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This is the hour of prayer and of peace;
Thy season of refreshment and of rest;
From tumult and confusion-season blest :
Come, O my soul, for here the living stream
Is bearing silently its blessed wave;
Thou mayest freely drink and freely have;
Upon her golden palaces abides
The glory of God's everlasting light;
The river of ineffable delight;
LETTERS TO A YOUNG LADY
ON LEAVING SCHOOL.
LETTER THE FOURTEENTH.
DEAR M., · I ACCEDE most willingly to your wish for more advice respecting the class of books I so strongly recommended to you under the general name of Biography. There is no sort of reading of which our supply is so abundant and so efficient-if I may take the liberty of including in the term all that I meant to include in the recommendation-from the biography of the monarch whose narrative is the history of the world at the time in which he lives, to the Horæ Solitariæ of the obscure recluse, whose existence the world wots nothing of, till his bosom's history is found among his relicks, and given to the publick for whom it was not intended, the most exquisite morceau of stolen truth-a treasure of which the intrinsic value is attested by the eagerness with which it is received. In pointing out to you some works of this class, the difficulty is rather to choose than to find them. I conclude that your course of historical reading has comprised such works as Robertson's and some of Voltaire's separate reigns, which though bearing an individual name, rather class with history than biography. We pass them over. But there is still a class of Biography bordering on historick reading, and giving a far deeper insight into it than any history—such of older days are Plutarch's Lives—of middle times Roscoe's Lorenzo de Medici, Leo X., &c. &c.; thence passing on to recent times, Miss Aikin's Elizabeth and James, Coxe's Duke of Marlborough and Sully, and innumerable others, that may be comprised in the class I would call historic biography. • Approaching to these are the memoirs more personal, yet of a publick character, such as Colonel Hutchinson, Lord W. Russell, M-Creagh's Melville and Knox, Tomline's Life of Pitt, Bishop Hall and his Times, and numbers of like character. The interest rather increases than diminishes as it becomes more exclusively individual, and the claim to attention is for what they were independently of who they where. Such are Walton's Lives, Southey's Biographies of Nelson, Wesley, &c. But there are memoirs more interior still than these--call them Memoirs, Journals, Remains, Letters--it matters not, they are genuine biography—those tomes invaluable in which the heart has told for itself what no one could tell for it—where sorrow has registered its tears, and folly its absurdities, and genius its conceits, and piety its trials, and vice its bitterness, and wisdom its insufficiency, and holiness its bliss-till there remains no secret of the human character undisclosed, and no consequences of action unproclaimed; by the which we might all, if we would, be convicted, and enlightened, and forewarned, of all that is within us, and whence it comes, and what will come of it. In this class of reading I should allow a girl at your age much more latitude than some persons might think. Excluding of course every thing profane, licentious or indelicate, I would not confine your reading to the memorials of piety: the truths that vanity, pride, and earthliness have written against themselves without intending it, are most invaluable lessons. No truth is useless or pernicious. It is fiction, exaggeration, misrepresentation, that delude and pervert the youthful mind: not the portraits ambition, vanity, and heartlessness have painted of themselves, in the security of confidential correspondence, or the yet closer secrecy of private memoranda. I would almost venture to assert that I never read a work of this description without gaining good from it: for every thing that adds to our knowledge of human nature, adds to our knowledge of ourselves—and increased knowledge of ourselves is greater gain that all that science or learning can impart beside it. In this persuasion, I would admit every thing into your course of biographical reading, but what is false, indecorous, or corruptive: and this will open to you no very narrow field. But, my dear M., let me advise you here, that beside the importance of caution as to what you read, there is an equally important consideration how you read. If you study biography as fiction, that is, for the story of it only, it may have all the ill effect of fiction, and cannot have the good effect of truth. If all you observe is what the persons did, where they went, and what happened to them by the way, the purpose I have in view is not answered ; your gathered knowledge may be increased, but your heart will not be improved by your reading. When you take a piece of biography of any kind for perusal, fix your eye on the character of the individual watch how it acts-how it discloses itself-how it is influenced by external things, and how it communicates its own colour. ing to them-particularly mark its growth, its checks, its self-deceptions for these are in every character---th
benefits of its good points—the consequences of its bad ones--the motives of action, the results of actionthe changes of sentiment that years produce—what comes with youth, what goes with age-particularly how the character wears as eternity approaches and time recedes. And in your judgment of the character as you go along, keep in threefold view how it appears to itself, how it appears to man, and how it must appear before the eye of God. For never believe, dear M., that you have not done with God and religion, when you leave your serious books for those of secular interest. Nor time, nor any thing in it and about it, can be isolated from eternity. The moment you cut the link, and suffer yourself to see any thing or judge of any thing in one as independent of the other, you convert the truths you are reading into falsehood—the utility of your reading into an empty diversion, or more probably a mischievous delusion. The writer may forget the presence of a God-may reason as if there were none-may make his calculations and draw his conclusions as if death were the period of existence: or rather, for that is more common with the irreligious, as if there were no death. But you, when you read, should have the divine Being, with all his purposes and claims, present as a third between you and the subject of the work; endeavour to judge as He would judge, to like as He would like, to decide as He would decide: thus you will read truth in pages where the author wrote none; and while he sees every thing through the false medium that miscolours all things to the earthly eye, and paints them as he sees them, your vision may detect the errors of his drawing-you will see evil to be evil though he may call it good-sin to be misery though he may call it happiness : so reading, scarcely any book can do you harm; at the same time that it is the only way of reading in which any book can do you essential good: for however you may fancy you get knowledge by your studies, if what you learn is not truth, it is not an increase of knowledge, but of error, which is essential ignorance.
REVIEW OF BOOKS.
The Elements of Arithmetic, for the Use of Schools, &c.
By Elias Johnstone.Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh. Price 28. 1826.
To what extent it is necessary or desirable to teach girls Arithmetic, is a question very often paused upon. We should ourselves, in this and many other cases, make a distinction between what it is necessary to know, and what it is desirable to learn. The knowledge of figures necessary to women in their usual occupations is very limited indeed. Excepting where the females of a family are to take a part in the management of tradewhich, being an individual distinction, must of course be individually provided for, and does not much affect the general question---the demand upon a woman's arithmetical powers is likely to be very little more than she can contrive to calculate upon her fingers. To put down the week's expenses, and at the end of the week to cast them up, is pretty generally the extent of her numerical task; or if in the payment of wages, or other such accidents, there happens to be a troublesome question of divisions and fractions, some magic page of her pocketbook will give the produce ready calculated. But we are by no means on this account prepared to say, that girls need not be taught arithmetic. There are many things which not to know is a deficiency, though to make use of them may be never required; at the same time that we would never advocate an equal expenditure of time and pains on what is useless, as on what is useful.
A taste for this study, or a talent for it, seems to be a power quite peculiar to some minds, distinct from, and very generally separate from talents in general. I have seen girls never so happy as with a buge slate before them,