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Notices & Reviews of The District School As It Was, Warren Burton (1833; 1838)

Reviewers of The District School As It Was enjoyed the book—and enjoyed reprinting extracts in page-eating chunks. Accepting the book’s details as an accurate, if satirical, description of school life—including the statement that the author first went to school at age three—almost all the reviewers indulged in a little sidle down memory lane, recalling school days of their own. The author of the review in The New-York Mirror added vivid details and a description of a spelling bee. The editor of the Western Monthly Magazine adds no anecdotes, but includes some grumpy and interesting comments on use of the word “leave” that point to how American English has changed since the 1830s.

The book was easy to excerpt, and excerpt the reviewers did. Two sections were reprinted again and again: the scene of Abijah Wilkins’ punishment and Memorus Wordwell’s misunderstanding of the word “spell.” (Excerpts in the reviews are pasted directly from the transcription of the book.) The schoolmaster’s strategem against Abijah met with universal approval; the “spelling” lesson was … well, it was (and is) just plain funny.


New Hampshire Sentinel [Keene, New Hampshire] 30 May 1833

The American Monthly Review June 1833

Ladies’ Magazine and Literary Gazette June 1833

Monthly Traveler June 1833

New-England Magazine June 1833

Boston Patriot, reprinted in Norfolk Advertiser and Independent Politician 1 June 1833

Columbian Centinel 15 June 1833

Christian Examiner and General Review July 1833

The New-York Mirror 27 July 1833

The Family Lyceum 3 August 1833

The Literary Journal, and Weekly Register of Science and the Arts 31 August 1833

The Pearl and Literary Gazette 10 November 1833

Ladies’ Mirror 27 November 1833

Western Monthly Magazine February 1834

The New-Yorker 10 November 1838

The New-York Mirror 22 December 1838

The Common School Journal 15 April 1839


“The District School as it was.” New Hampshire Sentinel [Keene, New Hampshire] 30 May 1833; p. 3.

This little volume is designed for a faithful picture of, and satire upon, the old modes of Education which prevailed some years ago and does now in many villages of New-England. It is somewhat similar to Gilman’s ‘Village Choir’ and if not as full of humor is less of a caricature than that work. The old recollections, and ludicrous incidents which a perusal of it, brings up cannot fail of amusing to a high degree, separate from the merit of the work. We commend it to old and young as well worth the price they pay for it.

We make the following extract, hap hazard:—

Well, the afternoon of the first day, Abijah thrust a pin into a boy beside him, which made him suddenly cry out with the sharp pain. The sufferer was questioned, Abijah was accused and found guilty. The master requested James Clark to go to his room and bring a rattan he would find there, as if the formidable ferule was unequal to the present exigency. James came with a rattan very long and very elastic, as if it had been selected from a thousand, not to walk with, but to whip. Then he ordered all the blinds next to the road to be closed. He then said, “Abijah, come this way.” He came. “The school may shut their books and suspend their studies a few minutes. Abijah, take off your frock, fold it up, lay it on the seat behind you.” Abijah obeyed these several commands with sullen tardiness. Here, a boy up towards the back seat burst out with a sort of shuddering laugh, produced by a nervous excitement he could not control. “Silence,” said the master, with a thunder, and a stamp on the floor that made the house quake. All was as still as midnight—not a foot moved, not a seat cracked, not a book rustled. The school seemed to be appalled. The expression of every countenance was changed; some were unnaturally pale, some flushed, and eighty distended and moistening eyes were fastened on the scene. The awful expectation was too much for one poor girl. “May I go home?” she whined with an imploring and terrified look. A single cast from the countenance of authority crushed the trembler down into her seat again. A tremulous sight escaped from one of the larger girls, then all was breathlessly still again. “Take off your jacket also, Abijah. Fold it, and lay it on your frock.” Mr. Johnson then took his chair and set it away at the farthest distance the floor would permit, as if all the space that could be had would be necessary for the operations about to take place. He then took the rattan, and seemed to examine it closely, drew it through his hand, bent it almost double, laid it down again. He then took off his own coat, folded it up, and laid it on the desk. Abijah’s breast then heaved like a bellows, his limbs began to tremble, and his face was like a sheet. The master now took the rattan in his right hand, and the criminal by the collar with his left, his large knuckles pressing hard against the shoulder of the boy. He raised the stick high over the shrinking back. Then, O what a screech! Had the rod fallen? No, it still remained suspended in the air. “O—I wont [sic] do so agin—I’ll never do so agin—O—O—don’t—I will be good—sartinly will.” The threatening instrument of pain was gently taken from its elevation. The master spoke: “You promise, do you?” “Yis, sir,—O, yis, sir.” The tight grasp was withdrawn from the collar. “Put on your frock and jacket, and go to your seat. The rest of you may open your books again.” The school breathed again. Paper rustled, feet were carefully moved, the seats slightly cracked, and all things went stilly on as before. Abijah kept his promise. He became an altered boy; obedient, peaceable, studious. This long and slow process of preparing for the punishment was artfully designed by the master, gradually to work up the boy’s terrors and agonizing expectations to the highest pitch, until he should yield like a babe to the intensity of his emotions. His stubborn nature, which had been like an oak on the hills which no storm could prostrate, was whittled away and demolished, as it were, sliver by sliver.


Review. The American Monthly Review 3 (June 1833); p. 504-507.

Art. XII.—The District School as it Was. By One who went to It. Boston: Carter, Hendee & Co. 1833. 18mo. pp. 156.

The author of this little book, if he does not relate what he has actually seen, and that of which he has himself been a part, is no careless observer of men and women, boys and girls, matters and things. He gives a lively description of the “Old School-house,” on the summit of a bald hill, of its external appearance and internal arrangement, of the female teachers in Summer, and male teachers in the Winter, of the urchins and youth who attended, of the various kinds of discipline, of the things taught and how they were taught, of the Winter sports, &c. All this is conducted with a good deal of dramatic effect. At one time we are moved by indignation or pity, and at another we are excited to laughter, as the scene changes. There is abundance of action, comic, tragi-comic, and farcical; and our interest increased in it, as it advances. The author grows upon us as he proceeds, becoming more and more natural and lively in his humor, more true to real life in his descriptions.

The following description of a school-master, fresh from college and unused to rustic customs, is not perhaps much exaggerated:

“Mr. Silverson arrived on Saturday evening at Capt. Clark’s. Sunday he went to meeting. He was, indeed, a very genteel looking personage, and caused quite a sensation among the young people in our meeting-house, especially those of our district. He was tall, but rather slender, with a delicate skin, and a cheek whose roses had not been uprooted from their native bed by what, in college, is called hard digging. His hair was cut and combed in the newest fashion, as was supposed, as it was arranged very differently from that of our young men. Then he wore a cloak of many colored plaid, in which flaming red, however, was predominant. A plaid cloak—this was a new thing in our obscure town at that period, and struck us with admiration. We had seen nothing but surtouts and great coats from our fathers’ sheep and out mothers’ looms. His cravat was tied behind; this was another novelty. We had never dreamed but that the knot should be made, and the ends should dangle beneath the chin. Then his bosom flourished with a ruffle and glistened with a breast-pin, such as were seldom seen so far among the hills.

“Capt. Clark unconsciously assumed a stateliness of gait unusual

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to him, as he led the way up the centre aisle, introduced the gentleman into his pew, and gave him his own seat, that is, next the aisle, and the most respectable in the pew. The young gentleman not having been accustomed to such deference in public, was a little confused; and when he heard “that is the new master,” whispered very distinctly by some one near, and on looking up, saw himself the centre of an all-surrounding stare, he was smitten with a fit of bashfulness, such as he had never felt before. So he quiddled with his fingers, sucked and bit his lips, as a relief to his feelings, the same as those rustic starers would have done at a splendid party in his mother’s drawing-rooms. During singing he was intent on the hymn-book, in the prayer he bent over the pew-side, and during the sermon looked straight at the preacher, a church-like deportment which he had never, perhaps, manifested before, and probably may never have since. He was certainly not so severely decorous in that meeting-house again. After the forenoon services he committed a most egregious blunder, by which his bashfulness was swallowed up in shame. It was the custom in country towns then, for all who set upon the centre or broad aisle, as it was called, to remain in their pews till the reverend man of the pulpit had passed along by. Our city bred gentleman was not apprised of this etiquette, for it did not prevail in the metropolis. Well, as soon as the last amen was pronounced, Captain Clark politely handed him his hat, and being next to the pew door, he supposed that he must make his egress first. He stepped out, and had gone several feet down the aisle, when he observed old and young standing in their pews on both sides, in front of his advance, staring at him as if surprised, and some of them with an incipient laugh. He turned his head, and gave a glance back, and behold, he was alone in the long avenue, with a double line of eyes aimed at him from behind as well as before. all seemed waiting for the minister, who by this time had just reached the foot of the pulpit stairs. He was confounded with a consciousness of his mistake. Should he keep on or return to the pew, was a momentary question. It was a dilemma worse than any in logic, it was a severe “screw.”* But finally, back he was going, when behold, Capt. Clark’s pew was blocked up by the out-poured and out-pouring throng of people, with the minister at their head. This was a complete “dead set,” “above all Greek, above all Roman fame.” What should he do now? He wheeled again, dropped his head, put his left hand to his face, and went crouching down the aisle, and out at the door, like a boy going out with the nose-bleed.” pp. 124-128.

We present one more extract, perhaps not the best chosen; but we have such an abhorrence of tyranny and cruelty in

* When a scholar gets considerably puzzled in recitation, he is said in college to take a screw. When he is so ignorant of his lesson as not to be able to recite at all, he takes a dead set.

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teachers, that we are pleased with the description of the issue of Augustus Starr’s brutal severity in the school. he had formerly been a school-teacher, but had for a few years been “an inferior officer aboard a privateer,” a situation not favorable to the amiable virtues, or to great purity of speech, and was now called by the boys of his school, “The Captain.” After a succession of cruel punishments, the larger boys at length combined to eject the Captain from his chair of office, if he should repeat them. An occasion soon occurred, which, with its consequences, is thus described:

“John Howe, for some trifling misdemeanor, received a cut with the edge of the ruler on his head, which drew blood. The dripping wound and the scream of the boy, were a signal for action, as if a murderer were at this fell deed before their eyes. Thomas Howe, one of the oldest in the school and the brother of the abused, and Mark Martin were at the side of our privateer in an instant. Two others followed. His ruler was wrested from his hand, and he was seized by his legs and shoulders, before he could scarcely think into what hands he had fallen. He was carried kicking and swearing out of doors. But this was not the end of his headlong and horizontal career. ‘To the side-hill, to the side-hill,’ cried Mark, who had him by the head. Now it so happened that the hill-side opposite the school-house door was crusted, and as smooth and slippery as pure ice, from a recent rain. To this pitch then he was borne, and in all the haste that his violent struggles would permit. Over he was thrust, as if he were a log, and down he went, giving one of his bearers a kick as he was shoved from their hands, which action of the foot sent him more swiftly on his way from the rebound. There was no bush or stone to catch by in his descent, and he clawed the unyielding crust with his nails, for the want of any thing more prominent on which to lay hold. Down, down he went. O for a pile of stones or a thicket of thorns to cling to, even at the expense of torn apparel or scratched fingers. Down, down he went, until he fairly came to the climax, or rather anti-climax of his pedagogical career. Mark Martin, who retained singular self-possession, cried out, ‘there goes a shooting star.’

“When our master had come to a ‘period or full stop,’ to quote from the spelling-book, he lay a moment as if he had left his breath behind him, or as if querying whether he should consider himself alive or not; or perhaps whether it were really his own honorable self who had been voyaging in this unseaman-like fashion, or somebody else. Perhaps he was at a loss for the points of compass as is often the case in tumbles and topsy-turvies. He at length arose and stood upright, facing the ship of literature which he had lately commanded, and his mutinous crew, great and small, male and female, now lining the side of the road next to the

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declivity, from which most of them had witnessed his expedition. The movement had been so sudden, and the ejection so unanticipated by the school in general, that they were stupified [sic] with amazement. And the bold performers of the exploit were almost as much amazed as the rest, excepting Mark, who still retained coolness enough for his joke. ‘What think of the coasting trade, Captain,’ shouted Mark, ‘is it as profitable as privateering?’ Our coaster made no reply, but turned in pursuit of a convenient footing to get up into the road, and to the school-house again.” pp. 119-121.

We must omit the rest of the gibes and jokes of the boys, and need hardly add that there was no formal leave-taking of his school, on the part of the Captain.


Notice. Ladies’ Magazine and Literary Gazette 6 (June 1833): 288.

Carter, Hendee, & Co. Boston.—

The District School as it was. By one who went to it.

(This is an original, spirited and amusing little volume; one of those clever things that can, like a bon mot, be enjoyed in perfection, but never described to perfection. We intended giving extracts from it in this number, but have no room; we cannot be so selfish as to ask our readers, to wait till next month for the amusement this book will afford. Buy it at once, it is worth owning.)


“District School as It Was.” Monthly Traveler 4 (June 1833); p. 236.

District school as it was.—We some days since received a small volume published by Carter & Hendee, “with the compliments of the author,” which has so much delighted us, that we herewith return our “compliments,” and should feel under additional obligation to gain a clue to his name. We say his name. We have seen in one or two papers, the authorship attributed to a lady, but we are too incredulous to believe such a rumor. There is the impress of a man upon it; and if we wrong the writer, by attributing the book to the Rev. Mr B. we hope to be set right in the matter.

The picture of the district schools in New England, as they were conducted but a few years ago, is perfect, and no one who has arrived at the age of manhood and is familiar with the past peculiar customs of the country, can fail to be carried back in imagination to the days of his boyhood and the sports of his early pupilage. We can recall to mind the old school house on the bleak hill, with its board shutters, and loosened clapboards, its unhewn door stone and broken chimney. We can revive the recollection of the interior, and trace the long writing benches, disfigured by the hackins and scrapings and inkings of a quarter of a century—the sunken hearth and broken andirons—the bent-up tongs, and loose mantel bricks—the patched and puttied windows and “littered” floor—and the thousand other characteristics of a nursery of children in the early part of the present century. The perusal of the book has indeed revived feelings in our breast that have for a long time slumbered, and perhaps might never have been aroused were it not for its quickening power—feelings too, unalloyed with pain and regret, and which seem to render us, for the moment, as free and careless as in the innocent days of childhood.


Review. New-England Magazine June 1833; pp. 518-521.

The District School as it was. By one who went to it.

This is the cleverest book of the kind since Mr. Gilman’s New-England Choir. We, indeed, have some suspicion that it is by him; or if not, we are glad to have two such authors instead of one. It contains the experiences of thirteen years of the life of a country boy, in a district school; with notices of books and masters; and never, since the author of Annals of the Parish gave form and comeliness to this kind of writing, have the experiences of childhood and youth been more faithfully and vividly portrayed. We profess to be good judges on this subject. We never, indeed, had the happiness of keeping school in the country; but we were once, under the ancient regime, promoted for our merits to the dignity of a member of the school committee in a country town; and really the reading of this book was like living that year of our life over again. We again found ourselves in the old school-house, as it used to be called; again saw the trembling look of the scholar, as it glanced from master to committee-man; again found ourselves trying to look grave and important beyond our natural manner, and trembling ourselves, lest the boys should remember too much of the

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good plays we had had together out of school, losing thereby their sense of our official dignity.

This little book opens with a very clever sketch of the old school-house, and we have seen at least a dozen just like it. the author was three years and a half old when he was sent to the summer school of Mary Smith, the kindest and best of his female teachers. We know Mary Smith, or think we do, which is just as well. Next follows a most capital description of Perry’s “Only Sure Guide,” a book by which we ourselves made our first attempts at learning. To the first winter school our author went with fear and trembling. He had heard “Ben tell of the direful punishments of the winter school, of the tingling hand, black and blue with twenty strokes, and not to be closed for a fortnight from soreness.” The minister and the school-master visited together at his father’s one evening, and he thought the master far the most awful man of the two, “stiff and unstooping as the long kitchen fire shovel, and as solemn of face as a cloudy Fast day.” The next summer came Mary Smith again, with her sweet smile and sunny face. The “Death and Burial of Cock Robin” was given to him as a school present, and he gives a ludicrous account of his difficulties as to believing it. “I had the impression that every thing that was printed in a book was surely true.” Poor boy! he could have known nothing of Magazines and Reviews. The next summer advanced him to the study of grammar, in the “Young Lady’s Accidence, and Murray’s Abridgement.” We extract a good description from the chapter of “how they used to read in the old school-house.”

‘Come and read,’ says the mistress to a little flaxen-headed creature of doubtful gender, for the child is in petticoats, and sits on the female side, as close as possible to a guardian sister. But then those coarser features, tanned complexion, and close-clipped hair, with other minutiæ of aspect, are somewhat contradictory to the feminine dress. ‘Come and read.’ It is the first time that this he-or-she was ever inside of a school-house, and in the presence of a school-ma’am, according to recollection, and the order is heard with shrinking timidity. But the sister whispers an encouraging word, and helps ‘tot’ down from the seat, who creeps out into the aisle, and hesitates along down to the teacher, biting his fingers, or scratching his head, perhaps both, to relieve the embarrassment of the novel situation. ‘What is your name, dear?’ ‘Tholomon Icherthon,’ lisps the now discovered he, in a phlegm-choked voice, scarce above a whisper. ‘Put your hands down by your side, Solomon, and make a bow.’d He obeys, if a short and hasty jerk of the head is a bow. The alphabetical page of the spelling-book is presented, and he is asked, ‘What’s that?’ But he cannot tell. He is but two years and a half old, and has been sent to school to relieve his mother from trouble rather than to learn. No one at home has yet shown or named a letter to him. He has never had even that celebrated character, round O, pointed out to his notice. It was an older beginner, most probably, who being asked a similar question about the first letter of the alphabet, replied, ‘I know him by sight, but can’t tell him by name.’ But our namesake of the wise man does not know the gentleman even by sight, nor any of his twenty-five companions.

Solomon Richardson has at length said A, B, C, for the first time in his life. He has read. ‘That’s a nice boy; make another bow, and go to your seat.’ He gives another jerk of the head, and whirls on his heel, and trots back to his seat, meeting the congratulatory smile of his sister with a satisfied grin, which, put into language would be, ‘There, I’ve read, ha’nt I?’

We must indulge ourselves with a few more extracts, though if we quoted all we liked, our notice would be but a reprint of the book. Under the chapter, “How they used to spell,” is a curious notice of a boy, Memorus Wordwell, “the most extraordinary spelling, and indeed reading machine in our school,” and we must give “one little anecdote about Memorus Wordwell before we let him go.”

It happened one day that the ‘cut and split’ for the fire fell short, and Jonas Patch was out wielding the axe in school time. He had been at work about half an hour, when Memorus, who was perceived to have less to do than the rest, was sent out to take his place. He was about ten years old, and four years younger than Jonas. ‘Memorus, you may go out and spell Jonas.’ Our hero did not think of the Yankee sense in which the master used the word spell, indeed he had never attached but one meaning to it whenever it was used with reference to itself. He supposed the master was granting him a ride extraordinary on his favorite hobby. So he put his spelling-book under his arm and was out at the wood-pile with the speed of a boy rushing to play.

‘Ye got yer spellin lesson, Jonas?’ was his first salutation. ‘Haven’t looked at it yet,’ was the reply. ‘I mean to cut up this plaguy great log, spellin or no spellin, before I go in. I had as lieve keep warm here choppin wood, as freeze up there in that tarnal cold back seat.’ ‘Well, the master sent me out to hear you spell.’ ‘Did he? well, put out the words and I’ll spell.’ Memorus being so distinguished a speller, Jonas did not doubt but that he was really sent out on this errand. So our deputy spelling-master mounted the top of the wood-pile, just in front of Jonas, to put out words to his temporary pupil who still kept on putting out chips.

‘Do you know where the lesson begins, Jonas?’ ‘No, I don’t, but I spose I shall find out now.’ ‘Well, here ’tis.’ (They both belonged to the same class.) ‘Spell A-bom-i-na-tion.’ Jonas spells. A-b-o-m bom a-bom (in the mean time up goes the axe high in air,[)] i a-bomi (down it goes again chuck into the wood) n-a na a-bom-i-na (up it goes again) t-i-o-n tion, a-bom-i-na-tion, chuck the axe goes again, and at the same time out flies a furious chip and hits Memorus on the nose. At this moment the master appeared just at the corner of the school-house, with one foot still on the threshold. ‘Jonas, why don’t you come in? didn’t I send Memorus out to spell you?’ ‘Yes[,]

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sir, and he has been spelling me; how could I come in if he spelt me here?’ At this the master’s eye caught Memorus perched upon the top stick, with his book open upon his lap, rubbing his nose, and just in the act of putting out the next word of the column. Ac-com-mo-da-tion, pronounced Memorus in a broken but louder voice than before, for he caught a glimpse of the master, and he wished to let him know that he was doing his duty. This was too much for the master’s gravity. He perceived the mistake, and without saying more, wheeled back into the school-room, almost bursting with the most tumultuous laugh he ever tried to suppress. The scholars wondered at his looks and grinned in sympathy. But in a few minutes Jonas came in, followed by Memorus with his spelling-book, who exclaimed, ‘I have heard him spell clean through the whole lesson, and he didn’t spell hardly none of ’em right.’ The master could hold in no longer, and the scholars perceived the blunder, and there was one simultaneous roar from pedagogue and pupils; the scholars laughing twice as loud and unproariously in consequence of being permitted to laugh in school-time, and to do it with the accompaniment of the master.

The next chapter is a grand account of Mr. Spoutsound, the speaking master, and the exhibition, which we would gladly quote, if we could. Indeed, we never will notice such a book as this again. We cannot quote the whole of it, and how can we select, when every part is so graphic? We have marked and re-marked our copy, until, like some of the writing books of the District School, it is one long blot from beginning to end. By the way, we must recommend the chapter on “learning to write.” We make one other long extract, and had almost said, it shall be our last; but we dare not promise. It is from the notice of Mr. Johnson, a master who kept good order with but little punishing.

A circumstance occurred the very first day, which drove every thing like mischief in consternation from every scholar’s heart. Abijah Wilkins had for years been called the worst boy in school. Masters could do nothing with him. He was surly, saucy, profane and truthless. Mr. Patch took him from an alms-house when he was eight years old, which was eight years before the point of time now in view. In his family were mended neither his disposition, his manners, nor even his clothes. He looked like a morose, unpitied pauper still. He had shaken his knurly and filthy fist in the very face and eyes of the last winter’s teacher. Mr. Johnson was told of this son of perdition before he began, and was prepared to take some efficient step at his first offence.

Well, the afternoon of the first day, Abijah thrust a pin into a boy beside him, which made him suddenly cry out with the sharp pain. The sufferer was questioned, Abijah was accused and found guilty. The master requested James Clark to go to his room and bring a rattan he would find there, as if the formidable ferule was unequal to the present exigency. James came with a rattan very long and very elastic, as if it had been selected from a thousand, not to walk with, but to whip. Then he ordered all the blinds next to the road to be closed. He then said, ‘Abijah, come this way.’ He came. ‘The school may shut their books and suspend their studies a few minutes. Abijah, take off your frock, fold it up, lay it on the seat behind you.’ Abijah obeyed these several commands with sullen tardiness. Here, a boy up towards the back seat burst out with a sort of shuddering laugh, produced by a nervous excitement he could not control. ‘Silence,’ said the master, with a thunder, and a stamp on the floor that made the house quake. All was as still as midnight—not a foot moved, not a seat cracked, not a book rustled. The school seemed to be appalled. The expression of every countenance was changed; some were unnaturally pale, some flushed, and eighty distended and moistening eyes were fastened on the scene. The awful expectation was too much for one poor girl. ‘May I go home?’ she whined with an imploring and terrified look. A single cast from the countenance of authority crushed the trembler down into her seat again. A tremulous sight escaped from one of the larger girls, then all was breathlessly still again. ‘Take off your jacket also, Abijah. Fold it, and lay it on your frock.’ Mr. Johnson then took his chair and set it away at the farthest distance the floor would permit, as if all the space that could be had would be necessary for the operations about to take place. He then took the rattan, and seemed to examine it closely, drew it through his hand, bent it almost double, laid it down again. He then took off his own coat, folded it up, and laid it on the desk. Abijah’s breast then heaved like a bellows, his limbs began to tremble, and his face was like a sheet. The master now took the rattan in his right hand, and the criminal by the collar with his left, his large knuckles pressing hard against the shoulder of the boy. He raised the stick high over the shrinking back. Then, O what a screech! Had the rod fallen? No, it still remained suspended in the air. ‘O—I wont [sic] do so agin—I’ll never do so agin—O—O—don’t—I will be good—sartinly will.’ The threatening instrument of pain was gently taken from its elevation. The master spoke: ‘You promise, do you?’ ‘Yis, sir,—O, yis, sir.’ The tight grasp was withdrawn from the collar. ‘Put on your frock and jacket, and go to your seat. The rest of you may open your books again.’ The school breathed again. Paper rustled, feet were carefully moved, the seats slightly cracked, and all things went stilly on as before. Abijah kept his promise. He became an altered boy; obedient, peaceable, studious. This long and slow process of preparing for the punishment was artfully designed by the master, gradually to work up the boy’s terrors and agonizing expectations to the highest pitch, until he should yield like a babe to the intensity of his emotions. His stubborn nature, which had been like an oak on the hills which no storm could prostrate, was whittled away and demolished, as it were, sliver by sliver.

We cannot go on, chapter by chapter; the desire for quotation will grow irresistible, if we should. Our readers must look for the best parts to the book itself. There is an account of boys going out, making bows, boys coming in, girls going out and coming in, which is extremely picturesque. Next we meet with a glorious story of coasting and snow-balling, the last of which brought our old recollection of Exeter Academy, and one of its peculiar customs, most freshly to our minds. Time would fail us to tell all about this coun-

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try school. There is Augustus Starr, the privateer, who turned pedagogue; and whose new crew mutinied, and performed a singular exploit. there is Mr. Silverson, the first teacher from college, and his blunder at meeting, and his character as a school-master; “who spent most of his evenings at his boarding place, with one volume in his hand, generally that of a novel, and another volume issuing from his mouth—that of smoke.” There are the first attempts at composition, and the examination at the closing of the school. Our readers must read them all; for, beside the entertainment, there are mixed in with them many excellent hints to teachers and scholars. Last, the old school-house is pulled down, “the declining condition in which we first found it, having waxed into exceeding infirmity, by the changes of thirteen years. After the summer school succeeding my thirteenth winter of district education, it was sold and carried piece-meal away, ceasing forever from the form and name of school-house.”


“The District School as It Was.” Boston Patriot, reprinted in Norfolk Advertiser and Independent Politician [Dedham, Massachusetts] 1 June 1833; p. 4.

This entertaining little volume is designed as a satire upon the modes of education which prevailed among us some years ago; and is so full of the spirit of good humor, that the very schoolmaster he has painted, if such a personage be now extant, could hardly refrain from smiling at his own picture. So great and universal are the improvements which have been effected in our schools within the last twenty years, that this description may wear to many the aspect of a caricature; while to those, whose memory extends over that period, it may perhaps serve to recall some of the passage of their own experience. The old school house, which was perched upon the top of a hill, with only one hourse within a quarter of a mile of it, this being the geographical centre of the district—the unhewn rock that served the purpose of a door-step, with a surface declining from the door, as if for the purpose of exposing the schoolmaster in winter to involuntary humiliation—the window shutters fastened back by poles—will remind many a reader of his own first steps in the path of literature even more strongly, than the school house of Ichabod Crane at Sleepy Hollow, which fastened after the fashion of an eel pot. Even now, it strikes us as making rather too free with the old fashioned text-books of our infancy, to laugh at the pictures which decorated the Only Sure Guide to the English Tongue, or to allude with something less than veneration to the Young Lady’s Accidence, or the Abridgement of Murray. But whether it be in all respects just or otherwise, the reader, old or young, will not fail to derive amusement from this little volume.


Review. Columbian Centinel [Boston, Massachusetts] 15 June 1833; p. 4.

The District School as it was.—Carter & Hendee. This is the most amusing little work we have read this many a day. It is written in an easy and flowing style, and with a faithful accuracy which will be acknowledged by evry person who, in days lang syne, attended the District School as it was. We wish we had room for an extrace: but it is difficlt to find one part more pleasing than another—and we pity the man, whose heart has been so spoiled by the uses of this working-day world, as not to be delighted with the quaint and pleasant humour of this charming little work. We hope that its author will continue the series, and give us the District School as it is—and finally (for no one is better able to do so) a view of the District School as it should be.


Review. Christian Examiner and General Review 14 (July 1833); pp. 324-327.

Art. V.—“The District School as it was, by One, who went to it.” Boston. Carter, Hendee, & Co. 1833. 12mo. pp. 156.

We hope and trust this little book will be extensively read. If not, it will be for some reason besides its want of merit. One merit, and this is among the very rarest, it certainly has; that of effecting precisely what it undertakes. It undertakes to picture the District School. And the District School, both without and within, both in its unity and in its variety, both in its principal and in its accessory ideas, stands right before us. We see, we have seen a thousand times, that old, weather-stained, crazy building, with its slamming blinds, and its curiously diversified windows, apparently contrived, by wooden, cracked, and puttied panes, to prevent too large and direct an influx of light, the “District School as it was” not rejoicing in excess of light. We hear the continuous, bee-like hum of its swarming inmates. Our childhood is back upon us. Its giddiness is in our brain; its recklessness is in our heart; its vitality is leaping along every nerve, and whirling through every vein. We are again “reading,” at the top of our voice, in utter defiance of emphasisk intonation, cadence, and such like antiquated prejudices. We are spelling “abomination,” a tin medal being about our neck. We are battling sturdily, but with blows as aimless as old blind Polypheme’s, with the “Parts of Speech.” Our arm aches with long hoding at full length the heavy Bible;—a not very wisely selected instrument of punishment, though often and variously used in old times. Our hand is blushing with the ferula’s kiss. We are rolling and tumbling in the snow. We are on fire with the excitement of a snow-ball fight. In a word, the work of years is undone in a moment;—our hard-earned experience has slipped from our gras;—and we are again that drollest of all droll things, that museum of all oddities, that incarnation of all angles, and twists, and crooks, that most care-free, uproarious, and happy creature, a country school-boy.

Our author is no copyist. His descriptions are not dim, spiritless imitations of some lifeless foreign original. His language is forcible, picturesque, and his own. It lets the thought shine through it, without rounding off one corner, or

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smoothing out one wrinkle, or straightening a single crook. Rural life here is not a shrub sickly and pining at its removal from its native earth. It is thriving and vigorous, its native soil clinging to its roots, not one branch dead, not one leaf withered.

There is, indeed, a class of critics, who will be likely sometimes to take offence at our author’s phraseology;—I mean that sapient class, who think Homer’s similes vulgar, because they speak of sheep and kine;—or Edmund Burke guilty of bad taste, because he so often draws illustrations from the mechanic arts;—or the Old Testament writings unrefined, because so full of rural sights and sounds. Such critics may possibly quarrel with our author’s phraseology for the very thing we particularly like it for; namely, that sprinkling of rusticity, which sets off so aptly the subject treated. To have spoken of the homely objects here brought before us in the silken language of the album, would have been casing a raw country boy in the full dress of a city exquisite.

This book is wonderful for its exactness of truth. We could almost hold up our hand in court, in testimony that we had ourselves been actors in all its scenes. Every graduate of a country school, who takes it up, will, unless we mistake, find it not easy to lay it down, until he has completed its perusal. And the city-born and city-bred, who would know just what rural life is, had better read this book with all convenient despatch.

It may be thought we should offer some specimens in justification of our encomiums, which, being representatives of our feelings, have not, we admit, been very stinted. We have no great opinion of specimens in general, and more especially in the case of a book like this, so much of the value of which consists in little nice touches, which, separate from their connexion, make but an indifferent show. However, in compliance with custom, we will cite one passage, to the verisimilitude of which, by the way, our own experience can bear witness.

Abijah Wilkins was a “surly, saucy, profane, and truthless” boy. He had, for years, been a thorn in the side of successive schoolmasters. Mr. Johnson, this winter’s master, had been apprized of this boy’s little pleasant peculiarities, and was prepared for them.

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“Well, the afternoon of the first day, Abijah thrust a pin into a boy beside him, which made him suddenly cry out with the sharp pain. The sufferer was questioned, Abijah was accused and found guilty. The master requested James Clark to go to his room and bring a rattan he would find there, as if the formidable ferule was unequal to the present exigency. James came with a rattan very long and very elastic, as if it had been selected from a thousand, not to walk with, but to whip. Then he ordered all the blinds next to the road to be closed. He then said, ‘Abijah, come this way.’ He came. ‘The school may shut their books and suspend their studies a few minutes. Abijah, take off your frock, fold it up, lay it on the seat behind you.’ Abijah obeyed these several commands with sullen tardiness. Here, a boy up towards the back seat burst out with a sort of shuddering laugh, produced by a nervous excitement he could not control. ‘Silence,’ said the master, with a thunder, and a stamp on the floor that made the house quake. All was as still as midnight—not a foot moved, not a seat cracked, not a book rustled. The school seemed to be appalled. The expression of every countenance was changed; some were unnaturally pale, some flushed, and eighty distended and moistening eyes were fastened on the scene. The awful expectation was too much for one poor girl. ‘May I go home?’ she whined with an imploring and terrified look. A single cast from the countenance of authority crushed the trembler down into her seat again. A tremulous sight escaped from one of the larger girls, then all was breathlessly still again. ‘Take off your jacket also, Abijah. Fold it, and lay it on your frock.’ Mr. Johnson then took his chair and set it away at the farthest distance the floor would permit, as if all the space that could be had would be necessary for the operations about to take place. He then took the rattan, and seemed to examine it closely, drew it through his hand, bent it almost double, laid it down again. He then took off his own coat, folded it up, and laid it on the desk. Abijah’s breast then heaved like a bellows, his limbs began to tremble, and his face was like a sheet. The master now took the rattan in his right hand, and the criminal by the collar with his left, his large knuckles pressing hard against the shoulder of the boy. He raised the stick high over the shrinking back. Then, O what a screech! Had the rod fallen? No, it still remained suspended in the air. ‘O—I wont [sic] do so agin—I’ll never do so agin—O—O—don’t—I will be good—sartinly will.’ The threatening instrument of pain was gently taken from its elevation. The master spoke: ‘You promise, do you?’ ‘Yis, sir,—O, yis, sir.’ The tight grasp was

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withdrawn from the collar. ‘Put on your frock and jacket, and go to your seat. The rest of you may open your books again.’ The school breathed again. Paper rustled, feet were carefully moved, the seats slightly cracked, and all things went stilly on as before. Abijah kept his promise. He became an altered boy; obedient, peaceable, studious. This long and slow process of preparing for the punishment was artfully designed by the master, gradually to work up the boy’s terrors and agonizing expectations to the highest pitch, until he should yield like a babe to the intensity of his emotions. His stubborn nature, which had been like an oak on the hills which no storm could prostrate, was whittled away and demolished, as it were, sliver by sliver.”

This we call pictorial writing; and if it does not tempt our readers to go straightway and get the book, it is pretty clear that we cannot prevail on them to do so.


Review. The New-York Mirror 11 (27 July 1833); pp. 26-27.

THE DISTRICT SCHOOL AS IT WAS.—BY ONE WHO WENT TO IT—Boston: Carter, Hendee & Co. 1833. Does the book possess merit? Before we answer that question, which is a very general one, let us inquire of the examiner what he means by merit. Does he intend to ask if the book be true to nature? We reply, that if truth to nature in this case consist in delineating a correct picture of a country school, as it was everywhere a few years ago, and as it now is in a great number of villages throughout New-England; of the old schoolhouse, and its thousand inconveniences of locality, construction and interior arrangement; of the defective system of instruction and government, which reigned within that old house; of the schoolboy’s feelings, from his first frightened introduction within the kingdom of the pedagogue, until his final graduation from that earliest of colleges; of the plays and frolics of childhood; of the associations, joyous and sorrowful, which through life remain linked to the remembrance of our early teachers and place of instruction; if this be truth to nature, then does the book possess, in an eminent degree, that merit.

So also if truth to nature consist in a selection of topics, and in a mode of treating those topics, so as to awaken a host of slumbering recollections in the reader’s mind; and, like a wizard’s spells, call up the “spirits” of boyhood “from the vasty deep” of forgetfulness, and flood the heart with its former feelings, its hopes and fears, its sad despondencies and joyous aspirations—if this be truth to nature, then, most certainly, the book is full of it. Smiles and tears, we are not ashamed to confess the fact, succeeded each other upon our face, as we read this little volume; and found ourselves transported to the far-off past, and placed again by the fountains of childish pains and pleasures; and when, from the ponderous cares and labours of manhood, we are thus removed to the half-forgotten scenes of old, by the magic of the pen, we are reader to render to that pen the homage which is due to talent. The “ideal presence” we deem a certain test of merit. There is, so far as we remember, but one departure from natural truth in the book; and that one error consists in making the author remember distinctly the whole process of his feelings, from the first of his schoolboy days, when he was three years and a half old, to the close of his attendance at the schoolhouse. We can believe that the description is correct; that such must have been his emotions and such his thoughts in the situations described; but that memory can retain so fully its early impressions, is, according to the common standard of retentiveness, improbable. We do not believe that even the tender affection and gentle kindness of sweet “Mary Smith,” whose portrait is so admirably drawn, would fix indelibly upon the memory of the little three-year old, “then for the first time honoured with jacket and pantaloons,” all the occurrences related of his first summer at school. That his heart would, long after her departure, yea, throughout the storms of all subsequent life, retain the beautiful picture of the schoolmistress, whom he loved so well, and who so well deserved to be love, we cannot doubt. but, besides that picture, little else could survive. A single fault, however, shall not diminish our admiration.

Besides this truth to nature, which is one great merit, and the power of graphic delineation, which is another, the book possesses the still higher merit of a moral; a moral not proclaimed with the sound of a trumpet by the author, as the burden of his story; but silently inculcated, or incidentally alluded to, and inferentially enforced by powerful illustrations, and sure to be more graciously received than if ostentatiously brought forward.

We have seen it remarked by some reviewer of Sir Walter Scott, that his representation of legal delay and other abuses, in the character of poor Peter Peebles, who figures so conspicuously in Red Gauntlet, has produced a greater reformation in the practice of the Scottish courts, than could have been wrought by means of direct attack and open and avowed exposure. And there is nothing wonderful in this. the living personification of judicial folly was sure to travel as widely as the genius of Scott—throughout the civilized world—and, whereve it went, to make known the reality which it represented. An essay on the same subject might never find its way out of “Auld Reekie,” and would provoke resistance and reply.

The reformation of abuses existing in our elementary institutions of education will, in our opinion, be more certainly effected, and more speedily advanced by the circulation of this attractive volume, than by all the treatises which have emanated from the American Institute, rich as they may be in truth and talent, and commanding as is the influence of that association.

But we must mention a second fault in the book, lest our encomiums may be considered the fruit of a disposition to commend and of a blindness to defects. The fault alluded to is one of style, manifesting itself in a multitude of puns, or verbal quibbles, which, however pleasant when occasionally used, are of a species of wit that becomes disgusting by frequent repetition. We do not wish to be considered hostile to punning, on every occasion. We are, however, confident that, in serious and dignified compositions, puns and conundrums are absolute blemishes; and that, in any description of writing, they must be used very sparingly, or they are sure to displease. We will only mention a single instance in this book of that disposition to play upon words, which we consider faulty, and which is very sure to lead the writer into obscurities of expression.

On the forty-first page, speaking of the imperfect mode of teaching the science of grammatical construction, by means of what is commonly called parsing, the author says—“When we perceived the master himself to be in doubt and perplexity, then we felt ourselves on a level with him, and ventured to oppose our guess to his. and if he appeared a dunce extraordinary, as was sometimes the case, we used to put ourselves in the potential mood pretty often, as we knew that our teacher could never assume the imperative on this subject.” In our humble opinion, the meaning of that last sentence, if it have any, is like Gratiano’s sense—too deeply hidden in nonsense to be found, and if found, too insignificant to repay one for the search. the obscurity is not, however, what we complain of: that is only a consequence of the habit, against the indulgence of which we enter or protest.

So much for the general merit of the work under review. It will be seen that it has recommended itself highly to our favour. We consider it on the whole, worthy to be called a gallery of amusing pictures, executed in the caricature-historical style of Wilkie, and calculated to instruct as well as amuse. We therefore recommend it to all who respect our opinion.

We cannot, however, leave it without a more particular examination of its various chapters; the utterance of some of the reminiscences susggested to our own mind in their perusal, and the selection of a few striking passages.

The first chapter introduces us to the old schoolhouse, “the edifice wherein and whereabout occurred the scenes” which are recorded in succeeding chapters. The picture of its site and of itself is, to the very life, what our youthful eyes beheld in the country district where our “young idea” was first taught “to shoot.” The seminary was perched on the summit of a hill, unsheltered from the blasts of January and from the blazes of July—the target of the wintry storm, the focus of the heats of summer—perched there because that spot happened to be the centre of the district, or, as the committee used to call it, the ’rick. So jealous were the good people about the perfect equality of rights, that, rather than let their children walk one step beyond the central point, they would have surrendered the total benefit of the school; and they did subject the scholars to the endurance of evils a hundred-fold worse than the one they escaped.

So situated, the weather-beaten ten-footer presents its well-known features of clumsy construction, marked by the rude assaults of warring elements and of mischief-loving boys. No paint disturbs the soberness of its natural dress; clap-boards hang clattering in the wind; seams and cracks and puttied glass decorates the windows; and the loosened bricks upon the chimney-top threaten a speedy descent upon the skulls within or without, while the mouldy and mossgrown roof scarcely shelters the crowded inmates who are congregated below.

Carried within the temple of science, behold the yawning fireplace, whose winter duty is to roast the nearest boys and girls; while the remote ones are frost-bitten or benumbed, at least, in their airy seats; the benches in front, constructed for the smaller scholars on the torturing principles of the rack; while those behind, for older pupils, of themselves inculcate the lessons of fatigue and cramp, and fifty other pains, by their narrowness and inconvenience. Behold the long succession of hats and caps and bonnets, of coats and cloaks and neck-comforters, hung upon nails around the walls, with perhaps an occasional dinner-basket peeping from under the drapery, and, if hung too near the fire, sending out odorous assurances of the bread and cheese, or pie and sausage, with which it is stored, intended for the noontide meal of scholars who have not time to go home to dinner. Contemplate the countless scratchings and cuttings and hewings of successive generations of jack-knives and pen-knives, employed by the idle and mischievous upon their own seats, the master’s throne and the wainscotting! ere, upon the edge of a desk, whose cover is made of two-inch plank, some bloody-minded tyro has dug, with his pointed blade, a prison for captive flies and spiders, with grooves in front for the sliding glass-door, which revealed to him the struggles for life and liberty of his prisoners. By the side of this dungeon are gashes and furrows numberless, inflicted on the pine for the sake of proving the temper of a favourite knife. Every bench, nay, every accessible inch of timber in the room, bears marks of the whittling propensity; while in chalk upon the walls, or charcoal on the ceiling, appear the rude scrawls of incipient chirographers and painters. Such is the interior of the nursery of intellect.

Well do we remember that long and slippery hill, upon whose bleak crest stood our district schoolhouse, and up whose steep our youthful steps were urged reluctantly by our older brothers. “Toilsome (tylesome) hill” was its name, and truly did the name express its character. Oh the toil of climbing through snow and mud, and over slippery ice, to the center of the “ ’rick!” On our forehead, as well as in our head, do we still carry the print of that wearisome journeying. The external mark is an enormous scar along our brow, occasioned by a cruel gash received in one of our hundred falls upon that hill; if the brain be not cicatrized also, its wounds were not less grievous; they were given by the pedagogue.

But let us go onward to chapter second, which describes the adventures of “my first summer at school,” and the well-remembered mistress, “Mary Smith.” We see the little stripling arrayed in the hitherto untried pantaloons and jacket, strutting as if already a man; crowned with his “Sunday hat,” laden with a “new basket bought expressly for the purpose,” the basket crammed with cake; “the spelling-book” in hand, and his face full of eager expectation. We distinctly behold his rosy cheek grow almost pale, and his little lip quiver at the idea of facing the mistress; but, alas! no youthful recollection of such an angelic creature as “Mary Smith” blesses us. We do not remember a mistress who “so gently took our quivering little hand, and so tenderly stooped and kissed our cheek, and said such soothing and winning words, that our timidity was gone at once.” No! not such was our reception. We were “absorbed,” as the Abbé Sieyes would express the operation, in the crowd of scholars who received no personality of attention; and of the alphabetical host, “that unmeaning string of sights and sounds,” none but those which we learned at home “were bound forever to our memory by the ties created by looks and tone.”

The “spelling-book,” which furnishes the topic of chapter third, is Perry’s “Only sure guide to the English tongue,” the character of which is most ably described, from the ridiculous collection of fables down to the frontispiece that decorates the first page; which frontispiec by language addressed to the eye, calls on the pupil most eloquentl, as the satirist assures us, to play truant and be happy. The same faults which are described as belonging to Perry, the frontispiece excepted, characterized the spelling-book of Noah Webster, in which our juvenile ideas were exercised. The first task was the letters, to learn which, under the prevalent defective teaching, was a year’s labour; the second lesson was the unmeaning page of monosyllables—ab, eb, ib, ob, ub; then came “words that meant something,” and next “easy lessons in reading;” easy, as our author says, because composed of short words, but unintelligible because made up of abstract moral sentences. How deeply is our memory impressed with the following “easy lesson in reading,” found in Webster:—“No man may put off the law of God;” or, as we were wont to read it—"No-eh man-eh may-eh put-eh off-eh the-eh law-eh of-eh God-eh!”

It is strange that the understanding was never addressed by these books, or, if addressed at all, it was by long and unintelligible words, like diphthong, polysyllable, punctuation, &c.; or by abstract sentences like the one quotes, or by fables, whose point was lost in the ridiculous machinery of heathen deities, and confabulating birds and beasts. We remember the various meanings attached by our early thoughts to the following sentence:—“The wicked flee when no man pursueth; but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” In the first place, the word flee (flea) in our mind was the name of an insect; that it meant run, common use had never informed us. But wherefore the “flee” was denounced as “wicked,” we endeavoured in vain to discover. Of the iniquitous habits ofthat insect, experience had not then informed us. Then again, before we had mastered the secrets of punctuation, and learned the respect due to colons and semicolons, and when we paused only to refill our little lungs in reading, how marvellous [sic] did we deem the assertion, “the wicked flee when no man pursueth but the righteous!”

The mode of teaching was no better than the books. Memory was the only faculty appealed to, and that was unaided by either understanding or imagination. Often, indeed were parent and scholar amused by a seeming rapidity of acquirement, when in fact nothing, not even a letter, had been learned. We remember that a brother of ours, whose progress from the alphabet into words of two syllables had astonished our mother, was called up and examined at the close of the winter school. “Come, Willy,” said she, “open your book, and let me hear you read?” He opened it at the well-worn and dirtied page on which “baker” heads the columns, and read, not pronouncing a single letter, but enunciating syllables, thus—“ba-a-ker, baker, bri-bri-er-er, brier.” “Stop!” said mother, “that is not reading, or spelling either. Try again.” He did, and on examination it appeared that he did not know one letter of the alphabet, and his “reading” was only a bad imitation of the sounds uttered by others.

The horrors of a winter school endured by a front-seat boy are admirably described in chapter fourth.

We pass by the fifth and sixth chapters, which contain a notice of Mary Smith, and her successor and opposite in all things, Mehitable Holt, with the single remark that the petty tyranny and cunningly devised punishments of the latter resemble far more the class of schoolmistresses that has come under our inspection, than does the endearing kindness of Mary Smith.

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The “little books presented on the last day of the school” are the burden of chapter seventh; and the character of the books once used for such purposes is deservedly stigmatized. “Cock Robin,” “Jack the Giant Killer,” “Blue Beard,” “Goody Two Shoes,” “Tom Thumb,” &c[.] were the rewards of merit conferred during our schoolboy days, and thus credulity and superstitious fears were bestowed on us in return for good behaviour. We can say, in the language of our author, “giants, fa[i]ries, witches and ghosts were ready to pounce upon me from every dark corner in the daytime, and from all around in the night, if I happened to be alone.” It was not until long after our emancipation from the district school that our mind was divested of these childish apprehensions, so that a darkened room, or the cellar stairs, or going to bed alone, or a graveyard, ceased to throw us into agitation. Sooner, perhaps, but yet after a long slavery, were we delivered from unsuspecting credulity, that consequence of the demands made upon our puerile faith; and when the hour of deliverance came, it gave us, not merely freedom, but the freedom of scepticism: “Stulti” (et pueri) “dum vitia vitant, in contraria currunt.”

The methods of teaching grammar and arithmetic are humorously described in chapters eighth and seventeenth.

Of the former modes by which grammar was forced, or rather beaten into a scholar’s head, no man of sense or sensibility can fail to cherish a vivid recollection. Orthography, etymology, syntax and prosody! ye jaw-cracking polysyllables! with what ignorant wonder did we travel over your sandy domains again and again, like a dog in a roasting-jack, or a horse on the wheel of a ferry-boat, without gathering a single idea, or discovering a single fact to prove with definition true, that “English grammar is the art of speaking and writing the English language correctly!” And when at last, after years of fog and obscurity, some little light began to beam in upon us, how ridiculous did we think it was for men to burden themselves with such a complication of rules to accomplish an object which we boys and girls had attained long before we heard even the name of grammar—the power of making ourselves understood.

Parsing, as with our author, so with us, was the greatest grammatical exploit of the district school; and while not one out of ten of the scholars could have told the meaning or intent of the exercise, all must be drilled into it, until they could detect the most secret “agreements,” and “qualifications,” and “governments,” and “belonging to,xre and “expressed or understood;” and tear asunder the most complicated sentences with perfect facility.

The study of arithmetic, which the author calls “the chiefest of sciences in Yankee estimation,” comes in for a bountiful share of his satirical description. He gives us the leathern bound volume of Adams’ last edition: the manuscript in foolscap shape, with its horizontal columns of giant “large hand” captions, dwindling down through arithmetic and addition, to rule, and ending in fine hand: the pages ruled off into squares, or pens, in each of which, like convicts in solitary confinement, is imprisoned a “sum,” and at the bottom of all, the owner’s name, re-written on every page in every variety of letter and style, as if to make sure that the admiring examiner should not forget the glorious performer: the “bran new slate,” with its eighty frame decorated with pencil and sponge, attached thereto by a red quill-string, or perhance a leathern strap: the mysterious process of carrying, in addition, and of borrowing, in subtraction, the explanation of which is never given to hundreds until they become collegians: the dull and mind-deadening influence of ciphering by rule, while the nature and reason of the rule are wholly unknown, in view of which practice many a schoolboy has exclaimed

“The rule of three

Doth puzzle me,

And practice makes me mad!”

And, above all, the author revives in us the remembrance of those “miscellaneous questions,crd at the end of “Adams” in the solution of which we have spent so many hours. Who, that has studied that illustrious arithmetician, does not remembered his feelings of awe and admiration while reading the following statement:

“As I went to Saint Ives

I met seven wives;

Every wife had seven sakcs;

Every sack had seven cats;

Every cat had seven kits;

Kits, cats, sacks and wives,

How many were going to Saint Ives/”

Well do we remember that we once roused the indignation of our teacher by insisting that the sum was merely a catch, and that the play of words upon “met” was not pure mathematics. The mistaken principles of that old system of teaching the science of figures are thus properly described:—“Formerly, memory, the mind’s baggage-wagon, was loaded with rules, rules, words, words, to top-heaviness, and sent lumbering along, while the understanding, which should have been the living and spirited mover of the vehicle, was kept ill-fed and lean, and put loosely behind to push after as it could.”

In other chapters we are presented with graphic sketches of the old modes of reading and learning to write; of making bows; of the “spouting” or declamatory master and his exhibition; of a rebellion against pedagogical authority, and of the examination at the end of the school. The whole is as natural as life, and makes the reader fight his “boyish battles o’er again.” But one grand feature of the old-fashioned district school—“the spelling match”—is, by some curious mistake, entirely omitted by our author. This we regret exceedingly, both because his powers of description are so excellent, and because, compared with this most exciting and amusing exercise, even the exhibition and examination fade into insignificance.

We shall endeavour to supply, according to our recollection the author’s omission, and thus conclude our article.

After the winter school had continued a month, perhaps, so as to give both teacher and taught an opportunity of estimating each other’s powers, it would be announced from the chair of state, that on such an afternoon of the following week, there would be a spelling match—that such a couple would be the captains to “choose sides,” and that the words in “Perry’s Dictionary,” under the letters c and s, or any two others, would be given as the spelling lesson, the two leaders being allowed, on the day of spelling, to determine, by lot, to whom the choice of the letter and the first choice of a man should fall.

The announcement was sure to cause a great sensation. The captains were usually the best spellers amongst the boys in the school, and their choice of associates would be influenced by a variety of personal feelings, as well as by the hope of victory. The girls were always the better spellers, and of these the best was generally the favourite of the largest boys, so that not unfrequently the rival candidates for Mary’s or Eliza’s favour, were also the rival captains. The lot which determined the right of choice was, therefore, drawn with fear and anxiety.

When the day of battle came, the younger classes were dismissed as soon as they had recited, until none but the combatants remained; except, perhaps, some little urchin who must wait to be led by his brother’s or sister’s hand. The rival leaders now drew lots for the first choice of partners; and then might you have seen, on the one side, the animated visage of exultation, and on the other, perhaps, the surly look of disappointment and defiance. As each one chose, the individual selected took his or her place by the side of the preceding, so that the favourite sultana was brought into near vicinity with her admirer; and at last the two “sides” were drawn out in battle array upon the field of action. Next came the choice of words, upon which mighty matter you might see the leaders holding counsel with their right-hand-man, so that when the lot was drawn they might be prepared to act advisedly. the lot having been drawn, the master took his slate, and the commanders followed his example, preparing thus to keep a record of mis-spellings on each of the “sides.” To the party whose leader had chosen the letter c, the duty was assigned of proposing a certain number of words beginning with that letter, to the opposite party, who, in turn, propounded the words in s. The party who missed the smaller number of times was declared the conqueror, and the victory was generally signalized, as the hosts retired from the scene, with clapping of hands and with cheers.

Such was the spelling match, in which were called forth all the feelings of rivalry by which the fierce contests of the world are characterized. Of all the adventures of our pupilage, none left a deeper impression than did these battles of words on our recollection. Whenever the other peculiarities of the village school shall have passed away before the progress of reform and improvement, we trust that this, at least, will remain, and remain for ever, unchanged.


“Common Schools.” The Family Lyceum 1 (3 August 1833; p. 103.

Two books have recently been published relating to the most important and interesting subject of Common Schools, which ought to be read and re-read by every teacher and every parent in the country. The first we mentioned some weeks since: it is entitled, ‘The District School as it was.’ Though the description is true to nature, at least to fact, it is a most severe burlesque on the character of many of our schools now in operation.

It is difficult to say for which this book can be most highly recommended, for the instruction or the amusement it must afford to any one and every one who will spend a few leisure moments each day for a week in reading it.

And besides the instruction and amusement it affords, the reader will be very likely to be cured of the dyspepsia if he is troubled with it, by the vigorous and healthful exercise in laughing it must afford; for a person must indeed have most rigid muscles, who can avoid giving free exercise to them during the reading of nearly every page in the book.

Another excellent book for teachers and parents, and especially for school committees, has been given to the public by Wm. a. Alcott, who has produced several other good things for schools.

The book is entitled ‘A Word to Teachers, or, Two Days in a Primary School.’ It consists principally of a description of a visit of two days in one of the schools in Hartford, which we know to furnish some of the best examples of good schools which can be found in our country. And we fully agree with the author, that while the Hartford schools furnish excellent examples to be imitated, the Boston Primary Schools furnish good examples to be avoided.

The description given of a school in Hartford, though principally confined to the primary department, and from the visit of two days, is so familiar, and intelligible, and full, as to enable any teacher to understand and imitate the various exercises described. No teacher or parent can read the book without receiving some aid in the management of children.


A. “The District School.” The Literary Journal, and Weekly Register of Science and the Arts 1 (31 August 1833); pp. 102-103.

Mr. Editor,—Those of your readers who wish to live over again that most curious portion of life called our “school-days,” will do well to read a little book, lately published in Boston, with the title of “the District School as it was; by one who went to it.” Without any pretensions, it aims to do just what its title promises—give a picture of the District School as it was. And a more lifely, natural, amusing and instructing picture, we do not often see. Its lights and shades are to the life. You find yourself trotting off to the old school house, again sitting on the creaking benches, again stammering a, b, ab, or aspiring to highr efforts; and again experiencing all those hopes, fear, plagues, profits, tremblings, whippings and rejoicings, which crowd that never-to-be-forgotten period, and without the experience and recollection of which, a man is but half a man. there are, too, scattered through this book, many instructive lessons and valuable hints, both for teachers and children, and we may add, for parents and “examining” committees. I am much mistaken, and should be very glad to be so mistaken, if many of our schools, not only as they were, but as they are, might not discern some of their own droll features here, and be improved by gazing on them.—I offer you two extracts, one showing the power and skill of the writer, as well as his acquaintance with real school-boy life; the other suggesting some improvements in teaching, such as parents as well as school masters might profitably consider.

EXTRACTS.

In consequence of the lax discipline of the two last winters the school had fallen into very idle and turbulent habits. “A master that will keep order, a master that will keep order,” was the cry throughout the district. Accordingly such a one was sought, and fortunately found. A certain Mr. Johnson, who had taught in a neighboring town, was famous for his strictness, and that without much punishing. He was obtained at a little higher price than usual, and was thought to be well worth the price. I will describe his person, and relate an incident as characteristic of the man.

Mr. Johnson was full six feet high, with the diameter of his chest and limbs in equal proportion. His face was long, and as dusky as a Spaniard’s, and the dark was still darkened by the roots of an enormous beard. His eyes were black, and looked floggings and blood from out their cavernous sockets, which were overhung by eyebrows not unlike brush-heaps. His hair was black and curly, and extended down, and expanded on each side of his face in a pair of whiskers a freebooter might have envied.

He possessed the longest, widest, and thickest ruler I ever saw. This was seldom brandished in his hand, but generally lay in sight upon the desk. Although he was so famous for his orders in school, he scarcely ever had to use his punitive instrument. His look, bearing and voice were enough for the subjection of the most riotous school. Never was our school so still and so studious as this winter. A circumstance occurred the very first day, which drove every thing like mischief in consternation from every scholar’s heart. Abijah Wilkins had for years been called the worst boy in school. Masters could do nothing with him. He was surly, saucy, profane and truthless. Mr. Patch took him from an alms-house when he was eight years old, which was eight years before the point of time now in view. In his family were mended neither his disposition, his manners, nor even his clothes. He looked like a morose, unpitied pauper still. He had shaken his knurly and filthy fist in the very face and eyes of the last winter’s teacher. Mr. Johnson was told of this son of perdition before he began, and was prepared to take some efficient step at his first offence.

Well, the afternoon of the first day, Abijah thrust a pin into a boy beside him, which made him suddenly cry out with the sharp pain. The sufferer was questioned, Abijah was accused and found guilty. The master requested James Clark to go to his room and bring a rattan he would find there, as if the formidable ferule was unequal to the present exigency. James came with a rattan very long and very elastic, as if it had been selected from a thousand, not to walk with, but to whip. Then he ordered all the blinds next to the road to be closed. He then said, “Abijah, come this way.” He came. “The school may shut their books and suspend their studies a few minutes. Abijah, take off your frock, fold it up, lay it on the seat behind you.” Abijah obeyed these several commands with sullen tardiness. Here, a boy up towards the back seat burst out with a sort of shuddering laugh, produced by a nervous excitement he could not control. “Silence,” said the master, with a thunder, and a stamp on the floor that made the house quake. All was as still as midnight—not a foot moved, not a seat cracked, not a book rustled. The school seemed to be appalled. The expression of every countenance was changed; some were unnaturally pale, some flushed, and eighty distended and moistening eyes were fastened on the scene. The awful expectation was too much for one poor girl. “May I go home?” she whined with an imploring and terrified look. A single cast from the countenance of authority crushed the trembler down into her seat again. A tremulous sight escaped from one of the larger girls, then all was breathlessly still again. “Take off your jacket also, Abijah. Fold it, and lay it on your frock.” Mr. Johnson then took his chair and set it away at the farthest distance the floor would permit, as if all the space that could be had would be necessary for the operations about to take place. He then took the rattan, and seemed to examine it closely, drew it through his hand, bent it almost double, laid it down again. He then took off his own coat, folded it up, and laid it on the desk. Abijah’s breast then heaved like a bellows, his limbs began to tremble, and his face was like a sheet. The master now took the rattan in his right hand, and the criminal by the collar with his left, his large knuckles pressing hard against the shoulder of the boy. He raised the stick high over the shrinking back. Then, O what a screech! Had the rod fallen? No, it still remained suspended in the air. “O—I wont [sic] do so agin—I’ll never do so agin—O—O—don’t—I will be good—sartinly will.” The threatening instrument of pain was gently taken from its elevation. The master spoke: “You promise, do you?” “Yis, sir, —O, yis, sir.” The tight grasp was withdrawn from the collar. “Put on your frock and jacket, and go to your seat. The rest of you may open your books again.” The school breathed again. Paper rustled, feet were carefully moved, the seats slightly cracked, and all things went stilly on as before. Abijah kept his pro-

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mise. He became an altered boy; obedient, peaceable, studious. This long and slow process of preparing for the punishment was artfully designed by the master, gradually to work up the boy’s terrors and agonizing expectations to the highest pitch, until he should yield like a babe to the intensity of his emotions. His stubborn nature, which had been like an oak on the hills which no storm could prostrate, was whittled away and demolished, as it were, sliver by sliver.

We shall suppose it to be the last day of the winter school. The scholars have on their better clothes, if their parents are somewhat particular, or if the every-day dress “looks quite too bad.” The young ladies, especially, wear the next best gown, and a more cleanly and tastefully worked neckerchief. Their hair displays more abundant curls and a more elaborate adjustment.

It is noon. The school room is undergoing the operation of being swept as clean as a worn-out broom in the hands of one girl, and hemlock twigs in the hands of others, will permit. Whew—what a dust! Alas, for Mary’s cape, so snow-white and smooth in the morning. Hannah’s curls, which lay so close to each other, and so pat and still on her temples, have got loose by the exercise, and have stretched themselves into the figure of half-straightened corkscrews, nearly unfit for service. The spirit of the house-wife dispossesses the bland and smiling spirit of the school-girl. The masculine candidates for matrimony can now give a shrewd guess who are endued with an innate propensity to scold; who will be Xantippes to their husbands, should they ever

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get their Cupid’s nests made up again so as to catch them. “Be still, Sam, bringing in snow,” screams Mary. “Get away boys, off out doors, or I’ll sweep you into the fire,” snaps out Hannah, as she brushes the urchins’ legs with her hemlock. “There, take that,” screaches [sic] Margaret, as she gives a provoking lubber a knock with the broom handle; “there, take that, and keep your wet, dirty feet down off the seats.” The sweeping and scolding are at length done. The girls are now brushing their clothes, by flapping handkerchiefs over themselves and each other. The dust is subsiding; one can almost breathe again. The master has come, all so prim, with his best coat and a clean cravat, and may be, a collar is stiff and high above it. His hair is combed in its genteelest curvatures. He has returned earlier than usual, and the boys are cut short in their play—the glorious fun of the last noon-time. But they must all come in. But what shall the visiters sit on? “Go up to Captain Clark’s and borrow some chairs,” says the master. A half a dozen boys are off in a moment, and next, more than half a dozen chairs are sailing, swinging, and clattering through the air, and set in a row round the spelling-floor.

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The school are at length all seated at their books, in palpitating expectation. The master makes a speech on the importance of speaking up “loud and distinct,” and of refraining from whispering, and all other things well known to be forbidden. The writing books and cyphering manuscripts are gathered and piled on the desk, or the bench near it. “Where is your manuscript, Margaret?” “I carried it home last night.” “Carried it home!—what’s that for?” “Cause I was ashamed on’t—I haven’t got half so far in ’rethmetic as the rest of the girls who cypher, I’ve had to stay at home so much.”

A heavy step is heard in the entry. All is hushed within. They do nothing but breathe. The door opens—it is nobody but one of the largest boys who went home at noon. There are sleigh-bells approaching—hark, do they stop? yes, up in Captain Clark’s shed. Now there is another tread, then a distinct and confident rap. The master opens the door, and the minister salutes him, and advancing, receives the simultaneous bows and courtesies of the awed ranks in front. He is seated in the most conspicuous and honorable place, perhaps in the magisterial desk. Then some of the neighbors scatter in and receive the same

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homage, though it is proffered with a more careless action and aspect.

Now commences the examination. First, the younger classes read and spell. Observe that little fellow, as he steps from his seat to take his place on the floor. It is his day of public triumph, for he is at the head; he has been there the most times, and a ninepence swings by a flaxen string from his neck. His skin wants letting out, it will hardly hold the important young gentleman. His mother told him this morning, when he left home, “to speak up like a minister,” and his shrill oratory is almost at the very pinnacle of utterance.

The third class have read. They are now spelling. They are famous orthographers; the mightiest words of the spelling columns do not intimidate them. Then come the numbers, the ab[b]reviations, and the punctuation. Some of the little throats are almost choked by the hurried ejection of big words and stringy sentences.

The master has gone through with the several accomplishments of the class. They are about to take their seats. “Please to let them stand a few moments longer, I should like to put out a few words to them, myself,” says the minister. Now look out. They expect words

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as long as their finger, from the widest columns of the spelling-book, or perhaps such as are found only in the dictionary. “Spell wrist,” says he to the little sweller at the head. “O, what an easy word!” [R]-i-s-t wrist. It is not right. The next, the next—they all try, or rather do not attempt the word, for if r-i-s-t does not spell wrist, they cannot conceive what does. “Spell gown, Anna.” G-o-u-n-d. “O no, it is gown, not gound. The next try.” None of them can spell this. He then puts out penknife, which is spelt with the k, and then andiron, which his honor at the head rattles off in this way, “h-a-n-d hand i-u-r-n urn hand-iurn.”

The poor little things are confused as well as discomfited. They hardly know what it means. The teacher is disconcerted and mortified. It dawns on him, that while he has been following the order of the book, and priding himself that so young scholars can spell such monstrous great words—words which, perhaps, they will never use, they cannot spell the names of the most familiar objects. The minister has taught him a lesson.


Review. The Pearl and Literary Gazette 3 (10 November 1833); p. 59A.

The District School, as it was, by one who went to it.—One of the best books this book-making age has produced. Every line is a treasure, every word is worthy of being written in gold. Independent of the main object the author has in view, of improving the character of our common schools, it is a rich treat to every man who ever saw the inside of a district school-house. It is a faithful portrait of our early days. The old school-house itself, with its hingeless blinds slamming in the wind, the unhewn step, the hacked benches and the ‘master’s chair,’ are picture to the life. The author carries us irresistably back to the days, when, with our best ‘go to meeting clothes’ and our new felt hat, we first crossed the threshold of this awful sanctoram of learning. The very plays of our boyhood are up before us; it seems as if the intermediate years were gathered up and we were again on that ‘side hill,’ tumbling about in the feathery snow, like a porpoise in a storm, sliding down hill, merely for the pleasure of drawing the sled up again, or fighting like a young warrior, with icy balls the despised other-enders. We dislike to mar the beauty of the whole, by giving extracts, but the temptation is too great. The author’s description of his knowledge of the alphabet on first going to school, is too good to be lost.

I had, however, learned the name of capital A, because it stood at the head of the column, and was the similitude of a harrow frame. Of O, also, from its resemblance to a hoop. Its sonorous name, moreover, was a frequent passenger through my mouth, after I had begun to articulate, its ample sound being the most natural medium by which man born unto trouble signifies the pains of his lot. X, too, was familiar, as it seemed so like the end of the old saw-horse that stood in the wood-shed. Further than this my alphabetical lore did not extend, according to present recollection.

And then again his second summer, after once going through the ordeal of winter’s schooling, and having been taught by ‘a master’ is capitally described. The little urchins are hit off to the life.

So Mary Smith kept the school, and I had another delightful summer under her care and instruction. I was four years and a half old now, and had grown an inch. I was no tiny, whining, half-scared baby, as in the first summer. No indeed; I had been to the winter school, had read in a class, and had stood up at the fire with the great boys, had seen a snow-ball fight, and had been accidentally hit once, by the icy missile of big-fisted Joe swagger.

I looked down upon two or three fresh, slobbering abecedarians with a pride of superiority, greater perhaps than I ever felt again. We read not in ab, eb, &c., but in words that meant something; and before the close of the summer in what were called the “Reading Lessons,” that is, little words arranged in little sentences.

A most ludicrous anecdote is told, arising from the misconception of the word spell, a word in Yankee phrase, signifying both to definee the component parts of words, and to relieve a friend from his labors, we cannot but quote it.

It happened one day that the “cut and split” for the fire fell short, and Jonas Patch was out wielding the axe in school time. He had been at work about half an hour, when Memorus, who was perceived to have less to do than the rest, was sent out to take his place. He was about ten years old, and four years younger than Jonas. “Memorus, you may go out and spell Jonas.” Our hero did not think of the Yankee sense in which the master used the word spell, indeed he had never attached but one meaning to it whenever it was used with reference to itself. He supposed the master was granting him a ride extraordinary on his favorite hobby. So he put his spelling-book under his arm and was out at the wood-pile with the speed of a boy rushing to play.

“Ye got yer spellin lesson, Jonas?” was his first salutation. “Haven’t looked at it yet,” was the reply. “I mean to cut up this plaguy great log, spellin or no spellin, before I go in. I had as lieve keep warm here choppin wood, as freeze up there in that tarnal cold back seat.” “Well, the master sent me out to hear you spell.” “Did he? well, put out the words and I’ll spell.” Memorus being so distinguished a speller, Jonas did not doubt but that he was really sent out on this errand. So our deputy spelling-master mounted the top of the wood-pile, just in front of Jonas, to put out words to his temporary pupil who still kept on putting out chips.

“Do you know where the lesson begins, Jonas?” “No, I don’t, but I spose I shall find out now.” “Well, here ’tis.” (They both belonged to the same class.) “Spell A-bom-i-na-tion.” Jonas spells. A-b-o-m bom a-bom (in the mean time up goes the axe high in air,[)] i a-bomi (down it goes again chuck into the wood) n-a na a-bom-i-na (up it goes again) t-i-o-n tion, a-bom-i-na-tion, chuck the axe goes again, and at the same time out flies a furious chip and hits Memorus on the nose. At this moment the master appeared just at the corner of the school-house, with one foot still on the threshold. “Jonas, why don’t you come in? didn’t I send Memorus out to spell you?” “Yes, sir, and he has been spelling me; how could I come in if he spelt me here?” At this the master’s eye caught Memorus perched upon the top stick, with his book open upon his lap, rubbing his nose, and just in the act of putting out the next word of the column. Ac-com-mo-da-tion, pronounced Memorus in a broken but louder voice than before, for he caught a glimpse of the master, and he wished to let him know that he was doing his duty. This was too much for the master’s gravity. He perceived the mistake, and without saying more, wheeled back into the school-room, almost bursting with the most tumultuous laugh he ever tried to suppress. The scholars wondered at his looks and grinned in sympathy. But in a few minutes Jonas came in, followed by Memorus with his spelling-book, who exclaimed, “I have heard him spell clean through the whole lesson, and he didn’t spell hardly none of ’em right.” The master could hold in no longer, and the scholars perceived the blunder, and there was one simultaneous roar from pedagogue and pupils; the scholars laughing twice as loud and unproariously in consequence of being permitted to laugh in school-time, and to do it with the accompaniment of the master.

But learning to write! who does not remember, the proud feeling with which he entered upon the first winter he was allowed to write—when he was actually to have a quill and writing book of his own, with his own proper name written in the first leaf, thus—‘John Carter his book,’ and was to set on the high seat and have an inkstand and a penknife! Oh it was one of the bright sports in our young existence, a day which he hailed as a turning point in our life, when we were to pass the Rubicon of Boyhood, and tread on the threshold of manhood. But we will not detain the reader from the author’s description, which is one of the best things we have met for many a year.

Having previously had the promise of writing this winter, I had made all the necessary preparations, days before school was to begin. I had bought me a new birch ruler, and had given a third of my wealth, four cents, for it. To this I had appended, by a well-twisted flaxen string, a plummet of my own running, whittling and scraping. I had hunted up an old pewter inkstand, which had come down from the ancestral eminence of my great grandfather, for aught I know; and it bore many marks of a speedier and less honorable descent, to wit, from table or desk to the floor. I had succeeded in becoming the owner of a penknife, not that it was likely to be applied to its appropriate use that winter at least, for such beginners generally used the instrument to mar the pens they wrote in, rather than to make or mend those they wrote with. I had selected one of the fairest quills out of an enormous bunch. Half a quire of foolscap had been folded into the shape of a writing book by the maternal hand, and covered with brown paper, nearly as thick as a sheepskin.

We would gladly quote more but our limits will not allow. We wish it were in our power to put a copy into the hands of every subscriber, who ever went to a district school. It is too good a thing to be lost, and we can only say to the reader go and buy it, pay your money freely; consider that the bookseller is doing you an especial kindness in selling you the book, and take our word for it, you will be amply rewarded for all the time and money you can spend on ‘The District School as it was.’


“The District School as It Was.” Ladies’ Mirror 3 (27 November 1833); pp. 198-199.

THE DISTRICT SCHOOL AS IT WASby one who went to it.—This neat, little book, recently publis[h]ed by Carter, Hendee & Co., Boston, has been lying on our table several weeks. It is certainly the most amusing work we have read for a long time. The author has pictured in lively colors, the early days of every one, who has attended a district school as it was, and in pleasant humor. In the description of the old school-house—how they used to spell—learning to write—the particular master—the exhibition, etc., he has held the mirror true to the scene. We make an extract from Chapter XI—or how they used to spell, to give our readers an idea of the style in which it is written, at the same time recommend the volume to their perusal.

“The most extraordinary spelling, and indeed reading machine in our school was a boy whom I shall call Memorus Wordwell. He was mighty and wonderful in the acquisition and remembrance of words—of signs without the ideas signified. The alphabet he acquired at home before he was two years old. What exultation of parents, what exclamation from admiring visiters. ‘There was never any thing like it!’ He had almost accomplished his Abs before he was thought old enough for school. At an earlier age than usual, however, he was sent, and then he went from Ache to Abomination in half the summers and winters it took the rest of us to go over the same space. Astonishing how quickly he mastered column after column, section after section of obstinate orthographies. Those martial terms I have just used, together with our hero’s celerity, put me in mind of Cæsar. So I will quote him. Memorus might have said in respect to the hosts of the spelling-book, ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’ He generally stood at the head of a class, each one of whom was two years his elder. Poor creatures, they studied hard some of them, but it did no good; Memorus Wordwell was born to be above them.

Master Wordwell was a remarkable reader too. He could rattle off a word as extensive as the name of a Russian noble, when he was but five years old, as easily as the schoolmaster himself. ‘He can read in the hardest chapters of the Testament as fast agin as I can,’ said his mother. ‘I never did see nothing beat it,’ exclaimed his father, ‘he speaks up as loud as a minister.’ But I have said enough about this prodigy. I have said thus much because that although he was thought to surpassingly bright, he was the most decided ninny in the school. The fact is, he did not know what the sounds he uttered meant. It never entered his head nor the heads of his parents and most of his teachers, that words and sentences were written, and should be read only to be understood. He lost some of his reputation, however, when he grew up toward twenty-one, and it was found that numbers in more senses than one, were far above him in arithmetic.

One little anecdote about Memorus Wordwell before we let him go. It happened one day that the ‘cut and split’ for the fire fell short, and Jonas Patch was out wielding the axe in school time. He had been at work about half an hour, when Memorus, who was perceived to have less to do than the rest, was sent out to take his place. He was about ten years old, and four years younger than Jonas. ‘Memorus, you may go out and spell Jonas.’ Our hero did not think of the Yankee sense in which the master used the word spell, indeed he had never attached but one meaning to it whenever it was used with reference to itself. He supposed the master was granting him a ride extraordinary on his favorite hobby. So he put his spelling-book under his arm and was out at the wood-pile with the speed of a boy rushing to play.

‘Ye got yer spellin lesson, Jonas?’ was his first salutation. ‘Haven’t looked at it yet,’ was the reply. ‘I mean to cut up this plaguy great log, spellin or no spellin, before I go in. I had as lieve keep warm here choppin wood, as freeze up there in that tarnal cold back seat.’ ‘Well, the master sent me out to hear you spell.’ ‘Did he? well, put out the words and I’ll spell.’ Memorus being so distinguished a speller, Jonas did not doubt but that he was really sent out on this errand. So our deputy spelling-master mounted the top of the wood-pile, just in front of Jonas, to put out words to his temporary pupil who still kept on putting out chips.

‘Do you know where the lesson begins, Jonas?’ ‘No, I don’t, but I spose I shall find out now.’ ‘Well, here ’tis.’ (They both belonged to the same class.) ‘Spell

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A-bom-i-na-tion.’ Jonas spells. A-b-o-m bom a-bom (in the mean time up goes the axe high in air,[)] i a-bomi (down it goes again chuck into the wood) n-a na a-bom-i-na (up it goes again) t-i-o-n tion, a-bom-i-na-tion, chuck the axe goes again, and at the same time out flies a furious chip and hits Memorus on the nose. At this moment the master appeared just at the corner of the school-house, with one foot still on the threshold. ‘Jonas, why don’t you come in? didn’t I send Memorus out to spell you?’ ‘Yes, sir, and he has been spelling me; how could I come in if he spelt me here?’ At this the master’s eye caught Memorus perched upon the top stick, with his book open upon his lap, rubbing his nose, and just in the act of putting out the next word of the column. Ac-com-mo-da-tion, pronounced Memorus in a broken but louder voice than before, for he caught a glimpse of the master, and he wished to let him know that he was doing his duty. This was too much for the master’s gravity. He perceived the mistake, and without saying more, wheeled back into the school-room, almost bursting with the most tumultuous laugh he ever tried to suppress. The scholars wondered at his looks and grinned in sympathy. But in a few minutes Jonas came in, followed by Memorus with his spelling-book, who exclaimed, ‘I have heard him spell clean through the whole lesson, and he didn’t spell hardly none of ’em right.’ The master could hold in no longer, and the scholars perceived the blunder, and there was one simultaneous roar from pedagogue and pupils; the scholars laughing twice as loud and unproariously in consequence of being permitted to laugh in school-time, and to do it with the accompaniment of the master.”


Review. Western Monthly Magazine 2 (February 1834); p. 106.

The District School as it was. By One who went to it. Boston: Carter, Hendee & Co. 1833.

We read this through without stopping, and when we were done, felt pleased with the author for having entertained us, and with ourselves for liking him. It is one of those happy hits which one does not meet with every day. The description of one of the teachers, Mary Smith, is beautiful and touching. the work is an admirable satire upon the system of teaching children ‘as it was,’ and contains many suggestions which might be profitable to those engaged in tht employment as it is. There are some vulgarisms in language, such as would hardly be expected in such a book: as ‘when I happened late,’—‘the scholars gathered up their implements of learning and left likewise.’ The latter mode of using the verb to leave, is, we believe, common in New England, and is fast spreading like a foul contagion over the land, to the great annoyance of those who love to hear good grammar. ‘When do you leave?’ ‘He left yesterday,’ are now often heard; but are certainly listened to with pain by those who would not see the king’s English inhumanly murdered. We notice it in this instance, because the offence proceeds from one whom we suppose to be a teacher, and in whom bad language, if not a crime, is a high misdemeanor.


Review. The New-Yorker 6 (10 November 1838); p. 126.

The District School as it Was—By One Who Went to it.”—Such is the title of a small original volume just published by Mr. J. O. Taylor, 128 Fulton-st. We have been pleased with the vigorous fidelity of its pictures of Schools as they were, (and as many, if not most, we presume, still are,) and the winning simplicity of the narration, so far as we have snatched time to peruse it. In his Preface, the author observes:

“This little volume was written in the hope that it would be a trifling aid to that improvement which is going on in respect to common schools. It was also intended to present a pleasant picture of some peculiarities which have prevailed in our country, but are now passing away.”

This has been well accomplished. The work will be perused both by instructers and scholars with profit—by the latter, also, we are sure, with interest and gratification. (18mo. pp. 156. Amer. Com. School Union.)


“Retrospective Reviews: The District School as It Was.” The New-York Mirror 16 (22 December 1838); p. 206.

Have you ever met with a little duodecimo, entitled “The District School as it Was?” It was published originally in Boston in 1833, but a new edition has, we perceive, been recently put forth by Mr. Taylor of this city. Be the author who he may,* he is an artist of no ordinary power. His descriptions, though confined to the humble sphere of a village school, are interesting from their wonderful fidelity to nature. We are reminded by them of Mount’s Barnfloor Sketches, which in graphick [sic] truth and expressive simplicity we have rarely seen surpassed. We ask the reader’s attention to the following extracts from this unpretending but ingenious work:

FIRST SUMMER AT SCHOOLMARY SMITH.

I was three years and a half old when I first entered the Old School-house as an abecedarian. I ought, perhaps, to have set foot on the first step of learning’s ladder before this, but I had no elder brother or sister to lead me to school a mile off; and it never occurred to my good parents, that they could teach me even the alphabet; or, perhaps, they could not afford the time, or muster the patience for the tedious process. I had, however, learned the name of capital A, because it stood at the head of the column, and was the similitude of a harrow frame. Of O, also, from its resemblance to a hoop. Its sonorous name, moreover, was a frequent passenger through my mouth, after I had begun to articulate, its ample sound being the most natural medium by which man born unto trouble signifies the pains of his lot. X, too, was familiar, as it seemed so like the end of the old saw-horse that stood in the wood-shed. Further than this my alphabetical lore did not extend, according to present recollection.

I shall never forget my first day of scholarship, as it was the most important era which had yet occurred to my experience. Behold me on the eventful morning of the first Monday in June, arrayed in my new jacket and trowsers, into which my importance had been shoved for the first time in my life. This change in my costume had been deferred till this day, that I might be nice and clean to go to school. Then my Sunday hat, (not of soft drab-colored fur, ye city urchins, but of coarse and hard sheep’s wool,) my Sunday hat adorning my head for the first time, in common week-day use; for my other had been crushed, torn and soiled out of the seemliness, and almost out of the form of a hat. My little new basket, too, bought expressly for the purpose, was laden with ’lection-cake and cheese for my dinner, and slung upon my arm. An old Perry’s spelling-book, that our boy Ben used at the winter-school, completed my equipment.

Mary Smith was my first teacher, and the dearest to my heart I ever had. She was a niece of Mrs. Carter, who lived in the nearest house on the way to school. She had visited her aunt the winter before, and her uncle being chosen committee for the school at the town-meeting in the spring, sent immediately to her home in Connecticut, and engaged her to teach the summer school. During the few days she spent at his house she had shown herself peculiarly qualified to interest and gain the love of children. Some of the neighbors, too, who had dropped in while she was there, were much pleased with her appearance. She had taught one season in her native state, and that she succeeded well Mr. Carter could not doubt. He preferred her therefore, to hundred near by, and for once the partiality of the relative proved profitable to the district.

Now Mary Smith was to board at her uncle’s. This was deemed a fortunate circumstance on my account, as she would take that care of me on the way which was needful to my inexperienced childhood. My mother led me to Mr. Carter’s, to commit me to my guardian and instructer for the summer. I entertained the most extravagant ideas of the dignity of the school-keeping vocation, and it was with trembling reluctance that I drew near the presence of so lovely a creature as they told me Mary Smith was. But she so gently took my quivering little hand, and so tenderly stooped and kissed my cheek, and said such soothing and winning words, that my timidity was gone at once.

She used to lead me to school by the hand, while John and Sarah Carter gamboled on, unless I chose to gambol with them; but the first day, at least, I kept by her side. All her demeanor toward me, and indeed, toward us all, was of a piece with her first introduction. She called me to her to read, not with a look and voice as if she were doing a duty she disliked, and was determined I should do mine too, like it or not, as is often the manner of teachers; but with a cheerful smile and a softening eye, as if she were at a pastime, and wished me to partake of it.

My first business was to master the A, B, C, and no small achievement it was; for many a little learner waddles to school through the summer, and wallows to the same through the winter, before he accomplishes it, if he happens to be taught in the manner of former times. This might have been my lot, had it not been for Mary Smith. Few of the better methods of teaching, which now make the road to knowledge so much more easy and pleasant, had then found their way out of, or into the brain of the pedagogical vocation. Mary went on in the old way indeed, but the whole exercise was done with such sweetness on her part, that the dilatory, and usually unpleasant task, was to me a pleasure, and consumed not so much precious time as it generally does in the case of heads as stupid as mine. By the close of that summer the alphabet was securely my own. That hard, and to me unmeaning string of sights and sounds, were bound forever to my memory by the ties created by gentle tones and looks.


THE SPELLING-BOOK.

As the spelling-book was the first manual of instruction used in school, and kept in our hands for many years, I think it worthy of a separate chapter in these annals of the times that are past. The spelling-book used in our school from time immemorial—immemorial at least to the generation of learners to which I belonged—was thus entitled: “The Only Sure Guide to the English Tongue, by William Perry, Lecturer of the English Language in the Academy of Edinburgh, and author of several valuable school books.” What a magnificent title! To what an enviable superiority had its author arrived. The Only Sure Guide! Of course the book must be as infallible as the catholic creed, and its author the very Pope of the jurisdiction of letters.

But the contents of the volume manifested most clearly the pontifical character of the illustrious man; for from the beginning to the end thereof—faith and memory were all that was demanded of the novice. The understanding was no more called on than that of the devotee at his Latin mass book. But let us enter on particulars. In the first place there was a frontispiece. We little folks, however, did not then know that the great picture facing the title-page was so denominated. This frontispiece consisted of two parts. In the first place there was the representation of a tree laden with fruit of the largest description. It was intended, I presume, as a striking and alluring emblem of the general subject, the particular branches, and the rich fruits of education. But the figurative meaning was above my apprehension, and no one took the trouble to explain it to me. I supposed it nothing but the picture of a luxuriant apple tree, and it always made me think of that good tree in my father’s orchard, so dear to my palate, the pumpkin sweeting.

There ran a ladder from the ground up among the branches, which was designed to represent the ladder of learning, but of this I was ignorant. Little boys were ascending this in pursuit of the fruit that hung there so temptingly. Others were already up in the tree, plucking the apples directly from their stems; while others were on the ground picking up those that had dropped in their ripeness. At the very top of the tree, with his head reared above all fruit or foliage, was a bare-headed lad with a book in his hand, which he seemed intently studying. I supposed that he was a boy that loved his book better than apples, as all good boys should—one who in very childhood had trodden temptation under foot. But, indeed, it was only a boy who was gathering fruit from the topmost boughs, according to the figurative meaning, as the others were from those lower down. Or rather, as he was portrayed, he seemed like one who had culled the fairest and highest growing apples, and was trying to find out from a book where he should find a fresh and loftier tree upon which he might climb to a richer repast and a nobler distinction.

This picture used to retain my eye longer than any other in the book. It was probably more agreeable on account of the other part of the frontispiece below it. This was the representation of a school at their studies with the master at his desk. He was pictured as an elderly man, with an immense wig enveloping his head and bagging about his neck, and with a face that had a sort of halfway look, or rather, perhaps, a compound look, made up of an expression of perplexity at a sentence in parsing, or a sum in arithmetic, and a frown at the playful urchins in the distant seats. There could not have been a more capital device by which the pleasures of a free range and delicious eating, both so dear to the young, might be contrasted with stupifying confinement and longing palates in the presence of crabbed authority. Indeed, the first thing the Only Sure Guide said to its pupil was, play truant and be happy; and most of the subsequent contents were not of a character to make the child forget this preliminary advice. These contents I was going on to describe in detail, but on second thought I forbear, for fear that the description might be as tedious to my readers as the study of them was to me. Suffice it to say, there was talk about vowels and consonants, diphthongs and tripthongs, monosyllables and polysyllables, orthography and punctuation, and even about geography, all which was about as intelligible to us, who were obliged to commit it to memory, year after year, as the fee-faw-fum, uttered by the giant in one of our story books.


SECOND SUMMER.

So Mary Smith kept the school, and I had another delightful summer under her care and instruction. I was four years and a half old now, and had grown an inch. I was no tiny, whining, half-scared baby, as in the first summer. No indeed; I had been to the winter school, had read in a class, and had stood up at the fire with the great boys, had seen a snow-ball fight, and had been accidentally hit once, by the icy missile of big-fisted Joe swagger.

I looked down upon two or three fresh, slobbering abecedarians with a pride of superiority, greater perhaps than I ever felt again. We read not in ab, eb, &c., but in words that meant something; and before the close of the summer in what were called the “Reading Lessons,” that is, little words arranged in little sentences.

Mary was the same sweet angel this season as the last. I did not of course need her soothing and smiling assiduity as before, but still she was a mother to me in tenderness. She was forced to caution us younglings pretty often, yet it was done with such sweetness that a caution from her was as effectual as would be a frown and indeed a blow from many others. At least, so it was with me. She used to resort to various severities with the refractory and idle, and in one instance she used the ferule; but we all knew, and the culprit knew, that it was well deserved.

At the close of the school there was a deeper sadness in our hearts than on the last summer’s closing day. She had told us that she should never be our teacher again, should probably never meet many of us again in this world. She gave us much parting advice about loving and obeying God, and loving and doing good to every body. She shed tears as she talked to us, and that made our own flow still more. When we were dismissed the customary and giddy laugh was not heard. Many were sobbing with grief, and even the least sensitive were softened and subdued to an unusual quietness.

The last time I ever saw Mary was Sunday evening on my way home from meeting. As we passed Mr. Carter’s she came out to the chaise where I sat between my parents, to bid us good bye. O, that last kiss, that last smile, and those last tones! Never shall I forget them so long as I have power to remember, or capacity to love. The next morning she left for hr native town; and before another summer she was married. As Mr. Carter soon moved from our neighborhood, the dear instructress never visited it again.


THE PARTICULAR MASTER.

I have given some account of my first winter at school. Of my second, third, and fourth, I have nothing of importance to say. The routine was the same in each. The teachers were remarkable for nothing in particular; if they were, I have too indistinct a remembrance of their characters to portray them now—so I will pass them by, and describe the teacher of my fifth.

He was called the particular master. The scholars, in speaking of him would say “he is so particular.” The first morning of the

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school he read us a long list of regulations to be observed in school and out. “There are more rules than you could shake a stick at before your arm would ache,” said some one. “And if the master should shake a stick at every one who should disobey them, he would not find time to do much else,” said another. Indeed, it proved to be so. Half the time was spent in calling up scholars for little misdemeanors, trying to make them confess their faults, and promise stricter obedience, or in devising punishments and inflicting them. Almost every method was tried that was ever suggested to the brain of pedagogue. Some were feruled on the hand; some were whipped with a rod on the back; some were compelled to hold out, at arm’s length, the largest book that could be found, or a great leaden inkstand, till muscle and nerve, bone and marrow, were tortured with the continued exertion. If the arm bent or inclined from the horizontal level, it was forced back again by a knock of the ruler on the elbow. I well recollect that one poor fellow forgot his suffering by fainting quite away. This lingering punishment was more befitting the vengeance of a savage, than the corrective efforts of a teacher of the young in civilized life.


THE SPELLING GENIUS.

The most extraordinary spelling, and indeed reading machine in our school was a boy whom I shall call Memorus Wordwell. He was mighty and wonderful in the acquisition and remembrance of words—of signs without the ideas signified.

It happened one day that the “cut and split” for the fire fell short, and Jonas Patch was out wielding the axe in school time. He had been at work about half an hour, when Memorus, who was perceived to have less to do than the rest, was sent out to take his place. He was about ten years old, and four years younger than Jonas. “Memorus, you may go out and spell Jonas.” Our hero did not think of the Yankee sense in which the master used the word spell, indeed he had never attached but one meaning to it whenever it was used with reference to itself. He supposed the master was granting him a ride extraordinary on his favorite hobby. So he put his spelling-book under his arm and was out at the wood-pile with the speed of a boy rushing to play.

“Ye got yer spellin lesson, Jonas?” was his first salutation. “Haven’t looked at it yet,” was the reply. “I mean to cut up this plaguy great log, spellin or no spellin, before I go in. I had as lieve keep warm here choppin wood, as freeze up there in that tarnal cold back seat.” “Well, the master sent me out to hear you spell.” “Did he? well, put out the words and I’ll spell.” Memorus being so distinguished a speller, Jonas did not doubt but that he was really sent out on this errand. So our deputy spelling-master mounted the top of the wood-pile, just in front of Jonas, to put out words to his temporary pupil who still kept on putting out chips.

“Do you know where the lesson begins, Jonas?” “No, I don’t, but I spose I shall find out now.” “Well, here ’tis.” (They both belonged to the same class.) “Spell A-bom-i-na-tion.” Jonas spells. A-b-o-m bom a-bom (in the mean time up goes the axe high in air,[)] i a-bomi (down it goes again chuck into the wood) n-a na a-bom-i-na (up it goes again) t-i-o-n tion, a-bom-i-na-tion, chuck the axe goes again, and at the same time out flies a furious chip and hits Memorus on the nose. At this moment the master appeared just at the corner of the school-house, with one foot still on the threshold. “Jonas, why don’t you come in? didn’t I send Memorus out to spell you?” “Yes, sir, and he has been spelling me; how could I come in if he spelt me here?” At this the master’s eye caught Memorus perched upon the top stick, with his book open upon his lap, rubbing his nose, and just in the act of putting out the next word of the column. Ac-com-mo-da-tion, pronounced Memorus in a broken but louder voice than before, for he caught a glimpse of the master, and he wished to let him know that he was doing his duty. This was too much for the master’s gravity. He perceived the mistake, and without saying more, wheeled back into the school-room, almost bursting with the most tumultuous laugh he ever tried to suppress. The scholars wondered at his looks and grinned in sympathy. But in a few minutes Jonas came in, followed by Memorus with his spelling-book, who exclaimed, “I have heard him spell clean through the whole lesson, and he didn’t spell hardly none of ’em right.” The master could hold in no longer, and the scholars perceived the blunder, and there was one simultaneous roar from pedagogue and pupils; the scholars laughing twice as loud and unproariously in consequence of being permitted to laugh in school-time, and to do it with the accompaniment of the master.

* Since writing the above, we learn that “The District School as it Was,” is from the pen of the Rev. Warren Burton, of Fall River, Massachusetts. Why do we not hear more from a writer, who in richness of humour and fidelity to nature, is second to no writer of the age, not even excepting Miss Mitford and the far-famed Boz?


Review. The Common School Journal 1 (15 April 1839); pp. 124-126.

We publish below the first chapter of a work, entitled, “The District School as it was.” While the book is highly amusing and instructive, it is pervaded by a just tone in regard to manners and feelings. Its author is the Rev. Warren Burton, with whose productions we hope, occasionally, to enliven our columns.

“The Old School-house, as it used to be called, how distinctly it rises to existence anew before the eye of my mind. Here was kept the District School as it was. This was the seat of my rustic Alma Master, to borrow a phrase from collegiate and classic use. It is now no more; and those of similar construction are passing away, never to be patterned again. It may be well, therefore, to describe the edifice wherein, and whereabout, occurred

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many of the scenes about to be recorded. I would have future generations acquainted with the accommodations, or rather dis-accommodations of their predecessors.

“The Old School-house in District No. 5, stood on the top of a very high hill, on the north side of what was called the county road. The house of Capt. Clark, about ten rods off, was the only human dwelling within a quarter of a mile. The reason why this seminary of letters was perched so high in the air, and so far from the homes of those who resorted to it, was this:—Here was the centre of the district, as near as surveyors’s chain could designate. The people east would not permit the building to be carried one rod further west, and those of the opposite quarter was as obstinate on their side. So here it was placed, and this continued to be literally the hill of science to generation after generation of learners for fifty years.

“The edifice was set half in Capt. Clark’s field and half in the road. The wood-pile lay in the corner made by the east end and the stone wall. The best roof it ever had over it was the changeful sky, which was a little too leaky to keep the fuel at all times fit for combustion, without a great deal of puffing and smoke. The door step was a broad unhewn rock, brought from the neighboring pasture. It had not a flat and even surface, but was considerably sloping from the door to the road, so that in icy times the scholars in passing out, used to snatch from the scant declivity the transitory pleasure of a slide. But look out for a slip-up, ye careless, for many a time have I seen urchin’s head where his feet were but a second before. And once the most lofty and perpendicular pedagogue I ever knew, became suddenly horizontalized in his egress.

“But we have lingered round this door-step long enough. Before we cross it, however, let us just glance at the outer side of the structure. It was never painted by man, but the clouds of many years had stained it with their own dark hue. The nails were starting from their fastness, and fellow-clapboards were becoming less closely and warmly intimate. There were six windows, which here and there stopped and distorted the passage of light by fractures, patches, and seams of putty. There were shutters of board, like those of a store, which were of no kind of use, excepting to keep the windows from harm in vacations, when they were the least liable to harm. They might have been convenient screens against the summer sun, were it not that their shade was inconvenient darkness. Some of these, from loss of buttons, were fastened back by poles, which were occasionally thrown down in the heedlessness of play, and not replaced till repeated slams had broken a pane of glass, or the patience of the teacher. To crown this description of externals, I must say a word about the roof. The shingles had been battered apart by a thousand rains; and excepting where the most defective had been exchanged for new ones, they were dingy with the mold and moss of time. The bricks of the chimney-top were losing their cement, and looked as if some high wind might hurl them from their smoky vocation.

“We will now go inside. First, there is an entry which the district were sometimes provident enough to store with dry pine wood, as an antagonist to the greenness and wetness of the other fuel. A door on the left admits us to the school room. Here is a space about twenty feet long and ten wide, the reading and spelling parade. At the south end of it, at the left as you enter, was one seat and writing bench, making a right angle with the rest of the seats. This was occupied in the winter by two of the oldest males in the school. At the opposite end was the magisterial desk, raised upon a platform a foot from the floor, the fire-place was on the right, half way between the door of entrance and another door leading into a dark closet, where the girls put their outside garments and their dinner baskets. This also served as a fearful dungeon for the immuring of offenders. Directly opposite the fire-place was an aisle, two feet and a half wide,

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running up an inclined floor to the opposite side of the room. On each side of this were five or six long seats and writing benches, for the accommodation of the school at their studies. In front of these, next to the spelling floor, were low, narrow seats for abecedarians and others near that rank. In general, the older the scholar the further from the front was his location. The windows behind the back seat were so low that the traveller could generally catch the stealthy glance of curiosity as he passed. Such was the Old School-house at the time I first entered it.”

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