Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/51

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41
PRENATAL AND INFANTILE CULTURE.

education of the most general sense, the touch, is ill-satisfied with the uniformity of the materials at hand, as exemplified at Vienna or Paris. (In November last I saw a similar exhibition, a pavilion de l'enfant, in the Champs Élysées, but it was no improvement on that of the Prater.)

In this respect, the child of poor people fares better, having the opportunity of amusing himself for hours in experiencing the rude or soft, warm or cold, contacts of his miscellaneous surroundings; whereas the hand of the offspring of the rich finds all around the sameness of smooth tissues, which awake in his mind no curiosity; he calls for some one to amuse him, gets first angry, then indifferent, and does not improve the main and surest sense of knowledge, his touch.

But soon other senses are awakened: audition—of which hereafter—and vision, for the enjoyment of which the cradle becomes a kind of theatre. For a mother must be very destitute or despondent who does not try to enliven it with some bright things laid on, or flapping above. One may benevolently smile at the extravagancies of colors and patterns intended to express this feeling, but these exaggerations must also give a serious warning.

Physiologically viewed, this is a grave matter. The form of the cradle demands fitness; its ornamentation requires a more extended knowledge. When planning it, a mother must remember that the fixity of the eye upon any object—particularly upon a bright one, and more so if that object is situated upward and sideways from the ordinary range of vision—and through the eye the fixedness of the mind while the body is in a state of repose, constitute a concurrence of conditions eminently favorable to the production of hypnotism, and its terrible sequels, strabismus and convulsions. Hypnotism, which, when unsuspected, is not controlled, is often mistaken for tranquil happiness or natural sleep.

Psychologically viewed, the decoration of the cradle is of equal moment. To surround an infant with highly wrought or colored figures, often grotesque, or at least untrue to Nature, may, by day, attract more attention than his faculties of perception can safely bestow; hence fatigue of the brain, or worse; but it will, by night, evoke other than the perceptive and rational powers, for, when the lights and shadows of dusk alter all the forms and deepen every color, the faculty of imprinting images being led astray, it photographs distorted imprints from confused, often moving, sometimes rustling, ornaments. In this way the mind is made the subject of hallucinations, which it accepts as objective, without inquiring into their causes, till it comes to the fatal credo quia absurdum (I believe, because it is absurd). The seeds of most of the insanities are sown at or before this time.

These were the first impressions that forced themselves upon my