Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the injury to the utmost degree possible. This question has a manifest connection with the establishment of Salles d'asile, since these have for their special object the preserving children from such dangers as they incur in great industrial establishments, where they are admitted too early : and this object is not merely of interest to the children of the poor, but to the State itself, which ought to watch with the utmost solicitude over the means of preserving the strength of the population, and the purity of its morals." *

When we consider what would be the advantages of such establishments in England, we feel tempted to ask, why, with all our riches and activity, none have yet taken a lesson from our neighbour country, and accomplished a like work of benevolence? which, were it extensively adopted, would change the whole face of the social system, and by the time a generation so trained grew up, would nullify all fears about the dangerous classes. We shall see farther on what has been done by private exertions : but this is too great a work to be trusted to individual benevolence alone, and if, in the room of casual relief to the poor, that relief were steadily

* Frégier, des Classes Dangereuses, tom. ii. p. 6.

given in the shape of two sufficient meals to the children sent to these schools, they would not be kept away whenever they could earn a few pence; and they would have been trained to habits of right conduct at a time when the absolute character is formed: for it is a fact well known among physiologists, that the brain, on whose due developement the character of the individual in great measure depends, is in the course of growth during the first seven years, and the impressions made at this time

may

be said to be made for life. If, therefore, good habits can then be given, the after task is easy. Many a teacher of Sunday and other schools, has had to complain of the difficulty he experienced in awakening any thing like thought in minds stiffened in ignorance; but could we suppose the very young children of the poor brought into constant exercise of their faculties, a very different result might be expected; and how could our ladies of rank and fortune, in town or country, be better employed than in a work at once so christian, and so patriotic ? On what principle such instruction should be conducted, we shall consider by and by. At present our business is only with the possible means of lessening a danger which all acknowledge. The

Salles d'asile came too late in France, and it is possible that in the fury of revolution all these excellent institutions have been swept away.* We, perhaps, have yet time enough before us to bring such a plan to maturity, and reap the benefit, and I shall now proceed to show from the experience of what has been done, how much might be expected from such a movement on a large scale.

* Since the above was written, the author has had the satisfaction of learning from an acquaintance who has lately visited Paris, that tbe Salles d'asile are still in active operation, as well as another charity in which infants are received and nursed during the absence of the mother at her work. A certain sum is paid weekly by the mother who carries ber infant early in the morning to the Crèche, as it is called, which consists of a large room where cradles, nurses, &c. are provided: the child is washed and nursed, and the mother returns twice in the day to give it the breast, or if weaned, it is fed by the nurses, and a certain degree of education is begun even here, which is continued in the Salle d'asile. There are several of these Crèches in Paris, under the superintending care of the ladies of that city, who seem to have found in these, and similar institutions, a more satisfactory employment than in the ordinary dissipation of women of fashion. May our English ladies walk in their steps thus far at least !-Nov. 1850.

CHAPTER II.

THE ORIGIN AND PURPOSE OF RAGGED

Schools.

SOME few years since, there might have been

seen in St. Mary-street, in the town of Portsmouth, a poor shoemaker, who, while sitting on his stool, and working diligently at his trade, was surrounded by a group of ragged children, whom he was instructing. His name was John Pounds, the son of a sawyer employed in the dock-yard, and of course poor. An accident which he met with when about fifteen years old, increased the difficulty of earning a livelihood, but this did not dishearten him ; he worked on at the trade he had taken to, and not only maintained himself, but was able to adopt and bring up a nephew, who was, like himself, a cripple.

It was in thinking over the best mode of educating this boy, that the thought struck him, that the companionship of another child would render learning easier and pleasanter to him than if he had to study alone ; he accordingly found a companion for his nephew in the son of a poor woman, his neighbour. The experindent was successful ; so successful, that in a short time two or three others were added to the class. But even when the boy, for whose sake he first became a teacher, no longer stood in need of bis instructions, the good shoemaker did not abandon the class he had thus formed ; on the contrary, he added to its numbers, until it consisted of upwards of forty scholars, including twelve little girls.

The pupils he taught were the destitute and neglected, “the little blackguards," as he called them, and many a time he has been known to go out upon the public quay, and tempt such as these by the offer of a roasted potato, or some such simple thing, to enter his school. There is something in the voice and manner of an earnest, truthful man, which is irresistible; it is an appeal made to that divine image of which there is some trace still left in the most corrupted heart; and it was seldom, therefore, that the summons of John Pounds passed unheeded : and when once at the school, his scholars seldom needed urging to come a second time; for their master taught them not only “book-learning,” as he called it, but his trade; if they were hungry, he gave them food; if ragged, he clothed them as

« AnteriorContinuar »