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CHOICE OF SUBJECTS FOR STUDY.

We have just noticed the case of those who have no means of following out the pursuits most congenial to their tastes. We must now consider those who, in a more fortunate position, surrounded with books, and tempted on every side, are in danger of flying from one pursuit to another, without ever making real progress in any. This is the snare of the idle; those who work for a special purpose are forced to be persevering and systematic in their studies; but men who have no profession are too commonly guilty of this error, and women are educated, we may say, to fall into it. They are not supposed to want knowledge for any useful purpose; what they acquire in the school-room, in the intervals of music and dancing lessons, is evidently a mere routine, to be changed on a certain day for that of balls, novel-reading, and fancy-work. If, therefore, they happen to have a desire for some kind of knowledge, they naturally consider the pursuit in the light of a mere amusement, taken up without idea of a serious purpose, any and laid down again at pleasure.

When women shall have learned to take a higher view of their position, when they shall feel that mental cultivation is a privilege, no less than part of the duty they owe to God and to society, then they will consider these things differently, and be earnest in the pursuit of knowledge, the true value of which they will have learnt to feel. All subjects will not then, as now, stand in the same rank of indifferency, for all will, perhaps, be invested with new interest, while some will appear in a wholly different light, as essential for certain purposes. Just

as a man, who has professional objects in view, feels no hesita tion about the studies which are most necessary for him, so we, each of us, when awakened to earnest views of the purposes of our existence, must feel that certain subjects, bearing on human life and conduct, are so important as to leave us no room to hesitate about first turning our attention to them.

One great division then presents itself to facilitate our choice of subjects for study; namely, that of essentials and non-essentials; those which are too important to be neglected without serious loss, and those which, however valuable in themselves, are open to free choice.

First in the class of essentials is the study of Scripture, of its evidences, and of its bearing upon the conduct of life; but as we shall return to this subject,* we prefer leaving it to be considered till then; next in order of importance come those subjects, a slight acquaintance with which we have already enumerated as essential to the due cultivation of reason.† We have before deprecated the fears with which the mention of mathematics, logic, and philosophy, as studies for women, might be received by many, and explained how slight is the course of either, necessary to attain the purpose for which we recommended them. We only desire the young student to tread on the outskirts of those vast regions, which to explore is the labor of a lifetime. Such labor must be a matter of choice; free, indeed, to all who have power or means to undertake it, whether man or woman; but we speak here only of what is necessary.

The study of mathematics can be considered in that light, only so far as it assists to train the reason; but we cannot dismiss the subject, without remarking how, in these days of vast scientific progress, it also commends itself to our attention as the key to the knowledge of other sciences, as that without which it is almost impossible to have any comprehension of some of the most sublime subjects that have ever occupied the mind of man. It argues surely a strange indifference to great

*See Chap. XIV. on Religion.

† See Chap. IX. § 5.

things, if, while day by day the magnificent results of science are unfolding around us, they awaken no desire to know something of the means employed to attain them; to be able to trace, however feebly and from afar, the path of discovery, that path along which the spirit of our fellow-man has sprung through unknown regions of the universe, in search of treasure more precious than gold, richer even as the common herd count riches than the mines of Peru, or the pearl caves of

Indian seas.

ance.

Acquaintance with the first principles, at least, of mathematics is an indispensable preparation for this knowledge; but this degree of preparation presents little serious difficulty, and what is of still more consequence to women, it requires but little assistThe first books of Euclid, some acquaintance with plane and spherical trigonometry, and sufficient algebra to understand its application to geometry, and the use of its formula in other sciences, will be enough to answer generally the purpose in view and thanks to the cheap and excellent elementary works now within every one's reach, such a degree of knowledge may be acquired, with little help, by any person of ordinary capacity.

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The study of mental and moral philosophy has also a use, beyond that of training the mind to certain modes of reasoning, which requires to be considered here. But, before entering into this examination, it may be well to state, even more explicitly than we have done in our former chapter, what is the exact nature of the study we propose; lest objections should gather strength from our silence, and array against us the full force of the prejudices which have made the very name of mental philosophy a byword among many in this country.

The subtile and fruitless inquiries in which metaphysical genius generally spent itself in former ages, and in which it too often delights even now, where such pursuits are more cultivated than they are in England, have no doubt given rise in great measure to the prejudice, which, blindly involving all examination of mental phenomena, has produced no small evil among us; but the study we propose to our readers is as remote

from such subtilties as the modern researches of physical science from the labors of the alchemist. The difference is easily explained. Mental philosophy admits of a distinct divis ion into abstract and practical, the former treating of purely metaphysical points, and leading to speculations full of interest indeed, but not essential to the ordinary student; the other, relating to the study of actual phenomena, of laws and facts as certain and as positive as those which we discover in the physical universe, only established upon a different kind of evidence. The latter is the study here recommended, a mental physi

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ology, if we may be allowed to use the term, a practical examination of our mental constitution, in order to learn how its various powers may best be applied to the great purposes of existence. To borrow Dr. Brown's words in his opening lecture, it is "that practical science which relates to the duties, the hopes, and the great destiny of man, and which even in analyzing the powers of his understanding, and tracing all the various modifications of which it is individually susceptible, views it chiefly as a general instrument of good, an instrument by which he may have the dignity of coöperating with his beneficent Creator, by spreading to others the knowledge, and virtue, and happiness which he is qualified at once to enjoy and to diffuse."

It is evident that none of the blame lavished justly or unjustly on abstract metaphysics, can deservedly fall on such a study as this. We may now, then, proceed to examine more particularly what makes it essential to all, apart from its affording an admirable training for the reason.

The most convincing evidences of natural religion are disclosed to us in the examination of our mental constitution. We can even better believe that this wonderful universe, with its myriads of stars and its countless forms of beauty, is the work of blind chance, than that this strange world of thought and feeling within sprang not from an intelligent Cause, and tends not to a definite purpose. In that constitution, also, the acy of conscience, the superiority of spiritual to physical objects, and the tendency of our higher faculties towards some future state of existence, are found inscribed in living charac

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ters; and thus every low and uncertain system of morality, every impure and degrading form of religion, finds its natural refutation in the study of the laws impressed on our very being by Him who gave it; while Christianity, adding sanction to those laws, and developing their meaning, derives from them the strongest evidence on which it claims our reverence, and demands our assent. Every other form of religion that has appeared among men has stood more or less in opposition with that natural constitution, has violated some of its laws, or trampled on some of the feelings which spring from it; even Christianity, in some corrupted forms, has too often done the same; but the religion of Christ, free from the chains of superstition, is found to be in harmony with every manifestation of God's will as declared in his works, sanctioning every natural law, cherishing every natural feeling. The more we study the subject, the more apparent does this become; and, as we contemplate this harmony, the truth of Christianity comes home to our hearts with a force which no other evidence can equal.*

The grounds on which this study next claims our attention are these That the duty of self-training necessarily implies the duty of inquiring into those powers and dispositions of the mind which require to be trained. As soon as we become sensible of certain great aims to which our earthly existence tends, and of the duty of ordering that existence systematically towards their attainment, we naturally perceive the necessity of studying the materials we have to work with, and the mode of acting upon them. So, in these pages, when urging the obli gation of self-training, we were forced, in order to make our meaning clear, to give some slight sketch of the various faculties whose cultivation constitutes that training. It is, in a word, impossible to sever mental and moral philosophy from education, whether we consider the latter with respect to ourselves or others, or from the exercise of influence; since they are minds which we desire to influence, knowledge of the laws of mind must be an essential condition of success. Every effort made

* See Chap. XIV.

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