submitting in turn to be victimized, a party of children can secure, at a moderate cost to each, the zest of the malevolent feeling; and this I take to be the quintessence of play.
The use of this close analysis is to fix attention upon the precarious tenure of all these enjoyments, and to render a precise reason for the well-known fact that play or fun is always on the eve of becoming earnest; in other words, the destructive or malevolent element is in constant danger of breaking loose from its checks, and of passing from fictitious to actual inflictions. The play of the canine and the feline kind often degenerates in this fashion; and in childish and youthful amusements it is a perpetual rock ahead.
It is no less dangerous to indulge people in too much ideal gratification of the vindictive sentiments. Tales of revenge against enemies are too apt to cultivate the malevolent propensity. Children, it is true, take up this theme with wonderful alacrity; nevertheless it is a species of pampering supplied to the worst emotions instead of the best.
One other bearing of irascibility on education needs to be touched. When disapproval is heightened with anger, the dread inspired is much greater. The victim anticipates a more severe infliction when the angry passion has been roused; hence the supposition is natural that anger is an aid to discipline. This, however, needs qualifying. Of course, any increase of severity has a known deterrent effect, with whatever drawbacks may attend the excess. But anger is fitful; and, therefore, its cooperation mars discipline by want of measure and want of consistency; when the fit has passed, the mind often relapses into a mood unfavorable to a proper amount of repression.
The function of anger in discipline may be something very grand, provided the passion can be controlled. There is a fine attitude of indignation against wrong that may be assumed with the best effect. It supposes the most perfect self-command, and is no more excited than seems befitting the occasion. Mankind would not be contented to see the bench of justice occupied by a calculating machine that turned up a penalty of five pounds, or a month's imprisonment, when certain facts were dropped in at the hopper. A regulated expression of angry feeling is a force in itself. Neither containing fitfulness, nor conducting to excess of infliction, it is the awe-inspiring personation of justice, and is often sufficient to quell insubordination.