« ZurückWeiter »
walked together; and as Joseph's money was all expended, his companion sustained him. On arriving at his destination, he was pennyless, and almost shoeless. He entered himself as a volunteer: and was sent to Milford Haven the next morning. On board he was at first the object of much ridicule, and was contemptuously styled parson. The captain being absent one day, the officers asked him if he would preach them a sermon. He replied, "Yes ; if you will give me leave to go below for half an hour to read my bible. They said, “O certainly, an hour if you choose.' When he came up, there was a cask placed upon deck, and the ship's company were all assembled. Having placed him upon the cask he proceeded to lecture them upon their habits of profane swearing, drunkenness, &c., at first much to their mirth and amusement; but after a little they began to droop their heads, when he told them if they would leave off these wretched practices, repent, and turn to the Lord, they might still be happy here and happy hereafter. After this sermon, he was treated kindly-no one was suffered to laugh at him, or use him ill, during the three weeks he remained on board.
His return home to his parents was occasioned as follows :-a dissenting minister at Clapham, happening to call in at his mother's shop, found her weeping, and in great distress. On his kindly asking the cause, she informed him that her child had left home, and she knew not what was become of him. He endeavoured to pacify and comfort her with the hope that the Lord would restore him to her; and then enquired where she thought he was gone. She replied,— Why we think to the West Indies. He has felt much and talked much about the poor Blacks lately, from having read Mr. Clarkson's book about them.' 'O come, my good woman,' he rejoined, ' take comfort. I am intimate with the captain of the Port Admiral's ship, at Plymouth. I live at Clapham. Should you hear of your son, let me know.' In about three weeks, a letter was received from Joseph-bis parents informed the minister-he wrote to the captain-and Joseph was soon sent home with a new suit of clothes, money in his pocket, and his carriage paid by coach.-pp. 2,3.
Between this period, and that of his attaining the age of eighteen, he seems to have been an assistant at two schools, one a boarding, the other a day school; and thus, as he afterwards states in a letter to Dr. Bell, he became acquainted with all the defects attendant on the old system of tuition in both kinds of schools. At eighteen he commenced teaching on his own account in his father's house, and the following description of the undertaking, extracted from an old report of the Borough Road School, is from his own pen. It refers to the year 1798.
The undertaking was begun under the hospitable roof of an affectionate parent: my father gave the school-room rent free, and, after fitting up the forms and desks myself, I had the pleasure, before I was eighteen, of having near ninety children under instruction, many of whom I educated free of expense. As the number of scholars continued to increase I soon had occasion to rent larger premises.
"A season of scarcity brought the wants of poor families closely under my notice : at this time a number of very liberal persons enabled me to feed the hungry children. In the course of this happy exertion, I became intimately acquainted with the state of many industrious poor families, whose necessities had prevented the payment of the small price of their children's tuition, some of whom had accumulated arrears for many weeks. In every such case I remitted the arrears and continued the children's instruction free of expense.
•The state of the poor, combined with the feelings of my mind, had now blended the pay school with a free school. Two benevolent private friends had been in the habit of paying for five or six poor children at the low price I had fixed as the assize of education or mental bread for my neighbourhood. I easily induced these friends to place the money they gave, as pay, in the form of a subscription.'—pp. 6,7.
On the outside of his school-room he placed the following printed notice:-'All that will, may send their children and have them educated freely; and those that do not wish to have education for nothing, may pay for it if they please. This filled his school; but, as might have been expected, left his income scarcely adequate to his own board and comforts.
As the number of his pupils. increased, a new school-room became necessary. It was provided, chiefly through the benevolent aid of the late Duke of Bedford and Lord Somerville, 'who,' says Lancaster, 'appeared to be sent by Providence to open wide before me the portals of usefulness for the good of the poor:' • The children,' he adds, 'now came in for education like flocks of sheep; and the number so greatly increased, as to place me in that state which is the mother of invention. The old plan of education, in which I had been hitherto conversant, was daily proved inadequate to the purposes of instruction on a large scale. In every respect I had to explore a new and untrodden path. My continual endeavours have been happily crowned with success.'
The question now arises, and it is an important one, in reference to character, -did Lancaster believe at this time, that he was, 'in deed and in truth,' exploring a new and untrodden path; or, was he well aware that he was only walking in the footsteps of another ? The fact is undoubted, that he was now managing a thousand children, aided only by boys acting as monitors. The point in dispute is, whether he was doing this by methods of his own devising, or, whether, as Mr. Southey harshly expresses it, deriving from Dr. Bell his knowledge of
the system, he claimed for himself with consummate effrontery, the honour of the invention ?' We can only say for ourselves that, after carefully perusing all the evidence that has been offered in support of this frequently repeated charge, we see no reason whatever to believe, that Lancaster was guilty of acting the base and unprincipled part attributed to him; and believing this, we cannot but severely blame those who have accused him so harshly and so rashly.
The truth is, so far as we have been able to ascertain it, that both Dr. Bell and Mr. Lancaster were, to a certain extent, inventors, and both, to a much larger extent, adopters and improvers of existing plans. Pressed by the same difficulties as Dr. Bell, and like him, familiar with military tactics, Lancaster appears, without being conscious of it, to have resorted to the same expedient. Inspired by equal, if not superior energy, he seems to have produced the same result. Excited by similar success, and perhaps inflamed by like vanity, he imitated his predecessor in magnifying the importance of his method, and in claiming an amount of merit as a discoverer which, to say the least of it, was preposterous and absurd. But that he was fraudulent,''dishonest,' 'tricky,' and 'immoral,' or, as Coleridge expresses it, that he was 'a wretched quack,'' a liar," "an ignorant, vulgar, arrogant charlatan,' we do not for a moment believe. Whatever were the faults of his maturer years, his early life was that of a sincere, humble, and disinterested christian.
Lancaster's own account of the matter, given in a letter to Dr. Bell, dated Nov. 21st, 1804, carries with it all the appearance of truthfulness and integrity; and as at that time he was corresponding with the doctor as a friend, was proposing to visit him at Swanage, was asking his advice, and soliciting his aid, there seems no reason for supposing that he would do otherwise than express himself with straightforwardness and simplicity. He thus writes :
I began a day school (in 1798). The methods I pursued soon became popular, and people sent their children in crowds. This plunged me into a dilemma; the common modes of tuition did not apply; and in puzzling myself what to do, I stumbled upon a plan similar to thine ; not, however, meeting with thy book till 1800 I have since succeeded wonderfully, yet not equal to my desire. If thou wilt favour me with any original reports of the asylum at Madras, for nothing is more essential than minutiæ, I should be much obliged.'
Now let it be borne in mind, that at this time Mr. Lancaster's pretensions were not concealed ; that for some years he had been claiming through the press, to be the inventor of his 'improvements in education,' that in doing this, he had referred
distinctly and by name to Dr. Bell, recommending his book to the friends of education, acknowledging without reserve the value of several useful hints' he had adopted from it, and stating, that in some things he had been endeavouring to walk in his footsteps,' and then let any candid person say whether, if Dr. Bell had regarded him as a mere plagiarist, he would not have availed himself of the opportunity afforded by the receipt of this letter, to unmask his hypocrisy and to expose his pretensions ?
The editor says, “It does not appear what answer Dr. Bell returned to this letter. As the original reply is now before us, we can supply the deficiency. It shall speak for itself.
Swanage, 6th Decr., 1804. • DEAR FRIEND.-I was yesterday favoured with your letter, and the outlines, &c. I had before heard of your fame, and the progress wbich you had made in a new mode of tuition, and have long expected the pleasure of seeing you at Swanage, and, thougb your letter does not promise me a speedy accomplishment of this expectation, still I shall hope that you will fulfil your intention as soon as shall suit your conveniency.
When I put my Essay on the A. B. C. into the hands of my bookseller I said (with the apology suited to such enthusiasm,) that before the end of the next century every school in Europe would be taught on this principle. I was pleased to see it some time ago acted upon and recited in the reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor, and am delighted to hear that in the beginning of the century you have afforded such a specimen of the success of this system. I am fully sensible of the many disadvantages which you have to encounter, and as recounted by you they are, for the most part, such as I could have foreseen, I shall endeavour to find my original reports at Madras, that I may communicate them; but you will not meet with the details which you expect in them, as they were presented to those who had daily opportunities of seeing the seminary. Nor can I pretend to recite a thousand particulars by letters which I could do viva voce, and which I hope to do soon in thy school, which I promise myself much pleasure in attending when I am next in town.'
After answering some questions which Lancaster had put relative to his mode of selecting monitors, and of preparing sand for the alphabet classes, he proceeds ;
'I have been strongly urged to publish a brief extract of my essay for general circulation. Now, you will do me a kindness by taking a copy of my publication, and drawing your pen through every line which you think might be spared, without any essential defect of information, taking care to efface whatever is not necessary to give an idea of the system of instruction. By this means I apprehend the pamphlet may be reduced to a very few pages. At the same time I shall be glad of any observations which you may see fit to make, and
particularly whether any part is difficult to be understood, and where you think a fuller explanation necessary. “In this way I may have an opportunity of recommending your institution, more general and more effectual than any other I could propose. For this purpose I must see every thing with my own eyes, and by hearing of your difficulties I shall best know what requisite information I omitted in the report of my system which does not comprehend more than the general principle and outlines of the mode of tuition. At all events I shall trust to your erasing every thing which can possibly be left out in my publication as not bearing upon the elucidation of the system, but which I thought it necessary to insert in the first publication for this reason. ‘My success in this new mode so far surpassed my expectations, and appeared so wonderful to those who witnessed it, that I was often told the report would not gain credit in Europe. On that account it appeared absolutely requisite to give authentic documents to prove the reality of the facts recorded, and this was the main object in introducing the system to the world. Without ascertaining the facts I expected little attention to the system, which I imagined would be by most people ranked amongst those novel and delusive theories which often appear on the stage of existence, only to vanish for ever. It is now time to give circulation to the system itself, in a manner calculated for general use, and unencumbered of every thing foreign to its elucidation and demonstration. “I take the liberty to make this request to you, the only person to whom I have applied, and whom I have been induced to apply to in consequence of your letter, the object of which I suppose can be best forwarded in this manner; and, because I consider, that to one who has matured the subject of these communications as you have done, and had such experience, it will cost no trouble to expunge such parts of my publication, as does not go to the explanation of the system; and, as it is a far easier task for any person, master of the subject, to do this than the writer, whose mind is often warped by prejudices unknown and unfelt by himself. How far mine is so, I shall know from your communication compared with my own ideas. ‘Let me once more mention my purpose, to discard as much as can possibly be parted with, so as not to injure the explanations of the system. The object of my original publication was not merely to narrate the outline of an experiment, but also duly to authenticate the facts by which the experiment was proved to be successful, in order to hold out grounds for others to give it a further trial, and to correct and improve my system, which I am confident will admit of many alterations and amendments; but which alterations and amendments will only occur to some rare genius, if he has no experimental practice, or to those who like you are engaged in similar attempts, and in a situation widely different from that in which I was placed; and, under circumstances, many of which you have detailed, that do not admit of the same practices, and which require an alteration suited
to the situation, circumstances, genius of the nation, and condition of the youth.