Some Thoughts Concerning Education/Part II

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Section 18. 2. Not being permitted to drink without eating, will prevent the custom of having the cup often at his nose; a dangerous beginning, and preparation to good-fellowship. Men often bring habitual hunger and thirst on themselves by custom. And if you please to try, you may, though he be wean'd from it, bring him by use to such a necessity again of drinking in the night, that he will not be able to sleep without it. It being the lullaby used by nurses to still crying children, I believe mothers generally find some difficulty to wean their children from drinking in the night, when they first take them home. Believe it, custom prevails as much by day as by night; and you may, if you please, bring any one to be thirsty every hour.

I once liv'd in a house, where, to appease a forward child, they gave him drink as often as he cry'd; so that he was constantly bibbing. And tho' he could not speak, yet he drank more in twenty-four hours than I did. Try it when you please, you may with small, as well as with strong beer, drink your self into a drought. The great thing to be minded in education is, what habits you settle; and therefore in this, as all other things, do not begin to make any thing customary, the practice whereof you would not have continue and increase. It is convenient for health and sobriety, to drink no more than natural thirst requires; and he that eats not salt meats, nor drinks strong drink, will seldom thirst between meals, unless he has been accustom'd to such unseasonable drinking.

Section 19. Above all, take great care that he seldom, if ever, taste any wine or strong drink. There is nothing so ordinarily given children in England, and nothing so destructive to them. They ought never to drink any strong liquor but when they need it as a cordial, and the doctor prescribes it. And in this case it is, that servants are most narrowly to be watch'd and most severely to be reprehended when they transgress. Those mean sort of people, placing a great part of their happiness in strong drink, are always forward to make court to my young master by offering him that which they love best themselves: and finding themselves made merry by it, they foolishly think 'twill do the child no harm. This you are carefully to have your eye upon, and restrain with all the skill and industry you can, there being nothing that lays a surer foundation of mischief, both to body and mind than children's being us'd to strong drink, especially to drink in private with the servants.

Section 20. Fruit makes one of the most difficult chapters in the government of health, especially that of children. Our first parents ventur'd Paradise for it; and 'tis no wonder our children cannot stand the temptation, tho' it cost them their health. The regulation of this cannot come under any one general rule; for I am by no means of their mind, who would keep children almost wholly from fruit, as a thing totally unwholesome for them; by which strict way, they make them but the more ravenous after it, and to eat good or bad, ripe or unripe, all that they can get, whenever they come at it. Melons, peaches, most sorts of plums, and all sorts of grapes in England, I think children should be wholly kept from, as having a very tempting taste, in a very unwholesome juice; so that if it were possible, they should never so much as see them, or know there were any such thing. But strawberries, cherries, gooseberres, or currants, when thorough ripe, I think may be very safely allow'd them, and that with a pretty liberal hand, if they be eaten with these cautions: 1. Not after meals, as we usually do, when the stomach is already full of other food: but I think they should be eaten rather before or between meals, and children should have them for their breakfast. 2. Bread eaten with them. 3. Perfectly ripe. If they are thus eaten, I imagine them rather conducing than hurtful to our health. Summer-fruits, being suited to the hot season of the year they come in, refresh our stomachs, languishing and fainting under it; and therefore I should not be altogether so strict in this point, as some are to their children; who being kept so very short, instead of a moderate quantity of well-chosen fruit, which being allow'd them would content them, whenever they can get loose, or bribe a servant to supply them, satisfy their longing with any trash they can get, and eat to a surfeit.

Apples and pears too, which are thorough ripe, and have been gather'd some time, I think may be safely eaten at any time, and in pretty large quantities, especially apples; which never did any body hurt, that I have heard, after October.

Fruits also dry'd without sugar, I think very wholesome. But sweet-meats of all kinds are to be avoided; which whether they do more harm to the maker or eater, is not easy to tell. This I am sure, it is one of the most inconvenient ways of expence that vanity hath yet found out; and so I leave them to the ladies.

Section 21. Of all that looks soft and effeminate, nothing is more to be indulg'd children, than sleep. In this alone they are to be permitted to have their full satisfaction; nothing contributing more to the growth and health of children, than sleep. All that is to be regulated in it, is, in what part of the twenty-four hours they should take it; which will easily be resolved, by only saying that it is of great use to accustom 'em to rise early in the morning. It is best so to do, for health; and he that, from his childhood, has, by a settled custom, made rising betimes easy and familiar to him, will not, when he is a man, waste the best and most useful part of his life in drowsiness, and lying a-bed. If children therefore are to be call'd up early in the morning, it will follow of course, that they must go to bed betimes; whereby they will be accustom'd to avoid the unhealthy and unsafe hours of debauchery, which are those of the evenings; and they who keep good hours, seldom are guilty of any great disorders. I do not say this, as if your son, when grown up, should never be in company past eight, nor ever chat over a glass of wine 'till midnight. You are now, by the accustoming of his tender years, to indispose him to those inconveniences as much as you can; and it will be no small advantage, that contrary practice having made sitting up uneasy to him, it will make him often avoid, and very seldom propose midnight-revels. But if it should not reach so far, but fashion and company should prevail, and make him live as others do above twenty, 'tis worth the while to accustom him to early rising and early going to bed, between this and that, for the present improvement of his health and other advantages.

Though I have said, a large allowance of sleep, even as much as they will take, should be made to children when they are little; yet I do not mean, that it should always be continued to them in so large a proportion, and they suffer'd to indulge a drowsy laziness in their bed, as they grow up bigger. But whether they should begin to be restrained at seven or ten years old, or any other time, is impossible to be precisely determined. Their tempers, strength, and constitutions, must be consider'd. But some time between seven and fourteen, if they are too great lovers of their beds, I think it may be seasonable to begin to reduce them by degrees to about eight hours, which is generally rest enough for healthy grown people. If you have accustom'd him, as you should do, to rise constantly very early in the morning, this fault of being too long in bed will easily be reform'd, and most children will be forward enough to shorten that time themselves, by coveting to sit up with the company at night; tho' if they be not look'd after, they will be apt to take it out in the morning, which should by no means be permitted. They should constantly be call'd up and made to rise at their early hour; but great care should be taken in waking them, that it be not done hastily, nor with a loud or shrill voice, or any other sudden violent noise. This often affrights children, and does them great harm; and sound sleep thus broke off, with sudden alarms, is apt enough to discompose any one. When children are to be waken'd out of their sleep, be sure to begin with a low call, and some gentle motion, and so draw them out of it by degrees, and give them none but kind words and usage, 'till they are come perfectly to themselves, and being quite dress'd you are sure they are thoroughly awake. The being forc'd from their sleep, how gently so ever you do it, is pain enough to them; and care should be taken not to add any other uneasiness to it, especially such that may terrify them.

Section 22. Let his bed be hard, and rather quilts than feathers. Hard lodging strengthens the parts; whereas being bury'd every night in feathers melts and dissolves the body, is often the cause of weakness, and forerunner of an early grave. And, besides the stone, which has often its rise from this warm wrapping of the reins, several other indispositions, and that which is the root of them all, a tender weakly constitution, is very much owing to down-beds. Besides, he that is used to hard lodging at home, will not miss his sleep (where he has most need of it) in his travels abroad, for want of his soft bed, and his pillows laid in order. And therefore, I think it would not be amiss, to make his bed after different fashions, sometimes lay his head higher, sometimes lower, that he may not feel every little change he must be sure to meet with, who is not design'd to lie always in my young master's bed at home, and to have his maid lay all things in print, and tuck him in warm. The great cordial of nature is sleep. He that misses that, will suffer by it; and he is very unfortunate, who can take his cordial only in his mother's fine gilt cup, and not in a wooden dish. He that can sleep soundly, takes the cordial; and it matters not whether it be on a soft bed or the hard boards. 'Tis sleep only that is the thing necessary.

Section 23. One thing more there is, which has a great influence upon the health, and that is, going to stool regularly; people that are very loose, have seldom strong thoughts, or strong bodies. But the cure of this, both by diet and medicine, being much more easy than the contrary evil, there needs not much to be said about it; for if it come to threaten, either by its violence or duration, it will soon enough, and sometimes too soon, make a physician be sent for; and if it be moderate or short, it is commonly best to leave it to nature. On the other side, costiveness has too its ill effects, and is much harder to be dealt with by physick; purging medicines, which seem to give relief, rather increasing them than removing the evil.

Section 24. It being an indisposition I had a particular reason to enquire into, and not finding the cure of it in books, I set my thoughts on work, believing that greater changes than that might be made in our bodies, if we took the right course, and proceeded by rational steps.

1. Then I consider'd, that going to stool, was the effect of certain motions of the body; especially of the peristaltick motion of the guts.

2. I consider'd that several motions, that were not perfectly voluntary, might yet, by use and constant application, be brought to be habitual, if by an unintermitted custom they were at certain seasons endeavour'd to be constantly produced.

3. I had observ'd some men, who by taking after supper a pipe of tobacco, never fail'd of a stool, and began to doubt with myself, whether it were not more custom, than the tobacco, that gave them the benefit of nature; or at least, if the tobacco did it, it was rather by exciting a vigorous motion in the guts, than by any purging quality; for then it would have had other effects.

Having thus once got the opinion that it was possible to make it habitual, the next thing was to consider what way and means was the likeliest to obtain it.

4. Then I guess'd, that if a man, after his first eating in the morning, would presently solicit nature, and try whether he could strain himself so as to obtain a stool, he might in time, by constant application, bring it to be habitual.

Section 25. The reasons that made me chuse this time, were,

1. Because the stomach being then empty, if it receiv'd any thing grateful to it (for I would never, but in case of necessity, have any one eat but what he likes, and when he has an appetite) it was apt to embrace it close by a strong constriction of its fibres; which constriction, I suppos'd, might probably be continu'd on in the guts, and so increase their peristaltick motion, as we see in the Ileus, that an inverted motion, being begun any where below, continues itself all the whole length, and makes even the stomach obey that irregular motion.

2. Because when men eat, they usually relax their thoughts, and the spirits then, free from other employments, are more vigorously distributed into the lower belly, which thereby contribute to the same effect.

3. Because, whenever men have leisure to eat, they have leisure enough also to make so much court to Madam Cloacina, as would be necessary to our present purpose; but else, in the variety of human affairs and accidents, it was impossible to affix it to any hour certain, whereby the custom would be interrupted. Whereas men in health seldom failing to eat once a day, tho' the hour chang'd, the custom might still be preserv'd.

Section 26. Upon these grounds the experiment began to be try'd, and I have known none who have been steady in the prosecution of it, and taken care to go constantly to the necessary-house, after their first eating, whenever that happen'd, whether they found themselves call'd on or no, and there endeavoured to put nature upon her duty, but in a few months they obtain'd the desired success, and brought themselves to so regular an habit, that they seldom ever fail'd of a stool after their first eating, unless it were by their own neglect: for, whether they have any motion or no, if they go to the place, and do their part, they are sure to have nature very obedient.

Section 27. I would therefore advise, that this course should be taken with a child every day presently after he has eaten his breakfast. Let him be set upon the stool, as if disburthening were as much in his power as filling his belly; and let not him or his maid know any thing to the contrary, but that it is so; and if he be forc'd to endeavour, by being hinder'd from his play or eating again 'till he has been effectually at stool, or at least done his utmost, I doubt not but in a little while it will become natural to him. For there is reason to suspect, that children being usually intent on their play, and very heedless of any thing else, often let pass those motions of nature, when she calls them but gently; and so they, neglecting the seasonable offers, do by degrees bring themselves into an habitual costiveness. That by this method costiveness may be prevented, I do more than guess; having known by the constant practice of it for some time, a child brought to have a stool regularly after his breakfast every morning.

Section 28. How far any grown people will think fit to make trial of it, must be left to them; tho' I cannot but say, that considering the many evils that come from that defect, of a requisite easing of nature, I scarce know any thing more conducing to the preservation of health, than this is. Once in four and twenty hours, I think is enough; and no body, I guess, will think it too much. And by this means it is to be obtain'd without physick, which commonly proves very ineffectual in the cure of a settled and habitual costiveness.

Section 29. This is all I have to trouble you with concerning his management in the ordinary course of his health. Perhaps it will be expected from me, that I should give some directions of physick, to prevent diseases; for which I have only this one, very sacredly to be observ'd, never to give children any physick for prevention. The observation of what I have already advis'd, will, I suppose, do that better than the ladies' diet-drinks or apothecaries' medicines. Have a great care of tampering that way, lest, instead of preventing, you draw on diseases. Nor even upon every little indisposition is physick to be given, or the physician to be call'd to children, especially if he be a busy man, that will presently fill their windows with gally-pots, and their stomachs with drugs. It is safer to leave them wholly to nature, than to put 'em into the hands of one forward to tamper, or that thinks children are to be cur'd, in ordinary distempers, by any thing but diet, or by a method very little distant from it: it seeming suitable both to my reason and experience, that the tender constitutions of children should have as little done to them as is possible, and as the absolute necessity of the case requires. A little cold-still'd red poppy-water, which is the true surfeit-water with ease, and abstinence from flesh, often puts an end to several distempers in the beginning, which, by too forward applications, might have been made lusty diseases. When such a gentle treatment will not stop the growing mischief, nor hinder it from turning into a form'd disease, it will be time to seek the advice of some sober and discreet physician. In this part, I hope, I shall find an easy belief; and no body can have a pretence to doubt the advice of one who has spent some time in the study of physick, when he counsels you not to be too forward in making use of physick and physicians.

Section 30. And thus I have done with what concerns the body and health, which reduces itself to these few and easy observable rules: plenty of open air, exercise, and sleep, plain diet, no wine or strong drink, and very little or no physick, not too warm and strait clothing, especially the head and feet kept cold, and the feet often us'd to cold water, and expos'd to wet.

Section 31. Due care being had to keep the body in strength and vigour, so that it may be able to obey and execute the orders of the mind; the next and principal business is, to set the mind right, that on all occasions it may be dispos'd to consent to nothing but what may be suitable to the dignity and excellency of a rational creature.

Section 32. If what I have said in the beginning of this discourse be true, as I do not doubt but it is, viz. That the difference to be found in the manners and abilities of men is owing more to their education than to any thing else, we have reason to conclude, that great care is to be had of the forming children's minds, and giving them that seasoning early, which shall influence their lives always after: For when they do well or ill, the praise and blame will be laid there; and when any thing is done awkwardly, the common saying will pass upon them, that it's suitable to their breeding.

Section 33. As the strength of the body lies chiefly in being able to endure hardships, so also does that of the mind. And the great principle and foundation of all virtue and worth is plac'd in this: that a man is able to deny himself his own desires, cross his own inclinations, and purely follow what reason directs as best, tho' the appetite lean the other way.

Section 34. The great mistake I have observ'd in people's breeding their children, has been, that this has not been taken care enough of in its due season: that the mind has not been made obedient to discipline, and pliant to reason, when at first it was most tender, most easy to be bow'd. Parents being wisely ordain'd by nature to love their children, are very apt, if reason watch not that natural affection very warily, are apt, I say, to let it run into fondness. They love their little ones and it is their duty; but they often, with them, cherish their faults too. They must not be cross'd, forsooth; they must be permitted to have their wills in all things; and they being in their infancies not capable of great vices, their parents think they may safe enough indulge their irregularities, and make themselves sport with that pretty perverseness which they think well enough becomes that innocent age. But to a fond parent, that would not have his child corrected for a perverse trick, but excus'd it, saying it was a small matter, Solon very well reply'd, aye, but custom is a great one.

Section 35. The fondling must be taught to strike and call names, must have what he cries for, and do what he pleases. Thus parents, by humouring and cockering them when little, corrupt the principles of nature in their children, and wonder afterwards to taste the bitter waters, when they themselves have poison'd the fountain. For when their children are grown up, and these ill habits with them; when they are now too big to be dandled, and their parents can no longer make use of them as play-things, then they complain that the brats are untoward and perverse; then they are offended to see them wilful, and are troubled with those ill humours which they themselves infus'd and fomented in them; and then, perhaps too late, would be glad to get out those weeds which their own hands have planted, and which now have taken too deep root to be easily extirpated. For he that hath been us'd to have his will in every thing, as long as he was in coats, why should we think it strange, that he should desire it, and contend for it still, when he is in breeches? Indeed, as he grows more towards a man, age shews his faults the more; so that there be few parents then so blind as not to see them, few so insensible as not to feel the ill effects of their own indulgence. He had the will of his maid before he could speak or go; he had the mastery of his parents ever since he could prattle; and why, now he is grown up, is stronger and wiser than he was then, why now of a sudden must he be restrain'd and curb'd? Why must he at seven, fourteen, or twenty years old, lose the privilege, which the parents' indulgence 'till then so largely allow'd him? Try it in a dog or an horse or any other creature, and see whether the ill and resty tricks they have learn'd when young, are easily to be mended when they are knit; and yet none of those creatures are half so wilful and proud, or half so desirous to be masters of themselves and others, as man.

Section 36. We are generally wise enough to begin with them when they are very young, and discipline betimes those other creatures we would make useful and good for somewhat. They are only our own offspring, that we neglect in this point; and having made them ill children, we foolishly expect they should be good men. For if the child must have grapes or sugar-plums when he has a mind to them, rather than make the poor baby cry or be out of humour; why, when, he is grown up, must he not be satisfy'd too, if his desires carry him to wine or women? They are objects as suitable to the longing of one of more years, as what he cry'd for, when little, was to the inclinations of a child. The having desires accommodated to the apprehensions and relish of those several ages, is not the fault; but the not having them subject to the rules and restraints of reason: the difference lies not in having or not having appetites, but in the power to govern, and deny ourselves in them. He that is not us'd to submit his will to the reason of others when he is young, will scarce hearken to submit to his own reason when he is of an age to make use of it. And what kind of a man such an one is like to prove, is easy to foresee.

Section 37. These are oversights usually committed by those who seem to take the greatest care of their children's education. But if we look into the common management of children, we shall have reason to wonder, in the great dissoluteness of manners which the world complains of, that there are any footsteps at all left of virtue. I desire to know what vice can be nam'd, which parents, and those about children, do not season them with, and drop into 'em the seeds of, as soon as they are capable to receive them? I do not mean by the examples they give, and the patterns they set before them, which is encouragement enough; but that which I would take notice of here is, the downright teaching them vice, and actual putting them out of the way of virtue. Before they can go, they principle 'em with violence, revenge, and cruelty. Give me a blow, that I may beat him, is a lesson which most children every day hear; and it is thought nothing, because their hands have not strength to do any mischief. But I ask, does not this corrupt their mind? Is not this the way of force and violence, that they are set in? And if they have been taught when little, to strike and hurt others by proxy, and encourag'd to rejoice in the harm they have brought upon them, and see them suffer, are they not prepar'd to do it when they are strong enough to be felt themselves, and can strike to some purpose?

The coverings of our bodies which are for modesty, warmth and defence, are by the folly or vice of parents recommended to their children for other uses. They are made matters of vanity and emulation. A child is set a-longing after a new suit, for the finery of it; and when the little girl is trick'd up in her new gown and commode, how can her mother do less than teach her to admire herself, by calling her, her little queen and her princess? Thus the little ones are taught to be proud of their clothes before they can put them on. And why should they not continue to value themselves for their outside fashionableness of the taylor or tirewoman's making, when their parents have so early instructed them to do so?

Lying and equivocations, and excuses little different from lying, are put into the mouths of young people, and commended in apprentices and children, whilst they are for their master's or parents' advantage. And can it be thought, that he that finds the straining of truth dispens'd with, and encourag'd, whilst it is for his godly master's turn, will not make use of that privilege for himself, when it may be for his own profit?

Those of the meaner sort are hinder'd, by the straitness of their fortunes, from encouraging intemperance in their children by the temptation of their diet, or invitations to eat or drink more than enough; but their own ill examples, whenever plenty comes in their way, shew, that 'tis not the dislike of drunkenness or gluttony, that keeps them from excess, but want of materials. But if we look into the houses of those who are a little warmer in their fortunes, their eating and drinking are made so much the great business and happiness of life, that children are thought neglected, if they have not their share of it. Sauces and ragoos, and food disguis'd by all the arts of cookery, must tempt their palates, when their bellies are full; and then, for fear the stomach should be overcharg'd, a pretence is found for t'other glass of wine to help digestion, tho' it only serves to increase the surfeit.

Is my young master a little out of order, the first question is, What will my dear eat? What shall I get for thee? Eating and drinking are instantly press'd; and every body's invention is set on work, to find out something luscious and delicate enough to prevail over that want of appetite, which nature has wisely order'd in the beginning of distempers, as a defence against their increase; that being freed from the ordinary labour of digesting any new load in the stomach, she may be at leisure to correct and master the peccant humours.

And where children are so happy in the care of their parents, as by their prudence to be kept from the excess of their tables, to the sobriety of a plain and simple diet, yet there too they are scarce to be preserv'd from the contagion that poisons the mind; though, by a discreet management whilst they are under tuition, their healths perhaps may be pretty well secure, yet their desires must needs yield to the lessons which every where will be read to them upon this part of epicurism. The commendation that eating well has every where, cannot fail to be a successful incentive to natural appetites, and bring them quickly to the liking and expence of a fashionable table. This shall have from every one, even the reprovers of vice, the title of living well. And what shall sullen reason dare to say against the publick testimony? Or can it hope to be heard, if it should call that luxury, which is so much own'd and universally practis'd by those of the best quality?

This is now so grown a vice, and has so great supports, that I know not whether it do not put in for the name of virtue; and whether it will not be thought folly, or want of knowledge of the world, to open one's mouth against it? And truly I should suspect, that what I have here said of it, might be censur'd as a little satire out of my way, did I not mention it with this view, that it might awaken the care and watchfulness of parents in the education of their children, when they see how they are beset on every side, not only with temptations, but instructors to vice, and that, perhaps, in those they thought places of security.

I shall not dwell any longer on this subject, much less run over all the particulars that would shew what pains are us'd to corrupt children, and instil principles of vice into them: but I desire parents soberly to consider, what irregularity or vice there is which children are not visibly taught, and whether it be not their duty and wisdom to provide them other instructions.

Section 38. It seems plain to me, that the principle of all virtue and excellency lies in a power of denying ourselves the satisfaction of our own desires, where reason does not authorize them. This power is to be got and improv'd by custom, made easy and familiar by an early practice. If therefore I might be heard, I would advise, that, contrary to the ordinary way, children should be us'd to submit their desires, and go without their longings, even from their very cradles. The first thing they should learn to know, should be, that they were not to have anything because it pleas'd them, but because it was thought fit for them. If things suitable to their wants were supply'd to them, so that they were never suffer'd to have what they once cry'd for, they would learn to be content without it, would never, with bawling and peevishness, contend for mastery, nor be half so uneasy to themselves and others as they are, because from the first beginning they are not thus handled. If they were never suffer'd to obtain their desire by the impatience they express'd for it, they would no more cry for another thing, than they do for the moon.

Section 39. I say not this, as if children were not to be indulg'd in anything, or that I expected they should in hanging-sleeves have the reason and conduct of counsellors. I consider them as children, who must be tenderly us'd, who must play, and have play-things. That which I mean, is, that whenever they crav'd what was not fit for them to have or do, they should not be permitted it because they were little, and desir'd it: nay, whatever they were importunate for, they should be sure, for that very reason, to be deny'd. I have seen children at a table, who, whatever was there, never ask'd for anything, but contentedly took what was given them; and at another place, I have seen others cry for everything they saw; must be serv'd out of every dish, and that first too. What made this vast difference but this? that one was accustom'd to have what they call'd or cry'd for, the other to go without it. The younger they are, the less I think are their unruly and disorderly appetites to be comply'd with; and the less reason they have of their own, the more are they to be under the absolute power and restraint of those in whose hands they are. From which I confess it will follow, that none but discreet people should be about them. If the world commonly does otherwise, I cannot help that. I am saying what I think should be; which if it were already in fashion, I should not need to trouble the world with a discourse on this subject. But yet I doubt not, but when it is consider'd, there will be others of opinion with me, that the sooner this way is begun with children, the easier it will be for them and their governors too; and that this ought to be observ'd as an inviolable maxim, that whatever once is deny'd them, they are certainly not to obtain by crying or importunity, unless one has a mind to teach them to be impatient and troublesome, by rewarding them for it when they are so.