« PreviousContinue »
"They (women) have nothing serious to do; is that a reason why they should do
SIDNEY SMITH, Essay on Female Education.
111 WASHINGTON STREET.
In bringing this work before the public, the authors feel that some explanation is necessary of the reasons which induced them to choose a subject which, in part at least, has been so often treated before.
Works on female education have been multiplied of late years, and many also have been written on the position and duties of women; but none, as far as they know, have attempted to show how the task of selfimprovement is to be accomplished. Even “Woman's Rights and Duties,” which, for the wide views, the powerful reasoning, and knowledge of the world it displays, stands so unequalled among this class of writings, fails us here. This object did not come within its scope; and it is this practical direction that the authors of the present work desire to supply. A sense of this want has been more than once expressed by young people in their hearing, and was strongly felt by themselves in other days. They remembered the time when they themselves stood as young girls on the threshold of life ; – their childhood, with its so-called education, behind them, – the untried future
before. They remembered the painful sense of inconsistency between life as it appeared in reality, and the religious theory of life, — the consciousness of their own confusion of ideas, the want of some comprehensive principle by which to regulate thought and action, of some real aim for exertion, - and the vain seeking for some guiding thread to lead them out of this perplexing labyrinth into light and a straight path. At the cost of many years of struggle and trial, of failure and consequent suffering, they bought at last the experience they would so gladly have derived from other sources,
and their aim is now to save such as may stand in the same position from this struggle which consumes the best years of youth, and absorbs, in seeking the path of duty, the energies which should be employed in following it. They have striven to place before the young that view of life which unites the present with the future, and harmonizes all its various phases into one continuous whole; - to point out those principles by which conscience may be enlightened, reason cultivated, the will brought into accordance with God's will, and the whole mind developed to that degree of perfection of which it is capable. In doing so, they have not aimed at originality or novelty, and they have gladly availed themselves of all the aid afforded by previous writers. The very choice of their subject precluded all ambition but that of being useful. - They could bring forward no new truths to claim the homage of mankind, and they are aware that even the slight exposition they have attempted of those first principles of mental and moral philosophy, on which, it appears to them, all rational educa. tion must be based, will expose them to the accusation of shallowness on the one side, and pedantic affectation on the other. Nor could they clothe the dryness of didactic prose with the eloquence of
Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,” which carries the name of the poet, the orator, or the historian down to posterity. Their highest hope has been to do good in their own generation; to add their mite to the great treasury of human knowledge and improvement. This hope has beguiled many hours of toil, - it has cheered them on to the completion of their task, through many days of sickness and sorrow, - and it now gives them courage, notwithstanding their painful sense of imperfection, to lay the result of their labors before the public, with an earnest prayer that the good it may effect be in some degree commensurate with their aim and endeavors.
LONDON, January, 1850.