From this, the true cradle of mankind, let us look at that made for the baby. There was no end of cradles in the pavilion de l'enfant; and we may find more philosophy in them than the upholsterer intended to put there. Therein the infant will at first but continue his ovum-life; and for this the cradle must be fitted. Let us see. The head is bent, the extremities are drawn up, and the body shaped like a crescent. This attitude gives to the muscles the greatest relaxation, and to the cartilages, which cap the bones, the position most favorable to nutrition and growth. Generally, the baby rests on the right side, to free the heart from pressure and to facilitate its movements. In this mode of reclining, the left hemi-cerebrum will contain more blood than the right, which is compressed by the pillow. Attitudes concordant with the sleepy habits of the first months, and the activity of the mind during this long sleepiness, indicate the future preponderance of the mental operations of the left over the right side of the brain, the approaching superior nutrition and dexterity of the right over the left hand, and later even the causation of paralysis on the left. For the present, and for some time yet, the infant will live mainly in his sleep; during which, more than when awake, he will be seen angry, smiling, or thinking, even in his well-defined dreams.
How important it is, then, that the cradle be formed in accordance with these natural indications! A transitory abode between the basin and the bed, it should be a warm, soft, yet supporting recipient, ampler than the former, better defined in its shape than the latter, with curves less short than circles, and more varied than ovals. An egg, vertically split, would make two such cradles, or nests, suited either for child or bird.
But as soon as the nursling awakes to the world, and wants to be introduced to everything, his couch must be enlarged and enlivened, and must look more and more like a school and play-room. Otherwise it becomes a prison, whence, Tantalus-like, baby looks at his surroundings. Here is his first lesson of practical sociability. To see, and not be able to reach, to perceive images, with no possibility of seizing the objects, renders him impatient, fretful, or unconcerned, and opens an era of exaction upon others, or of diffidence of himself, or of indifference for any attainment, which unavoidably ends in immorality or incapacity, or in both. Viewed from this standpoint, these cradles, so varied, so elegant, so easy to keep clean, and to carry from the light of the window by day to the recess of the alcove at night—the best being of French and Austrian manufacture—are yet very imperfect in their bearing on education. Let us mark some of their shortcomings.
Little ones have an instinctive horror of isolation. Whoever studies them knows that when they awake they look not, at first, with staring eyes, but with searching hands; they seek not for sights, but for contacts. This love of contact, whence results the primary