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TRIMMER AND LANCASTER.*
(E. REVIEW, 1806.)
A Comparative View of the New Plan of Education promulgated by
Mr. Joseph Lancaster, in his Tracts concerning the Instruction of the Children of the Labouring Part of the Community; and of the System of Christian Education founded by our pious Forefathers for the Initiation of the Young Members of the Established Church in the
Principles of the Reformed Religion. By Mrs. TRIMMER. 1805, This is a book written by a lady who has gained considerable reputation at the corner of St. Paul's Churchyard; who flames in the van of Mr. Newberry's shop; and is, upon the whole, dearer to mothers and aunts than any other author who pours the milk of science into the mouths of babes and sucklings. Tired at last of scribbling for children, and getting ripe in ambition, she has now written a book for grown-up people, and selected for her antagonist as stiff a controversialist as the whole field of dispute could well have supplied. Her opponent is Mr. Lancaster, a Quaker, who has lately given to the world new and striking lights upon the subject of Education, and come forward to the notice of his country by spreading order, knowledge, and innocence among the lowest of mankind.
* Lancaster invented the new method of education. The Church was sorely vexed at its success, endeavoured to set up Dr. Bell as the discoverer, and to run down poor Lancaster. George the Third was irritated by this shabby conduct, and always protected Lancaster. He was delighted with this Review, and made Sir Herbert Taylor read it a second time to him.
Mr. Lancaster, she says, wants method in his book; and therefore her answer to him is without any arrangement. The same excuse must suffice for the desultory abservations we shall make upon this lady's publication.
The first sensation of disgust we experienced at Mrs. Trimmer's book, was from the patronising and protecting air with which she speaks of some small part of Mr. Lancaster's plan. She seems to suppose, because she has dedicated her mind to the subject, that her opinion must necessarily be valuable upon it; forgetting it to be barely possible, that her application may have made her more wrong, instead of more right. If she can make out of her case, that Mr. Lancaster is doing mischief in so important a point as that of national education, sh = has a right, in common with every one else, to lay her complaint before the public; but a right to publish praises must be earned by something more difficult than the writing sixpenny books for children. They may be very good; though we never remember to have seen any one of them; but if they be no more remarkable for judgment and discretion than parts of the work before us, there are many thriving children quite capable of repaying the obligations they owe to their amiable instructress, and of teaching, with grateful retaliation, " the old idea how to shoot.”
In remarking upon the work before us, we shall exactly follow the plan of the authoress, and prefix, as she does, the titles of those subjects on which her observations are made; doing her the justice to presume, that her quotations are fairly taken from Mr. Lancaster's book.
1. Mr. Lancaster's Preface. -Mrs. Trimmer here contends, in opposition to Mr. Lancaster, that ever since the establishment of the Protestant Church, the education of the poor has been a national concern in this country; and the only, argument she produces in support of this extravagant assertion, is an appeal to the Act of Uniformity. If there are millions of Englishmen who cannot spell their own names, or read a sign-post which bids them turn to the right or left, is it any answer to this deplorable ignorance to say, there is an Act of Parliament for public instruction ?-to show the very line and chapter where the King, Lords, and Commons, in Parliament assembled, ordained the universality of reading and writing, when, centuries afterwards, the ploughman is no more capable of the one or the other than the beast which he drives? In point of fact, there is no Protestant country in the world where the education of the poor has been so grossly and infamously neglected as in England. Mr. Lancaster has the very high merit of calling the public attention to this evil,
and of calling it in the best way, by new and active remedies; and this uncandid and feeble lady, instead of using the influence she has obtained over the anility of these realms, to join that useful remonstrance which Mr. Lancaster has begun, pretends to deny that the evil exists; and when you ask where are the schools, rods, pedagogues, primers, histories of Jack the Giantkiller, and all the usual apparatus for education, the only things she can produce is the Act of Uniformity and Common Prayer.
2. The Principles on which Mr. Lancaster's Institution is conducted.—“Happily for mankind,” says Mr. Lancaster, “it is possible to combine precept and practice together in the education of youth: that public spirit, or general opinion, which gives such strength to vice, may be rendered serviceable to the cause of virtue; and in thus directing it, the whole secret, the beauty, and simplicity of national education consists. Suppose, for instance, it be required to train a youth to strict veracity. He has learnt to read at school; he there reads the declaration of the Divine will respecting liars: he is there informed of the pernicious effects that practice produces on society at large: and he is enjoined, for the fear of God, for the approbation of his friends, and for the good of his schoolfellows, never to tell an untruth. This is a most excellent precept; but let it be taught, and yet, if the contrary practice be treated with indifference by parents, teachers, or associates, it will either weaken or destroy all the good that can be derived from it. But if the parents or teachers tenderly nip the rising shoots