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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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2390. EDUCATION, Female.—
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2390. EDUCATION, Female.—

A plan of
female education has never been a subject of
systematic contemplation with me. It has
occupied my attention so far only as the education
of my own daughters occasionally required.
Considering that they would be
placed in a country situation, wher little aid
could be obtained from abroad, I thought it
essential to give them a solid education, which
might enable them, when become mothers, to
educate their own daughters, and even to direct
the course for sons, should their fathers
be lost, or incapable, or inattentive. * * * A great obstacle to good education is the ordinate
passion prevalent for novels, and the
time lost in that reading which should be instructively
employed. When this poison infects
the mind. it destroys its tone and revolts
it against wholesome reading. Reason and
fact, plain and unadorned, are rejected.
Nothing can engage attention unless dressed
in all the figments of fancy, and nothing so
bedecked comes amiss. The result is a
bloated imagination, sickly judgment, and
disgust towards all the real businesses of
life. This mass of trash, however is not without
some distinction; some few modelling
their narratives, although fictitious, on the
incidents of real life, have been able to make
them interesting and useful vehicles of a
sound morality. Such, I think, are Marmontel's
new Moral Tales, but not his old ones,
which are really immoral. Such are the writings
of Miss Edgeworth, and some of those
of Madame Genlis. For a like reason, too,
much poetry should not be indulged. Some
is useful for forming style and taste. Pope,
Dryden, Thomson, Shakespeare, and of the
French Molière, Racine, the Corneilles, May
be read with pleasure and improvement. The
French language, become that of the general
intercourse of nations, and from their extraordinary
advances, now the depository of
all science, is an indispensable part of education
for both sexes. * * * The ornaments,
too, and the amusements of life, are entitled
to their portion of attention. These, for a
female, are dancing, drawing, and music. The
first is a healthy exercise, elegant and very
attractive for young people. Every affectionate
parent would be pleased to see his
daughter qualified to participate with her
companions, and without awkwardness at
least, in the circles of festivity, of which she
occasionally becomes a part. It is a necessary
accomplishment, therefore, although of
short use; for the French rule is wise, that
no lady dances after marriage. This is
founded in solid physical reasons, gestation
and nursing leaving little time to a married
lady when this exercise can be either safe or
innocent. Drawing is thought less of in this
country than in Europe. It is an innocent
and engaging amusement, often useful, and
a qualification not to be neglected in one who
is to become a mother and an instructor. Music
is invaluable where a person has an ear.
Where they have not, it should not be attempted.
It furnishes a delightful recreation
for the hours of respite from the cares of the
day, and lasts us through life. The taste of
this country, too, calls for this accomplishment
more strongly than for either of the
others. I need say nothing of household
economy, in which the mothers of our country
are generally skilled, and generally careful
to instruct their daughters. We all know
its value, and that diligence and dexterity in
all its processes are inestimable treasures.
The order and economy of a house are as
honorable to the mistress as those of the farm
to the master, and if either be neglected,
ruin follows, and children destitute of the
means of living.—
To N. Burwell. Washington ed. vii, 101. Ford ed., x, 104.
(M. 1818)