Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/281

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269
EDITOR'S TABLE.

whose principles of action are the very reverse of his own. Let him not betroth his daughter to an intriguing jackanapes who avows himself destitute of every principle save selfish ambition. Let his love for his children be manifested otherwise than by keeping up an expensive establishment. If these conditions be observed, we shall have a man who, point for point, shall do just what Pierre Nogaret did not do, and refrain from doing what Pierre Nogaret did do. And then let it be shown, if it can, in consonance with recognized principles of human nature, how such methods of training and discipline lead directly to ill-regulated and frivolous lives on the part of the philosopher's children. Let us see just how it comes about that natural affection dies out in the atmosphere of such a philosopher's household. Let us be made to feel in a powerful manner the chasm that is left in the philosopher's family life by the absence of the priestly element. It is easy to make men of straw and then knock them over or treat them with any other indignity; but the task is not one that is worthy of a literary artist of any ability. In M. Feuillet's romance there was some attempt made to show how the doctrine of the survival of the fittest naturally inspired thoughts of murder in the female mind. We did not think much of the proffered demonstration, but it made at least a decent show of respect for the requirements of logic. In M. Duruy's drama such show of respect is wholly lacking. His philosopher entirely neglects his children's moral education, brings them up in expensive, luxurious, and idle habits, exposes them to all the temptations of a morally worthless society, and then, when they have been—not wholly, but largely—perverted by the evil influences around them, we are asked to lay the whole blame of their perversion upon their father's heterodox views, and to draw a sweeping conclusion as to the ruinous effects on morality of modern philosophy in general.

The unprejudiced reader will not draw any such conclusion. The conclusion that may be drawn is that no set of merely speculative opinions offers any guarantee for satisfactory moral development apart from a careful observance of the conditions on which the formation of sound, moral character depends. It is one thing to adopt the Darwinian theory; it is quite another to know how to bring up children: and some Darwinians, or alleged Darwinians, make nearly as poor a business of it as some clergymen. It is not the mold in which a man's opinions have run that makes him a competent moral educator; it is the amount of earnestness he throws into moral questions and the amount of practical good sense that he brings to bear in order to insure that the children committed to his charge shall be well grounded in sound moral principles and habits. The son of M. Duruy's philosopher tells his sister that if ever he succeeds in capturing a woman with a big fortune and has children, she will see how he will "stuff them with religion." Alas! the recipe is not a new one. How many children have been "stuffed with religion," only to grow up exceptionally bad! The children who do best are the children of parents whose lives bear still more powerful testimony than their words to right principles, and who are not too busy to take a constant interest in their children's education, moral as well as intellectual. To ask the world to go back to mediævalism in order to save morals from destruction is asking too much. That system has been tried and found wanting, and the world is now seeking another and a better foundation for morals. Doubtless many rush forward and grasp at the new opinions without realizing all that they involve and demand. The age is one of unsettlement; but it is one, unmistakably, of progress; and when our methods of education have been adapted to the new truths now in course of formulation,