Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/49

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39
PRENATAL AND INFANTILE CULTURE.

the moral dispositions and of the so-called innate ideas. The managers of the world "from behind the screens" know this, for it is at this time that they impose on plebeian women pilgrimages and ecstatic "novenas,"[1] and keep those of a higher class under more stringent impressions. Here, in Vienna, for instance, from the time of the Emperor Charles V. till quite recently, when an heir to the throne was expected, the empress was given in charge of a special director, who would regulate all her actions and surroundings, in view of commencing the course of submissive education of the contingent monarch, as early as the first evolution from the yolk-substance of the human egg during embryogenesis. Similar influence is now claimed for an object diametrically opposed to the degeneracy thus arrived at in the house of Hapsburg. It can be attained by counsels printed either in book-form or on scrolls, as are the sentences of the Koran. But, whatever may be the form given to this magna charta of the rights of the unborn, let it be found precisely where these rights ought to be kept most sacred, in the nursery; where their enforcement would protect the mother and elevate her function, at the same time that it would insure her fruit against the decay resulting from wrong prenatal impressions.

We know that a cold contact with the mother makes the fœtus fly to the antipode of its narrow berth; that a rude shock may destroy it, or originate life-long infirmities; that, the emotion of fear in the mother is terror or fits within; that harsh words vibrate as sensibly in the liquor of the amnion as in the fluid of the labyrinth of the ear. For instance, when a mother has lulled her home-sorrows with strains of soothing music, her child, too often an idiot, shows wonderful musical proclivities amid the wreck of all the other faculties of his mind. For thirty-five years the writer has furnished his share of the facts, which abound in modern books on physiology, in support of this doctrine.

It is useless to give here the illustrations detailed in the report; but experienced physicians will testify that, when their hands receive a new-comer, they plainly read upon his features the dominant feelings and emotions of its mother during that intra-uterine education whose imprints trace the channel of future sympathies and abilities. Therefore, if it is noble work to educate or to cure the insane, the idiot, the hemiplegic, the epileptic, and the choreic, how much higher is the work of preventing these degeneracies in the incipient being, by averting those commotions which storm him in the holy region intended for a terrestrial paradise during the period of evolution! To teach him reverence toward the bearer of his race, to instruct her in the sacredness of bland and serene feelings during the Godlike creative process, is educating two generations at once—this is the highest education of the nursery.

  1. A nine days' season of prayer.