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The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 13, No. 77, March, 1864
Author: Various
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Dr. Ray forcibly exhibits the radical faults of our common systems of education. He exposes the vulgar fallacy, that the growth and discipline of the mind are tested by the amount of task-work it can be made to accomplish. The efficiency of a given course of training is indicated by the power and endurance which it imparts,—not by such pyrotechny as may be let off before an examining committee. The amount of labor in the shape of school-exercises habitually imposed on the young strains the mind far beyond the highest degree of healthy endurance. This is shown by illustrations which our limits compel us to omit: they are worthy to be pondered by every conscientious parent and teacher in the land. Our national neglect of a right home-education brings Dr. Ray to a train of remarks which sustains what we were led to say in noticing Jean Paul's "Levana" a few months ago. "How many of this generation," writes our author, "complete their childhood, scarcely feeling the dominion of any will but their own, and obeying no higher law than the caprice of the moment! Instead of the firm, but gentle sway that quietly represses or moderates every outbreak of temper, that checks the impatience of desire, that requires and encourages self-denial, and turns the performance of duty into pleasure,—they experience only the feeble and fitful rule that yields to the slightest opposition, and rather stimulates than represses the selfish manifestations of our nature." The criticism is just. It is to parents, rather than to children, that our educational energies should now address themselves. For what school-polish can imitate the lustre of a youth home-reared under the authority of a wise and commanding love? But our adult-instruction must go deeper than a recommendation of the best scheme of household discipline the wit of man can devise. Be the government as rigid as it may, the children will imitate the worst portions of the characters disclosed in the family. The selfish and worldly at heart will find it wellnigh impossible to endow their children with high motives of action.

We cordially indorse what is said of those harpy-defilers of knowledge known as juvenile books. A limited use of the works of Abbott, Edgeworth, Sedgwick, and a very few others may certainly be permitted. But the common practice of removing every occasion for effort from the path of the young—of boning and spicing the mental aliment of our fathers for the palates of our sons—would be a ridiculous folly, if it were not a grievous one. Suitable reading for an average boy of ten years may be found in the best authors. For it is well observed by Dr. Ray, that, if the lad does not perceive the full significance of Shakspeare's thoughts or the deepest harmony of Spenser's verse, if he does not wholly appreciate the keen sagacity of Gibbon or the quiet charm of Prescott, he will, nevertheless, catch glimpses of the higher upper sphere in which a poet moves, and fix in his mind lasting images of purity and loveliness, or he will learn on good authority the facts of history, and feel somewhat of its grandeur and dignity. To the sort of reading which naturally succeeds the Peter-Parley dilutions of wisdom we can only allude to thank Dr. Ray for speaking so clearly and to the point.

But it becomes necessary to pass over many pages which we had marked for approving comment. In conclusion it may be said that this treatise on Mental Hygiene is full of wholesome rebukes and valuable suggestions. Yet the impression of New-England, or even of American life, which a stranger might receive from it, would be lamentably false. In a special department, Dr. Ray is an able scientist. To a wide-embracing philosophy he does not always show claims. There has been heart-sickening corruption in all prosperous societies,—especially in such as have been debauched by complicity with Slavery. It is the duty of some men of science and benevolence to be ever probing among the defilements of our fallen nature, to breathe the tainted air of the lazar-house, to consort with madness and crime. Few men deserve our respect and gratitude like these. But let them be cheered by remembering that in the great world outside the hospital there are still elements of worthiness and nobility. Wealth was never more wisely liberal, talents were never held to stricter accountability, genius has never been more united with pure and high aims, than in the Loyal States to-day. The descendants of "those much-enduring men and women of colonial times" have not shown themselves altogether "incapable of toil and exposure." From offices and counting-rooms, from libraries and laboratories, our young men have gone forth to service as arduous as that which tried their fore-fathers. How many of them have borne every hardship and privation of war, every cruelty of filthy prisons and carrion-food, yet have breasted the slave-masters' treason till its bullet struck the pulse of life! Let us remember that the most divergent tendencies of character, even such as we cannot associate with an ideal poise of mind, may work to worthiest ends in this ill-balanced world of humanity. The saying of Novalis, that health is interesting only in a scientific point of view, disease being necessary to individualization, shows one side of the shield of which Dr. Ray presents the other.



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FOOTNOTES:

[1] When Columbus sailed on his fourth voyage, in which he hoped to pass through what we now know as the Isthmus of Panama, and sail northwestward, he wrote to his king and queen that thus he should come as near as men could come to "the Terrestrial Paradise."

[2] Norandel was the half-brother of Amadis, both of them being sons of Lisuarte, King of England.

[3] Maneli was son of Cildadan, King of Ireland.

[4] Quadragante was a distinguished giant, who had been conquered by Amadis, and was now his sure friend.

[5] The "Spectators" 414 and 477, which urge particularly a better taste in gardening, are dated 1712; and the first volume of the "Ichnographia" (under a different name, indeed) appeared in 1715.

[6] This is averred of the translation of the "Oeconomics" of Xenophon, before cited in these papers, and published under Professor Bradley's name.

[7] Joseph Andrews, Bk. III. Ch. 4, where Fielding, thief that he was, appropriates the story that Xenophon tells of Cyrus.

[8] Works of Earl of Orford, Vol. III. p. 490.

[9] Chap. IX. p. 136, Cobbett's edition.

[10] It is to be remarked, however, that the Rev. Mr. Smith, (farmer of Lois-Weedon,) by the distribution of his crop, avails himself virtually of a clean fallow, every alternate year.

[11] Transactions, Vol. XXX p. 140.

[12] Detached Thoughts on Men and Manners: Wm. Shenstone.

[13] Completing the two volumes of collected poems.

[14] A taste for this had been early indicated, especially in the essays on Bunyan and Robert Dinsmore, in "Old Portraits and Modern Sketches," and in passages of "Literary Recreations." Whittier's prose, by the way, is all worth reading.

[15] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat des Convulsionnaires, p. 104.

[16] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc., p. 104.

[17] Vains Efforts des Discernans, p. 36.

[18] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc., p. 66.

[19] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc., p. 67. The latter part of the quotation alludes to crucifixion and other symbolical representations, to which the convulsionists were much given.

This state of ecstasy is one which has existed, probably, in occasional instances, through all past time, especially among religious enthusiasts. The writings of the ancient fathers contain constant allusions to it. St. Augustine, for example, speaks of it as a phenomenon which he has personally witnessed. Referring to persons thus impressed, he says,—"I have seen some who addressed their discourse sometimes to the persons around them, sometimes to other beings, as if they were actually present; and when they came to themselves, some could report what they had seen, others preserved no recollection of it whatever."—De Gen. ad Litter. Lib. XII. c. 13.

[20] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc., p. 77.

[21] Lettre de M. Colbert, du 8 Fevrier, 1733, a Madame de Coetquen.

[22] Montgeron, Tom. II.

[23] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Oeuvre, etc., p. 123.

[24] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc. p. 82.

[25] Ibid. p. 17.

[26] Ibid. p. 19.

[27] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc., p. 77.

[28] In proof of this opinion, Montgeron gives numerous quotations from St. Augustine, St. Thomas, St. Gregory, and various theologians and ecclesiastics of high reputation, to the effect that "it often happens that errors and defects are mixed in with holy and divine revelations, (of saints and others, in ecstasy,) either by some vice of nature, or by the deception of the Devil, in the same way that our minds often draw false conclusions from true premises."—Ibid. pp. 88-96.

[29] Ibid. p. 94.

[30] Ibid. p. 95.

[31] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc., pp. 102, 103.

[32] Ibid. p. 73.

[33] Vains Efforts des Discernans, pp. 39, 40.

[34] Lettres de M. Poncet, Let. VII. p. 129.

[35] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc., p. 76.

[36] Recherche de la Verite, p. 25.

[37] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc., p. 76.

[38] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc., p. 73.

[39] Philosophy of Mysterious Agents, Human and Mundane, by E. C. Rogers, Boston, 1853, p. 321, and elsewhere. He argues, "that, in as far as persons become 'mediums,' they are mere automatons," surrendering all mental control, and resigning their manhood.

[40] Montgeron, Tom. II. Idee de l'Etat, etc., pp. 34, 35.

[41] Hume's Essays, Vol. II. sect. 10.

[42] Diderot's Pensees Philosophiques. The original edition appeared in 1746, published in Paris.

[43] Dom La Taste's Lettres Theologiques, Tom. II. p. 878.

[44] Montgeron expressly tells us, that, in the case of Marguerite Catherine Turpin, her limbs were drawn, by means of strong bands, "with such, extreme violence that the bones of her knees and thighs cracked with a loud noise."—Tom. III. p. 553.

[45] Montgeron supplies evidence that the expression clubs, here used, is not misapplied. He furnishes quotations from a petition addressed to the Parliament of Paris by the mother of the girl Turpin, praying for a legal investigation of her daughter's case by the attorney-general, and offering to furnish him with the names, station in life, and addresses of the witnesses to the wonderful cure, in this case, of a monstrous deformity that was almost congenital; in which petition it is stated,—"Little by little the force with which she was struck was augmented, and at last the blows were given with billets of oak-wood, one end of which was reduced in diameter so as to form a handle, while the other end, with which the strokes were dealt, was from seven to eight inches in circumference, so that these billets were in fact small clubs." (Montgeron, Tom. III. p. 552.) This would give from eight to nine inches, English measure, or nearly three inches in diameter, and of oak!

[46] Dissertation Theologique sur les Convulsions, pp. 70, 71.

[47] De la Folie, Tom. II. p. 373.

[48] Tympany is defined by Johnson, "A kind of obstructed flatulence that swells the body like a drum."

[49] The Epidemics of the Middle Ages, pp. 89-91. The same work supplies other points of analogy between this epidemic and that of St. Medard; for example: "Where the disease was completely developed, the attack commenced with epileptic convulsions."—p. 88.

[50] Traite du Somnambulisme, pp. 384, 385.

[51] Dictionnaire des Sciences Medicales, Art. Convulsions.

[52] De la Folie, consideree, sous la Point de Vue Pathologique, Philosophique, Historique, et Judiciaire, par le Dr. Calmeil, Paris, 1845, Tom. II. pp. 386, 387.

[53] See, in Calmeil's work cited above, the Chapter entitled Theomanie Extato-Convulsive parmi les Jansenistes, Tom. II. pp. 313-400.

[54] Du Surnaturel en General, Tom. II. pp. 94, 95.

[55] I translate literally the words of the original: "avec des convulsionnaires en gomme elastique," p. 90.

[56] Du Surnaturel en General, Tom. II. pp. 90, 91.

[57] See note in De Gasparin's "Experiments in Table-Moving."

[58] Montgeron, Tom. III. p. 703.

[59] Montgeron, Tom. III. pp. 712, 713.

[60] Carpenter's Principles of Human Physiology, p. 647.

[61] Carpenter's Principles of Human Physiology, p. 561. The story, incredible if it appear, is indorsed by Carpenter as vouched for by Mr. Richard Smith, late Senior Surgeon of the Bristol Infirmary, under whose care the sufferer had been. The case resulted, after a fortnight, in death.

[62] Such will be found throughout Hecquet's "Le Naturalisme des Convulsions dans les Maladies," Paris, 1733. Dr. Philippe Hecquet, born in 1661, acquired great reputation in Paris as a physician, being elected in 1712 President of the Faculty of Medicine in that city. He is the author of numerous works on medical subjects. In his "Naturalisme des Convulsions," published at the very time when the St.-Medard excitement was at the highest, he admits the main facts, but denies their miraculous character.

[63] "The eye, contrary to the usual notions, is a very insensible part of the body, unless affected with inflammation; for, though the mucous membrane which covers its surface, and which is prolonged from the skin, is acutely sensible to tactile impressions, the interior is by no means so, as is well known to those who have operated much on this organ."—Carpenter's Principles of Human Physiology, p. 682.

[64] Hume's Essays, Vol. II. p. 133.

THE END

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