But be that as it may, I will here put an end to this my first letter (on the earliest part of my subject), rejoicing in the opportunity you have given me of producing a fresh instance of that duty and affection, wherewith I am, and shall ever be, my dearest Mr. B., your grateful, happy,
I will now, my dearest, my best beloved correspondent of all, begin, since the tender age of my dear babies will not permit me to have an eye yet to their better part, to tell you what are the little matters to which I am not quite so well reconciled in Mr. Locke: and this I shall be better enabled to do, by my observations upon the temper and natural bent of my dear Miss Goodwin, as well as by those which my visits to the bigger children of my little school, and those at the cottages adjacent, have enabled me to make; for human nature, Sir, you are not to be told, is human nature, whether in the high-born, or in the low.
This excellent author (Section 52), having justly disallowed of slavish and corporal punishments in the education of those we would have to be wise, good, and ingenuous men, adds, “On the other side, to flatter children by rewards of things that are pleasant to them, is as carefully to be avoided. He that will give his son apples, or sugar-plums, or what else of this kind he is most delighted with, to make him learn his book, does but authorize his love of pleasure, and cockers up that dangerous propensity, which he ought, by all means, to subdue and stifle in him. You can never hope to teach him to master it, whilst you compound for the check you give his inclination in one place, by the satisfaction you propose to it in another. To make a good, a wise, and a virtuous man, ’tis fit he should learn to cross his appetite, and deny his inclination to riches, finery, or pleasing his palate, &c.”
This, Sir, is well said; but is it not a little too philosophical and abstracted, not only for the generality of children, but for the age he supposes them to be of, if one may guess by the apples and the sugar-plums proposed for the rewards of their well-doing?—Would not this require that memory or reflection in children, which, in another place, is called the concomitant of prudence and age, and not of childhood?
It is undoubtedly very right, to check an unreasonable appetite, and that at its first appearance. But if so small and so reasonable an inducement will prevail, surely, Sir, it might be complied with. A generous mind takes delight to win over others by good usage and mildness, rather than by severity; and it must be a great pain to such an one, to be always inculcating, on his children or pupils, the doctrine of self-denial, by methods quite grievous to his own nature.