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them in childhood are doubly fortunate, not merely because languages are learnt at that age with an ease and perfection never after to be attained, but because they have acquired a precious instrument of future knowledge without that loss of time which is necessarily entailed by learning mere words at a time when we should be learning things. We are far, then, from wishing to decry this fashionable accomplishment, but we think it worth pointing out that it is of value as an instrument only ; that the human brain was not designed to be a mere dictionary, and therefore that unless there be some purpose of attaining further knowledge by this means, and leisure to carry out that purpose, it is mere waste of time and mental power to learn the sound and form of a foreign tongue.


It is a great pleasure to find how soon we are able to feel the untranslatable beauties of a new language, and the delight of reading and being able fully to appreciate one work of genius in the original is, to many minds, a full compensation for all the labour undergone to attain it. In order to do this, however, we must be able to enter into the spirit of the language, to distinguish its peculiarities, and feel its nationality as well as its beauties but how far short of this do our fair linguists stop, who are satisfied with a school-room perusal of Racine, or Schiller, or Tasso ! The remark of a valuable writer of our own day upon the careless study of the ancient languages, applies equally to the modern: "He who forgets that language is but the sign and vehicle of thought, and, while studying the word, knows little of the sentiment,-who learns the measure, the garb, and the fashion of ancient song, without looking to its living soul, or feeling its inspiration,-is not one jot better than a traveller in classic land, who sees its crumbling temples, and numbers with arithmetical precision their steps and pillars, but thinks not of their beauty, their design, or the living sculpture on their walls,—or who counts the stones on the Appian way, instead of gazing on the monuments of the Eternal City."*

As in studying the literature of our own country, different writers and periods should be compared, and the influence of political or religious changes be traced out; so, when possessing a knowledge of several languages, we should compare the works of genius in each with our own and others; watch the effect of national character and institutions, and examine the periods when the literature of one country has acted powerfully upon that of another; whence that influence arose, and how it ceased. These, and many other points, are of the greatest interest; and when

* Sedgwick on the Studies of Cambridge.


the knowledge of different languages is used in this manner, it truly enlarges the mind, and is a source of great and refined enjoyment.

But, we must again ask, is it with any such purpose as this that so many years of female education are devoted to poring over grammars and dictionaries? If so, why are the ancient languages so generally forsaken for the modern? Is it because Homer and Demosthenes are eclipsed by modern orators and poets, that women remain contentedly ignorant of their beauties? It certainly appears incontestable, that if the object of this favourite pursuit were to make acquaintance with the great productions of genius, with the various forms of the beautiful, which human language can express, those languages in which the intellect of man has achieved the sublimest triumphs would not be uniformly neglected. But that no such aim is thought of is already sufficiently proved by the common ignorance of our own literature, found among those who spend so much time in learning foreign languages. When English women think it so essential to be able to read French plays and Italian or German poetry, and yet are content to know but little of Shakespeare and Milton, and nothing of Spencer and Dryden, we need not hesitate to say that the knowledge sought is rather for purposes of vanity, or in obedience to fashion, than from any sincere desire of extending or improving their range of information.


We do not overlook the advantage, in these days of almost universal travel, of being able to speak the language of the country we are passing through; but this is, after all, a secondary object, and does not deserve the great sacrifices that are made to obtain it. A familiar knowledge of French is indeed really valuable, as it may generally serve as a medium of communication with the upper classes of every country in Europe. We should, from that consideration, among many others of more importance, urge the study of it on all who have the means and leisure to pursue it without the neglect of anything more essential. Our remarks, we must repeat, are not intended to undervalue the acquisition of languages, but only to show that it is unduly considered whenever it is viewed as an object in itself and not as a means of attaining some further purpose.

The time and labour devoted generally to this study, and to historical reading, have induced us to overstep in speaking of them the limit we had proposed, of mentioning only things essential; for, in order really to discern the latter, it becomes sometimes necessary to explain the grounds why others, which have, by long custom, been placed among them, do not deserve the distinction. When we speak, then, of essential studies, we mean those which no person,

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who has leisure and means, is justified in neglecting; and we have limited them to such as are necessary for the due training of the reason, for self-knowledge, and the proper exercise of influence over others; for command of language in our native tongue, and for knowledge of the great interests which agitate society, and affect everything we hold dear. Other subjects of great importance we have not mentioned, as not falling under that category; yet, it is impossible in these days for any person, pretending to education, not to be acquainted with the great outlines of science. Ignorance of the leading facts of astronomy and geology, for instance, is now what ignorance of geography and arithmetic would have been in a former generation. To be content to know nothing of the great laws of nature, while man is daily, by his knowledge of them, moving her unseen forces to do his bidding, baffling the elements, and speeding the lightning as his messenger, argues an insensibility to all but the common detail of life, which we hardly expect to find in the educated classes.

The results of science, which we see around us in so many things that have become indispensable to our daily use, must rouse the attention of any observing mind; and when interest is awakened to those subjects, the magnificence of science opens a world of new delight, in which the harmony of mighty forces, and the calm grandeur of immutable laws kindle emotions, which belong not to earthly views and interests. There is repose and an elevating influence in such contemplations: the presence of the Invisible, the reality of a Divine wisdom, are more felt when we rise from the history of human sufferings, and wickedness and discord, to the history of the universe, in which this earth occupies so small a space; from the study of man's poor works to the contemplation of His who stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth, and gave to myriads of worlds the laws which regulate their motions. The power of kindling such thoughts and emotions is sufficient recommendation of any study.

Some persons may be inclined to think we still include too much among essentials, and that many women cannot be expected to study all that we have recommended. We reply, that some may not have the means, but very few will be found not to have the capacity. For we have not proposed any profound or difficult inquiries, we have not expected a deep study of mathematics, or moral philosophy, -or literature or history, either of which is the labour of a life-time; but only a sufficient acquaintance with each to answer certain definite purposes, a slight, not a superficial knowledge. This distinction is very important: the latter, as the name implies, skims the surface only, knows names and facts and


forms; the former is limited, but sound as far as it goes; it is a secure groundwork, built on the knowledge of principles, on clear and accurate perceptions, and remains a ready' foundation for future learning. The one, however varied, can do no more than store the memory with particulars, or enrich the fancy with a certain number of images; the other, however limited in extent, though confined to one or two subjects only, will produce fruit in the mind, clearing its perceptions, and increasing its power, both of reflection and action.

It is for this reason that we say, a slight knowledge of what we have named essential studies, will answer the practical purposes for which we have urged them; and in this, at least, there is nothing to alarm the most diffident. They require no expensive masters,- -no unusual command of books,- —no residence in foreign countries, nor any of the other advantages which render fashionable accomplishments so difficult of attainment to persons of narrow income. It would be amusing to hear daily of so many persons going abroad for the mere purpose, as they say, of educating their daughters cheaply, when all the means of sound mental training are within their reach at home, with no expense at all, if it were not a melancholy proof how generally the real purpose of education is forgotten altogether.


Beyond the few subjects we have classed as essential, spreads the wide field of knowledge, in which individual capacity or inclination must decide our choice; all we desire for women is, that the latter should be free; unfettered by the prejudices which so long cramped their minds, and have worked such incalculable mischief. There are, no doubt, certain subjects,-of which, anatomy is, perhaps, the best instance,-which, for obvious reasons, are unfit for a woman's study, but, except where such positive reasons make a clear and rational distinction, it is equally false and ridiculous to speak of one study being more feminine, or knowledge of one language more fitting than that of another, or of a folio denoting more pedantry than a diamond edition. Pedantry, it should be remembered, is a defect of the mind, not an appendage to certain modes of learning; a mere form of vanity, which shows itself equally in the most frivolous accomplishments whenever the display of some unusual acquisition can attract admiration or astonishment.

To conclude, then; let the mind be wholly unshackled, and if led by the love of knowledge, and chastened by a constant remembrance of the real high aims of self-training, its choice can fall only upon good.

The dread which has pursued women hitherto, the spectre which has scared them from the paths of knowledge, has been

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the fear of incurring the ridicule or censure of men for attempts too long considered as unfeminine. We believe this fear to be vain in the present day. Not that all such censuré or ridicule is at an end, for while folly and conceit endure, fools and coxcombs will shelter their own frivolity by encouraging the frivolity of women, and the ignorant will fear the spread of knowle lest they should be shamed out of their ignorance; but we speak from experience, when we declare our conviction, that men of sense and cultivated understandings, 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 extinguished, 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 stupify and enfeeble the mind of women to our hands, we ourselves must expose 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

Essay on Female Education. Edinburgh Review, Jan., 1810.

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