin's education split, as he was sadly aware; he never knew the joys of comradeship. Having spoken of "peace, obedience, faith; these three for chief good; next to these the habit of fixed attention with both eyes and mind," as the main blessings of his childhood, he goes on to enumerate "the equally dominant calamities":--
"First, that I had nothing to love. My parents were--in a sort--visible powers of nature to me, no more loved than the sun and the moon: only I should have been annoyed and puzzled if either of them had gone out; (how much, now, when both are darkened!)--still less did I love God; not that I had any quarrel with Him, or fear of Him; but simply found what people told me was His service, disagreeable; and what people told me was His book, not entertaining. I had no companions to quarrel with neither; nobody to assist, and nobody to thank. Not a servant was ever allowed to do anything for me, but what it was their duty to do; and why should I have been grateful to the cook for cooking, or the gardener for gardening . . . My present verdict, therefore, on the general tenor of my education at that time, must be, that it was at once too formal and too luxurious; leaving my character at the most important moment for its construction, cramped indeed, but not disciplined; and only by protection innocent, instead of by practice virtuous."
Wordsworth, on the contrary, as we have seen, lived the life of his school-fellows with entire abandon. He was with a crowd of his mates or he was with a friend, and was only alone in those moments of deeper intimacy which we shall speak of presently. The simple life of his "belovèd Vale" took such hold on his tenacious northern nature that not Cambridge, nor London, nor (as we have seen) Europe in its time of confusion, could displace the earlier image or give new direction to his profoundest thought.
[Sir Walter] Scott laid claim to "intimacy with all ranks of my countrymen from the Scottish peer to the Scottish ploughman," and--we get the Waverley novels. Wordsworth was satisfied to know the fine-natured peasant folk of his own dales, and poet-souls like his own. Perhaps such limitations went to the making of the poet of plain living and high thinking; but limitations are hazardous.
We might trace the consummation of various other affinities in our two illustrious subjects, but time fails; we can only indicate the joy of pursuing the acquaintanceship, followed by the endless occupation for mind and heart in that high intimacy which we call the Vocation of each of these men of genius.
Ruskin's "career," to use our common and expressive figure, began when,--
"On my thirteenth (?) birthday, 8th February, 1832, my father's partner, Mr. Henry Telford, gave me Roger's Italy, and determined the main tenor of my life . . . I had no sooner cast my eyes on the Turner vignettes than I took them for my only masters, and set myself to imitate them as far as I possibly could by fine pen shading. . . .
"My father at last gave me, not for a beginning of a Turner collection, but for a specimen of Turner's work, which was all--as it was supposed--I should never need or aspire to possess, the 'Richmond Bridge, Surrey.' "
Again, anent his purchase of Turner's Harlech:--
"Whatever germs of better things remained in me, were then all centred in this love of Turner. It was not a piece of painted paper, but a Welsh castle and village, and Snowdon in blue cloud, that I bought for my seventy pounds."
Not until he is twenty-two does he produce what he considers his first sincere drawing:--
"One day on the road to Norwood, I noticed a bit of ivy round a thorn stem, which seemed, even to my critical judgment, not 'ill composed,' and proceeded to make a light and shade pencil study of it in my grey paper pocket-book, carefully, as if it had been a bit of sculpture, liking it more and more as I drew. When it was done, I saw that I had virtually lost all my time since I was twelve years old, because no one had ever told me to draw what was really there!"
And then follows the story of his true initiation:--
"I took out my book and began to draw a little aspen tree, on the other side of the cart-road, carefully . . . Languidly, but not idly, I began to draw it; and as I drew, the langour passed away, the beautiful lines insisted on being traced, without weariness. More and more beautiful they became as each rose out of the rest and took its place in the air. With wonder increasing every instant, I saw that they composed themselves by finer laws than any known of men. At last the tree was there, and everything that I had thought before about trees nowhere . . . 'He hath made everything beautiful in His time' became for me thenceforward the interpretation of the bond between the human mind and all visible things."
Let us intrude into the consummation of one more intimacy. Already the boy has made acquaintance with mountains; he is now to have his first sight of the Alps. He, his father and mother and his cousin Mary, went out to walk the first Sunday evening after their arrival on the garden terrace of Schaffhausen, and--
"Suddenly--behold--beyond! There was no thought in any of us for a moment of their being clouds. They were clear as crystal, sharp on the pure horizon sky, and already tinged with rose by the setting sun. Infinitely beyond all that we had ever thought or dreamed--the seen walls of lost Eden could not have been more beautiful to us; not more awful, round heaven, the walls of sacred death. It is not possible to imagine, in any time of the world, a more blessed entrance into life, for a child of such temperament as mine."
How shall we venture to trace the growth of that austere, most gracious and enthralling intimacy with Nature which was to Wordsworth the master-light of all his seeing? He unfolds to us,--
"The simple ways in which my childhood walked;
We cannot trace every step of this ethereal passion but only take a phase of it here and there. The boy and some of his schoolfellows were boating on Windermere in the late evening and they left one of their number, "the Minstrel of the Troop," on a small island;--
"And rowed off gently, while he blew his flute
We may take one more look at this marvellous boy, who, become a man, held that every child, as he, is born a poet:--
"My seventeenth year was come;
If in my youth I have been pure in heart,
Before taking leave of the Prelude, may I introduce Wordsworth's sketch of the "child-studied" little prig of his days--days of much searching of heart and of many theories on the subject of education:--
"That common sense
We cannot stop now to gather any more of the instruction and edification contained in those two great educational books, The Prelude and Praeterita. It is enough for to-day if they have shown us in what manner children attach themselves to their proper affinities, given opportunity and liberty. Our part is to drop occasion freely in the way, whether in school or at home. Children should have relations with earth and water, should run and leap, ride and swim, should establish the relation of maker to material in as many kinds as may be; should have dear and intimate relations with persons, through present intercourse, through tale or poem, picture or statue; through flint arrow-head or modern motor-car: beast and bird, herb and tree, they must have familiar acquaintance with. Other peoples and their languages must not be strange to them. Above all they should find that most Intimate and Highest of all relationships,--the fulfilment of their being.
This is not a bewildering programme, because, in all these and more directions, children have affinities; and a human being does not fill his place in the universe without putting out tendrils of attachment in the directions proper to him. We must get rid of the notion that to learn the "three R's" or the Latin grammar well, a child should learn these and nothing else. It is as true for children, as for ourselves, that, the wider the range of interests, the more intelligent is the apprehension of each.
But I am not preaching a gospel for the indolent and proclaiming that education is a casual and desultory matter. Many great writers have written at least one book devoted to education; and Waverley seems to me to be Scott's contribution to our science. Edward Waverley, we are told, "was permitted in a great measure to learn as he pleased, when he pleased and what he pleased." That he did please to learn and that his powers of apprehension were uncommonly quick, would appear to justify this sort of education. But wavering he was allowed to grow up and "Waverley" he remained; instability and ineffectiveness marked his course. The manner of his education and its results are thus shortly set forth:--
"Edward would throw himself with spirit upon any classical author of which his preceptor proposed the perusal, make himself master of the style so far as to understand the story, and, if that pleased or interested him, he finished the volume. But it was in vain to attempt fixing his attention on critical distinctions of philology, upon the difference of idiom, the beauty of felicitous expression, or the artificial combinations of syntax.
'I can read and understand a Latin author,' said young Edward, with the self-confidence and rash reasoning of fifteen, 'and Scaliger or Bentley could not do much more.' Alas! While he was thus permitted to read only for the gratification of his amusement, he foresaw not that he was losing for ever the opportunity of acquiring habits of firm and assiduous application, of gaining the art of controlling, directing, and concentrating the powers of his mind for earnest investigation--an art far more essential than even that intimate acquaintance with classical learning which is the primary object of study."
Waverley but illustrates, what Mr. Ruskin says in plain words; that our youth--whatever we make of it--abides with us to the end:--
"But so stubborn and chemically inalterable the laws of the prescription were, that now, looking back from 1886 to that brook shore of 1837, whence I could see the whole of my youth, I find myself in nothing whatsoever changed. Some of me is dead, more of me is stronger. I have learned a few things, forgotten many. In the total of me, I am but the same youth, disappointed and rheumatic."
The lectures to follow in the course of this Conference will most likely deal with the ethics of the various relations of which they treat. We have seen in Ruskin and Wordsworth the strenuous attention--condition of receptiveness--which made each of them a producer after his kind; and whosoever will play the game, whether it be cricket or portrait painting, must learn the rules with all diligence and get skill by his labour. It is true, "the labour we delight in physics pain," but it is also true that we cannot catch hold of anyone of the affinities that are in waiting for us without strenuous effort and without reverence. A bird-lover, one would say, has chosen for himself an easy joy; but no; your true bird-lover is out of doors by four in the morning to assist at the levee of the birds; nay, is he not in Hyde Park by 2.30 a.m. to see--the kingfisher no less! He lies in wait in secret places to watch the goings on of the feathered peoples, travels far afield to make a new acquaintance in the bird-world; in fact, gives to the study of birds attention, labour, love and reverence. He gets joy in return, so is perhaps little conscious of effort; but the effort is made all the same.
To take one more instance of an affinity--comradeship. Most of us have serious thoughts about friendship; but we are apt to take comradeship, fellowship, very casually, and to think it is sufficiently maintained if we meet for tea parties, picnic, or what not. Public school boys generally learn better; they know that comradeship means much cheerful give-and-take, chaff, help, unsparing criticism; if need be, the taking or giving of serious reproof, loyalty each to each, plucky and faithful leading, staunch following, truth-speaking, the power to see others put first without chagrin, and to bear advancement without conceit. Here, too, are calls for attention, labour, love and reverence; but, again, pains are swallowed up in delight.
One more point. We are steadfast to the affinities we take hold of, till death do us part, or longer. And here let me say a word as to the "advantages" (?) which London offers in the way of masters and special classes. I think it is most often the still pool which the angel comes down to trouble: a steady unruffled course of work without so-called advantages lends itself best to that "troubling" of the angel--the striking upon us of what Coleridge calls "the Captain Idea," which initiates a tie of affinity.
Neither The Prelude nor Praeterita lends itself to the study of the highest Relationship, the profoundest Intimacy, which awaits the soul of man. I think I cannot do better than close this too long paper with an extract from a little book [The Secret of the Presence of God. Masters.] which tells the spiritual history of Brother Lawrence, a lay Brother among the bare-footed Carmelites, at Paris, in the seventeenth century.
"The first time I saw Brother Lawrence was upon the 3rd of August, 1666. He told me that God had done him a singular favour in his conversion at the age of eighteen. That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flower and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of God, which has never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for God, that he could not tell whether it had increased in about forty years that he had lived since. That he had been footman to M. Fieubert, the treasurer, and that he was a great awkward fellow who broke everything. That he had desired to be received into a monastery, thinking he would there be made to smart for his awkwardness and the faults he should commit, and so he should sacrifice to God his life, with its pleasures: but that God had disappointed him, he having met with nothing but satisfaction in that state . . . That with him the set times of prayer were not different from other times; that he retired to pray, according to the directions of his Superior, but that he did not want such retirement, nor ask for it, because his greatest business did not divert him from God . . . That the greatest pains or pleasures of this world were not to be compared with what he had experienced of both kinds in a spiritual state; so that he was careful for
Nothing and feared nothing, desiring but one only thing of God, viz., that he might not offend Him . . . That he had so often experienced the ready succours of Divine Grace upon all occasions, that from the same experience, when he had business to do, he did not think of it beforehand; but when it was time to do it he found in God, as in a clear mirror, all that was fit for him to do. That of late he had acted thus, without anticipating care; but before the experience above mentioned he had used it in his affairs. When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of God, a fresh remembrance coming from God invested his soul, and so inflamed and transported him that it was difficult for him to contain himself, that he was more united to God in his outward employments that when he left them for devotion in retirement."
"I want,--am made for,--and must have a God,
It was thought well that this paper, forming as it did the introduction to the whole Conference, should not be discussed by itself.
Typed by Blossom Barden and Cathleen, Aug 2020
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