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venture to say, that the most concise and least repetitious method may not be the best; the one which most regularly developes the science, not the most philosophical. The most philosophical, because the most natural method, is that which accommodates itself to the mind of the learner; the best teacher is he who can most fully put himself in the pupil's place.
Such a teacher, he imagines, would open a way into any science, by some observation likely to occur to an uninstructed and inquisitive mind; as upon the flight of a stone, the weight of a body, the game of see-saw, in mechanics; the circumnavigation of the globe, or the vicissitude of day and night, in astronomy; the freezing of water, or the working of a steam-engine, in chemistry: no matter what the observation, so that it involves some grand principle of the science. By leading questions he will draw the pupil to the developement of the principle, and place it full before him; he will follow, or in seeming to follow, he will in some measure direct the course of the pupil's mind; making observations, tracing consequences, starting objections. In such an introduction to a science, and the familiar conversations which it implies and supposes, the form adopted by the author is obviously very desirable. He lays down the principles of the different arts and sciences in a series of short propositions, which are to be committed to memory, and are divided into lessons of appropriate length: and for its luminous order, its power of making a child think upon the subject, and then aptly following up the train of thought thus excited, its forcible illustrations, and its easy and graceful style, the work in the judgment of the editor stands at the very top of the scientific library of the school-room.
The questions at the end of each lesson, with the figures and illustrations of the subjects, supply the most beneficial exercise that can be employed in the business of tuition. Youth learn nothing effectually but by frequent repetition; a multiplicity of examples, therefore, becomes absolutely necessary: but these examples should be so varied, and the mode of proposing the questions so diversified, as to give the scholar room for the exertion of his faculties, or otherwise impression will remain on his mind. Elementary treatises are too generally without any practical exercises; or the exercises so similar, that when the pupil has finished one of them the next may be performed without the trouble of thinking. Such examples may pass away the time of the scholar, but they will never instruct him.
Of the PRELIMINARY Essays introduced by the editor he may be permitted to observe, that they will, he trusts, be found to be novel, appropriate, stimulative, and calculated to recommend by just appreciation, and fair and candid representation, the respective subjects to which they are prefixed. For their aim, and their moral tendency, however, he distinctly claims a character of high and honourable solicitude. It has long been allowed that philosophical and scientific subjects afford the greatest, the purest pleasure to a rational mind. It is well observed by a late writer that this does not arise “ from any intrinsic value of Science and Philosophy, solely considered, but from the peculiar use to which they may be applied, and without which, they hardly merit the name they have obtained: and this is no other than regulating by them our observations upon the numerous objects of the creation, whereby we may correct any erroneous notions which we may have hitherto encouraged, either concerning them or the OMNIPOTENT BEING by whose will they were formed.”
Nature, viewed in its true light, is not a subject of cold and unproductive speculation with regard to morality. The study of its productions and its phenomena, not only enlightens the mind, but warms the heart, by exciting feelings of reverence and admiration, at the sight of so many wonders, bearing such striking characters of unlimited power and matchless wisdom. Impressed with the truth and force of this sentiment, he has interspersed the expositions of the respective subjects with such observations, and moral reflections, as are calculated to alleviate the mind of the student, to lead him by imperceptible degrees to reflect seriously and justly on the objects around him, and to check an inclination to scepticism which might arise from incautious study, and the mischievous misapplication of scientific phraseology, and modes of reasoning and research.
be said to live at one of those remarkable periods which constitute eras in the history of the world. For a series of years preceding the French revolution, the diffusion of knowledge and cultivation of intellect, in France and the neighbouring countries, exceeded in such a proportion the countervailing powers of religion and morality, that all competent judges, acquainted with the state of society, agreed in opinion that some mighty convulsion was at hand. Of the disasters which followed that dreadful event, and the shock which it gave to the civil and religious institutions of the Continent, it is altogether superfluous to speak. But whilst the world was involved in confusion around us, this country, by the blessing of Providence, was not only preserved from destruction, but rose to an eminence of glory and power which it had never attained in former times. In reasoning on the causes of this difference in our favour, we are justified in ascribing our safety to the quantity of virtue and good sense produced in the country by the free constitution of our government, the equal administration of our laws, the principles which regulate our seminaries for the education of youth, and above all to the prevalence of a sound, a pure, a reasonable religion, dispensed and administered alike by a body of clergy both episcopal and dissenting, who from their external condition, and still more from their learning and piety, have an influence on the minds of the people, not only through the medium of their pastoral functions, but by the effect of their writings, and the estimation which they bear in the community. The danger from that event is now happily past : but when we direct our attention to the systematic culture of intellect introduced in the course of a few years among all classes, we cannot but feel an anxiety lest the balance of society should suffer disturbance from this sudden increase of its momentum. In proportion as these additional energies imparted to the mass of the people are under the direction of good principles, they will give stability to the government, advance the cause of religion and morals, and contribute to the general advantage. But there is no necessary connexion between knowledge and goodness, between the possession of intellectual power and a disposition to apply it to its proper ends.
Nothing need further be said in the assertion or the vindication of the tendency and aims, which the editor avows: they are those of every enlightened minister of education in the kingdom. Preserved from civil and ecclesiastical tyranny, as this highly favoured country has been, the editor looks back with devout gratitude on the stupendous events of the last fifty years; and acknowledges a ruling Providence in the history of Britain: and he confides in the contin nce of that Providential protection, as long as his country is not wholly unworthy to hold its place upon this ball of earth.
Upper Holloway, November Ist. 1839.