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fect is frequently owing to peculiar temperament; while some persons are naturally calm, their impulses less strong, excitement less frequent and less violent, and reflection, therefore, more constant, others have received from nature an ardent, impetuous spirit, easily stirred, easily kindled, to which any exertion is less painful than calm and patient thought; but these natural differences only increase the necessity of self-culture and control ; the well-disciplined mind must supply for itself what is deficient in its original constitution. It does not follow from what we have said, that calm temperaments are naturally endowed with greater force of reason, but only that they make more frequent use of such power as they have ; in equal circumstances, theirs is the more favorable constitution for the exercise and development of thought. Their danger is in a certain coldness which may degenerate to indolence, or apathy, in which the effort of reasoning becomes too severe an exertion, and conclusions are adopted as hastily, from fear of the labor of investigation, as they are by the eager and impatient, from dread of delay. Careful training will unite in these widely different natures the highest qualities of each ; the energy and earnestness so essential to the pursuit of truth, and the sobriety of mind indispensable for the free exercise of reason.
Some persons may be inclined to accuse us, throughout these remarks, of not allowing enough for these natural differences, both as to variety of character and degree of power; and of attributing, therefore, too much to the influence of culture. But we would answer, that the plea of natural incapacity for such or such a thing is that under which indolence so naturally seeks to shelter, that it is a safer course to reject it even too rigidly, than to allow it as a general rule, at the risk of lowering our aims and cramping our energies. Again, admitting even its full force, it is at least difficult to tell when it is legitimately urged; whereas, the precepts of self-culture are of universal application, since all are influenced by the power of habit, and capable of using that power, if they choose. Mere intellectual capacity varies more widely in different minds, yet even here the same rule holds good; since all are capable of improvement, and of a certain valuable measure of attainment. All men cannot be good mathematicians or acute logicians, but all may learn to think and reason justly, upon such things as come within the sphere of their comprehension and action. Every man cannot confer signal benefits on the human race; he can. not choose to be a Bacon or a Newton, a leader in new paths of discovery, in new fields of science or philosophy ; but every human being may add to the stock of practical good sense, which works like leaven among the masses of mankind ; every human being, by the careful cultivation of natural powers, can increase his usefulness in the sphere, however humble, to which his circumstances may confine him, and may thus add to the aggregate amount of intellectual power and moral stability in his generation. While, then, we must remain ignorant of the limits of our capacity, till we have duly proved and exercised it, of this fact, at least, we are certain, that the
of knowledge in the world, and the consequences resulting from it, both morally and mentally, would be raised to a degree beyond our calculation, were each individual mind disciplined, each moderate capacity exerted and trained, as far as nature or circumstances would allow. This conviction is sufficient to make us disregard all pleas that tend in any way to strip such a task of the character of duty. Nor should we forget, that, however small our power of conferring benefit on our fellow-creatures, our power for evil is always great; that by neglecting our capacity of reasoning, whatever it be, we add daily to the mass of practical error, and by neglecting our means of acquiring knowledge, we add to the stock of ignorance, and help to spread its influence.
GENERAL METHOD OF STUDY.
The natural consequence of the prejudice which so long condemned women to ignorance is, that every thing around them favors their remaining in that state, and opposes their obtaining one of more enlightenment. At all times, doubtless, there have been individuals among them who have sought graver pursuits, and delighted in studies from which their sex was supposed to be precluded; but either these were persons of remarkable powers, or something in their early position, or their connection with men of a more enlarged tone of mind, gave them peculiar advantages of help and instruction. In general, there has been every thing to thwart and nothing to encourage in women the desire to study. The more pompous enumeration of schoolroom learning in the present day makes no real difference in this respect; in that chaos of laborious trifling, it would be vain to expect that the mind should be trained to any serious method of study; and therefore, when a woman becomes convinced of
r the value of mental pursuits, and desires to cultivate them, she is at a loss to know how or what to begin ; she is aware how superficial is all her previously acquired information, but how to learn better, and what to seek first, are points concerning which she feels perplexed and helpless. She has neither the definite practical aim of a profession, which generally directs the bent of a man's studies, nor the ready-framed methods of professional education which facilitate his labor; her time and energies are wasted in seeking a method for herself, till at last she sinks back discouraged, and gives up the attempt.
These are the difficulties which early education, - if it per
formed its due office, - ought to provide against. If that were not neglected, the young would, at least at the period when early education closes, have learned how to learn, and for what purpose. They would have received that mental discipline which is superior to any early acquisitions of knowledge, and which prepares the mind for serious labor whenever it shall be required. Failing that needful training, all these things have to be learnt at the same time that the desire of knowledge first be. comes strong enough to urge us to voluntary exertion. It is not then to be wondered at, that the young mind, bewildered and overcome by the confused mass of work which lies before it, can neither understand its own wants, nor frame a method to meet them.
It is with an earnest desire to smooth in some measure these difficulties, that we propose to dwell, with a detail which may seem tedious to some and superfluous to others, on the consideration of the best system of study. Not, indeed, that we presume to imagine we have here laid down the best ; but there are some general principles which must find place in such a system, however great its superiority in other respects ; and these it has been our endeavor to point out for the guidance of the young student.
It is sufficiently evident, that method is itself a first and indispensable condition, the very soul of study. The latter is not an object in itself, but a means towards attaining a certain object, and unless there be order and system in the means employed for a given purpose, we have no more reason to suppose that they will fulfil that purpose, than we have a right to expect that we shall reach a given point by wandering at random through various and diverging paths. The nice sense of proportion also which belongs to method is indispensable in study, in order that objects of trifling or minor value and interest may be kept in due subordination to those of higher importance, and that the mind be not simply stored, but well balanced.
Method supposes a distinct purpose, a definite aim, towards which our efforts tend; our first step, then, must be to ascertain what is really our aim and purpose ; then to consider whether
we have the proper means of following it out; whether our natural bent or powers of mind are such as to hold out a hope of attaining proficiency in the branch of knowledge we wish to study; and if so, what sacrifice of time it may be worth ; whether it is compatible with such or such other occupations or necessary business that we may have on hand, and what other pursuits may be made conducive to our progress in this principal one. All these are preliminary questions before entering upon any course of study, if we desire to follow it systematically, and not to take it up or lay it down as a mere object of amusement. These questions are such as every man is obliged to decide before entering a profession ; but they are too often neglected by amateur students, and consequently, even where there is earnestness and perseverance, pursuits are too often begun without any reasonable hope of their end being attained ; and time is sacrificed and money thrown away, which might have been usefully employed had a little attention been given beforehand to discover the obstacles which rendered success doubtful, if not impossible.
All study requires perseverance no less than method. The volatility that flies from one pursuit to another, taking up a new thing without due consideration, and leaving off another at the first difficulty which occurs, and which should have been: foreseen at the beginning, is a hopeless impediment to real improvement. It should also be remembered, that few things are more injurious to the mind than the habit of lightly considering objects of serious interest, and that, with regard to abandoning studies or plans of occupation, it is not their pursuit of knowledge alone, but their own resolutions, which the capricious or the thoughtless degrade to the rank of frivolous and indifferent things.
Another essential point is, that we should not be too ambitious in our schemes, that we be content with small beginnings, and avoid dividing attention among too many objects. Few minds have sufficient power to turn, with unimpaired vigor, from one study to another; and, generally speaking, a certain number of hours given to any subject in the course of one