20 MARCH 1915, Page 10



(Though the interlocutors its the following discourse may speak with the air of accomplished theologians and philosophers, they are in truth only two shapeless, idiot-faced dolls.

These puppets, which have beau long in my family, peewee the strange and awful quality of assuming the appearance and tharacter of any deceased personage at the mere will of their master.

It is not necessary--norwould It be cepedient—to enumerate the means or the rites by which animation is produced. It is enough to say that the puppets are, as far as I have been able to ascertain, clothed in the very flesh and habit qf the dead, that they stand some wine inches high, and that once they have exchanged their inanimate stare for the semblance qf life they cease entirely to be under the control of him who first rendered them quick. They cease to live as suddenly as they become animate, and the spirit of the dead with which, they appear to be infused seldom works in them for longer than the space of half all hour. The influences which I had summoned upon the occasion with which we S. ...embed were those of Samuel Taylor Coleridge the poet and of his daughter Barn. I had lately read something —I don't recatl what—which had given me a great notion of Berra Coleridge's understanding and beauty, and indeed, as soon as the puppet began to glow with the first stirrings of life, I perwitxd that the little creature was about to assume a form of unusual lovetiness.

When the metamorphosis was complete, I was particularly struck by the pale, delicate oval of her face and by her eyes, winch were blue-grey sot colour and extraordinarily weft pensive, and luminous. Her whole countenance was expressive of reflective benignity, occasionally inseminated by the most charmingly humorous smile imaginable. She appeared to be abosd twenty. five years old. Coleridge himself seemed ponderous of body ; he wore an untidy black Mil, and his large shining face rose above a white cravat. They sat down upon the two little chairs Aphid. I always provide for the puppets, Sara drawing a piece of sewing from her retinae. The conversation began in the following terms)

Sees.: Papa, I begin to be terribly concerned about Herbert's education le Henry and I pass sleepless nights trying to decide what be must be taught, and still snore, how be must be taught. Heavens! I begin to do nothing in the world but quack distractedly after my duckling! What the public in general can find of interest in the Reform Bill while Herbert's education is still unsettled I cannot conceive! Papa, I wish you'd give me leave to weary you a little with the subjecL Henry and I are agreed that with- out your advice we cannot possibly hope to train up our vehement urchin in the way he should go. He's a year old mow!

COLERIDGE : Pretty creature! (I Was at Once struck by the unusual beauty of Coleridge's voice.) A year old, you nay P What a mass of knowledge be has already had to acquire I A child must, I suppose, learn something of the laws of optics and gravity before he can so much as pick op his rattle from the door . and now he most be educated by as l If we are to tune no beautiful an instrument, we should perhaps study harmonics a little. We should, for instance, sceasionally consider our final object—what do we desire to he the final product of education? Let us set aside the learning of a trade altogether—in the lower walks of life it is generally connected with a preliminary wage-earning; in the higher it is frequently undertaken some time after the real process of education has been broken off. This technical offshoot lopped, I think that you and I should agree that the formation of a just and temperate character must be the chief object of education.

Salsa: Are you going to set aside the pursuit of knowledge altogether. Papa?

COLERIDGE By no mean. ; but if we really hold a belief in a future life, learning most be a means, not an end. Knowledge cannot follow no beyond the grave save in its effect upon the character. No, we have irrevocably e aten of the fruit of the tree. Consider, my dear, for one thing, that according to your creed and mine—a creed which ie, I think, also Henry's—it will be necessary for your child as a tree Christian sooner or inter to contemplate, at least minority, the whole range of philosophic thought. Upon the

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question whether his mind has been brought to its full temper and strength will depend the quality of his belief —whether he hold to the sacred truths of Christianity through an enlightened conviction—miss their blessings altogether. or at beet hold them unfruitfully, the ignorant slave of habit . . . but it is too soon perhaps to consider—your child is still eo young.

SARA : By no means too soon for his parents to consider what their aims are to be.

Communes: Or perhaps the means by which those aline can be compassed P Preceptors, schools—how difficult to move among these complex actualities I

SARA: I wonder if you agree to this, Papal, Henry and I think that though a child's lessons must be made ae interest- ing as possible, it is foolish to make them altogether ink a play and so lose the effect of their discipline. Children must, sooner or later, learn our common lesson of submission, and learning young they won't perhaps find the world's decrees so galling when they are grown. Don't think that I mean that everything should be learned in yet lessons, or even that they ought to be givens very high place in oar curriculum. —Children learn so much by mating questions. (She laughed.) How I used to catechize poor dear Uncle Southey! And what delightful information I used to extract from him so. How big was the golden calf! What was the difference between astrology and astronomy? What were the employments of a necromancer? Were all the Kings of Babylonia wicked P How did baby hedgehogs learn to roll up P He was the most patient of men.

CoLzaneott Yoe are going to begin by teaching the boy yourself, dear Sara? I hope you will bear in mind that you will not be able to complete his education.

SARA: Yes, I know ; I foresee, too, that the little wretch will inevitably scold me when he first goes to school for not having paid more attention to his " echool subjects." But, Papa, did you mean by what you eaid jest now, that you con- sidered that children ought to be taught the elements of metaphysics COLERIDGE: If the object of what we call a general educa- tion in as we have agreed, the formation of character by means of the natural powers of the intelligence, it must be absurd to neglect Beth a group of stibjecte—metapiereics, ethics, and speculative philosophy in general—the sciences which alone can explain and direct the workings of the human mind.

SARA If the food be too hard to be properly digested, no amount of cramming will nourish the body. I'm anxious, too, that Herbert should not be forced to great mental exertion at first and once he gets to ethool- OOLER11301: (lie smiled benignantly): My love, you are, like a true mother, applying my words in particular, whereas I bad, I fear, strayed far enough away from little Herby. No, I was, in fact, thinking of our schools. Whether you formally teach him philosophy or not, no child of yours and Henry's will need to sigh for a metaphysical atinoepbere. But there are so many thousands of boys who—living, no doubt, among very respectable people—have yet never had their thoughts turned towards such speculations. They are obliged to take all they see for granted; they have never conceived that any one in the world could, for example, doubt of the eriatenco of matter or of the actuality of Enclidean space. They have never had the strange world of philosophical con- jecture opened to them. And yet children long for whatever is strange—elves, giants, wizardesee bow they will please themselves with endless constructions of the improbable.

Sane (alto laughed) : You mean to set up Berkeley and Hegel as nursery rivals to Riequee with the Tuft or Sinbad the Sailor? Magnificent, Papa I

(I observed with some amusenteni that Coleridge consistently refused to be interrupted in the flow qf his diatoms, by any titan, jnotion, but merely acknowledged his interlocutor's remark by a placid inclination of the head.) COLERIDGE : I cannot conceive why we should consistently neglect so vital a province of education! How is it possible to find a subject which more nearly concerns every one of us than that Science which is not content with outward shows, but which endeavours to probe down to our very eelves, to watch the Soul herself in her workings, and which finally. with Religion at her aide, lifts her eyes even to her Maker anti strives to discern something of His majestic purposes?

SABA; Such knowledge certainly is and must remain both the foundation and the ultimate pinnacle of human learning. But—I speak as a kind of Advocates Diaboli—ia not the way which leads through philosophy to religion, though it be far the noblest path, yet one only to be trodden by adult feet P Isn't it too hard to ask a child to comprehend abstract meta- physical conceptions—the idea of the Good—what you will— before you show him what is so much oloeer to his own heart P The idea of Divine protection and love seems so natural to children—perhaps just because they are little and helpless, and have such need of God's care.

COLERMOIS That is true. Yet it would be a glorious thing to bring a soul to the idea of Christianity without any adventitious help from early suggestion. You know, my dear. that in a cavalry riding-schools those who are undergoing instruction are at first required to jump obstacles without the aid either of stirrups or of reins. Might we not apply this principle to moral education? There would be something magnificent in the experiment. The learner would be shown the wonders of the metaphysical universe, would have pre- sented to his mind the apparently insoluble problems suggested by the pagan philosophers, and then, when the twilight of doubt seemed to shut him in most oppressively, the curtain would be suddenly withdrawn and the full light of Revealed Religion would stream in upon him. "The Power of the Good" personified made actual— SARA : " Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you." (They sat silent for a moment; Sara laid down her work.) But that, dear Father, is an experiment; it could never, I think, be a practical mode for conducting the educa- tion of a child. You'd be obliged to keep religious instruction from him till he was grown out of the influence of any teacher not of his own choosing; he even might refuse the blessings of Christianity altogether from a kind of self-sufficiency, arguing that it could not be very necessary since he had lived so long without it. Besides—to return to Herbert—I want to teach him myself, and not even my spiritual arrogance is sufficient to make me sure that, on mature reflection, the young gentleman would select me for his teacher. (She smiled whimsically at him.) No, no, Papa; we parents must stalk our prey and brand it with our own conceited notions while it is still too young and trusting to escape our attacks on its free wilL Own it . . . fellow parent !

CoLnainoe Fellow parent ! (He sat silentfor a moment, and then spoke slowly and with a little hesitation.) Sara. do you know of what I was thinking just now P It is so touching to see you immersed in such a tender solicitude for your little son! You mean to bend upon him your whole mind, all your strength of soul, all to train up this precious little shoot, without a thought of self. I see this and think what I did in a like case!

(A loot of suffering come info his face ; he spoke as low that I could hardly distinguish what he said.) Oh Sara, Sara! I was in your position! My dear . . . I wee not . . . or I did not mean to be such a monster as I perhaps seem to you. I— SASS, (she seemed inexpressibly pained): Oh Father, don't speak so I You-

COLERIDGE r I see my duty so clearly now. I ought never to have abandoned to your Uncle Southey the task of training up the minds of my children. To abandon such a care to another! Bat try, my dear, to bear in mind that it was never my set purpose. I drifted into a habit of being from home, knowing, recollect, that you could not have a more solicitous guardian than Robert. He was a far better parent to you than I, with my opium-shattered frame, could ever have been. He seemed expressly formed by nature to care for children! But ah, Sara, how much I missed of your baby sweetness! Derwent too—and Hartley-1 should be a happier• man now, believe me, if ... Your mother, of course— but I shouldn't have allowed such things to have power to irritate me i—Oh why are we not always strong ! Always foreseeing ! Why— •

SAUL (she interrupted him, her eyes full of tears): Oh don't speak so, Father! You wrong yourself with every word! We could not have been better cared for than by dear, good Uncle Southey 1 You had your work—the -philosophic investigations in Germany, for example. The world needed you ; you bad to set it above all other • The renter will recall that. Coleridge was at ono time a trooper of Inagoesigi considerations. (Coleridge shook his head mournfully. There was a moment's pause.) Sass (she spoke hesitatingly): Don't think either, dear Papa, that Uncle Southey himself . . . Mother eared for oar bodily needs—and I do believe that our childish affection was a tree and ample recompense for what he did as your—er- regent.

Oomtrnars e I know he grew to love you tenderly. But if I had my life again I should try not to act as I did. I don't, I hope, exaggerate my faults—God know. our weakness; we must not let them rise barrier-like between us and our Maker. What walla of false shame they become! They bold us off from any good deeds we might still accomplish. (He sighed heavily, then returned to his former placid key.) So now, my dear, you know my thoughts about training your little Herbert. You are right in putting religious instruction fleet in point of time. It would be impolitic not to impart these truths at the period when the mind is most susceptible of Divine influence. But as soon as WO are able—say for example whenever he would ordinarily begin the study of Greek—we ought to lay the world of abstract speculation before our pupiL If we can be at infinite pains to teach the original tongue of philosophy, it is absurd to aver that we cannot impart the truths which it con- tains. We keep the beautiful husk and throw aside the kernel which might nourish the child's immortal soul. His mind would be just as well exercised by mastering philosophic concepts as by the study of mathematics, and would acquire a breadth and a steadiness which no study of a language or an exact science could hope to impart. —Sow the seeds of meta- physical conjecture in your child's mind, dear Sara; they will yield an incomparable harvest. Give the little cherub my blessing!

(Here the life began to ebb front both puppets, and in is moment they returned to that inanimate state which is natural to them when uninspired by the spirit of the dead)