Original Stories from Real Life; with Conversations Calculated to Regulate the Affections, and Form the Mind to Truth and Goodness is the only complete work of children's literature by the 18th-century English feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft. Original Stories begins with a frame story that sketches out the education of two young girls by their maternal teacher Mrs. Mason, followed by a series of didactic tales. The book was first published by Joseph Johnson in 1788; a second, illustrated edition, with engravings by William Blake, was released in 1791 and remained in print for around a quarter of a century. ―From Wikipedia, Original Stories from Real Life.
1754045Original Stories from Real Life1796Mary Wollstonecraft
REGULATE THE AFFECTIONS,
FORM THE MIND TO TRUTH AND GOODNESS.
A NEW EDITION.
PRINTED FOR J. JOHNSON, NO. 72, ST. PAUL'S CHURCH-YARD.
THESE converſations and tales are accommodated to the preſent ſtate of ſociety; which obliges the author to attempt to cure thoſe faults by reaſon, which ought never to have taken root in the infant mind. Good habits, imperceptibly fixed, are far preferable to the precepts of reaſon; but as this taſk requires more judgment than generally falls to the lot of parents, ſubſtitutes muſt be ſought for, and medicines given, when regimen would have anſwered the purpoſe much better. I believe thoſe who examine their own minds will readily agree with me, that reaſon, with difficulty, conquers ſettled habits, even when it is arrived at ſome degree of maturity: why then do we ſuffer children to be bound with fetters, which their half-formed faculties cannot break.
In writing the following work, I aim at perſpicuity and ſimplicty of ſtyle; and try to avoid thoſe unmeaning compliments, which ſlip from the tongue, but have not the leaſt connection with the affections that ſhould warm the heart, and animate the conduct. By this falſe politeneſs, ſincerity is ſacrificed, and truth violated; and thus artificial manners are neceſſarily taught. For true politeneſs is a poliſh, not a varniſh; and ſhould rather be acquired by obſervation than admonition. And we may remark, by way of illuſtration, that men do not attempt to poliſh precious ſtones, till age and air have given them that degree of ſolidity, which will enable them to bear the neceſſary friction, without deſtroying the main ſubſtance.
The way to render inſtruction moſt uſeful cannot always be adopted; knowledge ſhould by gradually imparted, and flow more from example than teaching: example directly addreſſes the ſenſes, the firſt inlets to the heart; and the improvement of thoſe inſtruments of the underſtanding is the object education ſhould have conſtantly in view, and over which we have moſt power. But to wiſh that parents would, themſelves, mould the duftile paſſions, is a chimerical wiſh, for the preſent generation have their own paſſions to combat with, and faſtidious pleaſures to purſue, neglecting thoſe pointed out by nature: we muſt therefore pour premature knowledge into the ſucceeding one; and, teaching virtue, explain the nature of vice. Cruel neceſſity!
The Converſations are intended to aſſiſt the teacher as well as the pupil; and this will obviate an objection which ſome may ſtart, that the ſentiments are not quite on a level with the capacity of a child. Every child requires a different mode of treatment; but a writer can only chooſe one, and that muſt be modified by thoſe who are actually engaged with young people in their ſtudies.
The tendency of the reaſoning obviouſly tends to ﬁx principles of truth and humanity on a ſolid and ſimple foundation; and to make religion an active, invigorating director of the affections, and not a mere attention to forms. Syſtems of Theology may be complicated; but when the character of the Supreme Being is diſplayed, and He is recogniſed as the Univerſal Father, the Author and Centre of Good, a child may be led to comprehend that dignity and happineſs muſt ariſe from imitating Him; and this conviction ſhould be twiſted into, and be the foundation of every inculcated duty.
At any rate, the Tales which were written to illulſtrate the moral, may recall it, when the mind has gained ſuſſicient ſtrength to diſcuſs the argument from which it was deduced.
MARY and Caroline, though the children of wealthy parents were, in their infancy; left entirely to the management of ſervants, or people equally ignorant. Their mother died ſuddenly, and their father, who found them very troubleſome at home, placed them under the tuition of a woman of tenderneſs and diſcernment, a near relation, who was induced to take on herſelf the important charge through motives of compaſſion.
They were ſhamefully ignorant, conſidering that Mary had been fourteen, and Caroline twelve years in the world. If they had been merely ignorant, the taſk would, not have appeared ſo arduous; but they had caught every prejudice that the vulgar caſually inſtill. In order to eradicate theſe prejudices, and ſubſtitute good habits inſtead of thoſe they had careleſsly contracted, Mrs. Maſon never ſuffered them to be out of her ſight. They were allowed to aſk queſtions on all occaſions, a method ſhe would not have adopted, had ſhe educated them from the firſt, according to the ſuggeſtions of her own reaſon, to which experience had given its ſanction.
They had tolerable capacities; but Mary had a turn for ridicule, and Caroline was vain of her perſon. She was, indeed, very handſome, and the inconſiderate encomiums that had, in her preſence, been laviſhed on her beauty made her, even at that early age, affected.
Summer Evening's Amuſement.—The Arrival of a Family of Haymakers.—Ridicule of perſonal Defects cenſured.—A Storm.—The Fear of Death.—The Cottage of Homeſt Jack the ſhipwrecked Sailer.—.The Hiſtory of Jack, and his faithful Dog Pompey