The Mothers of England/Chapter II

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1352245The Mothers of England — Chapter II. Authority, Influence, and ExampleSarah Stickney Ellis



It is a great point gained, in studying the true "science of life", to know when to be little and when to be great. In venturing to write upon the duties of woman as a wife, I have been charged with wishing to place her in too low a scale. Perhaps I have not been so fortunate as to make my ideas fully understood; for—although I still think that, as a wife, woman should place herself, instead of running the risk of being placed, in a secondary position—as a mother, I do not see how it is possible for her to be too dignified, or to be treated with too much respect.

Yet it is of the utmost importance to those who undertake the management of children, that they should have clear ideas of the difference between authority and influence, and of the necessary dependance of both upon example.

Although, strictly speakings there can be no such thing as authority without influence, yet when we speak of authority simply as such, we mean nothing more than that there exists, for the time being, a power in one party to enforce a Command, and a willingness in the other to obey. There are kind and gentle mothers who think that authority has little or nothing to do with the education of their children; and there are, on the other hand, persons educated in the old schools who consider authority as the only instrument they have to work with, in producing the effect which mental and moral discipline are desired to produce upon the young. It is common with individuals of the latter class to speak of "breaking the natural will," as if the will was an excrescence which had to be removed, or a branch which had to be lopped off, before any good could be expected to be done. Hence those horrible whippings of former times, those shuttings up in dark chambers, and those other varieties of mental and bodily punishment—all which had about as much efficacy in softening the natural temper, and subduing the spirit of pride, as the sprinkling on of water has in the extinguishing of burning coals. Indeed, one can scarcely imagine anything more congenial to the formation of desperate and malignant resolutions, than to be forcibly snatched up—as some of us can remember to have been—thrust, struggling, into a dark and unoccupied room, and there locked up, and left; so that, scream as we would (and few, under such circumstances, would not do their best), the sound of our distress was beyond the reach of any human ear.

Happily for the human race, however, these times are past, and the too severe application of direct and unsparing punishment is not the fashion of the present day. I say happily for the human race, because it is not possible for the most unbounded indulgence, as a system, to produce consequences so lamentable in their general effects, as a system of harshness and severity practised upon the tender and susceptible nature of youth. To those kind and gentle mothers who consider mere authority as too stern an instrument to work with in the training of their children, we must then in justice grant, that theirs is the lesser evil of the two.

Where this evil on the, mother's part arises from excessive tenderness, and unwillingness to give pain, it will perhaps be a little startling to hear it asserted, that if she set herself to devise a plan for ensuring the future misery of her child, next in degree of efficacy, though widely different in nature, to that which has already been alluded to, she could not find one more effectual than that of neglecting to instil into its mind the necessity of implicit obedience. Once convinced of this necessity, which it easily may be, by never being allowed to call in question the authority of those under whose care it is placed, the child grows up without the least idea that the rule of obedience is a hardship, or in fact without any idea of obedience at all; for it submits habitually to rightful authority, just as we submit every day to those circumstances over which we have no control. In this manner the habit of submitting the natural will is imperceptibly acquired, a world of fruitless and painful contention is avoided, and the child really enjoys the advantage of being constantly under the direction of wisdom, forethought, and experience, superior to its own.

The maintenance of this unyielding authority on the part of the mother, requires, it would seem, some little tact and skill; for some who are the most imperative in their commands, are in reality the least obeyed. That hasty slaps, loud talking, and harsh words, have nothing whatever to do with the system of discipline here recommended, it is scarcely necessary to say; neither that weakest and most fruitless sort of pleading, which consists of a perpetual repetition of "Now do," and "Now don't;" and still less do threatenings and bribes enter into the scheme proposed; but a steady and consistent method being in early infancy, and never on any occasion whatever departed from, of requiring obedience to the parent's wishes, simply as such, accompanied by a strict regard to clearness, consistency, and truth, in making those wishes known.

To a child trained up in this manner, obedience is so easy, that it no more thinks of questioning the mother's right to direct its actions, than it quarrels with the nurse because she stretches out her arms to prevent its falling. Nor is there more severity in the exercise of such authority, than in the protecting care which preserves an infant from corporeal harm. Ninety-nine out of every hundred of the whims and wishes of a child, would, if it were possible to gratify them, be productive of more pain than pleasure; and thus it is necessary, even for its happiness, that they should be subjected to the decision of another. Let the little hero, before he is able to walk, thrust away the hand of the nurse as he will, she suffers no symptoms of vexation on his part to prevent her necessary assistance, because she knows, and in this she judges for herself without consulting him, that the child would be more hurt by a fall, than by being the subject of a mere momentary vexation. And the mother knows, or rather she ought to know, that upon the same principle her child would suffer more by discovering that he had the power to contradict and oppose his mother's wishes, than by being deprived of some little gratification of fancy or desire, which in all probability would please him only for a moment.

By the habit of obedience too, when practised toward a judicious and consistent mother, the child soon learns. as if by a sort of instinct, what is the general nature of its mother's wishes, so that it will often combine the pleasure of anticipating them, with the duty of compliance.

All weak persons unacquainted with the world, and disappointed in their own experience, are naturally miserable when unsupported, and left to themselves. What then must be the suffering of a child whose own will is its only law, and who has not learned what is right and wrong, nor even what is possible and impossible to be had, or done! We see its sufferings written on its anxious, irritated countenance. We behold in its manner, alternately irresolute and determined, the caprice and waywardness by which it is disturbed. We hear the agony of its disappointment after each successive attempt to do what was impracticable, or what was fraught with danger and pain; and we ask of the mother, in common kindness, to establish for her child a rule of safety and of peace, and to let that rule be—implicit obedience to her own authority.

It is distressing even to the casual observer, to mark, in the impatient, feverish, irritable character of such a child, the wretchedness which is preparing for it in after life; and not in after life alone, for each day is fraught with suffering to the little being who is thus allowed to be a law unto itself, before it has the means of understanding what is right or safe, pleasant or possible, to possess. Yes, we can many of us feelingly attest what it was to spend a day—and happy for those with whom a day was all—in company with the child who was suffered to crush the hot patty into its mouth, to make tea for its mamma, and consequently to pour the scalding water upon its breast, to climb the edge of the round table upon which soup had been placed, to burn its fingers by roasting its own apple at the fire, to eat more at every meal than it had power to digest, and to allay the cravings of a diseased appetite by having one hand perpetually supplied with sugar-candy, and the other with sweet-cake; to finish all, by sitting up late at night because it did not choose to go to bed.

Nor need we add to this catalogue those offences of which the child takes no cognizance, such as gingerbread stuck upon the visiter's chair, and butter smeared upon her dress; nor those dreadful eruptions of passion and distress which take place whenever offences abound, so that the parents, or perhaps an irritated father, thinks it necessary to correct the child as it is called. Neither is it necessary to dwell upon the multiplication of these evils where the family is numerous, and confusion is consequently worse confounded. I would only add, that to all these, and more a hundred-fold, the fond mother has subjected her children, from failing to enforce the simple and pleasant duty of implicit obedience, which would have made all things comparatively easy. Not that I am visionary enough to assert that wherever authority is consistently maintained there will be at all times, and on the instant, a willing obedience, with an absence of wrong tempers, feverish ailments, and perverseness of disposition; but I am confident in asserting, that the greatest kindness we can do to a helpless ignorant, and inexperienced being, is to furnish it with a guide upon which it may safely and implicitly depend, and at this guide to a child ought to be the undisputed authority of its parents, or of those whom they may deem worthy of being deputed to act in their stead.

Then again it is prompt obedience that is required, for no other will answer the end of producing family concord, and individual satisfaction. A lingering, pleading, lengthened-out dispute, betwixt the mother and the child, even when the mother gains the mastery in the end, is the very opposite in its results to what all rational parents would desire; and the little girl who keeps her nurse waiting for her a whole hour, because she entreats her mother every ten minutes that she may stay up a little longer, has to be carried off to bed at nine o'clock, with as much screaming and opposition as there would have been at eight, and with the additional injury to her health and temper, of having suffered the loss of her natural rest; with the still worse addition of having discovered, that by pleading and coaxing she can overcome her mother's influence, and set aside her determination to enforce what is right.

Habit, which is said to be second nature with all, is almost more than that with children. Thus the habit of resisting and disputing authority, by whatever means it may be done, lets in a tide of evil consequences not to be arrested by any occasional resumption of the power which has been voluntarily resigned. The maintenance of authority is like the preservation of a siring of beads—break but the "silken cord on which they hang," and the pearls are scattered in disorder, if not irretrievably lost. By suffering the rule of obedience to be set aside, an endless catalogue of evil tempers, vexations, disappointments, artifices, mean subterfuges, and even the worst of all, bribery—the bribery of self-interested endearments—are allowed to take the place of that steady, calm, and undeviating submission, which costs no pain, and requires no sacrifice, simply because it is habitual.

There is no spectacle in life more deplorable, and few more calculated to awaken feelings of contempt, than that of an undisciplined and pettish temper fretting against and resisting what is inevitable; and yet all this folly, as well as the suffering with which it is always associated, is necessarily consequent upon that error in the management of childhood, which allows of rightful authority being made the subject of resistance and dispute. On the other hand, we never contemplate human nature in a more noble or dignified position, than when, under the dispensation of Divine, and consequently indisputable power, it yields a willing and prompt obedience.

It may be said that the obedience of a child to those who superintend its infant years, has nothing whatever to do with the submission of beings more rational and mature to laws which they acknowledge to be divine; but I am fully persuaded that the habit of rebellion against human authority, allowed in early life, will render the habit of submission to a higher power of more difficult attainment in after years; while, on the other hand, the same proportion of opposite results will follow from a prompt and undeviating subjection of the weaker to the stronger, during those early stages of existence when it is impossible that the reasons for enforcing a parent's commands should be fully understood.

Among the records preserved to us of the dealings of God with man in the early history of the world, nothing is more striking than the manner in which this principle of unquestioning obedience was enforced. Until the rule of simple obedience was acknowledged, nothing could be done toward the development of those higher principles which were afterward to enlighten and regenerate mankind. It was the entire submission of the ignorant to the wise, of the weak to the strong, of the erring to the steadfast, of the guilty to the stainless and pure, that was required, before any more profound and expansive system of discipline could be brought to operate upon the different characters and habits of mankind; and although the child will soon, too soon, discover that its earthly parent is not so perfect as its young affection had taught it to believe, still, until it can bring into competition with that parent an equal amount of ability to discern betwixt the evil and the good, it ought never to be permitted to feel that there is a way of escape from the rule of implicit obedience.

And this obedience, I repeat, may be rendered as easy as it is to submit to the darkness of night at a certain hour, or to the cold of winter at a certain season of the year. We do not often see children go into convulsions of rage because a shower of rain is falling, and thus preventing their expected walk. Convince them that it actually does rain, and, feeling that the calamity though great, is inevitable, they submit accordingly, and often return with a cheerfulness which might instruct their seniors, to the amusements or occupations which they had been busy with before. In this case they submit without murmuring, because they know that no pleading of theirs, no coaxing, no bribery, ever did make the rain cease at their bidding; and here is no doubt but they would evince the same prompt and cheerful submission to parental authority, if it was exercised in a consistent and undeviating manner.

It is true we sometimes hear a short and sudden sigh from the child who is called away at a certain hour to leave a flattering circle in the drawing-room, for the obscurity of the nursery, and I am far from supposing that habitual obedience never costs an effort at the moment it is required; but I speak of the effort as one which by comparison is reduced to almost nothing; and I appeal for the truth of this assertion to the cheerfulness, serenity, and absence of unnecessary disappointment, observable in children who are brought up under that system of unquestioning obedience, which is the only true foundation of all discipline in the management of children, of all social comfort in their homes, and of all satisfaction to those who have the trouble and anxiety of watching over them.

Although the exercise of that authority which is here so earnestly recommended, might seem from its direct and undeviating character, to be one of the easiest things in the world, it is as has already been observed, one of the most difficult consistently to carry out; because the natural weakness of the mother's heart is ever tempting her to risk the future good of her child, for the sake of its immediate gratification. And here, if ever, we see the necessity there is for women to attain that self-mastery, and to cultivate that moral courage, without which they are incapable of working out any lasting good by their influence over others.

It is that little sigh that we have just alluded to, that appealing look, perhaps through the mist of tears, or, more than all, that sweet spirit of resignation with which the child throws up its game not yet played out, and turns to hang upon the neck of its nurse, which melts the mother's firmness, and makes her determine that, for once at least, its unresisting compliance shall be rewarded by a deviation from the accustomed rule. Thus the poor child learns how to appeal another time. It learns to anticipate these deviations, and to consider itself aggrieved when they are not allowed. Thus, in short, the silken cord is broken, and the pearls lie scattered.

Thus too we see, that however devoted to the happiness of her children the fond mother may be, however amiable herself, however well-intentioned with regard to the performance of her maternal duties, there must be in her management of a family a prospective reference to the future, a calculation as to cause and effect, and a power of self-government, so as in all things to make the lesser subservient to the greater good; all which an education of accomplishments, and a youth of visiting and vanity, are but little calculated to supply. It remains, therefore, to be the more earnestly urged upon the mothers of England, that so far as they are able, they should look well to these things, and endeavor to obviate, in the education of their children, the evils they have to deplore in their own.

Our next subject of consideration is influence, and here we come at once to the great secret of woman's power in her social and domestic character. By absolute and mere authority it is little indeed that woman can do, because the weakness of her bodily frame, and the natural susceptibility of her feelings, render her wholly unfit for wielding the weapon of authority to any useful purpose, and especially in her management of boys. Indeed it is a sight most pitiful to contemplate, where a poor feeble mother, unsupported by any moral or intellectual influence, deals out among her unheeding children, alternate slaps and thrusts, accompanied by the tone and language of command, without its apparently anticipated results; while she wonders in her own mind, and sometimes inquires of her friends, how it can be that her children are more rebellious than others, though undergoing either scolding or chastisement every day of their lives. Such, for the most part, is the situation of woman when attempting to exercise authority without having obtained influence; for though authority alone may be made available in the management of infancy, no sooner is the discovery made, that the requisites for maintaining influence are wanting in the mother, than she becomes in some degree an object of contempt, and her commands are consequently set at naught.

It is just possible that there should be among women some of those stern, cold, commanding characters, to which authority, simply as such, appropriately belongs. Happily, however, such mothers are but rarely found, and, where they are, present a strange deviation from the usual course of nature, the contemplation of which has the effect of making us admire the more the harmony and beauty of that course as it most uniformly flows.

If, however, authority belongs as a natural right to such characters, the finer and more vital elements of moral influence never can be theirs; and to imagine the tenderness of childhood committed to a mother of this description, is to call up a picture too revolting for the mind to dwell upon without shrinking and horror. Such a mother may possibly govern the actions of her children by the exercise of absolute power, but she can never know the sweet security of moral influence, which operates as effectually when distant and unseen, as when every act of youth is watched by the most scrutinizing eye.

At the root of all good influence is example. The conduct, mind, and spirit of the mother give a tone to that domestic atmosphere by which the soul in its early experience is sustained. Where that atmosphere is impregnated with the elements of discord, arising from the rude passions and wrong tempers of the parents, and of the household in general, it is impossible that the spirit of childhood should be kept in a healthy state; nor even where the members of a family are addicted to melancholy and reserve, can the younger branches be said to exist in a genial or wholesome air.

It has been beautifully observed by the author of Home Education, a book which all mothers ought to read, that "the recollection of a thoroughly happy childhood—other advantages not wanting—is the very best preparation, moral and intellectual, with which to encounter the duties and cares of real life. A sunshine childhood is an auspicious inheritance, with which, as a fund, to commence trading in practical wisdom and active goodness. It is a great thing only to have known by experience that tranquil, temperate felicity is actually attainable on earth. How many have pursued a reckless course, because, or chiefly because, they early learned to think of happiness as a chimera, and believed momentary gratification to be the only substitute placed within the reach of man! Practicable happiness is much oftener thrown away than really snatched from us; but it is the most likely to be pursued, overtaken, and husbanded, by those who already, and during some considerable period of their lives, have been happy. To have known nothing but misery, is the most portentous condition under which human nature can pursue its course."

It is a fact universally acknowledged, that the healthy tone of the domestic atmosphere, as well as the general cheerfulness of the household, depend very much upon the mother. In her capacity of a wife and mistress of a family, she is the one responsible being for the general arrangement and combination of the different elements of social and domestic comfort. She is the arbiter in all trivial disputes, the soother of all jarring and discord, the explainer of all misunderstandings, and, in short, the mainspring of the machinery by which social and domestic happiness is constantly supplied, both in her household, and within the circle she adorns.

We can not, perhaps, better describe the effect of moral atmosphere upon the mind, than by that of a pleasant or unpleasant day, spent in the country, upon the bodily frame. Upon the health and spirits of some individuals the weather has, at all times, a powerful effect; but while earnestly pursuing our accustomed avocations—more especially as they are now generally pursued in busy towns—we have little time to think about the weather, or to yield ourselves to the sensations it is calculated to excite. But when we go out. from home for the purpose of enjoying an excursion, the case is widely different. With a cold east wind blowing full in our faces, and a thick canopy of clouds obscuring the sun, we look in vain for beauty or gladness, either in the earth or sky—and, sinking into a gloomy sort of silence, we think only of the rheumatism which seems to be twitching at every limb, of the friend we have left behind as the only companion we really cared for, or of the clothing and provisions we have happened to bring as being the least suitable in every respect for a cold day in the country. Arrived at the place of destination, our feet are benumbed with cold—the grass is yet damp with the last night's rain—a general shivering, with an impulse to get away, creeps over us—we grow caustic and bitter in our remarks, and finally end the day with the commencement of a severe cold.

When the same party—precisely the same in number, character, and means of enjoyment—set out on the same excursion in beautiful weather, how different are their bodily sensations, and consequently the tone of every mind! The scenery through which they pass is the same in every respect, except that the atmosphere is changed. A balmy air breathes over them, laden with the odors of fresh opening flowers—sunshine smiles upon every object—and, as they pass along, vexations, disappointments, and drawbacks to enjoyment, are all forgotten. What if the friend who had promised to accompany them be left behind? They feel no want of him. What if their viands are the homeliest or the least approved? Their appetites, sharpened beyond their usual vigor, are equal to the provision made for them, whatever that may be. As to rheumatism, they forget that ever it assailed their peace—while influenza and ague are calamities the mention of which awakens only a smile. It is especially on such days that charity abounds—that benevolence embraces those whom it would have spurned before—that ambition, wealth, and fame, become as nothing in comparison with good-humor and good-will; and all things being blended happily together by the magical influence of what is called a pleasant day, the party return to their homes with health and energies renewed, and not unfrequently both better and wiser than when they first went out.

It must be remembered that the sensations here described are continued only for a day; whereas those with whom we live, and especially those with whom we associate in early life, affect us by their influence and example perhaps for many years,

I repeat, then, it is to woman that we look for so directing the various capabilities with which she is naturally endowed, as to create around her a moral atmosphere, as powerful in its effect upon the mind, as that which has just been described is upon the body, and consequently upon both.

Much has been said, and justly, of the importance, to women, of good talents and well-cultivated minds; yet it must be allowed that not always do the wisest women—nor, unfortunately, the most pious— make the best mothers. A simple, straight-forward character, will sometimes evince infinitely more skill in the management of children than some of those whose minds are stored with systems of education. The fact is, these systems, unless naturally and appropriately conducted, are not intelligible to children. The aim and object of the mother remain a mystery to them—while they distinctly feel, and long remember, all that is disagreeable in the mode of administering the elaborate, and to them incomprehensible, discipline to which they are subjected. The wisest women are not always best acquainted with the language of infant thought, nor is it the most pious who are quickest to delect the indications of peculiar character and temperament in early life. It is a lamentable fact, that half the excellent advice of good people addressed to children, as well as to the illiterate and the poor, falls from their lips unheeded, for want of being adapted to the understandings and habits of their hearers. "To-morrow is my birthday," said a little girl of my acquaintance to a friend who had placed her on his knee. "Shall I come and help you to keep it?" asked the gentleman. "Oh!" replied the child, with the utmost astonishment, "we don't keep it. It goes away again directly." Now, if, in so common and familiar an expression as that of keeping a birthday, there could be so total a want of understanding betwixt the two parties referred to, how often must such misapprehensions take place on subjects less familiar, and in themselves less comprehensible, to the young!

It is thus that the highly gifted, whose ideas are accustomed to flow through lofty or intricate channels, so often fail to produce the anticipated results in their tuition of the young; while persons with common abilities and simplicity of character are frequently able to engage their attention and obtain their confidence, simply from the fact of their being understood. Thus, then, we clearly perceive, that in our means of conveying instruction to children, there must be a certain degree of adaptation to the germes of thought and feeling already beginning to unfold themselves in their characters. There must be adaptation to their half-formed impressions, and to the limited scope of their ideas, in order to our certainty that their mental faculties are going along with us in our efforts to impart instruction.

But far beyond this, in our endeavors to obtain influence, is the power of sympathizing with those whom we would instruct or guide; and in this instance, above all others, we see that from her natural endowments, especially from her capability both for profound and lively sympathy, woman is admirably fitted for the part she has to fill in social life. If influence be the secret of her power, sympathy is the secret of her influence—sympathy with nature in its trials, temptations, sufferings, and enjoyment, experienced in a degree far beyond what man is either fitted for, or capable of affording.

It is of the highest importance, too, that this sympathy should be exhibited through the medium of tenderness, so as to inspire a confidence on the part of the young, in the mother's undeviating desire to promote their happiness. A single suspicion that she prefers her own good to that of others—but, above all, that she prefers giving pain to giving pleasure, or finding fault to expressing approbation, is just so much weight taken from her good influence—just so much impulse given to rebellion qr contempt.

How beautiful, then, in its adaptation to the situation in which she is placed, and the duties she has to perform, is that instinct of maternal love, which, from its intensity and depth, its all-pervading and inextinguishable vitality, so lives and breathes through every act, thought, word, and look of the fond mother, that sooner would her infant doubt its own existence, than question that of her untiring love! And, thanks be to the Author of all our blessings! this unbounded supply, which no reasoning and no power of mere human agency could create, is never wanting in the mother's hour of need. That she has her hour of need, none can dispute, who know anything of the care of infancy and childhood. Yes; she has it in sickness, when her feeble strength is exhausted, and yet she watches on. She has it in poverty, when hunger craves the bread she is breaking into little eager hands. She has it when, night after night, she is called up from her downy pillow to still the impatient cry. She has it when, in after years, there comes not the full measure of affection which she had expended, back into her own bosom. And she has it when disease has crushed the beauty of her opening flower, or when she looks into the casket of her infant's mind, and finds that the gem is wanting there. Yet, under all these circumstances, when money can not bribe attention, when friendship can not purchase care, when entreaties can not ensure the necessary aid, the mother is rich in resources and untiring in effort, simply because her love is of that kind which can not fail.

To a certain extent-and would that for the sake of kind but injudicious mothers it were further than it is—the mere conviction of this love existing in the mother's heart will ensure a corresponding degree of influence. But no sooner do children begin to think, to compare, and to judge for themselves—and they are sometimes better judges than we suppose—no sooner do they begin to form an estimate of their mother's mind, of her sense or her want of sense, than these ideas mix themselves with that of her affection, and her influence is then submitted to a new, an infinitely more trying test.

Children seldom love long those whom they are unable to respect, and thus a fond and foolish mother invariably brings upon herself the neglect, and often the contempt of her family. I knew a fine boy, just emerging from childhood, who whispered to a little playmate the discovery he had made, that his mother was, to use his own expression, "quite a simpleton." The mingling of tenderness with shame, in the manner in which he communicated this lamentable fact, did honor both to his head and heart; and could the mother have known or understood the melancholy blank which succeeded to the warmest admiration in the mind of her boy, and the hard struggles he had afterward to wage betwixt his affection and his contempt, she would surely have regretted, even if she had done nothing more, the many opportunities which had been wasted in early life, for cultivating her understanding, and rendering her talents more worthy of respect.

There must then be a blending of confidence with esteem in the feelings of the child, in order to ensure a lasting influence to the mother— of confidence founded upon a conviction of her sympathy and love, and of esteem for her own character, both in an intellectual and moral point of view.

On the subject of example, much more remains to be said, when that of religious influence shall come under consideration; but it is, perhaps, most in keeping with the observations already made, to remind the reader here, that there is a bad, as well as a good influence—that influence there must be, of one kind or other, arising out of the close connexion and constant association of the mother and the child; and that where good sense and good principle are wanting in the mother's conduct, the absence of these essentials to good influence, especially the latter, will, in all probability, tell upon the characters of her children in after life to an alarming extent. In vain might such a mother train her children according to the most-approved and best-established rules. In vain might she admonish them, though in the language of sincerity and love. In vain might she lay down for them a system of the purest morals, or even preach to them a holier law derived from the Bible itself. The unsophisticated mind, and clear discriminating eye of childhood, are not to be thus deceived. Long before a child knows how to make use of the words consistency and truth, it possesses a discerning spirit, to perceive where consistency is deviated from, where truth is violated; and when this is the case in the conduct of the mother, what hold can she possibly have upon the confidence and esteem of her children?

We should remember, too, that impressions are with children the data from which they afterward reason; and long before they are capable of what may be strictly denominated conviction, they have in all probability received impressions never to be effaced. Could we look into the mind of a child, and examine the tablet of its memory, we should see by that faithful record, that each day had produced a particular set of impressions, even at a very early age. We discover this from their prattle in their waking hours, and often from the image which evidently flits before their mental vision, when they lie down to sleep. It is, therefore, by impressions chiefly, that the mother has to work; and well is it for her, and for all who have to do with the management of children, if, while delivering lectures to them upon what is right and wrong, they do not receive the impression that it is very tedious and very disagreeable to be instructed how to be good. Well, too, if, while the mother is most careful to instil into their minds by verbal instruction, all manner of good principles, they do not, from her conduct, receive the impression that these things may be well enough for little boys and girls, but that one of the great privileges of men and women is to be able to do without them. Yet, if such be the power of influence on the side of bad example, what must it be where there exists a perfect harmony between the character and conduct of the mother, and the lessons she endeavors to inculcate; or rather, where the lessons themselves, few, and short, and perfectly adapted to the understanding of childhood, are but a commentary upon her own life, and that of her husband?

So much has been said, and so beautifully, on the subject of female influence, in a work entitled "Woman's Mission," that were I to yield to the temptation of quoting from its eloquent pages, I might easily be led on to transcribe the whole. I will, however, content myself with a passage from Aimé Martin, whose authority is frequently referred to in that volume, where he says, "It is of the utmost consequence to remark, that in children, sentiment precedes intelligence; the first answer to the maternal smile is the first dawn of intelligence; the first sensation is the responding caress. Comprehension begins in feeling; hence, to her who first arouses the feelings, who first awakens the tenderness, must belong the happiest influences. She is not, however, to teach virtue, but to inspire it. This is peculiarly the province of woman. What she wishes us to be, she begins by making us love, and love begets unconscious imitation. What is a child in relation to a tutor? An ignorant being whom he is called upon to instruct. What is a child in relation to a mother? An immortal being, whose soul it is her business to train for immortality. Good schoolmasters make good scholars,—good mothers make good men; here is the difference of their missions."

Few subjects are more hackneyed, or more common to all writers, than that of maternal influence. Perhaps it it may be one of those, which, admitting of no question, and incapable of arousing systematic opposition, wants the interest of perpetual excitement, which party feeling gives to so many others less worthy of regard. It is not, like too much of the religion of the world, kept alive by the activity of contention for those points upon which it is possible to disagree, and only dormant with regard to others upon which all are of one mind; for on the subject of maternal influence, nature, reason, and religion, speak ever the same language, and would equally disown a violation of this great moral law. Yet as a strange anomaly presented by human life, there are women, and kind and well-meaning women too, who seem not to be aware that the sacred name of mother entails upon them an amount of responsibility proportioned to the influence which it places in their hands. There are mothers, and not a few, who appear to consider themselves called upon to do anything, rather than attendto the training of their children; who find time for morning calls, when they have none for the nursery or the school-room; and even make the dresses of their infants, rather than answer questions dictated by their opening minds.

It has often been said that no man, however depraved or vicious, need be utterly despaired of, with whom his mother's influence still lingers on the side of virtue. On the couch of sickness, the battle-field, and even the gloomy scaffold, it is the image of his mother which still haunts the memory of the dying man; and in the hour of strong temptation, when guilty comrades urge the treacherous or the bloody deed, it is to forget the warning of his mother's voice, that the half-persuaded victim drinks^ a deeper draught.

If in scenes like these a mother's influence is the last preserving link, how sweetly does it operate when life is new, and experience yet unsullied by any deep or lasting stains! How sweetly does it operate, like a kind of second conscience, more tender, more forgiving, yet still more appealing than the first, in all those minor perplexities and trials of human life, where judgment, bribed by inclination, would persuade the unpractised traveller, that the most flowery path must surely be the best! It is in the beginning and the end of evil, that this power, though often unseen, and purely spiritual, operates with a potency peculiarly its own—in the beginning, to win us back by that simple and habitual reference of a child to what would have been its mother's choice; and in the end, by that last lingering of expiring hope—that hovering, as it were, around our pillow, of some kind angel, reminding us at once of the tenderness of earthly love, and of the efficacy of that which is divine.

There seems to be connected with the human mind, and almost essential to its wants in this probationary state, an idea of the protection of some guardian spirit always near. whose peculiar care we have the happiness to be; and the closest resemblance we find in reality to this consoling and delightful thought, is the influence of a mother, often felt more powerfully when absent, than when under the inspection of her ever-watchful eye. Nor can change of scene or lapse of time obliterate the impression, simply because it was the first, and made at a time when the heart was a tender and willing recipient to the impress of affection. Thus it visits the rude sailor on the stormy deep, in the long watches of the night; it travels with the pilgrim through the desert, and cheers him in the stranger's home; and if it does not check the man of worldly calculations when tempted to defraud, it sometimes brings him, on his couch of nightly rest, to question whether he has done right. It gives music to the voice of fame, when it echoes on a mother's ear; sweetness to the bridal wreath, when a mother binds it on a daughter's brow; honor to the dignity, a mother showed us how to wear; and value to the wealth, a mother taught us how to use.

I speak not from experience, for to me the precious link was broken before I felt its power, or could appreciate its worth; but if an aching want of that which nature pines for, if a dim vision of unseen beauty haunting perpetually the path of life, if a standard of perfect though unknown excellence imparting stability and form to the hope of its existence on earth;—if all these give a title to describe the value of a mother's influence, then, from the recollections of a desolate childhood, uncherished by maternal tenderness, surely I may speak, and not in vain.