Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/733

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

example of how very near a false popular superstition may unwittingly come to the truth.

 

The Limits of Parental Discipline.—The point to which parental discipline may go might be made a subject of fruitful study. It is agreed, of course, that the child must be trained and kept in a certain degree of subjection for its own good and to prevent its becoming a nuisance to society, and a certain pliancy to the control of superiors is, as a writer in an English journal well remarks, absolutely essential to the organization of a household, a school, or a state. "Discipline," this writer continues, "implies ready obedience to orders of which the reason is not understood; but it should always rest on the belief that these orders are given for sufficient reasons, and not for the mere satisfaction of those who give them in seeing them obeyed." The theory of "breaking" the will of the child, in which parents and teachers indulge, is all wrong. The first thing a superior has to learn "is that there is no such thing as property in the character of a human being; that when the individuality of a character has to be suppressed—and of course the organization of society requires that it must often be suppressed—it is suppressed either for its own good or for the good of others to whom consideration is due, and that, beyond the limits of these obligations, individuality, far from being a hindrance and annoyance to be got rid of as completely as possible, is a distinct gain to the universe. The wish of some parents to wield as much power over the wills and characters of their children as they do over the motions of the horses they ride or drive is not only a foolish but an evil wish. To get excellent instruments on which they can perform as they would perform on a piano, always eliciting exactly the particular vibration they desire and expect, is clearly not the true object of family life. On the contrary, character, far from being an instrument to be performed on by others, should always be a new source of life and originality, which no one should be able to govern despotically from the outside, and which, even from inside, is in a great degree a mystery and a marvel to him who has most power over it. The mere notion of making character a kind of repeater, which responds by a given number of strokes to the parent's touch, is a radically absurd one. What a parent ought to wish for is, indeed, instant obedience to orders given for the child's good, and an eager intelligence in the child to trust its parent; but beyond this, as much that is distinct and individual, and that has a separate significance of its own, as the child's nature can provide."

 

Vitality in Intellectual Work.—So far from intellectual work diminishing vitality, says a writer in the London Spectator, the chiefs of all the intellectual professions are, and in recent times have been, men who have passed the ordinary term of years with undiminished powers. In politics the principal leaders whom this generation has known have been Earl Russell, Lord Palmerston. Lord Beaconsfield, and Mr. Gladstone, and every one of them was at seventy in full vigor, while the last, at eighty-three, is still a mighty power in British politics. Prince Bismarck remains at seventy-eight a force with which his Government has to reckon; while the will of Leo XIII, an exceptionally intellectual Pope, at eighty-three, is felt in every comer of the world. "The most intellectual and successful soldier of our time, the man who had really thought out victories. Marshal von Moltke, was an unbroken man at ninety and more years. No men dare compare themselves in literary power with Tennyson or Carlyle, Victor Hugo or Von Ranke, and they all reached the age which the author of Ecclesiastes declared to be marked only by labor and sorrow; as also did Prof. Owen, whose life was one long labor in scientific inquiry; and so also has Sir William Grove, one of the most strenuous thinkers whom even this age of thinkers has produced. We might lengthen the list indefinitely; but to what use, when we all know that the most intellectual among lawyers, historians, novelists, physicians, politicians, and naturalists survive their contemporaries, usually with undiminished powers? In all statistical accounts, the clergy, whose occupation is wholly intellectual, rank first among the long-lived. A little lower down in the scale the most hale men among us are those who have been doing intellectual work, often extremely hard work, through all their lives,