A similar case occurred, under the eye of the writer, from over-excited feelings. It was during a time of unusual religious interest in the community, and the mental disease was first manifested by the pupil bringing her hymn-book or Bible to the class-room, and making it her constant resort, in every interval of school duty. It finally became impossible to convince her that it was her duty to attend to any thing else; her conscience became morbidly sensitive, her perceptions indistinct, her deductions unreasonable; and nothing but entire change of scene and exercise, and occupation of her mind by amusement, saved her. When the health of the brain was restored, she found that she could attend to the "one thing needful," not only without interruption of duty or injury to health, but rather so as to promote both. Clergymen and teachers need most carefully to notice and guard against the dangers here alluded to.
Any such attention to religion as prevents the performance of daily duties and needful relaxation is dangerous, and tends to produce such a state of the brain as makes it impossible to feel or judge correctly. And when any morbid and unreasonable pertinacity appears, much exercise and engagement in other interesting pursuits should be urged, as the only mode of securing the religious benefits aimed at. And whenever any mind is oppressed with care, anxiety, or sorrow, the amount of active exercise in the fresh air should be greatly increased, that the action of the muscles may withdraw the blood which, in such seasons, is constantly tending too much to the brain.
There has been a most appalling amount of suffering, derangement, disease, and death, occasioned by a want of attention to this subject, in teachers and parents. Uncommon precocity in children is usually the result of an unhealthy state of the brain; and in such cases medical men would now direct that the wonderful child should be deprived of all books and study, and turned to play out in the fresh air. Instead of this, parents frequently add fuel to the fever of the brain, by supplying constant mental stimulus, until the victim finds refuge in idiocy or an early grave. Where such fatal results do not occur, the brain in many cases is so weakened that the prodigy of infancy sinks below the medium of intellectual powers in afterlife.
In our colleges, too, many of the most promising minds sink to an early grave, or drag out a miserable existence, from this same cause. And it is an evil as yet little alleviated by the increase of physiological knowledge. Every college and professional school, and every seminary for young ladies, needs a medical man or woman, not only to lecture on physiology and the laws of health, but empowered by official capacity to investigate the case of every pupil, and, by authority, to enforce such a course of study, exercise and repose, as the physical system requires. The writer has found by experience that in a large institution there is one class of pupils who need to be restrained by penalties from late hours and excessive study, as much as another class need stimulus to industry.
Under the head of excessive mental action, must be placed the indulgence of the imagination in novel-reading and "castle-building." This kind of stimulus, unless counterbalanced by physical exercise, not only wastes time and energies, but undermines the vigor of the nervous system. The imagination was designed by our wise Creator as a charm and stimulus to animate to benevolent activity; and its perverted exercise seldom fails to bring a penalty.
Another cause of mental disease is the want of the appropriate exercise of the various faculties of the mind. On this point, Dr. Combe remarks: "We have seen that, by disuse, muscles become emaciated, bone softens, blood-vessels are obliterated, and nerves lose their characteristic structure. The brain is no exception to this general rule. The tone of it is also impaired by permanent inactivity, and it becomes less fit to manifest the mental powers with readiness and energy." It is "the withdrawal of the stimulus necessary for its healthy exercise which renders solitary confinement so severe a punishment, even to the most daring minds. It is a lower degree of the same cause which renders continuous seclusion from society so injurious to both mental and bodily health."
"Inactivity of intellect and of feeling is a very frequent predisposing cause of every form of nervous disease. For demonstrative evidence of this position, we have only to look at the numerous victims to be found among persons who have no call to exertion in gaining the means of subsistence, and no objects of interest on which to exercise their mental faculties, and who consequently sink into a state of mental sloth and nervous weakness." "If we look abroad upon society, we shall find innumerable examples of mental and nervous debility from this cause. When a person of some mental capacity is confined for a long time to an unvarying round of employment which affords neither scope nor stimulus for one half of the faculties, and, from want of education or society, has no external resources; the mental powers, for want of exercise, become blunted, and the perceptions slow and dull." "The intellect and feelings, not being provided with interests external to themselves, must either become inactive and weak, or work upon themselves and become diseased."
"The most frequent victims of this kind of predisposition are females of the middle and higher ranks, especially those of a nervous constitution and good natural abilities; but who, from an ill-directed education, possess nothing more solid than mere accomplishments, and have no materials for thought," and no "occupation to excite interest or demand attention." "The liability of such persons to melancholy, hysteria, hypochondriasis, and other varieties of mental distress, really depends on a state of irritability of the brain, induced by imperfect exercise."
These remarks of a medical man illustrate the principles before indicated; namely, that the demand of Christianity, that we live to promote the general happiness, and not merely for selfish indulgence, has for its aim not only the general good, but the highest happiness of the individual of whom it is required in offering abundant exercise for all the noblest faculties.
A person possessed of wealth, who has nothing more noble to engage attention than seeking personal enjoyment, subjects the mental powers and moral feelings to a degree of inactivity utterly at war with health and mind. And the greater the capacities, the greater are the sufferings which result from this cause. Any one who has read the misanthropic wailings of Lord Byron has seen the necessary result of great and noble powers bereft of their appropriate exercise, and, in consequence, becoming sources of the keenest suffering.
It is this view of the subject which has often awakened feelings of sorrow and anxiety in the mind of the writer, while aiding in the development and education of superior feminine minds, in the wealthier circles. Not because there are not noble objects for interest and effort, abundant, and within reach of such minds; but because long-established custom has made it seem so quixotic to the majority, even of the professed followers of Christ, for a woman of wealth to practice any great self-denial, that few have independence of mind and Christian principle sufficient to overcome such an influence. The more a mind has its powers developed, the more does it aspire and pine after some object worthy of its energies and affections; and they are commonplace and phlegmatic characters who are most free from such deep-seated wants. Many a young woman, of fine genius and elevated sentiment, finds a charm in Lord Byron's writings, because they present a glowing picture of what, to a certain extent, must be felt by every well-developed mind which has no nobler object in life than the pursuit of self-gratification.
If young ladies of wealth could pursue their education under the full conviction that the increase of their powers and advantages increased their obligations to use all for the good of society, and with some plan of benevolent enterprise in view, what new motives of interest would be added to their daily pursuits! And what blessed results would follow to our beloved country, if all well-educated women, carried out the principles of Christianity, in the exercise of their developed powers!
The benevolent activities called forth in our late dreadful war illustrate the blessed influence on character and happiness in having a noble object for which to labor and suffer. In illustration of this, may be mentioned the experience of one of the noble women who, in a sickly climate and fervid season, devoted herself to the ministries of a military hospital. Separated from an adored husband, deprived of wonted comforts and luxuries, and toiling in humble and unwonted labors, she yet recalls this as one of the happiest periods of her life. And it was not the mere exercise of benevolence and piety in ministering, comfort and relieving suffering. It was, still more, the elevated enjoyment which only an enlarged and cultivated mind can attain, in the inspirations of grand and far-reaching results purchased by such sacrifice and suffering. It was in aiding to save her well-loved country from impending ruin, and to preserve to coming generations the blessings of true liberty and self-government, that toils and suffering became triumphant joys.
Every Christian woman who "walks by faith and not by sight," who looks forward to the results of self-sacrificing labor for the ignorant and sinful as they will enlarge and expand through everlasting ages, may rise to the same elevated sphere of experience and happiness. On the contrary, the more highly cultivated the mind devoted to mere selfish enjoyment, the more are the sources of true happiness closed and the soul left to helpless emptiness and unrest.
The indications of a diseased mind, owing to the want of the proper exercise of its powers, are apathy, discontent, a restless longing for excitement, a craving for unattainable good, a diseased and morbid action of the imagination, dissatisfaction with the world, and factitious interest in trifles which the mind feels to be unworthy of its powers. Such minds sometimes seek alleviation in exciting amusements; others resort to the grosser enjoyments of sense. Oppressed with the extremes of languor, or over-excitement, or apathy, the body fails under the wearing process, and adds new causes of suffering to the mind. Such, the compassionate Saviour calls to his service, in the appropriate terms, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me," "and ye shall find rest unto your souls."
THE CARE OF INFANTS.
The topic of this chapter may well be prefaced by an extract from Herbert Spencer on the treatment of offspring. He first supposes that some future philosophic speculator, examining the course of education of the present period, should find nothing relating to the training of children, and that his natural inference would be that our schools were all for monastic orders, who have no charge of infancy and childhood. He then remarks, "Is it not an astonishing fact that, though on the treatment of offspring depend their lives or deaths and their moral welfare or ruin, yet not one word of instruction on the treatment of offspring is ever given, to those who will hereafter be parents? Is it not monstrous that the fate of a new generation should be left to the chances of unreasoning custom, or impulse, or fancy, joined with the suggestions of ignorant nurses and the prejudiced counsel of grandmothers?
"If a merchant should commence business without any knowledge of arithmetic or book-keeping, we should exclaim at his folly and look for disastrous consequences. Or if, without studying anatomy, a man set up as a surgeon, we should wonder at his audacity and pity his patients. But that parents should commence the difficult work of rearing children without giving any attention to the principles, physical, moral, or intellectual, which ought to guide them, excites neither surprise at the actors nor pity for the victims."
"To tens of thousands that are killed add hundreds of thousands that survive with feeble constitutions, and millions not so strong as they should be; and you will have some idea of the curse inflicted on their offspring, by parents ignorant of the laws of life. Do but consider for a moment that the regimen to which children are subject is hourly telling upon them to their life-long injury or benefit, and that there are twenty ways of going wrong to one way of going right, and you will get some idea of the enormous mischief that is almost everywhere inflicted by the thoughtless, hap-hazard system in common use."
"When sons and daughters grow up sickly and feeble, parents commonly regard the event as a visitation of Providence. They assume that these evils come without cause, or that the cause is supernatural. Nothing of the kind. In some cases causes are inherited, but in most cases foolish management is the cause. Very generally parents themselves are responsible for this pain, this debility, this depression, this misery. They have undertaken to control the lives of their offspring, and with cruel carelessness have neglected to learn those vital processes which they are daily affecting by their commands and prohibitions. In utter ignorance of the simplest physiological laws, they have been, year by year, undermining the constitutions of their children, and so have inflicted disease and premature death, not only on them but also on their descendants.
"Equally great are the ignorance and consequent injury, when we turn from the physical to the moral training. Consider the young, untaught mother and her nursery legislation. A short time ago she was at school, where her memory was crammed with words and names and dates, and her reflective faculties scarcely in the slightest degree exercised—where not one idea was given her respecting the methods of dealing with the opening mind of childhood, and where her discipline did not in the least fit her for thinking out methods of her own. The intervening years have been spent in practicing music, fancy work, novel-reading and party-going, no thought having been given, to the grave responsibilities of maternity, and scarcely any of that solid intellectual culture obtained which would fit her for such responsibilities; and now see her with an unfolding human character committed to her charge, see her profoundly ignorant of the phenomena with which she has to deal, undertaking to do that which can be done but imperfectly even with the aid of the profoundest knowledge!"
In view of such considerations, every young lady ought to learn how to take proper care of an infant; for, even if she is never to become the responsible guardian of a nursery, she will often be in situations where she can render benevolent aid to others, in this most fatiguing and anxious duty.
The writer has known instances in which young ladies, who had been trained by their mothers properly to perform this duty, were in some cases the means of saving the lives of infants, and in others, of relieving sick mothers from intolerable care and anguish by their benevolent aid.
On this point, Dr. Combe remarks, "All women are not destined, in the course of nature, to become mothers; but how very small is the number of those who are unconnected, by family ties, friendship, or sympathy, with the children of others! How very few are there, who, at some time or other of their lives, would not find their usefulness and happiness increased, by the possession of a kind of knowledge intimately allied to their best feelings and affections! And how important is it, to the mother herself, that her efforts should be seconded by intelligent, instead of ignorant assistants!"
In order to be prepared for such benevolent ministries, every young lady should improve the opportunity, whenever it is afforded her, for learning how to wash, dress, and tend a young infant; and whenever she meets with such a work as Dr. Combe's, on the management of infants, she ought to read it, and remember its contents.
It was the design of the author to fill this chapter chiefly with extracts from various medical writers, giving some of the most important directions on this subject; but finding these extracts too prolix for a work of this kind, she has condensed them into a shorter compass. Some are quoted verbatim, and some are abridged, from the most approved writers on this subject.
"Nearly one half of the deaths, Occurring during the first two years of existence, are ascribable to mismanagement, and to errors in diet. At birth, the stomach is feeble, and as yet unaccustomed to food; its cravings are consequently easily satisfied, and frequently renewed." "At that early age, there ought to be no fixed time for giving nourishment. The stomach can not be thus satisfied." "The active call of the infant is a sign, which needs never be mistaken."
"But care must be taken to determine between, the crying of pain or uneasiness, and the call for food; and the practice of giving an infant food, to stop its cries, is often the means of increasing its sufferings. After a child has satisfied its hunger, from two to four hours should intervene before another supply is given."
"At birth, the stomach and bowels, never having been used, contain a quantity of mucous secretion, which requires to be removed. To effect this, Nature has rendered the first portions of the mother's milk purposely watery and laxative. Nurses, however, distrusting Nature, often hasten to administer some active purgative; and the consequence often is, irritation in the stomach and bowels, not easily subdued." It is only where the child is deprived of its mother's milk, as the first food, that some gentle laxative should be given.
"It is a common mistake, to suppose that because a woman is nursing, she ought to live very fully, and to add an allowance of wine, porter, or other fermented liquor, to her usual diet. The only result of this plan is, to cause an unnatural fullness in the system, which places the nurse on the brink of disease, and retards rather than increases the food of the infant. More will be gained by the observance of the ordinary laws of health, than by any foolish deviation, founded on ignorance."
There is no point on which medical men so emphatically lift the voice of warning as in reference to administering medicines to infants. It is so difficult to discover what is the matter with an infant, its frame is so delicate and so susceptible, and slight causes have such a powerful influence, that it requires the utmost skill and judgment to ascertain what would be proper medicines, and the proper quantity to be given.
Says Dr. Combe, "That there are cases in which active means must be promptly used to save the child, is perfectly true. But it is not less certain that these are cases of which no mother or nurse ought to attempt the treatment. As a general rule, where the child is well managed, medicine, of any kind, is very rarely required; and if disease were more generally regarded in its true light, not as something thrust into the system, which requires to be expelled by force, but as an aberration from a natural mode of action, produced by some external cause, we should be in less haste to attack it by medicine, and more watchful in its prevention. Accordingly, where a constant demand for medicine exists in a nursery, the mother may rest assured that there is something essentially wrong in the treatment of her children."
"Much havoc is made among infants, by the abuse of calomel and other medicines, which procure momentary relief but end by producing incurable disease; and it has often excited my astonishment, to see how recklessly remedies of this kind are had recourse to, on the most trifling occasions, by mothers and nurses, who would be horrified if they knew the nature of the power they are wielding, and the extent of injury they are inflicting."
Instead, then, of depending on medicine for the preservation of the health and life of an infant, the following precautions and preventives should be adopted.
"Take particular care of the food of an infant. If it is nourished by the mother, her own diet should be simple, nourishing, and temperate. If the child be brought up 'by hand,' the milk of a new-milch cow, mixed with one third water, and sweetened a little with white sugar, should be the only food given, until the teeth come. This is more suitable than any preparations of flour or arrowroot, the nourishment of which is too highly concentrated. Never give a child bread, cake, or meat, before the teeth appear. If the food appear to distress the child after eating, first ascertain if the milk be really from a new-milch cow, as it may otherwise be too old. Learn, also, whether the cow lives on proper food. Cows that are fed on still-slops, as is often the case in cities, furnish milk which is very unhealthful."
Be sure and keep a good supply of pure and fresh air in the nursery. On this point, Dr. Bell remarks, respecting rooms constructed without fireplaces and without doors or windows to let in pure air from without, "The sufferings of children of feeble constitutions are increased beyond measure, by such lodgings as these. An action, brought by the commonwealth, ought to lie against those persons who build houses for sale or rent, in which rooms are so constructed as not to allow of free ventilation; and a writ of lunacy taken out against those who, with the commonsense experience which all have on this head, should spend any portion of their time, still more, should sleep, in rooms thus nearly air-tight."
After it is a month or two old, take an infant out to walk, or ride, in a little wagon, every fair and warm day; but be very careful that its feet, and every part of its body, are kept warm; and be sure that its eyes are well protected from the light. Weak eyes, and sometimes blindness, are caused by neglecting this precaution. Keep the head of an infant cool, never allowing too warm bonnets, nor permitting it to sink into soft pillows when asleep. Keeping an infant's head too warm very much increases nervous irritability; and this is the reason why medical men forbid the use of caps for infants. But the head of an infant should, especially while sleeping, be protected from draughts of air, and from getting cold.
Be very careful of the skin of an infant, as nothing tends so effectually to prevent disease. For this end, it should be washed all over every morning, and then gentle friction should be applied with the hand, to the back, stomach, bowels, and limbs. The head should be thoroughly washed every day, and then brushed with a soft hair-brush, or combed with a fine comb. If, by neglect, dirt accumulates under the hair, apply with the finger the yolk of an egg, and then the fine comb will remove it all, without any trouble.
Dress the infant so that it will be always warm, but not so as to cause perspiration. Be sure and keep its feet always warm; and for this often warm them at a fire, and use long dresses. Keep the neck and arms covered. For this purpose, wrappers, open in front, made high in the neck, with long sleeves, to put on over the frock, are now very fashionable.
It is better for both mother and child, that it should not sleep on the mother's arm at night, unless the weather be extremely cold. This practice keeps the child too warm, and leads it to seek food too frequently. A child should ordinarily take nourishment but twice in the night. A crib beside the mother, with plenty of warm and light covering, is best for the child; but the mother must be sure that it is always kept warm.
Never cover a child's head, so that it will inhale the air of its own lungs. In very warm weather, especially in cities, great pains should be taken to find fresh and cool air by rides and sailing. Walks in a public square in the cool of the morning, and frequent excursions in ferry or steamboats, would often save a long bill for medical attendance.
In hot nights, the windows should be kept open, and the infant laid on a mattress, or on folded blankets. A bit of straw matting, laid over a feather bed and covered with the under sheet, makes a very cool bed for an infant.
Cool bathing, in hot weather, is very useful; but the water should be very little cooler than the skin of the child. When the constitution is delicate, the water should be slightly warmed. Simply sponging the body freely in a tub, answers the same purpose as a regular bath. In very warm weather, this should be done two or three times a day, always waiting two or three hours after food has been given.
"When the stomach is peculiarity irritable, (from teething,) it is of paramount necessity to withhold all the nostrums which have been so falsely lauded as 'sovereign cures for cholera infantum.' The true restoratives for a child threatened with disease are cool air, cool bathing, and cool drinks of simple water, in addition to proper food, at stated intervals."
In many cases, change of air from sea to mountain, or the reverse, has an immediate healthful influence and is superior to every other treatment. Do not take the advice of mothers who tell of this, that, and the other thing which have proved excellent remedies in their experience. Children have different constitutions, and there are multitudes of different causes for their sickness; and what might cure one child, might kill another, which appeared to have the same complaint. A mother should go on the general rule of giving an infant very little medicine, and then only by the direction of a discreet and experienced physician. And there are cases, when, according to the views of the most distinguished and competent practitioners, physicians themselves are much too free in using medicines, instead of adopting preventive measures.
Do not allow a child to form such habits that it will not be quiet unless tended and amused. A healthy child should be accustomed to lie or sit in its cradle much of the time; but it should occasionally be taken up and tossed, or carried about for exercise and amusement. An infant should be encouraged to creep, as an exercise very strengthening and useful. If the mother fears the soiling of its nice dresses, she can keep a long slip or apron which will entirely cover the dress, and can be removed when the child is taken in the arms. A child should not be allowed, when quite young, to bear its weight on its feet very long at a time, as this tends to weaken and distort the limbs.
Many mothers, with a little painstaking, succeed in putting their infants into their cradle while awake, at regular hours for sleep; and induce regularity in other habits, which saves much trouble. During this training process a child may cry, at first, a great deal; but for a healthy child, this use of the lungs does no harm and tends rather to strengthen than to injure them, unless it becomes exceedingly violent. A child who is trained to lie or sit and amuse itself, is happier than one who is carried and tended a great deal, and thus rendered restless and uneasy when not so indulged.
The most critical period in the life of an infant is that of dentition or teething, especially at the early stages. An adult has thirty-two teeth, but young children have only twenty, which gradually loosen and are followed by the permanent teeth. When the child has ten teeth on each jaw, all that are added are the permanent set, which should be carefully preserved; this caution is needful, as sometimes decay in the first double teeth of the second set are supposed to be of the transient set, and are so neglected, or are removed instead of being preserved by plugging. When the first teeth rise so as to press against the gums, there is always more or less inflammation, causing nervous fretfulness, and the impulse to put everything into the mouth. Usually there is disturbed sleep, a slight fever, and greater flow of saliva; this is often relieved by letting the child have ice to bite, tied in a rag.
Sometimes the disorder of the mouth extends to the whole system. In difficult teething, one symptom is the jerking back of the head when taking the breath, as if in pain, owing to the extreme soreness of the gums. This is, in extreme cases, attended with increased saliva and a gummy secretion in the corners of the eyes, itching of the nose, redness of cheeks, rash, convulsive twitching of lips and the muscles generally, fever, constipation, and sometimes by a diarrhea, which last is favorable if slight; difficulty of breathing, dilation of the pupils of the eyes, restless motion and moaning; and finally, if not relieved, convulsions and death. The most effective relief is gained by lancing the gums. Every woman, and especially every mother, should know the time and order in which the infant teeth come, and, when any of the above symptoms appear, should examine the mouth, and if a gum is swollen and inflamed, should either have a physician lance it, or if this can not be done, should perform the operation herself. A sharp pen-knife and steady hand making incision to touch the rising tooth will cause no more pain than a simple scratch of the gum, and usually will give speedy relief.
The temporary teeth should not be removed until the new ones appear, as it injures the jaw and coming teeth; but as soon as a new tooth is seen pressing upward, the temporary tooth should be removed, or the new tooth will come out of its proper place. If there is not room where the new tooth appears, the next temporary tooth must be taken out. Great mischief has been done by removing the first teeth before the second appear, thus making a contraction of the jaw.
Most trouble with, the teeth of young children comes from neglect to use the brush to remove the tartar that accumulates near the gum, causing disease and decay. This disease is sometimes called scurvy, and is shown by an accumulation around the teeth and by inflamed gums that bleed easily. Removal of the tartar by a dentist and cleaning the teeth after every meal with a brush will usually cure this evil, which causes loosening of the teeth and a bad breath.
Much injury is often done to teeth by using improper tooth-powder. Powdered chalk sifted through muslin is approved by all dentists, and should be used once every day. The tooth-brush should be used after every meal, and floss silk pressed between the teeth to remove food lodged there. This method will usually save the teeth from decay till old age.
When an infant seems ill during the period of dentition, the following directions from an experienced physician may be of service. It is now an accepted principle of all the medical world that fevers are to be reduced by cold applications; but an infant demands careful and judicious treatment in this direction; some have extremely sensitive nerves, and cold is painful. For such, tepid sponging should be used near a fire, and the coldness increased gradually. The sensations of the child should be the guide. Usually, but not always, children that are healthy will learn by degrees to prefer cold water, and then it may safely be used.
When an infant becomes feverish, wrapping its body in a towel wrung out in warm, or tepid water, and then keeping it warm in a woolen blanket, is a very safe and soothing remedy.
In case of constipation, this preparation of food is useful:
One table-spoonful of unbolted flour wet with cold water. Add one pint of hot water, and boil twenty minutes. Add when taken up, one pint of milk. If the stomach seems delicate and irritable, strain out the bran, but in most cases, retain it.
In case of diarrhea, walk with the child in arms a great deal in the open air, and give it rice-water to drink.
The warmth and vital influences of the nurse are very important, and make this mode of exercise both more soothing and more efficacious, especially in the open air, the infant being warmly clad.
In case of feverishness from teething or from any other cause, wrap the infant in a towel wrung out in tepid water and then wrap it in a woolen blanket. The water may be cooler according as the child is older and stronger. The evaporation of the water draws off the heat, while the moisture soothes the nerves, and usually the child will fall into a quiet sleep. As soon as it becomes restless, change the wet towel and proceed as before.
The leading physicians of Europe and of this country, in all cases of fevers, use water to reduce them, by this and other modes of application. This method is more soothing than any other, and is as effective for adults as for infants.
Some of the most distinguished physicians of New-York who have examined this chapter give their full approval of the advice given. If there is still distrust as to this mode of using water to reduce fevers, it will be advantageous to read an address on the use of cold applications in fevers, delivered by Dr. William Neftel, before the New-York Academy of Medicine, published in the New York Medical Record for November, 1868: this can be obtained by inclosing twenty cents to the editor, with the post-office address of the applicant.
THE MANAGEMENT OF YOUNG CHILDREN.
In regard to the physical education of children, Dr. Clarke, Physician in Ordinary to the Queen of England, expresses views on one point, in which most physicians would coincide. He says, "There is no greater error in the management of children, than that of giving them animal diet very early. By persevering in the use of an over-stimulating diet the digestive organs become irritated, and the various secretions immediately connected with digestion, and necessary to it, are diminished, especially the biliary secretion. Children so fed become very liable to attacks of fever, and inflammation, affecting particularly the mucous membranes; and measles and other diseases incident to childhood, are generally severe in their attacks."
The result of the treatment of the inmates of the Orphan Asylum, at Albany, is one which all who have the care of young children should deeply ponder. During the first six years of the existence of this institution, its average number of children was eighty. For the first three years, their diet was meat once a day, fine bread, rice, Indian puddings, vegetables, fruit, and milk. Considerable attention was given to clothing, fresh air, and exercise; and they were bathed once in three weeks. During these three years, from four to six children, and sometimes more, were continually on the sick-list; one or two assistant nurses were necessary; a physician was called two or three times a week; and, in this time, there were between thirty and forty deaths. At the end of this period, the management was changed, in these respects; daily ablutions of the whole body were practiced; bread of unbolted flour was substituted for that of fine wheat; and all animal food was banished. More attention also was paid to clothing, bedding, fresh air, and exercise.
The result was, that the nursery was vacated; the nurse and physician were no longer needed; and, for two years, not a single case of sickness or death occurred. The third year also, there were no deaths, except those of two idiots and one other child, all of whom were new inmates, who had not been subjected to this treatment. The teachers of the children also testified there was a manifest increase of intellectual vigor and activity, while there was much less irritability of temper.
Let parents, nurses, and teachers reflect on the above statement, and bear in mind that stupidity of intellect, and irritability of temper, as well as ill-health, are often caused by the mismanagement of the nursery in regard to the physical training of children.
There is probably no practice more deleterious, than that of allowing children to eat at short intervals, through, the day. As the stomach is thus kept constantly at work, with no time for repose, its functions are deranged, and a weak or disordered stomach is the frequent result. Children should be required to keep cakes, nuts, and other good things, which should be sparingly given, till just before a meal, and then they will form a part of their regular supply. This is better than to wait till after their hunger is satisfied by food, when they will eat the niceties merely to gratify the palate, and thus overload the stomach and interrupt digestion.
In regard to the intellectual training of young children, some modification in the common practice is necessary, with reference to their physical well-being. More care is needful, in providing well-ventilated school-rooms, and in securing more time for sports in the open air, during school hours. It is very important to most mothers that their young children should be removed from their care during certain school hours; and it is very useful for quite young children, to be subjected to the discipline of a school, and to intercourse with other children of their own age. And, with a suitable teacher, it is no matter how early children are sent to school, provided their health is not endangered by impure air, too much confinement, and too great mental stimulus, which is the chief danger of the present age.
In regard to the formation of the moral character, it has been too much the case that the discipline of the nursery has consisted of disconnected efforts to make children either do, or refrain from doing, certain particular acts. Do this, and be rewarded; do that, and be punished; is the ordinary routine of family government.
But children can be very early taught that their happyness, both now and hereafter, depends on the formation of habits of submission, self-denial, and benevolence. And all the discipline of the nursery can be conducted by parents, not only with this general aim in their own minds, but also with the same object daily set before the minds of the children. Whenever their wishes are crossed, or their wills subdued, they can be taught that all this is done, not merely to please the parent, or to secure some good to themselves or to others; but as a part of that merciful training which is designed to form such a character, and such habits, that they can hereafter find their chief happiness in giving up their will to God, and in living to do good to others, instead of living merely to please themselves.
It can be pointed out to them, that they must always submit their will to the will of God, or else be continually miserable. It can be shown how, in the nursery, and in the school, and through all future days, a child must practice the giving up of his will and wishes, when they interfere with the rights and comfort of others; and how important it is, early to learn to do this, so that it will, by habit, become easy and agreeable. It can be shown how children who are indulged in all their wishes, and who are never accustomed to any self-denial, always find it hard to refrain from what injures themselves and others. It can be shown, also, how important it is for every person to form such habits of benevolence toward others that self-denial in doing good will become easy.
Parents have learned, by experience, that children can be constrained by authority and penalties to exercise self-denial, for their own good, till a habit is formed which makes the duty comparatively easy. For example, well trained children can be accustomed to deny themselves tempting articles of food, which are injurious, until the practice ceases to be painful and difficult. Whereas, an indulged child would be thrown into fits of anger or discontent, when its wishes were crossed by restraints of this kind.
But it has not been so readily discerned, that the same method is needful in order to form a habit of self-denial in doing good to others. It has been supposed that while children must be forced, by authority, to be self-denying and prudent in regard to their own happiness, it may properly be left to their own discretion, whether they will practice any self-denial in doing good to others. But the more difficult a duty is, the greater is the need of parental authority in forming a habit which will make that duty easy.
In order to secure this, some parents turn their earliest efforts to this object. They require the young child always to offer to others a part of every thing which it receives; always to comply with all reasonable requests of others for service; and often to practice little acts of self-denial, in order to secure some enjoyment for others. If one child receives a present of some nicety, he is required to share it with all his brothers and sisters. If one asks his brother to help him in some study or sport, and is met with a denial, the parent requires the unwilling child to act benevolently, and give up some of his time to increase his brother's enjoyment. Of course, in such an effort as this, discretion must be used as to the frequency and extent of the exercise of authority, to induce a habit of benevolence. But where parents deliberately aim at such an object, and wisely conduct their instructions and discipline to secure it, very much will be accomplished.
In regard to forming habits of obedience, there have been two extremes, both of which need to be shunned. One is, a stern and unsympathizing maintenance of parental authority, demanding perfect and constant obedience, without any attempt to convince a child of the propriety and benevolence of the requisitions, and without any manifestation of sympathy and tenderness for the pain and difficulties which are to be met. Under such discipline, children grow up to fear their parents, rather than to love and trust them; while some of the most valuable principles of character are chilled, or forever blasted.
In shunning this danger, other parents pass to the opposite extreme. They put themselves too much on the footing of equals with their children, as if little were due to superiority of relation, age, and experience. Nothing is exacted, without the implied concession that the child is to be a judge of the propriety of the requisition; and reason and persuasion are employed, where simple command and obedience would be far better. This system produces a most pernicious influence. Children soon perceive the position thus allowed them, and take every advantage of it. They soon learn to dispute parental requirements, acquire habits of forwardness and conceit, assume disrespectful manners and address, maintain their views with pertinacity, and yield to authority with ill-humor and resentment, as if their rights were infringed upon.
The medium course is for the parent to take the attitude of a superior in age, knowledge, and relation, who has a perfect right to control every action of the child, and that, too, without giving any reason for the requisitions. "Obey because your parent commands," is always a proper and sufficient reason: though not always the best to give.
But care should be taken to convince the child that the parent is conducting a course of discipline, designed to make him happy; and in forming habits of implicit obedience, self-denial, and benevolence, the child should have the reasons for most requisitions kindly stated; never, however, on the demand of it from the child, as a right, but as an act of kindness from the parent.
It is impossible to govern children properly, especially those of strong and sensitive feelings, without a constant effort to appreciate the value which they attach to their enjoyments and pursuits. A lady of great strength of mind and sensibility once told the writer that one of the most acute periods of suffering in her whole life was occasioned by the burning up of some milkweed-silk, by her mother. The child had found, for the first time, some of this shining and beautiful substance; was filled with delight at her discovery; was arranging it in parcels; planning its future use, and her pleasure in showing it to her companions—when her mother, finding it strewed over the carpet, hastily swept it into the fire, and that, too, with so indifferent an air, that the child fled away, almost distracted with grief and disappointment. The mother little realized the pain she had inflicted, but the child felt the unkindness so severely that for several days her mother was an object, almost of aversion. While, therefore, the parent needs to carry on a steady course, which will oblige the child always to give up its will, whenever its own good or the greater claims of others require it, this should be constantly connected with the expression of a tender sympathy for the trials and disappointments thus inflicted.
Those, again, who will join with children and help them in their sports, will learn by this mode to understand the feelings and interests of childhood; while at the same time, they secure a degree of confidence and affection which can not be gained so easily in any other way. And it is to be regretted that parents so often relinquish this most powerful mode of influence to domestics and playmates, who often use it in the most pernicious manner. In joining in such sports, older persons should never yield entirely the attitude of superiors, or allow disrespectful manners or address. And respectful deportment is never more cheerfully accorded, than in seasons when young hearts are pleased and made grateful by having their tastes and enjoyments so efficiently promoted.
Next to the want of all government, the two most fruitful sources of evil to children are, unsteadiness in government and over- government. Most of the cases in which the children of sensible and conscientious parents turn out badly, result from one or the other of these causes. In cases of unsteady government, either one parent is very strict, severe and unbending, and the other excessively indulgent, or else the parents are sometimes very strict and decided, and at other times allow disobedience to go unpunished. In such cases, children, never knowing exactly when they can escape with impunity, are constantly tempted to make the trial.
The bad effects of this can be better appreciated by reference to one important principle of the mind. It is found to be universally true, that, when any object of desire is put entirely beyond the reach of hope or expectation, the mind very soon ceases to long for it, and turns to other objects of pursuit. But so long as the mind is hoping for some good, and making efforts to obtain it, any opposition excites irritable feelings. Let the object be put entirely beyond all hope, and this irritation soon ceases.
In consequence of this principle, those children who are under the care of persons of steady and decided government know that whenever a thing is forbidden or denied, it is out of the reach of hope; the desire, therefore, soon ceases, and they turn to other objects. But the children of undecided, or of over-indulgent parents, never enjoy this preserving aid. When a thing is denied, they never know hut either coaxing may win it, or disobedience secure it without any penalty, and so they are kept in that state of hope and anxiety which produces irritation and tempts to insubordination. The children of very indulgent parents, and of those who are undecided and unsteady in government, are very apt to become fretful, irritable, and fractious.
Another class of persons, in shunning this evil, go to the other extreme, and are very strict and pertinacious in regard to every requisition. With them, fault-finding and penalties abound, until the children are either hardened into indifference of feeling, and obtuseness of conscience, or else become excessively irritable or misanthropic.
It demands great wisdom, patience, and self-control, to escape these two extremes. In aiming at this, there are parents who have found the following maxims of very great value:
First: Avoid, as much as possible, the multiplication of rules and absolute commands. Instead of this, take the attitude of advisers. "My child, this is improper, I wish you would remember not to do it." This mode of address answers for all the little acts of heedlessness, awkwardness, or ill-manners so frequently occurring with children. There are cases, when direct and distinct commands are needful; and in such cases, a penalty for disobedience should be as steady and sure as the laws of nature. Where such steadiness and certainty of penalty attend disobedience, children no more think of disobeying than they do of putting their fingers into a burning candle.
The next maxim is, Govern by rewards more than by penalties. Such faults as willful disobedience, lying, dishonesty, and indecent or profane language, should be punished with severe penalties, after a child has been fully instructed in the evil of such practices. But all the constantly recurring faults of the nursery, such as ill-humor, quarreling, carelessness, and ill-manners, may, in a great many cases, be regulated by gentle and kind remonstrances, and by the offer of some reward for persevering efforts to form a good habit. It is very injurious and degrading to any mind to be kept under the constant fear of penalties. Love and hope are the principles that should be mainly relied on, in forming the habits of childhood.
Another maxim, and perhaps the most difficult, is, Do not govern by the aid of severe and angry tones. A single example will be given to illustrate this maxim. A child is disposed to talk and amuse itself at table. The mother requests it to be silent, except when needing to ask for food, or when spoken to by its older friends. It constantly forgets. The mother, instead of rebuking in an impatient tone, says, "My child, you must remember not to talk. I will remind you of it four times more, and after that, whenever you forget, you must leave the table and wait till we are done." If the mother is steady in her government, it is not probable that she will have to apply this slight penalty more than once or twice. This method is far more effectual than the use of sharp and severe tones, to secure attention and recollection, and often answers the purpose as well as offering some reward.
The writer has been in some families where the most efficient and steady government has been sustained without the use of a cross or angry tone; and in others, where a far less efficient discipline was kept up, by frequent severe rebukes and angry remonstrances. In the first case, the children followed the example set them, and seldom used severe tones to each other; in the latter, the method employed by the parents was imitated by the children, and cross words and angry tones resounded from morning till night, in every portion of the household.
Another important maxim is, Try to keep children in a happy state of mind. Every one knows, by experience, that it is easier to do right and submit to rule when cheerful and happy, than when irritated. This is peculiarly true of children; and a wise mother, when she finds her child fretful and impatient, and thus constantly doing wrong, will often remedy the whole difficulty, by telling some amusing story, or by getting the child engaged in some amusing sport. This strongly shows the importance of learning to govern children without the employment of angry tones, which always produce irritation.
Children of active, heedless temperament, or those who are odd, awkward, or unsuitable in their remarks and deportment, are often essentially injured by a want of patience and self-control in those who govern them. Such children often possess a morbid sensibility which they strive to conceal, or a desire of love and approbation, which preys like a famine on the soul. And yet, they become objects of ridicule and rebuke to almost every member of the family, until their sensibilities are tortured into obtuseness or misanthropy. Such children, above all others, need tenderness and sympathy. A thousand instances of mistake or forgetfulness should be passed over in silence, while opportunities for commendation and encouragement should be diligently sought.
In regard to the formation of habits of self-denial in childhood, it is astonishing to see how parents who are very sensible often seem to regard this matter. Instead of inuring their children to this duty in early life, so that by habit it may be made easy in after-days, they seem to be studiously seeking to cut them off from every chance to secure such a preparation. Every wish of the child is studiously gratified; and, where a necessity exists of crossing its wishes, some compensating pleasure is offered, in return. Such parents often maintain that nothing shall be put on their table, which their children may not join them in eating. But where, so easily and surely as at the daily meal, can that habit of self-denial be formed, which is so needful in governing the appetites, and which children must acquire, or be ruined? The food which is proper for grown persons, is often unsuitable for children; and this is a sufficient reason for accustoming them to see others partake of delicacies, which they must not share. Requiring children, to wait till others are helped, and to refrain from, conversation at table, except when addressed by their elders, is another mode of forming habits of self-denial and self-control. Requiring them to help others first, and to offer the best to others, has a similar influence.
In forming the moral habits of children, it is wise to take into account the peculiar temptations to which they are to be exposed. The people of this nation are eminently a trafficking people; and the present standard of honesty, as to trade and debts, is very low, and every year seems sinking still lower. It is, therefore, preeminently important, that children should be trained to strict honesty, both in word and deed. It is not merely teaching children to avoid absolute lying, which is needed: all kinds of deceit should be guarded against; and all kinds of little dishonest practices be strenuously opposed. A child should be brought up with the determined principle, never to run in debt, but to be content to live in a humbler way, in order to secure that true independence, which should be the noblest distinction of an American citizen.
There is no more important duty devolving upon a mother, than the cultivation of habits of modesty and propriety in young children. All indecorous words or deportment should be carefully restrained; and delicacy and reserve studiously cherished. It is a common notion, that it is important to secure these virtues to one sex, more than to the other; and, by a strange inconsistency, the sex most exposed to danger is the one selected as least needing care. Yet a wise mother will be especially careful that her sons are trained to modesty and purity of mind.
Yet few mothers are sufficiently aware of the dreadful penalties which often result from indulged impurity of thought. If children, in future life, can be preserved from licentious associates, it is supposed that their safety is secured. But the records of our insane retreats, and the pages of medical writers, teach that even in solitude, and without being aware of the sin or the danger, children may inflict evils on themselves, which not unfrequently terminate in disease, delirium, and death.
There is no necessity for explanations on this point any farther than this; that certain parts of the body are not to be touched except for purposes of cleanliness, and that the most dreadful suffering comes from disobeying these commands. So in regard to practices and sins of which a young child will sometimes inquire, the wise parent will say, that this is what children can not understand, and about which they must not talk or ask questions. And they should be told that it is always a bad sign, when children talk on matters which parents call vulgar and indecent, and that the company of such children should be avoided. Disclosing details of wrong-doing to young and curious children, often leads to the very evils feared. But parents and teachers, in this age of danger, should be well informed and watchful; for it is not unfrequently the case, that servants and school-mates will teach young children practices, which exhaust the nervous system and bring on paralysis, mania, and death.
And finally, in regard to the early religious training of children, the examples of the Creator in the early training of our race may safely be imitated. That "He is, and is a rewarder"—that he is everywhere present—that he is a tender Father in heaven, who is grieved when any of his children do wrong, yet ever ready to forgive those who are striving to please him by well-doing, these are the most effective motives to save the young from the paths of danger and sin. The rewards and penalties of the life to come are better adapted to maturer age, than to the imperfect and often false and fearful conceptions of the childish mind.
DOMESTIC AMUSEMENTS AND SOCIAL DUTIES.
Whenever the laws of body and mind are properly understood, it will be allowed that every person needs some kind of recreation; and that, by seeking it, the body is strengthened, the mind is invigorated, and all our duties are more cheerfully and successfully performed.
Children, whose bodies are rapidly growing and whose nervous system is tender and excitable, need much more amusement than persons of mature age. Persons, also, who are oppressed with great responsibilities and duties, or who are taxed by great intellectual or moral excitement, need recreations which physically exercise and draw off the mind from absorbing interests. Unfortunately, such persons are those who least resort to amusements, while the idle, gay, and thoughtless seek those which are not needed, and for which useful occupation would be a most beneficial substitute.
As the only legitimate object of amusement is to prepare mind and body for the proper discharge of duty, the protracting of such as interfere with regular employments, or induce excessive fatigue, or weary the mind, or invade the proper hours for repose, must be sinful.
In deciding what should be selected, and what avoided, the following are guiding principles. In the first place, no amusements which inflict needless pain should ever be allowed. All tricks which cause fright or vexation, and all sports which involve suffering to animals, should be utterly forbidden. Hunting and fishing, for mere sport, can never be justified. If a man can convince his children that he follows these pursuits to gain food or health, and not for amusement, his example may not be very injurious. But when children see grown persons kill and frighten animals, for sport, habits of cruelty, rather than feelings of tenderness and benevolence, are cultivated.
In the next place, we should seek no recreations which endanger life, or interfere with important duties. As the legitimate object of amusements is to promote health and prepare for some serious duties, selecting those which have a directly opposite tendency, can not be justified. Of course, if a person feels that the previous day's diversion has shortened the hours of needful repose, or induced a lassitude of mind or body, instead of invigorating them, it is certain that an evil has been done which should never be repeated.
Another rule which has been extensively adopted in the religious world is, to avoid those amusements which experience has shown to be so exciting, and connected with so many temptations, as to be pernicious in tendency, both to the individual and to the community. It is on this ground, that horse-racing and circus-riding have been excluded. Not because there is any thing positively wrong in having men and horses run and perform feats of agility, or in persons looking on for the diversion: but because experience has shown so many evils connected with these recreations, that they should be relinquished. So with theatres. The enacting of characters and the amusement thus afforded in themselves may be harmless; and possibly, in certain cases, might be useful: but experience has shown so many evils to result from this source, that it has been deemed wrong to patronize it. So, also, with those exciting games of chance which are employed in gambling.
Under the same head comes dancing, in the estimation of the great majority of the religious world. Still, there are many intelligent, excellent, and conscientious persons who hold a contrary opinion. Such maintain that it is an innocent and healthful amusement, tending to promote ease of manners, cheerfulness, social affection, and health of mind and body; that evils are involved only in its excess; that like food, study, or religions excitement, it is only wrong when not properly regulated; and that, if serious and intelligent people would strive to regulate, rather than banish, this amusement, much more good would be secured.
On the other side, it is objected, not that dancing is a sin, in itself considered, for it was once a part of sacred worship; not that it would be objectionable, if it were properly regulated; not that it does not tend, when used in a proper manner, to health of body and mind, to grace of manners; and to social enjoyment: all these things are conceded. But it is objected to, on the same ground as horse-racing and theatrical entertainments; that we are to look at amusements as they are, and not as they might be. Horse-races might be so managed as not to involve cruelty, gambling, drunkenness, and other vices. And so might theatres. And if serious and intelligent persons undertook to patronize these, in order to regulate them, perhaps they would be somewhat raised from the depths to which they have sunk. But such persons believe that, with the weak sense of moral obligation existing in the mass of society, and the imperfect ideas mankind have of the proper use of amusements, and the little self-control which men or women or children practice, these will not, in fact, be thus regulated.
And they believe dancing to be liable to the same objections. As this recreation is actually conducted, it does not tend to produce health of body or mind, but directly the contrary. If young and old went out to dance together in open air, as the French peasants do, it would be a very different sort of amusement from that which often is witnessed in a room furnished with many lights and filled with guests, both expending the healthful part of the atmosphere, where the young collect, in their tightest dresses, to protract for several hours a kind of physical exertion which is not habitual to them. During this process, the blood is made to circulate more swiftly than usual, in circumstances where it is less perfectly oxygenized than health requires; the pores of the skin are excited by heat and exercise; the stomach is loaded with indigestible articles, and the quiet, needful to digestion, withheld; the diversion is protracted beyond the usual hour for repose; and then, when the skin is made the most highly susceptible to damps and miasms, the company pass from a warm room to the cold night-air. It is probable that no single amusement can be pointed out combining so many injurious particulars as this, which is so often defended as a healthful one. Even if parents, who train their children to dance, can keep them from public balls, (which is seldom the case,) dancing, as ordinarily conducted in private parlors, in most cases is subject to nearly all the same mischievous influences.
The spirit of Christ is that of self-denying benevolence; and his great aim, by his teachings and example, was to train his followers to avoid all that should lead to sin, especially in regard to the weaker ones of his family. Yet he made wine at a wedding, attended a social feast on the Sabbath, [Footnote: Luke xiv. In reading this passage, please notice what kind of guests are to be invited to the feast that Jesus Christ recommends.] reproved excess of strictness in Sabbath-keeping generally, and forbade no safe and innocent enjoyment. In following his example, the rulers of the family, then, will introduce the most highly exciting amusements only in circumstances where there are such strong principles and habits of self-control that the enjoyment will not involve sin in the actor or needless temptation to the weak.
The course pursued by our Puritan ancestors, in the period succeeding their first perils amid sickness and savages, is an example that may safely be practiced at the present day. The young of both sexes were educated in the higher branches, in country academies, and very often the closing exercises were theatricals, in which the pupils were performers and their pastors, elders, and parents, the audience. So, at social gatherings, the dance was introduced before minister and wife, with smiling approval. The roaring fires and broad chimneys provided pure air, and the nine o'clock bell ended the festivities that gave new vigor and zest to life, while the dawn of the next day's light saw all at their posts of duty, with heartier strength and blither spirits.
No indecent or unhealthful costumes offended the eye, no half-naked dancers of dubious morality were sustained in a life of dangerous excitement, by the money of Christian people, for the mere amusement of their night hours. No shivering drivers were deprived of comfort and sleep, to carry home the midnight followers of fashion; nor was the quiet and comfort of servants in hundreds of dwellings invaded for the mere amusement of their superiors in education and advantages. The command "we that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves," was in those days not reversed. Had the drama and the dance continued to be regulated by the rules of temperance, health, and Christian benevolence, as in the days of our forefathers, they would not have been so generally banished from the religious world. And the question is now being discussed, whether they can be so regulated at the present time as not to violate the laws, either of health or benevolence. [Footnote: Fanny Kemble Butler remarked to the present writer that she regarded theatres wrong, chiefly because of the injury involved to the actors. Can a Christian mother contribute money to support young women in a profession from which she would protect her own daughter, as from degradation, and that, too, simply for the amusement of herself and family? Would this be following the self-sacrificing benevolence of Christ and his apostles?]
In regard to home amusements, card-playing is now indulged in, in many conscientious families from which it formerly was excluded, and for these reasons: it is claimed that this is a quiet home amusement, which unites pleasantly the aged with the young; that it is not now employed in respectable society for gambling, as it formerly was; that to some young minds it is a peculiarly fascinating game, and should be first practiced under the parental care, till the excitement of novelty is past, thus rendering the danger to children less, when going into the world; and, finally, that habits of self-control in exciting circumstances may and should be thus cultivated in the safety of home. Many parents who have taken this course with their sons in early life, believe that it has proved rather a course of safety than of danger. Still, as there is great diversity of opinion, among persons of equal worth and intelligence, a mutual spirit of candor and courtesy should be practiced. The sneer at bigotry and narrowness of views, on one side, and the uncharitable implication of want of piety, or sense, on the other, are equally ill-bred and unchristian. Truth on this subject is best promoted, not by ill-natured crimination and rebuke, but by calm reason, generous candor, forbearance, and kindness.
There is another species of amusement, which a large portion of the religious world formerly put under the same condemnation as the preceding. This is novel-reading. The confusion and difference of opinion on this subject have arisen from a want of clear and definite distinctions. Now, as it is impossible to define what are novels and what are not, so as to include one class of fictitious writings and exclude every other, it is impossible to lay down any rule respecting them. The discussion, in fact, turns on the use of those works of imagination which belong to the class of fictitious narratives. That this species of reading is not only lawful but necessary and useful, is settled by divine examples, in the parables and allegories of Scripture. Of course, the question must be, what kind of fabulous writings must be avoided, and what allowed.
In deciding this, no specific rules can be given; but it must be a matter to be regulated by the nature and circumstances of each case. No works of fiction which tend to throw the allurements of taste and genius around vice and crime should ever be tolerated; and all that tend to give false views of life and duty should also be banished. Of those which are written for mere amusement, presenting scenes and events that are interesting and exciting and having no bad moral influence, much must depend on the character and circumstances of the reader. Some minds are torpid and phlegmatic, and need to have the imagination stimulated: such would be benefited by this kind of reading. Others have quick and active imaginations, and would be as much injured by excess. Some persons are often so engaged in absorbing interests, that any thing innocent, which will for a short time draw off the mind, is of the nature of a medicine; and, in such cases, this kind of reading is useful.
There is need, also, that some men should keep a supervision of the current literature of the day, as guardians, to warn others of danger. For this purpose, it is more suitable for editors, clergymen, and teachers to read indiscriminately, than for any other class of persons; for they are the guardians of the public weal in matters of literature, and should be prepared to advise parents and young persons of the evils in one direction and the good in another. In doing this, however, they are bound to go on the same principles which regulate physicians, when they visit infected districts—using every precaution to prevent injury to themselves; having as little to do with pernicious exposures, as a benevolent regard to others will allow; and faithfully employing all the knowledge and opportunities thus gained for warning and preserving others. There is much danger, in taking this course, that men will seek the excitement of the imagination for the mere pleasure it affords, under the plea of preparing to serve the public, when this is neither the aim nor the result.
In regard to the use of such works by the young, as a general rule, they ought not to be allowed, to any except those of a dull and phlegmatic temperament, until the solid parts of education are secured and a taste for more elevated reading is acquired. If these stimulating condiments in literature be freely used in youth, all relish for more solid reading will in a majority of cases be destroyed. If parents succeed in securing habits of cheerful and implicit obedience, it will be very easy to regulate this matter, by prohibiting the reading of any story-book, until the consent of the parent is obtained.
The most successful mode of forming a taste for suitable reading, is for parents to select interesting works of history and travels, with maps and pictures suited to the age and attainments of the young, and spend an hour or two each day or evening, in aiming to make truth as interesting as fiction. Whoever has once tried this method will find that the uninjured mind of childhood is better satisfied with what they know is true, when wisely presented, than with the most exciting novels, which they know are false.
Perhaps there has been some just ground of objection to the course often pursued by parents in neglecting to provide suitable and agreeable substitutes for the amusements denied. But there is a great abundance of safe, healthful, and delightful recreations, which all parents may secure for their children. Some of these will here be pointed out.
One of the most useful and important, is the cultivation of flowers and fruits. This, especially for the daughters of a family, is greatly promotive of health and amusement. It is with the hope that many young ladies, whose habits are now so formed that they can never be induced to a course of active domestic exercise so long as their parents are able to hire domestic service, may yet be led to an employment which will tend to secure health and vigor of constitution, that much space will be given in the second volume of this work, to directions for the cultivation of fruits and flowers.
It would be a most desirable improvement, if all schools for young women could be furnished with suitable grounds and instruments for the cultivation of fruits and flowers, and every inducement offered to engage the pupils in this pursuit. No father, who wishes to have his daughters grow up to be healthful women, can take a surer method to secure this end. Let him set apart a portion of his ground for fruits and flowers, and see that the soil is well prepared and dug over, and all the rest may be committed to the care of the children. These would need to be provided with a light hoe and rake, a dibble or garden trowel, a watering-pot, and means and opportunities for securing seeds, roots, bulbs, buds, and grafts, all which might be done at a trifling expense. Then, with proper encouragement and by the aid of a few intelligible and practical directions, every man who has even half an acre could secure a small Eden around his premises.
In pursuing this amusement children can also be led to acquire many useful habits. Early rising would, in many cases, be thus secured; and if they were required to keep their walks and borders free from weeds and rubbish, habits of order and neatness would be induced. Benevolent and social feelings could also be cultivated, by influencing children to share their fruits and flowers with friends and neighbors, as well as to distribute roots and seeds to those who have not the means of procuring them. A woman or a child, by giving seeds or slips or roots to a washerwoman, or a farmer's boy, thus inciting them to love and cultivate fruits and flowers, awakens a new and refining source of enjoyment in minds which have few resources more elevated than mere physical enjoyments. Our Saviour directs us in making feasts, to call, not the rich who can recompense again, but the poor who can make no returns. So children should be taught to dispense their little treasures not alone to companions and friends, who will probably return similar favors; but to those who have no means of making any return. If the rich, who acquire a love for the enjoyments of taste and have the means to gratify it, would aim to extend among the poor the cheap and simple enjoyment of fruits and flowers, our country would soon literally "blossom as the rose."
If the ladies of a neighborhood would unite small contributions, and send a list of flower-seeds and roots to some respectable and honest florist, who would not be likely to turn them off with trash, they could divide these among themselves and their poor neighbors, so as to secure an abundant variety at a very small expense. A bag of flower-seeds, which can be obtained at wholesale for four cents, would abundantly supply a whole neighborhood; and by the gathering of seeds in the autumn, could be perpetuated.
Another very elevating and delightful recreation for the young is found in music. Here the writer would protest against the practice common in many families, of having the daughters learn to play on the piano whether they have a taste and an ear for music, or not. A young lady who does not sing well, and has no great fondness for music, does nothing but waste time, money, and patience in learning to play on the piano. But all children can be taught to sing in early childhood, if the scientific mode of teaching music in schools could be more widely introduced, as it is in Prussia, Germany, and Switzerland. Then young children could read and sing music as easily as they can read language; and might take any tune, dividing themselves into bands, and sing off at sight the endless variety of music which is prepared. And if parents of wealth would take pains to have teachers qualified for the purpose, who should teach all the young children in the community, much would be done for the happiness and elevation of the rising generation. This is an element of education which we are glad to know is, year by year, more extensively and carefully cultivated; and it is not only a means of culture, but also an amusement, which children relish in the highest degree; and which they can enjoy at home, in the fields, and in visits abroad.
Another domestic amusement is the collecting of shells, plants, and specimens in geology and mineralogy, for the formation of cabinets. If intelligent parents would procure the simpler works which have been prepared for the young, and study them with their children, a taste for such recreations would soon be developed. The writer has seen young boys, of eight and ten years of age, gathering and cleaning shells from rivers, and collecting plants and mineralogical specimens, with a delight bordering on ecstasy; and there are few, if any, who by proper influences would not find this a source of ceaseless delight and improvement.
Another resource for family diversion is to be found in the various games played by children, and in which the joining of older members of the family is always a great advantage to both parties, especially those in the open air.
All medical men unite in declaring that nothing is more beneficial to health than hearty laughter; and surely our benevolent Creator would not have provided risibles, and made it a source of health and enjoyment to use them, if it were a sin so to do. There has been a tendency to asceticism, on this subject, which needs to be removed. Such commands as forbid foolish laughing and jesting, "which are not convenient" and which forbid all idle words and vain conversation, can not apply to any thing except what is foolish, vain, and useless. But jokes, laughter, and sports, when used in such a degree as tends only to promote health and happiness, are neither vain, foolish, nor "not convenient." It is the excess of these things, and not the moderate use of them, which Scripture forbids. The prevailing temper of the mind should be serious, yet cheerful; and there are times when relaxation and laughter are not only proper but necessary and right for all. There is nothing better for this end than that parents and older persons should join in the sports of childhood. Mature minds can always make such diversions more entertaining to children, and can exert a healthful moral influence over their minds; and at the same time can gain exercise and amusement for themselves. How lamentable that so many fathers, who could be thus useful and happy with their children, throw away such opportunities, and wear out soul and body in the pursuit of gain or fame!
Another resource for children is the exercise of mechanical skill. Fathers, by providing tools for their boys, and showing them how to make wheelbarrows, carts, sleds, and various other articles, contribute both to the physical, moral, and social improvement of their children. And in regard to little daughters, much more can be done in this way than many would imagine. The writer, blessed with the example of a most ingenious and industrious mother, had not only learned before the age of twelve to make dolls, of various sorts and sizes, but to cut and fit and sew every article that belongs to a doll's wardrobe. This, which was done by the child for mere amusement, secured such a facility in mechanical pursuits, that, ever afterward, the cutting and fitting of any article of dress, for either sex, was accomplished with entire ease.
When a little girl begins to sew, her mother can promise her a small bed and pillow, as soon as she has sewed a patch quilt for them; and then a bedstead, as soon as she has sewed the sheets and cases for pillows; and then a large doll to dress, as soon as she has made the undergarments; and thus go on till the whole contents of the baby-house are earned by the needle and skill of its little owner. Thus the task of learning to sew will become a pleasure; and every new toy will be earned by useful exertion. A little girl can be taught, by the aid of patterns prepared for the purpose, to cut and fit all articles necessary for her doll. She can also be provided with a little wash-tub and irons and thus keep in proper order a complete miniature domestic establishment.
Besides these recreations, there are the enjoyments secured in walking, riding, visiting, and many other employments which need not be recounted. Children, if trained to be healthful and industrious, will never fail to discover resources of amusement; while their guardians should lend their aid to guide and restrain them from excess.
There is need of a very great change of opinion and practice in this nation in regard to the subject of social and domestic duties. Many sensible and conscientious men spend all their time abroad in business; except perhaps an hour or so at night, when they are so fatigued as to be unfitted for any social or intellectual enjoyment. And some of the most conscientious men in the country will add to their professional business public or benevolent enterprises, which demand time, effort, and money; and then excuse themselves for neglecting all care of their children, and efforts for their own intellectual improvement, or for the improvement of their families, by the plea that they have no time for it.
All this arises from the want of correct notions of the binding obligation of our social and domestic duties. The main object of life is not to secure the various gratifications of appetite or taste, but to form such a character, for ourselves and others, as will secure the greatest amount of present and future happiness. It is of far more consequence, then, that parents should be intelligent, social, affectionate, and agreeable at home and to their friends, than that they should earn money enough to live in a large house and have handsome furniture. It is far more needful for children that a father should attend to the formation of their character and habits, and aid in developing their social, intellectual, and moral nature, than it is that he should earn money to furnish them with handsome clothes and a variety of tempting food.
It will be wise for those parents who find little time to attend to their children, or to seek amusement and enjoyment in the domestic and social circle, because their time is so much occupied with public cares or benevolent objects, to inquire whether their first duty is not to train up their own families to be useful members of society. A man who neglects the mind and morals of his children, to take care of the public, is in great danger of coming under a similar condemnation to that of him who, neglecting to provide for his own household, has "denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."
There are husbands and fathers who conscientiously subtract time from their business to spend at home, in reading with their wives and children, and in domestic amusements which at once refresh and improve. The children of such parents will grow up with a love of home and kindred which will be the greatest safeguard against future temptations, as well as the purest source of earthly enjoyment.
There are families, also, who make it a definite object to keep up family attachments, after the children are scattered abroad; and, in some cases, secure the means for doing this by saving money which would otherwise have been spent for superfluities of food or dress. Some families have adopted, for this end, a practice which, if widely imitated, would be productive of much enjoyment. The method is this: On the first day of each month, some member of the family, at each extreme point of dispersion, takes a folio sheet, and fills a part of a page. This is sealed and mailed to the next family, who read it, add another contribution, and then mail it to the next. Thus the family circular, once a month, goes from each extreme to all the members of a widely-dispersed family, and each member becomes a sharer in the joys, sorrows, plans, and pursuits of all the rest. At the same time, frequent family meetings are sought; and the expense thus incurred is cheerfully met by retrenchments in other directions. The sacrifice of some unnecessary physical indulgence will often purchase many social and domestic enjoyments, a thousand times more elevating and delightful than the retrenched luxury.
There is no social duty which the Supreme Law-giver more strenuously urges than hospitality and kindness to strangers, who are classed with the widow and the fatherless as the special objects of Divine tenderness. There are some reasons why this duty peculiarly demands attention from the American people.
Reverses of fortune, in this land, are so frequent and unexpected, and the habits of the people are so migratory, that there are very many in every part of the country who, having seen all their temporal plans and hopes crushed, are now pining among strangers, bereft of wonted comforts, without friends, and without the sympathy and society so needful to wounded spirits. Such, too frequently, sojourn long and lonely, with no comforter but Him who "knoweth the heart of a stranger."
Whenever, therefore, new-comers enter a community, inquiry should immediately be made as to whether they have friends or associates, to render sympathy and kind attentions; and, when there is any need for it, the ministries of kind neighborliness should immediately be offered. And it should be remembered that the first days of a stranger's sojourn are the most dreary, and that civility and kindness are doubled in value by being offered at an early period.
In social gatherings the claims of the stranger are too apt to be forgotten; especially in cases where there are no peculiar attractions of personal appearance, or talents, or high standing. Such a one should be treated with attention, because he is a stranger; and when communities learn to act more from principle, and less from selfish impulse, on this subject, the sacred claims of the stranger will be less frequently forgotten.
The most agreeable hospitality to visitors who become inmates of a family, is that which puts them entirely at ease. This can never be the case where the guest perceives that the order of family arrangement is essentially altered, and that time, comfort, and convenience are sacrificed for his accommodation.
Offering the best to visitors, showing a polite regard to every wish expressed, and giving precedence to them, in all matters of comfort and convenience, can be easily combined with the easy freedom which makes the stranger feel at home; and this is the perfection of hospitable entertainment.
CARE OF THE AGED.
One of the most interesting and instructive illustrations of the design of our Creator, in the institution of the family state, is the preservation of the aged after their faculties decay and usefulness in ordinary modes seems to be ended. By most persons this period of infirmities and uselessness is anticipated with apprehension, especially in the case of those who have lived an active, useful life, giving largely of service to others, and dependent for most resources of enjoyment on their own energies.
To lose the resources of sight or hearing, to become feeble in body, so as to depend on the ministries of others, and finally to gradually decay in mental force and intelligence, to many seems far worse than death. Multitudes have prayed to be taken, from this life when their usefulness is thus ended.
But a true view of the design of the family state, and of the ministry of the aged and helpless in carrying out this design, would greatly lessen such apprehensions, and might be made a source of pure and elevated enjoyment.
The Christian virtues of patience with the unreasonable, of self- denying labor for the weak, and of sympathy with the afflicted, are dependent, to a great degree, on cultivation and habit, and these can be gained only in circumstances demanding the daily exercise of these graces. In this aspect, continued life in the aged and infirm should be regarded as a blessing and privilege to a family, especially to the young, and the cultivation of the graces that are demanded by that relation should be made a definite and interesting part of their education. A few of the methods to be attempted for this end will be suggested.
In the first place, the object for which the aged are preserved in life, when in many cases they would rejoice to depart, should be definitely kept in recollection, and a sense of gratitude and obligation be cultivated. They should be looked up to and treated as ministers sustained by our Heavenly Father in a painful experience, expressly for the good of those around them. This appreciation of their ministry and usefulness will greatly lessen their trials and impart consolation. If in hours of weariness and infirmity they wonder why they are kept in a useless and helpless state to burden others around, they should be assured that they are not useless; and this is not only by word, but, better still, by the manifestation of those virtues which such opportunities alone can secure.