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Effects of Injudicious Reading.
lating food, and medicated drinks and doses, till they are ready, almost, to take fire on the application of the least spark. And does any one suppose thay'the mind can be cool in such a babitation ? Does any one suppose, that while the house in which it lives is in a condition to be ignited at any moment, the soul can be either pure or safe ?
But we have not seen the full effects of these writings. The generation that has been reared most exclusively on the miserable nutriment they afford, has not yet come upon the stage of action. Its education is yet going on. Those who live thirty or fifty years hence, if any such shall escape the general anarchy and carnage, can better tell us what have been the sad consequences of the novel reading of the present day.
We have some facts, however, daily exhibited, which have a bearing on this subject. You see the seducer--you see the ruin in which he involves society. You behold instances, quite too numerous, of matrimonial unhappiness and discord. You see, not unfrequently, the husband or the wife, and especially the newly married, rush into eternity through the aid of the knife and the halter. Nay, you see, or you may have seen, not long ago, two persons of intelligence and comparative respectability, in the city of Boston, whose hearts had been recently united, rush madly into the grave together. Inquire what was the character of these persons ? Will you not find they were novel readers ? Will you not find they were accustomed, from infancy, to dreams of happiness which it was not possible they could ever realize, and to principles of action as remote from the best-from the principles of the Bible—as heaven is remote from hell? Is there no meaning in all this?
One of the late numbers of Parley's Magazine contains a story which seems not inapplicable to our present purpose.
We will venture to insert it; and we do it with the more cheerfulness, because we know it to be strictly true. It is in the form of a letter to the editor.
• I lately heard the following singular anecdote of some boys in Dorchester, near this city. There were four of them, all living in the same neighborhood, and two of them were brothers.
• They had been reading the story of Robinson Crusoe, and were very much delighted with his way of living. So they put their heads together, and formed the very wise plan of living in the same manner.
• Having accordingly provided themselves with guns, powder,
Caution to Parents.
and some money and provisions, they started off privately, intending to go to the island of Nantucket; and there, separated from all the world, live as independently and as happy as they supposed Crusoe did.
They left home one Friday, and it was not known, for some time, what had become of them. Their parents and friends sought with much anxiety to find them ; but all in vain ; and they were almost ready to despair of ever hearing any news from their lost sons. It was not till Sunday afternoon that they were found.
• At the close of the first day of their absence, one of them seemed to feel the reproaches of conscience, and said that his mother would cry if she could not find him. Another said, if his mother did cry, he did not care. Two of them were determined to go on, and said they meant to turn robbers. The others were sick of the expedition, and had set their faces towards home before they were found.
• They had slept in the woods, as the weather was fine, and lived on the provisions they took from home. They had not been more than half way to their favorite island of Nantucket. When found by their friends, they all appeared very much ashamed of their enterprise ; and have not yet manifested any great desire to repeat it.'
The moral of this story seems to be the following. If a book as unexceptionable as Robinson Crusoe has usually been considered, produces such unhappy results on the young mind, what may not be the consequences of reading the thousand and one volumes, yearly issued from the press, whose character and tendency are, to say the least, far more questionable ?
The truth is, that this whole subject demands consideration-the consideration of those whom it most nearly and deeply concerns. We mean the consideration of Christian parents and teachers. Let them watch, with the utmost care and fidelity, the character of the mental food which is daily forming, as it were, the life blood of their children's souls. Let them not say, we have not time for this. They have time to earn the means of furnishing them with every luxury for the body, and every gratification of the mind. They have time to pamper them, and render them delicate, and fit them to be the slaves of appetite and the votaries of indulgence. At least, they too often find time for this, in one way or another. They find time to fit the body for lodging a mind that cannot be satisfied with plain fuod ; but can they not find time to apply the needful corrective ? It were surely enough to prepare the soil for a poisonous
A Very Common Mistake.
growth, and to sow the seeds; will they not at least try to eradicate the noxious plants, as they begin to show themselves ? Or will they let all go at haphazard, and risk the consequences ?
It does seem to us that parents in general-Christian parents especially-are most criminally negligent on this whole subject. It does seem that, in the scramble for wealth, they have forgotten all else, even the immortal minds and hearts of the children whom God has given thein. We call on them, we entreat them—to consider this subject; to take time for it. If they shall, after due reflection, determine to suffer their children and pupils to read any book which appears, without discrimination, be it so. We can only warn and protest; we cannot control. But we do not mean that they shall do it with their
eyes shut; we mean to utter a cry of remonstrance, which if not heard through the whole extent of our American community, only falls short of it because we have not the power to do every thing we would.
We protest against the fashionable course of deluging the world with all sorts of books, without due regard to their character and tendency. We plead with those authors who have consciences, to weigh well what they write; with publishers, to consider beforehand what they publish ; and with booksellers, to remember that readers, even female readers, have soulsMohammedanism to the contrary notwithstanding.
We complain especially of a certain class of booksellers. They manifest a squeamishness in regard to books which, in order to prevent vice, hold it forth naked and odious, just as it is ; while they will not hesitate to sell, by hundreds and thou. sands, apparently without any qualms of conscience, those works, which under the pretence-perhaps with the intentionof removing vice, trick her up to that degree of finery which attracts weak minds, and defeats the object. Such, we humbly conceive, are many of the fictitious writings of the day, and of former days. Such, at least, we believe to be the fact in relation to most of the writings of Byron, Bulwer and Marryatt.
A capital mistake is often made, by the superficial, both in medicine and morals. Things and books which contain but little poison, are supposed to be comparatively harmless; while those, whose effects are more immediate and obvious, are regarded as proportionally dangerous to the constitution. Thus many who would not for the world suffer their children to take a dose of calomel or emetic tartar, will yet encourage them to swallow the same substances disguised in the form of pills, powders, lozenges, &c.; and will even venture upon their use un
combined, when in very small quantities. Multitudes, in like manner, may be found, who will shrink back with horror from the administration of the most needful moral correctives, while they will not hesitate to admit of an almost perpetual dosing with such remedies as are found in the fiction of the day. Now there is no point better established, than that it is the poison of small quantities, in both instances, which most effectually, if not most rapidly undermines the constitution, physical and moral.
But our patience has been most severely tried with the editors of our papers and periodicals. These men have it in their power to render our busy community a most essential service, by a careful and judicious examination of every new work, as soon as it is issued from the press, and by candidly pronouncing on its tendency. Some, indeed, appear to do this, but their number is few. The greater part, so far as we are acquainted, pursue quite a different course. They cannot afford the time or the patience to examine books for themselves; so like true herding animals, they follow some leader. We might here mention names, were it in keeping with our general plan, but it is not. We oppose not men, but measures. We make not a war on persons; we would only discuss principles.
We have said that our books are, in general, but poorly calculated to promote the well-being of the rising generation; and have, on a former occasion, more than intimated the importance of a judicious revision and supervision in this department. Such a service seems to be proposed by the American Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Among the measures which this society proposes is, as we have already assured our readers, the publication of a series of books of good tendency, to form the basis of libraries for district schools and families. We are free to confess, that while we like their plan, and especially the object they propose—that of supplying the community with books not less attractive, but at the same time more useful than those which now fill our bookstores and the shelves of our libraries—we could wish for a series still better, and, at the same time, more attractive, than those of which a catalogue is given in the prospectus. However, we are willing to insert a part of their prospectus, and to give encouragement to their measures, though they seem quite inadequate to the wants of the public mind, starving and dying as it is in the midst of an overexcited, half-famished literature.
Advantages of School Libraries.
THE AMERICAN LIBRARY OF USEFUL KNOWLEDGE.
[The following is intended to show the advantages of this library, as set forth in a printed prospectus, which we have received from Rev. Gorham D. Abbott, the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Society.]
The American Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge proposed, from the commencement, to devote very early attention to the publication of a series of works, on the more important branches of popular knowledge, to be prepared and issued in a style and manner, suited to the purposes of a School Library. The primary object was, to have them placed as extensively as possible, in the common schools of the country, that they may be loaned to the children, and circulated through them among
all the families of the districts. Some of the considerations which have led the society to attach special importance to this plan are the following:
1. The social, circulating library is unquestionably the most economical and efficient mode of supplying the means of knowledge, to the large mass of young persons between the ages of ten and twenty, in the common school districts, throughout the country, now almost wholly unprovided with books of general information.
2. This class of persons are at a period of life in which the means of knowledge are of the highest interest and value. In youth, the powers of the mind are all in active exercise. Curiosity is awake ; memory is faithful; the attention, not yet distracted by the engrossing cares of active life, gives itself wholly to its work. There is an ardor in the thirst for knowledge, which shows itself in the intense eagerness to hear and know ; and many would seek constant gratification from books, if books could be obtained, of a character adapted to their taste and age. This period is the best time in life for storing the mind with knowledge, and almost the only time to acquire a taste for its attainment in future years.
3. Such a library will be the means of great advantage and improvement to the schools with which they are connected. It will, in fact, add a new department to the system of education, the influence of which will extend to the whole population. It will concentrate interest in the schools, enlarge the sphere of the teacher's instruction and influence, elevate his employment and office, connecting pleasant associations with it in the minds of the scholars, and in the families to which they belong. It