Page images

induced some to doubt the efficacy of a virtuous and pious education ; such persons however have yet to learn, that other causes beyond the power of mere tuition, have operated to counteract the benefits proposed. But notwithstanding these instances of failure, it is a satisfaction to reflect that by far the greater proportion bear the living impress of those ennobling characters which in early youth have been imprinted on their tender minds; while, on the contrary, we have too many painful witnesses of the truth, that negligence in education, or the adoption of a bad system, will produce lasting and pernicious effects.

It is to be regretted, that notwithstanding knowledge has been more generally diffused than in any preceding age, the advantages of female instruction, when compared with those of the other sex, have been very limited, and confined to objects trifling and unimportant. Whether exactly the same system of education ought to be adopted in both cases, is a question which admits of no difficult solution. Are both sexes destined to move in the same sphere of life? Will their avocations and their duties be the same? Surely not. Then let their minds be so prepared to engage in their future and varied employments, as may be most conducive to the benefit of society, and to their own individual interest and honour. It is however an important question, whether or not the female mind is properly cultivated by the prevailing modes of education; or whether it is favoured with sufficient means of improvement to prepare it for the rational enjoyments, and the pleasurable duties of domestic life.

The compiler of the present work does not mean to depreciate any of the modern systems of education, although some of them are doubtless defective, in preferring the graces, to morality, and external accomplishments to intellectual worth ; his object being to comprise in this volume whatever appears most essential in forming the mind and character for the sober pleasures and enjoyments of human life, and to conduce to that purity of soul, necessary to participate in the blessedness of an eternal world.

That females still hold a rank in the scale of being inferior, in some respects, to the Lord of the creation, as man is 'arrogantly deemed, is a position none will dare contradict; but whether that inferiority be an evil or a good, or what are the degrees of knowledge and elevation to which woman should attain, are questions about which mankind continue to be at variance; and happy is he who can contribute any thing towards reconciling these jarring opinions, or mediate between the contending parties. While some with an extravagant enthusiasm have soared beyond the boundaries of reason and moderation in asserting an unconditional equality; others have inculcated notions derogatory to the character of a rational being, considering women as created only for the temporary amusement of men, or destined to a slavish submission to their will.

It is not, however, the intention of the writer to enter into this discussion, in these preliminary remarks, nor to incorporate in the following work any part of this unedifying controversy. His object in stating it, is to shew that he has adopted a middle course, being persuaded that females are capable of higher degrees of improvement, and rational pleasure, than they have in general hitherto attained ; and to present them with a volume that shall at once fford them instruction and delight.

As the frivolous amusements and miscalled pleasures of high life are incompatible with simplicity of education, intellectual enjoyments, and domestic duties, the compiler lias adapted his work to the humble, yet more respectable class of females ; and every one in that class, whether residing in the decent mansion or the rustic cottage, who would unite instruction, utility, and happiness, will find here some means for its accomplishinent.

To apologize for aspiring to the high office of female preceptor, is to make an acknowledgment which candour and modesty demand. Forgiveness from those on whose behalf the following work is written and compiled, the Author need not ask : and to others he has only to offer as his excuse, the consideration of a deep concern for the interest and happiness of the fairest part of the creation. It will be his endeavour to convince the female world, that while some have maintained that it should be kept in comparative ignorance, and consequent servility, one attempt has at least been made to enlighten their understandings, and to promote their intellectual and moral independence.






The knowledge of letters is one of the greatest blessings that ever God bestowed on the children of men: by this means, mankind are enabled to preserve the memory of things done in their own times, and to lay up a rich store of knowledge for all succeeding generations.

By the art of reading we learn a thousand things which our eyes can never see, and which our own thoughts would never have reached to: we are instructed by books in the wisdom of ancient ages; we learn what our ancestors have said and done, and enjoy the benefit of the wise and judicious remarks which they have made through their whole course of life, without the fatigue of their long and painful experiments. By this means children may be led in a great measure, into the wisdom of old age. It is by the art of reading that we can sit at home, and acquaint ourselves with what has been done in the distant parts of the world. The bistories and the customs of all ages and all nations are brought, as it were, to our doors. By this art we are let into the koowledge of the affairs of the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans; their wars, their laws, and their religion : we can tell what they did in the nations of Europe, Asia and Africa, above a thousand years ago.

But the greatest blessing that we derive from reading is, the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures; wherein God has conveyed down to us the discoveries of his wisdom, power, and grace, through many past ages; and whereby we attain the knowledge of Christ, and of the way of salvation by a Mediator.

It must be confessed, ihat, in former ages, before printing was invented, the art of reading was not so common even in polite nations, because books were much more costly, since they must have been all written with a pen, and were therefore hardly to be obtained by the bulk of mankind : but since the providence of God has brought printing into the world, and knowledge is so plentifully diffused through our nation, at so cheap a rate, it is a pity that any children should be born and brought up in Great Britain, without learning to read; and especially, since by this means, every one may see with his own eyes what God requires of him in order to eternal happiness.

The art of writing also is so exceedingly useful, and is now grown so very common, that children in general may attain it at an easy rate: by this means we communicate our thoughts and all our affairs to our friends at ever so great a distance: we tell them our wants, our sorrows, and our joys; and interest them in our concerns, ás though they were near us. We maintain correspondence and traffic with persons in distant nations, and the wealth and grandeur of Great Britain is maintained by this means. By the art of writing we treasure up all things that concern us in a safe repository; and as often as we please, by consulting our paper records, we renew our remembrance of things that relate to this life or the life to come: and why should any of the children of men be debarred from this privilege, if it may be attained at a cheap and easy rate, without entrenching upon other duties of life, and without omitting any more necessary business that may belong to their stations?

It might also be added, that true spelling is such a part of knowledge as children ought to be acquainted with, since it is a matter of shame and ridicule in so polite an age as ours, when persons who have learned to use


pen cannot write three words together without a mistake; and when they put letters together in such an awkward and ignorant manner, it is hard to make sense of them, or to tell whaç they mean.

As the sons of a family should be educated in the knowledge of writing, reading, and spelling, so neither should the daughters be trained up without them. Reading is as needful for one sex as the other; nor should girls be forbidden

« PreviousContinue »