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ings, men whose own tone of character gives a value to their opinion, will never be found among the cavillers at female studies. The ridicule of inferior minds need not disturb our peace.
The arguments against established prejudices upon this subject have never been put more forcibly than by Sidney Smith; * and as a few words upon this question from a man have more weight than volumes from a woman's pen, we will quote from him. “If,” says he,“ the possession of excellent talents is not a conclusive reason why they should be improved, it at least amounts to a very strong presumption ; and if it can be shown that women may be trained to reason and imagine as well as men, the strongest reasons are certainly necessary to show us why we should not avail ourselves of such rich gifts of nature; and we have a right to call for a clear statement of the perils which make it necessary that such talents should be totally ex. tinguished, or, at least, very partially drawn out. The burden of proof does not lie with those who say, ' Increase the quantity of talent in any country as much as possible,'. for such a proposition is in conformity with every man's feelings; but it lies with those who say, take care to keep that understanding weak and trifling, which nature has made capable of becoming strong and powerful. The paradox is with them, not with us. In all human reasoning, knowledge must be taken for a good till it can be shown to be an evil. But now, Nature makes to us rich and magnificent presents, and we say to her, - You are too luxuriant and munificent; we must keep you under and prune you ; we have talents enough in the other half of the creation ; and if you will not stupefy and enfeeble the mind of women to our hands, we ourselves must
them to a narcotic process, and educate away that fatal redundancy with which the world is afflicted, and the order of sublunary things deranged.” With the same mixture of sound sense and witty sarcasm, he overthrows the prevailing prejudices and commonplaces against female learning, as opposed to the perform
* Essay on Female Education. Edinburgh Review, Jan., 1810.
ance of woman's natural duties; and we will conclude in his words : — “ What can be more absurd, than to suppose that the care and perpetual solicitude a mother feels for her children depends on her ignorance of Greek and mathematics, and that she would desert an infant for a quadratic equation ? " *
* See Appendix A.
CHAPTER XI I.
LOVE OF KNOWLEDGE.
In all that we have hitherto said of intellectual cultivation, it has been regarded as the means towards some further end, either the discipline of the mind, or the preparation for certain duties of life; but we have now to consider it as an object in itself, as proceeding from the desire of knowledge for its own sake; which, apart from all considerations of duty or interest, urges the mind in the pursuit of truth ; which, with all the force of an impulse, but the steadiness of a principle, lifts us more perhaps than any other feeling, not of a directly religious nature, above the dominion of sense and the thraldom of earthly passions.
The desire of knowledge is one of the first impulses of the human mind, awaking in early childhood, — probably long before the tongue has learnt to utter the wish, — and continuing more or less through all after years. Ignorant indeed as we come into this world, where so much knowledge is necessary to our very existence, if a natural instinct did not impel us to take pleasure in acquiring it, life must have been a constant scene of weariness and toil. In this, as in every other adaptation of our nature to the external universe, wisdom and mercy have been displayed, and this arduous task has been converted into a continual gratification to one of the strongest impulses of the mind; causing keen delight at each step that we take, whether towards the satisfaction of childish curiosity, or of philosophical inquiry.
External objects are the only spur to the exercise of this faculty in childhood. At that age, the mind but just opening to the perception of the visible world can be moved only by the desires excited by the objects around, and if left uncultivated it is but seldom that it rises superior to such motives: thence the inexhaustible stock of curiosity we see in the world, and the little of a deeper spirit of inquiry, except when roused by the calls of gain or ambition. A few there are, indeed, — and but a few,- in whom the natural instinct ripens unaided into real love of knowledge; who from early youth have delighted to inquire, and to learn, without any other incentive but the pure desire to know; who have sought learning, as other men seek pleasure, and whose mental activity has never needed the stimulus of reward, beyond that which their toil itself holds out to them. But with the generality of mankind the natural impulse sinks to a frivolous curiosity, unless stimulated by external motives or sustained by careful training ; although, therefore, in some cases, the love of knowledge is the spur to mental labor, it is more often, in its higher form, the result of a long continuance of the latter; when a certain degree of attainment has been reached, the desire of further progress is kindled; the mind having become inured to intellectual exercise, has learned to take pleasure in putting forth its power, and to love the result of its exertions.
It is needless to dwell on the benefits the world has received from this noble ardor, inspiring the souls of earth's most gifted sons, making them despise labor, persecution, and contempt, in the prosecution of inquiries and designs mostly scorned by the age which gave them birth, but which have gradually changed the face of the world ; our object is rather to consider the benefit which this noble impulse confers on each individual mind that feels it. Since few can hope, however ardent their love, to enlarge the boundaries of knowledge, or to be enrolled among the benefactors of mankind, it is a consideration of no small interest, that the inward influence of this noble affection is no less precious than its outward results have been, in raising the condition of our species. That influence is shown in elevating, and at the same time tranquillizing our thoughts, so often distracted in the stir and conflict of business and petty interests, taking us for a time from the dominion and infiuence of passing circumstances, and reducing the latter to their proper level; it is shown in the infusion of a new principle of vitality in the mind, stimulating to exertions that never pall or weary, and leave no time for the tedious trifles on which the energy
of thousands is wasted; and above all, in continually lifting the thoughts to Him, in whom the fulness of knowledge dwells, strengthening more and more the soul's unutterable consciousness that this world is but the scene of its first attempts, of the school exercises by which it is trained to a nobler career hereafter.
Sir J. Herschel, speaking of the effect of his own favorite pursuits on the mind, says: “ There is something in the contemplation of general laws which powerfully persuades us to merge individual feelings, and to commit ourselves unreservedly to their disposal, while the observation of the calm, energetic regularity of Nature, the immense scale of her operations, and the certainty with which the ends are attained, tends irresistibly to tranquillize and reassure the mind and render it less accessible to repining, selfish, and turbulent emotions. And this it does, not by debasing our nature into weak compliances, and abject submission to circumstances, but by filling us as from an inward spring with a sense of nobleness and power which enables us to rise superior to them, by showing us our strength and inward dignity, and by calling upon us for the exercise of those powers and faculties, by which we are susceptible of the comprehension of so much greatness, and which forms as it were a link between ourselves and the best and noblest benefactors of our species, with whom we hold communion in thought and participate in discoveries which have raised them above their fellow-mortals and brought them nearer to their Creator." *
We may borrow this language, and apply it with even greater force to the effect produced by the love of knowledge generally upon minds capable of feeling it in its purity and power :
* Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy, p. 16.