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It is more difficult probably, to compose or compile a book suited to the feelings and capacities of children from six to ten years
other stage of life. About the commencement of this period, it is time to throw aside the insipid mental aliment which might have been proper and palatable during earlier infancy: and still we should be careful for some time yet, not to present them with such as they cannot relish nor digest.*
It has been remarked by many instructors, that the most of the compilations designed for the primary reading classes, contain many pieces on subjects too abstract and complex for young children to understand. The same defect may be observed in some of the reading lessons in spelling books, even although the sentences consist of monosyllables of
easy pronunciation. It cannot be expected that children of six or eight years, can comprehend profound figurative expressions, or read with propriety, what is as unintelligible to them as if expressed in Latin.
Reading lessons for young beginners ought to embrace subjects which are calculated to interest their feelings and sympathies, captivate their attention and curiosity, and at the same time, as far as possible, to implant in their yielding hearts the seeds of benevolence and virtue. M. Berquin has perhaps combined all these intentions as happily as any writer who has devoted his time and talents to juvenile instruction.† The compiler of the “ Pleasing Companion,' recollects the gratification he enjoyed in the early perusas of his ingenious and instructive stories. Berquin's
* Instruction should always be rendered agreeable, in order to be beneficial to those that are to learn. The skill of a preceptor consists in gaining the affections of his pupils, and conveying knowledge in so gradual and clear a manner, as to adapt it to the strength of the young student's capacity. Many a poor child has been disgusted with books and learning, by the heavy laborious tasks that have been given it to learn by heart, before it was capable of understanding them. (MENTAL IMPROVEMENT.
Most people would probably become readers, if furnished with suitable books at a proper time of life. It is only necessary to offer instruction to the voluntary acceptance of children, in a proper manner, to produce an ardent appetite for it,
[MORAL INSTRUCTOR. † The interest children generally take in the society of those of their own age, is such, that every thing, in print, which is like a picture of them, selves, and the society they associate with, will be interesting.
“Children's Friend,” from which a considerable part of the Companion is derived, is too expensive for general use, and not adapted to the state of society in the United States. The language has therefore been a little modified in several of the articles from that work.
The compiler also recollects the pleasure and instruction which he derived from the early perusal of Thomas Day's “ History of Sandfort and Merton," and, judging of the feelings and sympathies of the present rising generation by those of his own childhood, he has drawn pretty freely upon the ample fund of juvenile instruction which that production affords, in filling up the following pages.
Maria Edgeworth has contributed much to the stock of materials of infantine education, but her works are too prolix and costly for universal circulation, and, as well as those of Mrs. Barbauld, seem to be designed for the more opulent circles of society, both in respect to cost and character.
The design of the compiler of the present little volume is to prepare a convenient and cheap class-book, from various juvenile publications, avoiding, as far as he is able, the defects which have been attributed to the former compilations of this description.
Philadelphia, March 26, 1824.
A PLEASING COMPANION.
SECTION I. William and Thomas; or the contrast between Industry
and Indolence. 1. In a village, at a small distance from Boston, lived a wealthy farmer, who had two sons, William and Thomas, of whom the former was exactly a year older than the latter.
2. On the day that the second son was born, the farmer set in his orchard two young apple-trees of an equal size, on which he bestowed the same care in cultivating, and they throve so much alike, that it was a difficult matter to say which claimed the preference.
3. As soon as the children were capable of using garden implements, their father took them, on a fine day early in the spring, to see the two plants he had reared for them, and called after their names. William and Thomas having much admired the beauty of those trees, now filled with blossoms, their father told them that he made them a present of them in good condition, and that they would continue to thrive or decay, in proportion to the labour or neglect they received.
4. Thomas, though the younger son, turned all his attention to the improvement of his tree, by clearing it of insects as soon as he discovered them, and propping up the stem, that it might grow perfectly upright. He dug all around it to loosen the earth, that the root might receive nourishment from the warmth of the sun, and the moisture of the dews. No mother could nurse her child more tenderly in its infancy, than Thomas did his tree.
5. His brother William, however, pursued a very different conduct; for he loitered away all his time in the most idle and mischievous manner, one of his principal amusements being to throw stones at people as they passed. He kept company with all the idle boys in the
neighbourhood, with whom he was continually fighting, and was seldom without a black eye or a broken shin.
6. His poor tree was neglected and never thought of, till one day in the autumn, when, by chance, seeing his brother's tree loaded with the finest apples, and almost ready to break down with the weight, he ran to see his own tree, not doubting but he should find it in the same pleasing condition.
7. Great, indeed, was his disappointment and surprise, instead of finding the tree loaded with excellent fruit, he beheld nothing but a few withered leaves, and branches covered with moss. He instantly went to his father, and complained of his partiality in giving him a tree that was worthless and barren, while his brother's produced the most luxuriant fruit. He, therefore, thought that his brother should, at least, give him one half of his apples.
8. His father told him, that it was by no means reasonable that the industrious should give up part of their labour to feed the idle. “If your tree,” said he, produced you nothing, it is but a just reward of your indolence, since you see what the industry of your brother has gained him. 9. Your tree was equally full of blossoms, and
grew in the same soil ; but you paid no attention to the culture of it. Your brother suffered no visible insects to remain on his tree; but you neglected that caution, and left them even to eat up the very buds. As I cannot bear to see even plants perish through neglect, I must now take this tree from you, and give it to your brother, whose care and attention may possibly restore it to its former vigour.
10. “ The fruit it shall produce must be his property, and you must no longer consider yourself as having any right to it. However, you may go to my nursery, and there choose any other which you may like better, and try what you can do with it; but if you neglect to take proper care of it, I shall also take that from you, and give it to your brother, as a reward for his superior industry and attention."
11. This had the desired effect on William, who clearly perceived the justice and propriety of his father's reasoning, and instantly got into the nursery to choose the most thriving apple-tree he could there meet with.
His brother Thomas assisted him in the culture of his tree, advising him in what manner to proceed; and William made the best use of his time, and the instructions he received from his brother.
12. He left off all his mischievous tricks, forsook the company of idle boys, applied himself cheerfully to work, and in autumn received the reward of his labour, his tree being then loaded with fruit.
13. From this happy change in his conduct, he derived the advantages not only of enriching himself with a plentiful crop of fruit, but also of getting rid of bad and pernicious habits. His father was so perfectly satisfied with his reformation, that the following season he gave him and his brother the produce of a small orchard, which they shared equally between them. BERQUIN. 14. 'Tis the voice of a gluggard—I heard him complain,
“You have wak'd me too soon, I must slumber again."
Turns his sides and his shoulders and his heavy head.
Thus he wastes half his days and his hours without number.
Or walks about saunt'ring, or trifling he stands.
The thorn and the thistle grew broader and higher;
And his money still wastes, till he starves or he begs;
He had ta'en better care for improving his mind;
But he scarce reads his bible, and never loves thinking.
That man's but a picture of what I might be:
of William and Henry.
2. On Mr. Stevenson's saying that he was dry also,