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ON YOUNG LADIES' SCHOOLS
BY GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA
Mr. Tom ROBERTSON, I humbly beg your pardon. I am poaching on your manor and trespassing on your croft. I am stealing your thunder. But are there not schools and schools, from Rafaelle's School of Athens in the Vatican, down to an industrial school for little ragamuffins in our own Whitechapel ? Be tolerant, Mr. Tom Robertson, and, remembering what Pope has written, show to others that mercy which you would wish shown to yourself. Although you have evolved from the fancied adventures of the pupils in a ladies' seminary one of the most charming comedies that has graced our English stage in modern timesnever mind the spiteful people who insinuate that you have stolen your plot from the Aschenbrödel of Herr Benedix, for in that you may have been no more a plagiarist than Sheridan was when he went to Marivaux or Crébillon for the first inception of the Rirals or the School for Scandal—although you have established a well-nigh freehold tenure in School, you will forgive me, I trust, if I borrow your title for a while, and elect for the nonce to be scholastic. Do not be afraid. My Cinderella will be no match for yours ; my 'examination will be weak and colourless by the side of yours ; and, as for the flirtation--well, I should much like to know whether there ever has been, since the earliest ages of authentic record, any proven instance of schoolgirls indulging in flirtation, or conjugating the verb "to flirt in its every mood, tense, number, and person.
All schoolmistresses will bear me out, I am sure, in denying the existence of scholastic flirting ; but if the schoolmistresses and I are wrong, well, flirtation there has been, and is, and will be evermore, and it can't be helped. C'est la faute de Rousseau. C'est la faute de Voltaire—especially of Rousseau. The bookseller would be mad who reprinted La Nouvelle Héloïse; yet there are thousands of young ladies who know Jean Jacques by heart without ever having read a line of him.
If you are an attentive and regular student of the advertisements in the Times newspaper, notably of those columns devoted to educational announcements, you will scarcely fail to remark, especially towards the seasons of Easter, Midsummer, Michaelmas, and Christmas, the extremely-genteel and elegantly-worded paragraph in which Madame Hopkins von Seebach intimates her readiness to receive, and to impart a truly refined education, based on the soundest Protestant principles, to a limited number of young ladies, at the vast and commodious residence known as Schloss Belveder, at Dummelshausen on the Rhine (Prussia). Masters, Madame Hopkins von Seebach proceeds to remark, attend for every accomplishment; drawing and painting are taught in strict accordance with the received traditions of the neighbouring Düsseldorf school ; instruction on the pianoforte is imparted by pupils of Liszt and Chopin ; and French, Italian, and German governesses are resident on the premises. Latin and mathematics can be taught if desired. Madame von Seebach, herself a native of old England (advertisement), watches sedulously over the health, comfort, and morals of the young ladies intrusted to her charge ; and, while using her best endeavours to instil into her pupils all the graces which the best continental training can afford, never loses sight of the probability that their ultimate destiny is to adorn and confer happiness on English homes. Homes, in the plural, is a stroke of genius. Don't you see the delicate inference, that the young ladies, after leaving the parental home, will find another and a matrimonial one ? Madame von Seebach's terms are moderate and inclusive, and vacations are left at the option of the parents of pupils. References, by kind permission, can be made to Herr Professor Königliches-Musæum Curator, Dr. Dioscorides Puffersdogstein, Woll Strasse, Dummelshausen; to the Rev. Hugh Hango Hollowpenny, A.M., Chaplain to H.B.M. Legation, Saxe-Schweinhundbraten; and in England, to the Rev. Chrysostom Dobby, D.D., Rector of St. Pongo, Horsleydown; and to Messrs. Deskworm and Pewtercup, scholastic booksellers, Wilhelmina-row, South Belgravia. Finally, the reader is informed that Madame Hopkins von Seebach will be in London for a week from the eighteenth proximo, and can be communicated with, care of Messrs Deskworm and Pewtercup as above, or may be seen every day between two and four P.m. at Coldhash's private hotel, Salisbury-street, Strand.
Well, you may happen to have a dear little daughter, say fourteen or fifteen years of age, and you fancy that twelve months' or two years' training in a good foreign school would be of inestimable benefit to her. With this impression on your mind, you will probably fall into the habit of running your eye every morning over the column of advertisements to which I have alluded, and the eye itself will soon become so educated as to light instanter on the corners in which nestle the foreign-school announcements. Of course no parent with a well-regulated mind would think of sending his child to receive her · finishing' in Spain, or Italy, or Russia—although perhaps some of the best boarding-schools for girls in Europe are to be found in St. Petersburg and Moscow. But the dark, treacherous, and essentially immoral character of Spaniards and Italians would be at once an insuperable bar to the consignment of a daughter of Albion to the care of an instructress at Seville or Florence. The choice of Paterfamilias is thus narrowed to three countries—to France, Belgium, and Germany. France ?
France ? Ah ! there is a great
deal to be said about French boarding schools, and against them too. Miss Golightly was ' finished' at Madame Guignon's pensionnat at Chaillot. She came back with a pure French accent and a cultivated taste for dress; but before Miss Golightly had been six months at home, what did she do but run away with LieutenantColonel Cuss, late of the Texan Rangers ? She is separated from him now. Cuss, it is
Cuss, it is said, had another wife at Bagdad, was given to drinking cocktails early in the morning, and sometimes cowhiding his spouse née Golightly. There's your French schools for you! At present the Lieutenant-Colonel is a 'roker-in to a faro-bank' at Atlanta; ja, and the second Mrs. Cuss is playing roulette at Monaco, and teaching her Parisian accent in all its purity to her Russian admirer Count Pantoff. Well, there are Anglo-French schools at Boulogne, and Calais, and Dunkirk; but Paterfamilias may have heard ugly stories concerning some of those establishments. Did not a daughter of one of his friends come back from the Department of the Pas-de-Calais afflicted with incurable chilblains ? Another, on her return, had forgotten the better part of her English and had failed to acquire a commensurate amount of French. Miss Tucker (who has a rather formidable appetite) declared that she was half-starved at Boulogne-sur-Mer. According to her showing, the standing dishes at the school dinner-table were bread soaked in hot water, and haricot-beans. Miss Lazybones, whose parents, it must be confessed, had been somewhat remiss in their quarterly payments, told dreadful tales of having been turned into a drudge and compelled to clean the knives and scrub the floors of the establishment; Miss Clappum, who was always a serious girl, dropped dark hints of attempts made to convert her to the Romish faith, and persuade her to take the black veil ; and Miss Procax, than whom a saucier young minx seldom, if ever, existed, complained of having been whipped. There is but little doubt that it served her right; but, as her mamma justly observed, the daughters of England were not to be treated by the nasty cruel foreigners as though they were negro slaves; and that if her Sophy wanted whipping, she could get quite enough of it at home.' The which, if report spoke truly, Sophy did; Mrs. Procax being a Tartar.
Belgium remains, and there are very good and very cheap schools at Brussels and Ghent and Bruges; but then the Jesuits are so terribly powerful in Flanders. A not very seductive picture of Belgian school-life is presented in Currer Bell's novels; and besides, the accentuation of the Flemings, as speakers of French, is open to comment not always of a complimentary nature. No, no,' Paterfamilias frequently observes ; 'I'll send my girl to Germany. They're a sensible and respectable people, and know what good eating and drinking mean. None of your French kickshaws and sour wine—but solid meat and pudding-dinner at one o'clock, and
plenty of good wholesome beer. Amy, poor soul, was always delicate, and a little beer would do her good. They're a Protestant people, too; none of your Father Confessors, and nunneries, and Popish idols. Isn't the Princess Royal married to a German Prince? I've always heard that Germans make very good husbands. Then they're as industrious as bees, and earn lots of money. I knew a German once who did splendidly in the wine trade. Stop; he went bankrupt. It was another fellow, who made a fortune out of Dutch clocks and Berlin wool. And then, such a beautiful country; it would be a regular treat to take Mrs. P. and Tom and Emmy' (Emmy is out, but not yet married) 'to see Amy in the autumn. Up the Rhine, and that sort of thing. She'd never miss not having any holidays, poor little thing. What's the name of this place in the paper ? Schloss Belveder, Dummelshausen on the Rhine (Prussia), Madame Hopkins von Seebach. What a queer name! Well, I'll call on Madame in Salisbury-street, and then, if we can come to terms, I'll look up the references—I daresay they're all right—and Amy shall go to Germany for a year. Her French is pretty good already, and a pretty penny it cost me; but it would be a fine thing to have one of one's girls talk German. Faust, eh ? and Schubert's Wanderer, and Schiller's Robbers. Ah, and Mr. Goethe too ; a wonderful man, a wonderful man, my dear ; though I always thought that fellow in the Sorrows of Werter a confounded fool.' O Paterfamilias, there was a king in Thule !
Thus the British father, over his morning tea and toast, and the advertisement columns of the Times. He calls in Salisbury-street, Strand; he sees Madame Hopkins von Seebach between the hours of two and four P.m., and he is conquered.
Terms are agreed upon. Truly inclusive they are; for they include a good many more pounds, shillings, and pence than the worthy parent dreamt in the first instance of disbursing. But Madame von Seebach had such a persuasive way with her! The sum for which Madame definitively contracts to board, lodge, wash, educate, and morally train Miss Amy sounds, when computed in Prussian thalers, enor
It's rather a thing to brag about, though, in the City,' reflects Paterfamilias; and Amy is consigned to Madame von Seebach's care.
THE REQUIEM OF THE FIRES
THE Curfew calls; I hear its voice
Wail on the evening air :
Cover their fitful flare.'
The ruddy blaze looks bright;
And glowed with Youth's delight;
Smouldering they lie about :
My only fire is out.
A pure clear steady shine,
But gleams-a light divine.
A parable doth grow;
Ere pure light 'gins to show.
The air it made more sad,
In harvest glory clad.
To ashes burn away,
Of purer light than they.
The death of things so bright;
As fade our fires from sight.
ROBSON AND SONS, PRINTERS, PANCRAS ROAD, N.W.