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Emily Bathurst; or, at Home and Abroad

Chapter I

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Chapter I.

"Dear Uncle," said Emily Bathurst, as Mr. Monro entered the drawing-room of her mother's house one morning, "you are the very person I was wishing to see." "For my pleasure, or for yours?" asked her uncle. "Both, of course," replied Emily, smiling; "I wish you to enjoy the pleasure which it always gives you to tell me anything I want to know."

Mr. M.

But now your education is completed, what information can you require?

page 2 E.

That is very unfair, uncle. You know I am not so foolish now as to imagine that leaving the school-room is the close of education; on the contrary, I have heartily agreed with your wise remark, that my education is only beginning.

Emily Bathurst was just eighteen. She was the eldest of several daughters, who resided with a widowed mother some months of every year in town2, and the remainder in the country. She had just been emancipated from school room trammels3, in order to be introduced into society, and to become more than hitherto the companion of her mother. Mrs. Bathurst had provided excellent governesses and masters for her daughters; such, at least, as were highly recommended. She inquired, at regular intervals, whether her children were making satisfactory progress in their various studies, and what books they were reading; and being satisfied herself with Emily's improvement in those accomplishments which came more under her immediate notice, she concluded that her page 3education had been properly carried on. Mr. Monro had ideas of his own on the subject of education,—who has not in the present day?—but he did not consider himself authorized to interfere with the plan his sister had adopted. His visits were not particularly acceptable to Miss Johnson, the governess, who was enthusiastic in the prosecution of her own plan of education, and he did not often venture into her territories; but he was exceedingly fond of his nieces, and nothing delighted them more than a walk with "Uncle Charles." He had always something new to tell—something to interest them in; and one of Emily's pleasantest anticipations on leaving the school-room, was that of enjoying more of this kind uncle's society, who spent much of his time at Mrs. Bathurst's house, where he read, wrote, talked, or was silent, as he pleased, and was at all times a welcome guest. He had indulged a little satire on Miss Johnson's remark, that Miss Bathurst's education was now finished, and that she was fully satisfied page 4with the result of her labours with her eldest pupil, and added her hope that the younger sisters would know as much as Emily did, when they should have attained her years.

"Now, Emily," asked Mr. Monro, "pray tell me how much you do know: or perhaps you had better begin by enumerating the things you do not know, as, doubtless, this would form the shorter list."

Emily blushed, and honestly asserted that she could not mention the many things of which she was utterly ignorant.

"Emily is too modest to speak for herself," interposed Miss Johnson, "I shall be most happy to give you a list of her acquirements. French she speaks like a native, and has a good grammatical knowledge of both German and Italian, so as to be able to read and write with facility in either language. On both harp and piano she is no ordinary performer. As to history, she has read Hume4 and Smollett5 and Rollin6, Russell, Robertson, and most of the standard works. I have not neglected her mind, and considering Euclid7 very useful in page 5strengthening the mental powers, have made her perfect in the first few books. She has studied several branches of natural history, and could pass an examination in chemistry and natural philosophy very creditable to Mr. Maddan, her English preceptor. I have occasionally permitted, as a relaxation, the productions of our poets, and a few of the best works of fiction."

Mr. M.

Really, Emily, your acquirements are quite overpowering.


Uncle, you are only laughing at me. I am truly obliged to Miss Johnson for all the pains she has taken with me, and it is not her fault that I am not much wiser than I really am.

Mr. M.

So, I am sure, am I. Pray, Miss Johnson, allow me to express my gratitude to you for the great care you have taken of my niece, mentally and bodily; and my thankfulness that, in spite of her weight of knowledge, she is still blooming and in good health, which, I am sure, is mainly owing to your early hours and regular walks.

page 6

Miss Johnson left the room highly gratified with having been allowed to enumerate her pupil's acquirements, whilst Emily felt rather annoyed at the smile which lurked in the corner of Mr. Monro's eye during the enumeration of her attainments, and which had quite escaped the worthy governess's observation.

"Dear Emily, what is all this for?" inquired he, when left alone with his niece.


I do not understand you, uncle.

Mr. M.

What is the object and end of all your attainments?


I can hardly say. I learnt because mamma wished it, and also because I like study myself.

Mr. M.

Then you have studied to please your mother and yourself. Two excellent reasons, especially the first. But, now, will your acquirements make you useful to others?


I have scarcely thought of that.

Mr. M.

I consider your education now only beginning, instead of completed. You page 7have been laying in a stock of materials, which, you were quite right to do, as you had no others within your reach. What is the use of being acquainted with various languages? You are not likely to travel, and French answers every purpose in society.


I suppose, to become acquainted with the literature of different countries.

Mr. M.

Exactly so. Unless there is this object in view, the mere acquisition of a language is of little use. Those who know languages thoroughly may also be useful in translating books for the benefit of the English reader. Miss Johnson talks of natural philosophy and history, as if your short life could have been long enough to have dived fully into their mysteries. Men of first-rate talents have devoted their whole lives to perhaps a single branch of science, and found themselves beginners at the end of their days. Newton, you know, said, in his latter days, that he felt like a child picking up shells on the sea-shore, with the wide ocean of knowledge open before him.

page 8 E.

Indeed, uncle, I do not think myself very wise.

Mr. M.

I am glad of it. It will save you many mortifications. What do you know of theology and church history?


Next to nothing.

Mr. M.

Yet, what is the chief end of life, do you think?


I suppose to do our duty, is it not?

Mr. M.

Rather to prepare for that eternal world where our hearts should be. All knowledge may be profitable or otherwise, according as we make it so. Knowledge pursued for its own sake is vanity. It will never satisfy the mind. If it is used to increase our acquaintance with God, with His works of creation and order, and with His providential dealings towards His creatures, it is profitable. Studied with these views, and also to bring them to bear upon the improvement and comfort of man, the various branches of philosophy, science, and history, become really valuable. His ways are perhaps plainer seen in the study of church history page 9than in any other; and the study of general history should ever be pursued in connexion with this: and as to theological but I am rather thinking aloud than attending to you, my dear niece. I only want you to feel, not how much, but how little, you know, and that unless you have an end in view, study of any kind is very useless.


I am more obliged to you than I can say, dear uncle. I shall hope to have many conversations with you, and to put myself now under your training.

Mr. M.

May you have a better teacher than a poor old man like me, my dear child: one who can never lead you wrong, but who will guide you in the pursuit of all truth.

Emily was a sensible and by no means conceited girl. She believed she might find her uncle's opinions correct, and her experience verified them speedily. The friends whose acquaintance her mother chiefly cultivated, were well-informed reading persons; and her daughter was rarely thrown into the society of those triflers of that most important page 10talent, Time, whose evenings and nights are spent in public, and whose morning occupations are principally confined to accomplishments, novels, and poetry. She knew that Miss Johnson had expected her to shine in conversation on rational subjects, and it must be confessed that it was a slight mortification to her to find that her uncle's observation, "Emily, you will find yourself very ignorant of common things," proved strictly true. Rollin and Russell did not assist her in understanding allusions to the present state of Russia and Poland. The present policy of the Church of Rome, the extensive efforts made by its emissaries in every part of the world, the check it has received from Liberalism in Germany, and the real lessening of its influence in France, were new ideas to her, though they seemed familiar to others. The opening of China to foreign nations she had never heard of. Though she was acquainted with the composition of the air, and the mechanism of the steam-engine, she had yet to learn the effect of steam and atmos-page 11pheric railways8 on commerce, agriculture, and society. To descend to minor matters. She could write a sensible essay on the constitution of Great Britain, but a note of courtesy was an effort to her, and she scarcely knew how to express herself. A problem in Euclid, or algebraical fractions, gave her real pleasure, but she found great difficulty in balancing the account which her mother wished her to keep of the expenditure of her pocket-money. When her mother requested her to undertake occasionally the superintendence of the household, although she could have given a correct account of the produce of all the countries of Europe, the prices of the articles of daily consumption, and the proper distribution of the sum her mother allotted to housekeeping, caused her such exceeding anxiety and trouble, that Mrs. Bathurst's good-nature speedily relieved her of a burden which she seemed to feel so heavy. Emily felt at first glad to be left more at leisure to follow her favourite pursuits, but her uncle's hints and observations page 12opened to her new views and feelings on many points. Though she said little, she thought much. He encouraged her to ask him questions on any subject on which she needed information, and she gladly availed herself of his aid in acquiring knowledge, but he knew little of what passed in her mind. She began, however, to feel that she had been living somewhat in vain. She had enjoyed her studies, and rested satisfied in them; and now she discovered that she had pursued them principally for her own pleasure, forgetting whose soldier and servant she was pledged to be. But as I do not intend to write an account of her mind, I will leave her thoughts and return to the conversation with which this chapter commenced, and from which I digressed in order to introduce Emily and her uncle more particularly to my readers. Emily and her mother had been dining, on the preceding evening, at the house of a friend, where they had heard some gentlemen discussing the state of New Zealand, and speaking of the war which page 13was proceeding there9. Emily remembered that New Zealand was an island in the Southern Ocean10, and nearly the antipodes of England: but supposed, from her geography books, that it was only inhabited by a few savage tribes, and why any one should be interested in their encounters she could not conjecture. She had not liked to ask questions, and thus to expose her ignorance to her friends, but she longed for her uncle's next visit, in order that she might learn from him what there could be to cause interest among the barbarous New Zealanders.

When she had explained her wishes to him, he expressed his usual readiness to oblige her, and said, "I do not wonder at your ignorance, for till within the last few years New Zealand was exactly as your geography book describes it; but the progress of civilization there has been most surprising. I think the best thing I can do will be to bring you a little account which I drew up for my own amusement, of the comparative page 14state of these islands in the years 1814 and 1833."


Thank you, uncle, that will be very delightful; and perhaps you can also recommend me some books which will give me some travellers' wonders respecting the country.

Mr. M.

There are several books now published on the subject, which I will procure. My own little account you shall have tomorrow.

2 London.

3 Restrictions or impediments to freedom of action.

4 David Hume, eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, economist and essayist.

5 Tobias Smollett, eighteenth-century Scottish poet and author.

6 Charles Rollin, eighteenth-century French historian and educator.

7 A Greek mathematician known as the “founder of geometry” circa 300BC.

8 Use differential air pressure to propel a railway vehicle. Several forms were proposed in the early nineteenth century but they were impractical and discontinued.

9 The New Zealand Wars between the Colonial government and allied Māori versus the Māori and Māori-allied settlers began in 1845 and lasted until 1872.

10 Otherwise known as the Antarctic or Austral Ocean