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Madam How and Lady Why by  Charles Kingsley


 

 

Front Matter



[Book Cover]



[Title]



[Title Page]



[Press]



[Dedication]



PREFACE

[vii] MY DEAR BOYS, — when I was your age, there were no such children's books as there are now. Those which we had were few and dull, and the pictures in them ugly and mean: while you have your choice of books without number, clear, amusing, and pretty, as well as really instructive, on subjects which were only talked of fifty years ago by a few learned men, and very little understood even by them. So if mere reading of books would make wise men, you ought to grow up much wiser than us old fellows. But mere reading of wise books will not make you wise men: you must use for yourselves the [viii] tools with which books are made wise; and that is—your eyes, and ears, and common sense.

Now, among those very stupid old-fashioned boys' books was one which taught me that; and therefore I am more grateful to it than if it had been as full of wonderful pictures as all the natural history books you ever saw. Its name was "Evenings at Home;" and in it was a story called "Eyes and No Eyes;" a regular old-fashioned, prim, sententious story; and it began thus:—

"Well, Robert, where have you been walking this afternoon?" said Mr. Andrews to one of his pupils at the close of a holiday.

Oh—Robert had been to Broom Heath, and round by Camp Mount, and home through the meadows. But it was very dull. He hardly saw a single person. He had much rather have gone by the turnpike-road.

Presently in comes Master William, the other pupil, dressed, I suppose, as wretched boys used to be dressed forty years ago, in a frill-collar, and skeleton monkey-jacket, and tight trousers [ix] buttoned over it, and hardly coming down to his ankles; and low shoes, which always came off in sticky ground; and terribly dirty and wet he is: but he never (he says) had such a pleasant walk in his life; and he has brought home his handkerchief (for boys had no pockets in those days much bigger than keyholes) full of curiosities.

He has got a piece of mistletoe, wants to know what it is; and he has seen a woodpecker, and a wheat-ear, and gathered strange flowers on the heath; and hunted a peewit because he thought its wing was broken, till of course it led him into a bog, and very wet he got. But he did not mind it, because he fell in with an old man cutting turf, who told him all about turf-cutting, and gave him a dead adder. And then he went up a hill, and saw a grand prospect; and wanted to go again, and make out the geography of the country from Cary's old county maps, which were the only maps in those days. And then, because the hill was called Camp Mount, he looked for a Roman camp, and found one; and then he went down to the river, and twenty [x] things more; and so on, and so on, till he had brought home curiosities enough, and thoughts enough, to last him a week.

Whereon Mr. Andrews, who seems to have been a very sensible old gentleman, tells him all about his curiosities: and then it comes out—if you will believe it—that Master William has been over the very same ground as Master Robert, who saw nothing at all.

Whereon Mr. Andrews says, wisely enough, in his solemn old-fashioned way—

"So it is. One man walks through the world with his eyes open, another with his eyes shut; and upon this difference depends all the superiority of knowledge which one man acquires over another. I have known sailors who had been in all the quarters of the world, and could tell you nothing but the signs of the tippling-houses, and the price and quality of the liquor. On the other hand, Franklin could not cross the Channel without making observations useful to mankind. While many a vacant, thoughtless youth is whirled through Europe without gain- [xi] ing a single idea worth crossing the street for, the observing eye and inquiring mind find matter of improvement and delight in every ramble. You then, William, continue to use your eyes. And you, Robert, learn that eyes were given to you to use."

So said Mr. Andrews: and so I say, dear boys—and so says he who has the charge of you—to you. Therefore I beg all good boys among you to think over this story, and settle in their own minds whether they will be Eyes or No Eyes; whether they will, as they grow up, look and see for themselves what happens: or whether they will let other people look for them, or pretend to look, and dupe them, and lead them about—the blind leading the blind, till both fall into the ditch.

I say "good boys;" not merely clever boys, or prudent boys: because using your eyes, or not using them, is a question of doing Right or doing Wrong. God has given you eyes; it is your duty to God to use them. If your parents tried to teach you your lessons in the most agree- [xii] able way, by beautiful picture-books, would it not be ungracious, ungrateful, and altogether naughty and wrong, to shut your eyes to those pictures, and refuse to learn? And is it not altogether naughty and wrong to refuse to learn from your Father in Heaven, the Great God who made all things, when He offers to teach you all day long by the most beautiful and most wonderful of all picture-books, which is simply all things which you can see, hear, and touch, from the sun and stars above your head to the mosses and insects at your feet? It is your duty to learn His lessons: and it is your interest. God's Book, which is the Universe, and the reading of God's Book, which is Science, can do you nothing but good, and teach you nothing but truth and wisdom. God did not put this wondrous world about your young souls to tempt or to mislead them. If you ask Him for a fish, He will not give you a serpent. If you ask Him for bread, He will not give you a stone.

So use your eyes and your intellect, your senses and your brains, and learn what God is [xiii] trying to teach you continually by them. I do not mean that you must stop there, and learn nothing more. Anything but that. There are things which neither your senses nor your brains can tell you; and they are not only more glorious, but actually more true and more real than any things which you can see or touch. But you must begin at the beginning in order to end at the end, and sow the seed if you wish to gather the fruit. God has ordained that you, and every child which comes into the world, should begin by learning something of the world about him by his senses and his brain; and the better you learn what they can teach you, the more fit you will be to learn what they cannot teach you. The more you try now to understand things, the more you will be able hereafter to understand men, and That which is above men. You began to find out that truly Divine mystery, that you had a mother on earth, simply by lying soft and warm upon her bosom: and so (as Our Lord told the Jews of old) it is by watching the common natural things around you, and considering [xiv] the lilies of the field, how they grow, that you will begin at least to learn that far Diviner mystery, that you have a Father in Heaven. And so you will be delivered (if you will) out of the tyranny of darkness, and distrust, and fear, into God's free kingdom of light, and faith, and love; and will be safe from the venom of that tree which is more deadly than the fabled upas of the East. Who planted that tree I know not, it was planted so long ago: but surely it is none of God's planting, neither of the Son of God: yet it grows in all lands and in all climes, and sends its hidden suckers far and wide, even (unless we be watchful) into your hearts and mine. And its name is the Tree of Unreason, whose roots are conceit and ignorance, and its juices folly and death. It drops its venom into the finest brains; and makes them call sense, nonsense; and nonsense, sense; fact, fiction; and fiction, fact. It drops its venom into the tenderest hearts, alas! and makes them call wrong, right; and right, wrong; love, cruelty; and cruelty, love. Some say that the axe is laid to [xv] the root of it just now, and that it is already tottering to its fall: while others say that it is growing stronger than ever, and ready to spread its upas-shade over the whole earth. For my part, I know not, save that all shall be as God wills. The tree has been cut down already again and again; and yet has always thrown out fresh shoots and dropped fresh poison from its boughs. But this at least I know: that any little child, who will use the faculties God has given him, may find an antidote to all its poison in the meanest herb beneath his feet.

There, you do not understand me, my boys; and the best prayer I can offer for you is, perhaps, that you should never need to understand me: but if that sore need should come, and that poison should begin to spread its mist over your brains and hearts, then you will be proof against it; just in proportion as you have used the eyes and the common sense which God has given you, and have considered the lilies of the field, how they grow.

C. KINGSLEY.   



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