The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

Volume 2, 1891/92, pg. 74

"En hoexkens ende boexkens."

[Three separate novels: Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth,]

It is late in the day to say a word about Count Tolstoi's "Childhood, Boyhood, Youth" (Walter Scott, 24, Warwick Lane), but we will venture to do so, seeing that our point of view is not that of the general critic. There is possibly no known field of research in which so little available work has been done as in that of child-nature. The "fair lande" lies under our very eyes, but whoso would map it out must write "Unexplored" across vast tracts. Thoughtful persons begin to suspect that the mistakes we make through this ignorance are grievous and injurious. For example, are not all our schemes of education founded on the presumption that a child's mind--his "thinking, feeling man"--begins "very small," and grows great with the growth of his body? We cannot tell if this is indeed the case. The children keep themselves to themselves in a general way, their winning ways and frank confidences notwithstanding; but if one of us does, by chance, get a child revealed to him, he is startled to find that the child has by far the keener intelligence, the wiser thoughts, the larger soul of the two. When genius is able to lift the veil and show us a child, it does a service which, in our present state of thought, we are hardly able to appraise; and when genius or simplicity, or both, shall have given us enough such studies to generalise upon, we shall doubtless reconsider the whole subject, and shall be dismayed at the slights we have been putting upon the children in the name of education. Count Tolstoi gives us here unmistakable child-portraiture, miniatures in which a mother may see her child and recognise what and how much there is in him.

    "Like our own dear mother,"

the little fellow writes, in the verses he makes for his grandmother's birthday; and then when the verses come to be read, ah! the humiliation of soul he goes through, and how surely he expects father and grandmother to find him out for a hypocrite. "Why did I write it? She's not here, and it was not necessary to mention her; I love grandma, it's true; I reverence her, but still she is not the same. Why did I write it? Why have I lied?" This is the sort of thing there is in children. We recognise it as we read, and remember the dim, childish days when we, too, had an "organ of truth" just so exquisitely delicate; and the recollection should quicken our reverence for the tender consciences of children.

Typed by Pamela Hicks, March 2013; Proofread by Brandy Vencel, March 2013