Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/583

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
563
SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.

The readers of this magazine have already had a chance to enjoy more than half of Prof. James Sully's volume of Studies of Childhood[1] in the series of articles which the author has contributed to our pages within the past two years. The additional matter consists of an introduction, part of the chapter on the Young Draughtsman, about ninety pages of Extracts from a Father's Diary, and a chapter on George Sand's Childhood based on that talented, woman's Story of my Life. Prof. Sully by no means regards these studies as a complete treatise on child-psychology. They "merely deal," he says, "with certain aspects of children's minds which happen to have come under my notice, and to have had a special interest for me."

The first topic discussed is imagination—the happy faculty that gives playmates to the child isolated from others by distance, dangers of the outdoor world, illness, or other circumstances, and that turns familiar surroundings into scenery and accessories appropriate for imitating any desired activity of adults. From an examination of the examples that he has collected Prof. Sully concludes that imaginativeness varies greatly in different children, and that "there must be a much wider and finer investigation of children's action and talk before we can feel quite sure that we have got at their mental whereabouts." He maintains further that imagination and practicalness are not mutually exclusive in the minds of children, and gives evidence to show that first one tendency, then the other, may be dominant for days, and also that the one may succeed the other with astonishing rapidity in the same child. Probably the most entertaining chapter is that on The Little Linguist, in which the various phases of the child's struggle with the mother tongue are described and copiously exemplified. It is peculiarly difficult for the adult to put himself in the child's place with respect to fear of darkness, unusual objects, etc., so that the data that Prof. Sully is able to furnish on this subject are especially welcome. The part of the volume that will probably most interest the non-scientific parent or teacher is the two chapters bearing on the question why children seem to be imbued with so much concentrated naughtiness. Prof. Sully shows that it is not necessary to assume innate viciousness to account for acts of the child that inflict pain on other persons and on animals, for persistent lying, or for disobedience. Further, he shows that the child has a natural tendency to orderly procedure which needs only to be encouraged by consistency on the part of the parent to make the departures from right conduct very few. Prof. Sully draws conclusions freely from his facts, but probably no one would affirm more readily than he that these conclusions should be held subject to modification in. the light of further evidence. It might have been better if this caution had been explicitly stated, or if some of the conclusions had been less confidently expressed.


GENERAL NOTICES.

It is doubtful if any more generally interesting subject will be found for the Library of Useful Stories than the one treated in the second volume that Mr. Chambers[2] has contributed. It is evident also that this author has the faculty of making a truly


  1. Studies of Childhood. By James Sully. Pp. 527, 8vo. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Price, $2.50.
  2. The Story of the Solar System. By George F. Chambers. Pp. 188, 16mo. London: George Newnes, Ltd. 1s. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 40 cents.