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Children

( Originally Published 1851 )



Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory, do we come, From God, who is our home.

Heaven lies about us in our infancy

WORDSWORTH

I may begin with the question of Henry IV of France, when found by an ambassador at romps with his children," Are you a father?" If you are, we may go on with the game if not, you must pass to the next article. A curious thing it is, this same fact, that children in general are only interesting in the eyes of those who are parents, while brats in particular are held as pests by all but their immediate father and mother. Some lightheaded author has compared the rush of children which takes place at the conclusion of family dinners, to the incursion of the Goths and Vandals. Perhaps it is all true, that children out of place are not agreeable; but is any thing agreeable that is out of place? Children, abstracted from the homely details of their management, and the anxiety which they always occasion, are a delightful study, I maintain, fitted alike to engage the speculations of the philosophic, and the affections of the benevolent mind. I cannot, I must say, form the idea of a man of extended views and sympathies, who does not like children.

Among the grown up part of mankind, there is always abundance of envy, hatred, and all uncharitableness. This fact I consider with reference to the circumstances in which men are placed, and I plainly conceive that where existence is only to be supported by an unceasing struggle, and where self-love is so perpetually receiving injury, it is needless to expect that men should be much better than they are. In children, however, we see no possibility of any rivalship: they are a harmless little people at this moment, and we run no chance of being jostled by them in our course of life, for many years to come. There is, therefore, no reason for envy, hatred, or uncharitableness with them. On the contrary, in our intercourse with children, our self-love is undergoing a perpetual compliment. The appeal which they are constantly making from their own silently confessed weakness our tacitly acknowledged strength, soothes and delights us. A fellow creature lies unconsciously abandoned to our mercy unconsciously unable to resist. It asks for nothing, for it cannot; but it does not expect harm: there is the charm. It imputes to us none of our original sins of envy, hatred, and_ uncharitableness, but seems to take it for granted that we are blanch and stainless like itself. It puts forth its little arms to us, with a perfect confidence in our gentler and better nature, and we feel it impossible to be evil when we are so sincerely understood to be good. We give, then, the love and faith that are demanded, and press the offenceless type of our original and perfect nature, with all the hues and all the odors of paradise rife around it, to our heart of hearts.

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