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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

Too much occupied with Marcuccio


we are told by his biographer, "considered the training of his children, especially of his son, as the most imperative duty of his life, to which all other considerations, except that of very evident and important service to his country, ought to be subordinated. In ordinary times he placed private duties above public ones." Before the child was born his fatherly fondness was planning schemes for the future. "In case it should be a boy, I am already preparing myself to educate him. I should try to familiarize him very early with the ancient languages, by making him repeat sentences after me, and relating stories to him in them, in order that he might not have too much to learn afterwards, nor yet read too much at too early an age; but receive his education after the fashion of the ancients. I think I should know how to educate a boy, but not a girl; I should be in danger of making her too learned.... I would relate innumerable stories to the boy, as my father did to me; but by degrees mix up more and more of Greek and Latin in them, so that he would be forced to learn those languages in order to understand the stories." By and by, when the child is eight months old, we find him curtailing his literary investigations because he is "moreover, just now, too much occupied with Marcuccio." When "Marcuccio" is five years old his father writes: "We have daily proofs of Marcus's noble nature; still I am well aware that this affords us no guaranty, unless it be guided with the most watchful
care.... I succeed with teaching as well as I could have ventured to hope.... I am reading with him Hygin's Mythologicum,--a book which, perhaps, it is not easy to use for this purpose, and which, yet, is more suited to it than any other, from the absence of formal periods, and the interest of the narrative. For German, I write fragments of the Greek mythology for him.... I give everything in a very free and picturesque style, so that it is as exciting as poetry to him; and, in fact, he reads it with such delight that we are often interrupted by his cries of joy. The child is quite devoted to me; but this educating costs me a great deal of time. However, I have had my share of life, and I shall consider it as a reward for my labors if this young life be as fully and richly developed as lies within my power."

If Niebuhr, one of the most learned men of his time, ambassador of Prussia to Rome, with all the business to transact, not only of Prussia, but of all the petty German powers that had no minister of their own, engaged in minute and abstruse historical investigation bearing upon a work with which he was occupied and which may be said to have revolutionized Roman history,--if his time was not too valuable to bestow upon the amusement, the affection, and the education of a baby, where shall we find, in America, a man whose valuable time shall be a sufficient reason for the neglect of his children? It may not be necessary or desirable to copy Niebuhr's course with exactness. His residence in Rome devolved upon him a larger part of the mental education of the boy than would have been necessary at home. I am also inclined to think that he was too careful and troubled, and did not have faith enough in Nature and God. But the point which I wish to show is, that, in the midst of his numerous and important duties, he found time for his child; and if he could do so much, surely those who have not one tenth part of his duties and responsibilities, either in number or weight, can find time to do the far less service which devolves upon them. If they cannot, there is but one resource. If a man is not able to be both statesman and father, both merchant and father, or lawyer and father,

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