S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.


It is of the last importance to season the passions of a child with devotion, which seldom dies in a mind that has received an early tincture of it. Though it may seem extinguished for a while by the cares of the world, the heats of youth, or the allurements of vice, it generally breaks out and discovers itself again as soon as discretion, consideration, age, or misfortunes have brought the man to himself. The fire may be covered and overlaid, but cannot be entirely quenched and smothered.

Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 201.

When I see the motherly airs of my little daughters when playing with their puppets, I cannot but flatter myself that their husbands and children will he happy in the possession of such wives and mothers.

Joseph Addison.

Who can look at this exquisite little creature seated on its cushion, and not acknowledge its prerogative of life—that mysterious influence which in spite of the stubborn understanding masters the mind, sending it back to days long past, when care was but a dream, and its most serious business a childish frolic? But we no longer think of childhood as the past, still less as an abstraction; we see it embodied before us, in all its mirth, and fun, and glee, and the grave man becomes again a child, to feel as a child, and to follow the little enchanter through all its wiles and never-ending labyrinth of pranks. What can be real if that is not which so takes us out of our present selves that the weight of years falls from us as a garment; that the freshness of life seems to begin anew; and the heart and the fancy, resuming their first joyous consciousness, to launch again into this moving world, as on a sunny sea whose pliant waves yield to the touch, sparkling and buoyant, carry them onward in their merry gambols? Where all the purposes of reality are answered, if there be no philosophy in admitting, we see no wisdom in disputing it.

Washington Allston.

If the affection or aptness of the children be extraordinary, then it is good not to cross it.

Had it pleased God to continue to me the hopes of succession, I should have been, according to my mediocrity and the mediocrity of the age I live in, a sort of founder of a family: I should have left a son, who, in all the points in which personal merit can be viewed, in science, in erudition, in genius, in taste, in honour, in generosity, in humanity, in every liberal sentiment and every liberal accomplishment, would not have shown himself inferior to the Duke of Bedford, or to any of those whom he traces in his line. His Grace very soon would have wanted all plausibility in his attack upon that provision which belonged more to mine than to me. He would soon have supplied every deficiency, and symmetrized every disproportion. It would not have been for that successor to resort to any stagnant, wasting reservoir of merit in me, or in any ancestry. He had in himself a salient, living spring of generous and manly action. Every day he lived he would have re-purchased the bounty of the crown, and ten times more, if ten times more he had received. He was made a public creature, and had no enjoyment whatever but in the performance of some duty. At this exigent moment the loss of a finished man is not easily supplied.

But a Disposer whose power we are little able to resist, and whose wisdom it behoves us not at all to dispute, has ordained it in another manner, and (whatever my querulous weakness might suggest) a far better. The storm has gone over me; and I lie like one of those old oaks which the hurricane has scattered about me. I am stripped of all my honours, I am torn up by the roots, and lie prostrate on the earth. There, and prostrate there, I most unfeignedly recognize the Divine justice, and in some degree submit to it. But, whilst I humble myself before God, I do not know that it is forbidden to repel the attacks of unjust and inconsiderate men. The patience of Job is proverbial. After some of the convulsive struggles of our irritable nature, he submitted himself, and repented in dust and ashes. But even so, I do not find him blamed for reprehending, and with a considerable degree of verbal asperity, those ill-natured neighbours of his who visited his dunghill to read moral, political, and economical lectures on his misery. I am alone. I have none to meet my enemies in the gate.

Edmund Burke: Letter to a Noble Lord on the Attacks upon his Pension, 1796.

Be ever gentle with the children God has given you; watch over them constantly; reprove them earnestly, but not in anger. In the forcible language of Scripture, “Be not bitter against them.” “Yes, they are good boys,” I once heard a kind father say; “I talk to them very much, but do not like to beat my children—the world will beat them.” It was a beautiful thought, though not elegantly expressed. Yes: there is not one child in the circle round the table, healthful and happy as they look now, on whose head, if long enough spared, the storm will not beat. Adversity may wither them, sickness may fade, a cold world may frown on them, but amidst all let memory carry them back to a home where the law of kindness reigned, where the mother’s reproving eye was moistened with a tear, and the father frowned “more in sorrow than in anger.”

Elihu Burritt.

Good Christian people! here lies for you an inestimable loan: take all heed thereof; in all carefulness employ it: with high recompense, or else with heavy penalty, will it one day be required back.

I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.

It always grieves me to contemplate the initiation of children into the ways of life when they are scarcely more than infants. It checks their confidence and simplicity, two of the best qualities that Heaven gives them, and demands that they share our sorrows before they are capable of entering into our enjoyments.

A child is a man in a small letter, yet the best copy of Adam; and he is happy whose small practice in the world can only write his character. He is Nature’s fresh picture newly drawn in oil, which time and much handling dims and defaces. His soul is yet a white paper, unscribbled with observations of the world, wherewith at length it becomes a blurred note-book. He is purely happy, because he knows no evil, nor hath made means by sin to be acquainted with misery. He arrives not at the mischief of being wise, nor endures evils to come by foreseeing them. He kisses and loves all, and when the smart of the rod is past, smiles on his beater. Nature and his parents alike dandle him, and entice him on with a bit of sugar to a draught of wormwood. He plays yet like a young prentice the first day, and is not come to his task of melancholy. All the language he speaks yet is tears, and they serve him well enough to express his necessity. His hardest labour is his tongue, as if he were loth to use so deceitful an organ; and he is best company with it when he can but prattle. We laugh at his foolish sports, but his game is our earnest; and his drums, rattles, and hobby-horses, but the emblems and mockings of men’s business. His father hath writ him as his own little story, wherein he reads those days of his life which he cannot remember, and sighs to see what innocence he has outlived. He is the Christian’s example, and the old man’s relapse; the one imitates his pureness, and the other falls into his simplicity. Could he put off his body with his little coat, he had got eternity without a burden, and exchanged but one heaven for another.

Bishop John Earle.

Hang me all the thieves in Gibbet Street to-morrow, and the place will be crammed with fresh tenants in a week; but catch me up the young thieves from the gutter and the door-steps; take Jonathan Wild from the breast; send Mrs. Sheppard to Bridewell, but take hale young Jack out of her arms; teach and wash me this young unkempt vicious colt, and he will run for the Virtue Stakes yet; take the young child, the little lamb, before the great Jack Sheppard ruddles him and folds him for his own black flock in Hades; give him some soap, instead of whipping him for stealing a cake of brown Windsor; teach him the Gospel, instead of sending him to the treadmill for haunting chapels and purloining prayer-books out of pews; put him in the way of filling shop-tills, instead of transporting him when he crawls on his hands and knees to empty them; let him know that he has a body fit and made for something better than to be kicked, bruised, chained, pinched with hunger, clad in rags or prison gray, or mangled with gaoler’s cat; let him know that he has a soul to be saved. In God’s name, take care of the children, somebody; and there will soon be an oldest inhabitant in Gibbet Street, and never a new one to succeed him!

Household Words.

Suppose, again, that a teacher is gentle-spirited and of a loving disposition; the first soon dwindles into a feeble non-resistance of injuries, and the last hungers and thirsts often until it perishes of inanition. I know it is a shocking thing to say, but the children are mostly selfish: so long as you are administering to their amusement or comfort, they will love you, but the moment it becomes necessary to thwart a whim or control a passion, you are altogether hateful; and they hate you for the time being, very cordially. I have been loved and hated myself a dozen times a week; and I know a little damsel now who, when her temper is crossed, tells her governess that she hates her pet cat, and is not above giving the innocent pussy a sly blow or kick as proxy for its much-enduring mistress.

Household Words.

Tell me not of the trim, precisely-arranged homes where there are no children; “where,” as the good Germans have it, “the fly-traps always hang straight on the wall;” tell me not of the never-disturbed nights and days, of the tranquil, unanxious hearts, where children are not! I care not for these things. God sends children for another purpose than merely to keep up the race:—to enlarge our hearts, to make us unselfish, and full of kindly sympathies and affections; to give our souls higher aims, and to call out all our faculties to extended enterprise and exertion; to bring round our fireside bright faces and happy smiles, and loving, tender hearts. My soul blesses the Great Father every day, that he has gladdened the earth with little children.

Mary Howitt.

All minds, even the dullest, remember the days of their childhood; but all cannot bring back the indescribable brightness of that blessed season. They who would know what they once were, must not merely recollect, but they must imagine, the hills and valleys—if any such there were—in which their childhood played; the torrents, the waterfalls, the lakes, the heather, the rocks, the heaven’s imperial dome, the raven floating only a little lower than the eagle in the sky. To imagine what he then heard and saw, he must imagine his own nature. He must collect from many vanished hours the power of his untamed heart; and he must, perhaps, transfuse also something of his maturer mind into those dreams of his former being, thus linking the past with the present by a continuous chain, which, though often invisible, is never broken. So it is too with the calmer affections that have grown within the shelter of a roof. We do not merely remember, we imagine, our father’s house, the fireside, all his features, then most living, now dead and buried, the very manner of his smile, every tone of his voice. We must combine, with all the passionate and plastic power of imagination, the spirit of a thousand happy hours into one moment; and we must invest with all that we ever felt to be venerable, such an image as alone can fill our filial hearts. It is thus that imagination, which first aided the growth of all our holiest and happiest affections, can preserve them to us unimpaired—

  • “For she can bring us back the dead
  • Even in the loveliest looks they wore.”
  • Young people who have been habitually gratified in all their desires will not only more indulge in capricious desires, but will infallibly take it more amiss when the feelings or happiness of others require that they should be thwarted, than those who have been practically trained to the habit of subduing and restraining them, and consequently will, in general, sacrifice the happiness of others to their own selfish indulgence. To what else is the selfishness of princes and other great people to be attributed? It is in vain to think of cultivating principles of generosity and beneficence by mere exhortation and reasoning. Nothing but the practical habit of overcoming our own selfishness, and of familiarly encountering privations and discomfort on account of others, will ever enable us to do it when required. And therefore I am firmly persuaded that indulgence infallibly produces selfishness and hardness of heart, and that nothing but a pretty severe discipline and control can lay the foundation of a magnanimous character.

    Lord Jeffrey.

    Yet it may be doubted whether the pleasure of seeing children ripened into strength be not overbalanced by the pain of seeing some fall in the blossom, and others blasted in their growth; some shaken down by storms, some tainted with cankers, and some shrivelled in the shade; and whether he that extends his care beyond himself does not multiply his anxieties more than his pleasures, and weary himself to no purpose, by superintending what he cannot regulate.

    Dr. Samuel Johnson: Rambler, No. 69.

    I know that a sweet child is the sweetest thing in nature, not even excepting the delicate creatures which bear them; but the prettier the kind of a thing is, the more desirable it is that it should be pretty of its kind. One daisy differs not much from another in glory; but a violet should look and smell the daintiest.

    It requires a critical nicety to find out the genius or the propensions of a child.

    Roger L’Estrange.

    Children should always be heard, and fairly and kindly answered, when they ask after anything they would know, and desire to be informed about. Curiosity should be as carefully cherished in children as other appetites suppressed.

    Children are travellers newly arrived in a strange country; we should therefore make conscience not to mislead them.

    He that is about children should study their nature and aptitudes: what turns they easily take, and what becomes them; what their native stock is, and what it is fit for.

    If a child, when questioned for anything, directly confess, you must commend his ingenuity, and pardon the fault, be it what it will.

    To keep him at a distance from falsehood, and cunning, which has always a broad mixture of falsehood,—this is the fittest preparation of a child for wisdom.

    When one is sure it will not corrupt or effeminate children’s minds, and make them fond of trifles, I think all things should be contrived to their satisfaction.

    I am sure children would be freer from diseases if they were not crammed so much as they are by fond mothers, and were kept wholly from flesh the first three years.

    Silly people commend tame, unactive children, because they make no noise, nor give them any trouble.

    I would not have children much beaten for their faults, because I would not have them think bodily pain the greatest punishment.

    If the mind be curbed and humbled too much in children; if their spirits be abused and broken too much by too strict an hand over them; they lose all their vivacity and industry.

    Children, even when they endeavour their utmost, cannot keep their minds from straggling.

    If improvement cannot be made a recreation, they must be let loose to the childish play they fancy, which they should be weaned from by being made surfeit of it.

    The main thing to be considered in every action of a child is how it will become him when he is bigger, and whither it will lead him when he is grown up.

    Forcing the empty wits of children to compose themes, verses, and orations.

    To season them, and win them early to the love of virtue and true labour, ere any flattering seducement or vain principle seize them wandering, some easy and delightful book of education should be read to them.

    A child’s eyes! those clear wells of undefiled thought; what on earth can be more beautiful! Full of hope, love, and curiosity, they meet your own. In prayer, how earnest; in joy, how sparkling; in sympathy, how tender! The man who never tried the companionship of a little child has carelessly passed by one of the great pleasures of life, as one passes a rare flower without plucking it or knowing its value. A child cannot understand you, you think: speak to it of the holy things of your religion, of your grief for the loss of a friend, of your love for some one you fear will not love in return: it will take, it is true, no measure or soundings of your thought; it will not judge how much you should believe; whether your grief is rational in proportion to your loss; whether you are worthy or fit to attract the love which you seek; but its whole soul will incline to yours, and ingraft itself, as it were, on the feeling which is your feeling for the hour.

    Caroline E. Norton.

    I seem, for my own part, to see the benevolence of the Deity more clearly in the pleasures of very young children than in anything in the world.

    William Paley.

    Amongst the causes assigned for the continuance and diffusion of the same moral sentiments amongst mankind, may be mentioned imitation. The efficacy of this principle is more observable in children; indeed, if there be anything in them which deserves the name of an instinct, it is their propensity to imitation. Now, there is nothing which children imitate or apply more readily than expressions of affection and aversion, of approbation, hatred, resentment, and the like; and when these passions and expressions are once connected, which they soon will be by the same association which unites words with their ideas, the passion will follow the expression, and attach upon the object to which the child has been accustomed to apply the epithet.

    William Paley.

    Do not command children under six years of age to keep anything secret, not even the pleasure you may be preparing as a surprise for a dear friend. The cloudless heaven of youthful open-heartedness should not be overcast, not even by the rosy dawn of shyness,—otherwise children will soon learn to conceal their own secrets as well as yours.

    Jean Paul F. Richter.

    They who provide much wealth for their children, but neglect to improve them in virtue, do like those who feed their horses high, but never train them to the manage.


    Some who have been corrupt in their morals have yet been infinitely solicitous to have their children piously brought up.

    Robert South.

    A house is never perfectly furnished for enjoyment unless there is a child in it rising three years old, and a kitten rising three weeks.

    Robert Southey.

    Call not that man wretched who, whatever ills he suffers, has a child to love.

    Robert Southey.

    These slight intimations will give you to understand that there are numberless little crimes which children take no notice of while they are doing, which, upon reflection, when they shall themselves become fathers, they will look upon with the utmost sorrow and contrition, that they did not regard before those whom they offended were to be no more seen. How many thousand things do I remember which would have highly pleased my father, and I omitted for no other reason but that I thought what he proposed the effect of humour and old age, which I am now convinced had reason and good sense in it! I cannot now go into the parlour to him and make his heart glad with an account of a matter which was of no consequence, but that I told it and acted in it. The good man and woman are long since in their graves, who used to sit and plot the welfare of us their children, while, perhaps, we were sometimes laughing at the old folks at the other end of the house.

    Sir Richard Steele: Spectator, No. 263.

    Fidelia, on her part, as I was going to say, as accomplished as she is, with all her beauty, wit, air, and mien, employs her whole time in care and attendance upon her father. How have I been charmed to see one of the most beauteous women the age has produced, on her knees, helping on an old man’s slipper! Her filial regard to him is what she makes her diversion, her business, and her glory.

    Sir Richard Steele: Spectator, No. 449.

    There is another accidental advantage in marriage, which has likewise fallen to my share; I mean the having a multitude of children. These I cannot but regard as very great blessings. When I see my little troop before me, I rejoice in the additions which I have made to my species, to my country, and to my religion, in having produced such a number of reasonable creatures, citizens, and Christians. I am pleased to see myself thus perpetuated.

    Sir Richard Steele: Spectator, No. 500.

    All those instances of charity which usually endear each other, sweetness of conversation, affability, frequent admonition, all signification of love, tenderness, care, and watchfulness, must be expressed towards children.

    Jeremy Taylor.

    Nothing seems to weigh down their buoyant spirits long; misfortune may fall to their lot, but the shadows it casts upon their life-path are fleeting as the clouds that come and go in an April sky. Their future may, perchance, appear dark to others, but to their fearless gaze it looms up brilliant and beautiful as the walls of a fairy palace. There is no tear which a mother’s gentle hand cannot wipe away, no wound that a mother’s kiss cannot heal, no anguish which the sweet murmuring of her soft, low voice cannot soothe. The warm, generous impulses of their nature have not been fettered and cramped by the cold formalities of the world; they have not yet learned to veil a hollow heart with false smiles, or hide the basest purposes beneath honeyed words. Neither are they constantly on the alert to search out our faults and foibles with Argus eye: on the contrary, they exercise that blessed charity which “thinketh no evil.”

    Esaias Tegnér.

    By frequent conversing with him, and scattering short apothegms, and little pleasant stories, and making useful applications of them, his son was in his infancy taught to abhor vanity and vice as monsters.

    Izaak Walton: Life of Sanderson.

    In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done is to conquer their will. To inform the understanding is a work of time, and must, with children, proceed by slow degrees, as they are able to bear it; but the subjecting the will must be done at once, and the sooner the better; for, by neglecting timely correction, they will contract a stubbornness and obstinacy which are hardly ever conquered, and not without using such severity as would be as painful to me as the child. In the esteem of the world they pass for kind and indulgent, whom I call cruel, parents, who permit their children to get habits which they know must afterwards be broken. When the will of a child is subdued, and it is brought to revere and stand in awe of its parents, then a great many childish follies and inadvertencies may be passed by. Some should be overlooked, and others mildly reproved; but no wilful transgression ought to be forgiven without such chastisement, less or more, as the nature and circumstances of the offence may require. I insist upon conquering the will of children betimes, because this is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education, without which both precept and example will be ineffectual. But when this is thoroughly done, then a child is capable of being governed by the reason and piety of its parents till its own understanding comes to maturity, and the principles of religion have taken root in the mind.

    Mrs. Susannah Wesley.

    In books designed for children there are two extremes that should be avoided. The one, that reference to religious principles in connection with matters too trifling and undignified, arising from a well-intentioned zeal, causing a forgetfulness of the maxim whose notorious truth has made it proverbial, “Too much familiarity breeds contempt.” And the other is the contrary, and still more prevailing, extreme, arising from a desire to preserve a due reverence for religion, at the expense of its useful application in conduct. But a line may be drawn which will keep clear of both extremes. We should not exclude the association of things sacred with whatever are to ourselves trifling matters (for these little things are great to children), but with whatever is viewed by them as trifling. Everything is great or small in reference to the parties concerned. The private concerns of any obscure individual are very insignificant to the world at large, but they are of great importance to himself; and all worldly affairs must be small in the sight of the Most High; but irreverent familiarity is engendered in the mind of any one, then, and then only, when things sacred are associated with such as are, to him, insignificant things.

    Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacon’s Essay, Of Studies.

    The influence exercised by such works is overlooked by those who suppose that a child’s character, moral and intellectual, is formed by those books only which are put into his hands with that design. As hardly anything can accidentally touch the soft clay without stamping its mark on it, so hardly any reading can interest a child without contributing in some degree, though the book itself be afterwards totally forgotten, to form the character; and the parents, therefore, who, merely requiring from him a certain course of study, pay little or no attention to story-books, are educating him they know not how.

    Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacon’s Essay, Of Studies.