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those who do not commence their study of nature at an early season, will afterwards have many unnecessary obstacles to encounter. The difficulty of comprehending the principles of Natural Philosophy frequently arises from their being at variance with those false ideas which early associations have impressed upon the mind; the first years of study, are, therefore, expended in unlearning, and in clearing away the weeds, which would never have taken root in a properly cultivated soil. "To enter into the kingdom of knowledge," said Lord Bacon, we must put on the spirit of little children."
Writers on practical education have repeatedly advocated the advantages of the plan I am so anxious to enforce ; but, strange to say, it is only within a few years than any works have appeared at all calculated to afford the necessary assistance. In short, previous to the labours of Mrs. Marcet and Miss Edgeworth, the productions published for the purpose of juvenile instruction may be justly charged with the grossest errors; and must have proved as destructive to the mind of the young reader, as the book presented by the physician Douban is said to have been to the Grecian king, who, as the Arabian tale relates, imbibed fresh poison as he turned over each leaf, until he fell lifeless in the presence of his courtiers; or, to give another illustration,-as mischievous as the magic volume of Michael Scott, which, as Dempster informs us, could not be opened without the danger of invoking some malignant fiend by the operation.
Henceforth let all young men take heed
*Southey's Minor Poems.
How infinitely superior in execution and purpose are the juvenile works of the present century !—to borrow a metaphor from Coleridge, they may be truly said to resemble a collection of mirrors set in the same frame, each having its own focus of knowledge, yet all capable of converging to one point.
Allow me, friendly Reader, before I conclude my address, to say a few words upon the plan and execution of the work before you. It is not intended to supersede or clash with any of the elementary treatises to which I have alluded; indeed its plan is so peculiar, that I apprehend such a charge cannot be brought against it. The author originally composed it for the exclusive use of his children, and would certainly never have consigned it to the press, but at the earnest solicitations of those friends upon whose judgment he placed the utmost reliance. Let this be received as an answer to those who, believing that they can recognise the writer, may be induced to exclaim with Menedemus in Terence,-" Tantumne est ab re tuâ otii tibi aliena ut cures, eaque nihil quæ ad te attinent? Its French translator † regrets that he is unable to give the name of the English author; while, by not withholding his own, he affords me the gratifying opportunity of identifying M. Richard as the person to whom I am obliged for the ability with which he has executed a difficult undertaking. Addison, I believe, has said that "a Pun can be
"Have you such leisure from your own affairs
To think of those that don't concern you?"
La Science enseignée par les Jeux: imité de l'Anglais, par T. Richard, Professeur de Mathématiques. Paris, à la Librairie Encyclopédique de Roret, Rue Hautefeuille.
no more translated than it can be engraved;" I can therefore readily pardon the Professor for having lopped off at least three-fourths of my kite's tail, to say nothing of sundry other mutilations; it is true, indeed, that he has offered compensation by the introduction of many clever calembourgs and smart jeux-de-mot. My American Editor had not that difficulty to encounter, and I only regret that he did not enliven some of its passages with the humour so characteristic of his country.
In composing a scientific work for elementary instruction, nothing is more difficult than to conceive a standard of information so nicely adjusted as shall explain without being too profound, and instruct without being too superficial. Upon such an occasion its author is pretty much in the predicament of an usher when taking his younger pupils on a bathing excursion; who has to avoid the brook as too shallow for recreation, and the pool as too deep for safety.
It is scarcely necessary to offer any apology for the conversational plan of instruction; the success of Mrs. Marcet's dialogues had placed its value beyond dispute. It may, however, be observed, that this species of composition may be executed in two different ways,- either as direct conversation, where none but the speakers appear, which is the method used by Plato; or as the recital of a conversation, where the author himself appears, and gives an account of what passed in discourse, which is the plan generally adopted by Cicero. The reader is aware that Mrs. Marcet, in her 'Conversations on Philosophy,' has adopted the former, while Miss Edgeworth, in her Harry and Lucy,' has preferred the latter method. In composing
the present work I have followed the plan of the last-mentioned authoress. Its advantage over the more direct conversational style consists in allowing occasional remarks, which come more aptly from the author than from any of the characters engaged; indeed the formalities of the dialogue are necessarily opposed to any deviations from an appointed course, and may thereby exclude much useful information that might otherwise be incidentally introduced.
If scientific dialogues are less popular in our times than they were in ancient days, it must be attributed to the frigid and insipid manner in which they have too frequently been executed if we except the mere external forms of conversation, and that one character is made to speak and the other to answer, they are altogether the same as if the author himself spoke throughout the whole, instead of amusing with a varied style of conversation, and with a display of consistent and well-supported characters. The introduction of a person of humour, to enliven the discourse, is sanctioned by the highest authority. Cæsar is thus introduced by Cicero, and Cynthio by Addison. In the introduction of Mr. Twaddleton and Major Snapwell, I am well aware of the criticisms to which I am exposed; I have exercised my fancy with a freedom and latitude for which, probably, there is not any precedent in a scientific work. I have even ventured so far to deviate from the beaten track as to skirmish upon the frontiers of the Novelist, and to bring off captive some of the artillery of Romance; but if, by so doing, I have enhanced the interest of my work, and furthered the accomplishment of its object, let me entreat that mere novelty may not be
urged to its disparagement. The antiquarian Vicar, however, will, I trust, meet with cordial reception from the classical student. As to Ned Hopkins, although he may not bear a comparison with William Summers, the fool of Henry VIII.—or with Richard Tarleton, who "undumpished Queen Elizabeth at his pleasure"- -or with Archibald Armstrong (vulgo Archie), jester to Charles,—yet I will maintain, in spite of the Vicar's censure, that he is a right merry fellow, and to the Major, and consequently to our history, a most important accessary. Should any of my readers be old enough to remember "Jemmy Gordon," of Cambridge notoriety, they will not consider the character overdrawn. I will only add that, in carrying on a consistent story, by the aid of fictitious characters, certain details and levities, otherwise open to the charge of being unmeaning intrusions, are necessary means for giving to it such an air of truthful life, as shall sustain the reader during its progress in a rational belief of its realities.
If it be argued that several of my comic representations are calculated, like seasoning, to stimulate the palate of the novel-reader, rather than to nourish the minds of the younger class, for whom the work was written, I might, were I so disposed, plead common usage; for does not the director of a juvenile fête courteously introduce a few piquant dishes for the entertainment of those elder per
* It is, at least, gratifying to know that Miss Edgeworth, no mean authority, has expressed her approbation of this character. In a letter addressed to the author, she says, "As you may wish to know what pleased me particularly, I will mention the character of the antiquarian vicar, and Tom Plank, both which are the means of introducing much amusing and useful information in an appropriate manner."